An examination of certain teachings sent forth from the midst of those who boastfully assert that they only are blest with “Living Ministry”.
This examination of writings that have come before me has not its origin in bitterness against the writers—these, I can truthfully say, I love with my whole heart—but with the sole desire of preserving the saints of the Lord from following that which leads away from Himself into a region of soul-destroying darkness and error, destructive of all spiritual development, and where, not the soul-nourishing thoughts of the living God are to be fed upon, but the vapid and inflated vapourings of the restless natural mind are served up for the consumption of those who have become weary of the Bread that comes down from heaven. However grieved I may be to witness this departure from the truth of God, I am not greatly surprised, for less than a score of years ago these brethren formed themselves into a distinct class in defence of teaching that was quite as obnoxious to the Spirit of truth as are their present teachings.
If they can be believed, they alone have “Living Ministry.” You may be sealed by the Holy Spirit—you may have God and the Word of His grace—you may have abiding in you that which ye have heard from the beginning—you may be earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints—you may be suffering evil along with the Glad Tidings—you may have your heart full of love to the brethren—you may be abiding in the Son and in the Father—but if you have not among you the teaching that rises out of the midst of this company you are, in the estimation of those teachers and their devotees, nothing but a Christian pariah, a moral leper, a Samaritan, and an enemy of all righteousness, one with whom no communication is to be held; and every individual who has considered this matter is very well aware that every word I have uttered is the naked truth. I am not speaking of all, but only of those who are under the power of the teaching that I have under review. I have not had occasion in this review to go into all their errors. I have said nothing regarding their views on Priesthood, or on membership of the body of Christ, or of their views concerning Christ Himself. These subjects do not arise out of the papers I have before me. I can only say that there is hardly a single truth of the Gospel that they have not corrupted. I will turn attention to a paper entitled:—
WEIGHT AND MEASURE.
By E. J. McBride.
The pamphlet bearing the above title has been sent to me with the request that I might say what I think of the teaching therein. I can only say at the outset, it makes sorrowful reading; all the more sorrowful as I had always esteemed the author as a devoted servant of Christ, and a beloved brother in the Lord. Therefore it is exceedingly painful to me to be compelled to take up his utterances and to have to pass upon them the severest condemnation. Except “Russellism” it is the greatest burlesque of the Gospel I have ever read. I am well aware that Mr. McB., is in close contact with an order of teaching that is simply “Cluffism” run riot, and in such associations it is difficult, if not impossible, to keep from being carried away with the current, nevertheless, there is no excuse for wandering into such a system of error, seeing that we all have an open Bible in our hands. I have come into contact with other things which proceed from the same circle, which bear witness to the sorrowful fact that there are other minds quite as presumptuous as his own, and who are on the same steep and dangerous declivity that leads to soul destruction. One can only cry to the Lord that their awful course may be arrested, lest in the end they come to utter ruin, and also become responsible for the ruin of others.
In these notes the first thing taken up is weight. We are told that “Everyone, including the youngest believer, should be exorcised that he should become a person of weight” (p. 14). Now when does Scripture say that the believer should desire any such thing? The only one a faithful heart desires to possess weight with men is Christ. Reference is made to the writing on the wall of the palace of Belshazzar (Dan. 5), and to the judgment: “Thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting” (p. 6). Now while that is said of the king of Babylon only, was there ever a mere child of Adam of whom it could not be said? If weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, of whom could it not be true? Put into one scale that which a ruler amongst men should be, and into the other that which even the son of Jesse was, and what has the man after God’s heart to confess? Simply this: “My house is not so with God.” And what about a saint of God in this present dispensation? What about Peter? What about Paul? What about any one of them? Have not all been wanting?
One may have weight with men; but is it a thing to be desired by US? It is the ambition of a worldling, and contrary to the whole spirit of Christianity. Why should I wish to occupy people with myself? Why should I desire to eclipse the Son of God? Let HIM, rather have weight with us all. Who is he who would say he has done all that he was commanded to do? And if he were able truly to say it, what should he confess himself to be but an unprofitable servant? Let us seek to extinguish ourselves, and let Christ be magnified in our bodies. Let us build ourselves on our most holy faith, and praying in the Holy Ghost, let us keep ourselves in the love of God; and following righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart, let us make everything of Christ, and then are we likely to be men of God, and a real help to others, without seeking to be somewhat in the Assembly of the saints. When we see that we are nothing, then only have we a proper estimate of ourselves: “For if a man reputes himself to be something, being nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal. 6:3).
On page 14 he would like to tell us how this moral and spiritual weight can be acquired. He says: “I desire to take it up in four different connections. (1) with the ways of the believer: (2) with his influence: (3) his appearance, and then finally, (4) with his testimony, and you will see that the passages I have read refer to these features” (Acts 3:16; 5:12-16; 6:12-15; 9:18-22). “The first point—the ways of the believer is beautifully illustrated in chapter 3, which I read. This lame man had got so low down as to be asking alms, and that of two men who had no silver and no gold. You might have questioned the man as to why he had appealed to these men who were without silver and gold” (p. 15). No, Mr. McB., I might not, for I would have known quite well that the man had no knowledge of the vacuity of their purse. It is implied that this cripple had once been in better circumstances, otherwise why say he “had got so low down”? But all this is to prepare us for something with which he is about to decorate Peter and John, a something which had no existences. He says: “What I believe arrested him was what I should speak of as the weight of true church position.” Now, “true church position,” as distinct from their position in the Jewish nation, was unknown until after the stoning of Stephen. Through the intercession of our Lord upon the cross: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,” another opportunity was given to the nation for repentance, and had they repented God would have sent Jesus back again to them (Acts 3:19-21). Therefore, Stephen sees Jesus standing on the right hand of God, in a waiting attitude. The nation, however, having given their answer in the stoning of Stephen, He sat down, from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool. But their true church position was made known to none of them till the conversion of Paul, and then to him and to all the others the Mystery was revealed—Jew and Gentile in one body of which Christ was the Head (Eph. 3). Then only could anyone take up true church position. But neither before nor after the stoning of Stephen could any soul have known by looking at a man whether he was a saint, or whether he was not. No one knew even the Lord Himself to be either the Christ or the Son of God by His outward appearance (John 4:9; 5:13; 9:11). Anyhow, it was not till after the stoning of Stephen that the breach between God and Israel as a nation was consummated. Only after that time could anyone take up church position. I do not mean that the body of Christ was not formed at Pentecost, for it was (1 Cor. 12:13), but that was a secret with God until after Paul’s conversion (Eph. 2:14-16; 3:2-6).
We are told that: “By finding their true church position” saints are preserved from being carried about by every wind of teaching. “They have to make the discovery that by their conversion they belong to every believer on earth, and when they take that association up they have to walk in the light of it. In the case of this man, he saw two men who were doing it … they were together as the result of their church position.” This is altogether erroneous. They were together as the result of their mutual affection for Christ; and they had not yet discovered that they belonged “to every believer on earth” (Acts 10). Taking these notes as a whole they present the greatest perversion of Scripture I have ever met with. I am not seeking to make it appear that there is no statement of truth at all in them, but where it is found it is so mixed up with the fanciful notions of the author, that its point and power are nullified. Take the lame man and the use made of him. In the account that the Spirit of God gives of him, he is simply a beggar, living on the charity of those who frequented the temple. He knew nothing of Peter and John, but from them he asked alms. Peter draws his attention to them, saying to him, Look on us. He would cause the man to get the understanding of the source from which his healing was to come, that source Christ. The man still expects that they would give him something. Peter says: “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” But in these notes we are taught that, “He saw these two men together and the effect is perfect soundness.” His deductions from this “perfect soundness” I do not now dwell upon, it is the deliberate perversion of the plain text of Scripture that so amazes me, and all to tickle the unhealthy Athenian ear of his audience. One can be thankful to read farther down, on page 18: “It is the name of that Man, brought to bear by these two men, that produced this perfect soundness in the lame man.” This is right, and how sweet it is to find such a glorious blossom of divine truth from the garden of the Lord in the midst of this wilderness of error.
Speaking about Stephen, he says: “As those who sat in the council looked on the face of Stephen their impression was that he came from heaven.” Again: “The reason they saw Stephen’s face as the face of an angel was, that while he was speaking to them he was absolutely absorbed with the blessed Person who had appeared in the presence of God for him. When he had finished the address he lets out the secret that had governed him while he spoke. ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.’ You see it in his face. As we are occupied with the One who appears in the presence of God for us, we are changed in our appearance. ‘Beholding the glory of the Lord we are changed into the same image from glory to glory.’”
It is difficult to know what one is to say about all this. Does he mean to convey to his audience, that being occupied with the Lord in glory will make one’s face shine as the face of an angel? To be occupied with Him is to be changed into His image. But this is moral—we come out, down here, practically like Him, as Stephen did (Acts 7:59-60), but was Stephen “absolutely absorbed” with Christ while he was speaking? That he was filled with the Holy Ghost, and guided by Him in all that He said cannot rightly be questioned; but he was, to a very large extent, occupied with the history of rebellious Israel. When he had finished he looked up into heaven and saw what these notes say he saw all the time. What is to be done with such perversion of the Word of truth? A believer’s face does not shine as the face of an angel either physically or morally. The law was given by the disposition of angels, and it was introduced with glory in the face of Moses, and I think I can see a moral propriety in its lighting up the face of Stephen, the man chosen of God to bring home to their consciences their wicked behaviour while under that law. Stephen with that glory in his face turns to “the glory that excels” seen in the face of Jesus, and is changed into His image, so that he commits his spirit to the Lord, and kneeling down, prays for his enemies. But to say that occupation with the glory of the Lord makes one’s face shine like the face of an angel is stupid nonsense. The glory that excels is in the face of Jesus, and occupation with it changes one into His image, not into the image of an angel.
His perversion of the last few verses of Ephesians 3 is only in perfect harmony with the rest of the book. That vast sphere of divine glory in which Christ, as Head of the body, shall be the adorable centre, is made to refer to the fickle and failing ways of saints in their responsible career here on earth, instead of allowing it to stand alone in all its solitary grandeur as the result of the fulfilment of the wondrous counsels of the Father for the glory of His Son, a passage of infinite beauty and of powerful attractiveness for the spiritual mind and heart.
This is taken up to show his disciples how to increase their measurement, for, he says, “I do not think you can increase your weight unless you also increase your measurement.” Then the passage is quoted that speaks of the breadth and length and depth and height. The breadth is that you are able to take in “every one of the people of God on earth.” Now, that we should be able to take in in our affection all the saints of God on earth, is very forcibly put before us in the Scriptures, and indeed, it is with all saints that we are to contemplate this vast sphere of glory. But the “Breadth” is the breadth of the displayed glory and not the breadth of our affection. In 2 Corinthians 3-5, the New Covenant as that which enlarges the affections, and reconciliation, that which preserves us in the narrow path. In both these ministries the grace of God is set before us, and in chapter 6 that grace is to be operative in us (vv. 1-2, 11-18). How this measurement is to be increased we are not told in these notes.
As to length, I read: “I understand the question of length involves how long we can go on with one another.” Scripture tells me I am to go on all the time with all except wicked persons (1 Cor. 5). If anyone knows another that I am to separate from I shall be thankful to him if he will point it out from Scripture but I do not want anyone’s reasoning on the subject: I want the Word of God. Referring to Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, he says: “I have just been measuring up their appreciation of the suffering love of Christ, and it is over one hundred pounds weight.” He has been measuring this up! One wonders where he got the data by which he might measure the affections of these men. We are told that Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds weight, and that Joseph and he bound up the body of Jesus in linen with the spices, but we are not told that Joseph brought anything. I only mention such incidents as these to show the absolute carelessness of the teaching, which is only equalled by the determination to make Scripture, whether it will or not serve to set forth, and give countenance to, the fanciful and foolish notions of his own giddy mind.
As to depth, he says: “A brother or sister who has moral depth has measured the depth to which the love of Christ would go, and their love would not stop short of that.” Have they measured the depths where there is no standing? Do they know, or do they wish to know anything experimentally of the thick darkness, of the forsaking of God, or of the deep into which His soul entered when all the waves and billows of divine judgment went over His devoted head? Has this brother lost the knowledge of God, or has he gone stark mad?
In speaking of the love of Christ, he says: “We come to what could not be measured.” But he is mistaken in this. The love of God and the personal love of Christ have both been measured. The cross measures both (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16). The infinitude of the love of either is beyond the compass of the creature’s knowledge, but a little of that vast, fathomless, shoreless ocean has got into our hearts by the Spirit of our God, and we know it in its peculiar sweetness and blessedness. Thank God for this! I have not the slightest doubt that the author of these notes has known the warmth and comfort of this love, but for the moment he is wandering in darkness and error. If he could only see that new things are never true, and that the only safe way is to let that which we have heard from the beginning abide in us, there might be hope of recovery; for abiding in that which we have heard from the beginning, we abide in the Son and in the Father (1 John 2:24). But, unfortunately, the whole outcry of the human soul is for novelties, and the Word of God is too antiquated and prosy to claim much attention. If this teacher touches Scripture at all, he only makes it appear to say that which it does not say, and his word seems to have more weight with his disciples than Scripture has.
When we come to “Behaviour in the house of God” (p. 25), he says: “I think the difficulty with most believers lies in the question of delay. Hence the exercises of the apostle in regard of delay are very important; ‘but if I tarry long.’” Then we have a supposed believer getting converted last night, coming to a meeting today, and expecting to be in the millennium tomorrow, but he is not, “hence his spiritual exercises are put to the test; and it is in the delay that he will prove the advantages of the house of God.” Now in Scripture, the “delay” is on the part of Paul: it is he who does not come, whereas in these notes the reader is made to suppose that it is the millennium that does not come, and the apostle seems to have these exercises too. And only think of a soul being converted, coming to the meeting today, and expecting the millennium tomorrow! What kind of a reckless preacher must he have been hearing? Timothy, he tells us, “was a man of considerable ability and he got many converts.” How does this teacher know? Where is such a statement found in Scripture? I am sure Mr. McB. must get very impatient with one who must have Scripture for all he says.
How simple the passage of Scripture is when compared with all this rubbish. “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: but if I tarry long, 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.” Lest there should be any delay on his part he sends Timothy this epistle, which gives him full instructions regarding the behaviour becoming to all in the house of God, whether they be men or women, widows, overseers, deacons, their wives; and Timothy himself is to be a model of the believers, in word, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Now where come in all those exercises that are the consequences of the delay of the millennium in the case of the man who was converted yesterday, and expected the millennium tomorrow? and also the exercises of Paul, though where they come in in this connection I am at a loss to know.
I may be told that it is just the delay of the millennium that gives occasion for these exercises. But the delay is the delay of Paul. And may I ask, What has the delay of the world to come to do with the house of God? The house of God is God’s dwelling here on earth, and it is also the witness and support of the truth—its pillar and base. The truth is inscribed on the pillar, and rests upon that base: it is nowhere else. Our exercises in the house are that we may conduct ourselves properly because it is God’s house. We have our own individual exercises regarding our walk and ways under the eye of the Lord, but the idea of the house is corporate, though we who compose it must be individually concerned as to our behaviour in it.
We are told, “You have to wash when coming into the house of God.” Yes, you have to be baptized; that is the only washing I know of, and once in, there is no way out except apostasy from Christ. There is no going in and out of the house of God. The house is the baptized profession, though the profession does not set forth His thought about the house; therefore, even in the days of the apostles, the time was come when, if God was going to judge the world, He must begin at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). Second Timothy, Jude, and other epistles show us the ruin of the house which was built for a habitation of God.
It is during this delay we learn how to dress: “If the saints appear in church exercises in privilege dress they will be liable to soil it.” “When you know what suit to put on, you acquire great boldness.” Again (p. 30): “Now, as to changing one’s clothes; when you preach the Gospel the proper dress to wear is righteousness.” Therefore, if you are not a preacher, you need not be troubled about good conduct; and even if you are a preacher, you can act as you like if not engaged in preaching! we are learning of course, some of us have always believed we should be at all times characterized by righteousness. Again: “When you come to the prayer meeting you have to be clothed with humility.” I had not thought that Peter was contemplating the saints coming together to pray when he exhorted them to be clothed with humility (1 Peter 5:5). “In the Gospel,” we are told, “you have to stand for the rights of Christ with all the power God gives you.” Not any more in the Gospel (I take it the preaching of the Gospel is meant) than in the routine of your daily life. The Gospel is the Glad Tidings of the grace and love of God, and with that grace and love you go out to men universally; and that grace and love is to give character to you in all your ways with those to whom you bear the message. The grace you preach is presented in the Lord, “The Spirit gives life,” and “The Lord is that Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:6, 17). In Him the grace of God is presented, and by submission to Him it is secured (Rom. 10:9). All the clothing we require in this present time is upon us at once—a coat of many colours.
I come to that which, in these notes, is said of angels. The author seems to be very intimate with them. With reference to the passage 1 Timothy 3, I read: “There is another important statement in verse 16—‘Seen of angels.’ Exercises in a locality are sometimes not supported, because angels have not seen them … Sometimes people want to change things from human motives; but the angels cannot see these things … The angels observe what God has in relation to His house, and when they see the thing it is attended to at once … I think that Moses’ body was of great importance to the testimony, and Satan wanted to hold it. I think it was wanted for the mount of transfiguration, and possibly Satan had some clue to this … Take the case of a clergyman; he has got light, but has never known how to earn his living. He has not the courage or faith to break away and take the step, because he looks on the human conditions. But if he took the step, there would be enough angels to keep him employed till he got to heaven … It is very important that you should be in conversation with an angel. You take character from that… The last angelic service connected with the believer is the return of the body from the dust … The great difficulty in taking the Supper is that one has not communed with the angel as regards oneself … I think that is one feature about the brethren, that they take care of the house of God and His holy love. They do not want to refuse you, but they want to keep the spot so that the communications of the angel are possible.” I have just noticed a few of the statements that refer to angels. I had no idea that things were returning to that which is so strongly condemned, in Colossians 2, where we have these warning words: “Let no one fraudulently deprive you of your prize, doing his own will in humility and worship of angels, entering into things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by the mind of his flesh, and not holding fast the Head, from whom all the body ministered unto, and united together by the joints and bands, increases with the increase of God.” This is so with regard to the author of these notes. He is occupied with things that he has not seen, and of which he has but little information in the revelation that God has been pleased to give to His people. That they are all ministering servants, sent forth to minister to them who are the heirs of salvation, and that they do the will of God, but with whom in this dispensation, no one who has received the Holy Spirit has any communications, is pretty nearly all we know about them. God gives them their work to do, and they do it; and though they may in certain things have a service to do for us, we have, on our part, nothing to do with them. Let us not be intruding into things that we have not seen.
I come to “The Cup” (p. 63). Three Scriptures are taken up on which the reading is based: Genesis 45:5; Psalm 116:12-15; 1 Corinthians 11:25. He says: “There is little doubt that the divining cup referred to in Genesis 45 suggests the way in which the true Joseph discovers where the affections of His people are. It is the way in which He brings into evidence affections which are genuine, hence it is the divining cup.” In the first place, it would be hard to make me believe that Joseph used enchantments at all, and that is the thought here in divining. I have very little doubt that Joseph was hiding his true self from them by giving them the impression that he was versed in the enchantments of the Egyptians, and was none other than an Egyptian lord. But I have no pronounced opinion on the subject. In the second place, it was not used for the purpose of getting at the affections of his brethren, but as a means of getting at their consciences. In this way will the Lord deal with the nation of Israel when He takes them up again, and brings them to the acknowledgement of their guiltiness with regard to their rejection of Him.
On page 64 I read: “I like the idea of the chief steward. He put the cup into Benjamin’s sack; for he discerned that as the spot where affections were working.” Rubbish! The chief steward did that which his lord told him to do. He had no authority to exercise his own judgment, Again: “I would like to know in stewardship, into what sack to put the cup. For instance, a person has been attending the meeting for ten years it may be, and it becomes a question with you as to whether you have ever put the cup into his sack to bring to light the spiritual instincts that may be there.” Again: “When you touch the side of the affections, even in the youngest member of the family, these instincts come into evidence, so it needs exercise on our part to use our church instincts rightly. That is stewardship.” The only affection that was brought to light in Joseph’s brethren when they saw the cup in the sack of their brother was pure fear, especially in the case of Judah, who had become responsible to his father for Benjamin’s safety.
It will be so in the coming day, in which Christ shall begin to deal with the Jews. Judah was in the land when Christ was presented to the nation, and was mainly responsible for His rejection and death; and this has to be and shall be brought home to the conscience of that tribe. It shall be a glorified Christ that Judah shall have to do with, but he shall also have to answer for the rejection of a humbled Christ. He must be made to answer to Benjamin for his treatment of Benoni. The Son of the Father’s right hand shall deal with him regarding the way in which he cruelly shed the blood of the Son of his mother’s sorrow. Both Benjamin and Benoni are found in Jesus.
As to the connection of salvation with the house of God (p. 68), I read: “The point of view is that the whole scene is desolate and an individual could not get through it safely, but that God has built up a system of things to sustain the interests of Christ here and salvation is resident there; it is the home of the Spirit … Salvation in Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, means liberation from conditions that would interfere with your affections at any one time.” Now I do not for one instant question the value of spiritual companion, nor do I question that everything vitally in relationship with Himself is in His house; nor do I question that outside God’s house no one can be in the blessing of salvation, because all that are saved are in the house. But what I do question is the attempt to make souls believe that salvation is found there. Who could have found salvation in Thyatira, Sardis, or Laodicea? One would have more likely found destruction there. Paul says: “I endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:10). Simeon, with the child Jesus in his arm, says: “Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation” (Luke 2:30). Salvation is the emancipation of the soul from everything that held it in bondage, in order that we may be free to serve God. “Let My son go that he may serve Me,” was God’s word to Pharaoh (Ex. 4:23). And as to the cup of salvation, the cup we take up is that which is put into our hands by Christ, and which is the new covenant in His blood: I know no other (1 Cor. 11:25).
As to vows (p. 70), he says: “I think I can speak for every believer in saying that, going back to our conversion, with each of us our first vow was, I will be for the Lord for ever.” I must beg to be exempt from any such rash vow. I think I can say that my desire was to please Him, but to bind myself with an oath that I would do so, would have been to place confidence in myself that I did not possess. Besides, does not our Lord say to us, Swear not at all (Matt. 5:33-37). Under law, oaths were permissible, for man was under probation, and his powerlessness had not yet been made evident.
Referring to the cup, of which we partake at the table of the Lord, he says “In the development of affections it would not be very difficult to prove from Scripture, that the first time you take this cup it puts you into the millennium, and that the last time will put you into the eternal. ‘Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.’ That is millennial. ‘And I will say to them … thou art My people: and they shall say, Thou art my God’” (p. 71). These two statements are principles of the new covenant, the spirit of which is ministered to us in the Gospel (2 Cor. 3:6, Heb. 8:8-12; 10:16-17). “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” is simply remission; they are not to be brought up year by year, as in the past dispensation. Take a believer at any moment in this present dispensation, and this is true of him, his sins are forgiven (1 John 2:12). There is a governmental forgiveness needed by all of us, and this is ours on our confession (1 John 1:9): but we have not reached the millennium yet. It is also true that we are now the people of God (1 Peter 2:10; Titus 2:14). The Word of God does not seem to have the slightest weight with E. J. McB.
Page 72: “I would emphasize in connection with the cup of the new covenant the importance of this, that sins forgiven is not the thought connected with it. Many believers fail to rise to the true thought of the cup, because they come together with a sense of sins forgiven, and the idea of the love of God is lost.” One would have thought that such would have come together with an increased sense of the love of God. We ascribe “The glory and the might to the ages of ages,” “To Him who loves us, and has washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5-6). And as to the eucharistic cup: “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matt. 26:28). It would be strange indeed, if the sense of forgiveness did not greatly enhance our appreciation of the love of the One who has forgiven. This favour of God has its place among the highest blessings that are revealed to us (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14), and it is seen to affect us in our relations with God (Luke 7:42-50), and with one another (Eph. 4:32). Shall we ever forget that Christ “Was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification”? I do not think we shall. Nothing that ever He said or did shall perish, or be blotted out of the mind of the Father.
A few remarks regarding “The Supper as church privilege.” On page 57 I read: “I actually take the Supper when my locks are wet with the dew of night.” Here, like many another place in this book, I have to confess I have lost its author. He evidently does not eat the Supper on the Lord’s Day morning, and if he does, he must be out all night. The expression seems taken from the Canticles, and is the voice of the Beloved to His Spouse, but what right E. J. McB. has to take up such words into his mouth I know not.
As regards “Christian privilege,” I read: “Christians have a great many privileges individually. They have the care of God, for He is the Preserver of all men, specially of those that believe; they have the fact consciously in their souls that they are in the guardianship of angels—who are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation” (p. 74). Angels must be brought in; with them he seems to be more familiar than with the Lord. Paul has to say, in the day when all forsook him, “The Lord stood with me, and strengthened me.” Whatever be the ministry of angels, it is the Lord whom the believer ever keeps in mind.
He tells us: “There is one remarkable feature of church exercise with all the people of God everywhere, indeed, I have never met a body of what I call genuine believers, who stood in any way as representative of the church of God, but were marked by it—that is, they wanted to take up, in some form or other, the church privilege of the Supper … I propose to show, as simply and as lucidly as I can, a little about this immense privilege, which is the common property of every one of the children of God. I will give you three Old Testament principles, and on these principles everything stands.”
“The first principle, beloved friends, is this, that the ruin of man has to be met by God. That is the first principle in the Bible, and comes out in Adam. The situation created by the fall is definitely and divinely met by God.”
“The next principle is this… He is entitled, being God, to start a line of communication with the scene of need, that takes its object out of the scene of need into the scene where the communications come from. That is established in Enoch.”
“There is a third, and that is, God’s right to differentiate between what is of Himself and what is not … and to protect what is of Himself and to destroy what is not… Now these three principles are the basis upon which any single believer in the world ever could find his or her church associations, church responsibility, and take up church privilege.”
His development of these three principles I need not quote, as they in no way alter or establish the principles themselves, and besides, they require too much space. To this the three principles reduce themselves—The first: the ruin of man is to be met by God. Second and Third, for they are both the same, and are that which Nebuchadnezzar learned by the discipline under which he was placed by God. He learned that: “He does according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?” (Dan. 4:35).
But what has all this to do with the taking up of “church associations, church responsibility, and church privileges”? In the clothing of the two naked sinners in Eden is set forth in type the way in which God clothes all the redeemed; and not the whole church is caught up like Enoch without dying; “we that are alive and remain” shall be, but there are the dead in Christ to rise first. The dead and living shall be caught up in glory to meet the Lord in the air, but I have no doubt that this company shall include all the saints of past dispensations also; neither has God’s right to “differentiate between what is of Himself and what is not” a bar for the taking up of church privileges only. It is a principle universally admitted by every unfallen intelligent being, and by all who have been recovered out of a fallen condition. To rightly take up church privileges we require to know what the church is in its various aspects, but specially what it is as the Body of the glorified Christ. The house of God is not a new thought; there was the house in the past dispensation, and there shall be another in the world to come. But Jew and Gentile taken up, made anew, the Jew a Jew no longer, and the Gentile a Gentile no longer, but both ONE NEW MAN IN CHRIST, was the secret of the Creator, and never divulged until after the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, when it was made known to the holy apostles and prophets, and declared by Paul amongst the nations (Eph. 2:13-18; 3).
Again: “I will now come to what the Lord Jesus left behind as the elements of church privilege. He left behind Him what is spoken of as the sacrament, that is, the Supper in which the symbols of His death are brought before us… Now the first suggestion of the elements in Scripture is connected with the fact that Abraham had armed his whole household in order to recover from this false outlook, one of the people of God, and he had come back again with a brother delivered from the whole system of Sodom, and there is not the slightest reason why they should not break bread together.” Now just think of this way of handling Scripture. Lot is assumed to have been delivered from Sodom! He was no more delivered from Sodom than was the king of that city, nor was he ever delivered from it until he was dragged out of it by the angels in the hour of its destruction. So we read in the Word of truth; but E. J. McB. knows better, and he knows also that they should break bread together: “And in the light of that, Melchisedec, who suggests the principle that one day will be publicly enjoyed, brings the elements of that public enjoyment to Abraham’s soul now… He would suggest that these elements might be partaken of together by these two men” (p. 79). You may ask, Where in the whole Word of God does he get all the secret thoughts of all the men that he calls up to establish his fanciful interpretations? He does not get them anywhere but out of his own baseless hallucinations. Where do we read in Scripture that Melchisedec paid the slightest attention to Lot? In Genesis 14 and Hebrews 7, we are told that he met Abraham and blessed him, and also blessed God, bringing also to the patriarch bread that strengthens man’s heart and wine that makes the heart glad. He is a type of Christ in the day of His glory and display of His power, blessing God and blessing the faithful in Israel, who, returning victorious from their battle with the nations of the earth, are met by Christ with nourishment and refreshing. But in all this, Lot is not regarded as having any share. There is no mention of him at all. We have nothing in this book but what may be compared to a spider’s web, drawn out of the fertile imagination of the author of the notes. It is the flimsy, substanceless vapouration of a mind in love with its own vagaries.
I will come to that which is said about the Gibeonites, and I can only say that I find the same light way of dealing with Scripture that is found everywhere else in these notes. We are told: “These people wanted to have a place in the joys of the people of God, in the inheritance of Zion. To get that place, they brought this bread and wine, and would fain have the people of God partake of it” (p. 81).
Now we will just see from their own word, when they were made to tell the truth, what it was that influenced them to deceive Joshua. They say: “Because it was certainly told thy servants how that Jehovah thy God commanded His servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you; and we feared greatly of our lives because of you, and did this thing.” These people, if they could have got off with their lives and their land, had not the least desire to be anything but enemies of Israel. Is this the right way to treat the text of God’s holy revelation?
Again: “The Israelites, we read, asked not counsel of the Lord. If they had gone to the Lord, and said, now, everything looks all right, the Lord would have said to them, Take one of their loaves up and look at it. What does it look like? Mouldy.” How does he know what words the Lord would have used? And only think of the airy way in which he puts these words into the mouth of the Lord! But what he makes the Lord tell Joshua to do is just that which he did, and proved himself wrong in doing it, they took of their victuals. This flighty and presumptuous way of handling the Word of God characterises these notes.
Again: “The first feature of it (the Supper) was the Melchisedec priesthood of Christ; that is the truth of first Corinthians.” The Supper has reference to our pathway through the wilderness. It is in the desert we partake of it. When the desert is over for us the kingdom has come, for the Lord shall have taken it. We “show the Lord’s death till He come.” When He shall have come, and not till then, the wilderness shall be over. In the meantime we remember Him in death, not as risen, though we know He is risen. We know Him as risen and glorified; we do not remember Him thus, for we are in fellowship with Him. We remember Him in a condition in which He is no longer, and in which He can never be again. In the Supper we have His blood—His life—poured out. We meditate upon the deep depths to which His love for us could take Him, and upon the love of God who gave Him up to death for us, and we do this until He shall come again. If we hear His voice, and we do hear it, it is not so much the voice of the Bridegroom, but the voice of the Husband of the Church that we hear. The Bridegroom is what He is to Israel. He is never spoken of as the Bridegroom of the Church, though in this character He is presented in these notes. But here everything is perverted.
I must bring this very unpleasant work to an end. It is sad indeed to find any servant of the Lord with so little respect for the Word of God. We are living in difficult days surely, and we require to be very careful regarding that which is brought before us as the truth. We have been warned that days were coming in which people would prefer fables to sound doctrine. Still, from the author of these notes I did not expect such rash and arrogant handling of Scripture, and I am exceedingly sorry to be compelled to point out his errors. Scripture seems to be altogether taken up for the substantiation of his notions. Men are made to say things they never said, nor had any idea of; and they are said to know things of which they could know nothing; and all to build up a system and school of doctrine that exists only in the imagination of the teacher. But even to set forth the truth, no one has a right to corrupt the sacred text, and to make it say that which it does not say. To distort the words of a witness in a court of justice would not be tolerated by a righteous judge, and what then will God have to say about such a book as this? I can understand a brother saying when he read it that he wept, but what can one expect who has been made acquainted with the errors that were propagated by the school to which he belongs, and which brought about a division among the saints of God, and never was repented of. How could one expect a God of truth to go on with such a state of wickedness? May we at least seek grace to be upright before Him, and may we hold fast to Himself and to the Word of His grace.
THE GOSPEL OF THE BURIAL OF CHRIST. By G.W.W. (Luke 10:30-42)
This paper was sent to me some time ago, but as dealing with error is not pleasant work it got laid on one side, and not until this present moment have I thought it absolutely necessary to say anything about it. We are living in days in which the mind of the creature seems determined to do as it pleases with God’s Revelation, and it would be foolish to make any attempt to stem the current of evil by doing battle with it, but if one can use it to set forth the truth by contrast with the error, so that saints may be in some measure preserved from being carried away with the error, such a work, however feeble, might have the blessing of God. If we can faithfully “contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints,” many may, through the grace of God, be delivered from the strong current of “profane and vain babblings” (2 Tim. 2:16), that today is sweeping over Christendom.
There is a good deal of precious truth in this paper of G.W.W., and one can rejoice to see it; but it is so wrapped up in error that, taking it as a whole, it does not present the truth of God. In contrast with the use some have made of this parable he thinks it indicates rather “the way in which He (Christ) deals in grace with one who, having received the initial blessing of the Gospel, has set out to take up a position in connection with the testimony of our Lord, but who has to be fitted for that position” (p. 1).
On page 2, we are told what the extent of this “initial blessing of the Gospel” is. He says, “There are a vast number of people today who, through infinite grace, know something of the value of the atoning death of the Lord Jesus in respect of their sins. They tell us that they have put their trust in His blood, and that they have nothing else that they are looking to, and that they have no other hope and no other expectation than that which comes to them on the ground of His finished work. All such I look upon as those who have been up to Jerusalem for blessing—and they have got this much at any rate.” They have believed in Christ’s atoning death for their sins—they have put their trust in the blood—every hope and expectation they have is founded on His finished work. And yet they are not sealed by God’s Holy Spirit! Nor are they ready to be sealed! They have to be through the hands of the thieves, and to discover their utterly helpless condition before they are in a fit state to be sealed by the spirit! It is after all these exercises have been gone through that they are ready to receive the Holy Spirit (p. 11).
Now it is very clearly shown in Scripture that it is consequent on the reception of forgiveness through the death and resurrection of Christ that the Holy Spirit is received: “Repent, and be baptized, 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” (Acts 2:38). And in Acts 10:43-44, “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name, whosoever believes in Him shall receive remission of sins. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word.”
G.W.W. admits that he is not quite certain that the way in which he uses this Scripture is the object for which it was given, but he says: “At any rate, I propose that we should look at the story from this standpoint” (p. 1). God’s purpose in giving it is of no great account. He will use it just as he pleases and to suit his own ends. Great men are not to be hampered by minor details. Of course, the estimation that one forms of the intelligence of his audience has sometimes a great deal to do with the way the subject is taken up. In this respect the lecturer has taken marvellous liberties.
He is perfectly right in saying that new birth does not necessarily bring with it the sealing of the Spirit. But neither does it bring with it forgiveness of sins, nor of necessity, faith in the work of Christ. When one is born again he is ready to listen to the Gospel that announces forgiveness to all, and he is ready to exercise faith in it, and when this takes place he is sealed with the Holy Spirit. Between new birth and the sealing of the Spirit he is very likely to pass through exercises such as are described in Romans 7:7-24, in which he views himself as in the flesh and under law, responsible to fulfil its obligations in order to life and blessing with God. His mind would delight in keeping the law, for it is his renewed mind as born of God but his sinful nature is dominant, and he is unable to show any fight at all; he can do nothing but desire—his desires are right, but his actions are all wrong. The good that he would he does net; but the evil that he would not, that he does. The poor man putting up a good fight with the thieves exists only in the imagination of G.W.W. There is not a hint of anything of the kind in the text.
He looks outside of himself for a deliverer, and finds it in God by Christ. He says: “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” He is in Christ, and in the life of Christ; and by the fact of his being in Christ he is in the benefit of all that He did on the cross: “God sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” The cross has not only put away our sins, but is the place where our old man received his judgment, and has been judicially brought to an end, and therefore, have we the privilege of reckoning ourselves “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6). And “now is the righteous requirement of the law fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1-4).
I come to what he calls the Gospel of the burial. He asks the question: “What are the glad tidings connected with His burial?” He says: “I understand by it that the Spirit of God would seek to bring home to my soul this most marvellous fact, that Christ not only died for our sins on the cross, but that in His wonderful grace, He carried down into the grave on our behalf, out of God’s sight for ever, all that we are as children of Adam. Is not that good news for you?” No, G.W.W., if it were true, which, thank God, it is not, but a lie of the devil, it would dash to pieces every hope I have in Christ, God tells me that it was by a sacrifice for sin that God condemned sin in the flesh (Rom. 8:3)—that “Our old man is crucified with Him” (Rom. 6:6)—“I am crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20)—“They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts” (Gal. 5:24)—“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14-15)—“We preach Christ crucified”—“God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom (which) the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14). On the cross the work of our salvation was begun, and there it was ended. If, when He was taken down from the cross the work was not finished, then are we lost for ever, for without blood-shedding is no remission of sins. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” Read all Hebrews 9 and 10, and get away from the tents of the men who say such things.
But my reader may say, What then do you make of 1 Corinthians 15:3-4? Well, Paul reminds them of the Gospel that he had preached to them by which they were saved, and he says it was that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” The Old Testament Scriptures are what is referred to, and in them there is a great deal written concerning this great fact. “And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain until this present, but some have fallen asleep.” The passage tells us He died for our sins, and another Scripture tells us that His blood cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7). Was He buried for our sins? I am told that this is where the evil nature received its doom, I know; but Scripture says it was in His cross this took place, as we have seen. Another thing, the idea of God’s dealing in judgment with our evil nature does not once enter into the doctrine of the chapter. It is the victory of God over the whole forces of evil exhibited in the resurrection of Christ that the chapter deals with, and hence His burial is brought in in a special way, bringing Him up out of the heart of the earth. But His burial had no judicial element in it, no more than had His resurrection. His death for our sins is brought in as according to the Scriptures, and so is His resurrection, but not His burial. The Gospel goes out on the ground of propitiation being made for all, and forgiveness is declared universally, whosoever believing on Him in whose name it is preached coming into the enjoyment of it, and being at once sealed by the Holy Spirit of God (Acts 10:43-44). The question of man’s evil nature, and how it has been dealt with, is on another line altogether, and does not come in in the proclamation, nor is it referred to in 1 Corinthians 15, where this Gospel of the burial is supposed to be found. I often wonder what kind of people are listening to this stuff. I think I can remember when it would not have been listened to.
On page 6 I read: “If it had been that your state of soul was such, that you were content with having received blessing at Jerusalem, and were just content to wait until He takes you on high, you would miss all these exercises.” The exercises referred to are those we have considered, the lusts and passions of an evil nature, which hinder your desire to take up a place of testimony down here. Now this is just utter confusion, for the exercises he speaks of are, if we believe Scripture, the consequence of the reception of a new nature, without the light of the Gospel; one who has not received forgiveness, and who has consequently taken no place as a Christian at all. He is under law and in the flesh. A person who has believed on Christ and has received the Holy Spirit may be in the state he describes, but in a very modified form; but this is a very abnormal state, and not recognized in Scripture.
But as to going down to Jericho to take up a place of testimony, the idea is ridiculous nonsense. The believer has not been up to what he calls Jerusalem, neither does he come down anywhere to take up testimony. He says Jericho is “the city suggestive of this present world, the scene where everything is away from God, where the curse is” (p. 1). Now it is just here, in this very place where the soul is made to listen to the Gospel, and whore he receives forgiveness of sins, receives also the Holy Spirit, and where he comes into deliverance from sin’s dominating influence. Then and there, without any action on his part, he is set with the name of Christ called upon Him, as a testimony for God. He is not consulted as to whether he would desire to be a testimony for the Lord or not. He belongs to that which can be called, “A city set on a hill, “The light of the world” (Matt. 5:14)—luminaries in the midst of this darkness (Phil. 2:15). If we attempt to be a testimony we shall have no power for anything. But if we seek to get better acquainted with the grace in which we are set in Christ, and if we keep ourselves in the love of God, we are sure to be a true testimony, and we will not be ashamed to identify ourselves with the testimony of our Lord, as it is sent forth in the power of the Holy Spirit, but will joyfully partake of the afflictions of the Gospel by the power of God, not desiring to be anything ourselves, but seeking to make everything of Christ. We are light in the Lord (Eph. 5:8), as the moon is light in the sun. It makes no effort to shine, nor could it whatever effort it made, for it has no light in itself. Let the reader, in prayerful dependence upon God, keep his eye steadily fixed upon Christ, and let him seek to get better acquainted with the Revelation which He has so graciously made of Himself, and he will then (but unconsciously to himself, for Moses knew not that his face shone) be a bright shining testimony for his absent Lord, without any effort on his part to be anything.
As to the parable itself, it is the perfect answer of the Lord to the hard and legal heart of the lawyer, which had never known anything of the softening influence of the grace of God, and which refused to respond to need until that need had proven its claim to his intervention. The Samaritan acts from the sympathetic feelings of his own generous heart, and shows mercy to one who naturally would have no dealing’s with him. It sets before us the intervention of God by Christ to the poor sinner, who, when made sensible of his undone condition, was willing to accept mercy from the hand of One whom he had in his heart despised, and to whom the venom of his soul had given expression of itself in the vilest language he was capable of, when he said: “Say we not well that Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a demon?” (John 8:48). This grace exhibited in the person of Jesus is to be imitated by us. The Lord says to the lawyer: “Go and do thou likewise.” But if we are to be imitators of that grace which is so foreign to our natural hearts, we require not only to have the life of the Son of God, but to sit at his feet, hear His word, and drink into His Spirit; and as to this we have the beautiful example of Mary. This will fit us to be testimony to our absent and world-rejected Lord.
What a sorrowful sight we are made to witness in G.W.W’s. efforts to destroy this beautiful picture of the grace of a Saviour-God, by his miserable attempt to set it before us according to his own misguided mind; and also by bringing in that which is little else than a different Gospel to the Gospel of God! It is a terrible evil to allow the human mind to have a loose rein in the consideration of the truth of His holy Word. I was sorry to the heart to read his paper, and am not less sorry to be compelled to reply to it. God was ever the refuge of His people, and now is He needed, if anything, more than ever. May we prove His unfailing grace, and His power to preserve all who put their trust in Him!