The Gospel and the Church.

J. A. von Poseck.

(Bible Treasury Volume 18, 1890, page 40 etc.)

Introduction
Good Tidings of Great Joy
The Source of the Gospel
The Object of the Gospel
The Effects of the Gospel
Character of the Ministers of the Gospel
The Gospel. - Its End and Final Result. The Snares in the Path of its Ministers
Character and Position of the Church
Discipline of Christ as Son Over His Own House, and Church Discipline Proper
Church Discipline. Ananias and Sapphira
Christian Discipline: The Power of "Binding" and "Loosing."
Christian Discipline
Christian Discipline
Christian Discipline
Christian Discipline. Closing Remarks
Order in the Church of God
Order in the Church, being the House of God
The Church as the "Temple of God."
The Church as the "Temple of God."
The Church as the "Habitation of God in the Spirit."
The Church As The "Temple of God."
The Church as the Body of Christ
"This do in remembrance of me."
The Memorial of the Lord's Death
The Memorial of the Lord's Death
The Memorial of the Lord's Death
The Lord's Supper
The Lord's Table

Introduction

1890 40 At all times it has been a well-known stratagem of the enemy, when he cannot prevent the promulgation of divine truth, to advance some portion of it at the expense and to the neglect of other much higher and more blessed truths, in order to confine the attention of believers to such as are of secondary import — however precious they may be in themselves — and to keep out of sight, or at least in the background, truths of primary and deepest importance.

What more precious portion of divine truth than the gospel? And what more blessed service than that of the evangelist? Paul, the apostle of the gospel and of the church, writes that he is "not ashamed of the gospel; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."But the same apostle writes, "If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery . . . which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel, whereof I was made a minister," etc.

The gospel then, as we learn from the apostle, is the means for forming the church, which is the body of Christ, composed of Jews and Gentiles. The same apostle calls himself "minister of the gospel," and "minister of the church" (Col. i. 23-25). The gospel is to the church what the recruiting officer is to the army. The army could not subsist without the recruiting officer. Without him it would soon die out. Neither can the church do without the evangelist. The gospel then is the means of founding the church, and the evangelist is a minister or servant of the gospel and of the church, as we learn from the apostle (Eph. iv. 11, 12); "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."

Now it is beyond dispute that that which is merely instrumental, however blessedly instrumental, cannot hold the same place of importance as that for which it is instrumental. We know from God's own word through His apostle of the gospel of the church, that next to Christ there is nothing so near and dear to God as His church, the body of Christ and the habitation of God in the Spirit. Christ and the church form the very centre of the counsels of God! What a sad thing then to assign a secondary or subordinate place to that which in God's sight is of primary importance!

There is joy indeed before God and His angels over one sinner that repenteth. The heavenly joy does not wait until the sinner finds "joy and peace in believing." But the divine joy of Him Who knows the end from the beginning begins as soon as His divine work in the sinner's soul begins in repentance toward God. Wondrous indeed, yet but natural to those unenvious blessed angelic ministers of God's good pleasure, were those heavenly acclamations on the night of our Saviour's nativity, which accompanied the first proclamation of the "good tidings of great joy."
"How rightly rose the praises
Of heaven that wondrous night,
When shepherds hid their faces
In brightest angel light!

"More just those acclamations
Than when the glorious band
Chanted earth's deep foundations,
Just laid by God's right hand.

"Come now and view that manger:
The Lord of glory see,
A houseless, homeless stranger
In this poor world for thee.

"To God in th' highest glory,
And peace on earth to find,
And learn that wondrous story
Good pleasure in mankind."

But the time is not very distant when another glorious song, equally if not more glorious still, will be heard at the outburst of the joyful heavenly Allelujah. "Praise our God, all ye His servants, and ye that fear Him, both small and great. Allelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted, that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousnesses of saints."

It is true, what the chief apostle of the circumcision wrote — after our precious Saviour had accomplished His glorious work of an eternal redemption, and as a risen and ascended Saviour and Head of the church had taken His seat on high, and the Holy Ghost had been sent down from heaven, — "which things the angels desire to look into."

But it is no less true, what the same Spirit says through Paul the apostle of grace and glory, viz., "To make all see what is the dispensation of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, Who created all things by Jesus Christ; to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenlies might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose, which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord."

And is that from which the angels derive their lessons in studying the wisdom of God to be a matter of minor importance to you and me, fellow-believer, who are living stones in that wonderful divine building, and members of the body of Christ? Jesus died "not for that (Jewish) nation only, but that also he should gather into one (i.e., into one body) the children of God that were scattered abroad" (i.e., those of the Gentiles) John xi. 52. He died not merely to get a certain number — however great — of saved individuals or units, but that those units should be united into one body, the church, of which He is the glorious Head.

What then could be more injurious to the individual believer than to neglect and to slight that marvellous privilege which God in His wondrous grace has bestowed upon us, to be members of Christ, members of His body, the church? None can treat such divine blessings lightly without serious damage to the soul. The evangelist who neglects the church and his place in the church, will soon take a low ground in the preaching of the gospel, and the believer who grows cold in his interest in the gospel, thus failing to get the heart established by grace, and stores up church truths in the head, instead of treasuring them up in the heart, will soon become a more or less useless member of the body, a kind of withered branch, besides the grave danger resulting from either, of falling into the snare of evil doctrine or practice. These "latter days" constantly furnish us with solemn instances of both. Alas! how sadly do we fail to realise even in our little measure the immensity of God's blessings connected with His gospel and His church! The greatness of our salvation is but too much neglected, though generally not so much as the greatness of God's blessings connected with that wondrous mystery revealed to His apostle of the church, and, through him, to us.

Whilst in that blessed Gospel-Epistle to the Romans the gospel most properly holds the first, and the church, being its result, appears in secondary; in that grand Church-Epistle of the same apostle to the Ephesians, we find the first place by the Spirit of God assigned to the church, whereas the gospel, being only the means for accomplishing God's wonderful counsels and purposes as to the church, appears in the second line (Eph. i. 7). Those counsels of divine sovereign grace and infinite love in which God predestinated us for the adoption of children to Himself, could not flow out and abound towards us when those wounds had been opened and the precious blood been shed on the cross, which alone could procure their accomplishment. When Jesus was on earth He said, "I have a baptism to be baptised with [even His sufferings and death upon the cross], and how am I straitened until it be accomplished." All those stores of divine love and grace and wisdom, treasured up in Him, in Whom the whole fulness of the Godhead was pleased to dwell, Who was the centre of all those divine counsels of blessing, however precious and wonderful in themselves, could never have flown out towards their objects, but would have remained pent up in Christ, till the spear of man's wickedness drew forth the blood to save. No sooner is that precious fountain mentioned (ver. 7) when at once those inexhaustible tides of grace and every blessing flow forth "towards us" without let or hindrance, "according to the riches of His grace, wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure, which He hath purposed in Himself."

Beloved brethren in Christ and fellow-members of His body, the church, are we going to make that which, next to and with Christ, is nearest and dearest to God's mind and heart, for which Christ gave Himself, that we might be members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones — that which He has bought at the cost of His cross, "that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish" — are we going, I say, to make all this a secondary object of our christian meditations, pursuits, and service?

As already observed at the beginning, it is, and has been throughout the christian era, one of the subterfuges of the adversary of everything divine, whenever he cannot entirely prevent the promulgation of divine truth, to subvert the order of it by putting that which in God's word and mind is of primary importance into the background, if he cannot entirely put it out of sight or pervert and corrupt it; and by giving a vantage ground to that which, according to God's order, is secondary (however glorious and blessed in itself), being only the means for the accomplishment of that which is of primary importance. For he knows well that where this divine order is subverted, those who suffer themselves thus to be duped and robbed by the enemy will in consequence lower the standard of the gospel truth, for which the apostle of the gospel and of the church endured such opposition in endeavouring to keep up the gospel to that height of divine truth, which had been delivered to him by the Lord.

The preaching of evangelists who, contrary to the truth they had been instructed in, devote all their energy to preaching, to the neglect of the church, will sooner or later assume the character of that soft, sentimental, and humanitarian gospel preaching of the day, which produces slight wounds, if any; and slight healing, if any, with antinomian tendencies and twofold hardening of conscience in its wake. "Trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;" Gibeonites, trimmed lamps without oil. One of the Revivalists said, "It is a glorious sight to see ten thousand standing up, confessing Christ!!" Alas! what has become of them?

It is solemnly instructive to see how soon after the days of Paul, and ever since, the wily adversary of the truth has sought, and alas! succeeded but too much, to keep the truth of the church of God, as revealed in His Word, in the background, thus robbing the saints of God of that spiritual wealth and strength connected with conscious entering of the soul upon that portion of divine truth. And not only so. Satan, whose character since the days of Paradise has ever been to mar and corrupt what God had established in and for blessing, has succeeded to lower and corrupt both the church and the gospel — the means of forming the church. But the first thing he did in undertaking his mischievous work was to turn that wondrous revelation of the great divine mystery of Christ and the church to a mystery again, by putting and keeping it in the darkest and farthest background possible.

Christ, the glorious Head of the church, His body, Who had sent His Holy Spirit, a heavenly Eliezer, to conduct His heavenly bride through this wilderness to her heavenly Bridegroom, has awakened by His Spirit from time to time faithful witnesses of the truth, especially with regard to His gospel, which like the written word of God itself, had been almost lost beneath the rubbish of the corrupting religious ordinances of the Roman Church. But those witnesses, faithful though they were in the proclamation of the truth of a fuller and purer gospel (whose heavenly side in resurrection, deliverance by and union with Christ was but imperfectly known even to them), had but little, if any light about the true character of the church as the "habitation of God in the Spirit," nor about its heavenly position, calling, and hope. That defect is but too apparent even in the best of the Reformers of the sixteenth century.

After the Thirty Years' War, so ruinous in its religious as well as in its moral and temporal effects, the so-called Protestant church relapsed into spiritual slumber and worldliness, and the prophetic word as to "tares" found its sad accomplishment. God in His longsuffering mercy towards the end of the last century again raised several faithful witnesses, especially in this country, to arouse the Protestant church from her sinful sleep. But even the testimony of such men as Berridge, Hill, J. and C. Wesley, and Whitefield was chiefly confined to the preaching of the gospel. And though one of the chief blessings of the Reformation, the unimpeded circulation of Holy Writ, continued to exist and the Bible had become accessible even to the poorest, it seemed as if the glorious truth of the church, so long buried under the relligious rubbish of centuries, was farther to remain unheeded and neglected.

But our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, Who is not only the Saviour of sinners, but above all the Head of His body, the church, composed of saved sinners, would not permit the enemy now, when His coming for His saints is so near at hand, to obscure or keep in the background any longer the precious truth as to Christ and the church, the real centre of the counsels of God.

During the third decade of this century (from 1825-30) the Lord raised in England several eminently gifted witnesses of the truth. One of these, in an especial way endowed by God, was used by the Lord for recovering the full truth of the gospel in a purity and fulness which had not been known since the days of the apostles. But not only for the recovery of the truths of the gospel did the Lord use that honoured instrument of His gracious designs. The light of the pure scriptural truth of the church, which appears to have been altogether lost daring the lapse of so many dark centuries, was by that distinguished servant of the Lord placed again upon the bushel, and shone with a brightness of scriptural simplicity unknown since the days of the apostles. What characterised that movement was especially the practical acknowledgment of the presence and authority and guidance of the Holy Ghost in the church or assembly, and the authority of the word of God, which is "truth," written by the "Spirit of truth." In those days that wholesome principle prevailed, "Never the word without the Spirit, nor the Spirit without the word."

The Holy Ghost, Who glorifies Christ, receives of His and shows it to us, being thus practically owned in His presence in the assemblies of those Christians, His blessed activity among them as well as in them was realised in its own unimpeded power in spiritual joy and liberty. It almost seemed as if the blissful days of Pentecost were about to be experienced afresh amongst those simple believers. They realised their dependence upon the glorious Head, and under Him of their mutual dependence as members of Christ's body. Their evangelists did not consider themselves to be independent beings, who went whither they would, and did what seemed good in their own eyes, under plea of their sole dependence upon the Lord; bat they entered upon their work from the bosom of the church, commended to the Lord by the church, as did Paul and Barnabas (though the former was not only a preacher but an apostle), and after the completion of their service they returned to the church and "rehearsed all that God had done with them," and "there abode a long time with the disciples." Neither did they who were pastors and teachers in the church make themselves the starting-point and terminus of all that was carried on, nor the centre of the assembly, saying (like Louis XIV.) "The assembly, that is, me;"* but they considered themselves to be servants of the church for Jesus' sake (2 Cor. iv. 5).

[*These words were actually uttered by a well-known gifted minister in the church, who might have been expected to know better.]

"But the church is in ruins," some will say, "and as we cannot rebuild it, the only thing that remains is the gospel. There remains nothing therefore for the faithful and zealous christian labourer but to devote all one's energy to the blessed work of the gospel, that precious souls may be saved, before the saints and every evangelist be removed and the sudden awful judgments of God break in upon this world." I can only say that such reasoning is based on altogether false premises.

It is sadly true that the church is in ruins, and he must be blind indeed who would deny it. Yea, I make bold to say that the labours and testimony of a servant of Christ will in the same measure lack the savour of that grace and love which is never without truth, and the fragrance and freshness of the Spirit, as he has failed to realise in his own soul the rain of the church in the spirit of a Daniel and Nehemiah, having far more reason than they to "remember from whence we are fallen." Not being truly humbled before the Lord do not say about himself and his own failures, but about his share in the common ruin and shame of the church) his ministry, be it in the gospel or in the church, will lack, if not the outward energy, yet the savour of the grace and freshness and unction of the testimony of those honoured men of God of old, not being the result of true and deep brokenness of heart and spirit. David could "encourage himself in the Lord" amidst the ruins of Ziklag, whilst his men thought of stoning him. And why could he do so? Because he must have been down in the dust before the Lord about those silently eloquent ruins around him, they being the sorrowful and humiliating result of not only his little faith but of his faithlessness to God and His people. How graciously the Lord restored after that, all the lost ones to David!

"Who shall despise the day of small things?" was the prophet's encouraging word in the days of the rebuilding of Jerusalem, when the enemy taunted the builders with the mocking words, that a fox could leap over their walls. Those days of small things were just God's opportunity for doing great things. But let us, beloved, beware of attempting to do great things in a day of small things. It would be pretty much like the language of those Ephraimites and Samaritans in the days of Isaiah the prophet, who said in their pride and stubbornness of heart, "The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones; the sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars" (Isa. ix. 9, 10).

I do not say this to discourage any true-hearted evangelist in his zeal for, and labour in the gospel of our blessed God. God forbid! Surely the fields are white for the harvest and the labourers few. Let us pray the Lord of the harvest to raise and send more of them, but such as do not disconnect, in a spirit of independency, their labours from the church of God, the body of Christ, whose members they are, pleading the ruin of the church as an excuse for self-will and independency. Has the church (Eph.) as to its divine side fallen into ruins, because the human side (2 Tim.) as to man's responsibility has become a wreck and fallen into ruins? Has the Lord been unfaithful, because we have been unfaithful? No, blessed be God, He Who when on earth as the faithful Witness was faithful amidst unfaithfulness all around, is now faithful above our unfaithfulness.

Does the Spirit of God in the Epistle of Jude, which was written in a day of low tide, tell the saints to strike the flag, or even to lower the standard of truth on account of the low tide all around? Does he tell them to leave the ruins behind and go on with the gospel? On the contrary, he had intended when sitting down to write his Epistle, to speak to them about our common salvation in the sense of the gospel, but the increasing dangers and corruption in the church, far from making him indifferent or used to it, made him, inspired writer as he was, turn aside from the (however blessed) subject of the gospel to a still higher subject of paramount importance in the sight of God, even the church of God, fast declining toward a ruinous condition, as it then already was, but no less, nay even all the more on God's and His and our Christ's heart on that account, even as a mother cones and nurses her sick child all the more just because of its bad health. Does the apostle tell the saints to be less careful as to the "assembling of ourselves together," on account of the low condition of the church? No, he enjoins them all the more to "build up themselves on their most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost," and to "keep themselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."

It is a truly wretched thing to make the low and ruined condition of the church a plea for neglectful indifference as to the precious divine truths of God's word, as if the authority of God's word concerning His church were less binding on our consciences because of our having failed as to our responsibility under such privileges. Shall we go on sinning because we have sinned? Certainly every true christian would with horror recoil from such a thought, most repulsive even to any honest natural man.

Nay, beloved, our responsibility under such grace not only as to our common salvation, but still more as to our common privileges as members of the body of Christ, even the church of God, is in these very last of the "last days" greater than ever for faithful adherence to God's written word, and faithfulness in testimony both in the church and the gospel. The assembly is a divine institution, and we cannot neglect a divine institution without damage to our souls and to our testimony. It is God's nursery for His saints, and especially for His servants not only a nursery but, as it were, a divine drilling-place, for their outfit for service in the gospel. If the evangelist neglects that place, his ministry will lack the unction of the grieved Holy Spirit, Who dwells in the assembly no less than within the evangelist individually, and his ministry of the gospel will gradually have a more or less profane, often so-called popular, character, pleasing the multitude and the great, and despising the small and the few.

May the Lord send more labourers into His gospel field, but such who, like Paul and Barnabas, start from the bosom of the church, borne up by its prayers, and return to it when their labour is finished for common praises and joyful thanksgiving to God from Whom all blessings flow and to Whom all power belongs.

In my next paper I propose, if the Lord will, to offer a few remarks as to the origin, character, and subject of the gospel in its ministry.

1890 91.

2. "Good Tidings of Great Joy."

"And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke ii. 9-11).

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel [of Christ]; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith" (Rom. i. 16, 17).

"Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech by us; we pray in Christ's stead, Be ye reconciled to God. For Him Who knew no sin He hath made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:20, 21).

How lovely and honourable is the office of the evangelist, whether we look at him as the messenger of peace in the Epistle to the Romans, or as the minister of reconciliation in the Second Epistle to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 5)! There is no ministry more blessed and glorious than that of the gospel of grace and glory. God honours it highly, both in the great gospel-prophet of the Old and in the grand gospel-Epistle of the New Testament. "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation." And if this be true of the messengers of peace in the sense of the Old Testament, how far more of the messengers of the gospel of peace in the christian sense, be it for the burdened and troubled sinner in the light of the Epistle to the Romans, or the hostile sinner in the sense of 2 Cor. 5.

Beautiful indeed are the feet of the Lord's messenger of peace, who with his heart glowing with the love of Christ, and his willing steps hastening at the Master's bidding from place to place, be it into the centres and hotbeds of infidelity, corruption, and voluptuousness of the great cities, or into the Egyptian darkness of some out-of-the-way village or hamlet, or to the idolatrous heathen in the dark portions of this globe. Opposed step by step, and thus honoured and encouraged in some places, or met by silent indifference in others, where the very stones appear to be ready to cry out against the deadness of the place, the message he carries and delivers faithfully and fearlessly ascends permanently to heaven as a sweet savour of Christ to God, though to the unbeliever a "savour of death unto death," whilst to the believer a "savour of life unto life." "Knowing the terror of the Lord," he "persuades men," sounding in the very face of the enemy the note of alarm, to warn them to "flee from the wrath to come" to Him Who alone is able and willing to deliver from it. He "standeth in the top of the high places, by the way in the places of the paths." He "crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in of the doors, O ye simple, understand wisdom; and ye fools, be of an understanding heart."

Guided by the Spirit sent down from heaven for the preaching of the gospel, he is content to be nothing but a mouthpiece of that blessed Spirit, and the "two-edged sword," being wielded by that Spirit, does its quick and powerful work, "piercing and dividing asunder," laying hold of consciences and placing them face to face with a thrice holy, sin-hating God, all things being "naked and open unto the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do."

And, the love of Christ constraining him, he applies the healing balm of the gospel to the wounded and broken-hearted, beseeching, as Christ's ambassador, sinners and enemies to be reconciled to God, pointing to the Lamb slain as the perfect expression of the love of that God to Whom men refused to be reconciled by the life of His Son, when "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them;" but hated Him without a cause Who was the perfect expression of that love. He impresses upon his hearers that surpassingly marvellous truth, as high above man's blinded mind and hostile heart as the heavens are above the earth, viz., that the very same blood of God's own Son, which was the final proof of man's entire ruin and consummate guilt, should have been made the means, and the only means, of cleansing from all sin even the vilest sinner against that God Who "made Him Who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."

And when the "ambassador of Christ," whilst thus faithfully and lovingly preaching to a crowd of perishing sinners the glad tidings of God's full and free salvation, now perceives the first daybreak of divine light in some sin-benighted face before him as a sign that God Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness has begun to shine into the darkness of that heart; or when he beholds in another's face, as in the "mirror of the heart," a soul just passing from death unto life by faith in the Son of God; or, perhaps, in another sorrow-stricken countenance the tears of repentance changed into tears of "joy and peace in believing," through the delivering power of a full gospel — does not the evangelist's heart go up in deep joy and silent praise to the God of all grace, whilst his voice continues with increased assurance, power, and liberty to set forth the greatness and completeness of God's salvation through and in Christ Jesus? Behold, another of his hearers, apparently bowed down under the burden of sins and sin, or under the yoke of legal bondage, heaves a deep sigh of relief from its heavy pressure. It is evident that the cry of despair, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" is just about to be followed by the song of deliverance, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord."

And as the evangelist now winds up his address with a powerful appeal to the hearts of his listeners, a man whose face, distorted with passion, gives evidence of the intention of opposition and hostile demonstration with which he had come, can be noticed, his head bowed down, as if crashed by the mighty hammer of the word. His dark, hostile features gradually relax and soften down into an expression of sorrowful tenderness. His eyes begin to be moistened with a dew coming from a higher quarter than that of Hermon. And when the last tone of the "small voice" of God's beseeching love and grace in Christ's words, "I will in no wise cast out," has died away from the lips of God's messenger in the quiet and solemn night air, that opposer's face and bearing have become the literal expression of those lovely lines,
"Nay, but I yield, I yield!
I can hold out no more;
I sink, by dying love compelled,
And own Thee Conqueror!"

and when the closing Doxology is sung,
"Praise God from Whom all blessings flow,"

the figure of that Saul, turned into a Paul, is standing upright, with lit up and lifted up face and streaming tears of joy, joining in
"Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."

whilst the Father's house above is ringing with joy.

The crowd disperses. The evangelist goes home pale and fatigued, but with face reflecting the heavenly joy. Sweet will be thy rest, faithful ambassador of Christ! May His peace be with thee, His messenger of peace, until thou enterest into His rest and hearest His "Well done . . . enter into the joy of thy Lord." Meanwhile may that prayer, "God bless you!" uttered by some of thy hearers on parting, return in abundant blessing upon thy soul and service!

Let us now briefly consider some salient points connected with the testimony and work of the evangelist, especially for the sake of younger labourers in the gospel field, who from want of a fuller acquaintance with the character of the gospel, and from lack of experience as to the dangers besetting his path of service, is exposed to suffering loss and injuries that might have been avoided if he had been forewarned and thus forearmed. I therefore propose to offer a few remarks as to:
1. The source of the gospel.
2. Its character.
3. Its subject.
4. Its object.
5. Its effect.
6 The character of its ministry and ministers.
7. Its end and final result; and,
8. The dangers and snares besetting the path of its ministers, and how to avoid them.

The Lord willing, I shall enter upon these important points in my next paper.

3. 1. The Source of the Gospel.

3. 1890 104.

God, the God from Whom all blessings flow, to Whom all power belongs, and from Whom life proceeds, is the source of the gospel. It is the "gospel of God," as we are reminded by the very first verse of the great gospel-epistle of Paul — to the Romans. God alone, Who "is light," and Who "is love," could he the source of the "gospel of God." What heart but a divine could devise and form that vast and wondrous plan of salvation for rebellious sinners, to be accomplished upon the cross, the preaching of which is foolishness both to the wise and to the religionists of this world! All the wisest, most ingenious, and most productive minds, all the kindest, most benevolent, and loving hearts of men, if welded into one, could never have devised or formed such a salvation. Such a mind or heart, however creative, to speak after the manner of men, would be still that of a creature, and of a sinful creature to boot.

And as there was only One Who could conceive and form such a plan, so there was only One Who could perform it and carry it out, even the Man Christ Jesus, the Mediator between God and men — "the Word made flesh," and "God manifest in the flesh" — the Son of God, Who became the Son of man, and was made a little lower than the angels, to die as the "Lamb of God" upon the cross, where He suffered, "the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us unto God." If all the righteous men that ever lived on earth from Abel to Nathanael under the fig-tree could have been concentrated and made into one just man, that just man could not as a substitute have suffered for the unjust, to bring them unto God, even if he had been willing to do so; for he would be still a man subject to like passions as we are.

And as there was only One Who could carry out that wondrous plan of salvation, even the obedient Son of the Father, Who when about to exchange His glorious heavenly home for this world, the home of sin and misery and rebellion, said, "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God;" so there is only One Who can testify that that vast plan has been carried into effect and accomplished. God the Spirit alone could and can bear that testimony, even the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven to preach the gospel by His messengers. He Who glorifies Christ receives of His and shows it unto us, bears witness of Christ Jesus and His accomplished work of an eternal redemption, in the word written by that same Spirit of truth.

All the united wisdom of the universities of the world, and of their professors and "divines" so-called, would be powerless to bear a true and effectual testimony of what Jesus has done and is for poor sinners. The spirit of the world cannot make known or teach the things that are freely given to us of God. Man's wisdom cannot teach or learn them, but only the Holy Ghost. For "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him, because they are spiritually discerned."

There are many preachers now-a-days, but not many true evangelists, who go forth on their blessed errand, conscious of being sent by the Lord, having drunk well and deeply of that divine fountain of the "God of all grace" and the "God of peace," which stands ever open for thirsty souls and for those who truly thirst for souls. All His fulness dwelleth in Christ bodily, "of Whose fulness we all have received, and grace for grace," and "in Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." By the Spirit we are united to Him, "one spirit with the Lord," that we might draw from His fulness everything we need here below to glorify Him in our walk and testimony. "He that abideth in Me, and I in Him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing."

I cannot forbear here to give the words of an aged devoted evangelist, who not long ago entered into his Master's joy and rest.* He writes:

"We must not forget one great secret of success in preaching the gospel. It is one that has impressed me all my life, and never more so than at present, after more than fifty-three years, through much failure, in preaching the word of God. Long have 1 noticed how the apostle Paul takes care to show that he was not the servant of any party; neither did he derive authority from any human source, not even from the apostles at Jerusalem. He could say, 'Paul, an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, Who raised Him from the dead.' See the whole context of this verse (Gal. i. 1-24). No doubt the Holy Ghost foresaw the authority that men would assume in the place of Christ as to this.

"But is it not as important for the humblest servant of Christ to be the servant of Jesus Christ now as for Paul to be so then? Think what it is to receive your commission from Christ Himself, and to be His servant alone, whatever may be the state of the church! 'Do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Jesus Christ.' These are searching words. Who can say them from the heart? Surely they do not set aside the blessedness of the fellowship of saints. But the church does not give authority to the servant of the Lord to preach the word, as is clearly seen in the above scriptures. Well then, if I am the servant of Christ, what would He have His servant do in any place to which He may send him? What is the heart's desire of Christ as to all that are His in that place? What is the will of God as to the whole world, or the unconverted in that district?"*

[*"The Way the Lord hath led me;" or, "Incidents of Gospel Work," by C. Stanley. London: Morrish.]

All our resources are in that divine source of light, life, love, grace, joy, peace, power and wisdom, and every blessing in Christ Jesus. May we enjoy more truly the draughts of refreshment in joy and peace flowing from that fountain, in communion with the Father and the Son in the power of an ungrieved Spirit, and so realise more our only safety and strength in dependence upon our Lord Jesus Christ, Who holds not only the keys of death and hades, but of service also.

2. Its Character.

The character of the gospel is that of grace, peace, and glory. It is the "gospel of the grace of God" (Acts xx. 24). Grace is its very keynote, even the glory of God's sovereign, and the riches of His saving and pardoning, grace in and through Christ Jesus (Acts ii. 41, 47). Saved by grace, we are to be "to the praise of the glory of His grace" and of the "riches of His grace." Both we find mentioned in the first chapter of that grand church-epistle to the Ephesians, though it is especially the sovereign glory of God's grace which appears in the first chapter, whilst the second particularly speaks of the treasury of the riches of that grace, reminding us of the pit whence we have been digged, and of the rock whence we have been hewn. First the "basket of first-fruits" (ch. i.), then "a Syrian ready to perish was my father" (ch. ii.). This is divine order. It is the deep sense both of the glory and the riches of that grace, which we behold so beautifully evinced in the apostle of the gospel and of the church, and which imparted such an exquisite character and savour to his ministry both in the gospel and the church. The very next chapter (Eph. iii.) furnishes us with a precious instance of how deeply and thoroughly his soul was imbued with the sense of his entire indebtedness to that rich and sovereign grace of God in and through Christ Jesus. The sense of that grace was ever present to him, and lost none of its intensity even when disclosing the wonderful truths of the mystery confided to him alone of all the apostles (ch. iii. 8, 9; comp. 1 Cor. xv. 9, 10; 1 Tim. ii. 12-16). It was at the same time the living and constant sense of that divine, rich, and glorious grace that "establisheth the heart," which enabled that "mighty man of valour" to brave the "bonds and afflictions" awaiting him, and made him say, "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." A preacher of the gospel of that grace who has never had a deep sense of sin, nor consequently of grace, can be but a sorry evangelist.

A further character of the gospel is that of peace, as has been mentioned already. Peter preached it as such in the first preaching to the Gentiles, to Cornelius and to his household. In the same way we find it mentioned by Paul in Eph. ii. 17 that portion so abounding with grace and peace (in an especial way applied to Gentile believers in that chapter). But the express term, "gospel of peace," we find in the closing chapter of the same Epistle (Eph. vi. 15), "and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace:" Here (Eph. vi.) it is not a question of preaching the gospel to poor sinners, but of the believer's contest with the hosts of wicked spirits in the heavenlies, who oppose the saint's progress in the realisation of our blessings in the heavenly Canaan. It would he just as absurd here, where we have to do battle with wicked spirits, to talk of the evangelist ready to preach the gospel, as it would be to transpose the "breastplate of faith and love" from 1 Thess. 5 into Eph. vi.

But what is then the meaning of "your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace"? It simply means that the feet of the soldier of Christ, i.e., every believer, to stand his ground in such a contest, must be steadied and strengthened with the preparation which the gospel of peace gives us. In short, it means that to stand his ground in that contest, the believer must have "peace with God," which is the fruit of believing the gospel of peace. Only think of a soldier going slipshod into the battle, or with torn boots, especially over stony or muddy ground! How can he stand his ground against the enemy with his feet blistered and wounded?*

[*It is well known that one of the reasons of the defeat of the French, in several of their encounters with the enemy during the last war, had in part to be attributed to the utterly defective footgear provided for them by a great foreign boot-manufactory, whose agents, in consequence, for years after did not dare to show their faces in the streets of Paris.]

For one who has no peace, it is a dangerous thing to preach the gospel of peace to others, thus giving out and commending to others what he has not got nor knows himself. But how shall he be able (if it were not for the preserving grace and mercy of God) to stand his ground and contend against those terrible powers and principalities, even the hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies, if he has no peace with God and does not know his standing and acceptance in Christ? None of those parts of the "whole armour of God" in that important closing chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians must be absent in such a contest, the "feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace" as little as the rest.

But the gospel of the God of all grace and of peace has further the character of glory. It is the "gospel of the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God" (2 Cor. iv. 4). It is especially with regard to this character of the gospel that Satan, the god of this sin-benighted world, as we learn from this passage of holy writ, is so busy to blind the minds of them that believe not. It was the Lord, Whose glory, brighter than the sun at noon, had shone upon the apostle on his way to Damascus, when, in the zenith of his religious reputation, he had to make that all-over-powering, crushing discovery that to be a zealous Jew was to be at open war with Jehovah, Whom he thought to serve so well. The Lord, Whose glory had blinded Saul's eyes, that God might "shine into his heart, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ," had entrusted Paul with the gospel, not only of grace and peace, but especially with the "gospel of the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God." This was in an especial way the gospel of Paul the apostle of glory. Saul's natural eyes, blinded by the splendour of that glory, were re-opened when Ananias came to him, and "there fell from his eyes as it had been scales;" but the eyes of Paul's mind were thenceforth for ever blind to the vain glories and natural attractions both of the open and religious world. Forgetting those things that are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, he pressed toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. He followed after, if that he might apprehend that for which he had been apprehended of Christ Jesus.

Such was the effect of the gospel of the glory of Christ upon the apostle and evangelist Paul. Like his fellow-apostles, the elegant scholar and whilom disciple of Gamaliel and most honoured Pharisee was "made the filth of the world and the off-scouring of all things." In him grace, peace, and glory were beautifully blended into one harmonious accord, reflecting the character of the gospel he so well and faithfully preached and sealed with his life-blood.

Dear brother and fellow-labourer in the gospel, fellow-pilgrim and fellow-heir of glory, what effect has the gospel of grace, peace, and glory on us? and how far are our lives as well as our ministry the reflectors of it? Depend upon it, if our own hearts are not daily imbibing the refreshment and strength of the gospel of grace and peace we preach to others, and the eye of faith be not steadily upwards to that glory held out by that gospel, the delivery of it may be accompanied by liberty and power (as being connected with the gift of the evangelist), but it will not be in the power and demonstration of the Spirit, and must lack the unction of the Holy Ghost, not being the effect of living communion with the Father and the Son. It will, even in the style and way of its ministration, sooner or later fall in with the low tone and character of the preachers of these days, pandering to the carnal taste of the multitude who have "itching ears," and will assume the soft character of so many "popular preachers" — grace without truth, peace without righteousness, and love without holiness, leaving out glory altogether, except self-glorification.

In my next paper a few words, if the Lord will, on the subject, object, and effect of the gospel.

1890 141.

4. 3. The Subject of the Gospel.

The subject of the gospel is: God's love towards a world of sinners and enemies, manifested in the gift of His only begotten Son, Who is "the Way, the Truth and the Life," and Who "suffered the Just for the unjust, to bring us unto God." Or, to put it more precisely: the love of God and the righteousness of God, manifested in the person and work of His Son Jesus Christ, sinners "being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare at this time His righteousness, that He might be just and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus."

The Epistle to the Romans answers Job's question, "How should man be just with God?" Jesus could say, "I am the truth." Now, "truth" is the exact expression of what man ought to be in obedience to and dependence on God. Jesus, as Son of man, was in His life on earth ever the perfect expression of that. In the very first preaching at Pentecost, the Spirit of

God, in describing the perfect humanity of Jesus, refers to Ps. xvi., "I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is on my right hand, that I should not be moved," etc., etc. Therefore Jesus, in His character as "Son of man," was and is "the Truth," being ever in the place of perfect, dependence and obedience, and thus showing that everybody and everything in this world was out of that place. Therefore the "truth as it is in Jesus," as the perfect "Son of man," would only have condemned man, who ever since the fall has been the very opposite. But, blessed be God, "Truth" is not only the expression of what man as a creature ought to be towards God; it is also the perfect expression of what God is towards men. Christ, in His character as "Son of God," was also the perfect expression of this — the divine — side of the "Truth."* This it is that saves us. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." "God was manifest in the flesh." "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing trespasses."

[*Pilate asked, "What is truth?" And He, Who was "the Truth" personified in both aspects, stood close before Him. Poor Pilate! His own question became his judge. Many careless or scoffing questioners like him, will know the answer, when it will be too late — before the "Great White Throne"]

But neither the truth, as expressed in the "Son of God," nor as it was in Jesus, the "Son of man," would do for men. The "Son of man" must become the "Lamb of God." Men would not be reconciled by the life of Him, Who in this world was the expression of God's love towards sinners and enemies, but "hated Him without a cause." Then God, in His wondrous love and longsuffering grace, again manifests in the gospel His love in the death of His Son, saying as it were, "You would not be reconciled to Me by the life of My Son. Will you now be reconciled by His death? Can you doubt My love to you when you behold Him as the `Lamb of God' dying upon the cross, and listen to His first and last words upon that cross? ` Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,' and, 'It is finished.'" "He made Him, Who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." On the cross "mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other." Now the Father may kiss the returning prodigal and "grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ, our Lord" (Rom. v.)

Blessed solution of the enigma: "God is Light" and "God is love," applied to a sinner, without the one clashing against the other.

4. The Object of the Gospel.

Its object is: God glorified in the salvation of sinners. "Glory to God in the highest!" This comes first; then, "Peace on earth," and, "good will toward men."* God's glory must be paramount, here as everywhere. God glorified in the salvation of one sinner is more than ten thousand saved. Leave out God's glory, and salvation becomes a very small thing indeed.

[*The second part of the angelic song, "Peace on earth," will be fulfilled during the millennium. Toward the close of Luke's Gospel, Christ being about to be rejected, the note of praise is no longer, "peace on earth," but "peace in heaven."]

"This is an hard saying; who can hear it?" may be said here by some christian philanthropists, who take a humanitarian view of the gospel, making the salvation of souls from hell the chief object, and the glory of our Saviour God, as it were, the secondary thing, though not in words, yet in fact. Have those kind philanthropists ever really chimed in with the song of that heavenly choir in the night of the Saviour's nativity? If we want true and genuine philanthropy, let us look at Titus iii. Here we find it. "For we ourselves also were sometime foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another." "But after that the kindness and philanthropy [the literal rendering] of our God and Saviour appeared," etc.

This is real, true philanthropy, which will stand the test, because it is divine. The apostle Paul could say, "For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God." God's glory was the first thing; then he adds, "or whether we be sober, it is for your cause." Such was his love for souls. And why? "For" he continues, "the love of Christ constraineth us." That was the secret. His love for souls partook of a divine character, so that the less he was loved the more he loved. I am afraid the philanthropy of many of our modern gospel workers would not stand this test.

How those words of the great apostle (2 Cor. 5:13) remind us of Moses on the mount, in his wonderful pleading for the people; and of Moses in the camp among the idolatrous people, in his unsparing zeal for the glory of God!

A few words as to Moses. Why did he leave Pharaoh's court "when he was come to years?" Providence had put him there. Why did he not wait till providence called him thence for the deliverance of the people? In his high and influential position what, golden opportunities he might have had for relieving the distress of God's and his own people! It was far from being unlikely, that on Pharaoh's demise the son of Pharaoh's daughter might have ascended the throne of Egypt, and then he might have delivered the people by one stroke of his pen. But in that case God would have been shut out, and Moses been glorified instead, in the deliverance of the people. It would not have been, "Stand still and see the salvation of God," but, "see my (Moses') salvation." And what would have become of the glorious song of deliverance in Ex. xv. beginning with those words, "I will sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, and He is become my salvation!"

If I think of myself and my own immortal soul, I rejoice in the assurance of being saved, and I thank God for it, of course; but if I think of my God and Saviour, I rejoice in my Saviour-God, and in the thought that He is glorified in my salvation, which is far more and far better.

In the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews we have the greatness of our Saviour, and in the second our great salvation. If we neglect realising the former, we shall soon begin to neglect the latter.

Next to the glory of God in the salvation of sinners comes as second object of the gospel the forming of the saved ores into one body, even the body of Christ which is the church of God. God's wondrous counsels of wisdom, grace, and glory, do not confine themselves to pardoning penitent sinners, nor does Jesus stop short at delivering them from the wrath to come and from that place "where their worm dieth not and the fire never will be quenched," but to bring many sons unto glory, to share it with Him in the Father's house, whither the "First-begotten from among the dead," and the "Firstborn of many brethren" has gone before to prepare a place for us to be for ever with Him, not only as sons of God, brought to glory, but as the glorious bride of Him Who died for us and by His precious blood has washed us from our sins and made us a kingdom of priests, and made us fit to dwell with Him in glory, to be the "Lamb's wife" in glory, and His bride, His body already here on earth. As observed below, Jesus died not for that (Jewish) nation only, but that also He should gather into one (i.e., into the church) the children of God that were scattered abroad (i.e., of the Jews and Gentiles) John xi. 52. He died not merely to get a certain number — however great — of saved individuals or units, but that those units should be united, i. e., baptised by the Holy Ghost into one body, of which He Himself, Who died for us and rose again, is the glorious Head there above.

Do we sufficiently realise, beloved, this second object of the gospel of grace and glory? This is not merely "sinners saved by grace," (blessed keynote though that be!) but "many sons to be brought to glory." And not only so, but these many sons, given by the Father to the Son, to be His bride, baptised into one body — His body — by the Holy Spirit, Who also unites us with our Head above. "Thine they were, and Thou gavest them to Me," said the Son to the Father when about to leave this world and go to the Father.

"Children of God," "Heirs of God," "Joint-heirs with Christ," to be "glorified together with Him," after having suffered with Him down here, and during His absence having reflected here below in our poor measure Him and His light, Who on earth was ever "the Light of the world" and the "express image" of the Father.

Being ourselves objects of such divine love and grace, objects of such counsels of divine wisdom past finding out, as His love passeth knowledge, how far do we realise the importance of the second object of the gospel, even the formation of the church of God as being members of that one family of God, that one body of His Son, our blessed Saviour and Head in glory? How much do we live "up there," whilst testifying "down here"? To live heavenly on earth, and be reflectors of Christ, our Head, we must live in heaven.

The evangelist who neglects these things will soon lower the tone and standard of the gospel to the level of the common preachers in the systems of the religious world, stopping short at the grave of Jesus and leaving out or scarcely touching upon the heavenly side of the gospel, and of our union with the risen and glorified Lord and Christ, not to speak of the glorious hope of His coming again.

5. The Effects of the Gospel.

Its effects are life and peace for the believer: eternal life by believing in the Son of God, and peace with God, yea, joy and peace in believing. His life is bound up with Christ; for God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son, so that "he that hath the Son, hath life." And having believed in God, Who in His love delivered up Jesus for our offences, and in His power raised Him from the dead, he is justified from all that he has done, and his peace is just as solid and settled as is the work that has procured it, even the work of Him Who has made peace by the blood of His cross. Wherever a full gospel has been preached and received (i.e., believed), these will be the unfailing results, viz., eternal life as bound up with the person of the Son of God, in Whom he has believed, and peace with God, a peace procured and bound up with the work of His Son.

To sum up: — the realisation in his own soul of the glorious subject of the gospel preserves the preacher from becoming a mere "sounding brass" and "tinkling cymbal"; the realisation of its two glorious objects preserves Christians from glorifying a saved sinner rather than God, especially where his previous course of life has been very bad (he may have been an Indian chief, or a prize-fighter, or a chimney a weep, or a fiddler), and thus ruining, as far as they can, precious souls, for whom Jesus died, by setting them up on the pinnacle of vain glory; whereas the realisation of the second object, even the formation of the church and its high and glorious calling, keeps both the convert and the preacher from relapsing to the low spiritual level of the professing religious world, which, especially in these closing days, ends but too often with wallowing in the mire and with rationalism, if not open infidelity.

As to the effects of the gospel: eternal life and peace for the believer, they do not depend of course on the progress of our spiritual life, though carelessness and neglect as to the latter may result in over-clouding, and even temporary bankruptcy of assurance and enjoyment of either.

5. The Gospel. The Character of its Ministry and Ministers.

1890 155.

1. Character of its Ministry.

Its ministry partakes of a twofold character. It is, firstly, the "ministry (or ministration) of righteousness" (2 Cor. iii. 9.) and secondly, the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18.). In its former character it appears especially in the Epistle to the Romans, and in the latter, in the second Epistle of the same Apostle to the Corinthians. The great gospel Epistle begins, as does the great gospel prophet of the Old Testament, with man's utter ruin, and then presents God's perfect remedy through and in Jesus Christ. As said before, Job's question "How should man be just with God?" finds its full and complete answer in the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, where "every mouth is stopped and all the world become guilty before God, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."

But the effect of sin, as seen already in Adam, is not only guile, or the attempt to cover over and to conceal oneself, but distrust and positive enmity against God. "The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I did eat" says Adam, laying his sin at God's door. Man has not only become a sinner, but an enemy of God. God, when beginning His work in the soul of a sinner, begins with the conscience, the Holy Spirit in His convincing power bringing home to the conscience the convicting power of the word written by Himself. Is it not the same amongst men? Suppose your neighbour has grievously wronged and offended you, would you care for his coming the next morning into your presence holding out his hand and wishing you good morning, as if nothing had happened? Certainly not! You would expect to see some exercise of conscience at least, if not of heart, and consequent acknowledgment of his wrong, before treating him on the old terms. It was just this boldness that characterised Cain's approach to God in professed worship. The effect of the written word of God when brought home by His Spirit to the sinner's soul is just this: it takes, two-edged sword as it is, in its searching and judging power, the conscience right into the presence of Him "with Whom we have to do," and unto Whose "eyes all things are naked and opened."

Take the case of a young man, sent by his father to the university, who has got into bad company and been led astray by his boon companions. One day he receives a letter from his father. The very sight of it makes his heart smite against his ribs. His first thought is: "Should my father have heard of my ways?" He opens the letter and sees that the father knows all about it, reprimanding his son for his disgraceful conduct. What would be the effect of the father's "written word" upon the son? Why, he feels as if his father stood before him, as if his father's eyes were upon him, and his voice speaking to him. In short, he would feel himself, as it were, in the presence of his father, face to face with him, so to speak.

Such, then, is the effect of Holy Writ, when applied by the Holy Spirit to the sinner's conscience. It brings him face to face with a thrice holy, sin-hating God, exposing him to the all-searching light of His holy presence.

And it is well worth noticing how both the chief apostle of the circumcision and the great apostle of the Gentiles, the former in the preaching of his first gospel at Pentecost, and the latter in his gospel Epistle to the Romans, guided by the Holy Ghost, take care, as mere mouthpieces of God, to let the written word do its own work of divine power in the souls of the hearers or readers — for those at Jerusalem, in bringing home to their consciences their guilt in having rejected and crucified their Messiah, and in the Epistle to the Romans quoting alike from the Psalms, being that portion of Holy Writ so especially adapted for dealing with both consciences and hearts. The searching power of the passages quoted from the Psalms in the third chapter of Romans appears strikingly adapted for dealing with consciences.

And here, let me add, appears to be one chief cause of the falling off in the power and effect of the gospel preaching at the present day. The conscience is little dealt with, and the religious sentiments of the natural heart appealed to and wrought upon instead. True gospel preaching always begins with "Repent." The gospel of the kingdom began with "Repent" for its keynote, be its preacher John the Baptist, or the Lord Himself, or His apostles. "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," was the burden of the fore-runner's preaching (Matt. iii. 2). "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," the Master Himself preached (ver. 17). And as to His apostles, "They went out and preached that men should repent," (Mark vi. 12). At the close of the first transitional gospel at Pentecost, the agonised enquiry of the Jews: "Men, brethren, what shall we do? is again answered by; "Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." And even after the gospel of grace, peace and glory, as preached by the apostle of the Gentiles, had assumed its full Christian character, Paul was "testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ." Acts xx. 21.

Where the wound has been but slight, there can be but a slight sense of God's healing grace, and the heart thus not being established in grace, the feet of such a lamb of Christ's flock will soon betake themselves again to the going astray. Where there has been a real conversion, God will not fail, in His grace, to deepen, sooner or later, by way of discipline, the sense of the solemn nature of sin and of His grace in those who are His. But the spiritual father of such a convert might have saved to his child in the gospel a good deal of sorrowful and humbling discipline, if his ministry in the gospel had been more effective there where God begins, viz. in the consciences of his hearers. Antinomianism must be the natural result of such sadly defective revival preaching, followed by hardening of conscience and a Christ-dishonouring walk.

But in every real conversion, God works in the heart as well as in the conscience of the sinner. There is not only a blinded and hardened conscience to deal with, but also a blinded, hardened, and impenitent heart, filled with distrust and enmity against God. What does God, Who "is love" no less than "light"? He "commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." The same Spirit of truth who convinces the conscience of sin and guilt, draws as the "Spirit of love" the burdened conscience and contrite heart toward God, Who had been so grievously sinned against. "For Thy name's sake, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great," pleads the psalmist. He pleads what, for a human judge, would have been the very reason for condemning him. "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy loving kindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions," says the same psalmist. "God, be merciful to me, a sinner," prays the publican in the temple.

The evangelist who keeps on hammering on the conscience with verses 3 and 5 of John iii., having very little to say to the heart about verses 14 and 15, and still less about verses 16 and 17, produces but a kind of legal mulatto Christians: sorry fruits of the gospel of grace, peace, and glory.

Whilst, then, in the Epistle of Paul to the Romans where we have man in his total sinful ruin brought before us, and God's wondrous way of justifying the ungodly by faith in Christ Jesus, the gospel appears rather in its character as "ministry of righteousness," though even there its character of reconciliation is not lost sight of (Rom. v.): it is in the second Epistle of the same apostle to the Corinthians (chap. v.) that the "ministry of reconciliation" is prominent. "Knowing the terror of the Lord" the apostle persuades men "to flee from the wrath to come;" but the "love of Christ constraining him, he beseeches them to be reconciled to God.

If in man's hostile heart there had been any response to God's heart so full of love, mercy, and goodness, it must have come out when "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." — "God was manifest in the flesh." The Man Christ Jesus, the only Mediator between God and men, had been in this world, going about and doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the hungry, giving sight to the blind, healing the broken-hearted, speaking words in season to the weary, blessing their little ones, setting at liberty the captives of Satan, and preaching the gospel to the poor. At Cana, He rejoiced with them that did rejoice; at Bethany, He wept with them that wept: wherever there was sorrow and misery, Jesus was near and ready to remove it.

But man's heart was like an instrument which is out of tune. Let the most perfect master put his hand to it, it only utters an unharmonious sound in reply, because it is out of tune. There was the "mourning" in John the Baptist's days, but there was no "weeping." "He hath a devil" was their reply. Then there was the "piping" in the days of the gracious and accessible One, and they answered: "Behold a gluttonous man, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners." It was the final burden of Stephen's sermon (before they stoned him and sent him after his Master with the message that they would not have Jesus to rule over them), that whatever God had sent in grace, they had rejected, but clung to that which God had rejected. True, they had hung on His lips like bees, drinking in the honey of the gracious words of Him Who spake as never man spake, when He preached His first gospel in the synagogue at Nazareth, pronouncing those sweet words of His prophet, about the preaching of the gospel to the poor, the healing of the broken-hearted, the preaching deliverance to the captives, the recovering of sight to the blind, the setting at liberty them that are bruised and the preaching the acceptable year of the Lord. The "little book" was sweet in their mouth, like honey. But when the gracious but holy and true One began to speak about the widow of Sarepta and Naaman the Syrian, and brought their true condition home to their consciences, His words proved bitter to the belly. The same evil one, that acted later on in the consciences and hearts of Stephen's hearers, was at work in the consciences and hearts of the audience at Nazareth; and they arose, and thrust Jesus out of the city, to cast Him down from the brow of the hill.

Men would not be reconciled to God by the life of Jesus, by Whom not only grace, but grace and truth, came into this world, the very reason why they hated Him without a cause. "They had both seen and hated both Hi m and the Father," until the only response to all that grace and goodness, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" arose in the streets of Jerusalem, and around the cross Jew and Gentile stood united in common conspiracy against the gracious, holy, and true One, who was the express image of the invisible God.

Then God says, as it were, "you would not be reconciled by the life of My Son: will you be reconciled by His death? Can you doubt my love to you, poor fallen sinners and enemies, when you see Him, the rejected Son of man, as the Lamb of God the Lamb of My own divine provision, bleeding and suffering upon the cross? The same precious blood of My dear Son, which is the proof of your consummate guilt and enmity against Me, is the proof of Mine and His redeeming love to you, and at the same time the means and the only means, to cleanse you from all sin. And from the same glory, whither you have sent back My Son rejected and crucified, I have sent down My Spirit, to announce to a dying perishing world of guilty, and yet hostile sinners, through My ministers of the gospel, a full free pardon and forgiveness of sins, through that same blood; and not only full pardon and forgiveness, but justification from all you have done and from which you could not be justified by the works of the law. And not only pardon, forgiveness and justification; but the very One rejected by you and crucified, to be righteousness, even Mine own righteousness for you. For He, who knew no sin, has been made sin for you, that you might be the righteousness of God in Him. I, then, not only invite, but beseech you, through My ambassadors who pray in Christ's stead, 'be ye reconciled to God.'"

Wondrous ministry of righteousness! Still more wondrous, "ministry of reconciliation!" Worthy of Him, who giveth divinely, and forgiveth divinely, and saveth divinely, ever worthy of Himself!

"Of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things, to Whom be glory for ever. Amen."

May He who is our Head, once crowned with thorns, and now crowned with honour and glory, in His rich grace enable those of His servants whom He has entrusted with the blessed message of the gospel, to be able and faithful messengers, applying the word, which "is truth" and also the "word of grace," with equal power to consciences and hearts of poor sinners, and, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, to minister the word in its own authority and simplicity, empty and dependent instruments in the Master's hands, and able ministers of the gospel, both as the "ministry of righteousness" and the "ministry of reconciliation."

In the next paper, the Lord willing, a few words on the character of the evangelists as "Ambassadors for Christ."

6. 2. Character of the Ministers of the Gospel.

1890 172.

The evangelist is an "ambassador for Christ" (2 Cor. 5:20), at least in his measure.

Now an "ambassador" in the ordinary sense of that word, signifies one, sent by the head of one state to the head of another state, to be the representative of the dignity, rights, and interests of the one who sends him.

In the world such an ambassador, whilst ever mindful of the dignity and interests of his sovereign and country, will and dare not fail to acknowledge the dignity and to admit and respect the interests of the government and country whither he has been sent and at whose court he is accredited. His bearing and demeanour will be the expression of the majesty of his sovereign and of the dignity of the government of his own country, whilst no less expressing the reverence due to the sovereign to whom he has presented his credentials and to the government of that country.

A similar, if not quite the same, character attaches to the "ambassador for Christ." But his function, his position, and the dignity of his ministry excel that of the ambassadors of this world, just as far as heaven is high above the earth; for he is the representative of the "King of kings and Lord of lords."

That sovereign Lord and King of Glory, once crucified and expelled by this world, which was made by Him and knew Him not, said, when risen from the dead, "Peace unto you; as My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you." He has sent His ambassadors into this world with a message of life and peace. He Himself "is Light," the "brightness of glory," as He was the "Light of this world," when here below.

But He is not only "Light," but also "Love." His ambassadors, whilst reflecting by walk and word the light of Him that sent them, and carrying the light of the gospel of glory into this sin-benighted world, should be the expression of His love no less than of His light. They are inseparable (1 John ii. 9-11). Knowing the "terror of the Lord," His apostle "persuaded men"; but the "love of Christ constraining" him, he "besought" sinners and enemies, to be "reconciled to God." Even the ambassadors of this world do everything, by a courteous, kind, and obliging demeanour, to gain the confidence and goodwill of those around them and thus widen their circle of influence. How much more should Christ's ambassadors, by their mien, word and action, he the (however imperfect) expression of the love of Him Who sent them, and Who gave Himself for the salvation of those to whom they are sent! His voice should be like the voice of the charmer, not only "charming never so wisely," which rarely produces real and lasting effect for blessing, and often the very opposite, but attracting and winning souls in their own interest by the enchanting voice and appeal of Christ's love in the evangelist's heart, uttered and ministered by the Spirit, not only of "power," but of love, and of a "sound mind."

But how unlike the diplomatist of this world is the "ambassador for Christ"! He does not, like the former, endeavour by pleasing manners to enlist people in his and his court's and country's, but in their own eternal interests, whilst showing them the interest which God with all the untold glorious hosts of His heavenly courts takes in the eternal welfare of their souls, rejoicing over one sinner that repenteth. The policy of Christ's ambassadors is not like that of this world, "Do ut des" (i. e. "I give that you may give"), but "Do ut accipias" (i.e. "I give that you may receive").

But the Spirit, Who is to guide the evangelist and be the power of his ministry is not only the "Spirit of love" but first of all the "Spirit of truth." "The ambassador for Christ" therefore, whilst endeavouring by a gracious, patient and loving demeanour to win souls for Christ, should never, like the diplomatist of this world, stoop to the low policy of flattery, painting over and propping up the old Adam, trimming the empty lamp of the respectable religionist, making pillows for every armpit, and speaking "peace" where there is no peace, for the sake of the "cause," and of a good attendance in chapel or church, or missionary rooms. Unlike this world's ambassadors, who, whilst ever conscious of the majesty of their sovereign and of the dignity of their office, always are mindful of the reverence due to the sovereign and government, to whom they have been sent, the ambassador for Christ, being fully alive to the glory, majesty and power of his heavenly Master and of the dignity of his office and of the all-importance of his mission, never should flinch from faithfully delivering his message, all-absorbing in its eternal importance, and eclipsing in its divinely glorious character all the vain glories of this world and its potentates. Be it in the presence of the great ones of the earth, or faced by the fury of an impious mob, he delivers his fearless testimony of divine truth to their consciences, whilst with God's "small voice" of grace, he knows how to appeal to their hearts with this message of grace, peace, and life. Unlike the ambassador of this world, who is bound and eager to represent in his grand appearance the power and dignity of his sovereign or government, and to reflect their glory in the style of his living and the splendour of his retinue, Christ's ambassador is prepared and ready to appear as the "off-scouring of all things and the filth of the world," where his Master, the "Lord of glory," was "crucified."

Such were the apostles of Christ, and such should be His evangelists. What examples are the apostles, especially Peter and Paul, in all this!

But the apostle could add:

"Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place.

"For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved and in them that perish.

"To the one we are the savour of death unto death and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?

Many of our readers will be aware that the apostle Paul alludes here as he does in other places, to the military customs in the ancient Roman army. When a Roman general returned victoriously from an important war, a triumphal entry into Rome was usually granted him on his return. The captives of war preceded him. A portion of that large crowd was generally destined to death (to fight with gladiators or wild beasts in the Roman amphitheatre), and the rest were sold as slaves. Clouds of incense preceded the returning conqueror, covering the crowd of the unfortunate captives of war. Those clouds ascended as a sweet incense to the sky; but to those captives, that were destined to death, they were a "savour of death unto death;" whilst to the rest, whose lives were spared, it was a "savour of life unto life."

It is to this custom among the Romans the apostle evidently alludes. The gospel of God always ascends to heaven as a sweet savour unto God. For is it not concerning His own glory, and the honour of the name of Jesus His dear Son, and concerning the salvation of precious souls, for whom Christ suffered and died and rose again? What else could that gospel be but a sweet savour ascending to heaven?

But the apostle in the sense of his entire dependence upon God and of being nothing but an instrument used by the Master according to His own good pleasure adds: "And who is sufficient for these things?" It is well for the evangelist to bear this in mind more constantly. Then he concludes:

"For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God, speak we in Christ."

Let us well heed these four points: 1. "As of sincerity;" 2. "But as of God;" 3. "In the sight of God;" and 4. "Speak we in Christ."

If all preachers and evangelists (for they are far from being one and the same thing) would take more to heart these four points so essential to every true minister of Christ, it would be well with them and with the fruits of their ministry.

7. The Gospel. - Its End and Final Result. The Snares in the Path of its Ministers.

1890 187.

The end of the gospel is the saving of the believer's soul, as present and everlasting, and that of his body as a future and equally everlasting thing, called the "adoption, to wit, the redemption of our "body" (Rom. viii. 23, xiii. 11; Phil. iii. 20, 21; Heb. ix. 28). Its final result will appear in glory, when He who died to bring many sons to glory will have safely brought them there, and say, "Behold, I and the children which God hath given to Me." Then all the three classes of believers having part in the "First Resurrection" will be seen around Christ, being the fruits of the corn of wheat that fell into the ground and died. Then He, the Just, Who suffered and died for us to bring us to God and finally to glory," shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied," and we "shall be satisfied" when we "awake in His likeness."

I need not say that the present salvation of the soul, as well as the future salvation of the body (now so near at hand) is a final and eternal result for believers in the gospel. God in His perfect grace places every believer on a divinely solid everlasting foundation. He that believeth in His Son hath life, even life eternal. His salvation rests on the work of an eternal redemption accomplished on the cross. The Lord always means what He says. When He says, "My sheep shall never perish," He means "never." And when He says as to the final doom of unbelievers, i.e. rejecters of Christ and the gospel, that "their worm, (i.e. repentance which is too late),* dieth not and the fire is not quenched," He again means what He says, "is not." Would any man of common honesty mean the opposite of what he says? And yet there are such, nay, Christian teachers and preachers of the gospel (such as it is) who would fain make you believe that God does so! Oh, the patience and long-suffering of Him Who is "the God of patience" with this faithless and perverse generation of ours!

[*Judas could not bear that repentance one day; they will have to bear it (with him) for an eternity.]

Again, when the Good Shepherd says of His sheep, "None shall pluck them out of My hand," and again, "None (not no man, but "none" — oudeis) is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand," does He not mean "none?" None means neither Satan nor yourself nor anybody else. (The Father's discipline with disobedient or backsliding children has nothing to do with their eternal safety in Christ which is as sure and enduring as the Rock of Ages cleft for us, in Whom every believer is hidden from judgment for ever). Suppose Noah bad gone mad in the ark, and wanted to jump into the surging waters of the deluge, he could not get out for the Lord who had shut hint in possessed the key.

What a wondrous end is that of the gospel of God, and how eternally safe now already, are its blessed results for the believer, amidst the changing scenes of this restless, sinful, sorrowful, unruly and God-alienated world, and afterwards with Christ in unfading glory. There an incorruptible, undefiled, and unfading inheritance awaits every child of God. But above all, and better than all, Jesus Himself is waiting for the Father's word, bidding Him to leave once more His seat of rest, honour, and glory to descend into the air, and to call up thither the dead and living saints, and receive them up unto Himself and lead them into those mansions in the Father's house, whither He has gone before to prepare a place for us.
"There made ready are the mansions, glorious, bright, and fair,
But the bride the Father gave Him still is wanting there.

Who is this that comes to meet me 'bove the desert way,
As the Morning Star foretelling God's unclouded day?

He, it is, Who came to win me on the cross of shame;
In His glory shall I know Him, evermore the same.

Oh, the blessed joy of meeting, all the desert past!
Oh, the wondrous words of greeting He shall speak at last!

He and I together entering those bright courts above;
He and I together sharing all the Father's love.

Where no shade nor stain can enter, nor the gold be dim;
In that holiness unsullied I shall walk with Him,

Meet companion then for Jesus, from Him, for Him made;
Glory of God's grace for ever there in me displayed.

He Who in His hour of sorrow bore the curse alone,
I who through the lonely desert trod where He had gone,

He and I in that bright glory one deep joy shall share:
Mine, to be for ever with Him; His, that I am there."

But fain as one would dwell longer on these "brighter things above," we now must turn to a more serious and solemn subject. I mean

The Snares that Beset the Path of the Evangelist.

The enemy of God and of His people and testimony in the gospel and in the church has always his snares and temptations ready for every servant of Christ. But the evangelist is, even more than others of his fellow labourers in the Lord's work, exposed to temptations peculiar to gospel work. It is, therefore, not in any spirit of disparagement that the writer of these lines (who has been interested, and, in his poor way, been active for more than forty years in the blessed work of the gospel) would offer a few suggestions which might serve, under God's blessing, to guard against failures in that important part of the Lord's service, and thus save them experiences which he had to pass through, very humbling to himself, while he can but praise God's preserving grace, which alone could keep and deliver, as it has saved him.

The first of the dangers for the evangelist is of an inward, and therefore all the more serious, nature. I mean the want of balance of character, which appears where the labourer's inward communion with God lags behind his outward engagement in the gospel service. Much sail with little ballast produces capsizing. The "not chewing the cud," with the "undivided hoof," is unclean. "Meditate on these things," wrote the apostle to his young fellow-labourer and son in the gospel. "Give thyself wholly to them, that thy profiting may appear to all." Absence of "fins" (the propelling power), and of "scales" (the protecting power), was to be "abomination" (Lev. xi.). "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine (? the "scales"), continue in hem, for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee" (? the "fins")* I know that the lack of balance between communion with God and public service is a danger against which all servants of Christ have constantly to be on their guard. But it attaches in an especial way to the work of an evangelist, on account of its more public and absorbing character. His service keeping him continually in the presence of men, he even more than others of his fellow-servants needs to be much "alone with God."

[*Note how careful the apostle is to impress on the evangelist Timothy the necessity of taking heed to the doctrine. Timothy would never have put his signature to a "Letter of the Ten," under plea of Gospel Service.]

Our great Divine Master of service, the Pattern of all servants, had the ear of the learned, and therefore He had the tongue of the learned, to speak a word in season to them that were weary. And is not the blessed gospel a "word in season to him that is weary?" He indeed could say, "Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest"; and "Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest for your souls."
"Cold mountains in the midnight air
Witnessed the fervour of His prayer."

Mary sat at her Master's feet before her hands performed on His Person that service, the odour of which filled the whole house, and ascended higher still because it came from a heart filled with Christ, and was done to Christ. In the same measure as Christ is the evangelist's daily food, will the Christ preached by him enter in saving and delivering power into the hearts of his hearers, however true it may be that the gospel of Christ is in itself the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.

It is the heart's prayerful study of the "word of Christ," at the "feet of Christ," that makes us imbibe the "mind of Christ." The ascended and glorified Christ and the written Christ are closely connected. The same Spirit Who is the author of "Holy Writ" has linked us with our Head above. He glorifieth Christ, receives of His and shows them unto us. If we get away from the Christ above, we soon lose the relish for the written Christ; or vice versa, if we neglect the word of God, which reflects Christ's glories and beauty, we soon shall neglect communion with Christ above. And every believer knows that the early morning is the best and proper time to render unto God, after the mercies of another night, the firstfruits of the day in praises and adoration, and for the prayerful reading of His word at the feet of His dear Son, Who has not only declared Him, but brought us to God by the sufferings of His cross. In the morning our mind is like a blank sheet of paper, open to the searching power and comfort of Holy Writ; while at the close of the day our mind is like a sheet filled with the impressions of the day. Hence the power and freshness of the blessed Divine Book are most felt and recognised in the early morning. It is in the morning that we want the bath, more than in the evening. We do not know what temptations a day may bring, and forewarned is to be forearmed. And as to every day's needed encouragement of faith and cheering of the spirit,
"Thy morning smiles bless all the day."

Have not we all experienced the truth of it? The evangelist needs in an especial way these blessed "morning smiles" of his heavenly Master as well as His warning voice. His place during the daytime is not the quiet solitude of the study, but the "going out unto all the world, preaching the gospel unto every creature." The gates of the city, the market place or the town-hall, and the tent and the mission room, are his wider sphere of activity.

8. The Snares in the Path of its Ministers.

1891 205 After a day's service, spent in visiting, preaching, distributing tracts, evening service and after-meeting, often till a late hour, it is not much to be wondered at if evangelists generally are not early risers. So they are but too often, alas! deprived of the heavenly Master's "morning smiles," for which all the smiles of religious friends and admirers cannot make up. His smile alone, and the "awakening of the ear morning by morning" (Isa. 50.) — mark it is not said "evening by evening" — by the Master's voice, giving to the evangelist the orders for the day, is able to preserve in him the necessary spiritual balance against the pernicious effects of the incense of human flattery. This only serves to hide the Master's face, and to rob him of that smile which encourages him in his rugged path — if he be a faithful messenger — against the frowns and opposition of the adversary.

No christian stands in greater need than the evangelist of having his "ear awakened morning by morning," in order to speak with the "tongue of the learned;" none needs more than he that cheering "morning smile" of our gracious and pitiful Master to enable him to smile at the adversary's fury. And yet there is none in greater danger of losing, from the reasons just mentioned, these exercises, and encouragements, and instructions, unless he is careful to redeem the "morning time" especially. In the morning seasons, spent alone with God, the servant of Christ acquires that spiritual balance so rare in our days, yet so much needed by every christian now more than ever, and which is produced by the exercise of conscience and heart keeping step with the outward exercise of gifts and with our knowledge of divine truths.

In prayerful dependence then we acquire a deeper sense of our utter weakness and nothingness — nay, good-for-nothingness, and at the same time of the "exceeding greatness of the power" of Him to Whom all power belongs. This bears us up against the depressing effects of the cares and circumstances of daily life in service and elsewhere. This forms a part of the apostle's prayer for the saints at the close of Eph. i. And moreover we get a deeper, more real sense of God's grace, by which only we have been saved and upon which we daily live. It is this sense of His grace (so insisted on in Eph. ii.) which keeps us down, thus guarding us against the lifting up tendencies of flesh and self within; otherwise we shall be constantly "up and down" in the wrong way. If even in a natural sense a well balanced character is a fine sight, such an equilibrium of character is still more blessed to behold in a servant of Christ, especially an evangelist, whose natural character very often partakes of a sanguine tendency. That christian equilibrium can be acquired only at the feet of Him Who is meek and lowly in heart, and during His unremitting service here on earth could "never be moved," because He had set His God before His face, and He was at His right hand.

All these are well known truths, and yet how constantly do we need to be reminded of them. The service and testimony of the evangelist who is not careful to cultivate this all-important equilibrium between his outward activity and inward communion with God, will sooner or later capsize, and his testimony be ruined, to the dishonour of the gracious Master Who saved and sent him.

Another no less perilous snare in the evangelist's path is that of "popularity." It is true some evangelists, more than others, possess the gift of adapting themselves and their way of presenting the gospel to all kinds of hearers and localities, which is indeed one of the indispensable qualities of the true evangelist. Compare the apostle Paul's variety of ways in presenting the gospel according to the different places and circumstances and persons to whom he preached, as seen throughout the Acts of the Apostles. But besides that essential quality of an evangelist, many of them possess naturally a great affability of manner. They know how to adapt themselves to all kinds of people with whom they come in contact. They know how to fall in with their ways of thinking and expression, to enter into the details of their daily life, and to adapt their way and style of preaching to it. Thus they become favourite or "popular" preachers, and draw great crowds by witty and interesting and seasonable, or "stirring" and "impressive" sermons, as the case may be. This is especially the case where those pleasant and affable manners of the preacher are combined with great oratorical power.

Now all these qualities may in no small degree become contributory to blessing in the gospel field, provided they are kept under the control of the Spirit. But just here lies the snare and the danger for a "popular preacher" of the gospel. The sweetness of religious renown and honour, is still more dangerous and pernicious in its effects than that of natural fame and flattery, because the religious flesh is even more subtle than the natural. How many excellent servants of Christ in the gospel have been spoiled and marred and cast down from their excellency, yea, almost wrecked and ruined (if it were not for the preserving and restoring grace of our God and Saviour) by the worse than foolish flatteries and adulations ministered to them by their thoughtless admirers. This has been in an especial way the case with those who have risen (often, rather, been elevated) from a humble station of life. Exhibited on the stages of theatres and on the platforms of town-halls, supported by the élite of the religious world, presented with heavy testimonial purses, they have lived in stylish houses fitted up with the commodities and luxuries of this world, where they certainly did not appear like the "off-scouring of all things, and the filth of the world." Is it like apostles of Him Who owned nothing in this world except His cross, and said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head," and "He that will be My disciple, let him deny himself, take his cross upon him daily, and follow Me?" Can we wonder at the final shipwreck of the faith and testimony of so many of there? Pride, that cause of Satan's fall, and man's innate sin, is more disastrous in its effects upon the christian than upon the unbeliever.

"If the fear of man bringeth a snare," the men-pleasing is akin to it, and is no less a snare to. many a servant of Christ, especially in the gospel. "Do I seek to please men?" wrote the great apostle. "For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man." Solemnly instructive words these for every popular evangelist; above all in these "last days" where the religious atmosphere is filled with evil ways and doctrines of every kind. A popular preacher naturally loves and looks for a wide sphere and crowded audiences. One can easily understand this, and wish him every success in his ministry for God's glory. But let him beware lest this desire become his snare, by service and religious fame becoming his object instead of Christ. Alas! not a few once esteemed servants of Christ have gone to sleep on the laurels of their religious reputation, and even grown cool and indifferent to Christ's glory by permitting themselves to be drawn into association with Christ-dishonouring teachers and doctrines. They dread to see the sphere of their service and influence narrowed, and want to move with a large (I would rather call it broad) heart in a broad way. In our days of "religious latitudinarianism" (what a broad word for a broad way!), where temporal things are grasped very tightly and divine things held very loosely, where men sell the truth instead of buying it, faithfulness to divine truth must necessarily isolate.

But who was more isolated than our blessed Master Himself, because He was ever the faithful witness, faithful amidst unfaithfulness. What was the effect of His very first gospel in the synagogue of Nazareth? They wanted to throw Him down from the steep brow of the hill. And how was it. at the close of His blessed ministry? He was forsaken of all. He was "like a pelican of the wilderness, like an owl of the desert, and as a sparrow alone upon the housetops" (Ps. cii.) And what was the effect of Paul's faithful testimony, who followed so close in the footsteps of his Master? "All in Asia have turned away from me." "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all forsook me. . . . Nevertheless the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, that by me the preaching might be fully known," etc. Mark also the solemn dying injunction of the faithful apostle of grace and glory, addressed to his beloved Timothy and to all true evangelists:

"I charge thee therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ Who shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:

"Preach the word,* be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

[*i.e. not your own words, but the word of God in its own power and simplicity. Evangelists who keep closely to the written word, and let it speak in its own power, are always more really blessed than the mere orators.]

"For the time will come" (and it has come and is now in full bloom) "when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.

"And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

"But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry."

These words do not sound like those heard not very long ago in a hall filled with "ministers of the gospel," enquiring of the famous foreign preacher in their midst about the way in which he composed his sermons, that attracted such crowded audiences to his church. What would Paul and Silas say to accompaniments of the gospel? Yes, they too sung, but with their feet fastened in the stocks, and their backs wounded and bleeding. "And the prisoners heard them." Rather a different audience! But God heard them, and He answered by an earthquake . . . an outward earthquake and an inward (in the gaoler and his family).

But I must close. One or two more short warnings to my beloved and esteemed friends in the blessed gospel work. Beware of Revivalism! It is a wrong expression in itself, sprung from professing christendom. An unconverted person, dead in trespasses and sins, cannot be revived, but must be quickened in his soul. So much as to the absurdity of the term. But how far more serious is the thing itself! It is the flesh assuming the power of God — Jannes and Jambres imitating the miracles wrought by God through Moses — the forging of "Epistles of Christ" by a misuse of the writing of the Holy Ghost — a galvanising of corpses into apparent life — the seeming life of that which was destined to death and the killing of those which were destined to live. It falls like a mildew upon the tender plants, wherever it appears. May God in His great mercy keep His servants in the blessed gospel field from the baneful effects of "revivalism" with the fearful hardening of souls in its wake, the natural reaction after the natural excitement.

Paul may plant and Apollos water, but the increase is of God. How constantly is this forgotten! In the Gospel of Mark, that Gospel so instructive to all servants of Christ, the Pattern of all true service, the Master tells His disciples, "So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come." What can the sower do to make the corn grow whilst he sleeps? The seed grows, but "he knoweth not how." Would that all labourers in the Gospel more heeded portions like those of 1 Cor. iii. and Mark iv. Let us cast the seed into the ground and leave the increase to God, Who alone can give it. Like the husbandman let us patiently wait for the early rain and the latter rain. It is of no use poking the seed with a revival stick. The word of God will never take root in that way.

Again, a danger for the evangelist, and not a small one, is the tendency of setting up a "cause" of his own, and suffering himself to be confined within the narrow limits of a smaller or bigger chapel. Having thus got under the patronising wings of a committee or of some wealthy patron or patroness (the latter still worse than the former), he will be like a caged bird and his wings will soon be clipped.

Another snare is this, that he always will be inclined to press those whom he considers to be converted, to be received at once into fellowship. Natural as this desire may be for his "children in the gospel" to take their place with the redeemed family at the Lord's table, he is apt to forget that their reception or non-reception into fellowship is not a matter for him to decide, but for the church or assembly. Sad and disastrous conflicts have arisen in not a few instances through the evangelist insisting upon their reception against the better and maturer judgment of elder and more experienced brethren, whose consciences before the Lord in such important questions he had not sufficiently taken into account.

Having offered a few remarks on the all-important ministry of the gospel in no grudging spirit (I trust), I now turn to a no less important but alas! sadly neglected subject for our meditations, I mean the church, which is the "house of the living God," the "habitation of God through the Spirit," the body of Christ the glorious centre of His counsels.

Second Part. — 1. 1891 221.

The Church.

We now approach — God grant that it may be with unshod feet — the holy ground of what in Holy Writ is called "the house of the living God," I mean the church which is the body of Christ, His Son. The principalities of heaven study the manifold wisdom of God, made known by it. They may desire to look into those things that concern the gospel of our salvation, which had been a mystery to God's holy prophets of old, even whilst testifying of it. But when the time had come for the revelation of that mystery, "which from the beginning of the world had been hid in God" from angels and prophets alike, and the Holy Ghost had been sent down from glory to preach the first gospel of salvation through Jesus, and to unite its first-fruits, even those three thousand saved and baptised precious units into one body, the body of Christ, then it was that a more marvellous building than Solomon's temple arose before the wondering eyes of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The Stone, which their builders had rejected, was to be the foundation stone of that building, laid by the divine Master-Builder sent down from heaven.

But where God is at work, the enemy is not idle. What God has made for blessing, Satan, the adversary, seeks to spoil and to destroy. Such always has been and is and will be his character since his own fall until his final doom in the place prepared for him and his angels. But above all, the wiles and fury of the Serpent-Dragon have been and are directed against the divinely instituted union of God's children, and against the divinely appointed place where God was to be worshipped by His own. The instigator of the builders of Babel's tower and founder of "Babylon the great" has at all times, in his character as the "Accuser of the brethren," sought to divide the people of God, be it the earthly or the heavenly, and to defile the place where God was to be glorified, be it the tabernacle or the temple or the church. Let it be the tabernacle in the wilderness, the temple at Jerusalem in the times of the kings, or in the days of Ezekiel and of Ezra and Nehemiah and Malachi, or in the days of the Messiah Himself, or finally in the days of the false Messiah, when that defilement will come to its climax in the setting up of "the abomination that maketh desolate" in the temple of God — it has been always the same. Satan's efforts have not been in vain, whatever the overruling grace of our faithful God may have been and is still and will be right on to the end, blessed be His Name! But nowhere have those destructive effects of his efforts in dividing, corrupting, and defiling, or in producing lukewarmness and indifference, become more sadly manifest' than in that which is, so to say, the masterpiece of God's counsels, if one may speak thus about that which is all perfect in itself, and in every part.

Pentecostal Times.

A feeling entirely peculiar in its kind comes over the Christian reader, when reading, in God's presence, that portion of Holy Writ which most inappropriately is called the "Acts of the Apostles," but in fact is the divinely inspired record of the building of the church of God under the guidance and in the power of the Holy Ghost through the instrumentality of the apostles.* It is a feeling akin to that produced in the beholder of this visible scene at the passing away of that which was noble, fair, and good. Only in the Christian this impression has not the character of a mere poetic, elegiacal, transient sentiment as in the case of a naturally tender and well-ordered mind. It is sorrow mingled with humbled and chastened joy, sorrow and shame that bows us down in the dust before God, when we reflect what has become of the "house of the living God" under the hands of man (2 Tim. ii. 20). Yet the heart turns with joyful praise and confidence to God, when looking at the divine side (Matt. xvi. Eph. ii. 20-22), which can be reached and defiled by our sins, or impeded in its progress, as little as the sun can be by the mists and fogs of this world.

[*Three great facts characterise the "Acts." 1. The distinct personality of the Holy Spirit. 2. The Name of Jesus and its power. 3. The growth and spreading of the Word of God, which "cannot be bound."]

But this feeling of calm and joyful confidence in Him Who is faithful above our unfaithfulness, does not, if genuine, weaken in us the consciousness nor restrain the confession of our own humbling share in the general ruin of the church of God, so touchingly expressed in Daniel and Nehemiah as to Israel's sins and ruin. Remembering the incomparably higher order of blessing and privileges granted to us, we have incomparably greater reason than those far more faithful and humble men of God to bow down before God in dust and ashes, "remembering from whence we have fallen," and to say, "O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, because we have sinned against Thee." But then we also like them may continue, "To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him". First the "because" then the "although". The latter without the former preceding would be simple antinomianism (cp. 1 John ii. 1). David "encouraged himself in the Lord his God" amidst the ruins of Ziklag. But he must have been down on his face previously before the Lord his God, or he could not have "encouraged himself in the Lord his God." For grievously as David had sinned before the battle of Gilboa (the lowest moral point in his whole course of life), yet afterwards, the way he humbles himself under the chastening hand of God (cp. Ps. 32 with Ps. 51.) showed that he certainly was no antinomian.

And ought not the ruins of that which was once so glorious and beautiful, and an object of study for the angels — ruins of which we ourselves form a part — speak to our hearts and consciences with a louder voice than the silent ruins of Ziklag to David's? Surely, if their effect upon our souls is that which it ought to be, it will not be a kind of Laodicean boastfulness as to outward gospel success, and at the same time lukewarmness as to that sublime portion of divine truth, the zeal for which once characterised those early Christians, gathered by the Holy Ghost to the name of Him Who is the foundation, chief corner, and topmost stone, "in Whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord, in Whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God in the Spirit." Soon the last stone will be added to this wondrous edifice, the divine side of which, whatever Satan or man may have done, can as little be impaired in the divinely perfect beauty and harmony of its structure, as it can be impeded in its "growing unto an holy temple in the Lord." May the Lord grant us all a deeper and more real sense of our most humbling individual share in its outward rains when reading such portions of His word as the "Acts."

Similar effects of reading the "Acts" and "Ezra."

We read in the book of Ezra (when at the laying of the foundation of the Temple, the priests with their trumpets and the Levites with their cymbals sounded forth praises to the Lord, "and sang together by course in praising and giving thanks, because He is good and His mercy endureth for ever") that all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, ancient men that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; whilst those of the younger generation, who had not known Solomon's temple, "shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off."

Both those that wept and those that rejoiced were justified in their sentiments — those weeping, when thinking of the past, and the rejoicing ones, because they connected with the new Temple the prospect of a new and happier era for Israel. The weeping and the shouting ascended to Jehovah, perhaps equally acceptable.

A similar impression the spiritual Christian reader experiences when reading that precious portion of Holy Writ, called the "Acts of the Apostles." Only there is this difference, that at the laying of the foundation of the temple at Jerusalem, they that had known the magnificent temple of Solomon, on remembering the glorious past, could not refrain from weeping; whereas the rising generation at the sight of the rise of the present temple rejoiced. The effect produced in us on reading the "Acts" is the opposite. When carried back in spirit to those happy days when the building of a more glorious temple than that of Solomon began at Jerusalem, under the direction of a wiser master-builder than Solomon — a building consisting of living stones, which not only were being built, but building up one another on their great foundation stone, and when the multitude of them that believed were one heart and one soul, as they had been baptised by the Holy Spirit into one body, the body of Christ — when carried back in spirit, I say, to those happy and wonderful Pentecostal days, the believer's heart becomes filled and warmed with the glow of a holy and divine joy.

But again, on awaking from that happy "trance," so to speak, one finds one's self in the sorrowful reality of the present, amidst the ruins of what once was in every respect the house of the living God, and can but exclaim with the prophet when amidst the ruins of Jerusalem, "Mine eyes fail with tears . . . for the destruction of the daughter of my people." Let us now enter more fully, under God's help, on the all-important subject of these meditations. We may divide it simply under the following heads:
1. What is the origin of the church?
2. What is its ground or foundation?
3. What is its character and position?
4. What is its hope and calling?

Its Origin.

1891 237 The church of God has its origin in God Himself, in Whose eternal and unchangeable counsels it was hidden before the foundation of the world. There it had its existence before it was revealed to the "sons of men" in God's own appointed time, and entered into visible existence on this earth.

On reading, in God's presence, such portions of the New Testament as the Epistle to the Ephesians, we have a similar impression to what we experienced when in the solitude of the night we observe the firmament — those worlds of light — which none can number. How beautifully that effect has been expressed by the inspired pen of the Psalmist,

"When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained:"

[*The word "church" (Scotch: "Kirk", German: ''Kirche") is derived from the Greek word "Kuriakos" i.e. "belonging to the Lord:" a word full of deep and beautiful meaning. Would that they who form the "House of the living God" realized it more! But the true meaning of the word was but too soon forgotten, being transferred to the dead stones of the religious edifices enclosing the living stones within, that were to build up one another in their must holy faith. Alas! soon most of those within the enclosure became as dead as the walls around them. "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead."

The word in the N. T. translated "church" is not "kuriake" but "ekklesia", which originally meant an assembly of those who possessed the title and right of citizens (Phil. iii. 20) in contrast to strangers or foreigners. The Romanic languages have followed the word in the original (Latin: "ecclesia", French: "l'église", Italian: "chiesa". Spanish: "iglesia").]

"What is man that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that Thou visitest him?"

Keeping the eyes fixed on those starry worlds above, one feels dwindling away and shrinking into such insignificance as if one were a drop of water in the ocean or a grain of sand on the seashore. Oh! the stupendous grace of God, Whose sun turns dew-drops into jewels, to pick up such atoms as we, and make them objects of His divine counsels of glory, grace, and wisdom, all to centre in Christ, His beloved Son! Well may we exclaim, with the apostle of the church: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! . . . Of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things, to whom be glory for ever and ever . . . glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."

But God's thoughts, counsels and works are but the expression of what He is. "God is light" and "God is love." Light and love cannot be hidden. They must manifest and communicate themselves. Light shines out and surrounds itself with light. And love shines out and surrounds itself with love. Both must have an object and a sphere for their activity.

What is God's sphere of activity? — Heaven and earth. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth."

What are His objects? — Christ and the sons of men.

"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men."

"I was daily His delight . . . and My delights were with the sons of men."

And what is the sum and great end of God's counsels?

"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in Him; in Whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will; that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ."

The sphere, where God now makes His glory shine forth from His throne, is not this earth but heaven. There He exhibits before His heavenly hosts the beauties and glories of His beloved Son, Who with the Father and the Holy Ghost is God from eternity. Before the visible heaven and earth were, He was Jehovah's daily delight:

"The LORD possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth; while as yet He had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When He prepared the heavens I was there: when He set a compass upon the face of the depth: when He established the clouds above: when He strengthened the fountains of the deep: when He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment: when He appointed the foundations of the earth: . . . then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him; rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth: and My delights were with the sons of men" (Prov. viii. 22-31).

"In Him was life, and the life was the light of men."

Yes, He, the "last Adam", the "second Man", Who is "the Lord from heaven", wanted (even in heaven, where He was daily the object of the Father's delight and of the homage of countless hosts of angels) an object of His love and delight.

The "First Man Adam" and the "Last Adam"*

Adam, the earthly type of the perfect heavenly Man, found himself, for a time, in a similar position. He had been placed in the garden of Eden planted by Jehovah Himself. It was a scene of perfect human happiness, for God had made the paradise, and sin was not yet known on earth. No groan was heard to disturb the peaceful harmony which characterised that scene. Everything there was light, life, and happiness, in the first bloom of untainted creative beauty, fresh from the hand of its Maker. In that paradise God placed Adam, the man created after His own image, to be chief, centre, and head, over all the lower creation — the figure of Him Who was to come. Adam was to have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the fowls of heaven, and every beast of the field. The Lord of lords and King of kings, Who had bestowed such a power on Adam, His vassal-king on earth, and assigned to Him the beautiful "Garden of Eden" for his royal residence, Himself had installed him in his place of honour, and brought the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air to Adam to see what he would call them, and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field.* But for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

[*Wonderful must have been the measure of mental powers and capacities bestowed upon Adam before he fell, to have been able to give distinguishing names to those numberless species of the animal world. But the greater the light, the greater the sin and the deeper the fall, be it Satan and his angels, or man, or the church. — "Remember from whence thou art fallen."]

Never since that day has there been, nor will be again, such a coronation-scene on this sinful earth until the great millennial coronation morning dawns, when He Who is the last Adam, under Whose feet God has subjected not only the earth, but the heavens also, will appear as "Lord of lords and King of kings" to reign over this earth.

But He will not come alone. The church — His bride, "the Lamb's wife" (most precious title!) — will come with Him, to reign with Him over the blissful and peaceful millennial earth. It is that happy moment for which the whole creation, subject to the bondage of corruption for man's sake, groans and travails in pain together until now.

It was not so with Adam in the lovely garden of Eden. There was a king, but no queen to share the crown with him. When the "sons of God" (i. e. angels) above in the heavens "shouted for joy" on looking upon that perfect scene of earthly bliss and beauty, they had one common interest and motive for joy, even the glory of God that made their hearts beat with one common impulse. Even the "morning stars" (i. e. angels) "sang together" when that bright creation-scene sprang into existence. They had fellowship in their joy. But man was alone amidst that lovely scene: alone in his power — alone in his honour — alone with his thoughts — alone with his heart. Each of those numberless creatures subject to Adam's dominion, from the eagle in mid-air down to the singing birds on the trees; from the roaring lion down to the bleating lamb feeding peacefully at his side (as it will again at a not very distant happier age), and lower down to the mute inhabitants of the waters — each had its mate to share the enjoyment of its new existence. "But for Adam there was not found a help meet for him." He was alone in the midst of a paradise. There was a void in his heart with all the abundance of that beautiful garden around him. There was no kindred heart to share and respond to his feelings; no kindred spirit to understand and enter upon his thoughts and to take sweet counsel with; no countenance to be the mirror of his own and to reflect his smiles of happiness; no familiar voice to answer to his, or join in sweet harmony with his voice of praise and thanksgiving, when Adam looked up from the paradise around him, to the heavenly residence of his divine Liege-Lord above, the Father of lights, from Whom every good gift and every perfect gift cometh. Adam knew what light was; for the sun and the moon and the stars of heaven declared the glory of Him Who clothes Himself with light as with a garment and is the "Father of lights". But he knew not what love was; for in the wide universe around him there was nothing to draw out the love that gives itself for the beloved object, loses itself in it, and shares everything with it. But the blessed God, Who is not only light but also love, knew it.

3. 1891 254 The Church (cont'd.)

"This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church." Eph. 5:32.

"And the Lord God said: It is not good that the man should be alone, I will make a helpmeet for him." (lit., "a help that is his equal.")

God Himself had an object for His divine love, even His only begotten yet co-equal Son, in Whom the Father's heart found its daily delight, before angels or heaven and earth had been called into existence. But that love, though divine and therefore perfectly happy and, if we may say so, perfectly satisfied, wanted to manifest itself outside itself. As has been observed already, love as well as light cannot be hidden. It manifests itself in the wider range of a creation called forth by His word, by Whom all things were made and are upheld by the word of His power. A range that embraces millions of angels in heaven and creatures on earth, whom that divine love had provided for and made perfectly happy, each in their proper sphere and place. Well may the Psalmist exclaim, "O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches."

But that the vast range into which that love had expanded, should include for its especial objects, children of disobedience, enemies of God, this it is that characterises that love as so truly divine and constitutes its highest glory — the glory of redeeming love, and the glory and riches of divine grace which is the result of divine love.

Yes, dear fellow-heir of glory! The Father's love would have many souls to be brought to glory, whom He had predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself. He wished His heavenly house above, which is as large as is His divine heart, and where there are "many mansions" to be filled not only with the brilliant hosts of His angelic servants (holy and blessed though they be), but with children, (once lost prodigals in a far country,) in glorious bodies, His daily delight for eternity, as His Son was from eternity and will be for eternity. That blessed Son of His love, Who had to shed His blood upon the cross, to fit them for that glorious house, and provide them, according to His power, with glorious bodies, like His own, meet for that heavenly abode, will soon come to take us up to, and introduce us into the Father's house and to present all to His and our Father. "Behold, I and the children which Thou hast given Me." Blessed hope, to be turned at any moment into a still more blessed reality?

But the Father's love wanted not only children for Himself, but a bride for His Son, and He has given us to Him. "Thine they were, and Thou hast given them to Me" (John xvii). A bride taken not from His holy angels, "who do His commandments, hearkening to the voice of His word," but from among the sons of men, fallen, sinful and rebellious men! That bride is to dwell with Him in His Father's house above, whilst the terrible vials of divine wrath will be poured out upon this earth, where once the cross stood and where He bought her, whom He loved and washed in His own blood from her sins. She will dwell there with Him, in the daily peaceful enjoyment of His love, and the object of the Father's perfect delight and love in heaven, as we are now though being in this world "as He is," beloved, being "accepted in the beloved One". She will dwell there with Him, until the last vial shall have been emptied upon this poor world, and Babylon, the "great whore", shall have met her threefold deserved fate, and the heavenly hallelujahs chime and announce that "the marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready."

We have turned away, for a few moments, from that bright and happy scene of a yet undefiled paradise, to a higher, brighter, and happier one, which will be ours and will never be defiled nor lost. Let us now return, for a little while, to the earthly type of our blessings in a heavenly paradise, and above all to Him Who is the centre of it.

"And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and He took one of His ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from man, made He a woman and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh". Wondrous scene! foreshadowing that deepest mystery of divine love, power, peace and wisdom. A scene without parallel, even in the divine record, except by its Antitype on Calvary and at Pentecost. The Holy Ghost, when referring to it in Eph. 5 through the inspired apostle of the Gentiles, to whom the great mysteries of God as to His church had been revealed, says, "This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church."

The One Who had formed Adam out of a piece of clay, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, we behold here bending over the sleeping man, to form a helpmeet for him — not from the dust of the ground, but from flesh — then sinless flesh — even the rib out of Adam's side. It is the Same Who, after four thousand years of poor humanity's probation, was to give His flesh for the life of the world. He Who had said, "It is not good that the man should be alone: I will give him a helpmeet," was one day, when hanging between heaven and earth upon the cross, to be alone in the most terrible sense of the word, to gain His "helpmeet", i.e. His bride — His wife — to be His companion in a glorious heavenly home. He was to be alone, not in a paradise, but in the wilderness, to stand firm and immovable, and to bind the strong man, and spoil him of his goods, whilst the first Adam, who was now sleeping before him, soon fell at the first trial of obedience amidst the abundance of a paradise. He was to be alone during His life time, like a sparrow on a housetop, though followed and surrounded by thousands; for not one understood Him, not even His disciples. He was to be alone in the agonies of Gethsemane, when the prince of this world was approaching to bring all the power of death he wielded, to bear upon Him. His disciples whom He wanted to be near Him and watch, whilst He prayed, fell asleep. They had forgotten their Master's watchword, which He gave at the very threshold of that place, not only to them but to us all. Poor sentinels! The enemy, coming suddenly, found them sleeping.

And at last — alone upon the cross, after His own had forsaken Him! When the assembly of the wicked, the bulls of Bashan, the lions and the dogs enclosed Him, He was alone, forsaken of His God. The corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die; else it would have abode alone. But, blessed be His gracious and glorious name! He could not, nor would He be alone, even in glory. He must and will have His spotless and glorious bride with Him there. That same wondrous psalm, which opens with the cry of agony of the forsaken One upon the cross, contains, after He has been "heard from the horns of the unicorns," these blessed words, "I will declare Thy name unto My brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee". He could not, He would not be alone, either as to His earthly people in the millennial blessing, when He will say, "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved"; or even in His Father's house above, surrounded by all the glories of heaven, He cannot be alone. "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me; for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world." And not only so, but "the glory which Thou gavest Me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one."

Let us remember also these words of our gracious Lord's prayer, beloved; as we find them reiterated by the Spirit of God in Eph. 4:1-3. May the Lord keep us from any spirit of selfish independent isolation, whilst in strictest separation from all that is contrary to His will as expressed in His word, which is truth. Soon will He Who would not that "man should be alone" come again, making good His gracious promise, to receive us up into His Father's house unto Himself, that where He is we may be also.

2. What is the Ground or Foundation of the Church?

1891 269. The scriptures present the church in a two-fold aspect:
1. As the house or temple of God, "an habitation of God in the Spirit";
2. As the body of Christ, its Head in glory.

Our question refers to its character as the house of God. We speak of the ground or foundation of a building, not of that of a body. (Of that we shall speak further on.) It is in this aspect then scripture deals with our question.

What then is the ground of the church, as the habitation of God in the Spirit?

Our Lord Himself tells us in the xvi. chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. He there gives to the "blind leaders of the blind", tempting Him with vain questions, that solemnly significant answer, that no sign, should be given to that "adulterous generation" but the sign of the prophet Jonas.

"And He left them and departed." Solemn words these!

Then after the Lord with His disciples had gone to the coast of Caesarea Philippi, He asks them: "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?" They answered: "Some say that Thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets."

"One of the prophets!" That was the highest point the natural man could reach by dint of his religious reasonings and conclusions, be it "men" in general, or "a man of the Pharisees", saying, "Rabbi, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him."

But those who "sat in Moses' seat", to whom the Lord announced so solemn a judgment, saw or thought with their friend Simon, "This man, if he were a prophet" (Luke vii.). Or if they could not deny nor explain away the mighty deeds of Jesus, as in the case of the raising of Lazarus, they said, "This man doeth many miracles", and "from that day forth they took counsel together for to put Him to death."

The Lord then (Matt. xvi.) turns to His disciples and asks them, "But whom say ye that I am?" A searching and decisive question, all-important in its bearing and results! His disciples had told Him of the opinions of "men" in general, and those opinions varied not a little, as is the case in these latter days. But now that testing and all-searching question — the touch-stone of genuine faith — was addressed to themselves! And that confession of true faith, the "gift of God", how gloriously does it proceed from the lips of the Lord's chief apostle, whose natural weakness is recorded in holy writ more than that of his fellow-apostles, and in this very same chapter meets with the Lord's sharp rebuke!

But the weakness of the vessel makes all the more apparent that the ground upon which Christ was going to build His church could not be revealed by flesh and blood, i.e., not be the result of natural wisdom, nor even of the greatest religious knowledge. It must be the work of a direct revelation on the part of the "Father Who is in heaven"; of the quickening power and grace of God, Who is the source of life and light. God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, had shined into the heart of Simon Bar-Jona — not yet, of course, in the sense of 2 Cor. iv. 6, to give the light of His glory in the face of His risen, ascended, and glorified Son Jesus Christ, as now in us. Of this there could be no question at the time. Besides, this latter revelation, most blessed as it is, could not be the ground upon which Christ would build the church. It was not the Son of man, ascended to heaven and glorified at the right hand of God, Whom Stephen saw there, but the revelation made by the Father, that the Son of man, Who had come into the world, and was rejected by men, was the Son of the living God. "And Simon Peter answered and said, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."

Here (i.e. in the second part of Peter's confession) we have the ground of the church.

For Peter's confession, as we see, consists of two parts: 1. That Jesus was the Messias (or, Christ).

Clearly this part of Peter's confession could not be the ground on which the Lord was going to build His church, although this revelation also could only be the work of God. But the acknowledgment of Christ, in His relation to His earthly people as their Messias, cannot be the ground of the church of God, which is not of this world. The great apostle of the church, once the zealous Jew, says, "Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh; yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more." The ground upon which the Lord would build His heavenly church could have no connection with this earth.

It was the second part of Peter's confession which alone could form that ground, "Thou art the Son of the living God." The whole stress lies on this part, "Son of the living God." This great foundation-truth of Christianity forms also the key-note of the marvellously grand Gospel, and of the Epistles of the Lord's bosom disciple.

Note, Simon Peter confessed the Lord to be not only the Son of God, but the Son of the living God. The Old Testament speaks of Christ as the Son of God (though, of course, not in a christian sense), as for instance in Psalm ii., where the kings and judges of the earth are enjoined to "kiss the Son," that is, to do homage to Him, "lest He be angry and they perish in the way," when He will enter upon His millennial kingdom and appear as "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rev. xix.), to call them to account and deal with them in judgment.

But whom have we here? The Son of the living God! As high as heaven is above the earth, so does this glory of His surpass the splendour of a millennial kingdom with all its earthly blessings under the sceptre of the Son of man, and as King of the Jews. That term, "Son of the living God," lifts us entirely out of this world and takes us up there, where He is, Who is "that Eternal Life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us," even "God manifest in the flesh," — the Son of the living God Who can make children out of stones and quickeneth and raiseth the dead. These words, "Son of the living God," take us straight up to the fountain-head of life, light, grace, and power, whence Simon Peter had received those revelations.

No sooner has Simon uttered this glorious confession of Christ as Son of the living God, than Christ, in His own authority as the Son of God, sets upon him His seal of acknowledgment, as God does with everyone who "has set to His seal that God is true." (John iii. 33; 2 Cor. i. 21, 22; Eph. i. 13).

This honourable acknowledgment of the apostle on the part of his divine Master, and of His glorious testimony, consists of three parts: 1. A new name is given to Simon.* 2. The keys of the kingdom of heaven (for Jews and Gentiles) are given to Peter. 3. The power of binding and loosing connected with it.

[*Abram and Sarai and Jacob received new names in a similar way, in consequence of new revelations made to them; only here the new name was given by the Son of God to Simon Bar-Jona in a far higher sense.]

But it is not merely that wonderful and gracious divine acknowledgment of Peter's confession (the work of God's grace in his soul) that is to occupy us now, but the words of his and our Lord and Master: "Upon this rock will I build My church, and the gates of hell [or, hades] shall not prevail against it."

Here we have the ground upon which Christ was about to build His church. What was that ground? It was the confession that Christ is the Son of the living God. The Person of the Son of the living God, and the confessing Him as such springing from living faith in Him, was and is still the only ground of the church of God. It was the ground work of the grace and power of the living God in Peter personally, as it is in every single believer, and it was to be the ground on which Christ would build the church, that wonderful building composed of living stones, when the time should have come for the accomplishment of that word: that Christ died not for that nation only, but that He might gather into one the children of God that were scattered abroad.

Thus we have here the groundwork of the living God, and necessarily connected with it the confession of Christ as His Son, in every single believer, and the Son of God building His church upon that same ground, which is as everlasting and unchanging as He is Himself.

Every soul to whom the Father has thus revealed His Son, is not only conscious of a blessed change having taken place within,* but such an one is conscious that the new life in Christ, which is the life thus communicated to Him in the revelation of the Son of God, is the work of the living God, Who not only is able to make children out of stones, but ready to communicate even to His enemies His quickening power, the exceeding greatness of which He manifested in raising Christ from the dead; for "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life."

[*Many souls make this change the ground of their footing, which is a great mistake.]

As another has truly observed, "Christ must first be found before and outside of the church. Christ must first and above all be known and discovered in the awakened soul of the sinner. Christ, and what He is, must be before and above all revealed to the heart by the Father. He may use for that purpose, as instruments, persons belonging to the church, or He may work directly by His own word. But whatever may be the means employed by Him, it is the Father Who reveals to a poor sinful man the divine glory of the Son. And this once having been done in the individual, Christ says: 'Upon this rock will I build My church.' Faith in Christ is essentially God's way and order, before the question of the church arises. . . . The Holy Spirit works out that blessed revelation of the Son, made by the Father. The personal question between God and the soul once settled, the corporative privilege and responsibility of the church follows."

"It is, therefore, not enough to say, 'I have Christ', however infinitely blessed this may be. If I know that He is the Son of God, I must also believe that He is now building the church. Do I know my place in His church? Am I walking in the life of Christ, a living stone in my proper place in the house He is building — as a member of His body, in regular and healthy activity? The building of the church is going on on this earth. Here it was that redemption was accomplished, and here it is that the church is being built upon the Rock of our salvation. The gates of Hades (the invisible place of the departed) shall not prevail against it. Death may come, but the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church . . . . He (the Rock, the Son of the living God) says: 'Behold, I have the keys of death and hades.'"

I have observed already that it was not the first part of Peter's confession ("Thou art the Christ") that was to be the ground on which Christ was going to build His church. His disciples on another occasion confessed that He was "the Christ." But the Lord simply forbade them to tell this to anybody. The Son of David as such could not be the ground of the church. Peter at Pentecost proclaims Jesus to be the glorified Lord and Christ. He proclaims Him to be the Messiah, Whom the Jews had rejected and killed, but Whom God has raised from the dead and exalted at His right hand. That was not the ground upon which Jesus intended to build His church. At Pentecost we have still semi-Jewish, not full church, ground. Even to Cornelius Peter did not preach Christ as Son of God, but Christ the Lord — Jesus of Nazareth, anointed with
power and the Holy Ghost, going about, doing good, etc., God being with Him, Who raised Him from the dead and ordained Him to be the Judge of the living and of the dead. We have not a word there about the Son of the living God.* Neither at Jerusalem nor at Caesarea do we find the ground of the church mentioned.

[*I need scarcely say that this is no blame to Peter, who in both cases at Jerusalem and at Caesarea, was led by the Holy Ghost. To him the Lord had given the keys of the kingdom of heaven (for Jews and Gentiles). These keys Peter applied at Jerusalem and at Caesarea, and the doors for the gospel of the full and free grace of God were opened for both Jew and Gentile (in a dispensational way). There is no question of the church ground in either of these two cases.]

At Antioch, where the disciples for the first time were called "Christians", the character of the church as such fully appeared. Paul, the great apostle of the church, who laboured there with Barnabas and others, preached after his conversion, in the synagogues of Damascus, not only that Jesus is very Christ, but first of all that He is the Son of God. Here then we have again the only true ground upon which Christ has built His church.

This firm living faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God it is that gives us strength, victoriously to resist the world and its temptations or opposition. The mere belief that Jesus is the Christ does not suffice for that. Such a belief proves that he who owns Jesus to be the Christ is "born of God" (1 John 5:1). But "who is he that overcometh the world but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God" (1 John 5:5)?

Christian reader, it, is in the "last days" when the coming of the Lord for the rapture of His church is evidently imminent, the spirit of anti-Christ being more busy than ever to deny or at least to obscure in every way the glory and Godhead of our blessed Saviour, that more than ever we ought to keep, yea constantly, before our eyes the adorable Person of the Son of the living God in His divine glory. Satan ever repeats himself, however various his stratagems. In the days of the apostles, when the full free grace of God which "reigns through righteousness" on the divinely solid ground of an eternal redemption by Christ Jesus was being preached in contrast to the works of the law, Satan attacked the work of Christ. But later on, when these faithful witnesses were gone, and only the aged bosom disciple of the Lord remained, the adversary grew bolder, thinking, very likely, that the aged and infirm apostle of Christ would no longer be able to cope with him. By his emissaries he now attacked the glorious Person of the Son of God Himself in the false doctrine of the so-called "Gnostics", attempting to lower the adorable Person of the Son of God (as has been attempted of late) to a mere "essence" or influence* emanating from God. But the Lord soon proved afresh that it is His Spirit in the fragile, feeble, aged vessel, and not man's spirit (even not in John) that testifies of Him and glorifies Him. He inspired by His Spirit His aged servant to write that blessed Gospel, truly called the "grand Gospel", which from beginning to end speaks of and sets forth the divine glories of the Son of God, and reflects the beauties and perfections of His adorable Person, making the heart bow before Him in adoring wonder. None but God knows the number of precious souls who, through reading that portion of holy writ, have learnt through divine grace to confess with Peter: "Thou art the Christ; the Son of the living God." Satan once more had defeated himself.

[*As others have done with the Person of the Holy Ghost, teaching, that He is a mere "influence".]

But is it not the same in these last days, christian reader? When fifty years ago the gospel of God's full and free grace in Christ Jesus was proclaimed by some faithful witnesses, whom God had raised and delivered from the "camp" of a Judaised Christianity, the adversary of the truth again directed his attacks against the testimony of the complete work of Christ. But in our days, when, in spite of his opposition, the full gospel of grace and peace on the ground of the finished work of Christ is known and widely proclaimed, Satan again aims his attacks at the Person of the Son of God, of Whom the Holy Spirit, Who "glorifies Him", testifies that He "is over all, God blessed for ever". We need not mention here the names of all those God's-Son-denying sects who dare to call themselves "Christian." May the Lord direct our hearts more constantly to His all-beauteous Person, and fix our eyes on His glory. (2 Cor. iii. 18).

I am afraid we have been enjoying in the writings of the great apostle of the church the truths concerning the body of Christ and its glorious Head as the glorified Son of man, but are in danger of neglecting that portion of divine truth (written by the same Spirit) concerning the Son of God, and of thus practically slipping from that which is in every individual believer, as for the church, the only true divine ground. If once we begin to lose sight of that ground, i.e., of the Person of the Son of the living God, we shall soon cease practically to hold the Head." And as He Himself builds His church upon that ground, so let us, beloved, build up one another on the only true ground of "our most holy faith, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto life eternal."

8. 1891 284.

3. Character and Position of the Church.

At the beginning of the preceding paper I observed that in holy Writ the church is presented in a two-fold character: — 1. As the house of God, and 2. As the body of Christ, its Head in glory.

Each of these two high qualities granted on God's part to His church supposes on her part an equally great responsibility as to a corresponding moral and spiritual character and walk here below. Alas! how lamentably unmindful has the church been of her responsibility in this respect, forgetting "how she had received and heard." — "Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth."

1. The Church, as the "House of God".

In this character, scripture presents the church in a threefold aspect: — 1. As the "House of God." (1 Tim. iii. 15.) 2. As the "Temple of God." (1 Cor. iii. 16, 1 Cor. iv. 16; Eph. ii. 21.) 3. As the "Habitation of God in the Spirit." (Eph. ii. 22; 1 Peter ii. 9.)

We know what is the character of the "House of God" as such. It is holiness, "Holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord, for ever." (Ps. xciii.) What then ought to be the corresponding christian-moral character of the church as the "house of God?" — Holiness. "Be ye holy, for I am holy."

The apostle of the church, therefore, when in his first epistle to his Timothy, he calls the church the "house of God," at once insists upon a walk consistent with that holy character of the church: "that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth".

It is not enough to believe and confess that Christ is the "Son of the living God," which we have seen to be the only ground upon which Christ has built His church, however blessed to the heart it may be to realise this by faith. But we must remember that the church thus built by Christ is the "church of the living God," as it is the pillar and ground of truth.*

[*The expression "living God," has a double meaning in both the New and Old Testament, viz., 1. The power of God in holiness and righteousness, as revealed in His judgments; and 2. God in His character as the source of life and blessing.]

For Christians it is of paramount importance, that they should acquaint themselves more thoroughly with the truths taught in the word of God, concerning His church, so dear and precious to Himself and to His dear Son. May He in His grace incline the hearts of His dear children to a more prayerful study of His own word, bringing home to our consciences our sinful neglect in slighting that all-important portion of His truth.

But there is another thing which has a still more injurious effect upon individual souls and is damaging for the public testimony of the truth of the church of God. I mean the mere intellectual acquirement of church truths, without their producing a corresponding exercise of conscience and heart before God and consequent power in our walk and behaviour in the church, which is the "house of the living God".

It is very easy to become a correct and orthodox church-christian, but something very different to glorify God and the Name of His Son Jesus Christ by a corresponding walk in the family and in the church, and in the world, befitting those who are of the "household of God," and work out our salvation with fear and trembling, as such who belong to the "church of the living God," which is the "pillar" (as to public testimony) and "ground of the truth" (as to our fellow Christians). Alas! how little have we been mindful that the measure of our privileges and blessings and of our knowledge of the truth is also the measure of our responsibility. If, then, our walk in holiness* and righteousness and the character manifested thereby on our part, do not correspond with the character given to the church on God's part, the church will fail to be a "pillar" in testimony to those who are without.

[*"Holiness" in a Christian sense means not a mere outwardly moral and correct walk, as is the case with respectable men of the world, especially with false teachers and their adherents (2 Cor. xi. 13-19), but the heart and life devoted to God in separation from the open, outward, and the still more dangerous invisible, natural world of the flesh, not only in its natural lusts, but its passions, which are no less contrary to the holiness of God than its lusts, such as hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, etc., (Gal. 5:20, 21).]

If we look at the human side, i.e. at what the church has become under human responsibility, one can, whilst bowing amidst the ruins, but tearfully exclaim with the prophet: "How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed! The stones of the sanctuary are poured out in the top of every street." What has become of the "house of God" in its human aspect? A heap of ruins and rubbish! What of the "church of the living God?" Split up into churches and chapels, — who knows their number? What of the "ground of the truth" and what of the "pillar?" Alas! the divine truth became to those within the house but too soon a matter of habit, and then the "house" ceased to be a "ground of the truth." For if divine truth becomes a matter of habit instead of inhabiting us (Col. iii. 16), and therefore being lived out by us, we shall soon grow cool and indifferent as to it; and instead of being established in the truth, shall be tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, and our testimony will be without the savour, power and unction of the Holy Spirit. It will reach only the ears but not the hearts and consciences of the hearers; and they will "speak evil of the way of truth," instead of being turned to God and instructed in His way.

So it came to pass that the "house of God" in the hands of men became a "great house," as it appears in the Second Epistle of the apostle of the church to Timothy. The pillar of public testimony lies on the ground among the ruins, its inscription half effaced, overgrown with weeds and brambles.

But whilst being bowed down in shame and confusion of faces over ruins of which we ourselves form a part, we look up to Him Who is faithful if we are unfaithful, and Whose word is as faithful as He is Himself, and beholding the divine (that is, perfect and unchangeable) side of the church of God we ask, Has the church ceased to be the "house of God," and have believers ceased to be "of the household of God," because professing Christendom has become a "great house," where everyone who desires to be a "vessel of honour," has to purge himself from the "vessels of dishonour?" If so, the divine injunction in 1 Tim. iii. 15 as to a Christian's behaviour becoming the "house of God" would no longer have any meaning. Far be the thought! It would lead either to despair, as has been the case with not a few, who looking only at the human, instead of the divine, side of the church, give up everything, and, contrary to the very instinct of the new nature in the Christian, withdraw from fellowship with their fellow Christians, instead of serving them individually; I say individually, — with the grace and gift and knowledge God has granted them. Others, worse still, grow indifferent to the truth, being driven along with the stream. Such a Laodicean indifference appears to be scarcely less hateful than the Nicolaitanism in the Lord's solemn warning addressed to the church at Pergamos.*

[*"Nicolaitanism" appears to mean worldliness and fleshliness under pretence of high spirituality.]

A house does not cease to be a house, because it is in disorder. Whatever may be the sad aspect and condition of the church, looked at from the human side, its divine aspect and nature as it appears at the close of the second chapter of the epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, cannot be affected by it.

"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone; in Whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord; in Whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through [or, in] the Spirit."

Holiness is the first requisite for the "house of God." But there is another no less essential one, I mean Order. Not human order, which here as in all divine institutions produces but disorder, and only serves to "make confusion more confounded." "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." If even in a worldly, still more in a christian, household the principle of order is all-important for its welfare and prosperity, how much more in the "house of God!"

In the next paper, if the Lord will and under His gracious help, I hope to offer a few remarks as to these two essential requisites for the house of God, beginning with christian discipline, a subject so little understood and yet of such intrinsic importance for all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus, and remember that "holiness becometh His house for ever."

6. Christian Discipline.

1891 317 There is scarcely a principle of Christian truth, about which so many great mistakes and differences of opinion prevail amongst Christians as about the meaning of "Discipline.

The word "discipline" has in the Greek original of the New Testament, and in the Latin and the Romanic modern languages, pretty much the same meaning as education. That true education without correction is impossible, be it in divine or human things, is a well-known truth, though alas! but little heeded in these "perilous times" of pride, self-will, and self-assertion. But the term "discipline" has in many countries, especially among nations of schoolmasterly habits, assumed a meaning savouring more of the "whip" and the "rod," than of Christian grace — truth without grace; whilst amongst others, noted for their liberal inclinations, the opposite error frequently appears, viz.: grace without truth. "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." This is God's order, not to be set aside, least of all in questions of discipline.

The ground for the prevailing confusion and difficulties as to matters of discipline is to be sought, partly in our natural propensity to judge others rather than ourselves, in our sad want of Christian grace and humility; partly in our propensity to partial fleshly predilection for, or aversion to and prejudice against, the one who is the object of discipline; and last but not least in the general ruin of the church of God, and a false religious system and consequent confusion as to church truths in general.

The church, as the "house of the living God," cannot do without discipline, if it will not forfeit every claim as such. As long as the flesh and wretched self within and the world with its temptations around us exist, discipline is an absolute necessity even in this world; how much more in the church of God! What would a school, or an army, or a household, be without discipline? Nothing but confusion and corruption, doomed to destruction. How much more is this true as to the "house of the living God!" "Holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord, for ever."

But it is of the highest importance that we should be fully clear about the meaning and nature of discipline; for ignorance as to this solemnly important question has caused and still does cause serious mistakes with the saddest consequences for the church of God. Let us endeavour, therefore, to find the answers to the following questions, which naturally present themselves, praying the Lord for His guidance.

The questions we have to consider, are:
1. — What is Christian discipline?
2. — What are the kinds of Christian discipline?
3. — In what way and in what spirit ought discipline to be carried out?

1. What Is Christian Discipline?

By Christian discipline I understand the believer's privilege, under grace, and the loving endeavour incumbent upon him, to warn, exhort, instruct and advise a fellow Christian who has erred or is in evident danger of straying, in the spirit of that wisdom which is from above, and in the "spirit of meekness" (James ii. 17, 18, and Gal. vi. 1) as in the presence of God; and (in case of repentance) to encourage, comfort and strengthen him, and to help him to renewed communion with God, and thus bring him back to the path of holiness, righteousness and peace, that is, to "restore" him.

What is often understood by church discipline, viz.: the exclusion from the assembly, ought to be and is in fact only the end of discipline, the last and extreme measure, after all efforts to restore the erring one, have proved fruitless. Nothing can be more contrary to the Spirit of God and the grace of Christ, than to begin with exclusion from the assembly or church; that is to make that the first step in discipline, which ought to have been the very last and the close of discipline, the intention of which ought to be to prevent that extreme and solemn act of church discipline. For, however true it may be that a church which refuses to exercise godly discipline, can no longer be considered as the assembly of God, an assembly which is guilty of such a hasty and premature act of discipline, pronounces its own condemnation, and will find that the "Judge standeth before the door." What should we say to a physician who, when called to heal a diseased leg, would begin the cure by cutting it off? Or what would be said of a father of a family who, in the case of a disobedient son, would begin his discipline with expelling him from the house? Would he not be called an unnatural father and his action stigmatized as barbarous in the extreme? And yet how often have we heard of such heartless procedures, when in cases of so-called godly discipline the first cry has been, "Exclusion from the assembly!" Those Gentile mariners, who "rowed hard" to save both Jonah (who was the cause of all their distress) and themselves and the ship, might teach a lesson to many Christian mariners!

How must such cruel and ungodly measures wound the tender and loving shepherd-heart of Him Who is our Head in glory, and whose last action before going again to His Father, was to restore a stray sheep of His flock, who was none less than His chief apostle, to whom He had entrusted the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and who had denied Him thrice.

Such judicial enactments do not fail (as we constantly are witnessing) to bring sooner or later the judgment of God upon those judges and tip-staffs, on the part of Him Who is the Son over His own house, Head of the church and Chief Shepherd, and Who more than 2,000 years ago by His prophetic Spirit in His prophet Ezekiel, pronounced this judgment upon the false shepherds.

"The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. . . . Behold! I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hands, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them." (Ezek. xxxiv. 4-10.)

7. 1891 332

Let us now consider the different kinds of Christian discipline. There are three:
1. When a brother sinneth against a brother. (Matt. xviii. 15-17.)
2. The discipline of fatherly watchfulness and pastoral care. (Gal. vi. 1, Acts xx. 28-31, 1 Thess. ii. 11-12, 1 Tim. v 19-21.)
3. The discipline of Christ, as Son over His own House. (Heb. iii., John xiii.)

The two first have a personal character. Their intention is to prevent church discipline.

1. A Brother Sinning Against a Brother.

As to this case, our Lord's instructions are clear and simple: "If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between him and thee alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be to thee as an heathen man and a publican."

In these words of our gracious Master we cannot fail at once to notice the especial care he takes to remind us, that this is not a case for church disciplines but of personal wrong of one brother against another, warning us against confounding the two, which has caused great sorrow and mischief in the church. It has always been Satan's endeavour (in which the flesh in us is but too willing to aid him), to degrade church questions to personal questions, or dignify personal matters into church questions, thus using our natural pride to produce the canker of party spirit in the church of God. The history of the church from the days of the Apostles until now contains the sad confirmation of this.

"If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone." What did our meek and lowly Master intend by these words? Simply this, that the brother who has been wronged, should go to his brother in the spirit of that love which "covereth a multitude of sins," and with the intention that the sin of his brother might not only be covered, i. e., remain a secret to everyone else, but confessed and judged as in God's presence, be thus entirely put away, between God and the brother who had sinned, and between the two brothers themselves, after the manner of our loving and gracious God, Whose "imitators" we are to be. He "giveth freely and upbraideth not" (James i. 5), and He forgiveth freely and upbraideth not, saying: "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more" (Heb. x. 17). The latter is far more difficult to us than the giving and not upbraiding. The intention is that the sin of the brother should be kept a secret, nay, entirely put away, before it can reach the ears of a third person, let alone the church. But if the brother will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two. One witness in the sense of love and grace, but two in the sense of wisdom, according to the individual character of the erring brother and the more or less hopeful result of your first private interview with him. In the latter case two witnesses would be more likely to impress the conscience of the failing brother, and in certain cases it would be wise, not to appear before the church as witness in your own cause, in case the matter has to be brought before the church.

But if the erring one will not listen to the church (or assembly), what then? He has hardened his heart against the tearful entreaties and remonstrances of the brother wronged by him; the united testimony of two additional witnesses has proved without effect upon his conscience; even the exhortation of the assembly has been left unheeded — what remains, some would say, but the painful necessity of church discipline? Ought he not to be put away?

No! says the Son over His own house, Who is holier, wiser and more gracious than we all; "if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee" (that is to the one whom he has sinned against) "as an heathen man and a publican." He, the Head of His body, the church, as He is our personal Lord and Master and Saviour, will not permit us to dignify personal matters into church questions, nor to lower church questions into personal matters.

Let us heed this warning injunction of our Good, Great and Chief Shepherd! What sorrow, grief, distress and havoc might have been spared to the precious sheep and tender lambs of His flock, if His under-shepherds, like good sheep, had listened to His voice and heeded his distinct instruction! May He grant us to be "strong in the grace that is in Him" (2 Tim. ii. 1), and to "be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding" (Col. i. 9).

It may and does happen that such an impenitent brother, hardened and persevering in a wilful evil course, may become finally subjected to church discipline, and be excluded from the assembly. But this is quite a different thing. Such a sad extremity is not prevented by going before the Lord and beyond His word, but by waiting upon Him and following His word.

Another case of Christian (though not church) discipline is that of a brother "walking disorderly," that is, as the apostle explains, "working not at all, but being a busybody" (2 Thess. 3:6-16). The apostle here commands with the solemnity of apostolic authority (as in 1 Cor. 5) in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, "withdraw from such an one." The reason of his solemn language in this case is, because idleness, so sharply rebuked throughout the pages of holy writ, and even by the world, opens the door to the tempter, as testified by David's warning example. But this is after all not a case for putting away or church discipline as in 1 Cor. v., but of discipline to be enacted by the brethren individually against the idle and mischievous one, by withdrawing from all personal communion with him. The intention of this kind of Christian discipline is, to act by the force of such a united testimony upon the heart and conscience of the one who "walketh disorderly," and thus to prevent his expulsion from the assembly. The apostle then continues, "And if any man obey not our word by this epistle [not — "put away," but] note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed," that is, that he may see his evil way and forsake it, and thus be spared the final, that is, church discipline, which might become necessary by some of the serious fruits of his idleness. For this reason the apostle concludes with the gracious words, "Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." His language in this case is very different from that in 1 Cor. v.

As to the case in Matt. xviii. I would offer a few remarks about a mistake (to speak gently) of by no means rare occurrence, — I mean the case of a brother abstaining from breaking bread, either because he thinks himself insulted or wronged by somebody in the assembly, or, what is worse still, the entertains a personal dislike or suspicion against that person. If acting thus from the first mentioned reason, he constitutes himself accuser and judge in his own cause, thus proving how little he has learnt to know and judge himself (his pride and self-will and their blinding power misleading him to such presumption) and how little he has realised in his soul the true character of the church as the body of Christ. And not only so, but by excluding himself, for the sake of his ill-favoured brother, from the Lord's table, he withholds from the Lord not only the tribute of worship in adoration and thanksgiving due to Him at the memorial of his love, but robs himself of all the precious blessing connected with the Lord's table. To be avenged of his face he cuts off his nose. What folly, not to speak of the sad condition of soul that causes it.

"But," some will say, "is it not worse to sit down at the Lord's table, which is the expression of Christian fellowship, with a brother who has wronged me, or against whom I have something on my heart, or have reason for suspicion?"

My answer to such is simply this, that in divine matters the word of God and not natural feelings and principles ought to be the rule for our actions. In none of these cases does scripture warrant such a step of independence. To such I should say, If you think your brother has wronged you, why not, after acting according to Matt. xviii., "let him be to thee [not to you] as a heathen man and a publican?" That is, you may refuse to him the right hand of fellowship, not noticing any longer his presence in the assembly. Not a word is said that he should be excluded from the assembly, much less of your placing yourself under discipline instead of him.

In the second case, that is, where you have anything in your heart against a brother, why do you not act upon the Lord's clear injunction in Matt. 5:23, 24, and go to your brother, in order to rid your heart of what you have against him? In the passage just referred to, the Lord enjoins us to go to our brother, not only when we have something against him, but "if thou bring thy gift to the altar and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee: leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." Certainly then ought you to go to him, if you have anything against him, and be reconciled to him.* But instead of this you turn your back upon the altar and stay away with your gift of thanks due to God. What blindness in thus sinning against God and against your brother!

[*I presume that in the above passage it is not a question of having done or suffered wrong, but of personal feeling and animosity.]

In the third case, that is, staying away from the Lord's table because you think you have cause for suspicion against a brother, either having noticed something wrong in his walk, or having heard some evil report about him, your way of acting appears to be still more perverse and sinful. For either the bad thing you have noticed in his walk or have heard about him is of such a nature as to make him liable to church discipline, that is, to cause his exclusion from the assembly, or it is of a less urgent and solemn nature. In the former case it is your bounden duty to acquaint the church with his evil course, if proved and known to you as a fact, in order that the evil may be put away from among them. Instead of this, either from the fear of men, or from natural motives of human love, friendships or family relationships, you excommunicate yourself from the table and the church, permitting both to be defiled, and imagining in this way to pacify your conscience and keep it pure! What defilement! What cowardice! What grievous sin against God, against Christ, and the church!

If, on the other hand, the inconsistency you have noticed in a brother's walk is not of so serious a nature as to cause his exclusion from, or even a public rebuke before the church, why in due love to your brother do you not go to him and try to remove the defilement you noticed by washing his feet according to our blessed Lord and Master's own example and solemn injunction? (John xiii. 14. Of this I shall speak further on.)

Do you suspect your brother? "Charity thinketh no evil." Do you distrust him? "Charity believeth all things, hopeth all things" (1 Cor. xiii.). Or is your diffidence founded on information by some trusty brother? Ask him whether he has spoken to the brother against whom he has supplied you with that damaging information, and if he has not, offer to accompany him at once to the one against whose godly character he has raised doubts in your mind. If he refuses to do so, rebuke him sharply, and at once dismiss from your mind any further suspicious thought against the suspected one, for you have no right to entertain even the shadow of a suspicion against a fellow-believer, unless founded on undeniable facts and trustworthy witnesses. To utter or spread such evil surmisings or even only disparaging expressions about a fellow-believer, which may be done sometimes in an apparently innocent, half jocular way, is not only base and ungodly but really devilish. In many gatherings all true fellowship, peace, and blessing have been paralysed and disturbed, the "accuser of the brethren" having succeeded in impregnating the spiritual atmosphere in such assemblies with vague suspicious distrust, evil surmisings, and indistinct misgivings to such a degree that the spiritual breathing in such a thick and poisonous atmosphere became almost impossible, and terminated in the breaking up of the gathering.

To stay away from the Lord's table from mere suspicion or distrust against one or some in the assembly only betrays that the surmised evil, from which such a separatist pretends to purge himself by his own exclusion is enclosed within himself. He therefore had better begin with himself, instead of sitting in judgment upon his brother and upon the assembly by separating from them. Such a pharisaic pride under the cloke of conscientiousness is most sad in a Christian, proving the subtlety and blinding power of the flesh in us.

Let me sum up what has been said, in a simple illustration. Suppose one of the children of a family fancies he has ground for complaint against one of his brothers, or entertains from some cause or another a great aversion to him. His feeling grows so strong that he determines to absent himself from the common family meals. By his absence from that table, which in itself is the expression of the family tie and union, he would not only put a slight upon his brothers and sisters usually present at the table, but above all commit a flagrant disregard of his parents who preside at that table. Besides, that not very amiable son, in order to show his dislike or disapproval of his brother, would expose himself to starvation, a suicidal procedure, which would little serve his purpose. For one would scarcely suppose that that separatist member of the family, who thus spurns the parental table, would go so far in his boldness as to expect his meals to be sent after him into his cell (as little as the self-willed member of Christ, separating himself from the Lord's table, could expect God's blessings connected with the table to follow him into his self-chosen exile). Suppose now that peculiar and unsociable son, on being remonstrated with by his father for his conduct, should plead that the parental table being the expression of family communion, it would not be consistent and honest of hint to sit down there with a member of the family with whom he felt he could have no communion. What would the father say to such an excuse? He would say to him, "If your brother has offended or wronged you, why have you not gone to him, seeking to convince him of his error in the spirit of meekness and brotherly love? And if he would not listen to you nor to his brothers and sisters, you should have told me, and I would have admonished, and if necessary reproved and corrected him. Instead of pursuing this only proper course, you, my son, have preferred to take the matter into your own hands and constituted yourself accuser and judge in your own cause. Your way of acting does not appear to me a conscientious one, as you wish to present it, but rather it betrays an evil heart and a perverse conscience, pride, and self-will. The table, on which you have turned your back, is not yours, nor your brother's, but my table. If you continue to spurn the family table and thus disregard both your parents and your brothers and your sisters, there remains nothing for you but to leave the house and go to the world's boarding-house and taste their fare."

I have dwelt on this point longer than I intended, on account of its frequent occurrence, especially in small towns and country gatherings, where personal acquaintance is so much closer, and so more liable to friction.

"The fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace."

8. 1891 350.

2. Fatherly Watchfulness and Care.

(Gal. vi. 1: Acts xx. 28–31; 1 Thess. ii. 11–12; 1 Tim. 5:19; 2 Tim. iv. 2; 1 John ii. 13, 14.)

The second kind of Christian discipline is that of fatherly watchfulness and pastoral care. It has, like the preceding, a personal character. The church, as such, has nothing to do with it. Its intention is the prevention of church discipline.

But whilst in the preceding case it was the question of a personal matter between brother and brother, this second kind supposes, and indeed requires, spiritual experience, wisdom and grace, on the part of the one who is to exercise it. He is to speak as a father to his children, as one whose superiority is not merely that of age and greater experience and knowledge, but of grace and a godly walk.* "Ye are witnesses, and God also," the apostle of the church could say, "how holily, and justly, and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe." Then he continues, "As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, that ye should walk worthy of God, Who hath called you unto His kingdom and glory." The same we find in Galatians vi. 1. The apostle first exhorts them (chap. 5:25, 26), "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another." He then continues, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."

[*Many, like those at Corinth and elsewhere, are not even youths alas! when they ought to be "fathers."]

Not he who assumes the air of a father, is a father. The real father behaves himself and acts as a father simply because he is one. "For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth." True spiritual superiority does not assert itself, but makes itself felt. It does not look out for acknowledgment, but is acknowledged because real. Some at Corinth carried themselves like fathers, but in fact were babes.

Fatherly authority in the church should be coupled with motherly tenderness, as was the case with the apostle. He not only exhorted the Thessalonians as his children; he also knew how to comfort them. He wrote to them, "We were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children." Are not perfect power and perfect tenderness united in our God? His hand is as tender as it is mighty. It will cast the unbelieving into the lake of fire and wipe for heaven all tears from the faces of His beloved children.

"Fathers" are those who "know Him that is from the beginning," to Whom not only "all power in heaven and on earth is given," but Who is also "meek and lowly of heart." They have "learnt Christ," Whose yoke is easy, and His burden light, and are thus able as such "that are spiritual," with a father's authority, tenderness and care, to restore those that have been overtaken in a fault "in the spirit of meekness," and to "bear one another's burdens, so fulfilling the law of Christ.*

[*This latter quality especially constitutes true "pastors," i.e. those who not only feed the flock, but before God take upon themselves as their own, all the cares and sorrows, the sin and misery, of an erring brother, and "from Him bring the remedy to the failing one," as another has beautifully observed.]

Such an one goes to his erring brother, whose sin and burden he has taken before God upon himself as his own, and speaks to him words of grace and truth.

Words of truth, thus spoken to an erring brother in loving gentleness, will always find a good place with him, even when not received well at the beginning. In these last days, when pride and self-will, not only in the world, but, alas! in the church of God, lift up the head, the christian service of washing one another's feet must frequently expect an unkind reception. There are men whose skin is so thin, that a slight scratch causes bleeding difficult to be stilled. And so there are now-a-days not a few Christians with such a tender, or shall I say? slender, spiritual constitution, that at the slightest accidental scratch,* so to speak, they start up as if they had been pierced by a dagger. They only prove how little their hearts have been established through grace, and how little they have learnt of Him Who is meek and lowly of heart. But this ought not to deter us from our duty under grace, to wash one another's feet, which our gracious and lowly Master, Who is love but also the "holy" and "true," so solemnly did enjoin upon His own on the eve of His death on the cross, after He Himself had set us the example.

[*Such an unguarded little "scratch" will happen sometimes, but it is something very different from the "pricking" inflicted by Job's three "sorry comforters," in their attempts to wash his feet. The result of their service was that Job had to pray for them, lest the Lord should deal with them according to their folly.]

"Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call Me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them."

Christian meekness and humility, so closely connected with Christian love, are most essential requisites in the service of feet-washing.

When our Lord said, "I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you," He certainly did not mean that we should imitate Him in the mere preparations for that service, such as the "girding with the towel," and the "pouring water into the basin." Many show great aptitude for such preparations, but break down in the act of feet washing, because they spurn to kneel down to get at the brother's feet. They enter into his presence with an air which says, I have come to wash your feet. Such preparations resemble rather those of a barber than the humble service of a Christian feet-washing, and generally do more harm than good. A well-known servant of Christ has truly observed, "If I do not judge first in myself the flesh I see active in my brother (for the same exists in myself), I am not fit to wash his feet." If before going to a brother to wash his feet, I have been in the dust before the Lord, I shall appear little before my brother, and thus be able gently to remove the defilement.

How much humility ought I to have towards a brother? Enough to supply his lack of it. If he won't bow his knees, let me bow mine and he will soon follow. Did not Gideon do it before the Ephraimites? (Judges viii. 1–3.) How much love should I have for my brother? Enough to make up for his lack. Did not the great apostle of the church set us the example? (2 Cor. xii. 15.) Thus it should be amongst the members of Christ. One member ought to supply the others. Is it so amongst us?

The important service of Christian foot-washing forming such an integral part of the wider range of fatherly watchfulness and pastoral care, I thought a few remarks as to the general Christian duty of foot-washing might be seasonable amidst the increasing difficulties that beset the "house of the living God" in these last days.

9. 1891 363.

3. Discipline of Christ as Son Over His Own House, and Church Discipline Proper.

(Heb. iii. 6, 1 Cor. v.).

The two first kinds of discipline spoken of before have a personal character and intend to prevent church discipline, i.e., the exclusion of the questionable person from the church, and thus general sorrow and shame. Another has truly observed that nine-tenths of Christian discipline are personal.* If it has come to this that the discipline of Christ, as Son over His own house, has become necessary, it is not, as in the preceding cases, the question of restoring one that has sinned, but of the responsibility of all to keep the house of God undefiled. The very expression, discipline of "Christ, as Son over His own house," should serve to impress the assembly with the deep and solemn sense of its corporate responsibility before God.

[*J. N. Darby, "On Discipline."]

Christ holds not only the keys of death and hades in His victorious hand, but as "Son over his own house". "He that is holy, He that is true," holds also the key of testimony and service. And how could we expect that He, the Holy and True One, would give an "open door" to the testimony of an assembly which, whilst professedly gathered to His Name, in careless indifference stamps with that Holy Name the evil which dishonours it, thus betraying that it has little or no sense of what it owes to Him Who bears that Name and is "the Son over His own house?"

The apostle, therefore, was obliged to recall His Name to the remembrance of the Corinthians who practically appeared to have forgotten its meaning with those words: "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan," etc., etc. The Corinthians had forgotten what they owed to Christ as the Son over His own house, the "house of the living God," the "habitation of God in the Spirit."

As observed already, in this case of (church) discipline it is not a question of a personal restoration of the one who is the object of it, but of the common responsibility of all, to keep the house from defilement. The restoration of the sinning one may be the result of the church discipline; but that is another thing and has nothing to do with the necessity of the church discipline as such, nor can it alter its character. The Name of the Lord must be vindicated first.

If cases like 2 Thess. iii. 6-15, or that of a public rebuke, are designated as church discipline in a general sense, I have no objection; only they appear to me, as I have said already, rather as means for preventing the necessity of discipline by Christ as "Son over His own house," which is the exclusion from the assembly, and thus is at the same time the beginning and the end of church discipline in the strict sense.

The authority of Christ as Son over His own house is guarded and maintained through the presence and efficacy of the Holy Ghost (Who glorifieth Christ) in the church, as the "habitation of God in the Spirit." In saving this I do not mean that Christ Himself could not directly take in hand and exercise this discipline for the maintenance of His authority over His own house, should it please Him to do so. There have been solemn instances of it. His power and authority are the same in our days as when "Judas went out, and it was night."

But when the spiritual condition of a church is good, and therefore the working of the Holy Ghost not impeded, church discipline, when necessary, will be carried out with little or no hindrance. But where the state of a church is low or positively had, as it was at Corinth, the carrying out of church discipline will be comparatively difficult.* But for such cases of difficulty, occurring as they do but too often n these last days of the church on earth, the gracious promise of the Son over His own house becomes doubly gracious, "Where two or three are gathered unto My name, there am I in the midst of them." He does not say, My Spirit, but "I." Even in the church at Corinth there were still such faithful individuals, as Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus; and the Lord Himself was in their midst and carried out the needed discipline through His apostle.

[*Compare the discipline in Achan's case (Joshua vii.) with that in Judges xx., where the carrying out of it caused the extirpation of nearly the whole tribe of Benjamin. Compare further Acts 5 and 1 Cor. v.]

Two cases are especially mentioned in Holy Writ, where the Lord as Son over His own house exercises discipline. The first is that of Ananias and Sapphira; and the second, the exclusion of the wicked person from the church at Corinth.

10. 1891 378.

Church Discipline. Ananias and Sapphira.

In the solemn case of Ananias and Sapphira we see the discipline of the Son over His own house carried out by the power of the Holy Spirit in the chief of the twelve. Ananias and his wife had "agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord," and for that sin of hypocrisy and effrontery, they suffered death by the power of the "Spirit of truth" (against whom they had lied) acting through Peter. This case was not one of church discipline in the strict sense, inasmuch as the church as such could take no active part in it (except by practically owning what had been done), for its responsibility for such participation could, of course, only apply to known and manifest sins. With Ananias and Sapphira Christ acts as Head of the church through the Holy Spirit. Ananias and Sapphira had "lied to the Holy Ghost"; they had "lied to God," and "agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord." In Holy Writ their sin is exposed in all its awfulness.

3. Church Discipline. Corinth.

In 1 Cor. 5 we have proper church discipline as such, in its complete character, that is, Christ as Son over His own house, through His apostle of the church reminding the saints at Corinth of their responsibility to purge His house from defilement (John ii. 13-17), and thus awakening them to the sense of their duty under grace to "put away from among themselves the wicked person."

The canker of party spirit had undermined the church at Corinth to such a degree that all true blessing had been nearly rendered impossible. Only a few like Stephanas and his household, and Achaicus, and Fortunatus, appeared to have kept themselves untainted with the leaven which had leavened nearly the whole lump, and made its pernicious effects felt in all directions until they extended even to the Lord's table, where many did no longer discern the body of the Lord. That terrible sin of profanity had been visited by the Lord in some cases with illness, and in others even with death.

There is a well-known natural law, that the more delicate, tender, and excellent a thing is, the swifter and more complete is its corruption. For this same reason a backslider slips to a lower degree of moral degradation than many an unconverted man, committing himself to sins of which the latter would be ashamed. So it was at Corinth. The canker of party spirit with its concomitant passions of vanity, boasting, and jealousy had so completely undermined the originally sound Christian ground in the church at Corinth, that not only were they individually puffed up within themselves but amongst themselves and one against another, the different parties comparing themselves among themselves and lifting up themselves the one above the other, instead of in lowliness esteeming one another better than themselves. The greater the pride the deeper the fall. So it came to pass at Corinth. A sin of such a shameful and unnatural character as was not known even among the Gentiles had been committed in their midst. But instead of throwing themselves with much weeping down before the Lord, like whilom Ezra and those with him, who trembled at the words of the God of Israel because of the unfaithfulness of those that had been carried away, and instead of saying every one, "O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to Thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our heads, and our trespass is grown up into the heavens. . . . We have trespassed against our God . . yet now there is hope . . and now let us put away . .", they continued to be puffed up, and "had not mourned, that he that had done this deed might be put away from amongst them."

Christ, as Son over His own house, interposed through His apostle in order to maintain both His own disregarded authority and the purity of His house. Paul, in virtue of his apostolic authority bestowed upon him by the Head of the church, was therefore obliged to write to the Corinthians. "For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath done this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together and my spirit, with the power of the Lord Jesus, to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."

But Paul acted here not exactly as Peter did with Ananias and Sapphira, in virtue of his apostolic authority. For at Corinth the sin to be dealt with was generally known, which was not so on the former occasion. It became therefore necessary that the church at Corinth as such in its responsibility for the holiness and purity becoming the "house of the living God," should take part in the putting away of the evil, which gave to that solemn act the character not only of apostolic but of church discipline.* Paul therefore, whilst speaking with the full authority of an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ (as Head of the church and Son over His own house), and as an apostle of the church, "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ," at the same time as member of the church, which is the body of Jesus Christ, took his common place among them in the assembly, adding, "when ye are gathered together and my spirit, with the power of the Lord Jesus Christ."

[*The evil-doer, "the wicked person," was not only to be put away from the Lord's table, but "from among themselves." They were "not even to eat with him."]

In that great and honoured servant of Christ we perceive, in beautiful unison, apostolic authority, christian humility, grace, and wisdom, to stir up the hearts and consciences of the Corinthians, so blinded by the enemy, to do that which was due to God and His Son, as Head of the church, and to obtain the desired result for God's own glory and their common blessing, and for the restoration of the fallen one.

May God grant to His church in these perilous and difficult days of decline, grace and wisdom as well as decision and faithfulness in following the example of His great yet humble apostle. In these days of religious party spirit, fleshliness and worldliness (where the exercise of true godly discipline in the fear and love of God and of Christ is rendered more difficult than ever, though none the less binding on that account) the teachers and pastors, given by the Head of the church, will (in the case of the necessity of church discipline, so sorrowful and humbling for us all) do well to remember that they are "brethren" as well as pastors and teachers. On such distressing occasions service is not rendered to sleepy consciences by addressing with quasi-apostolic authority, to arouse them from their dormant condition. This is the way to neither their hearts nor consciences. A church discipline brought about in this way will bear no "peaceable fruit of righteousness," but the very opposite. This is not the spirit of the "Son over His own house," Who washed the feet even of a Judas, before exercising discipline, nor is it the spirit of His apostle, who called himself "less than the least of the saints," and spoke even weeping "of them who were enemies of the cross of Christ." The way to the conscience goes through the heart, and if we do not know how to find the way to a brother's heart, we shall not find a way to his conscience (2 Peter iii. 1, John xxi. 15-17).

11. – Christian Discipline. The Power of "Binding" and "Loosing."

1892 13 The words "binding" and "loosing" signify power in both ways. The religious as well as the natural flesh loves power and authority, and each uses it sometimes "with a vengeance."

To whom does the power of "binding" rightly belong? Every believer will agree with me in saying, To Him who "bound the strong man and spoiled him of his goods." And who has the power of "loosing"? He alone Who said to that daughter of Abraham whom Satan had bound those eighteen years, "Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity; and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God." He Who recalled Lazarus from death and corruption into life and said, "Loose him, and let him go;" He Who Himself was "loosed from the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be holden of it" — to Him alone rightly belongs the power of "binding" and "loosing." If it has pleased Him, during His absence from this earth, to delegate part of His powers to His apostles and disciples or to the church, who would dispute His right of doing so? But He alone is and remains the source of all power and authority. He Who gave them can withdraw them again, and has done so, where that power and authority had been abused by unfaithful stewards and false shepherds or by Laodicean indifference for self-aggrandisement and self-enrichment and oppression of the flock of Christ.

"Unto him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not, even that which he hath (or, as the Gospel of Luke has it, "which he seemeth to have") shall be taken away from him."

Let us now consider:
1. What is the character and purpose of the power of "binding" and "loosing"?
2. To whom was it given?
3. For what time was it given?

1. Their Character And Purpose.

The former is indicated by the very words themselves. To "bind" some one means to take away his liberty. To "loose" him means to give him back his liberty. Through sin man became Satan's slave, bound by the fetters of sin. By faith and regeneration he is set free from that terrible bondage and becomes in the liberty wherewith Christ makes us free, the willing and cheerful servant of God and Christ. The natural man is spiritually and bodily a prisoner, bound by Satan. God in His wisdom may permit Satan even outwardly to make manifest the terribleness of those bonds, as in the case of the demoniac and of the lunatic (Matt. xvii. 15-21), and of that daughter of Abraham who had been bound eighteen years.

But there are other bonds, those of legal bondage and fear, as expressed in the 7th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. Satan and the law (however good and holy the latter) can bind but not loose, i.e., set free. Christ delivers from both, "having found an eternal redemption." He alone, Who "has ascended on high and led captivity captive," possesses the supreme power for "binding" and "loosing." He will ere long bind and shut up in the "bottomless pit" Satan, the prince of this world, who keeps the world chained in the bonds of sin and of the fear of death, "that he may deceive the nations no more." But after the millennial reign of Christ Satan will be "loosed out of his prison" and make manifest that man, even after a millennial blessing, ever remains the same; whereupon the "deceiver of the nations" and "accuser of the brethren" will be assigned to his final doom in the "lake of fire and brimstone for ever and ever."

But Christ, Who holds the supreme power of "binding" and "loosing" as He holds all power in heaven and on earth, can, as observed already, transfer upon others a part of it according to His good pleasure, as a king may transfer part of his power upon substitutes of higher or lower degree. So Christ, as Son over His own house, has for the purpose of discipline in the church during His absence, delegated to others part of His power and authority; be it for "binding" in cases where the honour and authority of our great Deliverer from the bonds of Satan, sin, and death, and judgment, and the holiness becoming His house have been practically disregarded by one of His redeemed; or be it for "loosing" where the "binding" has had its intended effect and the stray repentant sheep returns to the good "Shepherd and bishop of our souls."

The "binding" may be of a spiritual or of a bodily character or both, as in the case of the sinner at Corinth, or even extend unto death, as with Ananias and Sapphira. In 2 Cor. ii. 5-11 we have the "loosing," as in 1 Cor. 5 the "binding."

Sin binds, i.e., deprives of liberty. One who has sinned against God does not feel free before Him. We find this already with Adam and Eve as the effect of the first sin. They endeavoured to hide themselves from God. If some one has sinned against his neighbour, he feels no longer free in his presence, but restrained and oppressed. Repentance and confession remove the pressure and restore liberty and easiness. So it is between God and us, and in our communion one with another. But if the one who sins will not confess it nor judge himself for it (I speak of course of believers), the Lord has graciously provided a way of binding the sin on the heart and conscience of the impenitent one, to make him feel its burden, by giving power to His own to exclude him not only from fellowship with the assembly but even with Him Who is in the midst, Matt. xviii. I8, thus depriving him, till he repents, of all liberty and joy, and so to bind him.

2. Upon Whom has the Lord Conferred the Power of "Binding" and "Loosing"?

The Gospel of Matthew is the only part of the New Testament speaking of that power. In chap. xvi. Jesus had announced to that "adulterous generation" which desired a "sign from heaven," the "sign of the prophet Jonah," so fatal for Israel, i.e., the death and resurrection of their rejected and crucified Messiah. Then "He left them and departed." All was over with Israel. It was night. But in the same chapter the Lord shows to His disciples the morning dawn of the church, saying, "Upon this rock* I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." But as to Peter himself, the Lord adds the special personal promise, "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."** That promise was given to the apostle Peter personally, evidently in close connection with the power of the keys for Israel and the Gentiles.

{* That is, upon Peter's confession that Christ is the Son of the living God.

** There is something similar in the Old Testament in the case of king Nebuchadnezzar, who at the voice of "a watcher and a holy one" was bound seven years, and loosed again when he repented and humbled himself before God.}

And in chapter xviii. of the Gospel of Matthew, where we behold the morning red of the church, so to speak, the Lord says, "Verily, I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Here the Lord confers the power of "binding" and "loosing" on all His own, i.e., on the disciples then with Him, and on every assembly; for His words are here in close connection with what He said just before and after.

But we must not forget what the Lord adds immediately after, which naturally brings to the third question:

For What Time was the Power of "Binding" and "Loosing" Given?

To the Lord's apostles and His then disciples it was, of course, given for their lifetime, and also to the churches existing in the days of the apostles. But Christ, knowing before what use an unfaithful church in fleshly self-elevation would make of the privilege of the power of binding and loosing, has added the gracious promise, "Where two or three are gathered unto My name, there am I in the midst of them." Wonderful privilege of grace, granted by the glorious Head of the church, foreseeing these days of deepest decline, even to two or three (the smallest number to constitute an assembly) who look up to Him from the ruins, as themselves forming a part of them, in the sense of their own weakness and our common shame. What are two or three thousand without Christ in their midst? Nothing but so many cyphers without a figure before them. Put the figure 1 before them, and it makes with the two following "noughts" one hundred, and three of them one thousand.

But think you, christian reader, that the Lord will put His seal upon the decisions of gatherings small or great, and grant them the power of "binding" and "loosing," which are founded on human statutes and ordinances, or such as were originally founded on scriptural ground, but have left the way of truth and followed man's will instead of the word of God? Never! That would mean setting His seal to what is contrary to His own word. Or could He recognise church actions on the part of meetings which had been gathered according to scriptural principles, but have sunk to such a degree of moral and spiritual degradation that they have become destitute of spiritual discernment? Impossible. That would be nothing less than making Christ the servant of sin. It was Paul, but not the church at Corinth, who delivered the wicked person "unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."* The Corinthians, as every assembly of God, were responsible to "put away from among themselves that wicked person," but could not "deliver him unto Satan." Only the apostle as such could do this. But in the Corinthians "godly sorrow had wrought repentance not to be repented of" (2 Cor. vii.); or they would not have been able to exercise "loosing" discipline in the power of the Holy Ghost and, with the seal of Christ's authority.

{* An assembly has no power to deliver any one over to Satan. This expression has been used as a bugbear by ambitious leaders ignorant of its importance. That a person excluded by an assembly in a godly (i.e., scriptural) way, is by that act of discipline placed outside, i.e., in the world, of which Satan is the prince, and where his power is at work, is solemnly true, but quite a different thing.}

To exclude or receive persons after the good pleasure of human leaders or of a party is easy enough; but such "bindings" and "loosings" are not recognised in heaven.

12. Christian Discipline.

1892 28 (3.) In what spirit and way should christian discipline be exercised and carried out?

Christian discipline must be exercised in the spirit of grace and truth. By grace we are saved. Grace keeps our inward man as our outward man is kept by the power of God on our way, through a cruel and subtle enemy's territory, towards our final rest and glory with Christ. Grace then should be the keynote of all true christian discipline, and truth in righteousness and holiness should characterise it. Throughout Holy Writ, grace and truth go hand in hand, from cover to cover. "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ," "He dwelt among us full of grace and truth." But scripture does not say that, from His fulness we have received "grace and truth," but "grace upon grace." Grace then ought to he the keynote of christian discipline. We are but too much inclined to deal in grace with ourselves, and (at least in our own opinion) in truth with our fellow christians. Whenever our own faults are to be dealt with, we want our brethren to deal with us in grace and truth; but in case of a brother's failure, we proceed but too frequently as if it were written "truth and grace."

When the Lord was speaking of christian discipline, Peter asked Him: — "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? until seven times?" He evidently thought he had expressed the fullest measure of grace by saying "seven times," this being the expression of spiritual perfection. But what was the Lord's answer? He named a still more perfect number. "Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee until seven times, but until seventy times seven," and then adds the solemn parable of the King "who would take account of his servants."

Let us ask ourselves, christian reader, "How often have you and I forgiven a brother who had sinned against us? I am afraid, if the same brother should sin against us the seventh time, grace would become an effort to us. We should in that case be inclined to think that with us "grace has had her perfect work," and that he is "turning grace into lasciviousness." But if you and I, reader, have once got beyond the number "seven," we shall get such a relish for exercising grace in "forgiving one another," "even as Christ forgave us," that long before we have reached the number seventy, — not to speak of seventy times seven, i.e., 490, we shall have left off counting, in case we really had exerted ourselves with that unpleasant task "until seven times."

In the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel of John the apostle, that grace manifests itself in all its lovely and touching character. There we behold Jesus as "Son over his own house," exercising discipline in the most solemn case of Judas Iscariot. There the darkest treason that ever was or will be had to be dealt with. And in what spirit and way did Jesus exercise that discipline? Was it with the rod, the "whip of small cords," in His hand, as in the quite different case of John ii.? No, but in perfect grace from first to last, though all the time in truth. For He dwelt among us in "grace and truth." How often in cases where church discipline has become necessary, are we inclined to deal graciously with the sinning brother, if he has not offended us personally, especially if he is our friend or related to us! We are then often but too inclined to lay full stress upon grace at the expense of truth. But in cases when he has been irksome or personally disliked by us, we are inclined to do the opposite, laying all the stress upon truth. How different was His procedure, Who is our pattern as He is our Saviour. When the holiness of His Father's house was in question, He dealt in truth with those that defiled the temple. But in Judas Iscariot's case of the blackest treason and ingratitude against His own Person, He acts with such perfect grace, that to the natural mind it almost appears as if there had been too much of grace before truth. But we shall soon see that this was not, nor could be, the case on His part, with Whom grace never was separated from perfect truth, and truth never from perfect grace.

Not a few refuse to believe that Jesus could have washed the feet of Judas Iscariot; as such grace, shown to such a hardened unconscionable traitor, would not only appear to be thrown away, but scarcely in keeping with the dignity of the Lord. I am afraid that those who think so have very little entered into the spirit of that glorious chapter. From its whole tenor and connection there can be no doubt but that the Lord washed the feet of His betrayer as He did wash those of His other apostles. (Compare verses 10 and 11).

The same grace and love, which made the "Good Shepherd" exchange His glorious heavenly home for this sin-benighted world, the home of misery and death, in order to look, first for the lost sheep of Israel, and then for sheep who were "not of that fold," moved Him, Who was grace and truth personified, to exhaust all the means of that grace and truth, to reach the heart and conscience even of him, who whilst eating His bread, had lifted up his heel against Him,

"But why all these attempts," some perhaps will reason, "as Jesus must have known before that they would be in vain, Judas being the 'son of perdition!'"

His thoughts are not our thoughts, reader, nor are His ways and His heart ours. The omniscience and perfect knowledge of the Son of God could not limit the grace of the perfect Son of man in its activity. What could be more adapted to reach the conscience even of a Judas and to soften his hard heart, than seeing Him, Whom he was about to betray, stooping down at His feet to perform the menial service of washing them? We should have thought, that (each time when those hands, which had fed those thousand hungry ones, healed the sick and blessed the little children, and during more than three years had given to His apostle the daily bread and blessed it and broken it with him, with their gentle touch applied the cleansing water to Judas Iscariot's feet), his heart must have welled up and discharged itself through his eyes, until the purifying streams of penitent tears had mingled with the cleansing water around his feet. And when He heard Peter say, "Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Thou shalt never wash my feet," and then the Master's holy yet ever gracious voice saying, "Ye are clean, but not all;" and when He, whom Judas too called Lord and Master, then went down at his feet to wash them likewise, should we not have thought that the betrayer's trembling feet would have shrunk back, bringing him on his knees publicly to own his deep fall and the covetousness that had caused it? And when the same calm, unimpassioned, and yet so gracious voice added those warning words, "He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me;" and when Jesus, "troubled in spirit, then testified and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me," (these last words of grace and truth, addressed to Judas Iscariot's heart and conscience); and when "the disciples looked one on another, doubting of whom He spake," — should we not have thought that if even the least spark of a better feeling had been in his heart, or the slightest movement of repentance in his conscience, such words, spoken by such a Master, would have evoked there a response?

But Judas Iscariot's heart and conscience had become as hard as the thirty pieces of silver, which he had received from the chief priests and Pharisees. For more than three years he had walked alongside with the Son of God. He had seen and heard His mighty and gracious words and deeds. But whilst walking day by day as an eye-and-ear-witness, nay as an apostle, by the side of Him, who was "God manifest in the flesh," his heart was a secret idol-shrine, where the "mammon of unrighteousness" was enthroned. Only his body, but not his heart, was in the presence of the Son of God. Thus all his privileges had only served to harden his soul entirely, and render his measure of responsibility and his deep fall and following judgment all the greater.

The bosom disciple "whom Jesus loved," and who in our most solemn and yet so blessed chapter asks Him in childlike simplicity, "Lord, who is it?" addressed in Ins old age to all the children of God the solemn injunction, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols."

Jesus replied to His beloved disciple's enquiry with "He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it." "And when He had dipped the sop, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon."

Grace had done its utmost and exhausted its last remedy. Nothing remained but judgment. That portion of holy writ, spoken in solemn warning by our gracious yet true Master, had been fulfilled: "He that eateth bread with me, hath lifted up his heel against me."* "And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly." "He then having received the sop, went immediately out: and it was night." Solemn words!

{*Up to the present time no Arab would eat bread with one against whom he harbours any hostile intentions.}

The Lord, the "Son over His own house," had exercised discipline, but not until all the means of grace had been exhausted. Compare 1 Cor. 5:2.

Christian reader, I have dwelt at a greater length than usual on this case of discipline, unique in its terribleness, not in order to sit in judgment upon a traitor, but to judge our own treacherous hearts. Judas, though unconverted, was a man of like natural passions as we. How little, alas! have we learnt from our gracious Master, Who showed such patience and grace to His betrayer, to exercise grace and patience towards our erring brethren in Christ, being unmindful of the injunction of the apostle of the church, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted."

Hear the words of the inspired James: "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him, let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."

How often have we exercised grace without truth, or handled truth without grace! It is difficult to say which of the two would be the worst.

In my next paper I shall, if the Lord will, offer a few remarks as to the way of carrying out Christian discipline.

13. Christian Discipline.

1892 43 In what way ought christian discipline to be carried out?

Having spoken already as to the way of carrying out christian discipline in its two first aspects, we now only have to consider the way and manner, in which church discipline is to he effected.

First of all we shall do well to remember that the way of transacting church discipline is closely connected with the spirit in which it ought to be practised, on which I have dwelt in the preceding paper. For if in the exercise of church discipline the Spirit of grace and truth is active within us, that divine Guide, dwelling in us, being ungrieved, will not fail to guide in the way and manner of carrying it into effect. Only let us ever be mindful that this blessed Spirit of truth can and will never prompt us to act without, let alone contrary to, the word indited by Himself, which is truth.

And what is it especially, that we find expressed so distinctly and decidedly in the word of God as to the way of carrying church discipline into effect? Is it not the common responsibility of the members of Christ before Him our Head in glory, as well as their mutual responsibility, as to any unjudged God-dishonouring sin, defiling the assembly as such? Let us take again the case at Corinth. That church had sunk to such a low spiritual condition, that they had become unmindful of their responsibility to "purge out the old leaven."

How did the apostle proceed in that, humanly speaking, desperate case? Did he hold a private conference with Titus, Timothy, Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus and a few others of his fellow-labourers, in order to come to a conclusion and decision in this matter? Did he say to them: "The condition of the church at Corinth is so bad and spiritually so low, the spiritual life so feeble, the flesh so strong and prevalent, and the consciences so sleepy and inert, that there remains nothing but to take matters into our own hands, and to decide instead of them to put away that wicked person from the assembly? Does he send Titus or Timothy or Stephanas to Corinth with a message to the assembly, that he as an apostle, or, let us say, he and the other brothers with him had resolved to take the necessary church discipline into their own hands, and, carrying it out for them, had put away that wicked person from amongst them?

What would have been the effect of such an action? Why, the church at Corinth, had it "bowed" to such a resolution, and, acting upon it, had considered that wicked person as having been put away from among them, would have acted in the fear of the apostle and of the brethren with him, instead of under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in the fear of the Lord. The consciences and hearts of the Corinthians would not have been exercised before God in His holy and gracious presence as to the evil they had allowed in their midst. In getting rid of one evil, they would only have opened the door to another evil, thus exchanging one "leaven" for another.

But what did the apostle? In his character and authority as such he indeed did say, "For verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed: in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may he saved in the day of the Lord Jesus."

But first of all the apostle says (ver. 4), "When ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of the Lord Jesus Christ." Whilst speaking as an apostle, he entirely identifies himself with the church at Corinth simply as a member of the body of Christ, by saying, "When ye are gathered together and my spirit with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ" (not "with my apostolic power"). He seeks to bring the consciences of the Corinthians into the presence of Christ instead of into his own apostolic presence, so that they might act "in the fear of Christ," and not in the fear of the apostle, i.e. in the fear of men. Whilst, in virtue of his apostolic authority, delivering that wicked person to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (Job ii. 6-7), he at the same time takes care to remind the Corinthians of their own responsibility for acting themselves in carrying out the church discipline, for he continues, "Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth." He does not say, "We have excluded from among you that person, and all you have to do is to notify this to the assembly," but, "Put away from among yourselves that wicked person."

True, the same apostle writes to the Hebrews, "Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." We also do well to remember that the apostle writes to the Corinthians at the close of the same Epistle, "I beseech you, brethren (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first-fruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints), that ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth."

God forbid that any should say or write anything that would tend to weaken or undermine the spiritual authority of rulers, pastors, teachers or overseers given by the Lord Himself, and to incite or foster in the churches a spirit of disregard and opposition against any true spiritual authority, appointed by God. Such a spirit is not from above but from beneath, as we learn from the Epistle of Jude, by where we are warned against two evil extremes. The one is that of "having men's persons in admiration because of advantage," and the other that of "despising dominion and speaking evil of dignities." Each of the two is a great sin, but whilst the former is innate in human nature (though none the less sinful and hateful), the latter is directly devilish and abominable.

But when those who have been looked up to, as leaders, have become so unmindful of their responsibility to the Lord and of their obligation to the church of God, accruing from the position they had held there, as to have attempted, especially in cases of church discipline, to lead the consciences of the saints practically away from Christ under their own superintendence and authority, they are no longer to be regarded nor treated as leaders "but as misleaders" or "seducers."

Only a few years ago the writer of these lines stayed some time as a visitor in a certain district (not of Great Britain), where there were numerous gatherings consisting of those who professedly avowed, held, and taught the simple truths of the church of God as presented in the scriptures. Amongst them it had become a usual practice, that by a certain gathering in a large town (the "Jerusalem" as it were, for all the gatherings in the land, at least for as many as were willing to own such an allegiance and there were hardly any who dared to disown it), — cases of church discipline were taken in hand and carried out, not only for neighbouring but for distant gatherings likewise. During their Saturday night's private sittings at a private house some "ruling brethren," as they were called settled among themselves any case of church discipline that had arisen in the gathering at that metropolitan centre. Their decision was then made known on the Lord's day morning to the church as an accomplished fact which admitted of no contradiction. But those "ruling brothers" did not confine their activity to cases of church discipline in the gathering to which they belonged. They also took up questions of church discipline that had arisen in neighbouring, and even in distant gatherings, and then sent one or two delegates to the gathering in question, in order to notify to that meeting on the next Lord's day as an accomplished fact that such or such a brother or sister had put away from among themselves by the brethren at "Jerusalem." On one of those occasions it even occurred that a brother, who protested against such a procedure, was also put away because of "insubordination."

Where is the fear of God in such proceedings? Where is the word of God to justify it? What becomes of the guidance of the Holy Ghost in the assembly? What of the due respect to the consciences of the saints?

"With force and with cruelty ye have ruled them" (Ezek. xxxiv. 4). "I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them" (10).

There may be questions of church discipline, as for instance in cases of immorality, dishonesty and evil doctrine where true wisdom, love and godly care for the flock of Christ would equally forbid to make the whole of an assembly, young and old, acquainted with all the details of such gross sins. Such a procedure would not only not be helpful to the spiritual condition of the saints, especially the young, but only too often the very, opposite. One can hardly imagine any thing more injurious to the spiritual life, progress and growth of an assembly, than such a procedure. The same it would be in cases of evil doctrines, where the soul-poisoning influence would often prove more disastrous still.

In cases like these it appears not only advisable but indispensable for the spiritual welfare of an assembly, that some elder brothers of spiritual weight and intelligence, should take up cases of discipline referred to above and sift the whole before it is put to the assembly for decision. In this way the consciences of the saints forming the assembly are properly exercised before God, without their hearts having been defiled by being occupied with the specialities of the leaven that had to be purged out. The assembly having then decided as to the necessity of exclusion, it is made known on the first day of the following week.

This way of carrying into effect the solemn act of discipline is according to God and His word, and very different from the above mentioned ungodly ways of procedure. In the former case, where a few "ruling brothers" take upon themselves the discipline to be exercised by the assembly, the consciences of the saints are left without exercise before God and put under human authority instead. In the latter of those two mischievous procedures, that is where the whole meeting, young and old, are made acquainted and, so to speak, familiar with details of the defiling leaven in all kinds of disgraceful cases, there is but too great a danger for the hearts, especially of the tender lambs of the flock, getting familiarised with evil and consequently callous or indifferent if not actually poisoned by it. It is difficult to say, which of the two would be the worst: the hardening of the conscience from want of exercise before God; or the defiling and poisoning of the heart from too much of exercise and details demanding discipline.

May the God of all grace, through the Spirit of truth, power, love and of a sound mind, guide and bless us with that wisdom which is from above, in order that we may be filled "with fruit of righteousness unto the day of Christ," and not be ashamed away at His coming.

Finally I would remark that there are two cases where a saint's personal withdrawal from a meeting would be not only justified, but imperative. The first is that of an assembly obstinately refusing to exclude such as are guilty of unrighteousness and immorality. The second is that of a gathering remaining in fellowship with such are guilty of heresy and heterodoxy (evil doctrine). For discipline being one of the essential characteristics of the church, as the "house of the living God," a gathering which refuses that discipline, ceases to be an assembly in the sense of the word of God, by willingly harbouring the evil and refusing to judge it and put it away. Only every scriptural effort is due in warning and entreaty before such an extreme step can be lawfully taken.

As to the godly obligation for every believer of absolute separation in cases of heresy and heterodoxy, this has become, especially in these "perilous times" and "last days," a subject of such paramount importance, that, before closing these remarks on christian discipline, I purpose to offer D.V. in my next paper a few distinct remarks on this subject.

14. Christian Discipline.

1892 92 As to the scriptural way of procedure in the case of those who cause sects and divisions, the word of God is clear enough:

"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" (Rom. xvi. 16, 17).

The duty of the church in such a case is unmistakable. For no godly christian asserts that the apostle here (as in 2 Thess. iii.) would rest in withholding personal fellowship with such as act contrary to the doctrine of the apostles, undermining and destroying the church, the temple of God, by causing divisions and offences, and deceiving the hearts of the simple. An assembly which sanctions such in its midst, thus opening the door to the enemy and destroyer, would only show that it has no sense of what is due to God and to His Son, and to the church, as being the house of the living God. If they persevered, in spite of the remonstrances of the godly, in refusing church discipline, they would finally forfeit the character of an assembly of God, and to the godly among them no alternative would be left but separation from that which would be an assembly of God no longer. But the apostle justly began with calling on the faithful to mark such in order to their repentance.

And if separation becomes a duty for every true and faithful believer where the defilement of the temple of God is in question, how much more so, where the honour of God, and of His Son Himself is at stake, as when heresy has assumed the character of heterodoxy, i.e. false and God-dishonouring doctrine! The injunctions of Holy Writ, though plain enough in the former case, are here still more distinct and solemnly decisive, as the following passages show: 1 Cor. xv. 12, 13-19; 33, 34; Gal. 5:7-12; 1 Tim. i. 18-20; 2 Tim. ii. 16-18; Titus iii. 10, 11; 2 Peter ii. 1-3; 1 John ii. 18-26; 2 John 9-11; Jude 3, 4.

No upright and right-minded christian will contend that the passages cited above, dealing with those tools of Satan, who by false doctrines seek to undermine the foundations of christianity, do not go on to exclusion from the assembly, when self-will rejects all admonition. False doctrine, heterodoxy, is of all evils the worst, for it directly dishonours God and His dear Son, our precious Saviour, ruining the souls of those for whom Jesus suffered and died, to a far wider extent and in a much more destructive way than in the case of moral evil. And if the apostle enjoined the Corinthians not even to take a common meal at the same table with that incestuous wicked person, could he have intended to say, think ye, that they quietly might sit down and break bread with those who attacked the very foundations of the christian faith, nay, the person of Christ Himself and His work? What! associate and break bread with them at the table of the Lord (Whom they had blasphemed) to show His death till He come!" The very thought of such a Judas-fellowship is so revolting to every christian sentiment, that I need not say more about it.

"Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners," the apostle writes to the same Corinthians. By this he certainly did not mean that they were to continue with those false teachers in the fellowship of breaking the bread, thus giving them opportunity, gradually to poison the whole assembly? "Awake to righteousness and sin not," the apostle continues, "for some have not the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame." He began, as we ought, with correcting the error in order to repentance. But if they refused the correction and thus became hardened in the evil, was this to be tolerated under plea of unity?

It is to be feared, there are not a few Christians in these days of Laodicean lukewarmness, to whom that solemnly warning rebuke of the apostle would apply. There are some who say that it could not have been the intention of the apostle to insist on the Corinthians excluding those false teachers from the assembly, because he did not expressly enjoin them to do so. Do not his words, "Be not deceived; evil communications corrupt good manners," express the warning of the Lord and of His Spirit through the apostle distinctly enough? We might just as well say, that the "elect lady," whom the apostle John warns against receiving into her house any who did not bring the doctrine of Christ (nay, not even to greet him, because by doing so she would make herself "partaker of his evil deeds"), would have been quite free to break bread with the false teacher, the apostle not having expressly forbidden her to do so! How crooked and deceitful is the natural heart in its thoughts and feelings, especially in a christian who abuses grace!

These remarks hold good as to other portions of holy writ mentioned above, which are initiatory.

If then individual Christians who receive a heterodox teacher into their houses, or even greet him, become his accomplices, how much more solemnly is this true of a whole assembly according such an one a place at the Lord's table! The whole assembly would make itself partaker of his evil deeds. "Know ye not," writes the apostle to the Corinthians, "that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?" This principle of divine truth holds good not only in cases of gross immorality as at Corinth, but also in cases of evil doctrine; for the Holy Spirit, the "Spirit of truth," applies the same words through the same apostle to the Galatians, where it was a question of evil doctrine or heterodoxy (ch. 5:9, 10), adding, "I would they were even cut off which trouble you" (ver. 12). In 1 Cor. xv. 33 the apostle urges the same principle with regard to evil doctrine as in the same epistle, ch. 5, to immorality, only in different words, as is clear from the whole tenor of ch. xv.

"But," somebody would say, "suppose, some one has belonged to a gathering, where, without his being aware of it, an evil doctrine has been tolerated, though perhaps not publicly advanced. He is entirely ignorant of it all. Would it not be unjust, nay, cruel, to refuse to such an one a place at the Lord's table in other meetings?"

Yes, the Lord's table! This makes all the difference. It is the Lord's, and not our own table; and for this very reason that which is due to the Lord, and also to His saints in holy fellowship, ought to he our chief consideration. To receive such would be nothing less than linking ourselves with them, the Lord's table being the expression of the one body (1 Cor. x. 17). Thus we should make ourselves partakers of their evil deeds. Let us put Christ number one, and the "nice Christians" number two, and we shall make no mistake, but if we put the "dear Christians" first, and Christ in the second place, we are all wrong, If we magnify Christ, all is plain. Leave Him out, or make Him — practically — secondary, and all is confusion.

As to the objection referred to above, an incident occurred some years ago which will furnish us with a satisfactory answer. A lady presented herself at a meeting in London wishing to break bread. She had been in fellowship at one of those indifferent gatherings, but said she had been ignorant of the doctrinal question. The brothers to whom she applied, believed her to be honest.

They, however, thought it right to enter into a conversation with her, to ascertain whether she might not, perhaps unwittingly, have imbibed some of those fatally erroneous doctrinal notions. And, behold, in the course of that conversation it became but too evident that she, though unwittingly, had imbibed not a few of them. Of course, she could not be admitted that morning, but had first to be convinced and delivered as to those errors, before she could be "received to the glory of God." What would have been the consequence if she had been received without such helpful conversation? She would have, just as unwittingly as she had received them, imparted those poisonous doctrinal notions to the minds of other saints in that meeting, perhaps to some of the young. Thus the deadly poison would have been gradually instilled into the meeting.

What has been said shows the indispensable necessity for the greatest watchfulness and care in such cases of impure, God-and-Christ-dishonouring doctrines with their destructive effect upon the children of God. True love for the sheep and lambs of Christ ought to make us all the more careful for them, even where that love might have the appearance of harshness, lest they should be led astray by false shepherds to poisoned pastures. In a meeting where evil doctrine is treated with indifference, i.e. tolerated and harboured, the spiritual atmosphere becomes more or less impregnated with unsound doctrinal notions, though the open teaching and confession of them may be carefully avoided. The doctrinal virus which, though perhaps at first in small quantities, is floating in the air. The devil does not administer the poison to souls by spoonfuls, but in drops, or homoeopathic doses, so to speak. It acts more gradually, but all the more sure in its effects on account of being not perceived. For instance, some one in such a meeting uses an ambiguous expression as to the person of Christ, talking about the "sinless infirmities of our blessed Lord." That expression falls not only upon the ears, but sinks into the minds and hearts of the hearers, who think it quite harmless, the suspicious word "infirmities," applied to the person of Christ, being guarded by the preceding word "sinless." Now we know that all human infirmities are the result of man's fall and sin. Hunger and thirst, weariness with its consequence, sleep — are not "infirmities." Adam and Eve were hungry and ate before they sinned, a deep sleep fell upon Adam before his fall. God had made man perfect. But infirmity implies imperfection, which is the effect of sin, as death is its wages.*

{* How sublime in contrast to such nefarious attacks of the enemy upon the dignity of Christ sounds the language of God's own word: "For the law maketh (or 'appointeth') men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath which was since the law, the Son, perfected for ever."}

"But," some might say, "do you think that some erroneous notions, floating in the atmosphere of a meeting and thus ignorantly received, could have such an injurious effect upon the souls of honestly ignorant Christians?"

Indeed, they have. I will explain what I mean, by a simple illustration. I remember when a student at the University of Berlin, one day hearing of a remarkable incident which happened in one of the offices of the Ministry of Finance. Several of the officials had been taken ill. At last one of them died suddenly. This led to a close examination of the walls of the office which were painted green. It was then found that the paint contained a great deal of arsenic, and the rooms being heated to a high degree, the atmosphere had become impregnated with the arsenic, to the serious injury of the health of the occupants of those rooms, and with fatal effect upon one of them. Thus their constitutions had been gradually poisoned, without their being aware of it. Were they less injured, because they were ignorant of the presence of the poison? It is just the same as to the effect of doctrinal poison upon the spiritual constitution of Christians.

Those who seek to cover their lukewarmness about the honour of our Saviour with the cloak of christian love and large-heartedness, are often heard to say, that we must admit to the Lord's table every one who has life from God, provided he walks consistently. But suppose, some one came from a neighbouring country where the pestilence is raging, the question would not be whether he is dead or alive, but whether he is infected or not. He would be put under quarantine for some time till it became evident that he had not been infected. It would be in vain for him to say, that he does not feel that he is infected. He might have borne the germ of the malady within himself for some days, without being aware of it. Besides, is it consistent for a christian to be indifferent to a true Christ?

One word more in conclusion. Take the case of some unnatural son having written and published a disgraceful libel against his father. What would be: the effect of his scandalous conduct? Why, not only the mother but every right-minded member of the family would insist on the immediate withdrawal of the disgraceful paper on the part of that degenerate son, and on his penitent confession at the feet of the outraged parent. The author of that paper might have been a very kind brother toward his brothers and sisters. Would this be a reason for them to wink at his terrible sin, or to be less jealous for the honour of their father? On the contrary their love for the erring brother, however deeply grieved, as well as their reverence for their common parent, would equally impel them to insist on either the withdrawal of the had paper, or the removal of the disgraceful son from the house, if all exhortations had proved fruitless. Would not every member of the family that would continue friendly intercourse with the wicked offender, just as if nothing had happened, rightly be looked at as taking the part of the unnatural son? (2 John 11). And if in such a case a decisive procedure becomes imperative in a respectable natural family, how much more in the family, the house, of the living God, when His own and His Son's honour is at stake.

15. Christian Discipline. Closing Remarks.

1892 111 In cases where church discipline has become necessary, the decisions of an assembly, I need hardly say, are not infallible. To assert the infallibility of such decisions would be nothing less than being on the high road to Rome i.e. to a so-called infallible church. On God's side all is perfection and infallibility: But what as to our i.e. the human side? Here everything is subject to failure, be it a single believer, or an assembly of believers. The infallible Spirit of God dwells in the believer. Does that make the believer an infallible pope? The Holy Spirit dwells in the church or assembly. Does that make it an infallible church or assembly? Jesus Christ, our blessed and never failing Lord and Master, is present in the midst of His two or three that are gathered to His Name. Does His presence make His servants infallible, because they are gathered to His Name? There could scarcely be a greater and more mischievous fallacy. We may with certainty presume that two such devoted servants of Christ, as Paul and Barnabas on the morning of the day recorded in Acts xv., had been gathered to the name of their common heavenly Master, praying for His guidance, before entering with Mark on their journey. Yet they fell out on the way and separated from each other. Did they cease to love each other, because there arose a sharp contention subsequently? Certainly not. Perhaps the apostle and his fellow-labourers had omitted in their prayer for their journey the all-important request for brotherly kindness, patience, and self-denial.

What I mean to affirm is simply this, that the Lord, in promising His gracious presence to His two or three gathered to His Name, certainly did not convey to any, that His presence however blessed would render those two or three (or any number of them) infallible in their deliberations, decisions, and actions, however willing and ready He may be to guide by the Holy Spirit those who really are gathered to His Name — which is just the question, on which everything depends. But nowhere in His word does the Lord promise to us infallibility, either as to our thoughts or words, our decisions or actions. He Who searches the reins and the hearts knows too well the Romanist element, so inherent in man's fallen nature, to give us such a promise.

Even in those blessed Pentecostal days, when the believers were of "one heart and one soul," the Spirit of God dwelling in the church with unimpeded power, the flesh and the natural evil heart, appeared in the saints, not only in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, but elsewhere in the church at Jerusalem, when the murmuring of jealousy, between the Grecian and Hebrew Christians arose (Acts vi.). Nay, even in the assembly at Jerusalem, the apostles and elders being present, no small dispute arose (ch. xv.). But, the power of the Holy Spirit, of love, and of a sound mind being then unimpeded, the flesh was soon discovered and put to silence.

But how is it in our days? Days of the general ruin of the church of God, when more than ever the solemn and humbling truth manifests itself, viz. that man has been unfaithful and made shipwreck in everything which God had committed to his keeping, from paradise until Pentecost, and from Pentecost until now? It would certainly better behove us to lie before God on our faces with our mouths in the dust, instead of opening them to haughtily claim infallibility for assembly decisions amidst the ruins — the mute but eloquent witnesses of our deep fall! When in these "last days" we hear of a company of Christians asserting the proud claim of infallibility for their church decisions, founded upon the fallacies referred to above, we have every reason to tremble for their spiritual condition.

Have we not heard of Christians from whom, according to their knowledge of truth, one might have expected better things, claiming church infallibility by reasoning like this? "The Holy Spirit" (they say) "dwells in the assembly, and the Lord has promised His presence in the midst of His own, even where but two or three are gathered to His name. It is evident that the Lord cannot guide His people wrongly: consequently the decisions of an assembly, being the voice of the Holy Ghost, must necessarily be infallible."

In the same breath, as it were, and in striking contradiction to the preceding claim, it is added: "But should it happen that an assembly in a case of church discipline has made a mistake in excluding some one, the one thus wrongly excluded would nevertheless have to accept this as from the hand of God and to bow under it. By refusing to do so he only would manifest his unsubdued will, and thus prove that he had deserved the punishment" (i.e. that the assembly after all must be held to be guided rightly, even though not justified in excluding him!).

Could there possibly be a greater proof of the perversity of the natural heart even in christians, unless kept by watchfulness and prayer in the humble sense of their entire dependence upon the grace of God which establishes the heart?

I was told that a very prominent leader of that religious sect said that, if any one, who had been wrongly excluded from an assembly, falls several years after into sin, it would justify the assembly for having excluded him previously!

I should not have believed this report (such an expression being an outrage to the simplest principles of natural righteousness, not to speak of christian truth and godliness), had I not myself read a quite similar and tantamount expression of the same teacher in a paper, written and signed and circulated by himself.

One cannot in faithfulness to God and to His precious flock, for which the Good Shepherd suffered and died, pass by in silence teaching like this, assiduously circulated. He is faithful, though we have been unfaithful. May His grace teach His under-shepherds, to be "ensamples of the flock," instead of lording over it, as "lords over their own heritage" (1 Peter 5:3), assuming an authority and infallibility which comes neither from God nor His word, but from the evil that built up Romanism.

One word more as to the case of an assembly being of divided opinion with regard to the necessity of church discipline in some cases. Here to act upon the principle of majority, as in worldly meetings, would be evidently human and therefore false. There have been but too numerous proofs that the majority in church matters, as well as in worldly questions, is not always in the right. I have heard of a case where a single brother refused his assent to the unanimous judgment of all the brothers in the assembly. His brothers had grace and faith in the guidance of the Holy Spirit and waited, when soon after it became manifest that the single brother had been right and the others wrong. Unanimity, especially in the solemn case of exclusion from an assembly, appears most desirable, and the waiting on the Lord and for the guidance of His Spirit will not be disappointed. Even in cases, where the opposition of one or some brothers should be the effect of the flesh, the Lord will make this manifest and remove the obstacles.

The question of christian discipline is one of so great and serious importance that it could not be dismissed with a few remarks. Let us now return to other truths concerning the church of God.

16. Order in the Church of God.

1892 123 Subjects of such immense importance, as the church of God, require to be treated more fully and explicitly, which to many readers of periodicals appears to be wearisome, especially in these days of a "Tit-bit" literature. To such, an occasional interruption is a welcome relief and serves to make them return with renewed interest to that important question of divine truth.

I now take up again the thread of my remarks in the number for June of the preceding year as to the church in its character as the "House of the living God." I then mentioned two essential requisites for the church in that character, viz. 1, Holiness, and 2, Order. The discussion of these two essential qualities of the "House of God" naturally led to the consideration of the all-important question of "christian discipline."

But true as it is, that holiness is the first and permanent requisite for the house of a thrice holy God, there is a second essential requisite for such a house, viz. Order.

What is, even in this world, a household without order? Such a house cannot stand.

Even in the heavenly courts of the Lord of hosts and King of kings, each of those myriads of angels has his place assigned to him, and moves in his proper sphere, as the sun and the moon and the stars of the firmament do. And could God countenance disorder in His house on earth, His church? Impossible. "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." But He can admit of no human order in His house. Human order in divine things, especially in the church, is but disorder producing disorder and increasing that which exists. God owns as order only that which He has ordained in His own word. Is His word perfect and therefore complete? No true believer would deny it. Well then, if so, it must contain everything that is necessary for the single believer and also for the church, be it as to godly walk, christian discipline, united worship, gifts and offices in the church, administration, etc., etc. Otherwise the holy scriptures would not be complete, but imperfect.

Further, does holy writ consist of absolute or only relative truths, subject to alterations and additions, according to the "requirements of the age," so-called, and to be adapted to them? "Thy word is truth," said the Son of God to His Father, when about to leave this world, where He ever had been "the faithful witness" of that truth (John xvii. 14, 17, 18), rebuking the scribes and Pharisees for making the word of God of none effect by the traditions and additions of men. When saying, "Thy word is truth," did He mean to say that the holy scriptures consist partly of absolute and partly of relative truth, i.e. truths applicable and valid for certain cases and times, and therefore subject to alterations and additions? Relative truths are no longer divine truths. For divine truth must necessarily be absolute, eternal and unchangeable, i.e. valid for every age and all cases. "The word of the Lord endureth for ever" (1 Peter i. 25). "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. iii. 16, 17).

The scriptures being, then, perfect and therefore complete and of absolute authority, i.e. equally valid and binding for all, and for every age under all circumstances, it follows, that they must necessarily contain the clear and distinct expression of the will of God and His dispositions as to the order to be observed in the church which is His house. Divine order must be founded on divine, and only on divine, precepts: otherwise it is no longer divine, but human order, i.e. Babel or confusion. God be praised, Who has given us in His word complete instructions (and binding for all times, as long as the church is left here on earth), as to the order to be observed in His church.* And will poor sinful man in his fancied wisdom, which is folly in the sight of God, presume to improve on the order laid down by God in His own word, by adding human precepts, by omitting or altering divine ones? What should we think of an apprentice submitting his master's workmanship to his own judgment and attempting to alter and modify it accordingly? Would not his procedure he considered to be the climax of assumption, ignorance, and folly? It is just this, which the professing church has attempted to do with the order God has laid down in His own word for His church. The church became first worldly. Then it set up a worldly church order, and became a church of this world with human ordinances and statutes.

{*I do not speak here of outward offices, such as deacons, elders, etc., as mentioned in the first Epistle to Timothy, which deals with the church not yet in ruins. In the second (prophetic) Epistle, where the church in its present ruinous condition is spoken of, no such offices are mentioned. We have to avoid that which would be the practical denial of its present condition, as being in ruins, or the assumption of apostolic authority.}

It would be useless here to enter in detail upon the many additions to, and alterations of, the divine church order laid down in holy writ, which have been attempted by human assumption and folly. Every true believer, who is instructed in church truth according to the New Testament, knows them, I prefer to offer a few remarks on the principles of divine church order, contained in holy writ.

May the Lord enable us to do it in the sense of our dependence upon Him and the guidance and teaching of His Spirit of truth and love, thus speaking the truth in love. "The entrance of thy word giveth light, giveth understanding to the simple," which is better than controversy.

God is the source of all true order in the church as well as in creation and government. This great and all-important truth we find, as to the church, mentioned in 1 Cor. xiv. 33. This order, enjoined by Him for His church, refers either to certain offices and gifts given by Him, and the exercise of them, or to the seemly behaviour of the saints, as becoming the house of God. As to the former, God is referred to (in 1 Cor. xii. 18–28) as the fountainhead of all order and authority. In ver. 28 we read, "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues."

The latter question, (the behaviour in the "house of God") for instance, with regard to the attire and the demeanour of the women in the assembly, is dealt with in the eleventh chapter of the same epistle, and in the first epistle to Timothy (1 Tim. 2). There are "diversities" of these offices and gifts, all of them being traced back to God as their fountain, in the epistle to the Romans in reference to the gospel. "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit, and there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God, which worketh all in all" (1 Cor. xii. 4-6). (With regard to Romans, see chap. xii. of that epistle).

Here we have many diversities but constant unity, many gifts, but one and the same Spirit working all these, dividing to every man severally as He will (ver. 11). Of this I shall speak later on, when considering the church as being the "habitation of God in the Spirit." We find differences of administrations, but the same Lord, Who gives them (Eph. iv. 11, 12). Of this I shall speak further on, when considering the church as the body of Christ, the Head of His church. We further have "diversities of operations," but the same God, Who worketh all in all. Everywhere we find oneness in diversities, perfect divine order and harmony.

"But," some one might say, "is not the church, the house of the living God, in ruins, at least in its human aspect? How can we talk of maintaining order in such a house?"

To this question I reply in the words of a well-known teacher of church truth, who says, "Are there then no means for the maintenance of order in the church? God has provided them. As to the exercise of gifts, where they exist, there are precepts given for it. I find further, in 1 Cor. xvi. 15, 16, some who had addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints. The saints were to submit themselves unto such and to every one that laboured with the apostles. Here we have a moral motive for the souls of the believers, forming an assembly, in cases where there is no official precept. It is striking that in the first epistle to the Corinthians, who were in such disorderly condition, 'elders' are not mentioned, nor do we find there any instruction for choosing them. The word of God is sufficient to meet all emergencies."

The same we find in 1 Thess. 5:12, 13, "And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves." And in Heb. xiii. 17, we read, "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves*: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."

{* Only not conscience, which must be under the control of the word of God, and has to do with Him directly.}

All this may be carried out, where no official nomination has taken place. For such, apostolic authority was required, which exists no longer, as little as the outward body, in which it was exercised. Everything now rests on the effect of the word of God on the consciences of those who are to be subject.

If any one come to me, claiming to be an official "elder," he cannot show me the authority of scripture for the title and office he claims. If I an unruly, those who labour in the Lord, yea, every christian may apply the above passages to me and to my conduct, and I have to submit to the word of God. If not, the brethren may withdraw from me and have no personal fellowship with me, that I may be ashamed. This is moral, but not official power.

In short, every true service must emanate from the gift, and is exercised in the church of God, or, in the case of the evangelist, in the world. If any one has received the talent, woe unto him if he does not trade with it.

What was the ONE church at the time of the apostles, has sunk into corruption and been split up into a multitude of sects. It exists no longer in its genuineness and truth and normal condition. There exists no authority for choosing and instituting official elders, nor does there exist one and the same flock of God, for which such an official nomination could take place.

But the word of God has provided for these days of the ruin of the church, wherever two or three are gathered to the Name of Christ, or for the service of the saints, according to every one's gift for such service, and according to his time or occasion for serving the saints, or as an evangelist serving poor "sinners."

17. Order in the Church, being the House of God.

1892 141 There is one thing which has greatly contributed to the Babylonian confusion in the professing church. I mean the confounding officials ordained by the Lord through His apostles, with the gifts given by the Spirit for the whole church. There were two kinds of the former: deacons, who served the tables; and elders and bishops, who cared for the spiritual welfare of the churches. Both were ordained by the apostles or their delegates, such as Timothy and Titus. Nowhere do we find in the New Testament an instance of their having been ordained by others than those just mentioned. Those offices had been ordained by the Lord through His apostles in the days of the building up of the church. Such nominations could therefore only be made on the ground of the authority of the apostles, and therefore ceased together with them.

It is quite different with those whom Christ, as the head of the church, has given to her. (Eph. iv. 7-12.) He had given them for the whole church and, with the exception of the apostles and prophets, for all ages, right on to the end, that is, even up to these last days of the deepest decline. Oh, and what a decline! If the Lord, addressing His once so flourishing church at Ephesus, was already in those early days obliged to address those solemn words of warning, "Remember therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do time first works," what would He say now? His awfully solemn words to Laodicea are the only possible answer to the present condition of the professing church. How sadly true are the lamentations of a well known writer about church truth. He says:

"Let us cast our eye, then, over this wide scene of ruin and desolation. There is absolutely nothing that God has instituted, which man has not perverted or destroyed. If God has set up the church as the body of Christ, man has converted it into a means of salvation, by which a person may he made into a member of Christ, man has made it the rival of Christ, and the authoritative judge of doctrinal truth. If God has made it heavenly in its character, its resources, and its hopes, man has lowered it to a worldly standard, has attained for it worldly support, and has given it worldly expectations. If God has established a divine unity, man has broken it up into a chaos of rival sects and jarring systems. If God has given it the word as its divine guide, man has called in his own wisdom to supply the deficiencies, or correct the errors, of which, in his arrogance, he accuses the scriptures. If God has instituted local assemblies, to express the oneness of the assembly in each city, man has split them up into a thousand detached masses, not one of which is gathered on the true principles of the church. If God has instituted local officers, man has perverted them to every purpose except that for which they were appointed, has set aside the scriptural mode of ordination for the inventions of his own brain, and has invested them with a character which God never conferred upon them or upon any other human being. If God gave gifts to the church, man has insisted that these gifts should I be exercised only according to his own will, should be restrained within the limits of an official class, and should be tied down to the narrow circle of a local assembly. If God made office local, man has made it general; and if God made gift general, man has made it local. If God separated gift and office, man has insisted upon their union, regardless of whether the officer possesses gift, or the gifted person possesses the qualification for office. If God has left the exercise of gift free in the assembly, to be guided only by His own Spirit, man has deposed the Spirit by giving His authority to an officer of his own appointment. If God has gathered the assembly together with the special object of remembering Christ according to His own institution, man has thrust this institution into a corner, made it the exceptional instead of the principal object of gathering together, and put his own supposed profit in the place of prominence which Christ claims for the memorials of His death."

The church offices have, therefore, from the reasons just mentioned, no longer an existence based on scriptural authority. Where they have been re-established and maintained, the old sin of Nadab and Abihu appears again, in bringing "strange fire" into the Lord's presence and service. God, foreseeing the sad decline of the church, had in His wisdom made those offices for the need of the churches, to depend upon the authority of the apostles and their delegates, as the builders of His church. Those offices ceased with the apostles. Had God permitted them to remain in a fallen ruinous church, He would have put His seal of approval upon human order, that is upon assumption and disorder. What, then, about His truth and righteousness? But man's follies and sins cannot impede the Lord's grace. Apostles and prophets have ceased. But His gifts of evangelists, pastors, and teachers, and the gifts of His Spirit are still there, "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." All these are still in existence and active even amidst the sad ruin of the church.

With God, perfect wisdom and grace are united. Had He inseparably joined together offices and gifts, as man in folly and assumption has attempted, God, who from the reasons just mentioned, could not allow offices to continue, would necessarily have withdrawn the spiritual gifts alike, and the church of God and flock of Christ would have been exposed to starvation. But, blessed be His wisdom and grace, He has separated the offices from the gifts, taking away what is not essentially necessary for the church, and leaving what is indispensable for her spiritual growth and welfare. Who would not admire such grace that still continues to provide the church with such gifts, even where they have been abused so grossly?

The church in Philadelphia found herself amidst declined churches. She herself formed part of the ruins around her. What was her security? She knew it, and in conscious weakness was "leaning on the arm of her beloved," her sole refuge and strength. She did not attempt amidst the ruins to build new churches with the decayed honeycombed and weather-eaten stones of the ruinous heaps around her, but contented herself with keeping His word, Who possesses not only the keys of death and hades, but also the "the key of David," i.e., the key for every success and blessing in His service. She was content to keep the word of His patience. Therefore she heard, amidst the ruins of an unfaithful church and conscious of her own failures and weakness, the everlasting words of her glorified head, the holy and true one, addressing her, "Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and none can shut it; for thou hast little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my Name." And then the blessed promise, "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold I come quickly, hold that fast which thou hast, that none take thy crown."

18. 2. The Church as the "Temple of God."

1892 155 We have considered the church in its character as the "house of God," and the requisites of holiness and order corresponding with that character. Let us now consider it as the "temple of God."

Three essential qualities characterise the "temple of God ": viz. purity, prayer and worship and praise.

(a) Purity in doctrine forms an especial aspect of holiness. Of that purity the Holy Ghost speaks in 1 Cor. iii. 16–17: "know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy, for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are."

The apostle deals in that chapter with the labourers in God's work and their responsibility as to the quality of their labour. He as a wise master-builder has laid the only true foundation, even Christ, i.e., the Christ of God, the Christ of holy scripture. Now if any man should build upon this foundation gold, silver, and precious stones, i.e., if according to the doctrine of the apostles and prophets he taught, built up, exhorted and comforted the believers on the ground of our most holy faith, even Christ Jesus, he was to receive a reward. If he had built upon it wood, hay, and stubble, if he had introduced unsound material, the fire would burn up his work in the day of trial; but the labourer himself, having, after all, built upon Christ as the acknowledged foundation stone, would be saved, but, like Lot, through fire. But if any man did defile or destroy the "temple of God" by introducing heterodox doctrines affecting the Foundation Stone, i.e., Christ, Christ Himself and His work, and virtually setting it aside, if he introduced doctrines tending to subvert the foundations of Christianity, he himself should be destroyed of God for defiling the temple of God. — Awfully solemn warning for any, and especially these last days!

It is evident from the whole tenor of the chapter, that the words "for the temple of God is holy" refer here especially to purity of doctrine, which is of the highest importance in these "perilous times." It is not merely the outwardly moral walk, which has been spoken of when considering the church as the "house of the living God," where its great importance has been dwelt upon. That the purity of the church as the "temple of God" is to be maintained also against pursuits of worldly ends even in the earthly temple of God (and much more in the church), the Lord Himself showed in the most impressive way though symbolically in the Gospel of John, ch. ii. 14-16, (compare 1 Peter 5:2,) the only tune during His earthly sojourn that we behold the meek and lowly One appearing and acting as judge, with the scourge of small cords. "Take (said He) these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise," according as it was written, "the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up."

(b) Prayer. We know that the temple of God is a "house of prayer." The Lord Himself has characterised it as such when rebuking the commercial Jews in the temple: "Mine house shall be called an house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of robbers." What a difference between that temple with the money-changers and dove-sellers carrying on unworthy trade, and Solomon's temple, when the king stood before the altar of Jehovah in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands and addressed to "Jehovah, the God of Israel" his prayer! Thereupon "the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of Jehovah filled the house; and the people bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, worshipping and praising the Lord, saying, For He is good and His mercy endureth for ever."

The glory of Jehovah had filled that temple "when the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking Jehovah; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised Jehovah, saying, For he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever, then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of Jehovah; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of Jehovah had filled the house of God."

Such a temple, dedicated in such a way, God could recognise. He said to Solomon: "I have heard thy prayer and chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice."

What a difference, I repeat, between the temple of Solomon, and the "house of prayer" at Jerusalem, turned into a "den of robbers," in the days of our Lord!

But, alas! there is a still sadder and far more humbling difference. A marvellous temple, incomparably greater and more glorious than Solomon's, had been founded at Jerusalem at Pentecost. It was built with far more precious living stones, by a Master-builder greater than Solomon, upon a living Foundation Stone, even Christ, the Son of the living God. Those who composed that temple "were one heart and one soul." And when they, under the pressure of persecution, "with one accord lifted up their voice to God," — a voice still more precious to the divine ear than that "one voice" of the trumpeters and singers in Solomon's temple, — "the place was shaken, where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness" (Acts iv. 23-31).

And when, awakening, as it were, from a beautiful dream, we look around us at the present condition of the church, what do we behold? What we see is enough to make us adopt, in a far more humbling sense, the lamentation of the prophet: "Oh, that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!" "How is the gold become dim! How is the most fine gold changed! The stones of the sanctuary are poured out in the top of every street. The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!" What has become of purity of walk and doctrine? Let us only glance at the professing church in its religious ramifications and societies.

But a few years ago a strange, unnatural and till then unexampled spectacle was witnessed in a large town of this so-called protestant country. Nearly all (if not all) the "Christian" ministers of that town could be seen on the same platform with an avowed Atheist, to support his political claims! In another town, at a central committee meeting of a large and prominent religious sect, a minister unsound in doctrine was proposed for the presidency of that union, and, in spite of the protest of several of his colleagues, one of whom charged him publicly with unsound doctrine, he was elected president of that union. On another occasion a well-known preacher in the same town invited his colleagues from the different sects to meet in his large chapel a certain continental minister, famous in the religious world, but notorious amongst faithful Christians on account of his erratic, nay, heterodox doctrinal views and tracts, to express to him their entire approval and admiration. That invitation was numerously responded to, and the heretical preacher lauded to the skies, and intreated to communicate to them the secret of filling his church Sunday after Sunday to overflowing. Godly preachers, whose attendance decreases at the same rate as the "itching of the ears" and the turning away unto fables increase, are mourning over the thin attendance at the prayer meetings in churches and chapels, and the promenading concerts and other musical entertainments with worldly songs and bazaars which take their place.

With fearful speed everything is hastening towards open apostacy.

And what about those who amidst the increasing decline and departure from "the faith once delivered to the saints" had comforted themselves with the thought of being the true "Philadelphia," keeping the word of Christ and the word of His patience, not denying His Name? Do we indeed possess in our consciences the seal of His approval, that Philadelphia's testimony was, and has been, ours? A retrospect of the last decade, and further back must suffice to disabuse our minds of such an illusion and to show us that we have neither kept His word, nor the word of His patience, and have been not far from practically denying His Name, supplanting it by the names of Cephas, Paul, or Apollos (or by even less honourable party names), and stamping the "word of Christ" (Col. iii. 16) which alone "is truth," with expressions worse than "Pauline, Petrine, and Johannean truth." We know what the consequences have been.

Surely in days of general ruin and unfaithness none ought to take a lower place in shame and confusion of faces before the Lord, than those who had been favoured by Him with very high and blessed privileges, and with so abundant a measure of divine truth, especially with regard to the church of God. But, as it is written, and is it not too true?

"They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind; it hath no stalk; the bud shall yield no meal: if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up. . . . They shall be . . . as a vessel wherein is no pleasure."

And have we, after all that has come upon us remembered the words of the apostle ("The temple of God is holy, which ye are") and sought to maintain the purity of that temple by purity of walk and doctrine? Have we, remembering what is written in 2 Cor. vi. 16, 17, separated from those who tolerate heterodox teachers amongst them, or maintain fellowship with "Christians" indifference to the honour of the word of God and of His Christ? Have we, mindful of the words of Christ, "Mine house shall be called an house of prayer," bowed down before the Lord in common humiliation and prayer in the spirit of His servants Ezra and Daniel, whether it might please Him, perhaps, in some measure to restore and revive the damaged testimony to the precious truth of His church? Alas, for the many souls injured and alienated by the sad shipwreck of that testimony! But Christ is the "bright morning star," and close at hand, blessed be His glorious Name! As to the state of things around us, the words of a prominent religious party leader ("On our side are the gifts, the numbers, and the money") appear but to be the echo of Laodicea's boasting language and the sadly exact expression of its spirit.

The Lord grant us "broken bones," which He "makes rejoice," a "broken spirit" and a "broken and contrite heart," the "sacrifices of God," which "He will not despise." (Ps. li.)

19. The Church as the "Temple of God."

1892 171 The third quality which should distinguish the church as being the "temple of God," is that of Praise and Thanksgiving. The voice of praise should always be heard in the church.

"We have thought of thy loving-kindness, O God, in the midst of thy temple" (Ps. xlviii. 9).

This character of God's temple appears continually even in the Old Testament. The glorious temple of Solomon was opened with the beautiful prayer of that king; but when after its close the fire came down from heaven and consumed the sacrifices, and Jehovah's glory filled Jehovah's house, the children of Israel bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped and praised the Lord, saying, "For He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever." "And the priests waited on their offices; the Levites also with instruments of music of the Lord which David the king had made to praise the Lord, because his mercy endureth for ever, when David praised by their ministry; and the priests sounded trumpets before them and all Israel stood."

What a grand and mighty volume of sound of praises and thanksgivings filled that temple, mingled with the lovely strains and the still more exquisite themes of the devoted and inspired lays of the departed Psalmist, the "man after God's own heart;" who like Abel, "though he be dead, yet speaketh" to us (though in a different way,) in his divinely inspired psalms, as he did to those gathered for praise in his son's magnificent temple.*

{* Only we must remember, that the use of the Psalms, inasmuch as they express Jewish ground, is not adequate for Christian worship.}

When Israel under Solomon's foolish successor, who was heedless of his father's wise "proverbs," had divided, and the ten tribes under their godless king had turned from God to idols, and Judah had not only followed their example, but surpassed them in wickedness, and like Israel, had been carried away into captivity, then, instead of the trumpets and harps and of the voices of the singers, the "lamentations" of the prophet sounded through the quiet air over the ruins of the city and the temple. But God, whose wrath does not, like His mercy endure for ever, had at His own appointed time brought back from captivity a small remnant of His people for the rebuilding of His beloved city and His temple. No sooner had the foundation stone of Jehovah's new temple been laid, than afresh the voice of praise and thanksgiving was heard.

"And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David King of Israel, and they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord, because He is good and His mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid" (Ezra iii. 10, 11).

"Blessed are they that dwell in thy house; they will be still praising Thee. Selah. (Ps. lxxxiv. 4).

On the threshold, as it were, of the Old and New Testament, we behold Simeon, and Anna "which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day," praising God at the sight of the Divine Babe, the Word which was made flesh, the former testifying to the "salvation," of God, and the latter to "redemption."

And when He Who was the salvation of God and a light of the Gentiles, come for the redemption of His people Israel, had been rejected by the builders, and crucified, and risen from the dead, did appear to His disciples forty days, comforting them and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, and finally before their own eyes had been received up into heaven with hands lifted up in blessing them, "His disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God."

Now if that voice of praise and thanksgiving from the earthly people of God, and even of the disciples of the Lord, was heard in that temple composed of dead stones, how much more ought that voice to be heard in the spiritual house of God, built of "living stones," the Christian "temple of God," where the believers as "a holy priesthood offer up sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Peter ii. 5)!

"Whoso offereth praise, glorifieth me" (Ps. 1. 23). If prayer becomes us, being the expression of our dependence as creatures of God, children of the Father and servants of Christ, "praise is comely," and giving of thanks, being due to God, as the fountainhead from whence all blessings flow. "All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee" (Ps. cxlv. 10).

Israel will one day praise the "glory of His kingdom and of His might." But why do we praise Him? Paul, the apostle of glory and of the church, writes to the Ephesians: (Eph. 1:3). "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ."

In the writings of the New Testament, we find besides the exhortation to pray, the constant injunction to praise and give thanks. In the Gospels the Lord Himself sets the example, be it at the breaking of bread, or at the miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes, and even at the moment of the rejection of His testimony by the most privileged cities of Israel, nay on the very eve of His crucifixion, when He with His own sang a hymn of praise. The same injunction for praises and thanksgiving we meet with in the epistles of the apostle of the church.

If we have reason to tremble for a Christian who neglects prayer, there is no less cause for concern for the spiritual condition of one, whose voice is only heard in prayers to the exclusion of thanksgiving and praise. What should we think of a child constantly importuning his father with petitionings for this thing and that thing, without expressing his gratitude for the gifts received? Even the world despises ingratitude, however true it may be that "ingratitude is the world's reward," as fully shown toward God and His dear Son.

What then can be thought of a child of God, in whose house the voice of thanksgiving and praise is seldom or never heard? Such a household resembles a damp and dark house, the rooms of which are never lit up and cheered by a single sunbeam; as in Spitzbergen and Nova Zembla, the gloomy inmates with drooping heads dragging along from day to day their weary existence. What kind of testimony can such a dismal Christian household render to its worldly neighbours? What testimony can such sombre Christian parents give to the unconverted members of their household? To make others happy, we must be happy ourselves. A truly grateful Christian will always be a happy one too, and in such a house the voice of praise will not be scarce. How much more then should that voice be heard in the church or assembly, which is the "temple of God?"

In the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, as also in the third chapter of the Epistle of the same apostle to the Colossians, we are enjoined to praise God even the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to make melody in our hearts to our Lord and Saviour and Head in glory, whilst speaking to one another with singing lips in happy communion. In Eph. 5 this is presented as the effect of being filled with the Spirit, but in Col. 3 as the result of being richly indwelt by the word of Christ in all wisdom, in keeping with the character of each epistle upon which we cannot enter here. But in both passages we find the three kinds of Christian songs of praise, namely:
1. Psalms, i.e., Christian songs for thanksgiving and praise.
2. Hymns for Christian worship.
3. Spiritual songs, i.e., such as serve for domestic and social Christian edification.

The two former belong in an especial way to the assemblies of saints, especially those for the breaking of bread, whose character is that of adoration and thanksgiving. The third kind of Christian songs — those for edification simply — would be out of place there.

Assemblies, where spiritual songs for prayer and confession are the rule and hymns of praise are seldom heard, betray a low spiritual condition. May God increase and deepen in all of us the spirit of prayer, and the spirit of worship! Wherever there is worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), there will be no lack of "praying in the Holy Ghost" (Jude 20).

20. The Church as the "Habitation of God in the Spirit."

1892 187 We have looked at the church as the "house of God" and as the "temple of God." Let us now meditate upon it as the "habitation of God in the Spirit."

Before doing so, it is well to remember that the two terms "house of God" and "habitation of God in the Spirit," have a difference. The words actually employed in the original for each of the two — "oikos" and "katoiketerion" — seem to indicate this. For though both have the same root, the composition and ending of the latter plainly shows that there is a difference, which appears to be simply this —

Where the church is spoken of as the "house of God," that term applies to those who compose the house, i.e. all believers as being His family. (1. Peter ii. 5; Eph. ii. 19; Tim. iii. 15). But where the word "habitation" (katoiketerion) is used, which occurs only twice in the N. T., it refers to the character of the indweller of the house.* So in Eph. ii. 22, where the church is called the "habitation of God in [i.e. through] the Spirit," and Rev. xviii. 2, where the professing church has not only become "Babel" but "Babylon the great," "a habitation of devils [or demons], and a hold of every foul spirit, and a hold of every unclean and hateful bird."

[*Kata in composition strengthens the idea of a "house" and clothes it with permanency. Hence the verb is used for settling down, or dwelling fixedly, as well as for situations and administrations. — Ed.]

And what was it, Christian reader, that brought about that terrible change in the original character of the church, as the "habitation of God in the Spirit?" Was it not the practical denial of that blessed truth? It is just the wondrous fact of the personal presence of the Holy Ghost and of His sovereign authority and guidance in the church built by Him, which, together with the power of the name of Jesus and of his word, so decidedly stamps that part of the N.T. called "The Acts of the Apostles."*

{* A more appropriate title would be, "History of the building of the church by the power of the Holy Spirit."}

We behold this power of the Holy Ghost with regard to His dwelling place, the church, in that wonderful scene in Acts iv. 31 (which reminds us of a similar scene at the dedication of the temple of Solomon, 2 Chron. 5:13, 14), when the persecuted saints "with one accord" lifted up their voices to God, pleading the name of His Holy servant Jesus, "and the place was shaken, where they were assembled together."

We hear further the Holy Ghost asserting His sovereign authority in the church of Antioch, speaking with a loud voice in the midst of the assembly. "Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them" (Acts xiii. 2). We even find Philip (Acts viii. 39, 40) "caught away" by the "Spirit of the Lord," and transferred to Azotus, to "preach the gospel in all the cities," after he, at the bidding of the same Spirit, had shown to the eunuch the way of salvation, and baptised him. Nay, we find, how also the apostle of glory and of the church, though he had been called directly from glory by the Lord of glory, even the Head of the church, in His service and testimony had to learn his entire dependence upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Acts xvi. 6-7). We find that, where he follows that guidance, God's power and blessing accompany his testimony; whereas on Paul's failing to do so, the contrary takes place (Acts xxi. 4.-11. Compare Acts xxi. and Acts xxiii.) Even the church in Jerusalem took care to own its dependence upon the guidance of the indwelling Spirit by their express words, "For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us" (Acts xv. 28).

When the second Person of the Godhead dwelt here on earth amongst men "full of grace and truth," God being in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, men could not bear God coming so near to them in grace and truth. Had it been only grace, they would not have so much objected to it (Luke 4:22). But it was "grace and truth," and that they could not bear (5:25-29); for men loved darkness rather than light. So they cast Him out, Who was the light of the world.

And since the third Person of the Godhead, even "the Spirit of truth," took the place of Christ here on earth, proclaiming tea world full of God-alienated and hostile sinners grace and pardon by faith in the once rejected and crucified Son of God, converting every believer into a "temple of God," and making the church "the house of the living God" and "a habitation of God in the Spirit," — does man show more reverence and submission to the presence and energy of the Spirit of God than he did to the Son of God? No, man's enmity against God, and insubjection to His will have been and will be ever the same. If the Holy Spirit were only the Spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind, "the world," though ever objecting to all that is divine, would perhaps have shown its hostility in a less degree. The natural man admires, like Simon Magus, power, especially supernatural power. He appreciates love, and esteems soundness of judgment and a well balanced mind. But the Holy Spirit is, above and before all, "the Spirit of truth" (John xiv. 17); and this it is which the world cannot and will not bear, because it is ruled by him who "is a liar and the father of it." Therefore he hates the word of God, which "is truth;" and inspired by the "Spirit of truth," it testifies of Christ, Who is "the truth." The lying Cretans of this world have a proverb of their own, which says, "truth does not find a home." This witness is true. The first testimony of the Holy Ghost at Jerusalem was received by the religious world with mockery, and afterwards rejected with gnashing of teeth, stopping the ears and the stoning of Stephen — His messenger and witness.

During the ministry of Christ on earth, false righteousness and hypocrisy withstood Him, because He was the true righteousness; and ever since the days of Pentecost, and in the last of the "last days" more than ever, the spirit of lying and falsehood withstands the Holy Ghost, because He is the "Spirit of truth," and the word indited by Him, because it "is truth." Rome has supplanted the word of God by the infallibility of the church (followed by the infallibility of the Pope), and made the Pope, instead of the Holy Spirit, the Vicar of Christ. As to the professing church throughout Christendom as a whole, in part we see what has become of the "habitation of God in the Spirit." The sending, presence, and guidance of the Holy Spirit, though perhaps theoretically owned as a doctrine have been and are still practically denied. And this denial of the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit in the church is what made her already in the days of the apostles "a great house," and has turned her in the course of time into a hollow "professing church." Thus the original purity and freshness of churches like those at Antioch and Jerusalem, the "holy city," degenerated into the system of Rome, the unholy city and capital of the world; which, instead of being the bride of Christ, has become, through the fiendish mockery and cunning of Satan, "Mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of the harlots and of the abominations of the earth," a habitation of demons, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird (Rev. xvii., xviii).

Christ (the glorious head of the church, His body, Who had sent the Holy Spirit, that He as the heavenly Eliezer might conduct His heavenly bride through this wilderness toward her glorious Bridegroom) had raised by His Spirit from time to time faithful witnesses of divine truths, especially that of His gospel, which, with the word of God itself, had been almost lost beneath the rubbish of guilty Romanism. But those witnesses, faithful though they were in the recovery and testimony of 'a pure gospel (although its heavenly side in resurrection and delivering power were only imperfectly known and understood even by them), possessed but very little light, if any, about the character of the church, as being the habitation of God in the 'Spirit, and as to her heavenly position, calling, and hope. This defect is evident even in the best of the reformers of the 16th century.

In consequence of the Thirty years' war, so pernicious in every respect, the Protestant bodies, soon relapsed into spiritual sleep and worldliness, and the solemn prophetic description of the "church in Sardis" became an accomplished fact. Toward the close of the last century God again raised several faithful witnesses to awaken the Protestant system, sunk in worldliness, from its sinful sleep. But even the testimony of men like Rowland Hill, J. and C. Wesley, or Whitfield, was chiefly confined to the preaching of the gospel. And though one chief blessing of the reformation (viz., the unimpeded dissemination of the Holy Scripture) had continued, so that the Bible had become common property, it nevertheless appeared as if the glorious truth of the church, having been buried beneath the religious rubbish of so many centuries, was to remain hidden still. For one of the manifold stratagems of the enemy of truth is this, that where he cannot entirely prevent or suppress the spreading of divine truth, he places some portion of it in the foreground, confining to it the interest and activity of believers, in order to divert them from other equally important, still higher, and more blessed divine truths, and to keep them in the dark background, however clearly and decidedly scripture may set them forth for the hearts and consciences of believers.

But our Lord Jesus Christ (Who is not only the Saviour of sinners, but above all the Head of His body the church, composed of all really saved and sealed ones) would not permit, now when His coming is close at hand, the precious truth of Christ and the church — the very centre of the divine counsels — any longer to be obscured and kept in the background. Blessed be His great and glorious Name!

I hope to offer some more remarks on this important subject in my next paper, if the Lord will.

21. The Church As The "Temple of God."

1893 203 During the second decade of this century God raised in England some eminently gifted witnesses of the truth. One of them, endowed with gifts of an exceptional measure, was used of the Lord to bring to light again the truth of the gospel in such fulness, as had never been known since the days of the apostles. But not only was the gospel in its original purity and completeness recovered by that highly honoured witness of the truth, but the pure light of the scriptural doctrine of the church (which in the course of centuries of decline had almost disappeared beneath the heaps of rubbish of human religious ordinances and dogmas) was put again on the stand in England in a clearness and scriptural simplicity, unknown in the history of the church since the days of Pentecost.

What characterised that movement was especially the practical acknowledgment of the presence, authority, and guidance of the Holy Ghost in the assemblies of believers. But that acknowledgment was closely united with the practical recognition of the written word of God and its authority, unlike many religious revivals, so called, where Satan endeavoured to conceal the assumptions of the religious flesh set in motion by him, and to set aside, under the pretence of guidance by the Holy Spirit, the authority of the word of God indited by the same Spirit. The believers, referred to above, acted upon the thoroughly sound principle: "Neither the Spirit without the word, nor the word without the Spirit."

The Spirit of God, Who glorifies Christ, receives of His and shows it to us, dwelling in His own recognised authority in the assemblies of those Christians; His powerful and blessed activity was unimpeded in their midst. It almost seemed as if the glorious days of Pentecost were about to reappear amongst them, to judge from the freshness, simplicity, devotedness, love and unity that characterised them.

"The effect of the truth on the hearts and consciences," said A. Miller in his excellent "Short Papers on Church History," "soon was manifest. There was great freshness, simplicity, devotedness, and separation from the world. All was new. They flocked together and gave themselves to the study of the word of God, and soon experienced the sweetness of christian communion. They found the Bible, — as they said, — to be a new book. It was no doubt, in those days of virgin freshness a most distinct and blessed work of God's Spirit. the influence of which was felt not only throughout this country, but on the continent and in distant lands."

"It was no uncommon thing at this time to find valuable jewellery in the collection boxes, which was soon turned into money, and given to the deacons for the poor."

The eminent servant of Christ referred to already, who was God's instrument in the marvellous movement, wrote in those days at the request of a French religious journalist: "We were only four men, who came together for the breaking of bread and prayer, on the authority of the word, 'Where two or three are gathered unto my Name, there am I in the midst of them' (Matt. xviii. 20); and not, I hope, in a spirit of pride or presumption, but deeply humbled at the state of things around us; and praying for all Christians, members of the body of Christ, wherever they were ecclesiastically. We thought of nothing else but satisfying the need of the soul according to the word of God; nor did we think of it going any farther. We proved the promised presence of the Lord; and others, feeling the same need, followed in the same path, and the work spread in a way we never thought of in the least."

"It is very apparent," says Mr. A. Miller, "from this extract, that they had no thought of constructing a fresh system, or of reconstituting the church of God, as God had constituted it at first, — of restoring it to its Pentecostal glory. They seem to have had no statute, no system, no organisation. They held the faith of all orthodox Christians with regard to foundation truths; but having received light from God's word as to what the calling, position and hopes of the church are, they could no longer remain in what man and the world called "the church." These thoughts and searchings of heart issued in the secession of many individuals from the various bodies of professing Christians, and in their coming together for worship and communion on the ground of the "one body," as formed and directed by the "One Spirit."

The secret of this christian devotedness was their devotion to the Person of Christ in the power of an ungrieved Spirit practically acknowledged as dwelling among them. "They made," as Marsden says in his "Dictionary of Christian Churches," "no show of an especial creed. They simply proposed the practice of christian truth, as taught by our Lord and His apostles in the New Testament. They taught that it is the presence of the Holy Spirit which forms the church. It is the acknowledgment of the Holy Spirit as the really present, sole, and all-sufficient guide of the church during the Lord's absence." This was a chief feature in the testimony of these Christians.

But the enemy of the truth did not rest. He who in Israel tried everything to counteract the divine testimony of the prophets of Jehovah by means of false prophets, and later on in the earliest days of the church, even during the lifetime of the apostles by false teachers, introduced such also amongst the happy Christians referred to above. Those tools of the enemy sought to paralyse, obscure, and, if possible, put aside those divine truths brought to light again by the above mentioned faithful servant of Christ and his fellow-labourers. Their efforts were, in an especial though indirect way, brought into play against the scriptural truth of the presence, guidance and authority of the Holy Spirit in the church of God, which these "evil workers" sought practically to set aside, supplanting it by the human demands of teachers of their own, and claiming for them absolute authority. Soon evil doctrines, derogatory to the honour of Christ, made their appearance; whence arose the necessity of godly separation from all those who tolerated and adhered to these false teachers and their doctrines* according to the solemn words of the inspired apostle of the church: "There must be divisions among you, in order that those who are approved may be made manifest among you" (1 Cor. xi. 19). The faithful servant of Christ, alluded to above, was again honoured at that time by his heavenly Master with being the champion of the truth and chief promoter of this godly separation, however humbling for all.

{* After Pergamos (toleration) comes Thyatira (corruption).}

"Then had the churches rest" — for many years. But the adversary, who never sleeps, did not rest. He resorted to one of his old stratagems, by introducing the demon of religious party spirit, as he did of yore in that so richly endowed but elated church at Corinth, with no less contending parties and consequent moral and doctrinal evils. A second division was the fruit of those machinations of the evil one. "They have sown the wind and they have reaped the whirlwind;" whilst a small remnant, kept by the mercy of our God from being carried away by those party currents and undercurrents, still remains in undisturbed peace on the terra firma of God's own word. May grace deepen the sense of our common shame and humiliation and of the sad havoc amongst that once so happy portion of the flock of God, and of the irretrievable damage to the testimony of divine truth! May the Lord in His mercy grant "repentance not to be repented of," ere that solemn day appears!

22. 2. The Church as the Body of Christ.

1893 219 We have considered the church in its character as the house of God. Let us now view her, with God's gracious help, as the body of Christ, her gracious Head in heavenly glory.

The words "church" and "body of Christ" stand in closest connection. The church is the body of Christ, and the body of Christ is the church. Only the word in the original used for (ekklesia) means a (greater or smaller) number of person, called out from a promiscuous multitude to form an assembly, be it for worldly or sacred purposes,* (compare Acts vii. 38, Acts viii. 1, Acts ix. 31, Acts xix. 3, Eph. i. 22. and others). In a strictly christian sense it means an assembly of believers from different nations, called "church" from the Greek word Kuriakos "belonging to the Lord," the word "assembly" referring rather to its character as the "house of God."

{* See Schleusneri, Lexicon in Nov. Test. Ed. 4, p. 751.}

God's wonderful counsel (indicated in John xi. 52, that Jesus was to die not for the nation only, but that the children of God scattered abroad amongst the Gentiles He should also gather into one) had been a mystery before the creation of the world, although foreshadowed already in paradise. But it could not be fulfilled until at Pentecost the Holy Spirit, the Revealer of the things which God has prepared for them that love Him, had been sent down from glory, after the "Son of Man" had been received up in glory.

Jesus (Who, as the only perfect man, alone could glorify and has glorified God on earth) must be exalted first at the right hand of God, before the Holy Ghost could come down to take His abode in the bodies of sinful men, who have been justified by faith and cleansed from all sin by the precious blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God, and thus made fit to be indwelt by this divine heavenly Guest. Jesus, the personal Saviour of every individual sinner who believes in Him, must as the first-begotten from among the dead and "the firstborn among many brethren," take His seat at the right hand of God as the Christ, the common head of His body, the church, before the believers could be baptised by the same Spirit, into one body, united to the head in glory, each "one sprit with the Lord," as all of them formed it. At the first preaching at Pentecost, 3,000 were thus baptised into one body, and soon after 2,000 more.

Wonderful spectacle for angels, to study the wisdom of God! a spiritual body on earth, united to a heavenly head, the Son of man in glory, by the invisible tie of the Holy Spirit. Men only saw the visible effect of that mysterious union, for they beheld how these christians loved one another, being "one heart and one soul," as they were members of one body. Jesus the Nazarene, the Saviour of sinners, approved among men by miracles and wonders and signs, rejected by the builders and disallowed of man, had been made of God both, Lord (for every individual believer) and Christ. He is the Head of His body, the church.

This was something entirely new, unknown in this world since its existence. There had been a congregation of the earthly people of God in the wilderness, the "house of Israel." They possessed the living oracles of God, Who dwelt among them in tents, guiding them by the cloudy pillar in the daytime, and by night by the pillar of fire towards the promised land. But that was neither the church of God nor the body of Christ.

When He, of whom Moses and the prophets had testified, had Himself appeared in the midst of Israel, and His own had not received but crucified Him, having risen from the dead and appeared in the assembly of His disciples, showing to them His hands and His side, and announced to them the result of His death, saying, "Peace be unto you," there was indeed a blessed assembly, but it was not the church yet as the body of Christ, which is characterised by the indwelling and guidance of the Holy Spirit, sent down by the glorified Christ.

Wondrous, glorious fact, but too little, alas! realised by Christians: a body here on earth, formed by a countless multitude of believers, from all nations, united by the Spirit of God to the God-man there above in glory!

But it has been always the persistent aim of the enemy of the truth to put aside this all-important and most precious portion of divine truth, or, where he could not succeed in this, at least to weaken the sense of its importance in the souls of believers. He seeks especially to enfeeble the living consciousness and happy realisation of our two-fold relationship to God and to His Son, as children of our Heavenly Father and as members of Christ. For he knows but too well, that the godly walk and testimony of each individual believer is closely connected with the assurance and realisation by faith, of our relationship as children of God, and with our living consciousness of being members of one and the same body, — the body of Christ for mutual service, help and edification. It is especially the fresh and living sense of the latter, which the adversary now more than ever is endeavouring to obscure and to weaken (peace with God, and the assurance of the believer's relationship to the Father, at the present day being more known and enjoyed than in former years, owing to the fuller preaching of the gospel of grace).

It is not only in our individual character as "children of God," but especially in our corporate quality as members of Christ's body, that we are enjoined to serve and edify one another in the Epistles to the Romans (at least in Rom. xii.), and to the Corinthians, Ephesians, and Colossians. We hear among Christians a great deal about "children of God," but very little about "members of Christ." The former term implies our eternal security and our blessed privileges, and of that we love to speak. But the words, "members of Christ" and "members one of another," remind us of our joint privileges and responsibilities, on which we are less inclined to dwell. That in all true children of God a desire for union should manifest itself is but natural; it springs from the very instinct of the new man (Col. iii. compare Jude 19). But that desire for union, right and proper as it is, we hear generally uttered rather with regard to the family tie of the "children of God" as such. But of the "one body" i.e. the unity of the members of the one body of Christ and their responsibility to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," we hear very little, but all the more of religious "bodies," whose, number is legion, and of "members" of this or that religious "body." The word of God knows not "bodies," nor speaks of "members" of confederations, formed by the will or spirit of man, and endowed with human ordinances, but not by the Spirit of God. The word of God knows of only one body, the body of Christ, of which every sealed believer is a member. There are in the N. T. churches in divers places, but they do not constitute sects, but present locally the one body of Christ, "the house of the living God."

The history of the church shows the constant endeavour of the enemy of God as to His church, to weaken in the members of the body of Christ the consciousness and sense of that membership. Once having succeeded in this, the "accuser of the brethren" found it no difficult task to bring about all the sad schisms, divisions, and sects, which we perceive, and in these "last days" more than ever.

Ought not our own natural bodies to teach us better? What is our every morning's first experience when arising from sleep? Is it not the simple truth that one member serves the other? Did the left hand ever hide itself away, because the right hand occupies a place of honourable distinction and performs the most important part of every day's business? Or did the feet ever refuse to serve the hands, because of the undignified business assigned to them — ever to tread the dust and labour through the mire of the road, carrying the weight of the whole body, while the hands perform all the important and honourable functions. The hands, nay the whole body, could not do without the feet. What humbling lessons do not our own bodies daily teach us, christian reader and fellow member in the body of Christ, if we had but eyes to see them, hearts to feel, and consciences to heed them?

A well-known and honoured servant of Christ used to quote one of old: "suppose it pleased God to send two angels, the one to rule an empire, and the other to sweep a crossing in one of the streets of London; the latter would perform his business with the same willingness and heartiness as the former." We are more than angels, fellow-believer, saved by grace and called to glory. Would we were more like these blessed heavenly servants of the Lord, who, though "excelling in strength," yet never fail to do His commandments (strength combined with obedience), and, mark, christian reader. — not in a mere sense of duty, but heartily, "hearkening unto the voice of His word." They not only know, but love the voice of their Heavenly Master. Do we, members of His body, who are united to Him and to one another by an infinitely closer tie than angels are, serve our Heavenly Head and Master heartily and with a ready mind?

One more illustration furnished by our own bodies. For this line of truth cannot be dwelt upon too much in these days of latitudinarian associations on the one hand, and sectarian divisions on the other.

Suppose I want a book in a distant room. My body, in obedience to the order received from the head, willingly rises at once. to fetch it. The feet must carry me there. But they can do no more. The hands must take hold of it. But neither the feet nor the hands would be of any avail, unless the eyes show the way. If the eye is on the Head, we need not mind the "breakers ahead." But if the light has become darkness, how great is the darkness! We need to remember Menenius Agrippa's famous parable and its instantaneous effect upon his Roman listeners. Alas! the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.

But it is not only the lively sense of our mutual relationship as members of one body, even the body of Christ, but the being, more than we usually are, alive to the wondrous fact of the union of that body with, and its entire dependence upon, the glorified head, Christ Himself, which for every true member of Christ is of the utmost importance and in our days more than ever. By the Spirit of glory the body of Christ here on earth is united with its Head in glory — "One spirit with the Lord." Unless the members be consciously kept alive to this union also, their mutual support and service will be of little profit. The Holy Spirit dwelling in the church, by Whom all the members of Christ have been baptised into one body, is indeed to lead these members; but He always does this in dependence on the Head of the body, even as Christ when on earth did and spoke everything in dependence upon the Father. He did that which He had seen with the Father, and spoke that which He had heard from Him.

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John 5:19). Further "I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak" (John xii. 49, 50).

So the Holy Spirit: "However when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you" (John xvi. 13, 14).

All real Christians feel more or less the want of unity of co-operation in the body of Christ; and nowadays we need it realised more than ever. But what is lacking with so many, if not with most of them, is the conscious realisation of our living union with, and of our entire dependence upon, Christ, our glorious Head at the right hand of God. This is the reason why so many well-intentioned efforts remain fruitless. God is the fountain-head of every blessing, but "all the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth in Christ bodily" (Col. ii. 9). In Christ, our Head, to Whom we are united by the Spirit of God, in order to draw from His fulness (of which we all have received grace upon grace) is wisdom, light, strength and all we need in this world to glorify God and the Name of His dear Son. The members of Christ must, by the Holy Spirit, receive orders and directions from their common Head in glory, which, as I scarcely need to add, never can nor will clash with the word of God written by the same Spirit.

May God grant to His own a deeper and more real consciousness not only of our close relationship as members of the same body, even the body of Christ* and mutual dependence upon one another, but also of the dependence of all the members, and of each member in particular, upon our common Heavenly Head, crowned with glory and honour, — Jesus Christ our Lord. — Oh! what sorrow and shame would the church of God have been spared, and what dishonour to the Name of our glorified Head have been avoided, had the members of His body been more alive to this wondrous fact and awake to the responsibility accruing therefrom.

{*In 1 Cor. xii. 12 the body itself is "Christ," Can there be a more complete and intimate union? "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" Praised be His Name.}

23. The Memorial of the Lord's Death.

1893 236 Let us now enter on a subject so near to our Saviour's heart, and to the hearts of His dearly beloved and dearly bought ones. It is in itself the expression of the One body of Him, Who gave Himself for us, not merely that we should be one of many saved individuals (however countless the number may be), but that all the redeemed units should be united into one, even the One body of Christ.

Before our Saviour suffered and died for us, it was His last desire in that upper chamber, where He for the last time* was about to eat the passover with them, to explain to them the true meaning of it, be it as to the new covenant of the millennial kingdom, or as to Himself above all, the true Paschal Lamb Whose body was now to be given, and His blood to be shed for them — even the blood of the new covenant, which alone could secure and disclose for Israel those earthly blessings of the millennial kingdom, and infinitely higher blessings for us.

{* I need not say, that the Lord also in the first two years of His ministry did eat the passover with His apostles, as appears evident from Luke 22:8-13. He always observed the law and magnified it. But the Spirit of God mentions fully this last passover, the type now being about to be fulfilled by its blessed anti-type, and the New Testament's supper to be instituted.}

And when He after His victorious death on the cross and resurrection had ascended to heaven and taken His seat at the right hand of God, as the glorious Head of His body, the church, it was again His plain concern (after having from glory called Saul to be His apostle of glory and of the church and of the mysteries now revealed) to give to Paul an especial revelation and instruction for the church concerning the memorial of His love (1 Cor. xi).

Indeed no brighter, no more blissful, place could the imperishable love of our adored Lord and Saviour have provided for His own, amidst a world full of daily increasing darkness and opposition to all that is divine, than this memorial feast of His love. Here it is that the family of His redeemed on the day of His resurrection, the first day of a new week) take their place, shutting the door upon everything around and within, to remember Him, Whose love, which was strong as death, all the waters of death beneath and around Him could not extinguish, nor the fiery billows of divine wrath consume, as it rolled over the One forsaken of God. Here it is that our souls feast upon Himself, whilst we muse upon Him and His cross, and our hearts dwell on Him Who is altogether lovely, whilst we partake of the memorial of His sufferings and death, showing forth His death in the breaking of bread and drinking of the cup of blessing "till He come."

What would a family be without the family table? There its members assemble to realise, whilst partaking of the common meal, their near and dear relationship one to another and to the presiding parent. If there be anything amiss in the family, it is sure to be felt at the family table. How much more at the Lord's table, where the redeemed are not only as the members of a family, but as members of one body under one glorified Head, the tie of union being closer still!

Let us turn, for a few moments, to that solemn night, in which our blessed Saviour bequeathed to His apostles and to us the precious legacy of His love.

Oh what tones of perfect love, grace, patience, goodness, and wisdom were heard that night, the atmosphere of which was saturated with the leaven of Satan's and men's wickedness! May that night more constantly be present to our consciences and to the memory of our hearts! Then indeed, when sitting down at the table then prepared for us by our Good Shepherd, we shall better understand the meaning of His tender dying injunction,

23. "This do in remembrance of me."

The Night of the Institution of the Lord's Supper

It was the darkest of all nights — a night the like of which had never been on this earth, nor ever will be again. It was that night when Judas went out to betray his Master with a kiss for the price of thirty pieces of silver. The Holy Spirit Himself distinguishes that night from all the dark and terrible nights that had been in this world before, by those words, "and it was night."

And He Himself Who then and there was so shamefully betrayed, after He had ascended to heaven, surrounded by the light of glory, remembered that night, when He by special revelation reminded His apostle and all His own of it with those words, "the night in which he was betrayed," thus confirming from glory the solemn comment of the Holy Ghost, "And it was night."

What a moment when Jesus sat down with His apostles, to eat the last Passover with them before He died!

Richer blood had to be shed now — the blood of the Lamb of God — to procure for them and for us the blessings founded upon it; for them on earth, and for us in heavenly glory. Before Him the roast lamb was placed on the table, of which He Himself was the blessed anti-type. What was the train of His thoughts when the Holy Lamb of God looked at the type before Him? Was it His own sufferings? Yes, but in what way? "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer."

The One who sat at the table with the twelve was the same Who made the world. Before the foundations of the earth were appointed, He was His Father's daily delight, and His delights were with the sons of men. "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men." "Behold I and the children which God has given me." That which now engrossed His mind and heart was, not the anticipation of His sufferings (the hour of Gethsemane had not yet come), but those for whom He was about to suffer and to die. It was not the travail of His soul, but those that were to be the fruit of it, all whom the Father had given Him out of this world, whom He was going to redeem by His blood. They and we, fellow-believer, filled the foreground of His mind and heart before He suffered And they — we — are the first of whom He thinks and speaks, after He had been "heard from the horns of the unicorns." "I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee." "Go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God."

And did not Jesus know what manner of men they were, for whom He was going to suffer? As to "that nation" for whom He was to die, "He came unto his own, and his own received him not."

The Son of God, the King of Israel, Who saw Nathanael when he was under the fig tree, knew that in that very night the false shepherds of Israel were going to weigh out to his betrayer the price for a common slave, as their value of Jehovah, their Messiah. And as to His disciples, nay, His apostles, did He not know that one of them, who was eating His bread at that very table, had lifted up his heel against Him? And was He not aware that the chief of His apostles, whom He had entrusted with the keys of the kingdom of heaven, would in that night deny Him thrice? And knew He not that all His disciples, the one "whom He loved" and who was then leaning on His bosom, along with the rest, would forsake Him in the hour of deadly peril? He knew it, and He told them. He knew and foreknew every thought and movement of their treacherous, proud, deceitful, and inconstant hearts — and of ours. He knew it all and He felt it too, as only He, perfect God and perfect Man, could know and feel it. The words, Simon, Simon, behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat," only just preceded, "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not; and when thou art converted [or, 'hast returned back'] strengthen thy brethren."

Did His hand, in the perfect knowledge of all this, hesitate even for a moment to take the bread and break it, and likewise also the cup after supper? The words, "This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you," are followed by, "But, behold the hand of him that betrayeth me, is with me on the table. And truly, the Son of man goeth as it was determined; but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed."

There was one present, upon whose conscience even such words had no effect. Judas Iscariot took the sop. Satan entered into him, and finally hardened him, and afterwards drove him to despair. The others were alarmed. But what comes next? "And there was a strife amongst them, which of them should be accounted the greatest."

Wretched hearts of ours that betray themselves even at such a table and at such a moment, in the very presence of Him, Who made Himself of no reputation, but humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross! But the purposes of the obedient Son could not be shaken by the treason and pride of men's rebellious hearts. "When He came into the world, He said, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God." When in service on earth, it was, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work"; and at the end, in Gethsemane, it was again, "Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done." There was an "if" in Gethsemane; and if any "if" be admissible, surely this was. But it was immediately followed by "Nevertheless." How far superior is His "nevertheless" even to that of His faithful servant Paul (Phil. i. 24)

Such an obedience could not be turned from its path by the defection of His own all around. Nor could His purposes of divine love be shaken or modified by the wretched selfishness in the hearts of His disciples — or by ours, christian reader? No, His obedience was as unswerving toward His Father, as His love was unchanging toward those whom the Father had given Him: His love had its motive in Himself Who is love, not in anything in us or in our hearts, which are the opposite of love — selfish. Not that we loved Him, but He loved us, and gave Himself for us.

24. The Memorial of the Lord's Death.

1893 252 Did His thoughts, whilst eating the Passover with them, travel back, if I may so say, to another night, separated by fifteen hundred years from that one? — In that night He had also prepared a table — this very table for His people in the presence of their enemies, when He went and slew the first-born throughout Egypt, to deliver His people from its bondage. Then cries of death and despair rang through the night, whilst Israel stood and fed in safety. But now the time had come, when the "First-born of all creation" was to be slain — slain by wicked hands; yes, and not only so; He was to be "wounded in the house of his friends."

But there was more: "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts; smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." The Judge of Egypt, the Judge of the whole earth, was to undergo the judgment due to His people, and to you and me, reader! — The Deliverer of His people of old was to he delivered by their children into the hands of sinful men, in order to deliver them from their sins. The Lamb of God was to take away the sin of the world, and to die for that nation, His own, who received Him not." Messiah was to be "cut off and have nothing."

But, no! He looks onward, not backward. His words, "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer," are followed by, "I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God." And His words, "Take this [cup]; and divide it among yourselves," are followed by, "For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come." Did they understand what He meant by "before I suffer," and "until the kingdom of God shall come"? Alas! they were dull of understanding, "slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken." They did not know that Christ ought to suffer these things and to enter into His glory! They trusted that it was He who should redeem Israel. Redeem from what? From the consequence of their sins, i.e., the yoke of the Romans. Had they never heard of the words of the angel of the Lord, spoken to Joseph? "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins." Had they not heard the voice of the forerunner proclaiming, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world"? If they had, they had either forgotten or not understood it. But had not the Lord Himself foretold them, "The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him, and the third day He shall be raised again"?

"They were exceedingly sorry," and Peter even said, "That be far from thee, Lord"! But the cross of Christ, the truth that He must suffer and thus enter into His glory, was entirely beyond the narrow compass of their thoughts, however clearly foretold in the prophets. They "understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, and they perceived it not; and they feared to ask Him of that saying." The glorious truth of Resurrection was just as far, if not farther still from and beyond their conception. The first tidings of it "seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not." But He who supped with them that night, the Holy, True, and Gracious One, not only forbore with their ignorance (though culpable), but even stooped down and washed their feet, before He was led as a Lamb to the slaughter to suffer and die for them.

The Passover or Supper of the Old Testament approaches its end. All around, the atmosphere of evil is thickening. The prince of this world and of the power of the air is summoning and gathering his hosts of wicked spirits, to inspire, unite, and lead on deluded sinners, Jews and Gentiles, to their common conspiracy and open rebellion around the cross (as he will do at a later period for the final rebellion and battle of Armageddon). His satellites assemble at the house of the high priest; the watchword of treason is whispered, "Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; hold him fast."

But amidst and above that murky atmosphere of Satan's and men's wickedness, there arises from that upper chamber, where the Good Shepherd had prepared a table for His sheep in the very presence of their enemies, an incense sweeter than that of Mary's precious ointment, ascending to heaven. Hark! the notes of a hymn of praise going up to Him, Who "is good and Whose mercy endureth for ever." It is intoned by the voice of the Good Shepherd before He goes to die; and His sheep, minus the traitor, who know His voice, join in the wondrous song.

Oh, what a song in that night! Was there ever singing like this? At the Red Sea, from the shore of safety, the joyful song of redemption had ascended to God, when Moses and the children of Israel praised the mighty salvation of Jehovah, and Miriam answered with the daughters of Israel. A wondrous choir of praise, indeed, sung by myriads of grateful voices! Such a vast hymn of praise there had never been in this world, nor ever will be, until His people, made willing in the day of His power, will raise the shout of praise, "Blessed is he that cometh in the Name of the Lord." But what is all this when compared to the notes of praise that ascended to God from that upper chamber, sung by those twelve voices? Not Moses, the servant of God, who was faithful in all his house, intoned that hymn, but Christ Himself, the Son over His own house — Jehovah-Jesus, the Deliverer of His people of old, to whom that song of redemption at the Red Sea was addressed! He Himself is leading the song of praise to His little band. The voice that was soon to appeal to His Father in the agonies of Gethsemane, and then from the cross in that cry, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me"? we hear at that table leading the praises of His little flock; just as if, even before He was heard from the horns of the unicorns, He must in anticipation praise His Father and God (soon to be known as theirs too) in the midst of His "brethren."

He wept when He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He sings a hymn when He is going to die — to die the death of the cross. Did not He know what Calvary meant? Gethsemane tells us. Oh for ears and hearts to listen to that voice, and to ponder over that song! What an insight it gives into the perfect obedience, and into that perfect love that dwelt in the heart of Jesus! May His word dwell richly in us, in order that "with grace we may sing and make melody in our hearts to" Him, our "Lord." as He did to His Father and God in that never to be forgotten night!

25. The Memorial of the Lord's Death.

1893 268 I have dwelt longer than may appear necessary to some, on that darkest of all nights, but the very darkness of which only served to set in relief the perfections of Him, Who from first to last was ever the light of the world, ever shining with equal undimmed brightness, but Whose love, obedience, grace, patience, meekness, and lowliness never shone out more brightly than in that dark night. It was the Lord's will that that night in Egypt by means of the Passover should ever be kept in the remembrance of His people Israel. And it is no less His will that that night in Canaan through the Lord's Supper should be kept present to the memory of our hearts, not to overcloud our joy in His presence, but to impart that holy, subdued, and deep tone becoming at such a table, joy springing from meditation on love that shone so brightly in that night! Would that that night were more fixedly in the remembrance of our consciences, and that love more constantly in the memory of our hearts!

I have ventured a few remarks on the wondrous hymn of praise ascending to God from that upper chamber. But there were very different sounds and utterances which fell upon the ear of that night, such as these, "Which of us shall be the greatest"? "What will ye give me and I will deliver him unto you"? "Hail, Master," and then the sound of the betrayer's kiss. "Although all shall be offended because of thee, yet will not I." "If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise." "Woman, I know him not." "Man, I am not ["one of them"]. "Man, I know not what thou sayest," accompanied by cursing and swearing. "He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye?" Then the awful reply to that awful question. "He is guilty of death." Then the sound of spitting, buffeting, and smiting, and the mock question, "Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, who is it, that smote thee?"

Reader! Some of these words — the worst — came from one who had preached the gospel of the kingdom and cast out demons. They came from hearts, — naturally not worse than yours or mine, — hearts with feelings of natural affections and friendship — with devotional sentiments, when in their gorgeous temple — some among them truly attached to the Lord, especially one of them. Yet they furnished each his part in the awful concert of voices and sounds heard in the night.

Institution of the Christian Supper.

But in that same night a voice calm, even, and gentle, yet full of holy solemnity, in accents of purest grace and eternal love, spoke these words,

"This is my body which is given for you, this do in remembrance of me." And "This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me."

Oh may those words in divine power abide within us, producing in our hearts a truer response to Him Who spoke them and drawing forth in its constraining power the love of Christ towards those that are His! And may that grace and love shine out more brightly in a world where men are hateful and hating one another, where the darkness is thickening; in order that, during Christ's absence from this world, we may reflect more of His light, Who when here below, was ever the light of this world, the light of life!

After these, however poor and feeble, meditations on the love of such a Saviour, it is but with reluctance that one turns to doctrinal observations on such a solemn and blessed subject. But it appears, especially in these last days, of the utmost importance that those, for whom the Just One suffered to bring them, to God, should not he left in ignorance as to the corporate as well as the individual meaning of the memorial of Christ's death and thus be deprived of an important portion of blessing, connected with it, and, what is more, enter more fully into the intentions of our gracious Master, in bequeathing unto us that legacy of His dying love.

Let us now, with His gracious help, endeavour, in the light of His word and under the guidance of His Spirit, to learn something more of the true, deep, and blissful meaning of that divine repast for our souls.

26. The Memorial of the Lord's Death.*
1893 300 {* From the writer's German Periodical: "Words of truth in love."}

The Passover, the supper of the Old Testament, being over, Jesus then institutes for His disciples, and for us, the supper of the New Testament.* He takes the "unleavened bread," which formed part of the Old Testament supper, and says, "This is my body, which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me."

{*Literally "Of the new covenant." The expression, "new covenant" (in contrast to the "old covenant," which Israel had broken) refers, as we know, to the millennial kingdom, the blessings of which could only be made possible by the blood of the Messiah rejected and crucified by the Jews. (Ps. xxii. 25-31; Isa. liii. Isa. liv. Isa. lv. Cp. Jer. xxxi., and Heb. viii. 7-13, Heb. ix. and Heb. x.; Zech. xii. 10-14, Zech. xiii. 14, and other Prophets). But although the expression, "blood of the new covenant," refers primarily to the millennial kingdom and the earthly blessings connected therewith for Israel, I need not say, that our christian spiritual blessings, so infinitely higher and heavenly, could only be founded upon the same precious blood of the Lamb of God. The 53rd chapter of the Prophet Isaiah holds good for us in the spiritual sense, as it does for Israel in an earthly way.}

Seven days during the feast of the Passover, from the fourteenth until the twenty-first day of the month of Abib, no leavened bread must be found in any house of the Israelites. The lamb was to he eaten with "bitter herbs" and "unleavened bread." Whosoever did eat leavened bread during that time, his soul should be cut off. "Leaven," both in the Old and New Testament, signifies that which is evil. The Lord enjoined His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, that is, hypocrisy. The apostle Paul warns the Galatians against the leaven of evil doctrine. "Know ye not," says he, "that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump"? In the same sense the apostle applies the word to the Corinthians, whom he exhorts to "purge out the old leaven; for even Christ, our passover, was sacrificed for us." Therefore they were "to keep the feast not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (1 Cor. 5:7, 8).

Just as in the bread eaten with the paschal-lamb, not a trace of leaven must exist, so it was with Him, of Whom all this was but a foreshadowing type. To Him God Himself had "prepared a body," even the body of the Lamb of God, without blemish and without spot, Who not only had committed no sins, but "knew no sin." Otherwise He could not have taken our place upon the cross as our substitute, as an atoning sacrifice for sin; He could not have been "made sin" for us, nor could He have "borne our sins in His own body on the tree."

It was this "unleavened bread," connected with the supper of the Old Testament, which the Lord took, to show to His apostles its new meaning, saying: "This is my body, which is given for you." But one chief element had to be added. It was the cup containing the wine. The eating of the roast lamb supposed the shedding of the blood of the Lamb, without which the lamb could not have been eaten. The Lord now takes the cup of the new covenant. At the institution of the supper in Luke xxii., the "cup" appears twice; the first time (vers. 17, 18) in connection with Israel's blessing in the millennial kingdom, when they will dwell every one under his vine and his fig tree, when the Lord will say unto them: "Eat, O friends, drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved" (Song of Solomon 5:1).

Then, after the bread, the Lord takes the cup the second time, saying,

"This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is shed for you."

This is the cup of the christian supper, "the cup of blessing, which we bless."

We now come to a point of great importance, greater than it may appear to some at the first glance, I mean the difference between

"The Lord's Supper" and "The Lord's Table."

I need scarcely say, that both expressions mean one and the same thing, only under different aspects. It is well to be clear about this.

In the eleventh chapter of the first Epistle of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians, we have the "Lord's supper" in connection with "Jesus;" whereas in the preceding chapter, it is called the "Lord's table" in connection with "Christ." Why this difference of expression?

Substantially indeed, both terms mean the same thing; just as the two words "Jesus," "Christ" signify the same person under different aspects. That blessed name, "Jesus," expresses the person and character of our adorable Saviour and Redeemer; whilst the word "Christ" expresses His position, be it in an earthly aspect as Israel's Messiah, or in a christian sense as the glorified Head of the Church.

The very first word in the first gospel at Pentecost was that ever blessed Name of our precious Saviour,

"Jesus."

It concludes with the words, "God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ,* i.e., the head of His body, the church, consisting of all believers, though at Pentecost it referred to His Messianic character also.

[*For each individual believer, as well as in the universal sense. [It may be questioned whether headship of the church is meant here, though no doubt He was so. But it would seem to be God's reassertion in heaven of Him Whom the people had rejected as Messiah here below. Peter does not appear to go beyond this. — Ed.]

Throughout the four Gospels it is "Jesus," and when He is called "Christ," it is in His character as the Messiah of the Jews, as in Matt. xvi., John i., and in other places.

When in that night the Lord instituted the Lord's supper, He did so in His character as the personal Saviour of every individual believer, being not yet exalted at that time as the Christ, and the Holy Ghost not yet having been sent, by Whom the believers are baptised into one body. And as the Lord, in His special commandment given to His apostle, referred to that night, when He was still on earth and when there was no church yet but only individual believers, the Holy Spirit in 1 Cor. xi. consequently speaks of the "Lord Jesus." But in the tenth chapter we have the "Lord's table" in connection with "Christ,"* our glorified Head, His table being the expression of the communion of the members of His body (1 Cor. 10:17). So we read then in vv. 15-17, "I speak as to wise men, judge ye what I say: The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread, which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, being many, are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread." In the same chapter we find the expression, "the Lord's table," in connection with Christ; whereas in the following chap. x., we have "The Lord's supper" in connection with "Jesus."

[*Grace is expressed here by "Christ," as "the Lord" implies authority. — Ed.]

27. The Memorial of the Lord's Death.

1. — The Lord's Supper.

1893 331 There are three things, which characterise it as such, i.e., from the individual point of view:

1. — Salvation, i.e., the assurance of salvation in every believer, who partakes of it. This assurance of being saved is, of course, an individual or personal matter. At the "Lord's table" as such, we are partakers not merely as saved ones, but as members of the one hotly. Therefore we find those words referring to the death and redemption work of our Saviour: "This is my body" etc., "This is the cup of the new testament in my blood" etc., in the eleventh chapter in connection with the Lord's supper; whereas the words "body and blood of Christ" in chap. x. do not so much emphasise redemption, but rather the ecclesiastical result of it, i.e., the communion of the body of Christ, as the glorified head of His body, and the communion of the blood of Christ, as having been redeemed by the same blood, and been baptised into one and the same body, by the Holy Spirit, of which the Lord's table is the expression (John xi. 52 and 1 Cor. xii. 13).

What further in an especial way characterises the Lord's supper, is

2. — The remembrance of Him and of His love unto death.

If I love a person, the remembrance of him or her will not be a mere duty, but a necessity, a constant need for the heart. How much more would this be the case, if that person had not only risked, but given his life for me! How often would we remember such a friend? Once a year, say on the anniversary of his death? That would be a poor answer indeed to his love unto death.

Take the case of a decisive battle being fought between two hostile armies. During the battle the commander of the victorious army perceives that his sons, having approached the enemy too closely, are in danger of being surrounded and killed. The peril of his sons makes him for the moment forget everything else. He hastens to their rescue and succeeds in delivering them from the hands of the enemy, but he himself is wounded to death. The battle is won, and the commander of the victorious army is carried into his tent. His mourning sons, thus saved at the expense of their father's life, stand around the deathbed of the conqueror, their grief being rendered more poignant still by their reflection upon their foolhardiness having caused the death of their father. Would that father, think ye, have need to say, "My sons, remember me when I am gone?" Why, they would feel broken-hearted at such a request.

Suppose, further, the sons had, after the death of their father, had his likeness taken, with the death-wound in his breast, would they shut up that likeness in a closet, and take it out, on the anniversary of the father's death, to look at it and remember him? No, they would give to his likeness the best and most prominent place in the family room, daily to feast their eyes on the dear features of him, who was, under God's grace, not only the author but the saviour of their lives.

Christian reader! When our Lord and Saviour said in that night, "This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me," what did He mean by saying "as oft as ye drink it?" Once every year, or every six or three months, or once a month on the "Ordinance Sunday?" I leave it to your own hearts to interpret the meaning of those words, "as oft." Those first Christians at Jerusalem did not appear to think that, by a frequent celebration, the memorial could lose anything of its solemn character and become something common, like an everyday duty, as is often asserted. Does the remembrance of a beloved friend, to whose self-sacrifice you owe everything, degenerate into something trivial, by your remembering him every day? I should think true love would hourly remember him. Certainly, for a loving heart it requires no effort to do so. Language of that sort savours of the same Laodicean lukewarmness, as the assertion not infrequently heard, that the "leaving the first love" is but a kind of natural law and therefore, so to speak, a "matter of course," which cannot be helped!

Is this the way our hearts understand and interpret that loving injunction of our Saviour, "This do ye, as often as ye drink it, in remembrance of me?" Was this the interpretation, which He expected from His disciples, when leaving it to their and our hearts, to give the right meaning to those words? Is this the answer of our hearts to His loving word in that cold dark night, "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer?" Shame upon such unworthy replies of Laodicean hearts! Our proper response should be, "Lord, with desire we desire to do this in remembrance of Thee, Whose love was strong as death, love which all the waters of death could not quench, nor the fiery billows that rolled over Thy head consume."

At this memorial of His death the Lord expects from us the spiritual freewill offerings of our hearts and lips. What is not done spontaneously and heartily is not worth much even for the world. Of what value can it possibly be to Him Who searches the hearts and reins and says, "Give me thy heart, my son"?

From Pentecost and after the believers celebrated the memorial of the Lord's death on the first day the week, that is, on the resurrection day, as being the fittest time for rendering unto God and to His Son their freewill offerings of praise, adoration and thanksgiving, whilst remembering at the same time the suffering love of the Saviour, "Who loveth us and washed us from our sins in His own blood and made us a kingdom and priests, to His God and Father. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."

Those believers did not prefer on the resurrection morning of their Lord to listen to some stirring or splendid sermon of a talented minister, instead of in subduedness of heart and mind, whilst musing upon the cross, feeding upon the roast lamb, worshipping God in spirit and in truth at the memorial-table of His love. They gave to Him the first place in their hearts on the first day of a new week, and afterwards honoured also His servants for their work's, that is for God's, sake.

I need scarcely say that this remembrance of the Lord is personal, although the public expression of it is rendered in the name of the whole assembly by those whom the Spirit of God may choose to be organs of the united grateful remembrance of the assembly in adoration and thanksgiving. From this point of view, I consider the remembrance of the Lord and of His sufferings and work of redemption as forming an integral part of the Lord's supper as such, His words, "This do ye in remembrance of Me," having been spoken at the institution of the Lord's supper.

1893 349 And if I at the memorial of the Lord's death, in true remembrance of the heart think of my Saviour and His love, the third characteristic of the Lord's supper will not be absent, viz.

3. — The eating of the roast lamb.

This is the nourishment of the soul whilst meditating on the "altogether lovely" Person of our Lord and Saviour. The heart cannot fail to be nourished and strengthened at this divine repast, where everything reminds us of the self-sacrificing love of our Redeemer. The Spirit reminds us of what He has said, of what He has done, and of what He is. For He has done what He has done, because He is what He is; as you and I, christian reader, did what we did, because we were what we were. His Spirit who glorifieth Him, receiveth of His and showeth it unto us, makes us to realise both His Person and His work. Thus it is that we feed upon the roast lamb, being "strengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man."

This individual feeding need not in any way impede the edification of the body, as such under Christ the Head, "from whom the whole body, fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." On the contrary, it contributes to it. For the joint-edification of Christ's body as such, which has its full and proper scope at the "Lord's table," as presented in 1 Cor. x., would be greatly impeded without the individual nourishment of the heart at the Lord's supper (1 Cor. xi.)*

{*I must remind the reader of what has been said already, that the "Lord's table" and the "Lord's supper," are one and the same thing, only under two different aspects, as expressed in 1 Cor. 10 and 11.}

And where thus the "feeding on the roast lamb" proceeds in spirit and in truth, the effect of it will be

4. — The worship in spirit and in truth, in adoration and thanksgiving on the part of each partaker in the feast, being the natural response of the heart and lips to God, expressed by each member in the singing of hymns, or in words by such brothers as the Holy Spirit may be pleased to use as organs of the spiritual tribute rendered to God by the assembly. Worship then forms the connecting link between the two aspects of the memorial of the Lord's death, as presented in chaps. x. and xi. of the first Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians.

Let us now turn to the tenth chapter.

2. —  The Lord's Table.

"I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, being many, are one bread, for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they, which eat of the sacrifices, partakers of the altar? What say I then? That the idol is anything, or that which is offered in sacrifices to idols, is anything? But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils [or, demons], and not to God; and I would not that ye should have fellowship with demons. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons; ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table and of the table of demons. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he"? (1 Cor. x. 15-22).

Here then we behold clearly the difference between the two aspects of the memorial of the Lord's death, viz., the Lord's supper and the Lord's table. Here we have not, as has been observed, Jesus in His character of personal Saviour of each individual sinner, but Christ as the Head of His body, the church. He died "not for that nation" (i. e., the Jews) "only, but that also he should gather together in one" [that is, in one body] "the children of God that were scattered abroad" (John xi. 52), Jesus died not only to save a number (however great) of individuals from hell and everlasting misery, but that those units should be united, i.e., baptised into one body, by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven, and the scattered children of God, whom the Father gave to the Son to be His bride, dwell with Him in glory and reign with Him over the earth.

In 1 Cor. xi. we have Jesus and the "Lord's supper"; in 1 Cor. x., Christ and His body, the church, in connection with the "Lord's table," being the expression of the "communion of the body of Christ," and of the "communion of the blood of Christ." Whilst in ch. xi. the (crucified) body and blood of Jesus, as the foundation of our individual salvation, occupy the foreground, the Spirit of God in ch. x. lays the chief stress upon the communion of His body, not of the church, but of His own personal body given for us, and the communion of His blood, although here also His work of redemption could not be omitted, its being, in both aspects, the memorial of His death. Only His work of redemption occupies here (ch. x.) a secondary place, in a similar way as in the first chapter of Eph. where it comes in the second line, according to the character of the Epistle, whilst in the Epistle to the Romans it occupies the first place.

The memorial of the Lord's death, in its aspect as the "Lord's table," presents to us besides the above mentioned character of worship, four especial characteristics:

1. — Unity, i.e., the oneness of the church, as the One body of Christ, and the communion of the body and blood of Christ, claimed by the members of that body as such. The "Lord's table" being the expression of that communion, every true Christian has a title and claim, to take his seat with us at that table, provided the following essential conditions for such communion are to he found him:
1. — True, living faith.
2. — Godly walk.
3. — Pure and sound doctrine, etc.
4. — No intercommunion with assemblies, where unsound doctrines are tolerated (Rev. ii. 14, 15).

Where these four scriptural conditions are found no scriptural assembly can refuse such, because it is not ours but the Lord's table. But where even one of these conditions is absent, no admission can take place, because it is the Lord's table.

28. The Memorial of the Lord's Death.

2. — The Lord's Table.

1893 377 I would not omit here a remark, which appears to be of importance. There are not a few Christians who "receive the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper," as they say, with blessing for their own souls. They maintain, that in commemorating the Lord's death they are not called upon to be occupied with their neighbour to the right or to the left, but with the Lord Himself. Upright and devoted souls of believers, ignorant of the double character and aspect of the memorial of the Lord's death, may receive individual blessing from God, Who is gracious and patient with such, provided they do not take it as a "Sacrament" or means of grace for the forgiveness of sins,* for God cannot own with real blessing that which is in itself untrue. It is contrary to His own word, entrenching upon Christ's accomplished work of an eternal redemption. Mere religious sentiments are no blessings. I need scarcely add, that a believer, who, contrary to his conviction in the light of God's word, continues to partake of the memorial of the Lord's death together with known unbelievers or mere professors, cannot expect the Lord to countenance in blessing such an act of wilful disobedience.

{* The Israelites, when about to leave Egypt, did not eat of the "roast lamb" to be saved from the sword of the destroying angel, but because they were sheltered already from judgment by the blood of the lamb they were feeding upon, to strengthen them for their journey.}

The next character of the Lord's table is

2. — Discipline. God is holy, holy, holy. The memorial of the death of His Son, the pure Lamb of God, "without blemish and without spot," must be celebrated without the "leaven of malice and wickedness." And if in every respect holiness becometh the house of God for ever, this truth avails in an especial way for the table of His Son. No leaven was permitted in the house of an Israelite during the time of Passover. How much more does this hold good for us! "For even Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."

The Corinthians, to whom these words were addressed by the apostle, furnished a solemn instance of Christ's exercising discipline as "Son over His own house" where His holy presence is disregarded. Besides the solemn exclusion of that "wicked person" from the assembly, many among them had been visited with sickness, some having been even cut off by death, because they had not "discerned the Lord's body," and thus "eaten and drunk judgment to themselves."

But where the memorial of our precious Saviour's death is thus being celebrated by His redeemed people, the following characteristic of the Lord's table, viz.

3. The "showing the Lord's death, till He come," will take place in the power and demonstration of the Spirit as a testimony to outsiders.

But at this blessed table we "show the Lord's death, till he come," thus at once connecting the solemn remembrance of Him in His death with the bright hope of His coming again in the air, when all that are Christ's, will be caught up to Him "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," to enter with Him into His and our Father's house. This blissful hope of the coming again of our Lord thus constitutes

4. — An essential ingredient of our divinely prepared repast at the Lord's table, its concluding refreshing portion after the "bitter herbs," so to speak. Without this element of refreshment even the Lord's table would be not complete in blessing.

The Israelites celebrated the passover, after their deliverance from Egypt, as a memorial, that the Lord in that never-to-be-forgotten night had "passed over," sparing their houses, not slaying their firstborn. When they had passed through the Red Sea dry shod, they sang: "All the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be still as a stone; till thy people pass over, O Lord, till thy people pass over, which thou hast purchased." (They anticipate their passing through Jordan into their earthly Canaan).

Likewise we at the memorial of our Saviour's love, remember that "Christ, our passover was slain for us," that God's sword of judgment might pass us over. But we "show His death," as a public testimony, "till He come," when we shall pass over with Him into our heavenly Canaan, to be for ever with the Lord. Blessed hope, which might become for us a still more blessed reality the next Lord's day, when showing His death.

May we not only at the memorial of His love, which was strong as death, but daily and hourly abide in His presence, for it is only in His presence, that the hope of His coming again can be to us a joyful and living hope. J. A. von Poseck.