8. — Miscellaneous Features.

Having now, through the mercy of God, examined the teaching of Scripture upon the fundamental principles which underlie the Church of God, it only remains for us to note some of the applications of these principles to various questions which arise in their carrying out.

Church Meetings.

The keynote of the Church is unity — gathering together to the Lord. The disciples "were all, with one accord, in one place," on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1), just prior to the formation of the Church. The three thousand new converts that were added to their number on that day continued daily, with one accord, in the temple. In the joy of that first love it seemed to be one long meeting, scarcely discontinued at all. And yet, even at that time (exceptional as to many things — the immense number of visitors at Jerusalem, the great temple still open to them, the need of further leading, etc.) there were certain characteristics which serve as a guide in settling the nature of Church meetings. "They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). We have here indicated, besides fellowship, which would apply to all meetings and the whole life, three features which marked the Church-life of these saints: Teaching, Breaking of Bread, and Prayer. We do not mean that at once separate meetings were devoted to each of these, but that all their gatherings were so marked. But as the Church emerged from what must of necessity have been but temporary, as the link with Judaism was severed, we find regular meetings for a special purpose. "Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread" (Acts 20:7). Here at a specified time (the Lord's day), at a specified place, together, for a specified purpose (to break bread) , the disciples met. That this was their regular weekly custom is manifest from the form of expression. They did not come together to meet the apostle, but to break bread. That this custom was universal is seen from 1 Cor. 11:20: "When ye come together, therefore, into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's Supper" — because of their abuses. See verses 21-34. That what he wrote for the Corinthians was for the entire Church is seen from 1 Cor. 1:2; 1 Cor. 11:16; 1 Cor. 14:33.

We have already dwelt somewhat upon the nature of this holy feast in the paper on Worship. It is only necessary to note the prominent place it occupies. Not even an apostle's presence could set it aside. No frequency could mar its freshness when partaken of in the proper spirit. It exhibited before the saints that great foundation-fact upon which their own life and the structure of the Church rested: Christ's body and blood, His death, His love unto death, the solemn and touching circumstances of that death, the blessed and eternal fruits of that death, the adorable Person who thus loved His Church, — these are presented before the eye of faith, to awaken the affections, arouse the conscience, renew the strength, and call forth the worship of His people. But all was to bring the Lord Himself personally to mind: "Do this in remembrance of Me" — not of our salvation or blessings but of Himself. We may be sure when He has His rightful place, all else will be found in its proper connection.

At the same time, in the one loaf was presented, ever before the saints, the oneness of the Church of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16-17). It has been said that we do not have the unity of the Church exhibited in the one loaf, but only in our partaking of that one loaf (Christ). But when we remember that there were twelve loaves upon the table in the Tabernacle, and that these symbolized Israel's national unity presented before God in Christ, we can hardly fail to associate the unity of the Church in Christ represented in the one loaf.

The Lord's Supper, then, is the chief meeting of the Church. It is the only one distinctly specified, and it occurred weekly. It naturally follows that the breaking of bread gives character to the whole meeting. Teaching there may be, prayer, and exhortation; but the breaking of bread should ever be the prominent feature, and all else subordinated to and influenced by that. But if the Lord Himself is before us, and our state is right, praise and worship will predominate. Such a meeting will be a foretaste of that endless praise of heaven, when, gathered about Him, the whole company of the redeemed will burst forth in one eternal anthem of praise. "Till He come," may we anticipate that blessed time every Lord's day.

We must add a word as to the awful desecration of the Lord's Supper. To say nothing of the multitudes who partake of it avowedly as a mere form, how many are there who come in a careless unjudged way to the Lord's Supper. It was so in a gross way at Corinth, where gluttony and pride were openly indulged. It is the same now, where multitudes in open fellowship with the world and its ways, with sins unconfessed and unforsaken, sit down at the table of the Lord. "For this cause", says the apostle, "many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (1 Cor. 11:30). How can God's children sit down with those whom they know are walking in an ungodly way? Do they not, by this very loosenesss, show an indifference to God's holiness which must sorely grieve the Holy Spirit? It is no question of salvation, but of honoring God — a question which should be as important to us as that of our salvation. But we leave this to the exercised conscience of the reader.

But the Church requires instruction, and has its needs. It is therefore most fitting that there should be special meetings for these purposes, that the meeting for the breaking of bread may be left free for its own peculiar purpose. Love attracts us to the Lord, and therefore to one another. Meetings for prayer, and holy, happy conference, will be as frequent as circumstances and the duties of daily life will permit. We need hardly say that daily work is not to be neglected for the sake of multiplied meetings, nor the duties each one owes to his own family. This would be a disorderly walk, which the apostle rebuked (2 Thess. 3:6-12). Still when every duty has been met, there remains the opportunity of attending meetings, and the exhortation to "not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is" (Heb. 10:25).

A regular meeting for prayer and exhortation during the week is not only suggested by the constantly recurring needs of the Lord's people, but by Scripture as well. How many and varied are the needs of the Church, and how blessed it is to come together for this purpose: the saints pouring out their hearts to God, interceding for one another, remembering the sick and afflicted, and pleading for blessing on the Lord's work! Ah, let us never neglect the prayer-meeting: we grow cold when we fail to avail ourselves of its privileges.*

{*For an excellent practical paper upon this subject the reader is referred to "Prayer and the Prayer-Meeting," by C.H.M.}

One of the characteristic features of the day is shallowness — ignorance of, and distaste for, the word of God. Personal, prayerful study of the Scripture is the great remedy for this; it is also most helpful for the Lord's people to come together during the week for this purpose. The reading meeting is not mentioned in Scripture, but is most scriptural in its spirit. They had not the New Testament Scriptures as yet; whilst we have the word of God complete. The reading meeting should be an informal gathering. It is in this meeting that the teacher's gift is most enjoyed. Without definitely presiding, those instructed in the Word impart to their brethren, answering questions and unfolding Scripture. It will be found most helpful to take up and go regularly through different books of the Bible, the New Testament, and particularly the Epistles, as presenting the f all light of God's truth. This meeting should be guarded from useless speculations and mere vapid commonplaces. When there are none of experience and knowledge of the Word, it will often be found best for the Lord's people to come together and read some profitable work, with their Bibles in their hands, reading the references given, and turning to passages suggested. Such a practice will be found most helpful, and open the way to much profitable conference. We would not have it understood that one must be thoroughly taught in the Word to conduct a reading meeting, still a measure of familiarity with Scripture and some ability for communicating it are essential. We need hardly add that God meets and blesses His hungry people when they are looking to Him, no matter how little gift there may be among them.

In addition to this, the saints may come together to hear whatever a servant of the Lord may have to impart to them in the way of addresses on Scripture; but such meetings being entirely on the responsibility of the individual teacher do not properly come under our subject. The same may be said of the evangelist's meeting for preaching the gospel. But of that later.

Before leaving the subject of Church meetings we must look at one most important feature; and to do so we will recall the great characteristic fact of Christianity — the presence and indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Church. We have already seen, in the paper on Ministry, that Scripture does not recognize official position in the Church. If this is true as to ministry, much more is it so in worship. To have one man preside over a company of Christians and assume all the functions of worship and ministry is not only a practical denial of their priesthood, but a usurpation of the place of the Holy Spirit. This may be done ignorantly, and with the best of motives; but it is none the less an ignoring of the sovereign power of the Spirit to guide and control every man severally as He will. 1 Corinthians 14, is the simple directory for worship, as the twelfth chapter gives the constitution of the Church. The great principle of liberty for the Spirit of God to use whom He will is there established. The only check is, "Let all things be done unto edifying." "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints" (ver. 33). The women were to keep silence in the churches. But of this we will say a few words later.

We have then a most simple and effectual guide in our worship. We are in the Lord's presence, and the Holy Spirit is there to guide — no need then for a man to preside. That would only interfere with the liberty of the Spirit. It may be asked, Will not disorder come in? We answer that the Spirit of God is more able than man to control disorder. God never intended that we should get on without faith or dependence upon Him. Where there is subjection to the Lord, and a godly consideration of one another, there will be the sweetest liberty and real divine power. Let faith do this in the fear of God, and the blessed results will be manifest.

Church Work.

Under this head we wish to say a word as to Missions, Evangelization, Sunday-schools, Tract Distribution, etc.

These, as may be seen, are not distinctly in the Church, but rather done by members of the Church on their own responsibility — largely, however, with the fellowship of the saints. For every faithful evangelist, whether in the home or foreign field, for every devoted Sunday-school teacher, visitor, and every tract-distributor, we would unfeignedly bless God and pray. Let us never forget this. How much they need the prayers of the Church for their guidance and support! Would that the principles of the Church, as laid down in Scripture, were recognized by all these workers. If human machinery were set aside, and dependence upon God with subjection to His word substituted, there might be less apparent work, but oh, how much more real work! We cannot refrain from warning against the unequal yoke with unbelievers in the Lord's work. Let not the world's money be taken to convert the world; nor unsaved teachers be set to teach unsaved children.

Let us not be understood as criticizing the Lord's beloved and honored servants, of whatever name: we merely point out some of the features which strike us as being evidently unscriptural. To all engaged in any work for Christ we would say: See that your seed is the incorruptible seed of the word of God, and that your methods are none but those of the Spirit of God. Distribute no tracts but those of whose scripturalness you are assured. Resort to no sensational methods to attract or divert the masses, but rather preach Christ to perishing sinners in the unction and power of the Holy Spirit. Do not seek to multiply apparent conversions, but rather leave all that to the sovereign power of the Holy Spirit whose work it is. Holding up the hand, coming forward to the "Anxious Bench," rising for prayer etc., all these human methods for driving men to decision are, to say the least, most questionable, and are calculated to turn the eye from CHRIST ALONE. Individual work with inquirers is most important, and has been blessed to countless souls. Let us awake to the work of God. The time is short.

Church Amusements.

It is in no spirit of satire that we place this subject immediately next to that of Church Work. God forbid. The theme is too solemn. The world is under judgment: Satan is blinding men's eyes while he leads them a few steps more over the brink into eternity. Hell awaits the unsaved. This earth is stained with the blood of Christ, who, when He was here, devoted every hour and moment to His Father's will. In such a world the Church must ever be a witness against the prevailing levity and indifference. How solemn, then, is it to hear men pleading for amusements — to attract the masses, to keep up the interest of the young people. The pleasure of God's people is found in the unspeakable joy of learning more of Christ. "In thy presence is fulness of joy." The craving after worldly amusements is the sure sign of an empty heart. "The full soul loatheth a honeycomb." When the heart is filled with Christ, His word, His works, there is no desire for the world's pleasures. Not that there is to be an ascetic severity in the child of God; far from it. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy." "They began to be merry." But how infinitely removed is this holy joy, this heavenly elevation of mind, from the vain levity of this poor world! Amusements in the Church do but form the taste for the fuller enjoyment of the same in the world. The Church entertainment is but the training-school for the theatre. Let us hear the word of God: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15).

Church Buildings.

"The first covenant had ordinances of divine service and a worldly sanctuary" (Heb. 9:1). Solomon's temple was the fitting house for the types and shadows of the Old Testament dispensation. Christ has entered, not into places made with hands, but into heaven itself; and through the rent veil has opened the way for us to enter there, by faith, and worship in the presence of God (Heb. 9:11-12; Heb. 10:19-22). There is, then, no such thing as an earthly sanctuary now. The very thought is foreign to the genius of Christianity. Any building which, by its form or furniture, encourages the thought of a worldly sanctuary really misrepresents Christianity, and is a step backward to Judaism. The Church is a heavenly body, and all its testimony should be of that character. If we are pilgrims, our places of meeting should have about them nothing to contradict that fact. Simplicity should characterize them — nothing to attract the attention and detract from the Lord, but simply be convenient places of meeting, neatly kept. It is significant that we have no mention of Church buildings in the New Testament. Who ever thinks of what kind of a meeting-place the saints had at Corinth, Ephesus, or Rome? Not infrequently the Church-meeting was in a Christian's house (Rom. 16:5; Philem. 2). At Troas the saints met in a room in the third story (Acts 20:8-9). Paul at Ephesus made use of the school of Tyrannus for his daily interviews with inquirers (Acts 19:9). As in many other things, the imitation of Rome is but too manifest in the "church architecture" of the day; and of the tendency of all this it is needless to speak. All such things are straws on the surface, which show the current of the stream, — the course of this world. As to music and the form of worship in general, let it be remembered that in contrast with Israel's national worship — which was expressed with outward forms in which musical instruments had their place — in the Church the worshiper is to "worship in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23) — not with lifeless instruments.

The Money Question.

A glance at the reports of a Church congress, or the columns of a religious weekly, will show at once what prominence this subject has in the thoughts of most persons. Turning to the New Testament, we fail to find this prominence given, though, as in all else, enough is said to guide the people of God. At Pentecost, gifts of their means was as liberal as the sense of the grace of God to them. There were none that lacked: houses and lands were freely disposed of to meet the needs of the poor (Acts 2:44-45; Acts 4:34-37). The effort to make this appear like the socialism of the day fails entirely when we see the unique position of the believers at Jerusalem. There were large numbers of strangers, and many poor. Needs were great and pressing; love was ardent, faith bright. But even then it was entirely voluntary, not compulsory — which is a complete reversal of socialistic demands. (See Acts 5:3-4.) The love and faith remain for all time; the conduct is left to the individual believer, though liberality is ever the mark of those who have learned of God.

Community of goods is not, however, inculcated in Scripture: it is entirely foreign to its spirit. The rich had their duties, and the poor theirs as well (1 Tim. 6:17; James 1:9-10). All able were to work that they might have to give, not to the common purse, but to the needy. (Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:10, 12.) The needy Jews at Jerusalem were remembered and ministered to by their Gentile brethren (Acts 11:27-30; Gal. 2:10; Rom. 15:25-27. See also 2 Cor. 8 and 9). This liberality was to be shown wherever the need appeared, — even to the world, as ability was given. (Rom. 12:13; Gal. 6:10.) But it can be easily seen that these scriptures do not cover all the cases which seem at the present day to call for the expenditure of money. That the object of many of these calls is proper and necessary we have no question. The Lord's servants are to be supported while they work for Him at home and abroad; necessary expenses in the securing of meeting-places have to be met; the poor have to be cared for; Bibles and tracts to be printed and circulated.

But while allowing fully for all this, we are compelled to say that money occupies a very different place in the hearts of Christians than it did in the days of Paul. Now it would almost seem that the world is to be evangelized by money. How large a place it is given in mission reports and religious undertakings! The problem of carrying the gospel abroad seems to be largely a financial one.

Far be it from us to despise the devotedness and zeal of many earnest souls; but duty demands we should point out these signs of the times. Costly and gorgeous buildings for meeting-places are erected which call for immense sums of money; large salaries are paid to brilliant and attractive preachers, who are employed in much the same way as persons engaged in secular work; unconverted singers are hired to furnish attractive music that will draw the crowd and please it. To meet all these expenses there is the constant appeal for money. The unconverted are encouraged to contribute; all sorts of amusements are devised to raise money; and thus the Church, the chaste virgin espoused to Christ, is linked with the world. What wonder, then, that in this rush after money the Holy Ghost is ignored, the word of God neglected and disobeyed! "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." Brethren, the last and least thing God needs for the carrying on of His work is money. Consecrated hearts, instructed, devoted men of God, who will carry His word, His gospel everywhere, — every member of the Body of Christ, in his or her place, filled and constrained by His love, doing their appointed work, — these He needs and longs for; but money cannot regenerate souls nor build up saints. Why, then, make so much of money?

God's servants need to live; and "the Lord ordained that they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel" (1 Cor. 9:14). "Let him that is taught in the word communicate to him that teacheth in all good things" (Gal 6:6). "If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" These and other scriptures show that the servant of the Lord is to be ministered to by those who have received the Word through him, and by other Christians. From the unsaved they were to take nothing. (See 3 John 5-8.) Think of the incongruity, to say the least, in preaching to a company of unsaved persons, telling them of God's gift, beseeching them to accept it, assuring them they can give nothing to God till they receive Christ, that God will accept nothing from His enemies, then taking up a collection! Does it not make the ungodly scoff? Does it not belie the solemn truth that has been preached?

But to return. While the servant of God is to share in the temporal things of the saints, there is not a hint of a bargain between them. To fix and take a salary is to degrade the whole service, and to make the laborer not a servant of Christ, but of man. He is to look to the Lord who has employed him for support — not to the world, nor even to his brethren. Deep may be the exercises through which he may pass to learn to trust his blessed Master, but precious and real are the results. He is free from all, that he may the better serve all; and his ministry has none of the savor of a bargain, the work of a hireling, but the freshness and spontaneity of love. While the ministrations of the saints are given not grudgingly, as under compulsion, but in the sweet constraint of love as unto Christ.

While the servant looks to his Lord for support, the Lord looks to His people to be the channels of that supply which is as unfailing as His love and care. From the form of the expression it is evidently expected that the Lord's servant should live in the same comfort that is enjoyed by those among whom he ministers. The Lord would not have His saints burdened beyond their means that His servants may be in affluence; nor would He have their appearance or circumstances to be a reproach at once to Himself and His people.

Very few and simple are the directions as to all this. "On the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him" (1 Cor. 16:2). At the time when Christ and His love appeal to his heart, each one was to set apart an amount proportionate to his earnings: this was to be used for the Lord, as He might direct, — for the poor (as in that immediate case) , for the Lord's servants laboring at home or abroad, or for whatever might call for such help. It was to be given "not grudgingly, or of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7) — as Himself is doing. We are all stewards of God's things, and are to minister them under His eye and for Him.

As to money for buildings, the Church is not an earthly corporation, and needs not to own houses and lands in this world. At any rate, a simple and suitable building, of moderate rent or price, would at once relieve the saints of a burden and be a testimony to our strangership here. Our apology for speaking of this matter at all must be the need of scriptural instruction on the subject. "And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: being enriched in everything to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift" (2 Cor. 9:8-15).

Woman's Place in the Church.

"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26-28). From this passage many sincere persons have concluded that the new dispensation has obliterated all the distinctions hitherto existing: that now all believers occupy exactly the same position before God and are equally free to exercise all the functions of the entire Body. In a very important sense all this is true. The passage before us shows that all believers are alike children of God: that in Christ the old distinctions of Jew and Gentile, bond and free, male and female (as under the law), have been set aside. The believer's standing is indeed no longer in the flesh, but in Christ. In this sense, unquestionably, there is no distinction. But when this is transferred from our standing before God, and applied to the various responsibilities of Christian life in this world, the very foundations of God's order are unintentionally overturned.

One would thankfully acknowledge that the godly who give to woman the same service in the Church as man, shrink with horror from carrying the principle to its full extent. Let the reader understand, therefore, that we are not referring to the practice of pious persons, but to interpretation of Scripture. What would become of the home-life — of the man's responsibility to nourish and cherish his wife, to give all honor unto her? What of the mother, to guide the house, to lead her children, and all the loving ministry which is associated with the name of woman? We therefore unhesitatingly say that there is a distinction between man and woman, a distinction which originates in creation itself, and never to be ignored so long as the present order obtains. To this every right-minded person instantly assents, and we pass on therefore to show from Scripture that woman's place in creation fixes her place in the Church as well.

"The head of the woman is the man. … The woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man; neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power (Gk., authority, i. e., a covering upon the head, as a sign of being under the authority of her husband — Gen. 24:65) on her head, because of the angels." (See 1 Cor. 11:1-16). The general meaning of this passage is very clear. The apostle is speaking of the woman's unquestionable right (equally with the man) of praying and prophesying; and exhorts that they be covered when so doing, as a token to angels (who watch with interest the conduct of Christ's saints) of that subjection to authority which the very order of creation emphazies.

That the relative place of the man and woman in creation is a witness to something higher — to Christ and the Church — none can question with Scripture before them. (See Eph. 5:22-33.) And the woman is exhorted to exemplify the subjection of the Church to Christ, in her subjection to her husband (verse 24). It is the shame of the Church that it has left that place of absolute subjection to Christ, and doubtless the other has followed largely as a result.

Similarly, because of her part in the Fall, it is added: "Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression" (1 Tim. 2:11-14). She was deceived, beguiled by the serpent, showing the folly of her having left the place of dependence. Adam's guilt was in some sense deeper, for he yielded up his authority and disobeyed with open eyes. But the simple point is obvious; and, let us remember, it is God's word we are examining. We are not even left to make our deductions from these facts: they are put upon the face of the text. He who wills may read. We add another quotation: "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but to be under obedience, as also saith the law [an added witness]. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the Church" (1 Cor. 14:34-35).

Gathering up the teaching of these Scriptures, we see clearly that Creation, the Fall, and the Law, all unite in pointing out the place of subjection of the woman: that it is to be shown outwardly; that it is to be shown by silence in the assembly. If it be objected that the apostle contradicts himself, in one place permitting (1 Cor. 11:5), and in another prohibiting (1 Cor. 14:34) the public ministry of women, we reply that, apart from the irreverence of the thought and its denial of inspiration, it does not in the least follow. In the eleventh chapter he gives directions for women when praying or prophesying; in the fourteenth he tells them to be silent in the assembly. The one place permits ministry, but does not indicate where it was to be exercised; the other distinctly says it is not to be in the assembly. Evidently, then, prayer and prophecy were to be outside of the assembly. This is so clear that it needs no further comment. In contrast it is said the men (Gk.) were to pray everywhere (1 Tim. 2:8).

But we have just entered upon the subject of woman's proper sphere of service. How varied, manifold, and essential her duties are! Had she ten lives instead of one, they could be fully employed. Her sphere is the private one. Where love and sympathy are needed; where gentleness, tenderness, are required; in dealing with the young, the sick, the distressed; in going from house to house, seeking out the neglected, cheering the desponding, pointing the sinner to Christ, here is woman's work — what a work, what a field for service!

And all this can be distinctly gospel work. Certain women labored with the apostle in the gospel (Phil. 4:3); certainly not merely in ministering to him of their substance, or providing for his comfort, but, we may well believe, in dealing with anxious souls, seeking out and instructing the new converts, and constantly seconding the labors of the apostle. How the devoted servant of Christ would be cheered by knowing that godly women were praying and working with him; that as he planted the seed, they followed up the work. Did not Priscilla, with her husband, expound unto Apollos the way of God more perfectly? (Acts 18:26.)

The assembly of Cenchrea was blessed in the services of a faithful woman (Rom. 16:1-2) who perhaps in that very ministry went to Rome. At any rate, we can well believe her service continued, wherever she might be. Our prayer should be for more faithful women to engage in the Lord's work. They are imperatively needed; the work languishes for lack of their presence in it. May our God richly bless every woman who is engaged in His service!

But have we not shown that the sphere is a private one? Will the public platform add to her usefulness, or will it not rather divert her from her unique and proper sphere?

We add a word for the men. God never says they are to compel the women to be in subjection. He does say they are to imitate Christ's love and tender care for the Church in the treatment of their wives. Let the men awake to the heavy responsibility that rests upon them to minister to the Church of Christ, to preach the gospel to a perishing world. Let them lay aside carnal ease, and work under all the energy of a love and faith inspired of the Holy Spirit, and there will be little cause of complaint that women transcend their sphere. Lord, awake Thy people!

The Intercourse Between Assemblies.

It is interesting and refreshing to note the greeting sent by the apostle from one assembly to another at the close of his epistles; not only to and from individuals but to and from all the saints. In like manner he would tell the saints in Rome of the work of the saints in Macedonia and Achaia (Rom. 15:26). He would stir them up at Corinth by telling of the devotion of those in Macedonia, and conversely (2 Cor. 9:1-4). All the assemblies of Asia sent greeting to those in Achaia (1 Cor. 16:19). The great opening for the gospel at Ephesus is told to Corinth (1 Cor. 16:9). A brother from the saints at Philippi, bearing their gifts, seeks out the apostle at Rome and ministers to him (Phil. 2:25, 30). Titus, Timothy, Apollos, and other servants of the Lord, passed from one assembly to another, bearing news of joys and sorrows, and linking practically the Lord's beloved people together. An epistle would be sent to all the churches in Galatia (Gal. 1:2); that to the Corinthians took in all the saints in all places. The assembly at Laodicea was to have the epistle to Colosse read to them, and was to send theirs to the Colossians.

All this is exceedingly interesting as showing the common life and common interests that throbbed through all the Church. It was, it is one Body. Let God's people do likewise now. Let the needs, the joys and sorrows, of one assembly be known and felt by all. Let there be interchange of loving greetings, of visits. Let them share their joys, and double them; their sorrows, and halve them. Let us make the precious truth of the one Body of Christ so real and practical that none dare say it is but a theory. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."*

{*The reader will have noticed that no place has been given in these papers to the subject of Water Baptism. This has been done advisedly. In the same epistle where, speaking of the Lord's Supper, the apostle says, "I have received of the Lord" (1 Cor. 11:23), he says of baptism, "Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel" (1 Cor. 1:17). We need scarcely say that this does not mean to cast a slur upon an ordinance of the Lord, but that it has to do, not with the Church, but the Kingdom — the place of responsibility upon the earth. We are baptized into the Church by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13) and by water into the Kingdom (Matt. 28:19). The subjects being, therefore, different, we have entered into no discussion of water baptism. As to its place and importance, we have not the slightest question.}


That the preceding pages give but an incomplete and imperfect presentation of this most important subject, we must sorrowfully confess. And yet if it results in a clearer apprehension being gained of the nature, dignity, and destiny of the Church of Christ, we shall indeed bless God.

Several thoughts are suggested. If the Church of God is what we have described, what is the state of mind that becomes us as we look around at its present condition? Instead of a heavenly people, waiting for God's Son, we see a worldly company seeking to make a name upon the earth; instead of "one Body," many divisions; instead of the realized power of the Holy Ghost in all worship, ministry, and discipline, we see human expedients and organizations. Instead of separation from the world, we see the Church at home in the world, and linked with it. Will not every lover of Christ admit with tears that we have not made too dark a picture? Ill does it becomes us to make accusation against others; rather let us own together our common sin and shame, and bow under the mighty hand of God. Where is that Church, with all the ardor of its first love, which He established here to witness for a rejected and absent Lord? "Ichabod" (1 Sam. 4:21).

But what is the remedy? Can we restore the fallen Church? Can we make things as they were at Pentecost? Alas, no! We are in the "last days," the "perilous times." The coming of the Lord alone can sever the wheat from the tares.

But are we to sit still and go on with worldliness and disobedience to the word of God? Let Scripture answer: "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work" (2 Tim. 2:19-21). Christ is the same; His word the same; His grace the same. He is outside this world and worldly systems of religion — however much He may own and bless individual faithfulness. "Let us go forth, therefore UNTO HIM without the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come" (Heb. 13:13-14).

All who in simple faith and dependence upon the Lord act upon His word, will find Him ever true to that word, ever ready to uphold His poor, feeble, and fearing ones who at His bidding go to Him walking upon the water; ever ready to make good in practical realization His promise, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them."

Shall we, or shall we not, seek to act upon the principles of the Church of God? Who dare refuse? Who dare let expediency decide? Let us take the question into our closets, and decide alone with God.