An Examination of the statements made in the "Thoughts on the Apocalypse," by B. W. Newton; and an enquiry how far they accord with Scripture.

J. N. Darby.

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But to proceed. It is alleged that candlesticks of gold lead to the candlestick of the tabernacle, and then, that "every thing that typified the person or attributes of Christ, as seen in heaven, was of gold." That the gold may shew that the candlesticks or churches are viewed in a divine or heavenly character, may be very true. But it is not Christ's Person, or attributes, which are seen here, nor is He seen in heaven. The Spirit speaks of churches, and of Christ upon earth walking amongst them. Lights in the holy place was not the proper place of churches, but lights in the world, holding forth the word of life, presenting divine excellency among men. But John turned, and saw seven golden candlesticks. He did not see the sanctuary, nor candlesticks in it. To say he was for a season withdrawn from the sphere of mere human thought and action is merely confounding with words. Of course he was, when he had a vision; but he was in the isle called Patmos, and turned, and saw the candlesticks. Afterwards, "after these things," he is taken out of the sphere of earth, and it is said to him "Come up hither"; but this he saw on earth - a vision no doubt; but John was not yet for a season out of earthly connection, unless the isle called Patmos be so. There was no hidden and separated sanctuary, no secret holy place. All this statement is merely added and contrary to the statements of the chapter. That he saw them in vision, according to the abstract or divine idea, of what they should be, or were, according to that idea, and not in the ordinary exercise of apostolic care, is quite true; but the vision was not what it is represented here to be. Moreover, Christ is seen with a golden girdle, it is true; but His feet were like fine brass, not of gold, which is stated to be His heavenly character. The author states that He walked among the candlesticks, not the churches; but it is explained by the word itself, that the candlesticks were the churches.

25 And if He was walking among the candlesticks judging, it was clear it was not the candlesticks as the divine type of what they were in God's mind that He would judge. The candlesticks were God's idea of them. The report is of things that are - what man had actually made of them here below. Christ judicially brought what the Spirit saw to bear on what man had produced. I would only add that, while the judgment was priestly as well as divine, yet I do not (whatever His capacity to give) find grace in anything characterise His dealings here - i.e., His activity in priestly grace: for patience in judgment is grace. But the next chapter will give us further matter on what is most important in thus.


They instruct us "respecting the order of the Gentile churches." "When the Lord Jesus was personally on earth, the church was not yet ordered," etc. - nor (I apprehend) built, nor the foundation laid. That in the purpose of God the disciples were to be of it is true. That they had life as all saints have it true too.* But to say that the church was not ordered according to the form which He intended it to assume among men - that He was collecting, not arranging the materials, preparing the living stones, not building them together; is not a scriptural representation of the matter. It puts Christ's death, Christ's resurrection, the breaking down of the middle wall of partition, the presence of the Holy Ghost as the power of unity, the assertion that if He did not die He would abide alone, that He was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel - all that is stated in Scripture of the church - entirely aside. He died to gather together into one the children of God which were scattered abroad. Without His death, and the presence of the Holy Ghost, this could not be. Till His death He would have set aside without warrant God's order in abandoning Israel for another body. The first husband, the law, was not dead, and Christ came in His infinite grace under it. Its curse was not borne yet. Nothing that could set aside Israel, or set up the church, was done - not the first foundation stone laid. It was not mere ordering. He had not done the work on which it was to be built. Nor was He collecting materials for it, though they were formed into it afterwards. In God's counsels so it was to be; but He could not act publicly about it, till He was rejected and crucified. On what should the church be based? Nor could He teach His death even to His disciples, but as His rejection by His own nation and delivery to the Gentiles.

{*There is a very deeply and fundamentally false principle running through all the author's reasonings on this point. I mean this, that, if life be there, inasmuch as it is always of God, or divine life, it is always essentially the same, whatever official distinctions there may be as to dispensation. Now, as to the possession of life by man, it must be holy in the principle of its nature, obedient, and have God for its object. So far, it must be fundamentally the same. But this makes man the end and essential object of all this. Then these things, man having life, may be termed "official" destinations (though, even so, it is most sad to say that those things by which God acts peculiarly on His saints are mere official differences). I do not think a spiritual holy mind that loves Christ can help being shocked at being told that that possession of the Comforter, which made it expedient that Christ should go away - which guides him into all truth - gives him communion with the Father and the Son - which is an unction by which he knows all things, the things freely given to him of God, yea, the deep things of God - which enables him to cry, Abba, Father - by which the love of God is shed abroad in his heart, and by which he knows that he is one with Christ, in Him, and He in him - that all this is a mere official distinction.

26 But the truth is, this principle shuts God out of the matter, in making the difference as to man the end. These differences of dispensation are the displays of God's glory; and therefore of all importance, and most essential, because a positive part of His glory. The law maintained His majesty, and title to claim obedience, as the gospel displayed His grace, and gave the obedience of a child. To say that the breaking down the middle wall of partition, and the accomplishment of the glorious work by which it was effected produced only an official difference, because man had life, and man was forgiven, or forborne with in view of it, is to say that the display of God's glory was an unessential thing: the display of all His glorious wisdom, power, and love, in that mighty work which stands alone in heaven and earth, the object of angels' research. Was it unessential to them, who found scarce even an official difference, though doubtless it affected their position, to see Him who had created them, nailed to the tree in that mighty and solitary hour which stands aloof from all before and after? Let us only remember that dispensations are the necessary displays of God's glory, and we shall soon feel where we are brought by what makes mere official difference out of them.

Besides, the difference is very great indeed as to man. It is everything as to his present affections, as to his life. Because God puts forth power, power too which works in man through faith, according to the display He makes of Himself. And therefore the whole life, in its working, in its recognition of God, is formed on this dispensational display. And this is the field of responsibility too. Thus, if God reveals Himself to Abraham as Almighty, Abraham is to live and walk in the power of that name. And so of the promises given to him. Israel is to dwell in the land as the redeemed people of the Lord - their affections, ways, responsibility, and happiness flowing from what God was to them as having placed them there. So to us - the presence of the Holy Ghost Himself being the great distinguishing fact, with the knowledge He affords. Because all this is what faith ought to act upon, and the life which we live in the flesh we live by faith, for the just shall live by faith. Hence the Lord does not hesitate to say, This is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. That could not have been the life of those before. Had they then not life? Nay, but it could not be stated in that way - their life was not that; and to undo these differences is to make a life without affections, character, responsibility, in a word, without faith. You cannot do it; for to us to believe is to live. The more you succeed in levelling them to one thing, the more you succeed in stifling divine affections, and active human responsibility (destroying, as far as may be, divine communion, and frustrating divine grace), the more the glory and energy of faith is null, and hence God's glory in us.

27 There is another point connected with this, that I would not leave untouched: - namely, that making a difference of position in glory is setting aside the value of Christ's blood, and making our place on high depend on something else. Now I meet this difficulty in the face. And I say there is a difference in glory; and that difference does not depend on the precious blood of Christ; and that to say that it does, takes away its value from that blood. Difference there is. The Saviour recognises the setting on His right hand and on His left; and many other passages prove it. Now, if this depend on the blood of Christ, this would attribute a various value to it, making it uncertain and imperfect in the extent of its efficacy. The blood of the Lamb gives to all their sole title to be in the glory, and gives to all an equal and perfect justification from sin; and therefore in its effect, there can be no difference. To suppose a difference is to call in question the completeness of its efficacy. But there is a difference. And this (while the title to be in the glory is for all in the blood) depends therefore on something else. It is, in the accomplishment of the counsels of God the Father, given to those for whom it is prepared; and given (though man is not in the least the judge of that labour, and there are first that shall be last, and last first) according to the working and energy of the Spirit of God, and faithfulness through grace in service. God does what He will with His own. Still we know that in doing so He displays what He is, and is consistent with Himself; and position and reward answer to the sovereignty of God, which has given us a position, and the operation of the Spirit by which we have walked in it. It is the sovereignty of God we know from the Lord's answer to the sons of Zebedee, and the parable in Matthew 20. It is the fruit of labour, as we know from 1 Corinthians 3:8; the parables (Luke 19 and Matthew 25); 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20; 2 John 8. I suppose it will not be questioned that this work is through the efficacious operation of the Spirit of God. Suppose, now, the Lord chose to put the Old Testament saints in the position of the four living creatures, and the New Testament saints in that of the crowned elders, both of whom are said to sing the song of the redeemed together; what is there contrary to principle in this? I am not here at all affirming it is so; but enquiring whether there is anything a priori to condemn it. I see nothing at all It is quite clear that the saints on earth during the millennium are redeemed by blood, and yet as to glory much farther off than the crowned elders. Why in this administration of glory may there not be intermediate positions?}

28 Nor is it ever said that they were quickened with heavenly life: unless we use it in the vague sense, that everything that is from above is heavenly. But it is never said, unless we cite the passage, "Born again," as from above (Greek, anothen), which I do not believe. That the divine life came from above, I do not doubt. That it was properly heavenly is never said in Scripture. Further, it is entirely unscriptural and very evilly ambiguous to speak of "everlasting union with Him who was 'the new thing' in the earth"; because Christ says, "except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone." Scripture never speaks of union with Christ while on earth. Never. It always speaks of union with an exalted Head.

And it is evident to me, that when Christ breathed on them after His resurrection, He conveyed an accession of living power. The second Adam is a life-giving Spirit; and as God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life, so here Christ breathes upon them - does not send down the Holy Ghost from heaven so that they should be the habitation of God through the Spirit; but He does what He never did before His resurrection. But I have no doubt that this was life more abundantly. The Spirit of life in Christ Jesus it is that has made us free from the law of sin and death. He quickened Lazarus, but it was not a question of his soul, but victory over death by power, in answer to His cry to the Father, though He L was in living power then the resurrection and the life. But His resurrection was another thing. It was according to the power of an endless life; and this was not Lazarus's case. We are quickened together with Him; and this is so true, that, notwithstanding Lazarus and other persons raised to life during the period recorded in the Old Testament, He is the first-fruits of them that slept. All these cases belonged to, and were brought to pass in, the old thing, through the power of God in it.

29 If man had not been in the state he really was, totally and fundamentally corrupt, so that atonement was absolutely necessary, there was power, living power in Him (the Father had given Him to have life in Himself - in Him was life) to restore all. But as Adam was not in fact the head of the race till fallen and in sin; so Christ is not a corporate Head till He has wrought out righteousness, and we can be made it in Him, and then we belong to the new creation. Whereas, divine and perfect as He was, He, supposing He was the new thing, was come into, and dealing with, the old - God's last dealing, we may say with it (save a peculiar special intervention with Israel), and therefore abode alone till the foundation was laid of the new thing, the new creation, in His death, by which He passed out of and closed the old, and His resurrection, by which He began in power the new, breaking the bands of Satan who had conquered in the old, in his last stronghold - strong by God's judgment. And hence when, in instructing us what the church is, the apostle speaks of the new creation, He speaks of our being risen and quickened together with Christ, and set in heavenly places in Him, the middle wall of partition being broken down to make both one, making peace, and to present both in one body by the cross: that is, He speaks exactly in the opposite way to the writer of the "Thoughts."

Accordingly, it is a serious thing to make the death of Christ necessary only to the ordering of the church, and not to its founding and existence; and to make Christ, alive in the earth before that solemn, and in the literal sense of the word, all-important act, the centre of union, when the apostle says it could not be till after - nay, when Christ says that He abode alone till then. It has been urged, and rightly urged, that incarnation was not union. But the Lord affirms further, there could not be union without death. He was to die to gather. We are baptised into one body. That life was communicated I fully recognise; but I do not see that this is necessarily union in the sense of forming the body, which is everything as regards the church. I find it distinguished from heavenly things, in Christ's conversation with Nicodemus. He had spoken of earthly things, when speaking of regeneration. For the Jews, taking earthly things of God, must be regenerate. But with this He contrasts the heavenly things, and, when He mentions these, states to Nicodemus, that the Son of man must be lifted up.

30 That God forgave from Adam's sin downward in respect of the cross is plain, and stated in Romans 3:25; and that He communicated life to the old saints I do not doubt - eternal life. It is too clear to me to reason on it here, for without it none shall see nor enter the kingdom of God. But Christ is never spoken of as the Head of the body, the church united to Him, until He was Himself exalted to the right hand of God, and had accomplished the work which made the church's whole place before God. It was not therefore merely arranging the church's form that was in question; it was doing the work which could give it a place before God, lay the foundation for its existence, and make the peace, reconciling Jew and Gentile into one body unto God by the cross. Is this rightly treated in this passage of the writer? Does he speak of it as the Scriptures speak of it in any one single place? He has quoted none - not one. It is pure assertion, and assertion entirely different from, and opposite to, Paul's statements in the Ephesians, and indeed in all his epistles.

The next paragraph (page 22) introduces fresh confusion The union of the church with Christ as sitting in heavenly places is totally shut out. We have it gathered, but not ordered, during Christ's life; and visible on earth from Pentecost. But all Paul's statements in his epistles are passed over altogether, and what is spoken of as the church constituted turns out only to be a particular church on earth, with a difference of metropolitan power, but all the churches of God are essentially alike. Thus the church is silently dropped into churches, and the whole idea of union and unity entirely set aside, and the church and churches confounded (the church being after all the church at Jerusalem, which had essential resemblance to all the churches of God - only that at Jerusalem had singular dignity pertaining to it alone). I know not how Christians will estimate this dealing with the existence and privileges of "the church," the pillar and ground of the truth, the body and fulness of Him who filleth all in all. But they will do well to consider, if they have ever received any comfort or spiritual blessing and power from Paul's epistles on this subject, what becomes of it in these statements. It is very clear that what filled the mind of the apostle, what the Spirit there expatiates on, has no place in them at all. The church may be a visible body on earth, gathered though not ordered before Christ's death, equivalent to churches; but in heavenly places one body, it is not known here. I will add elsewhere a word as to its standing, hopes, and laws; for the present, briefly as to its order. It was metropolitan - all that could be called the church, for it was constituted at Jerusalem; but "the church at Jerusalem was … the centre of light and control." And what makes this more remarkable is, that we are told that one candlestick would have fitly represented it, as it actually does in Scripture "represent Jerusalem when she shall nationally assume her metropolitan position in the millennial earth," thus bringing down the church, as far as possibly can be, to the position of Jerusalem on earth in the latter day. "The appropriate emblem" for the one "is the character of the symbol employed to represent" the other.

31 We are told, accordingly, that "when the church at Antioch was in difficulty, it sends to Jerusalem for direction, and receives an authoritative reply." "This then was a relation that could not be fitly symbolised by two candlesticks unconnected, equal and alike."

"But when Jerusalem had rejected the testimony of the church, Paul was raised up to carry the truth among the Gentiles - he established a new order among the churches which he gathered. This order was not metropolitan."

Would it be believed, from this statement, that the difficulty at Antioch arose from teachers come from Judea years after the raising up of Paul; and that it was Paul and Barnabas that went up from Antioch, after the metropolitan order had been dropped accordingly in extensive regions; and, moreover, that they went up to the apostles and elders about this question - that the apostles and elders came together to consider it, though the letter is written in the name of all; and that Paul moreover delivers the decrees in those churches which were not in this metropolitan order at all, but independent one of another? That there was a blessed effort to maintain unity between the scenes of Paul's labours and the Jewish churches, when trouble had broken out at Antioch (where the church had been planted by the scattering of the Jerusalem church, and the starting point of the independent ministry of Paul)? is most true. But the facts and the dates shew that, however strictly it may have been a mother church, this affair, and the distinction of Paul, is all mis-stated. Furthermore, the presence of the apostles was metropolitan, and, so long as earth remained something, Jerusalem did too. But all this was after the scattering of the Jewish church, except the apostles, on Jerusalem's rejecting the testimony. The order was, in a certain sense, metropolitan,* because of Jerusalem and because of the apostles.

{*That is, Jewish in form, having an earthly centre in Jerusalem - just the statement which has been so animadverted upon as applied to the Pentecostal Church.}

32 But a more serious question connects itself with this - the new order of the apostle Paul. The evident object here is, to shew that the teaching of Paul was the same; his order not unity, but independency; that unity was the metropolitan system, which ended with Jerusalem's rejection of the testimony of the church there - only there was a moral unity preserved by Christ Himself walking amongst them, so that "the saint journeying found the same thing in each place, and the world could then take notice of it. They knew that in the several Gentile cities there were those gathered together who, in faith, and doctrine, and manners, were emphatically one. The whole of the Gentile churches, though locally separated, together constituted the one church of the living God, and as such were known and recognised among men." I pray the reader to read this statement over again, and to say, is this really so? Is it Paul's statement of the unity of the church? And the writer is speaking of Paul's work and teaching. It is just nothing more nor less than modern independency setting aside all Paul's doctrine on the whole subject. We will compare them.

Paul "preached the same gospel; but He established a new order among the churches which he gathered. This order was not metropolitan. Seven Gentiles churches are represented by seven candlesticks of gold, separate one from another - all equal - all alike; connected by no visible bond, neither revolving round any common centre. They were independent one of another," etc.

It is very evident that this is to meet the statement made by other brethren, that while Paul preached the same gospel as to salvation - of which no one of course entertains any doubt - he was at the same time specially employed of the Lord to bring out the unity of the church as sitting in heavenly places in Christ, the seven churches having been considered as the history rather of the decline of the churches, the actual historical state in which John found them, but selected by the Holy Ghost as affording morally a sample of Christ's dealings with "the churches," and by many as an outline of the church's history in general, the prophetic part of the book coming "after these things."

33 In opposition to the idea of Paul's peculiarly bringing out the heavenly unity of the church, he is stated (the italics are the writer's of the "Thoughts") to have preached the same gospel; and while metropolitan unity existed before on earth, Paul set up independent churches. I have already remarked that heavenly unity is entirely left out here.

The seven churches of the Apocalypse are adduced as proofs of Paul's work. Doubtless he had been the means of founding many of them, though not all; but their then state was no part of Paul's preaching. It is not Paul who presents to us seven distinct churches, all equal, all alike, or any other churches whatever in this state; it is John, and that when they had ceased to be under Paul's care. That local churches existed no one doubts (i.e., local assemblies of God); but there is no teaching of the apostle Paul on the subject. The fact of their existence is on record.

This is his teaching.

"For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby," etc.

"Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."

Again, "How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery … which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel." "And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God … to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus." Having prayed then to Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to His power that worketh in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus, we have, "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling." "He ascended up on high, and gave gifts unto men." "And he gave some, apostles, etc.; till we all come in the unity of the faith, etc … but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ; from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, to the edifying of itself in love." And again, "Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it … for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones."

34 Again, 1 Corinthians 12:12, "For as the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, bond or free," etc.

Romans 12:4, "For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." Now, I would ask, after these quotations, is not the statement made by the author of Paul's teaching a concealment of that which is peculiarly his, all being reduced to earth - Jewish metropolitanism, and a new order of independent churches, established by Paul? That Samaria, and afterwards Antioch, and all the Gentile churches planted by Paul, were maintained in unity by the circumstances which occurred we have seen. But is not the object of his special teaching unity, and not independency? That there were assemblies of God in each town is admitted on all hands. That they acted locally, according to need, no one denies. But where is this doctrine of independency alluded to by the apostle? Is not in fact the unity of the whole body, acting by joints and bands, and its several members, the peculiar topic of the apostle s teaching on this subject? Is there no unity but metropolitan unity, or is it a mere unity, as "in faith, and doctrine, and manners, emphatically one"? Does this truly represent what Paul's teaching was? And now note the character of this unity. It was founded on Christ's death; by this the middle wall of partition was broken down, that He should make both one, making in Himself of twain one new man. The existence of the unity of which the apostle speaks was based on this.*

{*Note also, in this contrast of Jews and Gentiles, the patriarchal and antediluvian saints do not come into contemplation at all - only the twain, Jews and Gentiles. It is not an introduction into some old thing (this is treated of in Romans 11; the church condition being finished, chapter 8, and the Jews taken up); it is to make of twain one new man.

I take the opportunity here of remarking, what might have been introduced earlier, that the writer much insists on Christ being the new thing in the earth while alive down here. That it was a new thing to have a man without sin in His nature is true, and equally so for the blessed God to be manifest in the flesh. But, as regards us, He was still taking His place with the old thing, made of a woman, made under the law, made like to His brethren in all things; Hebrews 2. As far as man's connection with it went, it was His coming into the midst of the old thing, and not associating man with Him as the head of the new. I suppose that the author refers to the expression in Jeremiah, "For the Lord shall create a new thing in the earth, a woman shall compass a man." But supposing this applied to Christ's birth, Christ would not be the new thing, but His birth of a virgin, which was a new thing. It was the woman's compassing a man which was the new thing created in the earth, not what Christ was; to which the words could not apply. But further, I have never seen the least satisfactory proof that the words apply even to the miraculous birth of Christ: and I doubt if compassing a man has any such a sense, or could have it. At any rate, He is not the new thing here spoken of. Nor is Christ incarnate ever called the new thing. Nor is Christ ever said to be the new creature. I doubt much that it is scriptural, either as an expression, or an idea. Upon this expression of "the new thing" a vast edifice of doctrine is built by the author. He should first shew some scripture for it.}

35 It was now that to the principalities and powers in heavenly places was to be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God; other things had shewn other wisdom, this a new kind. But this wisdom, now made known to principalities and powers by the church was the subject of the eternal purpose of God - this church now based on the death of Christ, and formed by the Holy Ghost.

36 This unity, as it was based on the death of Christ, so also was formed by the Holy Ghost. There was one body, and one Spirit. By one Spirit they were baptised into one body - so much so that from Christ the Head by various joints and bands the whole body fitly joined together, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love." For even as the many members of the human body make one body, so was Christ. So that we, being many, are one body in Christ, having gifts according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith.

"But all these worketh - that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, etc., so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body." Is this the doctrine conveyed by the statement that, on the cessation of the unity of metropolitan order because of the rejection of the church by Jerusalem, Paul established churches independent one of another? Or is the unity of the church based on Christ's death and formed by the Spirit (so as to be a witness even to principalities and powers in heavenly places of the manifold wisdom of God, by what now took place) that which the apostle most peculiarly sets forth?

Nor even did union of faith, doctrine, and manners, however emphatic, make this. It was corporate unity, a body. It had its joints and bands and members by the one power of the Holy Ghost working in a whole. To what, or to which of these independent churches, did Paul belong? Or were the other twelve who were in none of Paul's establishing, not of the body? and the prophets - were they set in a church, or in the church? Or any other gifts? See 1 Corinthians 12:28-30.

No one who has taken the pains to examine Scripture can doubt that the whole statement of the author, whether we refer to the facts he mentions or to the doctrine he omits, is quite different from Scripture. According to the author, the case of Antioch is a proof of metropolitan order: which passing away, Paul is raised up to establish independent churches. Whereas it is Paul himself who goes up to Jerusalem about the case at Antioch and carries the decrees to all the churches, which he had then established. On the other hand, the great point on which the apostle insists as to this is the unity of the body, formed by the Holy Ghost on the breaking down of the middle wall of partition by the death of Christ, so that principalities and powers might learn a new kind of wisdom of God. The Lord give us at least whom it so much concerns, who are the objects of it, to learn and value this new kind of wisdom!

37 There are yet a few remarks to make on this part of the subject. In page 26 the author, in insisting on the unity of the church of God, presents the unity of the saints in each city as that of which he has to treat. "This is the only pattern for the Gentile churches. That they have long since ceased to answer to it is plain." And this he holds so strongly that he says, page 31 [2nd. ed., 39], "I scarcely need repeat that it is idle, and indeed sinful, to pretend to a church standing when unity has ceased to exist; and unity has ceased to exist, for it is neither found locally nor generally." Now if this be so, then has Christ's relationship to the church ceased to exist: for that with which He was in relationship, according to this system, does not exist at all: individuals may hear the message but that is all. Nor is this mere inference. We read (pages 14, 15), "But the church, being a body chosen out of the nations, and separated to God, was placed under the immediate government of Christ." "He hath made it a kingdom," etc. "It is set to our union with Him in glory," etc. "We might expect therefore in such a book as the Revelation, which especially refers to the period during which Christ is hidden with God, that His excellent relation to such a body would be distinctly marked. Accordingly the very first chapter reveals Christ in His relation to the churches."

But then His excellent relation to such a body, to the church separated to God out of the nations, is entirely gone, for there are no churches to be in relation to. Just see where this system leads; and that because the very idea given of the church by the apostle is wholly rejected. Paul has set up independent churches; the churches have ceased to exist; and therefore the relationship of Christ to the church, in which it is set to own union with Him, is gone. And yet this is the relationship which belonged to the whole period of Psalm 110, and the body He was able to maintain in its right relation to God. It would be a sin to suppose the existence of that with which the relationship was established: for the relation to the churches is the amount of His relationship to the body. I feel it useless to pursue the consequences of thus rejecting Paul's statements as to the church, as in pages 28, 29. The true church position, the test of true churchship, has no kind of connection with the unity of the body and its members.

38 I have only to observe as to the church of Ephesus that the remark in the note, and given even in notes of quotation, "among the seven, where it is now standing in my secret sanctuary," is just the imagination of the author. It is an address to the angel of the church at Ephesus (to be sent as a written epistle to that church), threatening to come to it - a word which certainly does not give the idea of referring to what was in His secret sanctuary. Was it there He was to come? And when He says "thee" to the church, was it addressed at Ephesus or in the sanctuary? The reader may refer to the note (page 30), and see if I have in any way overstated the author's view in this important point. Catholic unity is thus described. "They [the churches] were together separated, had a common calling and service, were alike one to another, were nourished and ordered by the same hand. This was catholic unity." Let this be compared with Ephesians 4; 1 Corinthians 12, or Romans 12, where, note, the apostle is speaking of one body by the operations of the Holy Ghost on earth acting in these members, and increasing and edifying itself in love thereby. It will then soon be seen where, and what, is the fundamental difference between the author and the apostle. I do not enquire as to the consequences of this. The perusal of these chapters will soon lead the reader to see its bearing on gifts, the exercise of them in different localities as by members of the body of Christ, the ministry, and other accessory questions. I enquire into the scriptural justness here, not the consequences.

Some remarks are called for on the notes. I shall be forgiven for expressing here how painful a task I feel it, to pursue the unceasing rashness and recklessness of assertion which characterises this work. But all of these assertions have an object, and bear on some part of the system maintained, or seek to discredit silently what has been advanced by others. Thus the character of servants has been adduced, as shewing that this book stands on a different ground of communication from the Holy Ghost's communications in the church, as to those things which are received and understood by that unction from the Holy One, by which the infants in Christ knew all things - the Father's communications to the children. This is admitted: indeed the fact cannot be denied. But still the effect must be done away; and we are told that "it is important to observe how continually the name 'Jesus' is used throughout this book. No Jewish confession of Messiah, as about to come; nothing, in short, but the Spirit, giving communion with the Father and His Son, would entitle any to be regarded as servants of Jesus. The place and character of John marks that of those who are considered witnesses to Jesus throughout this book." The object of this is to shew that the testimony throughout this book is a Christian testimony, such as John's own testimony was in his own place and character. This is a pure assumption, and an assertion without any proof whatever. "The place and character of John marks that of those who are considered witnesses to Jesus throughout this book." To this statement we may assent or not according to our own judgment; for no proof is given but one, namely, that the author says so. It would be unwise to reject it for this reason, but equally unwise to receive it. And when he says "considered witnesses" - considered by whom?

39 First, no one is called a servant of Jesus in this book but John himself, in the church of Thyatira the saints in general, and the angel who declares himself John's fellow-servant. So that this book would prove nothing, save so far as the angel being called a fellow-servant goes, if it be of Jesus (as is to be supposed, as he is speaking to John, who is called Jesus's servant here); and in that case the author's assertion would be unfounded, for an angel does not answer the description which, according to him, alone entitles any one to be so designated. But, leaving this aside, which would contradict his statement, the statement itself thus becomes immaterial, though so carefully stated in italics. For an apostle and the saints in a church are stated to be Christ's servants, which I suppose no one doubts, who has read the New Testament. But this proves nothing as to no one else being called so. The angel's account of himself goes to disprove it. The aim is to prove that the witnesses must be all of them such, and that therefore the Revelation speaks of the church. But the angel (fellow-servant of John) is sent by Jesus to witness or testify these things in the churches; so that it does not seem an exclusive idea.

But there is a further difficulty. "The Angel," in chapter 11, who will not be denied, I suppose, to be the Lord Jesus (in chapter 10, indeed, the author treats it so, and very justly) - the Angel endows His two witnesses. But at this time, according to the author (page 124), Christianity is withdrawn from Jerusalem; and a new and different testimony is raised up, which speaks of Jesus as Son of God rejected, and declares it too late for present acceptance, and the joy of faith by the Holy Ghost. So that we see witnesses to Jesus and His witnesses, and those the most fully and prominently spoken of in the book, who are not, according to the author in his remarks in page 124 and elsewhere, what, for general purposes, he says they must be, in page 33.

40 In result, no one is called in the prophetic part of the book* (and that is the question) servant of Jesus but an "angel"; and "His [Christ's] witnesses" is applied to those who bear testimony to Him when Christianity is not there at all. By the statement of these facts we find that the assertions of the author are not only unsustained, but totally unfounded. The fallacy of his argument (and I beg the reader to remember that no scriptural proof is attempted; it is a mere abstract assertion) - the fallacy, I say, is this that, because one placed in a blessed and heavenly situation acts, and is addressed in a lower place, therefore all addressed in that lower place must be in the higher. The same fallacy as if I should say, Every man is an animal; therefore every animal must be a man. Let no one say that servants of Jesus** must be sons of God. The statement is not true. And none are called servants of Jesus who are subjects of the prophecy. But John is said to bear witness: therefore every witness must be in the same place as John. Why so? We have seen, on the author's own shewing, that they are not. My son becomes my servant: is therefore, necessarily, every one of my servants a son? Christ is the faithful Witness. Is therefore every witness to Christ in the same position, or spoken of on the ground of Christ's position in the throne? There is no scripture statement, and the argument is good for nothing; and it supposes, moreover, a fact (i.e., that some are called servants of Jesus) which is not the case.

{*None at all but the then Christians (Rev. 1:1) twice (and chap. 2:20); though I see no reason whatever to confine it to them.}

{**In the close of Psalm 102 the millennial Jewish saints are called His servants - those who are clearly not the church in its present standing.}

But let us enquire what Scripture does afford us on this point. First: Were the disciples during the life-time of Jesus servants of Jesus? It is to be supposed they were, since He says, "Henceforth I call you not servants, I have called you friends." Yet they were not in the condition the author supposes necessary. Remark the things contrasted. Jewish confession of Messiah as about to come - nothing in short but the Spirit giving communion with the Father and the Son. Now the disciples of Jesus during His life were in neither of these conditions. They had not the Spirit giving communion with the Father and the Son; and they went much farther than a Jewish confession of a Messiah about to come. The same may be applied to the two witnesses. On the author's own shewing they have not the Spirit in this way (page 124); and yet they go far beyond a Jewish confession of Messiah, as about to come. "They will be able to speak of … the Son of God slain and hanged upon a tree - of the message of forgiveness through His blood despised, and now withdrawn - of the day of His glory with all its judgments being nigh, even at the doors." So that the author's division is altogether a false one. He leaves out exactly the point in question. It is contradicted by himself; for he introduces elsewhere a class of confession which is neither one nor other of those he gives here; and hence the argument drawn from it as to the character of the witnesses of or to Jesus in the Revelation is disproved by his own statements.

41 Further: "The place and character of John marks that of those who are considered witnesses to Jesus throughout this book." In what place and character? - an apostle? No. He is not considered in this character here. The vessel of the Holy Ghost was to know things in the way of gift by his union with the Head. "It may seem strange," says the author, "We should be instructed through an angel." "If the truth communicated had pertained to the family, as such, it would not so have been." What place and character does John then hold here? "Paul and John were not instructed through angels in feeding and ordering the churches. But, since the subject of the Revelation is God on the throne of His government in His relation to the nations, John, and the church as represented by him, are placed in a comparative distance." Now, how is the church represented by him? He has the place of a prophet. How can he thus represent the church? Where is a word or a thought about his representing the church? or how does one addressing the church represent the church? This is a mere unfounded statement of the author to bring in the church into this condition, in order to prove that the church is found in it in the Revelation But it is, as all these statements are, absolutely without proof, or an appearance of reason for the statement. When the church is seen or speaks in this book, it is always quite in another position. But let that pass. John is not in the apostolic place or character, and the truth communicated does not pertain to the family as such. Which, let the reader remark. "At present the Holy Spirit does not give the power of fellowship with God in the glory of His government." John is placed in a comparative distance.

42 This then is the place and character of the witnesses in the book: not the proper Christian or church place at all; not with the communion of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Indeed, as I have stated, the church is always seen elsewhere when it is seen in this book. And so we shall find it stated. Not that Christians were not witnesses to Jesus - clearly they are, or ought to be; but that is not the character of the witness or testimony here. And the book clearly asserts that there is another kind of witness or testimony to Jesus - the testimony found in this book; which is not by the Holy Ghost sent down for fellowship and communion, or "communications pertaining to the family," but which nevertheless constitutes persons servants. "I am thy [John's] fellow servant," and John was the servant of Jesus, and a witness,* "and of thy brethren the prophets: for the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy." This latter is what is called a reciprocal proposition, each member having the article; and therefore we are justified in reading it inversely: The Spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus. Now here we get the declaration that this comparatively distant position, which is not for the communication of truth pertaining to the family as such, is nevertheless a testimony of Jesus. In Peter I get the Spirit of prophecy, while, of course, of just as much authority, contrasted with the gospel or church testimony which pertained to the family. The Spirit of Christ in the 1 prophets was testifying, i.e., witnessing beforehand, and r ministered things which are reported by them who have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. Into these things the angels desire to look; of these they are themselves the messengers, because they are not properly of the family, though everything belongs to it. A steward is for the estate: with the family concerns he has nothing to do, though the family have with the estate too. In a word, it is the Spirit of prophecy which characterises the witnesses in this book, and not John's own proper place as an apostle in the family; and therefore he speaks of himself only as in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, and not as an apostle in the church. Christ Himself takes no character beyond what He was, or will be on earth, in His title in the address; namely, faithful Witness, First-begotten from the dead, and Prince of the kings of the earth. And the celebration of the church's association with Christ in heavenly places is in the mouth of others, and that in heaven. The opening response of the saints (chap. 1:5-6) and the closing desire of the bride (chap. 22:17) associate the church down here with it. The character of the witnesses then throughout this book is not a church character, but a prophetic angelic character, which we find (in Peter) contrasted in its nature with the testimony of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.

{*This view of the character of testimony, i.e., not of the Holy Ghost in the church as such, but of the Spirit of prophecy, is much confirmed if we adopt (as all critical editions do, on, it would appear, the amplest evidence) the reading, "the testimony of Jesus Christ [concerning, or even] all things that he saw" - that is, omitting "and" before "all things." Revelation 1:2.}

43 That all this was suited to a state of things when all was out, of course, is most sure. That it has served in a measure of application, so far as it could be said there were no churches on earth and that apostasy had come in, and that it will suit a time of more decided manifestation of their principles, is most true; and so far blessed is he that keeps the sayings of thus book in all this period. But it applies to no church condition, not to the family as such.

When the author says, "The church has not yet the seven Spirits of God" - where is it ever said it will?

When the author remarks how continually the name of Jesus is used throughout this book, the answer is, It is never used in the prophetic part of it, but in the expression of testimony, or witnesses of Jesus.* Chapter 12:17: the dragon makes war with them. Babylon (chap. 17:6) is drunk with the blood of the martyrs or witnesses of Jesus. Chapter 19:10: "Thy brethren which have the testimony of Jesus; for the testimony of Jesus," etc. And it is remarkable that, in the introduction and close of the book, before and after the prophetic part where the name of Jesus is mentioned, it is always associated with this testimony; chap. 1:2, 5, 9. Christ Himself even becomes, so to speak, a prophet revealing what God gave to Him.

{*We have seen the prophetic character of this, and hence the assertion (in that otherwise it might have been supposed unconnected with Him and His glory, and serve mere earthly and Jewish manifestation of divine power), "the Spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus." Without thus, the church testimony might have been quite separated from the subsequent prophetic testimony, as if the latter were not of Jesus at all.}

44 As to witness to Jesus, it is clear that it does not in itself suppose a church state, or the Holy Ghost as sent down from heaven as the power of the church's unity: because John the baptist is spoken of expressly as bearing witness to Jesus See John 5:30-39, in particular verse 36.

As to the assertion that this book "has the character and authority of other prophetic and apostolic writings," the authority is admitted clearly; but how the same character, if "the truth communicated did not pertain to the family as such"? Is that the character of the apostolic writings? Or is the character of the prophetic and apostolic writings the same? When the author says, "The command given to the churches* to observe the things written herein"; the answer is, There is no command given to the churches. I do not doubt that any one that reads and observes the things that are written therein will be blessed. I do not doubt that it is for the church. The whole word is for the church. Everything that was written aforetime was written for our learning. The question is, not whether we are to keep the things which by means of these revelations, may direct the saints (I do not doubt it), but whether the things prophesied of directly concern the church in its present state. Now as regards a great part of the book, it clearly does not: none of the latter chapters do. The very important revelations as to the two witnesses do not. And therefore to say that the command to the churches in this book supposes that the church is in the circumstances prophetically revealed, is not true of the whole, and the use made of the passage therefore is unfounded; for if actually untrue of a part, it may be untrue of all: and the deduction is unfounded which from the existence of the exhortation infers applicability to the church. The fallacy is the same here as elsewhere, as if there could be nothing but the church as such, and Israel's state after the church is gone. It is assuming the whole question; and, I have to repeat here, an assumption denied by the statements of the author as to the two witnesses. I admit that we are interested in the events predicted in a sense different from the Old Testament prophecies; because the Old Testament prophecies predict the consequence of Israel's conduct, and the Revelation, the consequences of the church's or Christendom's conduct, and God's ways in this respect. Thence any one on the stage of Christendom now is very directly interested in all its contents, and that in the most serious and solemn way. But this does not prove that the faithful church will be in the circumstances of which it is thus warned, though the warning be of the deepest interest to it. The warnings and revelations may be just the means of hindering our being there, while they may be a guide and support to them who find themselves in it. This is certain as regards the two witnesses for the last three years and a half; and therefore the use of the passage as made by the author is necessarily false.

{*The italics are the author's.}

45 Hence it could not be given, as he alleges it to be, as a command to the churches, because a very considerable part will not be fulfilled in the churches at all. Nay, according to the author, they no longer exist even now. Hence the Spirit of God has stated it in a general way, applicable when the apostle wrote, applicable now when there are no churches, and applicable when a new testimony shall be in the special place of testimony, when Christianity is withdrawn. "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and observe those things which are written therein; for the time is at hand." I have only to add this remark, that the present address and exhortation of John applies itself to those who were not in the circumstances; for he says, "Blessed are those that observe the things written therein"; and yet not as circumstances they were in, but on the contrary, because the time was at hand. That is, they were to anticipate the things revealed in it. I observe morally the things of a prophecy, not when the judgments prophesied are there. It is a revelation of future things to act on my conscience now. I do not mean that there may be no directions for saints when in them; there may be in particular cases. The Lord may say, as He has said elsewhere, "then do this," and "then do that"; but a blessing on the observation of the things in a prophecy while it remains prophecy (and this is the case here) is not conduct looked for in the circumstances prophesied, and therefore cannot prove that we are in them.

46 The statement of the author is not what is in the Scripture; and the argument founded on it is unsound. The comparison he makes is the oft repeated fallacy, which I have noticed, of stating an alternative which just leaves out the question.

What the author states about Christ is quite true. The passage speaks of Him who has been faithful, is risen, and will be manifestly glorified among men, but it says nothing about His being ascended, nothing of His being the Head of the body, nor as in the position in which He is connected with His body the church.

"Every eye shall see him" is opposed, I apprehend, to His being seen for testimony by chosen witnesses. I do not attach any importance to it, but it seems to me very clear that they also which pierced Him are exclusively the Jews; for I suppose the civilised Gentile nations would come under "every eye"; and, "they also which pierced him" refers to Zechariah 12 I agree that the wailing here must be distinguished from the true sorrow of the spared remnant - still as of the nation. They had pierced Him.

I do not understand what wailing against a person is. They are confounded at seeing Him, I apprehend; and wail about themselves. As to "this generation" (Matt. 24), it is clearly the Jewish unbelieving race: hence the tribes of the land wail. But what have the heathen to do with this generation in Matthew? But this by the by.

But at the close we have a statement which must detain us for a moment. "One object of the Revelation is to shew that, during the whole period previous to the appearing of the Lord, Israel remains unconverted." Which part of the Revelation treats of this? The author does not furnish the smallest iota of proof; and I humbly suspect his readers would be considerably embarrassed in finding out or naming in what this object of the Revelation appeared. Israel's tribes are once mentioned as being sealed in the perfect number of one hundred and forty-four thousand as servants of God in their foreheads. I do not know whether this will be alleged as a proof that they are not converted. It would be a singular one at any rate.

47 Now I would humbly suggest, notwithstanding the assertion of the author, that while the Revelation says nothing directly about it - I urge that it is a very bold thing to say without any proof, that one of its objects is to shew that Israel will not - yet, that other scriptures clearly shew that there is a remnant turned to God, really converted, before the Lord comes, though those that are left have not received deliverance and salvation. The Lord Jesus expressly says, "Ye shall not see me henceforth, until ye say, Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord." Here we have a positive assertion of the Lord Jesus, that they will not see Him till they say, Blessed - till their heart be converted to receive Him. Again, Let any one read Isaiah 56, where Jewish blessings are promised, and yet it is only said "my salvation is near to come." Will it be said that persons of whom God says, that they choose the things that please Him, take hold of His covenant, that join themselves to the Lord to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be His servants - that God in this describes unconverted people? Again, Isaiah 65, 66, where a remnant is distinguished by the Lord as His servants. See chapter 65:8-15, and 66:5, 14, where there is a remnant very expressly distinguished even from others that are spared. And here I would remark in passing (what seems to me the key to all Isaiah) from chapter 40 to the end: it is this word servant. Israel was Jehovah's servant to be His witness. But Israel as in chapter 49 rejecting Jesus, He is the servant; and then the remnant at the close, who hear the Servant's voice, are themselves recognised as the servants to be blessed with Him in His earthly glory. They are thus described in chapter 51, and their progressive condition spoken of (chapter 51 to chap. 53:12). Then the atoning work of the true Servant is brought out. Again, not to mention a multitude of other Psalms, see Psalm 80, where Israel, God with Israel, and Israel's blessings are spoken of. Yet here it is prayed that the hand of Jehovah may be upon the man of His right hand, upon the Son of man, whom He made so strong for Himself. And, to go no farther, supposing the testimony of "the Son of God rejected" - stated by the author himself to be given in Jerusalem after Christianity is withdrawn - to be believed, surely the believers of this are not in an unconverted state, nor unprepared to receive Him. Or will their wailing be the opposite of the wailing of Zechariah 12, when He does come? The supposition is absurd. Again, the wise who understand of Daniel 11, 12, where I think the unprejudiced reader cannot fail to find persons commended of God as those that shall understand, and who will seek to turn the mass to righteousness (for that is the force of chapter 12:3; it is not who have turned many, but who have been teaching righteousness to the mass - to the many), a class which may after Christ's days have been added to the church, but who are also found in the end in a Jewish position, and blessed with Jewish blessings, and delivered with a Jewish deliverance. In a word, while there is a most unfounded statement, without an attempt at proof, that such was one object of the Revelation, the thing stated to be the object is contradicted by a multitude of the plainest scriptures.

48 It seems to me, indeed, a most solemn thing to say that the Spirit of God in the Psalms should become habitually the instrument, not of prophetically revealing the wickedness of the wicked, but of expressing the false piety (for, if unconverted, their piety is false) of unconverted men, and that in the most touching strains of appeal to God,* some of which rise up to prophecies of Christ Himself, and are all inspired by His Spirit. It is in vain to say they are Christians. Their hopes and prospects, their prayers and praises, and the answer of God's Spirit to them, are all Jewish. And yet if this be not the former, the whole system of the author must fall down together (and that is the worst of making systems). See the promise even at the end of that famous Psalm 69. Take again Psalm 73; so Psalms 65 and 66: I take the first that present themselves. Are the promises in Psalms 31 and 35 not to be accomplished in respect of those whose confidence is expressed in so many other passages? And these shew the connection of their hopes with Christ. And note here the quotation by Peter, and even the prophecy as to Christ, verse 20. But it would be endless to quote them all. The reader may make this remark, that while often insisting on integrity of heart, which the Lord insists on too (see Psalm 24), where the ground of hope is stated or an appeal to God is made, and His mercy and righteousness are introduced, mercy is always first introduced as the ground of their hope; and this is but the answer to the work of grace in their hearts. I cannot pursue this subject at large, but I have said enough to lead one who searches it out to see how very untenable the author's statement is. Yet his system stands or falls with it, because there is clearly in this case another testimony, another work of God outside the church, before the Lord comes, connected with Jewish circumstances and interests, Jewish in its hopes. I have no doubt that the Scriptures give a great deal more light on this subject than I have taken upon me to state here; but I confine myself to the fact itself.

{*Appeals too which are to be answered.}

49 I agree with the author as to Lord's day (i.e., his interpretation as to "on the Lord's day"); but I confess it is beyond me what he means by, we "may live only to God on that day." May we do anything else on other days? I admit, and rejoice in, a special blessing on it; but living only to God is surely every day in the week.

In the subsequent note we are plunged back again into the confusion in which we were before. The threefold division is a recognised one. But let us see the application of it. "Chapters 2 and 3 are concerned with the things that are, i.e., present to John, but to us past. Chapters 6, etc., altogether future." The relationship then of Christ to the churches, nay, to the church, see pages 14, 15 (as described in a book which refers to the period in which Christ is hidden with God, i.e., the dispensation to which the New Testament belongs, the present period) is to us past - His excellent relation to such a body.

The mere fact of these churches being past is not in itself what makes so enormous a position of this; but its being the description of the relationship of Christ with the church: and this because it was to be maintained at all cost that the Revelation applied to this present period - the church period. It is the system of interpretation which produces these consequences. I apprehend indeed, though that be of comparative small importance, that it would be very difficult to shew that all that is said to the churches is a past matter. I fully admit that there were such churches which were so judged. But not only is the number seven significative, but "he that has an ear" is called upon to hear what is said to the churches. Now this could hardly be the case unless the condition (and it is not merely individual conduct) of these churches might be descriptive, at such or such given time of the state of things in which believers would find themselves, and of which the Lord gives His judgment. The church in general lost its first love as well as Ephesus; and others may, whether in particular circumstances, or in the general state of the church, at a given time, find themselves walking where there was a name to live, and yet death. Nor can I suppose that when the Lord speaks of "the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world to try them which dwell on the earth," and adds, "Behold, I come quickly," that He is speaking of that which is to us past. And how, if it be to us past, can the author say (page 83, referring to the last development of human evil), "the great hour of temptation comes only upon the oikoumenee (the Roman earth); but it is to try or put to the test them that dwell upon the earth?" (Rev. 3:10.)* And if this be true of Philadelphia, can it be confined to it? Or would it not prove that the Lord's mind was going beyond the local circumstances and referring to God's further and more general dealings, though it might require a spiritual mind to judge of the application? And why, I would ask, are all the peculiar instructions, and the heavenly and blessed promises, thus passed over with one word - it is "to us past." I understand this, if the prophetic part referred to a distinct period which might be separately discussed; but all belongs (according to the author) up to chapter 19 to the church period.

{*It is the second time referred to in the same way in the "Thoughts."}

50 One topic remains untouched, to which, as occupying the minds of many saints, and of great importance in their eyes, I would here advert. A few words suffice to establish the system, and sanction the widespread condemnation of those who do not hold it: but the explanation of the point will require a somewhat greater space. "Their laws were heavenly; for they were those of the sermon on the mount" (page 22, note). This meeting the popular and just feeling, that the principles of the sermon on the mount ought to govern us, settles the whole question in many a mind that the sermon on the mount was addressed to the church, and that it was for no one else. But hard words will not drive me from what I have been taught of God from the word. Now I fully admit that the directions in the sermon on the mount are a guide to us. On the other hand it surely is very objectionable to say "their laws were heavenly, for they were those of the sermon on the mount," if it be meant that this is the whole directory of the church, or that the church was put under laws. Both of these propositions are entirely false. But the question (though it may seem so to those unaware of the bearing of all this) is not whether the church can take these directions, and use them by the Spirit for her guidance. If they are addressed to others than the church, then a condition is found to have existed to which the testimony of Christ applies, but which is not the church. If it is solely and exclusively the church, then there is no example (here at least) of disciples other than the church; and we are to take the disciples as being, during the lifetime of Jesus, the church; and the proper and peculiar blessedness of that body, in the unity of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, becomes a mere casual difference.

51 I say then, that the disciples were not then the church, though they afterwards became the first nucleus of it, and that the sermon on the mount is not addressed to the church, nor could be (though the church now has it for its guide in its walk). If I say to one who has never been at court, You cannot join the king's court but in a court dress, it is clear that he will have to wear the court dress when there. For what I say means that that is the dress that suits the court; but the man as yet does not form part of the king's court. But, further, the kingdom of heaven is not the church; and while we enter into it in the way of being the church, others may enter into it in another way, as the Jews and others during the millennium; and this dress prescribed in the sermon on the mount may be as needed for those who are to enter in in that way, as for those who are, by this new form of the manifold wisdom of God, become the church of God in earth. Thus when it is said, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth," this may be true of those who shall inherit the earth in a millennial way, and I believe will be true and more literally and immediately true than it is of the church; and that to confine it to the church as exclusively true of it, is only ignorance. This shews the bearing of the question.

Then, as to the fact, I say that the disciples were not then the church, and could not be addressed as the church (Christ being not yet dead and risen again, and the Spirit not given). They were addressed in their then condition. And is there any great wonder in that? But farther, could one in the church, a Christian now, as it has been put by one opposed to my view, have sat on the mount with the disciples, and have listened with the disciples to this sermon as addressed to himself as well as to them? I answer at once, No. He would have said, How blessed to my soul are these instructions! what a guide to my feet in this dark world! how my soul delights in them, and in Him who gave them! But he would have felt that they were addressed to them, and not to him. He was in the kingdom, he had the secret of the Lord, and the Holy Ghost dwelling in him. And this one word, "Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven," would at once make him feel, "This is for them, addressed exclusively to them." It is impossible that such language as Ye shall in "no case enter" can be addressed to those who are already within, who are in and of the kingdom. It gives the immediate consciousness that the address is to others, though it may at the same time give the consciousness that the principles addressed belong to those that are within. That they got new instructions, belonging to the remnant, is most true - such as would not have suited any others. That this remnant became the nucleus of the church and carried these instructions along with them into it, is equally true. But they were not then addressed as the church, nor even as being in the kingdom: nor could they be, for neither was set up. And this sermon is in prospect of the setting up of the kingdom, and shews the qualities and persons suited to it before it was so set up, and in no case even alludes to the church.

52 For my own part, though a practical direction in principle, I have no doubt that chapter 5:25 applies to the then position of Christ with the nation, and that the nation is now suffering the consequences of not acting on the principle there stated. I add that, while all the teaching here remains eternally true for every one, yet that, as it stands here, it could be addressed now neither to saint nor sinner. Not to a saint; for it is a question of entering into the kingdom of heaven. Not to sinners; for it is not an address of grace to them at all, nor is redemption once mentioned at all, but doing Christ's sayings as the ground of entry. (See chap. 7:21.) To say that it will be true as regards heaven for us is avoiding the question. It is running an analogy, and a just one; but it is not what is said or treated in the sermon on the mount.

53 I affirm then that the sermon on the mount was addressed to the disciples in their then state; and I should think it very natural that it should be so. But their then state was not that of the church, but very far indeed from it. I do not draw any further consequences, though I believe these considerations throw light on many points; but as the subject was started in the note to page 22, I thought it well to state and repeat clearly what I do believe, as to the general principle, to be God's mind about these passages. And I have done it the rather because of all the denunciations which have been sent forth on the subject. They may produce prejudice (where there is not the light of God on the point - a sorrowful effect), but will neither produce conviction, nor create fear where there is. One may, while confessing one's liability to error, sorrow over those who utter, and those who are led by them; but that is all.

But as we are on the subject, I would touch on one or two points connected with it. It is alleged that, at any rate, prophetic passages cannot be addressed to the disciples, save as representing the church - passages, that is, which relate to a time subsequent to the Lord's death. Now I apprehend that Matthew 23:8-12 is of perpetual obligation on disciples. Yet here we have, in the beginning of the address, a passage which most certainly cannot be applied to the church, as such; and yet "you" and "ye" are continued all through the passage as if to the same class (the disciples being then considered as connected with the multitude and a Jewish position). They were to mind the scribes and Pharisees, as sitting in Moses' seat. And it may be remarked that, in this chapter, the apostles and others are spoken of as Jewish teachers sent to the nation, as such, that their scribes and Pharisees might fill up the measure of their fathers. Yet, in the midst of this there are instructions binding upon them, and prophecies of their sufferings, when they were in the place of Christians, after the descent of the Holy Ghost. (See the verses cited above, and 34, 35.) The Spirit of God must teach us to apply these passages aright, and to put each word of God in its place, according to His mind.*

{*I may add that, in Matthew 24:22-28, there are statements connected with the word "Ye" which apply to a time when the author does not suppose the church to be there.}

54 In Matthew 10 again we get directions for the future, which, it cannot be doubted, have had an accomplishment, at least, in the apostles after the Lord's death; and yet clearly the passage does not apply to the church, for they are forbidden to go to the Gentiles. Yet the Spirit speaks in them, and they suffer for Christ's name sake.

I admit that the standing of the Pentecostal church was heavenly. The doctrine of the unity of the church as the body of Christ was not yet brought out. That doctrine was clearly based upon the death of Christ, and the descent of the Holy Ghost.

Christ could not be (and that is the material point) the beginning of the church, until He had wrought redemption, and was risen from the dead. He was not set apart as Son of God with power, but by resurrection. No Christian doubts He was Son of God, or that He was the resurrection and the life. But as we are taught (Col. 1:18), "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence." His headship of creation was based on His creative power; though it has to be reconciled. But the cross and redemption were needed, as well as life, to place any in a church standing - to begin it. Ephesians 2 teaches the same thing; but more of this hereafter. But, as touched on here, I thought it well to say a word on the doctrine. It is a very important one. The Holy Ghost can recognise nothing as the church on this side death and redemption. The foundation was not laid.


The introductory part of this chapter I offer no remark upon because, though I do not acquiesce in parts of it, I am not aware of any principle involved which is not elsewhere remarked on. In page 40 we have another example of how little anything critical or exegetical can be trusted to in these "Thoughts." "He saw 'a throne set in heaven.' Being 'set,' or firmly established, it stood in contrast with the mutability and failure of everything he had known below." Now it is perfectly clear to anyone who can consult the Greek that there is no semblance of any such idea. It is literally, "a throne lay there"; but in English perhaps best rendered by "there was a throne there." "Set" there (in the familiar sense of setting, i.e., placing a chair) is all very well; but the idea of "firmly established" has no sort of place in the sentence.

55 The meaning of this difference is this: stability of the throne refers to the whole period in which man failed down here; whereas finding a throne placed, or set there, shews rather the assumption of a particular position or relationship by God. And this is perfectly answerable to the statement made to John by the voice, "Come up hither, and I will shew thee what must happen after these things." Now God may be ever in a general sense on a throne (though He is not considered always in this light, nor is it the highest thought of God - that is rather the dwelling in the light inaccessible); still He is the blessed and only Potentate. The throne, however, of government is a special relationship, to be known as it is revealed. Thus in Job we see Satan going among the sons of God before it. Here the throne is revealed in relation to things which are to happen after what has been stated as to Christ's relationship to the churches on earth. For it is well to remember that which is stated of one general common period is contradicted by the express word of God in the Revelation. John, after the vision of the churches, is caught up to see the things which should happen thereafter, and then sees the throne* which was set or was then in heaven. Revelation 4:2.

{*I suppose there can be little doubt that the allusion here is to Daniel 7:9, where the thrones are set; which, being expressed by a word used for "thrown into a place," has been translated "cast down" in the English translation, but by the Septuagint "set" which, I suppose, is clearly the sense, as received by Gesenius and other learned men, and many interpreters, and agrees with the context. If so, the Greek here is natural enough, and would give much critical force to the observations here. But this I leave to the learned. There is no need of reference to the Hebrew word; as the Greek word is regularly used in the sense in which it is found here: as John 19:29, "There was set a vessel full of vinegar." Reference to a dictionary will give the use and examples; John 2:6, Matthew 5:14, may suffice, particularly the former.}

As to the jasper and the sardine stone, I have not much to say, nor any particular reason to object to what is said as to it, save that it is all without any foundation. I know not why, because He that sat on the throne was like a jasper and a sardine stone, so said to be by the Holy Ghost, that therefore it should be concluded that He was like the others which the Holy Ghost does not mention at all. It would rather seem that it was a special sort of glory to which these stones answered, or had some analogy: as the building of the wall of the city was of jasper. And the city is thus spoken of; "Having the glory of God, and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal." Here, what had the glory of God is likened particularly to a jasper. In the twelve foundations the sardine stone is not found. I confess I do not know what the light of a precious stone means, nor its not flickering; yet I would not stop to remark on it. But whatever this glory and beauty be, I would ask, What means "accomplished in no little measure when the church of the Firstborn shall inherit that heavenly city … and when of Jerusalem it shall be said that her righteousness shall go forth as brightness"? Is the church glorified with Christ in an imperfect state of glory? Is it only "in no little measure" that its grace and glory are accomplished? I suppose, then, being like Christ, seeing Him as He is, leaves yet something to be accomplished by some other glory than His. Or why this effort to shew the glory of the bride the Lamb's wife, having the glory of God, as yet imperfect? and to bring in, as analogous and parallel glory, Jerusalem on earth? "The stones of the breastplate were covenant tokens* of these blessings"; and, "yet the moral excellency and the glory as of the church, so also of Israel, were in this vision seen alike secured in the Person of Him who sat on the throne - 'in Him that is true, even the true God.'" (page 41).

{*All this is built on the fact of the jasper and sardine stones being assumed to prove that the reference was to the breastplate of the high priest, of which there is no kind of evidence, because no relationship of any kind with anything else is intimated. It is merely that He was like it - the expression of certain qualities in Him. On this is built, that the stones on the breastplate secured the heavenly as well as earthly glory in unity as covenant blessings. Where is all this in Scripture? And of what covenant? What an edifice is here built, without one scripture being quoted, on these two stones being the likeness of God! And note, that the whole system of the author, proving the imperfection of the church's own glory, and the participation of Israel in it (without saying that it is inferior, so as to leave all vague), is built, without a scripture proof, on this.}

56 "Union with the Person of the Son of God, is the great characteristic blessing of the whole family of the redeemed, whether in earth or heaven," etc. "And therefore we read of the heavenly city the bride," "and of Jerusalem it is said," etc. "Such are the results of His being as the jasper and the sardine stone, who sitteth upon the throne, for He is the Preserver now, even as He will be the Communicator then, of all this exceeding grace and glory." Is then this exceeding grace and glory communicated to Jerusalem on earth, as well as to the bride the Lamb's wife? "The bright excellency of character and glory, which is now found in Him who sitteth on the throne, is, in Him, preserved for us, in whom it is soon to be manifested in like radiancy of beauty. And therefore we read of the heavenly city"; "and of Jerusalem it is said," etc.

57 Is then Jerusalem on earth to be in like radiancy of beauty with the heavenly type of the divine glory? Is Jerusalem to be clothed with what is said to be preserved for us? "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor corruption inherit incorruption." "The glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another." But here, by a measure of accomplishment only for the church, and the connection of figures used as to Jerusalem with the type of divine glory, all is swamped in one undistinguished mass, based on union with the Son of God. Are the saints prepared to have the promises to the bride the Lamb's wife thus dealt with? Jerusalem may be a "crown of glory in the hand of the Lord"; but is that what the bride is in the Revelation, or the New Testament promises? I have little disposition to reason on these statements: if the heart, as taught and animated by the Spirit of God, does not reject them, reasoning would be of very little avail.

And what are these statements based on? An assumption, that because two stones were specially selected as descriptive of Him on the throne in vision, therefore it meant all such as were found on the breastplate of the high priest - from which, observe, lights and perfections were distinct - the enumeration as to the heavenly Jerusalem being moreover different. Then the actual state of the church of God in glory is said to be only an imperfect state as to state and glory, inward and outward; and then they are stated to be Israel's risen priests, without a hint of proof being yet given. That is, by a series of statements without the least appearance of proof, or a single text of scripture adduced as warranting them, the whole condition and state of the church in glory is subverted, by giving to Jerusalem in vague terms what Scripture does not, and taking from the church, the object of Christ's dearest affections, what He has ascribed to it.

"Union with the Person of the Son of God is the great characteristic blessing of the whole family of the redeemed." Where in Scripture? That they all have life from Him is undoubtedly true. But where is union spoken of with the Son of God as characterising the saints on earth during the millennium? Union is an ambiguous and not even a scriptural term; and, though blessedly used when spiritually understood, may be used to ensnare the understanding of those who truly desire Christ's glory. Are the saints on earth in the millennium united to Christ in the sense of being then His body? This is what would be implied here, though the author has not ventured to go so far as to state it.

58 Union with Christ, spoken of in Scripture, conveys the idea of the body with the Head. Now there was no body, and no Head neither, till the exaltation of Christ (Eph. 1). The Holy Ghost speaks of the exceeding greatness of God's power in raising Christ, and setting Him to be Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. That is, it is the exalted Man with whom, as Head, the church is spoken of as one body. Now there was no exalted Man till Christ ascended on high; and thereon He sent down the Holy Ghost to form the body in unity. Giving of life is not here the point. As Son of God He gave life to all the family in every age; but union as a body with a glorified man could not be when the glorified man was not there. Nor are the saints during the millennium said to be in union, nor anything of the kind. Nor are they the glorified body of Christ. The saints filled of the Holy Ghost are spoken of as having gifts according to the unity of this body, till we all come - that is, Scripture contemplates only all the saints under the operation of these gifts which are the joints of the body. And the use of "in him that is true" is a mere gloss and has nothing to do with its use in Scripture. Here the grace and glory are said to be secured for the church and Israel, in Him that is true: whereas Scripture says, "we are in him that is true."

The truth is, "Union with the Person of the Son of God,"* is an idea as unscriptural as the words. "We are in him and he is in us." We are also said to dwell in God, and God in us; but we do not speak of union with God. Again, of whom is it said, "We have received of his fulness grace for grace?" Of the Word made flesh, He dwelt among us, full of grace and truth. Before that it had been said, "in him was life"; but now the Word becomes flesh, and we talk of fulness. Again, the same truth is omitted in citing the passage, "in whom all fulness dwells." Is it merely in the Person of the Son of God? Not at all. "In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And we are complete in him who is the head of all principality and power." And again: "He is the head of the body the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead: that in all things he might have the pre-eminence. For all the fulness was pleased to dwell in him. And having made peace through the blood of his cross," etc. That is, it is not the mere life-giving power of the Son of God, but His own taking a position as Man, in which He becomes the Head of the body, the church, which gives occasion to the union.

{*The expression has been used most innocently (I dare say I may have used it myself), as the carrying up the mind to the true source of all its blessings. But when a mere human imperfect expression is used as the basis and expression of a doctrine, so as to draw immense consequences from its terms, then the value and accuracy of the terms must be estimated. It is just the way of error to use some inaccurate expression, popular and consecrated to express a great blessing, to sanction the false doctrine contained in the terms employed: Thus it was with "mother of God," used perhaps at the first innocently, as meaning the mother of Him who was God.}

59 Hence the whole of these pages are a perversion as to Israel, the church, union, and Him with whom we are united. And I beg it may be remembered that there is not a word in this chapter commented upon about Israel, nor the priests of Israel, nor the God of Israel; though all seems to be based on it, and the very glory of God to be drawn from the breastplate of their high priest. Nor has the rainbow anything to do with the God of Israel. It was established long before, though God may bless the earth when He restores Israel, and manifests the church in the divine unity of all His counsels.