A glance at various ecclesiastical principles and examination of the foundations on which the institutions of the church on earth are sought to be based. In reply to various writings.

J. N. Darby.

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Christians attached to the word of God have shewn not only that the clerical system is not found in it, but also that it is contrary to the principles which it contains, and in fine, that the national system is in opposition to all that is there said of the Church.

All this is now admitted by the Evangelical Christians who exercise the most influence in the religious movements of ecclesiastical bodies. We have already seen that, in the eyes of the "Archives of Christianity" and of the "Reformation," clericalism is an evil, and it is anti-scriptural. Not long ago brethren who separated from this state of things, were schismatics. But now, what was then maintained in opposition to these brethren, and which was maintained as being according to God, is by their avowal a system which denies all the rights of Christ. This is rapid progress.

40 People therefore substitute for this system which they no longer dare to present as resting on a divine foundation, other principles upon which they raise a new edifice, principles which we are about to examine.

These principles are summed up in a few words:

The complete, entire, and often even avowed abandonment of the word of God. The denial of the action of the Holy Spirit.

The Christians of whom we speak are quite willing to be freed from the yoke of the state. That one can understand. But it is in order to establish over the flock, without being held in check by the state, the still heavier yoke of ministry. Now the ecclesiastical yoke, the yoke of the clergy, is of all the most intolerable. It is the weight of the name of God attached, and attached without restraint, to the will and the iniquity of man, because evil is clothed with the authority which ought to have laid hold of the conscience. The world has seen the effects of it.*

{*For the civil magistrate to govern, is the ordinance of God. The magistrate may abuse his power, no doubt, and man is wicked; but there is a just Judge who knows how to maintain the oppressed, and who, as the apostle tells us, watches over that which He has ordained. The authority is the minister of God for good to those who do well. "Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same." If one is persecuted for the name of Christ, the case is different; it is our glory. But if we do good, the civil power, armed as it is with the authority of God, will not harm us. The Christian submits to the authority with joy, and that for conscience' sake, having confidence in God. He does it of good will.

As to the clergy, whence does their power come, when they have any? Who would put confidence in it? However, I confess, I have no fear that the Free Church, such as it has manifested itself in these countries, will come to that.}



People are in error on the continent, on the subject of the Scotch movement. This movement has been essentially popular. The king of England and the great noblemen, episcopal for the most part, had the right to nominate to a very large number of parishes, which, for a century past, had been a subject of contestation in the Church of Scotland. The people wished to name their pastors. Attempts at accommodation were made; they failed. The ministers and the evangelical elders put themselves at the head of the movement. The civil tribunals having constrained certain parishes to receive ministers named by the patrons, the separation took place. The evangelical ministers left the synod; the people of the parishes left the churches. The mass of the population found thus a means of escaping from the ancient rights of patronage of the episcopalian aristocracy, which the tribunals and the whole civil order maintained in these rights.

41 In the Canton de Vaud, the inverse of this is the case. The popular cause is nationalism subjected to the state. In Scotland, the nationals are the ministers without the people. On what side is that found in Switzerland?

Churches are not made on paper - they are formed by faith. A church of the multitude can only be the result of a powerful principle acting upon the masses. This principle is found either in superstition, or, as at the Reformation, in the remarkable intervention of Providence, which, favouring the movement of faith, where abuses disgust natural conscience or clash with the will of man, throws the mass on the side of the good which is acting by the grace of God. It is this which explains, on the one hand, the history of all false religions; on the other hand, the history of the Reformation, and, finally, on a smaller scale, the Scottish movement.

There exists nothing that answers to this in the dreams of a free church, in which those minds take pleasure, who, at the present day, while opening for themselves a way in which the nation does not follow them, seek to unite, the nation being wanting in this combination, popularity with the preservation of existing institutions. In order to popularise their cause and their church, they grant it certain rights and certain privileges, preserving, all the while, for themselves the consecrated system, the citadel of the clergy. Let them, however, understand this: if there are popular rights in the church, the people themselves will be judges of them. Such is the popular principle - the principle of the age. The people will exercise their rights themselves, in fact as well as in title. That will be their affair. The ministers will have the task of protecting, if they can, the rights they have given to themselves, so far as these rights are compatible with the will and action of the people. Their business will be to watch over the preservation of their clericalism. The people will dispose of the rest, and the ministers will be, if they can, their clergy. There will result from this, under whatever variety of form, independent dissenting churches, with a clergy whose efforts will tend to bind the whole into a Presbyterian bundle, in order to give it, if it can, harmony and strength.

42 This is, I venture to predict, the future of the Free Church of the Canton de Vaud. This is what will happen wherever ministers seek to organize a free-church system, by contriving beforehand its mechanism.

On a larger theatre than the Canton de Vaud, the ministers would probably succeed in acquiring a stronger link among themselves and a more decided clerical position; but, at bottom, each of them, in his locality, would find himself to be the pastor of a dissenting church with a congregation of the people as his flock. Their part would be purely to preserve clericalism. Sad task! A task to which, nevertheless, where this attempt has taken place, their operations and reasonings are reduced.

The Free Church lacks a first principle of power. There is found in it neither the principle of God, nor the principle of the man of the age. That there may be found, on the part of certain individuals, a vital principle, true faith, I do not doubt. But, evidently, that is not the question. Powerful principles act noiselessly, but cause themselves to be spoken of The Free Church speaks a great deal about itself, before even having taken its rise

Let us, however, examine its principles, as far as it has put them forth.



In entering upon the constitution of the Free Church of the Canton de Vaud, the only one which has hitherto been formed on this side of the Rhine,* I desire to express my sincere respect for many of the persons who form part of this association, and to testify to many among them, whom I have more or less known, the cordial affection which flows from the sweet conviction of our meeting one another again in the heavenly kingdom. This makes me all the more feel how grievous it is that such brethren should have thought it their duty to ally themselves, or at least should have appeared to ally themselves to any political party, and to falsify thereby, in the eyes of the world, a religious principle and a walk which, with the sacrifices by which it was accompanied, made them respected by good men, even of opinions contrary to their own. United, alas! to persons who do not share their faith, these brethren, by the very attacks to which they are exposed, figure as a political party, and appear rather to undergo the consequences of this, than to bear the cross for the sake of Jesus. This position has had the effect of causing Christianity and the blessed name of Jesus to sustain the reproach of serving as a cloak to a party which was seeking to clothe itself with the influence of that name. How much happier would it have been for these brethren to preach that name without alloy, in the beauty and purity which are proper to it, in the midst of the irritation of passions, on whatever side they might have been shewn! If we suffer, let it be only for the name of Jesus; and let adversaries find no occasion of complaint against those who profess to serve the Lord, except concerning the law of their God.

{*Some movements intended to form free churches have taken place in Germany, and some have been formed entirely rationalistic. Their nature and principles are so different that I am not willing either to occupy myself with them here, nor to confound the course of the Vaudois clergy with that of Uhlich or others similar.}

43 Without doubt, it is a sincere conviction which has determined and impelled in the course they have followed, a large number of the brethren of whom we speak. But (and their opponents themselves have said this) conscience does not act by masses, but individually. In order to increase the influence of the movement, those who had decided convictions thought it their duty, as it appears, to wait for those who had not, or who had less fixed ones. This weakened the idea of a personal conviction. By that very means, conscience evidently was the loser.

The members of the Vaudois clergy were already under the necessity of raising these questions. Events had constrained them to do so. At the demand of the government, prolonged discussions had taken place amongst the clergy upon the change of the fundamental law of the Cantonal church. For a long while past, the clergy had supported and defended against all dissent the principles of nationalism. When, therefore, the greater part was seen to detach itself from the state and unite itself in an ecclesiastical body in order to maintain in concert, according to the very expressions of the constitution of the Free Church, the rights of Jesus Christ over His Church and the purity of evangelical ministry, people might have been astonished that never before had the rights of Christ presented themselves to the minds of these men as disowned by the system which they had previously extolled and justified, not scrupling, moreover, to blame severely, those who, judging as they themselves now judge, were acting individually according to this conviction, and were separating themselves from a system guilty of such a slighting of the rights of the Lord.

44 Evidently, it is the system which, in their conviction, disregarded the rights of Jesus, and destroyed the purity of evangelical ministry. The act of the government, which served s an occasion for the retreat of a part of the clergy, is the proof of this. Moreover, the ministers who have resigned have not confined themselves to protesting by their resignation against his act, nor to going outside while waiting for its recall, nor o complaining against an isolated act of oppression, while still approving the system. They have done more. By the establishment of a new system, they have protested against the one which up to that time they had justified, and which, by their acknowledgment, denies the rights of Christ over His Church.

How does it happen that the new system, founded on such a declaration, should be the object of admiration to Christians who remain attached to the one to which this declaration applies? That does not belong to me to decide. It is good to remember [for fas est et ab hoste doceri] that conscience is an individual thing.

Let us now examine the system of the Free Church of the Canton de Vaud, such as it is set forth in its Constitution, the acceptance of which is obligatory upon every one who wishes to be a member of it.



While setting aside the state, rejecting all alliance with it, and while refusing at the same time to take the position of the Christians who had previously separated from nationalism, the founders of the Free Church wished, in constituting themselves as a body, to preserve some bond which these did not possess and which the state did not furnish. This bond is the clergy, the clerical body.

45 Plainly, the churches whose association composes the Free Church have no other according to its constitution. The unity subsists in the body of the clergy and there solely. This principle, the importance of which cannot be overestimated, was that of the Church as fallen in the first ages, that which ended in popery in contrast with the Church of God.

In the Protestant or Reformed Churches, the state serves as a link, as a principle of unity; they are, consequently, national churches. The Romish system has another centre of unity, which I need not stop to notice here. The dissenters, whatever may be additionally the unity of ideas and of habit of association with which analogous principles furnish them, are in general independents or congregationalists; that is to say, their churches, as churches, acknowledge no bond of unity among themselves.

There remains then to the Free Church but one principle which can and does really make of it a body; it is the clerical principle. Little matters it whether the clergy is composed of pastors or elders. It is they, a body of officials, distinct from the mass of believers, who alone give a character of unity to this bundle of churches. The details of the Constitution shew it. General Church assemblies, church councils do not produce a shadow of unity! This unity resides in the synod; the synod is the principle of it. Everything which concerns the clergy is carefully kept in the hands of the clergy. The veto without a statement of motives is alone permitted to a flock to which a pastor is proposed. As to their internal matters, the assemblies may be consulted and may express their wishes when the church council calls them together; but all action whatever is reserved to the clergy.

The true unity of the Church of God, that is to say, the unity of the body of Christ on the earth, is completely excluded from the Free Church. There are "constituted bodies," but the idea of the body is lost.

The confusion of these two things is striking in the Sixth Article of the Constitution. "The Free Church is governed by constituted bodies who are to employ themselves, each according to the function assigned to it, in procuring the spiritual good of the Church and its members, so that the whole well proportioned and well joined together in all its parts should derive its increase from Christ, according to the power He distributes to each member," Eph. 4:16. Now, it is perfectly certain that this passage of the epistle to the Ephesians applies solely to the body of Christ, one upon earth, to the functions of its members, and to that body looked at on earth, insisting particularly on its unity flowing from its being the habitation of one Spirit (chap. 4:4) - an idea impossible here, because the Free Church of the Canton de Vaud has no pretensions to be the body of Christ, and its four constituted bodies are not members of the body of Christ.

46 It is sad, to say nothing more, to use the word of God, and that in its most precious and profound teachings, to apply it to that which is a creation of man, and to that which has no right to pretend to be what the passage cited speaks of. It is sad to seek to clothe a purely human system with the lustre of the blessing which is connected with the work of God. The Free Church of the Canton de Vaud is not, and still less are its constituted bodies, the body of Christ, nor the bride of Christ, however it may clothe itself with these beautiful names by debasing their meaning and force. "She is resolved," say the authors of her Constitution, "to yield obedience (to Jesus Christ) as a faithful wife to her husband." Wife! She is not a wife. There exists neither a Vaudois bride, nor a French bride, nor an English bride. By attaching such a name to bodies constituted by men, the idea of the unity of the body of Christ is falsified and lost, an idea of which the importance cannot be exaggerated.

The grand principles of the Free Church are then:

The establishment of a body of clergy, the only agent and bond of unity;

And the denial of the unity of the body of Christ, of that truth of which true Christians feel very particularly the need and importance.

In fact, it cannot be otherwise in a church of the multitude. How seek, how find, in an unconverted mass a principle of spiritual union? There is needed for this mass, a body in which, in theory, because of its public character, piety should be reputed to reside; a body which may act on it and give it a centre by maintaining religion in the midst of it. Let the action of the flocks, set aside by the "Constitution," be introduced into the general assemblies, and the Free Church will present the spectacle of the miseries of dissent, without having like it either separation from the world, or the safeguard of the conversion of its members.

47 Several details of the "Constitution of the Free Church" afford us a striking proof of the preoccupation of its authors, as to the maintenance of the clerical principle.

First, the nature of the quotations which are made from the word of God. Except the faulty application of a passage of Ephesians referred to above, the word of God, cited very carefully in order to support the authority of the clergy, is only quoted four times on other subjects, and these four quotations, have no reference to the principles of the Free Church, but solely to general principles of piety, and they might have been equally met with in the first religious book that might be taken up. If it is a question, on the other hand, of exhibiting all the passages which appear suited to exalt the authority and importance of the clergy, the New Testament is rummaged through and through.

Here are further proofs of this preoccupation.

The laity may elect deputies to the synod. They have, besides, the power of refusing a minister, without having in addition the permission to express the motives of this refusal. To this is limited all the action which is granted them.

All discipline belongs exclusively to the clerical bodies.

All ministry has its source and direction in the synod. No one can act in the ministry of the word unless he be sent by the synod. People can neither receive nor open the door to a minister whom the synod has not sent or sanctioned. "The synod occupies itself with evangelization and with all work that has for its object the advancement of the kingdom of God."

In sum, it all comes to this: the clergy govern without being themselves under the authority of a government.



There is another thing which is more serious. In the whole of the organization of the Free Church the Holy Spirit is not even named; and, with the exception of the profession of faith contained in the second article of the "Constitution," it mentions it nowhere. It could not do so. The Spirit of God is the power of the unity of the body of Christ. "There is one body and one Spirit," Eph. 4:4. Now the Free Church of the Canton de Vaud has an altogether different unity, a bond of quite another nature. For it, such as it has constituted itself, there is one body, and it is that one body; "The churches which have been formed since the year of grace 1845, in the Canton de Vaud, are, by the present act, united into one body." There is the unity of the Free Church. It is not that of the body of Christ, it is such as leaves this on one side. The Spirit of God is not, consequently, nor can He be, recognized nor sought as the One whose presence forms, characterizes, and establishes unity, and gives it as a banner the name of Jesus alone. One Spirit and one body is what does not enter into the framework of the unity of the Free Church. Its unity denies the other. "One body" excludes everything which is not itself.

48 The consequence of this is, that, uniting the defects of the corrupt church of the middle ages and of present nationalism, the synod or the clergy which is substituted for the presence of the Holy Spirit, sets aside equally the action of the Holy Ghost in ministry. "The synod occupies itself with all work that has for its object the advancement of the kingdom of God." That does not at all suppose the free action of the Holy Spirit nor does it permit the individual activity which is its fruit. There may be, if you will, instruments sent by the synod; but liberty of action, independently of a mission received from it, there is not.  

As to what concerns the unity of the Church the body of Christ, as well as the free development of the work of the Spirit of God in the ministry of the word, the constitution of the Free Church is in complete antagonism with the most precious instructions of the word, with those which, for the days in which we live, are the most important that God has given us. Instead of maintaining, as it says, the rights of Jesus, it wars against the rights of the Holy Spirit. It gives itself liberty as regards the government, to take it entirely away from the Holy Spirit and the faithful led by Him.

One could not, in fact, deceive oneself to the extent of treating a church of the multitude, as a body dwelt in, animated and directed by the Holy Spirit. Neither its unity nor its action could be those of the Spirit. The Spirit is therefore set aside in order to substitute the clergy. Alas! the constitution of the Free Church equally sets aside the word of God.

49 What injustice! I shall be told. "It proclaims the divine inspiration, the authority and entire sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures, of the Old and New Testament." Entire sufficiency for what? Tell me a single article of the "Constitution" which professes to be drawn from it. If the scriptures are sufficient for the ordering of the Church, what must be thought of a constitution drawn from sources entirely outside it a constitution which has not even expressed the intention or the desire to take the word of God as a foundation? It is, at least, a kind of sincerity, for there is not a single article of the "Constitution" which has emanated from it. This "Constitution" establishes a purely human organization, which has no relation whatever to the principles of the word of God. Those who have taken part in it have owned that the word of God has served them neither as a starting point, nor as the foundation of their work. Where, indeed, should we find, in the word of God, that it is a question of church members of the age of twenty-one years, or of electoral rights, or of votes counted by number of heads, of elders elected for six years, and other similar things? An ingenious, and no doubt pious mind has conceived an ecclesiastical system according to its own will; this system, modified by the difficulties or by the light of others, has found its formula in the "Constitution" of the Free Church.

The Spirit and the word have, then, been left out no less than the unity of the body of Christ.



The doctrine of the Free Church is found, alas! as defective as all the rest of it.

Nothing in it, perhaps, seriously wounds orthodoxy. One even sees in it the desire for piety. Nevertheless, its profession of faith, the doctrines of which the "Constitution" presents as being the "centre and foundation of christian truth," is a meagre and even false confession, and its orthodoxy is of a very pale hue. The work of redemption is put in it in the last line, and would disappear almost entirely save for the enumeration of the facts on which it is founded.

What is, according to the "Constitution," the only means of salvation? The gift of Christ? The death of Christ? The eternal redemption which Christ has obtained for us? No: it is something in man, it is "living faith." And why "living"? True faith is no doubt living. Why then draw attention to this word? Because the tendency of this expression is to connect salvation with the qualification of a grace in us, instead of making it depend solely on the perfect work of Christ, on the righteousness of God, in which one partakes and to which one submits oneself by faith. I repeat it, the work of Christ, the redemption He has accomplished, are completely hidden behind the state of the soul which has embraced it. It is faith, and not the object of faith, which is put forward.

50 Here is something which is really nonsense: "Christ communicates to the faithful and to the Church all the graces necessary for regeneration." How can they be called "faithful" and "the Church" if they are not yet regenerated? What does that mean: "the graces necessary to regeneration"? The Holy Spirit then does not regenerate! He communicates to unconverted man certain graces necessary for regeneration, graces which man makes use of to regenerate himself. Is that the obligatory doctrine, to which a formal assent must be given in order to become a member of the Free Church?

It is added: "It is by the Holy Spirit whom He sends on the part of His Father." This is not according to the truth. Jesus has sent this Comforter who shall abide for ever with the Church, as also it may be said that the Father has sent Him in Christ's name. As to what concerns the Holy Spirit, one finds thus, at the bottom of all the system of the Free Church, an unbelief and ignorance, involuntary no doubt, but not the less real.

Again: "He will return to put his own in possession of eternal life." One may, it is true, speak of eternal life to designate the power of the glory; but, met with thus by itself here, this expression only adds a little more vagueness to all the rest. The word of God teaches us and repeats to us that he who believes in the Son HAS eternal life.

The work of redemption and the work of life are, alas! carefully lessened in this confession of faith. It is defective enough to be false, for a defective faith established as a rule is false. It is besides positively false in many of its assertions.

The Free Church admits discipline in principle and in fact. The manner in which it orders the exercise of it, the formula of its doctrines on this subject, betrays in a somewhat curious way the conflict between the need of pious souls and the difficulty which a church of the multitude puts in the way of it. The 31st Article of the "Constitution" lays down in principle that all discipline shall be in the hands of the pastor assisted by the church council. Next, if all gentle means fail, what will the council do? What rule will it follow? After having consulted the word of God, "it will follow the course which shall seem marked out thereby." There would have been in any case this faculty or this latitude without an article of Constitution. This is but a declaration of incompetence, by which the assemblies will escape the organization intended by the "Constitution": for, suppose the church council saw in the word of God that the conscience of all the body ought to be concerned in discipline, the Free Church would see its constitution violated in its fundamental principle, and an independent authority established. Evidently, a church which should exercise this discipline in a regular manner, could not receive every member of a church not disciplined, even were he an elder, although he might belong to the Free Church; and, in fact, a church exercising this discipline would cease to form an integral part of the body, and would become a dissenting church. How, too, exercise this discipline by means of the conscience of the whole body, if the body is a church of the multitude? The presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church becomes here an essential question.

51 It will be on this point, and on the question of the nomination of pastors, that as a system the Free Church will be broken. Its "Constitution" will remain as a memorial of the powerlessness of man to constitute by human means that which is only of God. That which proceeds from faith on the part of the individuals who have taken part in it, whatever there is of conscience (and there is this), will remain as a precious proof of the goodness and patience of God.

I should not have deemed it necessary to pass this work in review, if I had only had in view the Free Church of the Canton de Vaud. The work of God in that country will bear its fruit, according to the measure of the power which acts in it. If there is found there a testimony superior to that of the Free Church, accompanied by a power which God can put honour upon, this testimony will attract those who are truly spiritual. If there be not, the Free Church will pursue its course and will take the form which will result not from its "Constitution," but from the elements of life, of good or of evil existing in the midst of the assemblies that compose it. The "Constitution" is neither the expression nor the form of the efficacious principle which has brought this work into existence. It is the form which the clergy have wished to give it, and that will not last. I speak of it because elsewhere people are deluding themselves with the hope that a similar clerical movement will bring in a deliverance that they are waiting for.

52 This is not faith. Let those who have faith take it as a warning and cling afresh to the truth. They will please God so far as faith acts in them and they act by faith, according to the conscience which they have as to things, according to the light that God has set in their consciences His word understood by faith. One has only to follow the word of God. Is one alone in following it? That is so much the more honourable, as demanding all the more faith. Seen from outside, the path of faith appears very painful; it is, for every one who walks in it, full of sweetness and peace. The mountains, on which God communed with Abraham and Abraham with God, were the object of terror to Lot. He thought he should perish there; Gen. 19:19.





We have already seen some citations from the Journal the "Réformation," proving the state of opinion on ministry among those who still support the clergy. I shall now give, on the question of worship, other extracts from this journal, which I give, not as a recognized authority, but as ideas which are current and shew certain sides of the phase through which the Church of God is now passing. We shall see also what is lacking, what the children of God ought to desire, and desire ardently in these times, as well as the rocks they have to avoid. I read in the "Reformation" of April 8th, 1847: "To our mind, spiritual and true worship consists essentially, not in the preaching of Protestants, nor in the false sacrifices of Papists, but in the singing of praise to God by the whole assembly, in the celebration of the Lord's supper taken in common, in prayer offered by several in the name of all, in the reading of the Bible on the part of such as know how to read, and in words of exhortation offered by whoever feels himself able to exhort his brethren. Along with this, there will be preachings and teachings, of which teachers will have the responsibility."

53 I have no objection to make to the details given by the "Réformation" as to what ought to be done; but there is entirely wanting to them a principle, that of the action of the Holy Spirit, whether as a power, the source of the activity of man and acting to produce this activity; or as discernment as to that activity and as power for discipline with regard to it. The form is good - God is not presented as being the power of it.

I could not admit that "whoever feels himself able to exhort" has the right to do so, unless two things be added: on the one hand, the responsibility of the one who exhorts to know that he is led of the Holy Spirit; on the other hand, the discernment by spiritual men of this action of the Holy Spirit, or it may be of the absence of it, and the discipline which flows from it, if there be occasion for it. It is God whom I seek in the assembly.

Such a system of worship, proposed in such a journal as the "Réformation," ought, at least, to strike every attentive reader. All that I ask is, that persons should act thus, depending upon the help of God.

Here is, on the other hand, the description given by the same journal of the services of the churches. I beg the reader to bear in mind that it is not I who speak.

"The bells are rung; the church is filled. During this time, a chapter of the Bible has been read; next, the ten commandments; but few persons have been listening. To this reading succeeds that of a liturgy, which many have followed with their lips, and to which, perhaps, no one has really added his Amen. A sermon is heard which people agree to find admirable, but that is all. Three verses of Psalms have been twice sung, to which the organ alone has imparted any feeling, and people leave, saying they have been worshipping God, and worshipping Him in spirit and in truth. But, no; we must be just. Language is here less false than facts. They say they have been to sermon. Every one seems to acknowledge that it was not worship."

54 And, again:

"More guilty, perhaps, and not less absurd, the greater number of protestant churches, with their inevitable men in black, their imposed liturgies, and their everlasting sermons, boast of having replaced forms by the Spirit, while they have substituted for forms, which at least act on the imagination, and sometimes on the heart, a withering and lifeless formalism. People begin to understand the error of the clerical system. The Church is no longer the body of pastors; it is the body of the faithful, it is the christian people. There is in this a great revolution."

Let us also hear M. Napoleon Roussel, in a postscript, on "Sunday Worship."

"I confine myself then to saying here that the sermon is as heavy as false, as dull as the black gown with which people dress themselves out to preach it; that it ought, in short, to be given up, in order to speak, in a style intelligible to all the world, things not only fundamentally true, but true in the means which serve to establish them. I would that people mounted the pulpit, not to set themselves up above the audience, but solely in order to be better heard by it … I would … alas! many other things, which neither I, nor others, do."*

{*I give here, as explaining the motives for many things with which the course of the Brethren, who are called Plymouthists, is reproached, the following fragment of a discourse on 2 Samuel 6:112, which is the tenth of M. Napoleon Roussel's discourses on "Sunday Worship."

"Another day, we find an obstacle in our way, when accompanying the holy ark, when conducting a christian work, when labouring in whatever manner for the advancement of the kingdom of God. As it is in acting with uprightness and simplicity that we have been foiled by the malice of men, we almost reproach ourselves for this uprightness and simplicity, and this time we wish to try adroitness and cunning. Under the pretext of making ourselves all things to all men, so as to gain some, we make ourselves all things to all men in such a way as to ruin ourselves with others. Nor is this enough. To gain worldly people, we employ worldly people themselves to draw the gospel chariot. Because such an one is rich, we place him in the  front; because such another is clever, we make him a charioteer. We employ the crowd to push behind, and end by being lost in the herd of unbelievers whom we purposed to direct. In the midst of such a retinue, we ourselves lose faith, and we copy those who ought to imitate us. Can we then be astonished, if God allow our work to perish? Is it not more wonderful, that we are still spared by Him who punished Uzzah for bringing an unbelieving arm to the help of the holy ark?}

55 I prefer simply to pursue good and to link myself with the power which alone can produce it, by walking in peace with the word of God as a guide, rather than to publish journalistic articles intended to point out evil. But, indeed, when journals and men of influence in the evangelical world hold such language, an immense revolution is accomplished. It is not that all accept these thoughts, nor that all have definitely stated them; but the movement of which they are the expression exists in persons' ideas. The germ of them is in people's minds, and is being there developed; if not, such language would not be heard. The journals only verify certain moral facts, state them precisely, and by publicity lend them force, importance, and give them a general circulation.

"At the present day," adds the "Réformation," the people of the Church have attained the consciousness of their rights. They are no longer willing that the pastor should be outside or above his flock, but one of its members. They renounce divine right, apostolical succession. They substitute popular election to the election of the clergy by the clergy."

However much the writings above cited may reproduce facts more or less established, could I be pleased with the tone of them? I am very far from it. If I cite them, it is not only to shew the state of opinion in the class to which these writers belong, but also to put brethren on their guard against such thoughts and such language. Even though it were true, it is a human way of speaking, which only tends to replace man by man; that is to say, clerical man by radical man armed with the consciousness of his rights.

Faith does nothing of the kind. It judges the pretensions of the clergy because they are not according to God. It does not own them. It owns a divine right and never gives it up. It owns that this divine right is the only one which can exist, and that the Christian's part is to have the enjoyment of and to submit to it. The divine right is the joy of the heart which loves God and knows He is grace. Faith has rights in the presence of God, the right of owning that all belongs to Him, that every excellent gift comes from Him. The right of man is death and condemnation. If he desires blessing, it is in the divine right, as well with regard to ministry as to everything else. No blessing elsewhere, absolutely none. Let us proclaim it loudly, my brethren, let us always remember it. If people come and speak to you of your rights, do not listen to this language. The flesh can thus readily be flattered; but you, Christians, who know that all is grace, you know that it does not belong to you to speak of rights; that the sinner has only one - that of being lost; that the saint owns that all right resides in God; that the rights of man and election by man never puts us in possession either of salvation or of any blessing whatever.

56 The Holy Spirit, the thought of the Holy Spirit, does not appear in that which we have above transcribed. If it were said that the Holy Spirit is in the Church; that consequently He acts not only in the clergy, but in the body of the faithful, as well for what concerns the action of this body as in the ministration of each member, according to that which God sees good to confer, this would make itself understood by a serious man established in grace; but, that which manifests itself in the fragments above quoted is radicalism in the Church. The rights of man, the rights of the masses, popular election to the exclusion of the divine right, is the very definition of modern radicalism. Ministry in its least gifts is but the expression of the energy of the Holy Ghost acting in us, energy given by God, from whom comes every good gift and every perfect gift.

This brings me to two other points which I shall again present in the very terms of the "Réformation."



I read in the "Reformation" of January 28th, 1849: Everything in Plymouthism may be reduced to two points - the idea of the action of the Holy Spirit and the idea of the authority of the scriptures.

Plymouthism wishes to substitute for human organization the action of the Spirit. This is the reason for their principal objection to ecclesiastical ministry.

Next, remarking on the following words of Mr. Recordon, "God only blesses the labours of the workmen; He is sovereign and He acts in grace by the instruments which it pleases Him to choose" (words that accompany a reproach addressed to the faculties of theology which venture to call, to choose, to designate, to send, to displace at their pleasure, the Lord's workman), the "Reformation" thus expresses itself:

"We see how it is: it is always a dualism set up between the action of God and means, between the Spirit and man, as if the divine work could be accomplished otherwise than in and by man."

57 The "Réformation" says again, under date of the 29th November, 1846:

"The religion and ecclesiastical system, which is set forth by Mr. Vermont, rests, it seems to us, on two principles: the authority of the Bible and the aid of the Holy Spirit. It is not, of course, against those two principles, considered in themselves, that we desire to protest, but against the use made of them. Thus the action of the Holy Spirit is taken in the point of view of a gross supranaturalism. The divine action is not conceived of in its dynamic harmony with human action, but rather as a purely objective and constantly miraculous power. It seems that God is to intervene in a way which excludes man; and that where calculation, the use of means, and well considered activity, come in, the Holy Spirit can find no place. The expectation of the faithful is to be entirely passive. It must await the unfolding of divine graces and abstain from action as much as possible, so as to leave them more liberty. In a word, spiritual graces are always brought back to the supernatural form they assumed in the apostolic age."

Alas! there is in this way of thinking and this way of speaking of the presence of God, and of the action of His Spirit, a lightness, a spirit of jesting, and a tone of petty philosophy, on the subject of holy things, extremely painful to those who feel how serious a thing it is to put oneself forward, to have to do with that which is so precious to Christ as His Church, and how solemn a thing to call oneself a workman together with God, to occupy ourselves with His work, and to say that He acts in us.

As we shall see, the author of these articles has, moreover, entirely misplaced the question.

He is not mistaken in presenting, as the foundations of what people are pleased to call Plymouthism, the authority of the scriptures and the action of the Holy Ghost. It is on these, in very truth, that I desire that my own work and that of my brethren should rest.

What is this dualism between God and man, this singular rivalry of which we are said to be guilty? A rivalry singular truly, on the part of a wretched creature, a worm, with Him who has created man Such a thought enters not, either to affirm or deny it, the mind of one who knows what God is and what man.

58 But the author of these articles is mistaken in every respect. In order to get rid of the action of the Holy Spirit, such as he finds it put forward as one of our fundamental principles, he falls into a strange excess. According to our views, as he affirms, "spiritual graces are always brought back to the supernatural form which they assumed in the apostolic age"; and he had before affirmed with no less assurance that, according to our views, "the action of the Holy Spirit is understood in the sense of a tolerably gross supranaturalism." The heart revolts in copying it. Does there really exist such a contempt for the action of the Holy Spirit? Alas! that at least betrays the thought of the author. He wants man to appear, man to act. The action and manifestation of the Spirit is for him a gross idea.

And again, the author is mistaken as to the facts of the apostolic age and as to the principles he condemns. The form which the work of the apostolic age assumed did not tend, in general, to a dualism of any kind - very far from it. There was, in certain cases, a sort of dualism. For example, tongues were spoken, and the one who spoke them did not always understand what he said. When that was the case, the apostle declares that this action of the Holy Ghost was of a lower order; "for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret; that the church may receive edifying." "He that speaketh in an unknown tongue, speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him, howbeit in the Spirit he speaketh mysteries … He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church … wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue, pray that he may interpret … But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church," 1 Cor. 14:5, 2-4, 13, 28. And Paul adds, as to himself (v. 19), "I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue." He will have, in speaking, his intelligence to have some part, not as if to produce in any sort another source of truth, but as a vessel blessed for himself and for others with what the grace of God communicated. By this means, there was blessing for himself and communion with others. The power of God by itself was something, no doubt; but the edification of the Church was the object which the love of God proposed to itself. The heart entered into it, spiritual Intelligence submitted to it and rejoiced in it. It is thus that, in promising the gift of the Spirit, the Lord Himself says, of the one who should receive it, that "out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38); out of his belly, that is to say, from his innermost affections, according to the well known use of this expression in the scriptures.

59 This dualism, of which the "Reformation" accuses us, is so little in my thought, that, on the contrary, in my eyes, it is precisely, save in the case we have just seen, the absence of it which distinguishes (a general, but not absolute distinction) the revelations of the New Testament from those of the Old. As a general rule, there was, in the prophets of old, this separation between the intelligence of man and the communication of the Spirit. It is otherwise in the revelations of the New Testament. The prophets, serving as channels of the Spirit of God, said, "Thus saith the Lord." Their hearts felt morally the state of the people, but the prophetic answer of God was communicated without the full intelligence of the prophet. This is why we find in the New Testament, that they "searched diligently … what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow: unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves but unto us they did minister the things which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven," 1 Peter 1:11-12.

Thus, the ancient prophets themselves studied their prophecies; and there was a further action of the Holy Spirit to make them understand the meaning of them. They then found that it was not for themselves, but for us, that they ministered these things.

We, on the contrary, know that these things are ours. Christ, this precious Saviour, has accomplished the work of eternal redemption. He has entered into His glory at the right hand of God, and the Holy Ghost has come down to be the revealer of this glory of the man Christ, the revealer of the Father's love, the seal of God upon us, as upon those who are to participate in it, and the earnest of all these blessings in our hearts: for the Head is there, and we are united to that Head; and the Spirit, come down from Him and from the Father, is in us a divine link with Christ. This Spirit, acting in the realization of the relationship of Christ to the Church,* can reveal nothing to us which is not ours. The understanding rejoices in it. The affections of the heart attach themselves to it. There is a difference of gifts, no doubt, according to the sovereignty and wisdom of God, in order to communicate to the rest that which He has made us understand; but there is nothing to understand and to communicate but that which, by the same Spirit who renders us capable of it, we know also belongs to us. These rivers of living water flow from the heart which rejoices in the grace and the glory of which He has given us to partake, and from its communion with the Lord who has loved it.

{*I say, in the relations of Christ with the Church because, in the Apocalypse given to the Church, the Spirit again becomes a prophetic Spirit, and speaks in a different manner.}

60 Throughout their whole extent, then, my thoughts (and I doubt not they are, in substance, given by my God) are precisely the contrary of the dualism in question.

But there is still something to add here upon the difference people wish to make between the past and present.

At the beginning of the Church there was not only the action of the Holy Ghost, but, besides this, new revelations. Now, in the communication of these divine truths for the Church of that age and of all ages, God preserved the mouth of those whom He employed for this work, so that no error should fall from it, where He saw good to give that which was to serve as an authority. It is not that this took away spiritual intelligence from the others. Even when an apostle spoke, they searched the word to see "whether these things were so," Acts 17:11. If prophets addressed the assembly, the rest judged; 1 Cor. 14:29. There were, however, divine revelations entrusted to those who were chosen of God to be the vessel of those revelations and organs of communicating them. Perhaps some of these communications were only for the moment; but those which were for every age of the Church are preserved for us in the written word. It is true also that, at that time, one was called upon to study that which the word of God reveals, so that one's profiting might be known to the whole Church; 1 Tim. 4:13-16.

61 Where is dualism, save in the mind of the author, who, as regards the apostolic age, makes everything proceed from the Spirit outside the intelligence of man, and, at the present time, makes everything be derived from man without the Spirit?

In order that there may be any good, it is needful for the Spirit of God to act in man and enable him to receive, communicate, understand, either a revelation,* or even spiritual communications of things already revealed in the word. Blessing cannot come from man; man receives it by the Spirit. He has, in order to communicate it, neither wisdom, nor power, nor direction, save by the Holy Spirit. If he acts from himself, he abandons his christian position before God. As to one who listens to him, he understands by the Spirit, and the thing is applied to his soul by the Holy Spirit alone. I do not deny that the soul and understanding of the one who speaks are the vessel of this action, this power. I know they are; that the soul, the conscience, the understanding of him who listens are so likewise; but I say that it is the Holy Ghost who acts, if there is blessing, and wherever there is.

{*1 Corinthians 2:12-15. When I say, a revelation, I speak of the apostolic times. For us, the complete revelation of truth is in the word. If there be a distinctive principle of Christianity, it is that of the presence and action of the Holy Ghost the Comforter.

Luke 24:49. John 4; ch. 7; ch. 14:17-26; ch. 15:26; ch. 16:1-15. Acts 1:8; ch. 2:38-39; ch. 4:31; ch. 5:3; ch. 8:17; ch. 10:47; ch. 11:15; ch. 13:9; ch. 19:2. Romans 8, almost the entire chapter (compare verse 9 and 7:5). 1 Corinthians 2:9-16; ch. 3:16; ch. 6:19; ch. 12; ch. 14. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; ch. 3:8, 17, 18; ch. 6:6; ch. 11:4. Galatians 3:3-5, 14; ch. 4:6; ch. 5:16-17, 25; ch. 6:8. Ephesians 1:13; ch. 2:18-22; ch. 3:16; ch. 4:3-4; ch. 5:18; ch. 6:17. Philippians 1:19; ch. 2:1. Colossians 1:8. 1 Thessalonians 1:6; ch. 4:8; ch. 5:19. 2 Timothy 1:14. Titus 3:6. 1 Peter 1:12; ch. 4:14. 1 John 2:27; ch. 3:24; ch. 4:13; ch. 5:8. Jude 20.

The attentive reader must have observed, in following these passages, that I have not cited those which refer to regeneration, a universally recognized work of the Spirit; but only those which concern the reception of the Holy Spirit by believers, and this action in believers. (Compare John 7:39; Galatians 4:6; ch. 3:24; Ephesians 1:13.) If we have lost all this, what becomes of the Church?

I beg the reader that he will go through all these passages in order - that which is not often done. He will not fail to find his reward in doing so. I think that will be worth all the rest of my pamphlet to him.

I always maintain, as the only true and possible meaning of the passage 1 Peter 4:10-11 that to speak as the oracles of God does not mean to speak according to the scriptures, though this be also  necessarily; the case, but to speak as announcing the oracles of God, as Martin translates it. For my part, if this be not done, I know not why I should listen. The reason given, namely, "that God may be glorified in all things," puts it beyond question that this is the meaning of the passage.}

62 If then any one objects, and says, No; it is he who introduces dualism; it is he who separates man from the Holy Ghost. That is indeed the dualism of incredulity, which makes of man a being capable of acting in the things of God without God's being with him, or acting in him. It is rationalism.

The movement is impressed on man and effectuated in man; but it comes from God: if not, it is evil. This is a point as capital as it is elementary. And, whatever may be the contempt with which the journalist treats these things, and accuses this system of meaning that the faithful should abstain from action as much as possible and take a more passive position, I boldly avow that I desire for all my brethren, as also for myself, that we should feel even more and more our entire dependence on God; that it is the Spirit which quickeneth and that the flesh profiteth nothing; yes, that we should feel our constant dependence, and that, if the Spirit does not lead us, we should not pretend, either in a smaller or a greater way, to meddle with the things of God. I believe, then, that the Spirit of God acts in man and by man, and in particular by the members of the body of Christ. He gives understanding, power, and energy. He is a Spirit of power and of liberty! But if He thus acts, His grace produces in the heart of man a spirit of humility and of entire dependence on God, a spirit which would be unwilling even to do a miracle if one could, unless the express will of God led one to do it. The life of the new man lives by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, and does not dare to act out of dependence on Him. That the Spirit should act in man and not outside man (an idea foreign to any system whatever), this is not, whatever may be said, what is intended.

What is intended is as follows: It is intended that people should calculate, reflect, employ means, arrange forms, without the Spirit and without the Bible, as we shall see; it is intended that all this should be done according to "human order," that is to say, of people's own will, yes, without the action of the Holy Spirit, without the direction of the Bible, which, say they, furnishes no rules as to church matters. And then, after all that, when man has acted without God, after his own counsels, people flatter themselves that God will put His hand to it. "I know," says the author, "that the Spirit of God can manifest His power, not only in spite of diverse forms, but even n these forms." That is to say, man will act alone, without the Spirit of God, without any direction from the Bible; then, God may come in and act, if He will.

63 I believe that in all systems, or rather, in spite of all systems, where there is faith, God will be found. But what a strange piety, to arrange things in the first place in one's own way, then to leave God to come in later, if He sees good! It is just man who wants to have man and the commandments of man.

As for me, I do not seek for "miracles"; but I do desire true dependence on God. I desire that man should not act without Him; that the presence of God in the midst of our assemblies should be our power and our blessing. Does the author of the article want God not to be present? Or does he want man to act without Him in His presence?

I have said that people wish to act without any direction from the Bible. They wish, in fact, as to all that concerns the Church, to set aside the Bible, as well as the Holy Spirit. Now, I say that man has nothing to do in the things of God without the Bible - that he has not to act without the Bible any more than without the Holy Ghost.

This is the second point I desire to treat.



To take the impulse of the Spirit without the word, is to expose oneself to take the flights of the imagination for a spiritual impulse.

To take the Bible without the Spirit, is to raise man to the level of God as to his capacity, and to make man do without God in his heart. It is rationalism.

To take the Spirit without the Bible, is to give a loose rein to all the follies of the human imagination, and to cover these extravagances with the name of God.

To do without the Spirit and the Bible, is what was reserved for the adversaries of the spiritual energy, which, in our days, is manifesting itself in the Church.

Is that true? the astonished reader asks. You shall see.

The word of scorn, which, in order to shake, to weaken, to crush their faith, is flung at those who, taking the Bible as their rule, do not venture to act without its directions in the most precious and important things of God - this word by which it is thought to fix on them the stamp of error or of ridicule, is 'gospel-code' (l'Evangile-code). We are accused of making a code of the gospel.

64 In one sense, I do not make one; in another, the Bible is my rule in every particular; and, without it, I dare do nothing in the things of God. I know that the letter killeth and that the Spirit giveth life. I do not take the Bible, without the Holy Ghost, as a literal code.

If the Bible tells me to love my brother, I shall find a thousand things in which love will be shewn, and of which the Bible does not speak, although, even in those things, I am directed by other instructions of the word. In many things, in which we have our senses exercised to discern good and evil, the word leaves liberty in order to put love to the proof. By our conduct in these things, it will judge, by the help of other passages, the thoughts and intents of the heart. The directions of the Bible suppose neither the imperfection which leaves man to himself in any particular whatever, nor a code which ties him to ceremonies and makes all his conduct a ceremony. And the Bible supposes neither the one nor the other, because the Spirit acts in a being become spiritual, who is to be directed by his affections and his conscience, but according to the word and according to the example of Christ; in a spiritual being who ought never to act of his own will (for that is what Christ never did, and what the word never allows).

To suppose that one must have either a code, or the calculation and will of man; to suppose that there is a category of things among the most important things, which most nearly concern God, in which man is to act at his pleasure, without the directions of God, is to shew an entire ignorance of what is spiritual life and christian obedience. I should like to hear the author explain what is meant by the perfect law of liberty.

Ignorant and weak as I am (and I feel it), I venture to tell him that the more progress he makes in spiritual life, in the knowledge of the Bible and the knowledge of the Lord, the more also will he find that the word of God applies to everything in which man is found in relation with God, and withdraws him from everything in which he is out of relation with God, that it produces this effect not as a code, but as light and life, as direction which the Christian will understand by spiritual intelligence, by the mighty grace of the Holy Spirit; light, life, direction, in which he will seize the thoughts and wisdom of God, in which he will seize what is the will of God (and that is what constitutes his joy); when, in fine, he will find all the thoughts and intents of his own heart judged by this word which penetrates to the joints and marrow, to the soul and spirit.

65 Does the author think that the things relating to the Church, be they what they may, are not included among the relations between God and man? If they are included, if they have a place among them, the word will in them reveal God and judge man. It is in them that God and man are brought into the closest contact, that God will have nothing but what is of Himself, that He abhors the commandments and ordinances of man. He Himself is there. The Church is builded together to be the habitation of God by the Spirit. And, as to particular assemblies, where two or three are gathered in the name of Jesus, He is in their midst.

And the Bible gives us no direction as to these things! What then can the calculation and reflection of a journal be worth, with regard to those in whose midst the Lord is found?

When the existence of a Church, the body of Christ on earth, is denied, when what that Church is, is ignored, and every divine idea discarded, the Spirit and the word may easily enough be set aside. Indeed, in a system founded on such principles, the word and the Spirit would have nothing to do, unless to judge everything. And, if a system is to be established according to the wisdom of man, I undertake to demonstrate that, whatever it may be, it contradicts, in every way, the word of God: so little is it true that the word of God is silent as to all these things. If persons presume to say, that when the word of God has said one thing, we may just as well do another thing, we shall at least know what is the question at issue.

Let me quote the text which has given rise to all I have just been saying.

"The second principle of Plymouthism is its notion concerning the Holy Scriptures. We do not here speak of the inspiration or authority of the books of the Bible, but rather of the use that Plymouthism makes of this doctrine, that the New Testament is the word of God. It concludes from it that everything found there is to be a law.* In vain is it alleged that the New Testament itself does not at all state this claim; that nowhere have the apostles given us their conduct in the direction of the Church, as a model which it was necessary to follow; that not one passage expresses the obligation of Christians to regard the ecclesiastical institutions of the first age as an absolute standard … It must not be thought that the idea of the gospel-code is a Christian axiom, which can always be made our starting-point, and which one has never the need of examining."

{*This is, indeed, just what I thought, provided that in the application one is guided by the Spirit of God. I beg the reader to remember that it is God who inspired the word, in order that the man of God may be perfect. Why has God indited these things by His Spirit? Why has He caused them to be preserved in a written form, if they were of no use for the future? That we have acted in such a way as to hinder this application; that there may have been gifts which we do not possess, and consequently positions in which we are not, is fully admitted. This was true in the times of the apostles also. That is not the question. It is this: Were the writings indited by the Spirit not to serve except for those who lived in the times of the apostles? Had not these writings their application in later times; and, if they had, till when had they? This is the point in question.

This is not, it is true, the whole question. On account of the state of the Church, we cannot do everything that is written; but this does not diminish the authority of that which is written: it only makes us feel the state in which we are. But if, on the one hand, we cannot do everything that is written, we dare not, on the other hand, do out of our own heads otherwise than what is written. The principle of our adversaries is that we can do what the apostles did as using the divine authority which had been committed to them.}

66 And farther on, "We also, we have long thought that, on the ground of conformity to primitive usages, there is no successful defence of present usages. We must boldly place ourselves on that of evangelical liberty and human order. We have already said that there is the whole question" (The "Réformation," of January 28th, 1847).

Yes, in truth, there is the question. If we add the denial of the presence and action of the Holy Ghost, there is all the question.

Happy and bold emancipation from the Bible and from the restraint of the presence of God! Can one imagine anything setting aside more boldly the word of God, in all that relates to the Church?

As a general rule, it is wished that we should not seek in the word directions for the Church; and, as it must be confessed that there are many in it, it is said that those which are found there are not to be made a law of That a Christian is saved, if you will, he may learn from the word; but as to directions for the Church on earth, it is insisted that the Bible furnishes us none. It cannot be denied that there are some in it; but we must take care not to see in them a law, and make use of evangelical liberty, and that boldly. The Spirit of God has not put them in the word in order that we might observe them Would it be believed that it is come to this?

67 It is admitted that the present usages could not be justified by the Bible. Let us take note of this. And as people are not bound to follow the Bible, as everything that is found in the New Testament is not to be made a law, are directions to be entirely dispensed with? No. People are to use their liberty; they are to abandon what is found in the New Testament since it condemns present usages, and they will betake themselves to human order; that is to say, they will fashion things according to their own will. They do not mean to say by this, that there are things which, because of our weakness, we cannot do; which we do not deny, and for which we humble ourselves. Now they want quite another principle, namely, to put aside the Bible and to follow human order.

If this is the principle which is opposed to what is called Plymouthism, while this decried Plymouthism recognizes the presence of the Spirit of God as a Spirit of union, power, and order, and recognizes the word of God, understood by the help of that Spirit, as a sufficient rule given by God for every case, and notably to lead ardent affections and subject consciences in a path pleasing to God, in the midst of the Church which that Spirit has gathered in its unity in order to be the faithful spouse of Christ - all that is done, in throwing discredit on our views by the name of Plymouthism, is to cover us, in the eyes of simple souls, with a nickname given by the enemy to Christian faithfulness and obedience to the authority of God's word. Let people say what they will, provided that, for my part, I may realize that which they reject.

Let us again cite the "Réformation" of October 29th, 1846.

This brings us to the other fundamental error of Plymouthism, we mean the use it makes of the word of God. The evangelical principle, that of the Reformation, is the exclusive authority of the holy scriptures, and consequently, the assertion that those scriptures are fully sufficient. At the same time it is taken for granted that, by this, the churches of the Reformation mean an authority in that sphere of things of which the Bible speaks,* a sufficient light in those questions which tend to salvation. It has never otherwise been understood or explained … But … the sixteenth century itself was not always consistent.

{*Does not the Bible speak of the Church and of the order which is becoming for it?}

68 "Scripture is sufficient for all that which pertains to salvation. Such is the Protestant maxim."

"But to appeal, in ecclesiastical questions, to the authority of scripture, to expect from scripture light upon these questions in the name of its dignity as the sole rule for Christians, is to comprise matters of form and organization among things necessary for salvation.* Now, is not this the Catholic principle? Outside the Church, that is, of a particular form of the Church, no salvation? These so deeply anti-evangelical notions are much more widely spread than is generally believed."

{*Here then we find put forth in all distinctness and nakedness the principle that the Bible is of authority and obligatory only in what is absolutely necessary for salvation. Who then is to fix the limits of what is absolutely necessary for salvation? "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God." Is this the only point on which the word of God is to be of authority, unexceptionable and obligatory? What a frightful principle!}

The attention of Christians cannot be too much drawn to the slippery nature of the ground on which they have been set by the existing systems and by those who seek either to preserve them or modify them by introducing new life into them. It is impossible to maintain their systems, if the authority of the Bible be maintained. And hence the Bible is set aside to admit these systems or to keep them. Catholicism, to which people would assimilate us, does not seek its constitution in the Bible. It makes the Bible depend on the authority of the Church; that is to say, it takes away from God the right of Himself addressing the conscience and making man directly responsible for what he has heard, and it practically declares that what God has said and done in this respect is defective. For the Catholic, the Church and her forms precede the Bible, which he receives from the hands of the Church. For the Catholic, the forms must not be judged by the Bible, which is precisely the principle of our adversaries. There is, however, between the Catholics and them this difference: the Catholics call their system the divine order, respecting God in name; our adversaries call their's human order, having no other principle than their own will.

69 Here again, it is a question not of any form but of the power on which what is legitimate in this respect depends, and of the rule which is to direct the action and the effects of this power, so that we should not stray from it. We say, Christ is Son over His own house; the Holy Ghost is the One who acts in the Church to produce therein, by His divine presence, the order, liberty, and blessing which become the house of God's Son. And where the Spirit is, there is liberty.

Nevertheless, man, not inspired, cannot be trusted as the vessel of the thoughts of the Spirit; and God, in His grace, has taken the pains to give us written directions, enlightenment, warnings, for which we bless Him from the bottom of our hearts, while at the same time distrusting ourselves. We believe His word perfect with the instruction of His Spirit. We believe it to contain everything a Christian needs, and that according to the order and importance of the subject, according to His perfect grace, acting in respect of the wants of man; for eternal things, eternal truths; for the means to be employed, directions which are suitable to an inferior order of things, but which describe the existence on earth of what on earth is most precious to God. It is neither a law, nor a code, because man would not be capable of making use of it, and because God is not willing (and it is in grace that He is not willing) to expose us to the risk of departing either from continual dependence on Him, or from living relations with a Being, a living God. This God, infinite in His wisdom, has known how to give that which perfectly directs, in dependence on Himself, the spiritual man who, having the Spirit of the Lord, can understand the thought and will of that Spirit. He has known how to accommodate His written instructions to His own perfections and to man who has the Spirit; for he judgeth all things (1 Cor. 2:15-16),* so that for him,* these instructions are perfect, complete, and divine; and because they are divine, they are beyond the reach of the natural man who would never profit by them through seeking a code in them, however truly they may comprehend everything which, at all times, governs the relations between God and man. But these relations are foreign to the natural man.

{*"The Spirit searcheth all things; yea, the deep things of God."}

{**This is true even for the weakest Christian; only it is limited to that which he has realized, God not suffering him to be tempted above that he is able to bear.}

70 Besides, the instructions given to the Church, as well as those given to the Christian for his individual walk, are moral instructions for moral circumstances. They have not ceremonies in view and cannot be a code. In such or such an act of the Church, a thousand moral principles may exercise their influence; and, on the other hand, a thousand hearts and a thousand consciences will have to submit to them. Now these moral principles are in the Bible. In certain cases, the word being positive, the will of man has nothing to do but to submit. In others, with the intention that the heart should be exercised and faith put to the test, it only gives directions designed to act on the heart and on faith, and moreover perfectly sufficient to produce their effect in the case of those whose heart acts according to that which is said; for God, the living God, is ever there. It is this last truth which changes everything, and it is this which is entirely forgotten by the class of Christians to whom we are now replying.

But, the rules given for individual conduct are quite as much moral as those given for the Church. They nevertheless do not form a code. Sometimes there are rules and relations exact and positive; sometimes, principles; a code, never. If we read, for example, "Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also," this directs us personally and profoundly. The Lord, notwithstanding, did not do this: He answered peaceably. There is not a code which, by literal directions, decides every case which presents itself. Does then the word of God not furnish us with sufficient directions for practical walk? It is sufficient for salvation to believe that Jesus is the Christ; at all events, the one who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.

Finally, the truth of the matter is this: "When thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light … If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light," Luke 11:34-36. It is not the will of God that it should be otherwise. Now there is not in the Bible anything save what is necessary, when the case to which it applies presents itself. Man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God; and, if the word of God is not sufficient for every circumstances, and on every occasion, man, deprived of the wisdom of God, will stray in the desert wastes into which Satan and his own will will have led him.



As to what concerns the administration of the Church, the great principles which are found in the word of God are the following.

For the calling, and for the spiritual wants of this Church, God has given certain gifts which act for the increase and the union of the body at all times. Forms have no place whatever. Order is always morally the will of God; now the word provides for it where it is needed (1 Cor. 14; Rom. 12; 1 Peter 4.) Through the corruption of man, the Church may be found in a state of dilapidation; but, if this be so, the word of God suffices in this case also to the spiritual man, to enable him to judge of it and to direct him in the circumstances in which he finds himself.

This is what our opponents deny. They say that at the beginning God gave rules and forms needful for the walk of the Church, but that these forms do not concern us.

They were, we must surely suppose, in that case, as necessary as they were good in those days, since God gave them by inspiration; but at the present day, although He had shewn the necessity for such directions, God has abandoned His Church without leaving it any for its walk.

Let us then examine the positive testimony of scripture on this subject.

The word of God presents to us a Church formed on earth* by the Holy Ghost come down from heaven when the Son of God took His seat there in glory, having accomplished the work of redemption. This Church is one with its Head. It is the body of which Christ, ascended to heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father, is the Head; Eph 1:20-23.

{*We have already given the proofs earlier. The following are passages to be consulted on the subject: John 11:52; ch. 7:39; Ephesians 2:14-22; ch. 3:5-6; ch. 4:4-16; 1 Corinthians 12:12; 13.}

This precious redemption has brought about the establishment of man in this glory in heaven, the manifestation of this glory, such as it is in Jesus, and the participation of poor sinners even in this glory.

72 In the name of Him who has accomplished redemption, and who is seated in the glory, the Spirit, come down as witness of these things, has called sinners to come out of the world which had rejected Him, and to enjoy the infinite grace which had thus called them according to the counsels of God and washed them in the blood of Him whom the world had crucified. This same Spirit (who, by means of those whom God had chosen, had thus called sinners, and had communicated life to them) has also united them in one body, of which this glorified Christ is the Head, of which the Spirit Himself is the link with Christ, and in which He is the link between the members, one with the other. But this link is a living and powerful link, and He acts by a divine operation in the members. The members individually and the body* collectively are His temple.

{*This is so far inexact as that His body is not the temple; collective Christians, however, are.}

The word shews that this is the basis and source of all true ministry.

Ministry is thus linked with the existence of the Church of God and the love of Christ for this body which He nourishes and cherishes as His own flesh. By his unfaithfulness, man has been able to spoil the development of this ministry and of the life of the Church down here, as well as the development of the life in the individual; but the existence of ministry is connected with the very existence of the Church, and the faithfulness of the Head with whom it is united.

Consequently, to affirm that the teaching of the apostles on the subject of ministry and its action does not apply to later ages, is to say that there is no longer either a body of Christ, or faithfulness in its Head to nourish it. That is impossible. Moreover the Comforter will abide with us for ever.

Many things, indeed, are lost. Tongues are no longer spoken, miracles are no longer performed. That which was connected with the external testimony and established the authority of the word is no longer found in the present day; but that which is of the substance of the things, that is to say ministry which calls and which nourishes, exists at all times. 1 Corinthians 4 and 14; Romans 12; and 1 Peter 4:10-11, contain instructions the force of which will subsist as long as the Church shall be on earth. One ought to take account of other passages which reveal to the heart and conscience our actual position before God, and which, in various respects, modify the application of those I have named; but until we are come to the measure of the stature of Christ, He will nourish the Church for its increase, and the Church will make increase of itself by this means.

73 Now, it is this ministry, its action, the rules which apply to it, that are in question. As to organization, we are but little reproached with too much insisting upon it.

To my mind, it is evident that the coming of Christ was before the eyes of the apostles; and this, whilst at the same time caring for the Church in an indefatigable manner, and making provision that such care should not fail it. But the apostles could not cause that the power - and there was power - of their ministry should continue after their death. See what Paul says to the Ephesians (Acts 20:22-30), and what Peter teaches; 1 Peter 1:14-15. Now, the kingdom of God is in power. The power of the ministry of the apostles has disappeared, and the consequence has gradually been the corruption of the Church and frightful disorder; so that one has seen what was called order and holy orders become the seat of the enemy's power, and what called itself the Church to be that which truth had to combat.

Now, in the perilous times of the last days, when there should be the form of godliness and its power denied, to what does the apostle (in view of everything which, before his prophetic eyes was springing up in the Church) direct his beloved Timothy, his son in the faith, this devoted heart into which he was pouring out his own? Here is the language he holds to him, "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them … All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." Now, it is very certain that this goes much farther than direction for the walk of the Church, that it embraces everything. The man of God is not simply a Christian; he is a man acting in the work and Church of God. This was the case with Timothy, to whom the epistle is addressed, and to whom Paul says, "Thou, O man of God," 1 Tim. 6:11. He needed to know how he ought to behave himself in the house of God; 1 Tim. 3:15.

Now for these times, after the departure of the apostle (times in which his immediate care would be wanting to the Church, and evil would go on increasing), to what does the apostle direct the faith of the man of God? Precisely to divinely inspired scripture, to that which we are told not to make a law of, to that which, if it must be said, is derided as a code, to what Timothy had learned from him (and where shall we learn from him, if not in the written word?); to the scriptures in fine, that he might be perfect and furnished unto every good work. Now I think that the work of the ministry and the care of the Church are a good work; at all events the apostle expressly says so to Timothy; 1 Tim. 3:1.

74 So likewise it is to God and to the word of His grace, that, in similar circumstances, the apostle commends the elders of Ephesus; Acts 20:29-32. All this relates to the administration of the Church.

If, then, we cannot do certain things, it is not that the authority of the word is wanting to us as to these things, nor hat it is not our blessing to possess these precious directions in which God has shewn us that He has thought of the least ants of His Church; but we acknowledge our weakness; and we do not pretend to do what God has not committed to us. Thus, for example, I do not pretend to name either elders or deacons. If others pretend to have the spiritual discernment and the authority necessary for this, let them do it; but of this I have not discerned the proofs - very far from it. More than this: he who should make such a pretension seems to me not to understand at all either the state of the Church, or the thoughts of God, to act contrary to the will of God, and to lack precisely that which is necessary in order to direct the Church, namely, intelligence of the thoughts of God. Do I despise the functions of elders and deacons? Do I love disorder? Far from it. And if I do not pretend to establish anyone in these offices, I own (blessing God with all my heart for it) the qualities requisite for them when they are manifested. I lend them all the moral support which spiritual respect with regard to what God has given them can afford, and I associate myself with them as far as it belongs to me to do so. And the word furnishes me with directions on this subject. It calls on me to own those who labour, those who give themselves to the ministry (diaconate) of the saints and to submit myself to them; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Cor. 16:15; Heb. 13:7-17; 1 Peter 5:26. I do not treat this subject at length, but only in its relation to the authority of the word, while blessing God in that itself furnishes the answer to all its adversaries, from whatever quarter they may arise.


You, Christians, who take the word for your guide, for counsel, who find in it a precious gift which God has bestowed on us and a perfect light in every case, do not be discouraged. If you meet with opposition, and if the number of those who are willing to follow this way is small, be not astonished. "All men have not faith," 2 Thess. 3:2.

And where there is faith, how many things, alas! tend to obscure spiritual life, to hinder the eye from being single, to cause us to say: "Let me first go," etc. (Luke 9:59).

But faith is always blessed. The single eye always enjoys the sweet and precious light of God. The word suffices to make every man perfect; and, if distinctions be wished, it suffices not only to save him, it suffices also to make him wise unto salvation, and, further, to make him perfect and throughly furnished unto all good works.

Whoever you may be, dear and well-beloved brethren, confide in this word. Only remember that, to profit from it, you need the help and teaching of the living God. You can learn from it neither grace nor truth, nor make use of it, unless the Spirit of God instruct you. All the language, all the ideas of faith - of Christian life are found in it; but you have the care of a living and divine Master. This word is the sword of the Spirit.

Whatever may be moreover the forms and ways of piety which are found in them, and the zeal which impels them, you will find that those who oppose a walk which claims the word of God as authority in all things, leave aside or reject and do not understand the following truths:

First, the doctrine of the Church of God, the body of Christ, one upon earth, the bride of the Lamb.

Secondly, the presence and power of the Spirit of God, acting in the children of God and directing them; especially, the presence* of the Holy Ghost in the body, the Church down here, acting in it and directing it, as well as all its members, in the name of Him who is its Head.

{*Read, "operation."}

Thirdly, the authority and sufficiency of the word of God.

76 These Christians evade, on one side or other, the authority of the word of God. They admit it as Protestants, to escape from it as believers, as members of the Church, as disciples; and what they organize in nowise flows from it, as the "Constitution of the Free Church of the Canton de Vaud" has given us a proof.

You will also see that in general, among the Christians of whom we are speaking, the clergy take the place of worship. There is, it is true, some change and some progress in this last respect. The Spirit of God is producing wants; but there will never be a true and blessed answer to these wants, save in admitting with faith the principles called to mind above. For you, dear brethren, who have understood these things, I will add a warning.

One may have this precious knowledge necessary in order to walk intelligently before God (Eph. 5:15); but one may have it, boast of it, proclaim it, and with all this repel humble souls desirous of advancing, and throw them into the hands of those who have no wish that they should walk according to this knowledge. We ourselves must walk in seriousness, in humility, in the love which the presence of God produces. This supposes faith and life in the soul. Where it is found, blessing is not wanting to those who thus walk. Although this does not justify the unbelief or the opposition of others, if you present the truth in such a way as not to glorify God, you give them power and influence against it. Principles are not enough: we need God. Without this, mighty principles are but a sword in the hands of a child or of a drunken man; it were better to take it from him, or at least, that he use it not till he be sober. Let us shew the fruits of our principles. Let us be firm in the truth. We must be firm. The more some oppose the truth, and others profess to wish to possess it, and accommodate themselves, without their conscience unreservedly submitting to it, to the wants it has produced in other persons (and both these cases present themselves), the more we have to keep in the narrow path it has marked out in the word for our souls, according to the grace and power of the Holy Ghost who has sanctified us to obey Christ. Let our hearts be large and our feet in the narrow path. Often, when people talk of charity, their hearts are narrow and their feet are following the path which suits them. It is this which makes the heart narrow, because the conscience is uneasy, and people do not like those who make this evident. The presence of God (and it is of this that we are speaking) gives firmness, practical submission to the word of God Himself, which tranquilizes the soul in the difficulties of the way, which causes one not to seek the prevalence of principles by crooked ways and human means; finally, it gives humility and uprightness. God will know how to enforce these principles, where He acts in His grace. Only let us manifest this power, He will do all the rest.

77 Yes, dear brethren, life, the presence of God, this is what (by the operation of the Holy Ghost in us and in others) gives force to the truths which are committed to us, whatever they may be. Better that these truths should not make way, than that we ourselves should get away from the presence of God to enforce them.

The need of unity and of spiritual action is making itself felt. You will see human efforts spring up, intended to produce things which answer to these wants. Do not trust them. The Church, the Spirit, the word, the practical expectation of Christ, these are the things of which you have now to realize the truth and power. While waiting for the coming of Jesus, as the immediate object of the spiritual affections of the heart, here is what we have to occupy ourselves with.

There are systems of every sort, the National, the Free, that of the Evangelical Alliance,* and others. When the truth is firmly retained, all this is judged in the soul without violence or noise. Nothing of all this can accord with the things I have spoken of: only let us be sure that God will honour personal faith wherever He finds it. Let us thus have hearts large, ready to own God wherever He works; but let us not be deceived by appearances. Neither one nor other of these systems can be the bride of Christ, nor the habitation of the Spirit of which the word speaks; nor can they act simply according to the word.

{*I will say a word on the "Evangelical Alliance," because souls are sought to be gained under the sweet name of union.

The foundations of this Alliance are quite different from those which the Spirit of God would or could have laid, although the want which suggested this Alliance may have been, I doubt not, in great part produced by that Spirit. As usual, man has sought to arrange things in his own way. And, in the first place, the principle of clergy has been made fundamental. A second principle which has been established has been that, in becoming a member of the Alliance, no one was supposed, either to renounce the sect to which he belonged, or to renounce the putting forward of his own principles, a condition without which union would have been impossible. Dr. Chalmers strongly insisted on united action, saying that, without this, the "Alliance" would have no vitality and would not stand. People did not dare to follow this advice; and it was decided that the point should be left on one side! Later on, the English members of the "Alliance" decided not to admit any possessing slaves, a measure which excluded a certain number of Christians of the United States. People were thus led to subdivide the "Alliance" into a certain number of national districts, and to renounce a general union.

Can it be said that this is the unity of the Spirit?

As to the doctrines owned by the "Alliance," they comprise too much or too little to serve as a common ground for all those whom it is designed to unite. It is of little use to enter into other details; for, except a great annual meeting, a great deal of talk, and some local reading-meetings, from which are excluded the Quakers, those called Plymouth Brethren, and, through one cause or another, the greater part of Christians, this "Alliance" does next to nothing.

In France, under the name of "Union Evangélique," the "Alliance" is only an instrument of clericalism and exclusiveness, and even, it appears to me, without much good faith. I say this, because, if one pretends to seek the union of all Christians, and uses this pretension to make of it an instrument of exclusiveness, I cannot call that good faith. In proof of what I assert, I may mention the exclusive communications made to those who are thought to belong to the clergy; I may mention the fact that there is presented to those who wish to become members of the Alliance an engagement to sign, by which they bind themselves not to be present at a meeting held by any of the brethren professing what are called Plymouthist principles. Is this engagement required everywhere? I know not. What I do know is, that it is required; and it is certain that those who act in the "Union" and for the "Union," actively make use of the "Union" for the object indicated. That people should oppose views which they do not approve, is nothing surprising, and can readily be understood; but to set up the "Union," to attain this end under the pretext of union, is what I can understand but cannot honour.}

78 Now, dear brethren, God shakes everything except the kingdom which cannot be shaken. He will remove everything save that. Why build that which His coming will destroy? Let us keep ourselves firmly in the word of His patience. He did not possess, He possesses not yet, the fruit of the travail of His soul: all which is not that will perish; let us attach ourselves to that which will not perish. Every other thing will distract us. Impossible for me to enjoy fully the coming of Jesus as a promise, if I am seeking to build the things which His coming will destroy. His Church will be taken up to Him. His Spirit will be for ever its power. His word abides for ever. Let us abide by it. Neither will our labour be lost (1 Cor. 15:30-32), nor the work of faith, although this word be, no doubt, the word of His patience.

79 How many events since these pages were written have come to give force and reality to the truths revealed as to the Church, the Spirit, the word, and the practical expectation of Christ! How happy to have received in peace, by faith, that which these events give the demonstration of, and which becomes doubly precious in the midst of all that is being unfolded before our eyes! And what a confirmation for faith, to see events confirm, by providential actings, that which, by the teaching of the Spirit, we have believed and received as truths.

And, in presence of these events, how should Christians cherish and realize, more than ever, the coming of the Lord Jesus! It will be the daily joy of our souls and a powerful means of confirming us in peace and in a sure and Christian walk. Let us know how to apply its power to all our walk. Let us remember that an incorruptible inheritance, undefiled, is reserved in heaven for us who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time. And, meanwhile, let us remember that Christ said, "My kingdom is not of this world," and that we ourselves are not of this world, even as Christ was not of this world. We are dead and risen with Him. Let us apply these testimonies of the word to all our walk, remembering that our conversation is in heaven, from whence we look for the Lord Jesus as Saviour, who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body. While walking tranquilly with Jesus, the God of peace will be with us. Nothing separates us from His love. He may let us be chastened if need be, but He never abandons the government of all things. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father. The Lord Jesus walks on the rough sea as on the calm: we could not, without Him, walk either on the one or on the other.

Kept in the communion of the Lord, far from diminishing in our hearts the value of the elementary truths of the gospel, the principles I have spoken of make them infinitely more precious, and at the same time much more clear. They will be proclaimed with more power and simplicity.

Thus the coming of Jesus will re-animate our zeal to call those who are His own, to address ourselves to sinners, to warn the world of the judgment which awaits it, and which awaits it such as it is down here; it will impel us, according to our measure, to a holy activity in the Church, to the end that the Church may awake and may prepare itself, as also to a holy activity towards the world.

80 May God keep us near to Himself, and preserve us, you and myself, my brethren, whoever you are who love the Lord Jesus, in the faithful and patient waiting for Jesus, who has said to us, "Surely, I come quickly!" Amen.