On the Presence and Action of the Holy Ghost in the Church,

in answer to the work of Mr. P. Wolff, entitled,
"Ministry as opposed to Hierarchism and chiefly to Religious Radicalism,"
Valence, 1844
J. N. Darby.

<03007F> {file section c.}

259 CHAPTER 10


After having, in support of election by men and ordination, assimilated the pastor to the bishop, Mr. Wolff puts on the same line and in the same condition the pastor and the evangelist, in order that the election and the ordination which he connects with the first may be indispensable for the second. The charges of evangelist and of pastors," says Mr. Wolff, "are so much of the same nature … that they may often be blended together, and that one may pass from one to the other," etc. (p. 44).

The grand principles having been discussed, I will try to be brief, on this point.

The author has placed himself here in a complete confusion, which I shall only have to point out.

First, Mr. Wolff will have it that those whom the Spirit of God calls apostles can be nothing but bishops or evangelists.

What connection is there between a bishop and an apostle or sent one? This it would be difficult to discover. Moreover it is a merely gratuitous assertion. I allow myself to consider as being apostles those whom the word of God calls apostles, that is, as having been especially sent by the Lord, although it may not have been, as to all of them, with the same authority.

Secondly, Mr. Wolff confounds the messengers of the churches (2 Cor. 8:23) with the messengers of Christ. As to the application of the other passages, it appears to me more than uncertain. When Paul says "us the apostles," it does not mean, necessarily, Silvanus and Timothy, who were with him. Even if it be so (and I am not anxious to dispute it), it is never said that their functions were those of an evangelist.

Thirdly, as to 1 Corinthians 12:28. In spite of Mr. Wolff's assertion, the evangelist is not named here.

In fine, having done with this confusion, I acknowledge that the evangelist was a gift of God according to Ephesians 4:11.

As to the vocation which, according to Mr. Wolff's assertion, the evangelist receives from men, I stop here. We have seen that all, according to their ability, preached; and that the mere fact that Paul wished Timothy to accompany him does not shew that he was called to a special charge as evangelist, and shews still less that all evangelists had received a vocation from men.

260 Paul tells Timothy to do the work of an evangelist; and this seems to me rather to contradict the idea that a special vocation as evangelist had existed long before. Timothy, at that moment, was a delegate of the apostle for a special object; and Paul exhorts him to do also the work of an evangelist. This is most simple, but agrees very little with the notion of an evangelist specially appointed to that. We have already considered sufficiently the case of Paul and Barnabas.

I admit that all those who bear testimony according to their ability, are not, properly speaking, evangelists. The evangelist is a gift (Eph. 4:11); but the imposition of hands on an evangelist is never mentioned, either as necessary for his work, or in any respect whatever. We find ever and again in the author the desire to sanction at all costs the present order of things. An evangelist, according to him, partakes so entirely of the same nature as the pastor, that he may settle in a place, after having formed a flock; but I shall say nothing about it, for the reason — that there is not a syllable about all this in the word. If he who acts thus has both gifts, it is all well; if not, it is very wrong.

To understand the way in which Mr. Wolff draws conclusions from the word, I also beg of the reader to compare the quotations which he has made from Acts 18:26; 1 Corinthians 16:19, and Romans 16:3, with a view to shew that Aquila was in turn pastor and evangelist, having, we must suppose, received the imposition of hands. Perhaps we ought to suppose he had received it twice; for nothing authorizes us to suppose that ministry was conferred by wholesale, as it is practised now. A special charge was conferred, those who received the collation of the charge being solemnly recognized by competent authorities, as being called to it of God. For otherwise, it would be a question, not of various ministries or of vocation, but of ministry in general, without a special charge. This is what is practised in our day. One man, after having been recognized as fit to be a bishop, goes on to present himself, upon his own authority, as evangelist; another, after having been ordained as evangelist, goes on to assume, upon his own authority, the charge of bishop in a locality which pleases him. We must remember, that, according to Mr. Wolff's system, it is by no means a question, in ministry, of the exercise of a gift, but of a charge which is only received by the imposition of hands. A man evangelizes without a gift, a man is a bishop without the requisite qualities, a man preaches without a gift, and if any one has been ordained as evangelist, according to this chapter 10, it becomes no longer a question either of the choosing of bishops by the apostle, or of their appointment by him or his delegate; all that disappears. A man abides in the place where he has evangelized and becomes a bishop, "having undergone," as Mr. Wolff says, "I know not what magic transformation, which stamps him with an indelible character, something mysterious and sacramental." After that, the charge is no matter; the qualities demanded in the word are no matter. Pastor and evangelist are charges which are "so near akin," that a man, when ordained for one, may establish himself in the other.

261 I do not know how this strikes the minds of others; but for me, there is something that is most shameful in this servile adulation of what now exists. I admit that there may be skill enough in this, and a certain cleverness; but in the face of the word, and the immensity of the interests which are found in it, thus to be able to use skill to flatter all that exists — and that in the face of the word of God, the testimony of His love — what shall I say? … Each one will judge according to the value he may attach to that word and to the grace of Him who gave it.

It is quite true that the church of Jerusalem was a centre, that it exercised a certain authority and a certain oversight; at least it was so during a certain time, the apostles being there. But that Barnabas had received a mission as evangelist or pastor, is what we see nowhere. It is true, that he was sent to Antioch by the Church, which took an interest in what was going on there; and when he arrived there, he exercised his gift, he "exhorted" those who had already been evangelized; that is what we find in Acts 13:23, in the passage quoted by Mr. Wolff, page 44. Guided by the same interests and the wants that existed, Barnabas goes to seek Saul. In that, he used his Christian liberty, as Paul did when he took Timothy with him.

When Mr. Wolff says that the functions of evangelist are described at length in the pastoral letters of Paul, I hardly know what he means. Nothing is said in the epistles of Paul of the functions of an evangelist. He writes as apostle, he commands as apostle: he shews what he was as apostle, and especially as apostle. Does Mr. Wolff wish to deny his apostleship or to bring down his apostleship to the level of an evangelist, in order to exalt the authority of modern evangelists, as he has done by his pretended ordination to the charge of evangelist at Antioch? I repeat, I hardly know what he means, if it be not that; for otherwise the apostle never speaks of an evangelist except to name that gift (Ephesians 4), or to exhort Timothy to do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5).

262 CHAPTER 11


First of all, I admit that there is not in the Church a charge of teacher. In the word, the teacher is presented as a gift.* It is only those who will have doctors of theology like Mr. Wolff, who think that doctorship is a charge. Mr. Wolff, who denies (p. 45) that doctorship is a charge, says (p. 49), that a professor of theology ought to consider himself as a functionary in the Church.

{*But, then, it must not be said that there is a charge of pastor; for these two things are found in the same category, and connected with the same demonstrative pronoun, Tous de.}

When men choose to make all ministries to be charges, or a clergy, and deny at the same time that ministry is the exercise of a gift, they must naturally imitate Mr. Wolff, and seek for information as to those charges. It is not surprising that the author, after having called prophecy a ministry, and denied at the same time that ministry was the exercise of a gift, should meet with difficulties in this respect. But as for the person who, resting on the ground of the word, finds there — in Ephesians 4 — that the teacher is a gift connected with that of pastor; who sees in 1 Corinthians 12 that God has set teachers in the Church; who reads in Romans 12 that he who has the gift of teacher is to be occupied in a modest manner with the accomplishment of the duty connected with the exercise of that gift: the person, I say, who sees all this, does not find much difficulty as to such a simple thing.

All that Mr. Wolff says on the subject presents such confusion, that it is impossible to get clear of it; for he makes the teacher to be a sort of quality which pervades every charge; but in the passages already quoted, the word of God presents to us the doctorship as a gift. It is not only a doma, but a charisma; and, according to Mr. Wolff, gifts have absolutely ceased in the Church.

263 It is therefore somewhat bold to quote Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12 as lists of ministries, and even to tell us (p. 46), "It is therefore in this last passage that we are compelled, by exegesis and grammar, to recognize the proper classification of ministry"; since he affirms that ministry is not the exercise of a gift, and that both these passages present a list of gifts; in Ephesians 4:11, they are called domata, and in 1 Corinthians 12, they are charismata. See verses 30, 31, 38.*

{*That is, for a writer who says that ministry is never the exercise of a gift, and that ministry cannot even exist now, if there are gifts, a list of gifts is the proper classification of ministry.}

Hence in our turn we might ask ourselves, which was the ministerial charge — with imposition of hands — formed by the different kinds of tongues, and by the gifts (charismata) of healing? If one did not trouble the Church by such contradictions — if one did not seek to weaken faith, a confusion of that sort would only excite compassion. I question whether such a mode of treating the word and the Church might not rather call for severity.

The blame lies in a greater measure with those who encouraged the young man who is the author of such a pamphlet, than with him whom they have put forward, applauded and encouraged in such a work. It is the abettors of the thing who are the most guilty.

I have already answered the remarks on the union of pastors and teachers which the writer presents in this chapter.

In result, admitting there was no charge of teacher, as there was of bishop and of deacon, it is very evident that in the teacher was a gift which might be possessed by an apostle, or by a bishop, or any other, or by a man who only had this very gift of teaching.



I have not much to say on this chapter. I will state my thoughts on the subject he treats when I shall speak of gifts.

We have already seen that ministry is the exercise of a gift: even deaconship (diakonia) is called a gift (charisma). I am not speaking of the charge of deacon, but of the service of ministry called diakonia (Rom. 12:6-7).

264 The only remark which I have to make here is, that the things which Mr. Wolff will classify here as ministries are presented as gifts in the chapters of the word which are quoted — Ephesians 4, domata; 1 Corinthians 12, charismata; although, according to Mr. Wolff, ministry be not the exercise of a gift.

I shall add, that I do not deny the distinction between a foundation-ministry and a propagation-ministry — I would rather say of building on the foundation; 1 Cor. 3:10. Moreover, the two words are found in page 51; and I acknowledge that this ministry was to continue from age to age.

It is at least fourteen years ago that I insisted on these very things with Mr. Irving, before the system to which he gave his name was manifested.



Mr. Wolff says that ministry will continue to the end of the dispensation; that the apostles and prophets who are the foundation abide, govern, preach, and prophesy by means of their institutions and their writings, and there is no reason for ceasing to establish evangelists and bishops.

That ministry must exist is a point on which we agree.

But, first of all, where did the writer find, as a classification, and as a list of ministries, this catalogue: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and bishops? It is a purely arbitrary list, it is in nowise scriptural. Such an arrangement of ministries is nowhere to be found in the word.

It is well to remember that, to establish his system, Mr. Wolff is always under the necessity of altering that which is found in the word.

Further, I deny that the Church possesses every ministry, and that it has, as Mr. Wolff says, apostles and prophets. That, as foundations, they have accomplished their work, that their writings are of authority in the Church, we all know; but there was in them something else, namely, the exercise of their authority in power, and this was attached to their person. They, the apostles, commended themselves by the power of God. They knew that after their departing grievous wolves would enter in. What would have mattered their departing if all their ministry still subsists? If wisdom in action, influence, promptitude, discernment of the machinations of the enemy, and the testimony borne to Christ, if all did really subsist as during their lifetime, the Church would be in a state far different from that in which it is found.

265 It is a sweet and precious thought that God is sufficient for the Church, in His grace, at all times; but to say that the ministry of the apostle always subsists, is to say that the revelation of certain rules constituted the whole of that ministry, and that there was in the apostle neither personal power nor personal authority: it is to disown the importance of the presence and power of the Holy Ghost. Mr. Wolff himself says that the effect of the gift of prophecy was such that unbelievers acknowledge that God was there, but that it is no longer so now. How then can he pretend that the ministry of the prophet still subsists? Perhaps he will say that when the prophet prophesied, he was not exercising a ministry, but his gift; but he cannot expect that men of good sense will attend to such absurdities.



I have already written enough on this subject to spare myself the trouble of saying much about it here, and to spare my readers the wearisomeness of a repetition of what I have said elsewhere.

I must state this, that I in nowise accept the picture as here given of my opinions. Mr. Wolff says that "in our days, an opinion such as would prosper amid ruins has a great chance of success." This is very extraordinary if there are no ruins and if everything is firmly established, as is asserted. If we are in the midst of ruins, this can be understood; but how comes it that an opinion, such as would prosper amid ruins, has in our days a great chance of success? Alas! conscience, the heart, fear even, speak too loudly not to be heard at times, in spite, and in the midst, of cunningly devised systems.

I beg leave to say, that the writer is greatly mistaken in what he asserts on the doctrine of the Irvingites. They did not teach the existence of apostasy, but that the Holy Ghost had left the Church and had returned there. Ecclesiastical authority was their idol.

266 It is, I think, because it has not been recognized that the Church should be visible, that things go on so badly.

Mr. Wolff and others besides him strongly oppose the idea, that the Church should be visible. The Church was at the beginning, and ought always to have been, the manifestation of the glory of Christ by the Spirit; it has almost entirely ceased to be so, and those who have Christ's glory at heart will feel it. The glory of Christ will be fully manifested in the glorified Church; but the Church ought to have manifested it here below.

Moreover, this is the universal order:

Man responsible, man according to the counsels of God; Israel responsible, and Israel according to the counsels of God; the Church responsible, and the Church according to the counsels of God. We might even add, Christ responsible, and Christ according to the counsels of God.

In every case, except that of Christ, man has failed in the responsibility in which God had placed him; but this has only the more glorified the faithfulness of God in the accomplishment of His counsels; this does not prevent God's being righteous in His government, where man has failed. (See Romans 3.)

I do not feel the need of following out the reasonings (p. 55) by which they have sought to make of the Church a counterpoise to the pastor, as if it were a constitution from carnal men. It is just this habit, merely carnal, of the age and of the country, which has done so much harm to souls and to flocks. To my mind, the flock which feels that its business is to be a counterpoise to its pastor, is in a sad state. I am not surprised at many things that have happened, if such principles are approved of. For the rest, all that is merely ad captandum, to catch flies; but alas! all that is based upon the rejection of the Holy Ghost. At the beginning, the Holy Ghost was leading on together all believers as being of one heart; but flesh needs a counterpoise.

I do not believe, as Mr. Wolff makes me say (p. 55), that bishops were functionaries specially destined to the outward service of the Church; besides, it is rather an obscure expression.

It is a fact, that it is not given to every congregation to have a pastor (this is counted among the practical changes which, it is pretended, we have provided for in our theory); it is a fact, I say, and a subject of prayer that it may please God to grant a remedy wherever it be needed.

267 In effect, I do think that bishops were established in a charge, whereas in the word of God ministry is connected with a gift. I think that the bishop was attached to a particular church, which was not necessarily the case with a pastor, because the latter, according to the word, was placed as a joint of supply in the body. To say that, less the miracles, such a pastor was an apostle,* only shews in the writer the ignorance of what an apostle was. An apostle founded the churches which the pastor only fed; he made ordinances for all the churches, with the authority of Christ; he chose bishops, he governed all the churches after they were formed. If one did not know how simple souls are confused through bold assertions, when the word seems to have been examined, there would be no need of replying to such accusations, except that I have always remarked the efforts of my adversaries to bring down the idea of the Church, of apostleship, and of everything to the level where they are themselves, in order to quiet their conscience at the expense of the glory of Christ and of the manifest proofs of the love of God towards us.

{*It is singular enough that Calvin says, "Yet the pastors have a charge quite similar to that of the apostles, save that each pastor has to govern a church." In that which is similar, in what I have said, I think I had the same thought as Calvin; but as to revelation and the power of making ordinances, the difference was absolutely complete.}

Mr. Wolff undertakes to prove four things:

First, That the word apostasy (2 Thess. 2:3) does not in any way refer either to the Church or to the dispensation (p. 57).

Secondly, That Romans 1, above all verse 22, only concerns the Christian individually; that it is quite a personal thing (p. 57).

Thirdly, that the present state of the Church proves quite the contrary of an apostasy (p. 58).

Fourthly, That the notion of a visible Church is "nothing else but that of the papists" (pp. 59, 60).

268 We shall, in a summary way, touch upon these four points, and shew,

First, That the word 'apostasy' (2 Thess. 2:3) does refer to the dispensation.

Secondly, That the passage, Romans 11:22, does concern the dispensation, and not the Christian, the child of God individually.

Thirdly, That the present state of the Church, on Mr. Wolff's own avowal, does prove a state of ruin.

Fourthly, That the notion of a visible Church is perfectly scriptural.

1. — The word 'apostasy' does refer to the dispensation.

It is false that, as Mr. Wolff pretends in 2 Thessalonians 2, there is a reference to the son of perdition only.

We find mentioned there:

First, A system of iniquity which was already working in the days of the apostle. And if it was already working, I ask, Where? Was it in China, or in Africa, or in what was called the Church?

Secondly, An apostasy is mentioned; and

Thirdly, The manifestation of the lawless one.

The son of perdition, the man of sin, is presented as a different thing from the apostasy. It is written, "Except there come a falling away [apostasy] first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition." And, although the manifestation of the son of perdition follows the first event that breaks out, the verses we read afterwards shew a power of Satan, to the influence of which shall be given up all those who have not received the love of the truth. Is that a solitary word? Happily, in spite of the folly of some, the thing comes too strongly home, for all to listen to that which almost all, nevertheless, would like to say, "We are rich"; but this expression describes in a few words the pamphlet of Mr. Wolff.

I recommend those who distrust the "Plymouthians" to read in the "Essay on the Kingdom of God," by Mr. F. Olivier, who cannot be suspected of Plymouthism, from page 12 to page 69; or, rather, I invite the admirers of Mr. Wolff's principles to be so kind as to read 2 Thessalonians 2 from one end to the other, and to decide afterwards if there is only one word on the point in question. For the rest, when it comes from God, one word often says a great deal at once; and if the word 'love' in God's mouth tells more than volumes could contain, the word 'apostasy' speaks loud enough to those who feel for the beauty of the Bride of Christ and the glory of His name, from whatever quarter the apostasy may come in.

2. — Romans 11:22 does concern the dispensation.

I have sufficiently, in other writings, examined Romans 11 — a passage always applied by Christians to Gentiles, or, at least, to the Gentiles of the West, until the consequences of this were felt. The person who can believe that in this passage it is merely a question of an individual threatened with the same fall as that of Israel, and of the fall of someone who stands by faith (for then it is not a principle on which men are standing, but already a reality in the heart of the individual), the person, I say, who can believe that the fall of Israel as a dispensation is applied as a threat to an individual who is really standing by faith, I must leave under the effects of his views.

269 Where, says Mr. Wolff, is it spoken of the Church of the dispensation? Paul answers, "I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles." Is not that the dispensation? He speaks of the reconciling of the world in contrast with Judaism: is this not a question of the dispensation? He speaks of the lump being holy by means of the firstfruits; he speaks of a wild olive tree graffed in: is an individual the wild olive tree? And if he addresses himself to the individual conscience, it is to the Gentiles as enjoying the privilege of the dispensation, and not as to an individual he is speaking. Could he have spoken thus to a Jew? Clearly not. It is therefore perfectly certain that it is not here an entirely personal matter. Is the apostle speaking of an entirely personal matter when he concludes by saying, "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery … that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in"?

What the author says (p. 58, 2°) about two apostasies is so thoroughly absurd that I do not know how to take it up. Does he to such a degree count upon the credulity of his readers, or is it that his ignorance of the word has betrayed him? "He speaks," he says, of two apostasies; "and this would prove that there is no general apostasy, and then, that an apostasy does not destroy the Church for ever, since the first serves as a warning to avoid a second?" Is it possible? But, finally, there are two apostasies. Can one simply read Romans 11 without perceiving that it is the Jews who are fallen? I could not have supposed (I think I must say so) such blindness. What are the branches which have been the object of God's severity? Well, according to Mr. Wolff, this passage speaks of a past apostasy of the Jews (that is the first), and then of a future apostasy of the Gentiles (and that is the second); and the first serves as a warning to the second.

In this, Mr. Wolff, at least, sees clearly. He speaks of two apostasies, of a past apostasy, and of a future apostasy; and "the first serves as a warning to avoid the second," that is all perfectly well. But then it is perfectly clear that the first, of which the apostle speaks, was of the Jews, as a dispensation cut off. Well, the second is of the Gentiles; and this also is very clear, for he says, "I speak to you Gentiles." The Gentiles are threatened with the same thing, if they do not continue in the goodness of God; if that apostasy, even, takes place for the Gentiles only, Mr. Wolff cannot very rightly boast of it; there was no need of speaking of the Jews as a nation; the thing had already befallen them.

270 3. — The present state of the Church does prove a state of ruin.

As to what the writer says, page 59, I only see in it the spirit of Laodicea. If Mr. Wolff takes the trouble to read Acts 2 or Acts 4, he will understand the difference between our position and the one which is depicted in those chapters, without dreaming of taking advantage of the state of the Church of Corinth, a state which hindered the apostle even from visiting that church. For the rest, he has been unfortunate in alluding to Sardis, which according to many enlightened Christians is a prefiguration of protestantism; for — O! that consciences would awake! — the Lord says to that church, "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee."

Mr. Wolff may be content with such a state of things; but I do not think that the man who takes to heart the words of the Lord would seek an excuse in the face of such a threat from His mouth.

Moreover, it is not a question of the apostasy of a church, but of the state of the dispensation and of the Church. Faith ever identifies the glory of God and the people of God; it can present unto God His own people with unlimited confidence, resting on the ground of the faithfulness of God, and cannot bear with that which dishonours God in His people. Thus does Moses refuse to receive the glory of becoming the new stock of the people of God; he appeals to the glory of Jehovah Himself who had brought forth His people out of Egypt, praying even to be blotted out from the book, rather than the people; but when he was come down and when he saw the sin of his people, he said, "Consecrate yourselves to-day to the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother." Then he took his tent "and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp." Those who "sought the Lord, went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation,* which was without the camp."

{*This name was a rather remarkable anticipation of the tabernacle which was to be pitched by God's command.}

271 4. — The notion of a visible Church is scriptural.

The word of God, it is said, does not intend any visible Church; that is to say that the word of God does not intend the manifestation of the glory of God and of His light in the Church (such is the doctrine opposed to us). It consents to this, that the Church should be one in glory, but not on earth. Here below, there are only churches.

One thing is certain, that, if this principle be true, all the National Churches, the Lutheran and the Presbyterian, are a public lie against the word of God; their unity is a human invention; they are not churches. The word of God, according to the pamphlet, only recognizes the Church in glory, and local churches as at Corinth, or at Sardis.

The thing is most simple and very evident: all the conclusion one has to draw from such reasoning is that those who patronize and circulate this pamphlet are disposed to use every means to oppose the truth which condemns their want of faith.

What is most painful in all this is, that they are content to sacrifice the glory of God in the Church, as well as their own system, if only they can persuade souls not to receive the light. Their system is not of faith. The light of faith once set aside, they hope, yet with little confidence, to uphold it against the attacks of unbelief.

But it is sad to see a system, which gives itself the name of the Church of God, exposed, like the Jews, to the hatred and contempt of the Gentiles, on the one hand, and, on the other, having against it the testimony of Christ and of His apostles — a system which denies its own privileges — a system subject to Caesar, which will neither acknowledge its bondage, nor follow the testimony of faith, which is the only means of deliverance — a system which is ripening for judgment, because it denies the power and the rights of the Holy Ghost. I have discussed this subject elsewhere.

272 The heart and conscience must acknowledge that the Church ought to be one, so as to be able to glorify the Lord on earth; a spiritual man will own this without any need of reasoning. But one must produce testimony from God for those who will not have it so, and in order that those who desire nothing but the glory of Christ may be strengthened and be able to close the mouths of adversaries. I do not call adversaries all those who hold contrary opinions. There are many children of God who are ignorant of the truth on this subject; there are also many who deceive themselves and who, dazzled by the pretension of those who oppose the truth, are carried away unwittingly. Mr. Rochat (who, with the Dissenters, opposed this truth) has acknowledged it publicly. He has acknowledged this sense of the word 'church,' namely, the aggregate of the elect on earth at a given period. I am content with that definition. Only such an expression brings out the cause of the opposition to this truth — that if the word 'church' has such a sense, it is certain that, in that sense, the Church is in a state of ruin. And here I do entreat Christians to give serious attention to this, that when our adversaries accuse me of denying that there is a Church on earth, it is by denying themselves that there has ever been one: if there was, then it is certain that all is in a state of ruin. They admit that there were Churches, but they say that there never was a Church. They feel that, if once this were admitted, the truth respecting our state must necessarily be admitted also; but, satisfied with themselves, they deny the existence of a Church of Christ on earth, rather than confess their sin.

On some objections to the word 'ruin': —

These objections, so many times repeated, seem to me puerile and only betray a conscience which does not like to face the question. The word 'ruin' is used in a moral sense, as well as in a material sense: and it is evident that such is the case, when it is applied to the Church. If I say that a man is ruined, the man still exists; if I say his reputation is ruined, it is not that he has none, but that it is a bad one. If I say that a thing has been the ruin of such a man, it is clear that I speak of the moral effect of such or such a thing, and that I do not mean that the man is no longer in existence. Moreover we have seen that Mr. Wolff himself uses the word.

273 Hence, when I say that the Church is ruined, or when I speak of the ruin of the Church, it is saying that the Church is not at all in its normal state; it is as if, for example, I said that the health of a man was ruined.

Those who oppose this, not being willing to acknowledge the state of misery in which we all are, yet feeling that if the Church in its unity was at the beginning the depositary of the glory of Christ it is so no longer, boldly deny that it ever was. Let us, then, go over a few passages on this important subject. Here is what Mr. Wolff himself says, "We will not stop to refute this notion of the visible Church, this notion being nothing else but that of papists," etc. "As to us, it is enough for us to know that it is spoken in scripture of a Church (in the singular) which God has purchased with His own blood," etc. "This Church has certainly never apostatized; it has never been either outward or visible. When it shall be complete, it will be visible in heaven This Church is always called in Scripture — in the singular and absolutely — the Church. By its side, we find churches, such as the church of Jerusalem, the church of Laodicea, the church that is in the house of Philemon, or in that of Priscilla and Aquila, etc. Those churches are visible, outward, independent of each other; but there is no mention whatever of their unity in one body. We deny that in Scripture a third church is ever mentioned. The Church, and the churches: such is the only distinction it admits. I know that the idea of a visible Church, the body of Christ, is necessary to the invention of the apostasy, and that it serves as its basis."

First, we again find here the entire overthrow of all ideas of nationalism. There is a Church which has never been either outward or visible. The churches are independent one of another. "In effect, wherever there is ever so little spiritual activity, the old systems must fall.["] But this is singular, that the great champion of the independent churches, Mr. Rochat, is compelled to own that there is a third sense of the word 'church'; and that Mr. F. Olivier, who also opposes the views that Mr. Wolff combats, has been obliged to acknowledge the apostasy in his pamphlet, and that he has given on the subject the most striking and painful details: only he wants one to say "kingdom" and not "church"; but he is agreed as to the thing itself. For my part, I insist on this point, namely, that the kingdom cannot apostatize because of the king; but let us now pass on. The apostasy, according to Mr. Olivier, exists.*

{*We might add, and also according to Mr. Gaussen; for in his pamphlet, "The Sovereign Pontiff and the Church of Rome, pillars of the truth," etc., he applies 2 Thessalonians 2 to the papal system, as does also the French Reformed Church. Thus according to him, the apostasy is come; and we must pay attention to this, that it is not a question of the apostasy of a particular church, but of the apostasy which is to bring down judgments which will be executed at the coming of the Saviour. One may consult also "Abridged History of the Church of Jesus Christ," etc., Geneva, 1832, vol. 1, pp. 51-133, where it will be seen how the writer speaks of the Church, both in the text and in notes L.M., pp, 100, 100.}

274 I now come to quotations. The reader will think perhaps that Jerusalem, Laodicea, the house of Philemon, are just thrown out without design. Not at all; this book is full of art. It is said of the church at Jerusalem, "The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." If the church at Jerusalem was not a particular church, as the writer would lead one to suppose by introducing it thus as if by chance, we should have here a most positive passage as to the Church, as one and visible here below. Laodicea is chosen, because it is said of that church, "I will spue thee out of my mouth"; and if this were anything more than the rejection of a particular church, it would be the Church rejected on earth. I have sought to be charitable: but this pamphlet is full of similar stratagems. The church in the house of Philemon, in order to be enabled to apply the church titles and functions to every small assembly. Translate: "the assembly in thy house," and these mysterious ideas of organization will soon disappear.

Let us now consider what concerns the church of Jerusalem. We must remember that the Church, which is one, according to Mr. Wolff will only be so in glory: "It has never been outward nor visible. When it shall be completed, it will be visible in heaven."

The Church therefore does not exist; that is very clear. There is only the gathering in of the members one by one. It does not exist; one may lay it aside, save in the cases where the word speaks of it prophetically, or anticipatively, in hope, realized in spirit; but all action applied to a church on earth does not apply to it. For instance, it is clear that Hebrews 12:23 applies to it anticipatively; it is of the whole assembly, which will be visible in glory, that the word speaks anticipatively. And this assembly, according to me, was also manifested on earth, but I admit the application given by Mr. Wolff. That does not remove any difficulty, for here is what is said of the church at Jerusalem: "All that believed were together, and had all things common … And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." There is a Church which was one and a visible church; that is very clear; but it is not said that the Lord added to the church of Jerusalem such as should be saved (this is the expression used to designate the spared ones among the Jews, "the remnant according to the election of grace"); but He added them to the Church. We must recollect that there were persons "out of every nation under heaven"; but that Jerusalem was still the centre of the operation of the Holy Ghost. It was there God had begun to gather together the elect; they had been gathered together nowhere else. God, in His sovereign providence, gathers together Jews from all sides, and by the power of the Spirit He forms, unto the name of Christ, an assembly where are found the twelve apostles. Can any one believe that, when the Holy Ghost calls this the Church, He is only speaking of a church which is independent of other churches? No, where else is it said, of any particular church: "the Lord added to the church … such as should be saved"? We can understand it when God, ready to judge the Jews and Jerusalem, transferred His elect, daily, into another system, into the Church. Some time after, this body sends out decrees everywhere: does that look like the independence of the churches, of which Jerusalem was only one? Finally, it is not said that God added to the church of Jerusalem, but "to the church," to a church (in the singular), and in an absolute way to the Church according to the writer's own expressions (p. 60).

275 The passage, Acts 20:28, which the writer quotes in favour of his opinion, can hardly bear the interpretation he puts upon it; for it would be difficult to say how the elders feed the Church, if the Church was not outward, nor visible, and if, indeed, as a Church, it had even no existence. If (as Mr. Wolff says here, p. 61) Acts 20:28 applies to what is composed of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven, it was not therefore the flock at Ephesus; and he owns this: "It is a church," he says, "in the singular," a church which is not visible, but which will be visible in heaven. But, in that case, how can it be fed on earth, if it did not exist there? For that is the Church which has to be fed, which Christ has purchased — that Church, in the singular. Consequently it was on earth, and it was a flock of God with which the bishops could be occupied according to their position.

276 But there are passages which are too evident for it to be necessary to employ much reasoning. Paul gives directions to Timothy, "that thou mayest know," he says, "how thou oughtest to behave thyself" — rather "how one ought to conduct oneself" — "in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth," 1 Tim. 3:15. This cannot be said of a particular church, unless it be as an opportunity, as it happened with regard to Ephesus; Acts 20:28. Certainly it is clear that it is not a question of Timothy's conduct in the Church gathered on high in glory. Therefore, the Church in the singular, the house of God, the pillar and ground of the truth, was really something owned of God on earth.

In Ephesians 4:4 we have one Spirit and one body; Christians being "builded together," Jews and Gentiles, to be "an habitation of God through the Spirit." Such is our calling. But, in that case, "the whole body fitly joined together and compacted" "maketh increase" by the working of the members, "according to the effectual working in the measure of every part … unto the edifying of itself in love." Here then is, expressly, the unity of the body on earth.

1 Corinthians 12:13. "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body." In verses 27, 28: "Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles … after that miracles, then gifts of healings." Here is the Church in the singular in an absolute way. It is very certain that the apostles were not all in the church of Corinth, and not less certain that the gifts of healings were not in heaven. This is a passage which requires no reasoning. The unity of the body, of the Church, on earth — this is what the passage affirms most expressly.*

{*The reader may further consult Matthew 16:18; Galatians 1:13; Ephesians 3:10, 21; ch 24, 29, 32; Philippians 3:6; Colossians 1:24.}

John 17. The Lord asks that those who should believe through the words of the apostles might be one, "that the world might believe that the Father had sent him." Then He adds, without praying: "And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; … that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me." Here we have the glory presented as a means of their being made perfect in one, and as a means of making known to the world that the Father has sent Jesus, and that He loves all those that Jesus has saved, as He loves Jesus Himself. And Jesus prays also that they may be one--those who believe through the word of the apostles, that the world may believe. This must evidently take place on earth, as the glory will take place in heaven.

277 The writer of the theses has felt all the importance of this question. If the unity of the Church on earth is a truth, he understands that he cannot deny the present state of things; but it is evident that to escape the effect of such a truth, and the judgment which such a truth pronounces on their position, those persons deny a truth which is positively proclaimed in the word — and one of the most important truths.

Mr. Wolff passes over 2 Timothy 3 and the epistle of Jude, without stopping to consider them, saying, that in those passages, it is so far from being a question of the apostasy of the Church, etc. (p. 60). It does not seem to me, that to say that perilous times should come, when men would have a form of godliness while denying the power thereof, is to say nothing of the fall or the ruin of the dispensation. The first of these passages is a description of the general state of things in Christendom, a state which proves that those who profess Christianity are become corrupt, like the heathen of old; for what is said of Christendom (2 Tim. 3) is very similar to the picture which Romans 1 traces of the corruption of the heathen. As to the epistle of Jude, what it says of some persons who had already crept into the Church, and who were to be the objects of the judgments of Christ on the ungodly, seems to me rather an important circumstance. It is rather a serious revelation, which shews that it was in the bosom of the Church that the objects of the most terrible judgments of God were found. It appears that Mr. Wolff attaches little importance to this; but it is, alas! to attach little importance to the glory of God in His people. Such is the awful evil which these pamphlets disclose.

As to the progress of the evil, of the mystery of iniquity, this is what I have to say about it. One may, indeed, present the difficulty, that it is Christendom, and not the Church, that is in a state of ruin.

278 Here is my answer: The evil has begun in the Church; Christians have, in principle, fallen into Judaism. The door has been opened to false brethren; and this, by degrees, has formed Christendom! Thus the Church has lost its unity, its power, and its holiness, and has ceased to bear witness to God in the world; and what is called "the church" is now the centre and the power of evil and corruption in the world. After all this, there will be an open revolt, and the lawless one, the man of sin, will be manifested. Thus the fault has begun with the Church, with Christians. Moreover, although Christians may separate themselves from this evil (2 Tim. 3:5), this does not prevent the state of things, the dispensation, from being entirely marred, nor God's putting an end to it by His judgments to make room for Christ and His glory. Thus, although the elect are glorified with Him, it is none the less true that all will be cut off here below. It was thus that God put an end to the kingdom of Saul to make room for David; and to Judaism to make room for the Church, although, at all times, He has saved the elect. The gates of Hades shall not prevail against the Church; but it is the resurrection which will be the proof of it; for the Son of the living God is mightier than he who has the power of death. This does not prevent God from removing His elect to heaven, in order to send His judgments on the inhabitants of the earth — to destroy those who corrupt the earth.

The repentance of a particular church is not the restoring of a fallen dispensation, as Mr. Wolff pretends (pp. 63, 3°, 64, 4°), alleging even the example of the Jewish dispensation in its falls and restorations; for, after all, as we see, they are reduced to speak of the fall of a dispensation. The writer even goes so far as to say (p. 64, 4°) that "every time there were men who feared God, they restored the whole dispensation, and partook of all its blessings." This is inconceivably bold. Did the faithfulness of some men fearing God restore the unity of the kingdoms of Israel and of Judah? Did it throw down the golden calves? Did it identify the Israelites with the temple and altar of God? Never. Did the piety of Josiah turn away the wrath of God from Judah? No: after the account of what Josiah did, when he "turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might" (2 Kings 23:25), it is added (v. 26), "Notwithstanding the Lord turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal." Was the whole dispensation restored? Or did the men who feared God partake of all the blessings of the dispensation, when they said, like Isaiah, "We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noon day as in the night. We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before thee," etc.? (Isa. 59:10-12). Did the men who feared God partake of all the blessings when Jeremiah said that he who should flee to the Chaldeans would save his life (Jer. 21:19)? Were all the blessings of the dispensation enjoyed when there were seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal? Was it so after the Babylonian captivity, when there was no longer the ark, no longer the Urim and the Thummim? For it was only later that God put an end to all hope, when they had rejected the testimony of the Messiah. Does any one dare to say that the Jews enjoyed all the blessings of the dispensation, when, according to Mr. Wolff, Jesus acknowledged it with all its institutions? Was that enjoying all the blessings of the dispensation — to be subject to the Gentiles, and to have been delivered by God into their hands? (See Neh. 9:36-37.) Was that enjoying all the blessings of the dispensation — to buy the high priesthood for money?

279 I am not surprised that one who could speak of the Jews as enjoying all the blessings of the dispensation, finds the Church in as good a position as at the beginning. Mr. Wolff's parallel is correct enough.

As for me, I see but one thing — the faith of the godly woman who spoke of the coming of Jesus "to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem." It appears that, on the one hand, these persons who looked for redemption in Israel knew one another, and that, on the other hand, they knew the ruin and judgment which had fallen upon Israel; because the Israelites also thought that they were enjoying all the blessings of the dispensation, and because they thought they were rich and had need of nothing. Thus it was that the light which had come in grace was found to be for judgment. In this sense, Christ overthrew the Jewish dispensation; but whose was the fault? Who was it, on the one hand, that said, "For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind"? And who was it, on the other, who judged that they might get rid of Jesus, in order to avert the consequences which their folly in acting thus has brought down on their head? When there is a conflict, in faith alone is there wisdom. But I admit that one who finds that Israel enjoyed all the blessings of the dispensation even unto the coming of Christ, and that the history of Israel is a proof that a dispensation cannot fail or be cut off — that one, I say, who can assert that Israel is a proof of this — Israel deprived of everything — Israel, on whose forehead God has written "Lo-ammi," not my people — that such a one may very well believe the same thing also of himself and of the Church of God. But how can I depict my grief in insisting on these things! I feel that the more earnestly the light is presented to them, the more those whom I love (for whom I could say with Paul or Moses, Blot me out rather from Thy book; for I cannot refrain from seeing that what is now a fallen dispensation was once the beloved bride of Christ — that it is always such as to its responsibility and its duty) — I feel that the more earnestly the light is presented to them, the more it is pressed upon them, the more deeply will they sink into darkness. But what is to be done? Can we leave those who love the light without a warning when the judgments are approaching? We cannot. May God grant us only to conduct ourselves by His Spirit in love, and with such patience as is never weary towards them, and to commit everything else to Himself!

280 The writer does not stop there; he adds (p. 64, 5°), that to speak of the ruin of the dispensation, is to be guilty of an insult against God and other things besides; but it is quite unnecessary to answer such reproach.

God, having placed man under responsibility, will cause the lie of man to abound unto His glory — I have no doubt of it; but nevertheless He will not fail to judge man's wickedness on that account. There was only a very small number of the elect who enjoyed the first blessings of Israel, and, certainly among the ten tribes, they were not enjoyed. And what do we see in the Church? Already, in Paul's day, he said, "All seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ's," Phil. 2. And he knew that evil would enter in after his departure; Acts 20.

According to Mr. Wolff himself, there remains not a single gift. It is at least very singular, if we enjoy all the blessings of the dispensation, that not one gift remains.

281 Finally, the writer goes still farther, and says (p. 65, 6°), that "if the dispensation is ruined, we are without any commands or any directions from God; we have no longer any right to the use of the sacraments, or to the common worship of the faithful. Nothing remains to us of the dispensation but its ruins. There is not in Scripture one single precept, not one single commandment of the Lord, which can be applied to us, and that we are bound to obey. We can neither attain to the holiness to which the first Christians were exhorted, nor bear any responsibility," etc. It may be that the writer cannot find anything, if everything is not there. For my part, I believe that "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant." I believe that ministry subsists, and that, although there is nobody who can order or settle everything as an apostle would do, it is none the less true that "where two or three are gathered together" in the name of Jesus, He is "in the midst of them"; and that the word of God provides for the wants of His people in their present state, as in every other state. When, by His judgments, God had deprived Israel of the prophets and of the Urim and the Thummim, the writer might have expressed the same complaints and reproach; but this reproach I find very ill placed in the mouth of one who declares that not a single gift remains to the Church. This would lead one to suppose that, in the writer's opinion, gifts were not a means of sanctification. But there are precepts for the "perilous times" as there were for the times of blessing, when "great grace was upon them all," when none said "that aught of the things which he possessed was his own," Acts 4. God never forsakes His people.



I have already replied to this chapter. I only need to recall the passage of Peter, "As every man hath received the gift [charisma], even so minister the same [diakoneo] one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."

Mr. Wolff says, "Ministry is not the exercise of a gift." The word declares in as many words (1 Peter 4:10), that ministry is the exercise of a gift. Mr. Wolff quotes this passage as speaking of gifts properly so called, in order to shew that such a gift cannot exist now; but there must be a singular preoccupation of mind not to see that ministry and gift are absolutely identical in this passage.

282 Further, all the passages quoted by Mr. Wolff, as giving us classification of ministries, are, in the word, lists of gifts (domata) (Ephesians 4); charismata (1 Corinthians 12). The idea of a maximum of ministry, of gifts, is to me quite new. Indeed it was perhaps the principle of dissenters to choose the person who, in their eyes, had the most gifts. It may so happen that inferior gifts are not exercised, when there are superior gifts; and it may so happen for better or for worse. "The spirits of the prophets" were "subject to the prophets," however miraculous even the gift might be. To suppress an inferior gift is an evil; but if, in a given case, there be, according to the Spirit, on such or such an occasion, more edification in a superior gift, the rule of the word is "Let all things be done unto edifying." The fact that Paul spoke during the whole night does in no wise shew that there were no gifts at Troas; any more than his discourse at Miletus shews that the bishops of Ephesus had none. In the case of the bishops it was not a question of gifts, except in a practical way that of feeding: but this does not affect all other ministry.

The notion of a person returning from a place as bishop, because he had exercised his gift where it might be profitable to brethren, is nothing more than the dream of the writer.* The bishop is a charge, and, according to the writer himself, a charge and a gift are two distinct things. A church cannot limit the number of its ministers, because the ministers are not its ministers but those of Jesus Christ, exercising their gifts as service in the body. The word of God gives rules for the edification of assemblies, that all may speak, and all may be edified. As to this, it matters not if it be pastor or prophet, it is a question of abstract reasoning on the inconvenience which might result from several gifts.

{*It is a dream he would wish us to realise (p. 44).}

To say that 1 Corinthians 12:4-5, 28, distinguishes between gifts and ministry, is a sad specimen of interpretation. We shall speak of this when we discuss the cessation of gifts.