No believer but will admit that there are two things necessary for man - light and life - and that they are only found in God. I have no doubt that what is termed "ecclesiasticism" is destructive of both, even after the good of them has been partly laid hold of in the soul. Darkness is man's natural condition Godward (John 1:4, 5), and death is his state. Man having lost through sin his unique place toward God, these are the results as to us. All that man ever needed before sin came in was found in God, and all that man needs now that sin has entered is still found in God alone. This last is made known in the gospel. It is "the gospel of the blessed God" which has come to us. In this gospel God Himself is made known, He is made known as supreme, with resources in Himself and resources for and on behalf of man, spite of all that Satan has done.
Light is the revelation of God in this dark scene, and no one can know Him but by the gospel. Were there no gospel, it were a plain proof that Satan had triumphed. God prepares man for the reception of light through giving to him to taste the misery of darkness. Then the light of God is gladly welcomed, and becomes the life of the soul; i.e., the knowledge of God becomes that in which the soul lives. We have "passed from death unto life." Moreover, God Himself takes up His abode in the believer by the Spirit, to effectuate in him what is of Himself, and so we "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of God." It is an immense triumph of God that He should find His habitation now in man, when we consider what man was, with all his affections astray and away from God. (Romans 3:9-18.) His presence abides by the Spirit's dwelling in us, and the man who once walked according to "the course of this world," and "according to the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience," may be henceforth seen under the control of the Holy Ghost, that is, of God by His Spirit.
Now it is this last, the Spirit, that "ecclesiasticism" robs Christian men of, as to their enjoyment of it in their own souls. Thence (the Spirit ignored) the return again to the regions of darkness and to the gates of death is both easy and rapid, and is or will be the experience of the soul while under the influence of "ecclesiasticism."
A word as to what "ecclesiasticism" is. It is that which has shaken hands with the world, and yet assumes to be a collective light here for God, and it is that which does not hear the Spirit's voice. Its history we have in Rev. 2 and 3. It is an "ism," tacked on to the ekklesia of God - a parasite - a vampire which surely draws away all the vitality of that on which it feeds. To destroy life is its object, and to keep only the dead form bereft of it. (2 Tim. 3:15.) Not that it triumphs in this, but this is its object. We see how far we have got on the road to it in the address to Sardis: "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." It is even that "ecclesiasticism" has found a home on earth (" where Christ found none"), from the address to Pergamos.
Where are we? It is His own sideword of reproach, "I know where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is." He "who walketh in the midst of the candlesticks" then and now sees the light going, and His word is addressed to him who is of the ekklesia of God in the midst of "ecclesiasticism." "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches."
"Ecclesiasticism" will go on without "hearing." After the Spirit and the bride have gone, having unitedly said "COME," to Him to whom she belongs, and for whom the Spirit is now on earth, it will be spued out of Christ's mouth as no longer having anything in it, save what is utterly repulsive to Him.
But for us, with the light of the candlestick well-nigh gone (Rev. 2 and 3), with life well-nigh become death, with Christ outside of "ecclesiasticism," for He is outside already morally, can a Christian yet contentedly remain of that which the Spirit here condemns? In "ecclesiasticism" the first man is allowed. Let this be noted, for state will be found consequently: "Thou knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." (Rev. 3:17.) And is it any wonder that this is so where the first man reigns, and where He who should be in the midst is outside? "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock." Reader, is He as far as you are concerned waiting there yet, waiting there to fill your heart? He says, "If any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." The day is well-nigh over - the Spirit's day, the day of known and enjoyed life and light, which were introduced by His coming and ministry. How much of this supping with Him, this supping with Christ, while the shades of night so swiftly descend, do we, do I know? And, oh, if I know anything of it, how empty are all the "isms" then of men!
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." (Heb. 13:8.)
H. C. Anstey.