Christ and the Assembly

being papers issued as a supplement to Scripture Truth.
The Central Bible Truth Depot, 5 Rose Street, London E.C.4.

The Mystery.
Christ and His ChurchJ. T. Mawson
The Present Practical Result of the Truth of the Body of ChristJ. Green
The Riches of the Glory of this MysteryH. J. Vine
The Mystery in PracticeJ. W. Smith
Power to Apprehend the TruthH. J. Vine
Prayer in Relation to the MysteryJ. Green
The Sufficiency of Christ Triumphant for the Entire Need of His Body on EarthJ. T. Mawson
The Secret of the DispensationF. B. Hole
"That the Gentiles should be of the same Body"D. Brown
CorrespondenceJ. T. Mawson

My Brethren.
In the Midst of the AssemblyH. J. Vine
John 20.J. Green
The Assembly as seen in HebrewsA. J. Pollock
"My Brethren"J. T. Mawson
The Mystery(Poetry) J. Boyd

The Life of the Assembly.
LifeJ. T. Mawson
Love is of GodJ. Boyd
Joint Partakers of God's PromiseH. J. Vine
Living Stones and PriestsJ. Boyd
"Behold! I, and the Children"J. W. Smith
Paul, and the MysteryJ. B.S.

The Holy Spirit and the Assembly.
The Glory of God and JesusJ. T. Mawson
The Holy Spirit in Relation to the ChurchJ. Green
Membership and FellowshipF. B. Hole
"The Holy Spirit of Promise"H. J. Vine
Gatherings of Assembly CharacterH. J. Vine
Apostolic FellowshipF. B. Hole
The New Interest and the New PowerJ. B. Stoney.
The Spirit's Work in the building up of the AssemblyA. J. Pollock

The Assembly in Function.
The Supremacy of ChristJ. T. Mawson
One Loaf; One BodyF. B. Hole
Ministering to the Lord in AssemblyH. J. Vine
When Ye Come TogetherJ. Green
The Cross of ChristJ. T. Mawson
The Open Meeting and its AbuseH. P. Barker
More about the Open MeetingJ. T. Mawson
"Tarry One for Another"F. B. Hole
How to Conduct Oneself in God's HouseH. J. Vine
Correspondence(Part 2) J. T. Mawson
The Lord's SupperJ. T. Mawson
The LeavenJ. Green
"One Flock, One Shepherd"H. J. Vine
Eph. 2:21.A. J. Pollock

The Mystery

“Wherein He hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth: even in Him: in Whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." (Eph. 1:8-11.)

Surely no one could read the opening verses of the Ephesians and be indifferent to what follows. Could anyone say I am eternally enfolded in those wonderful statements; I am one of those who have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; chosen in Him before the foundation of the world; made holy and without blame before the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ in love; predestinated to the adoption of children; made accepted in the beloved One; redeemed and forgiven according to the riches of God's grace, and yet I am not interested in God's purpose and thoughts?

The exceeding riches of God's grace thus made known to us must command our earnest attention and awaken reverent enquiry. Especially as He treats us now, not as servants, but friends, and proposes to let us into His eternal secret, that which lies nearer than all to His heart, what He is going to do for His own Son.

It is as though He said to us, "I have forgiven you and set you free from all anxiety about your sins, and redeemed you from the power of the great enemy, and now I want you to enter into My thoughts; I want to unfold to you My purpose for the glory and joy of My own Son, and according to this purpose I have also given to you a part; you are necessary to the carrying out of it. So I have taken you up according to the riches of My grace, setting you free to contemplate the mystery of My will; having abounded towards you in all "wisdom and prudence," giving you the capacity for understanding and enjoying it all by the power of the Holy Ghost."

This is so exceeding abundantly above all that we could have asked or thought, that if we do but see with the eyes of our hearts the glory of it, all indifference as to it will perish for ever; and in self-forgetting and adoring service, we shall seek to comprehend with all saints the blessedness of it, and to labour in prayer and word and doctrine that the truth of it may not remain a dead letter to us, or to any of the saints.

Christ and His Church.


Before the lips of our Lord first uttered those two words, "My church," words which impress us with the preciousness of the church to Him as being His own peculiar possession, He asked His disciples, "Whom do ye say that I am?" Peter answered at once "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." The truth as to His Person must come out, for there could be no church apart from that, for it is formed upon and will be filled with what He is. But in this connection it is important that we should rightly grasp the significance of this episode in the revelation of the truth. Peter had not arrived at the truth by the exercise of his natural wits, or through any education he had received in the schools of men; nor can any other man; the scribes and Pharisees were far more intellectual and educated than he, and they neither discerned nor confessed the truth as to the Son of God. Nor had he gathered it from his study of the Old Testament prophets, though they all spoke of Christ; nor from the preaching of John the Baptist, though he was a faithful messenger, going before the face of the Lord's Anointed. He had received it from the FATHER - name of perfect grace, unknown to saints and sages of dispensations past, however exalted their privileges; hidden even now from the wise and prudent of the earth, but revealed unto babes. And it was from HEAVEN that the Father had revealed it. It was a heavenly revelation, the fruit of unmeasured grace which the name Father implies. This great revelation upon which so much hangs, was not made because of any merit in those who were chosen to receive it; and it connects itself, not with prophecies regarding the kingdom which are earthly in character, but with heaven and the counsel of God's will, by which all who were to receive it were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.

We cannot pass over this passage of Scripture lightly; it arrests us by its blessedness, and certainly we must learn what lies under the simple statements here given if we are to have any true understanding of the truth of the church. WE BEGIN WITH THE PERSON OF CHRIST, this is fundamental, there could be no church apart from Him; but what we would at this point emphasize is, that it is His Father in heaven who reveals what He is that the church might be. It is not what He will be as Son of David, that is set forth in the Old Testament; or even as Son of man, His glory in this position is also spoken of in those indispensable prophecies; but, Who is this Son of Man? He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is upon this revelation of Him that the church is brought into being, built up and completed; and every other glory which is His will manifest itself fully in relation to what He, the Christ, is personally with the Father. It is the Father's work to make this known, indeed we might, speaking with reverence, call it His own special and chief activity; but does not this shew what a world of ineffable love is here opened up to us, that had never been opened before, where the counsels of the Father for the glory of the Son are unfolded, and into which none can intrude. Only those chosen for it by surpassing grace may enter here.

Our deep conviction is, that we shall make no progress in the knowledge of the truth of the church if we fail to understand this, so that we make no apology for seeming repetition. It was not as Elohim - the strong One (Gen. 1:1.) that God made this revelation to Peter, or as Jehovah - the self-existent One, (Gen. 2:7.) or as El-Shaddai (Gen. 17:1) the Almighty, all-sufficient One, but as the FATHER of our Lord Jesus Christ, - "My Father," as He said. All that had come out in former days He is and will ever be; but it is not here a question of His attributes, His power, faithfulness or sufficiency, but what He is in His very nature. This could not be known to us by any work of His hand in creation, but only by the revelation of Himself by the only begotten Son that dwelt eternally in His bosom. So that we have first - the Father revealed in and by the only begotten Son, Jesus our Lord; and then the truth as to this glorious Person revealed to our faith by the Father; one can easily see that this must eventuate in fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ for all who respond to this revelation. Thus all truth hangs together.

Again we insist that it is the FATHER IN HEAVEN who reveals it. It is made to us upon earth, but it is from heaven, it is heavenly in character, and lifts us above the earth, and carries us into a range of things about which the prophecies that have to do with earth have nothing to say. The great majority of even pious Christians have not grasped the force of this, but the importance of it will be seen as the truth is developed. Then further, the way in which Christ is revealed is as victorious over death - He is "the Son of the living God." This revelation from the Father in heaven looked onward and carried the thought of resurrection with it. Immediately the Lord speaks of His suffering and death and resurrection; the truth is placed upon that platform, outside man in the flesh, with his ambitions, hopes and activities, which all lie shattered and dissolved at the touch of death.

So that we have at the first mention of the church in Scripture, the Father's activity - fulness of grace; the revelation He makes is a heavenly one, and it is of Christ, who would establish His church outside all the schemes and failures of man in the flesh against which all Satan's power and subtlety is directed in vain. It is invincible. This by way of introduction.

Christ the Glorious Head.

The mystery which is unfolded in the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians is Christ and the church, not the church without Christ, nor yet Christ without the church. Christ is the Head and the church His body. Consequently, though the church is in this blessed unity which is formed according to the purpose of God and by the might of His Spirit, its place is the subordinate one, as every body is subordinate to its head, and its blessedness and importance lie in the fact that it is the body of Christ, united to Him, the living Head in heaven.

We begin with Christ, whatever place of favour or testimony the church has now, or of glory it will have hereafter, it has by virtue of the fact that it is united to Christ, hence the necessity of beginning with Him. In doing so, the affections of the heart are brought into activity. One might say, "I am not particularly interested in the truth of the church," but none who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ will say, "I am not interested in Him," and in occupation with Him we are led naturally to be interested in that which He loves and nourishes and cherishes.

He is the Son of the living God. We are carried at once to John's Gospel by this declaration. Of this Gospel Augustine said, "John … deservedly compared to an eagle has opened his treatise as with a peal of thunder; he has raised himself not merely above earth and the whole compass of the air and heaven, but even above every angel host and every order of the invisible powers, and has reached even to Him by Whom all things were made, in that sentence, "In the beginning was the Word." It is with this Person we have to do and with Him we begin:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made" ( John 1:1-3). Here is the glory of His Person - As to His Being, He is eternal in the Godhead, as to His power and handiwork, He is the Creator of everything that exists.

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, ver. 14.

Here is the greatness of His condescension made manifest in His incarnation, for His humanity was not in form merely, something put on, as one would put on a garment for a certain purpose and then cast it off again when that purpose was accomplished, but it was a reality. He became an actual man, and this He will never cease to be.

"We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten with the Father" (verse 14). "The only-begotten which was in the bosom of the Father" (verse 18). Here we reach that which baffles description or explanation, nevertheless, it is revealed to us and we may at least say this of it, that in this epithet we learn the infinite worthiness of the Lord to be the eternal object of the Father's love, and His capability of responding to the full to that love, and as such He has come to declare it to men.

"Full of grace and truth." And of this "have all we received, and grace upon grace." Here is declared His absolute suitability to the entire need of man. Coming from the highest height of God's glory as the revelation of it, He stooped to the deepest depths of man's need to remove it.

Space fails us even to recount the matchless range of glories that shine upon this first page of John's Gospel, and we pass on to "I have glorified Thee on the earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do" (John 17:4). Here is the perfection of His life and the completeness of His work.

“He said, It is finished: and bowed His head and gave up the ghost … and one of the soldiers pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water" (John 14:30-34). Here is the one great sacrifice, by which He did the will of God and redeemed and perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

"The same day at evening when the disciples were assembled … came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you." (John 20:19). Here is His triumph over the power of death and the introduction of His disciples into a sphere of peace - afterwards to be known as His assembly - of which He would be the all-sufficient Centre and Head.

The Gospel of John closes with the statement, that if all the things Jesus did and said were written the world would not contain the books that would be written. This in the judgment of the critic is hyperbolical language; we claim that it is the sober statement of the truth inspired by the Holy Spirit. Remember the greatness and glory of the Person; endeavour to conceive the character of the revelation that He made in His works and words, and then say whether this could be told in books.

Who, for instance, discerns fully, and could write truly, except the Father, the glory of the Son of God as displayed in the first miracle in Cana of Galilee; when He found man in his brightest social circumstances, his marriage day, a failure, for the wine ran out; but produced for him out of the water of purification, typical of death, the wine that could not fail; the best brought out last. Is not this the glory of the last Adam, who, out of His own death, shall bring forth the wine that makes glad the heart of God and man; shall roll back the tide of darkness and death brought in by the first Adam; remove from this creation the groans, disappointments, failure and loss; the vain reaching out on the part of man for what appears to be substance but is only shadow, vanity, vexation of spirit; and fill it with the wisdom and knowledge of God? Every cry hushed, every desire satisfied, everyone at rest, and God glorified through it all.

And who discerns fully the glory of that last miracle, which can scarcely be read without tears, when our adorable Lord, rising from His agony and sweat of blood in Gethsemane, was confronted by His eager, ruthless foes. One of them, Malchus, a slave of the high Priest, must have offered some gross insult to the Lord, and Peter, indignant and impetuous, drew the sword he carried and smote off his ear. Thus nature acted, thus man displayed himself, thinking he served his Lord. But Jesus, e'er His wonder-working hands were bound by His hardened captors, quietly touched the severed ear and healed it. What absolute goodness; what invincible mercy; what tender compassion; could this be written in books? Such divine goodness overcoming such appalling evil will have its place in the days of His glory when He shall fill all things; and every other ray of His glory seen by the Father's eye when He trod that lonely pathway, which "led only to the cross," will shine forth there.

It used to be said of a spiritually-minded minister of the Word, There is a book in which all would be written, for nothing that Jesus did or said could be lost, and that book is the church; it will be the lesson book of the universe. And this is true. The Father is writing in this book now by the Holy Ghost. For of the saints, who are the body of Christ, it is said, "Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart," and the divine intention is "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 our Lord" (Eph. 3:10-11). The church, as we shall see, is the transcript of Christ. This is where "the mystery which from the beginning of the world had been hid in God who created all things by Jesus Christ" comes in. (Eph. 3:9). And we would remark that it might be thought that we have gone outside the range of our subject in bringing into it the glories of Christ as unfolded in the opening of John's Gospel, but this verse, and the fact that the creatorial glory of Christ is connected with the same subject in Colossians justifies us in so doing.

The purpose of the mystery is to fill the universe with Christ, and this will be done by the church.
1. Christ - the full revelation of God in manhood, the display.
2. The Church - the vessel for the display.
3. The Created Universe - the sphere of the display.

Yes, God intends that Christ, who fills His own heart, shall fill the universe, and this will be glory, and one part of the mystery now is that 'Christ is in His members the hope of glory' (Col. 1:27.) - God intends that the One who in the narrow compass of 33 years, in lowliness of life and obscurity, beset with every conceivable hostility of evil, fully declared His name, and revealed His nature in such a way that the world cannot contain the books, shall Himself be revealed in the fulness of His incomparable worth to every intelligence in the vast universe; and His body is the chosen vessel through which He will do it; and this not only in the dispensation of the fulness of times, but, unto the ages of the ages God will have glory in the church by Christ Jesus. (Eph. 3:21.)

How the Body Was Formed.

Now the question arises how, and by what means has the church, which is the body of Christ, the vessel for the fulfilment of the counsels of God, been brought into being for the accomplishment of this great purpose.

First. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone: but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit." John 12:24, shews the necessity of the death of Christ that there might be brought into existence the "many grains" like Himself, for the members of His body must be of the same order and nature as the Head.

Second. "The Holy Ghost was not yet given because that Jesus was not yet glorified" ch. 7:39, shews the necessity of His exaltation and glory if the Spirit was to be given; and the body could not be formed apart from the gift of the Holy Spirit. "Nevertheless, I tell you the truth," said the Lord to His disciples, "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you."

The first chapter of Acts records the ascension of Christ to the glory, the second chapter records the descent of the Holy Ghost from that spot upon His disciples on earth; and the unity of the saints in one body starts here and cannot be divorced from these two great facts — a Man at the right hand of God, and the Holy Ghost come from thence to earth.

Let us consider these great facts. The first is described in Ephesians 1 in most wonderful language. "The working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all."

He has not only gone to heaven, but the exceeding greatness of God's power has carried Him there from the very depths of death, and set Him in indisputable supremacy above every created power, and this, mark it well, in relation to His body, the church. Now a work commensurate in greatness with the raising up of Christ must be done in order to raise His body up, unite it to Him, fashion each member of it after His likeness, and fill it with Himself; and that work is being effected in the second great fact, the coming of the Holy Ghost to earth to indwell every member of the body of Christ.

We would press home upon our readers, the character that these facts give to the body of Christ, of which they each form a part. It is heavenly and not earthly; it is of the "last Adam," who is the Lord raised from the dead, and not of the first man who is of the earth, earthy. We have heard the fact of the heavenly character of the church derided and it is little thought of by the bulk of christians; hence we press it; it ought not to need pressing, for there are many passages of Scripture which state the fact in so many words. But it ought also to be clear, that if we are members of the body of Christ, who is not on earth but in heaven, and if we have been formed into His body, not by any earthly organisation devised by men, but by the indwelling of the Spirit from heaven, we must be now heavenly; however poorly we make it manifest, this is what we are in the thought of God.

Christendom acts as though Christ were accepted on earth; hence we have aims for world-power in Rome, the church and the state united in Episcopacy, politics rampant in Nonconformity. The solemn fact is refused that Christ was and is rejected by the world. We have briefly considered His glory and perfection in John's Gospel; consider now His rejection by the world, His humiliation and shame.

"One of the officers struck Jesus with the palm of his hand" (John 18:22).

"Pilate therefore took Jesus, and scourged Him" (John 19:1).

"The soldiers plaited a crown of thorns and put it upon His head, and they put on Him a purple robe, and said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote Him with their hands" (vers. 2-3).

When the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, "Crucify Him, crucify Him."

But they cried, "Away with Him" (verse 15). "They crucified Him, and two other with Him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst." Need we continue? Does not that centre cross upon which hung the Author of life, the Father's sent One, declare to the universe that the world dominated by Satan would not have the Son of the living God? Consequently God has raised up His Son, and with like energy and exceeding grace He is gathering out of the world the members and uniting them to the glorious earth-rejected, heavenly Head. The members cannot be part of Christ and be of the world that rejected Him at one and the same time; they cannot be diverse from the Head; they must be as He is. So they are God's ecclesia, an assembly of out-called ones, no longer of the world out of which they are called. But if you call out a number of people without a purpose or centre you have a rabble, that was not the purpose of God when He commenced to call out His church. He unites them each by one Spirit to one Head and forms an indivisible organism, instinct in every member of it with the life of the Head, to be under the dictation of the Head and to manifest what He is.

Christendom has departed from this and become a rabble; setting up heads of its own choosing; going its own way; section warring with section; a veritable babel. How could it be otherwise when it denies its heavenly origin and turns from the Head in whom all the fulness of the Godhead dwells and seeks instead the help of men and the world that rejected and crucified Him. And there is no deliverance from this but by the truth as to what God has established. For this reason we are endeavouring to present the truth to our readers.

But let us, not fearing repetition, consider what this means. The Holy Ghost from heaven takes possession of a company of men upon earth; one Spirit in each individual in that company, forms them by this indwelling into one body; but having come from the exalted Christ, He unites them all to Him, so that now they form the body of the Man who is out of death and exalted in heaven. He is their Head there, and they being His body are to be expressive of Him here. The Head must direct the members of His body: His thoughts, His graces, His manners, His very life have now to find expression in them. This is outside entirely what man is naturally, for Christ has passed through death and is out of it; it is outside also all the springs of earth, for He is exalted in heaven; hence it can only be done in the Holy Spirit's power, but the members of the body of Christ have not to seek Him, for He dwells in them for this very purpose. This is an entirely divine conception, but it is a blessed reality to be entered into consciously by every one of us. It is such a reality, such a fact established in the invincible might of the Holy Spirit that no power of the enemy can destroy it; such a reality that when Jesus arrested Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road He challenged him with the question, "Why persecutest thou ME?" The Head and the body are one. And the Head directs the body; the members need no self-appointed leaders, they are to look to their Head for direction, and to be descriptive of Him where He is in the very scene of His crucifixion. What a victory for God is this! What an overthrow for the devil is here disclosed! He thought to rid the world that he dominated of Christ, living a life of lowliness and obscurity; he has been foiled by the wisdom God, for now the exalted, heavenly Man is here in His body; it is His epistle, known and read of all men; it is here maintained by the mighty power that has come from Him at God's right hand. Its destiny is the place where He is, meanwhile it is descriptive of Him where He was rejected, for Christ is in you the hope of glory.

On this line lies unity, to seek it on any other can only fail, but this is outside all failure, it is the unity of the Spirit. And if we see the truth and appreciate it we shall welcome the precious exhortation, coming as it does from the prisoner of the Lord.

"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:1-3).

J. T. Mawson.

The Present Practical Result of the Truth of the Body of Christ.

The idea is current in the minds of many Christians, that the truth concerning the church viewed as the body of Christ, has little practical bearing on life and conduct. Yet it must be evident to a serious thinker that so stupendous a fact as that Christ has a body on earth, of which He is Head in heaven, could not but have an important and searching effect on the walk and ways of those who receive it in the full assurance of understanding.

It was the revelation of this great secret which had been hidden in God that absolutely changed the life of Saul of Tarsus. The words, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou ME," revolutionized him. The greatness of this fact governed all his after ministry, and caused him deep anxiety of soul, and continual prayer to God, that those who had received the gospel, might be interested in this further truth. He knew its importance, and knew also that if this central pivot on which the present activity of God turns was lacking, nothing else could be in right adjustment.

1. Let us consider it first of all in relation to the understanding of God's will and purpose for the present period of Christ's rejection from the earth.

The body of Christ consists of all believers whether Jew or Gentile by birth, brought on to a new platform before God in Christ risen, and livingly united to Him by the Holy Spirit. They thus become joint heirs, a joint body and joint partakers of the promise, the purpose and the glory; the final result being the display of the exceeding riches of the grace of God and glory brought to Him in the church by Christ Jesus unto all generations of the age of ages.

The present result where this is received in the obedience of faith, is worship and praise to the Father of glory, and at the same time the heart is turned away from the many purposes which occupy the minds of men in respect of the world and its nations, and is engaged with the only thing that can hush the groan of creation, namely, the manifestation of the sons of God, in the likeness of, and with their exalted Head. The coming out of the church from heaven having the glory of God, is His centre of administration for the dispensation of the world's peace. Through His body Christ will rule all things and receive the homage of all the nations of the earth. The knowledge of this will produce a great result in delivering the Christian from the projects of the rulers of this world, and leagues of nations, which after all are doomed to failure from their inception, because they are not framed for the glory of Him whom God delights to honour. One who is instructed in the mystery of God will have very good reason indeed for abstaining from participation in the politics of men, for his politics are in heaven, from whence he awaits the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, with eager anticipation.

2. In close connection with these things is the right understanding of the Scriptures of truth. The knowledge of the special calling of the church is the key to the treasure house. The purposes of God for His earthly people Israel are then seen to have been suspended, until the time when the new heavenly family shall have been completed and translated to heaven. God is now calling out of the world a people for His name and afterwards will return and build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen down and will set it up. If this is not grasped, the prophets have little or no meaning to the mind, and there is the desire to apply their writings to the church, with the result that their true connexion is lost, and the dispensations of law and grace are confused. From this cause has arisen the mixture of Judaism and Christianity, supplemented by human devices, which is everywhere in evidence. The church is the vessel of grace, formed in the world but no more of it than is its Head in heaven; heavenly in its origin, its character, its portion and its destiny; and the Christian that is so instructed will be one who can bring out of the treasures of God's Word, the old things and the new. Such intelligent perusal of Scripture is surely a very practical and blessed thing.

3. None can contemplate the present condition of the church without seeing that great confusion exists, and the reason is not far to seek. From very early days in the history of the church, believers have failed to hold the Head, and consequently have supplied the lack with other heads of their own devising. Popes and cardinals, kings and archbishops, with the whole clerical system have been perpetuated. Churches, chapels and Christian gatherings of all kinds are anxious to have some one appointed to whom they may look for guidance and who shall undertake the responsibility of their affairs. So far has the truth that all direction and supply flows from the Head to each of the members as He will, been departed from, that many cannot understand how Christians can meet together for worship or edification without someone to preside over the meeting or be its leader. The reason is that Christ has not His place in their minds as Head, or if they hold this in theory it is thought not to be applicable in practice. The consequence is that instead of bearing witness to the unity of the body, the Church is scattered and divided, sectarianism is rampart and the sheep follow each other instead of the Shepherd. Let it not be imagined that this state of things can be remedied by any outward arrangement, for no recovery is possible unless the place of the Head is recognized. We have not to make a unity but to acknowledge that which is already established by the Holy Spirit, and to depart from all that is inconsistent with it. To be a member of the body of Christ is so great an honour, that one who realizes it will decline all other memberships, societies, guilds, unions, syndicates and companies. Such things are the resort of men who conscious of their individual weakness, seek strength to safeguard their interests and maintain their place in the world. The saint and the church have their resources in Christ and need none other. In Christ and the church are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; the source of all is in the Head, the supply is to the members, and neither religious associations, philosophical societies or nationalistic combines, can add anything to him to whom Christ is all. But if any practical result is to follow, this truth must be acted upon, and Christians must be found gathered together to the name of the Lord alone and owning His sole authority. Where this is done even though but by two or three, how great is the blessing, and how rich and full the stream of grace which flows in abundant supply from the Head on high. In this lies the Divine answer to the confusion, for any who will take such a path, in all lowliness and meekness forbearing one another in love.

4. Then in relation to the coming of the Lord; how many and various are the ideas that are afloat upon this precious theme, yet how simple and heart-affecting does the subject become when the place of the church as the body and bride of Christ is seen. At once it becomes an imminent hope, making heaven a reality to the soul, and earth but a shadow. Yes, He is coming for His church, that where He is she may be also; He is coming to present her to Himself a glorious church without spot of defilement or wrinkle of age; He is coming that He may be glorified in His church and admired in all them that believe; He is coming for the pearl upon which He set such value that He sold all to possess it. What bridal affections are produced by considering these things! No hour of Jacob's trouble is her lot; no time of tribulation that shall come upon all the world to try them that dwell on the earth. She has no place on earth during the day of the world's judgment, for the day of grace which called her into life will have ended, and for her the joy of the presence of the Bridegroom on high will have come. Below the storms of judgment will be sweeping over the guilty world; above in heaven, the marriage of the Lamb, the bridal robe, the hallelujah song.

5. Then again the truth of the church as the body of Christ is the great preservative against the evil doctrines that abound in Christendom. Where many are tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine and cunning craft of the enemy of souls, the heart that rests in the knowledge of union with Christ, abides in the steady calm of truth as it is in Him. Such an one needs no novelty in spiritual things, nor desires to intrude into the spirit of the world. Neither is he entrapped in the spider webs which men spin from their imagination, nor is he bewildered by the forced interpretations of Scripture with which such ideas are bolstered up. The conclusions of science falsely so-called cause him no anxiety as to the foundations which rest in God, because holding the truth in love he grows up into Him in all things, which is the Head even Christ, and these things attract him not. The heart that is possessed by heavenly affections will be satisfied only with that which can minister of the excellency of Him who is at God's right hand.

6. Lastly as to individual walk, we need but to turn the pages of the epistles to Colosse and Ephesus, to see how Christian behaviour and practice is developed in the knowledge of Christ as Head of His body. To walk worthy of the calling, to walk apart from the vanity of the human mind, to walk as children of light, in love, and circumspectly to carry out the relationships of life, after God's thoughts; these epistles as well as that to Philippi show how these things can only be lived out as the life of Christ expresses itself through the members of His body here.

The truth of the mystery was given to Paul to complete the Word of God. It is the centrepiece which gives harmony and arrangement to the whole circle of truth, without it all is unfinished and no true connection is seen. Only so can any life find its true purpose and mission as it sees its place as set in the church in relation to Christ and all saints. Worthwhile indeed to have the lowliest place in such a glorious purpose, where each member needs every other and each partakes of the measure of grace from Christ. Every member is necessary to the Head, in order that He may express in the whole the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him which created him.

It awaits the day of glory for the full display of this, but even now it is wrought out in measure in those to whom God after the deep desire of His heart, makes known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

The above remarks have been based upon the following Scriptures: -
Acts 9:1-9; 15:14-17. Rom. 8:19-21; 16:25-27. Eph. 1:17-23; 3:1-21; 4:1-16, Col. 1. 23-29; 2:1-19. 2 Thess. 1:10-12. Rev. 21:9-27 which will well repay prayerful and careful study.

James Green.

"The riches of the glory of this mystery." (Col. 1:27)

We are told that God would make known to us the riches of the glory of the mystery, and we are therefore definitely encouraged to seek by the Spirit to apprehend somewhat of the costly treasures of wisdom and knowledge which are graciously stored up for us in this, and which await those who will take possession of them in faith. Were we not assured of this in God's Word, the very greatness of these exalted and holy things might well deter us; and a false idea of humility might have easily prevented our entering upon the path to this wealthy abundance; or, it may be, a sense of our own unworthiness. Seeing, however, that those who are addressed were once sinful, disobedient children of wrath and deserving God's judgment, but have now redemption in Christ, the forgiveness of sins, having been delivered from the authority of Satan and brought into the favour of God; - seeing that those who are utterly unworthy and sinners in themselves are thus addressed and blessed, having heard and believed the gospel concerning God's Son, and consequently become members of the body, the assembly, of which Christ is the Head; - we, who have learned our own sinfulness and God's redeeming love in Christ, may, having no confidence in the flesh, enter without presumption or irreverence into these things which God would indeed have us know. May we have grace and energy to do so!

1. The mystery itself has been revealed. It never could have been known otherwise. 2. It has its own distinctive glory. 3. God desires that we should know the riches of this. The apostle to the Gentiles laboured with great combat of spirit in relation to it, toiling according to the inworking power of Christ, that the saints might be brought to the full knowledge of it, and not be deluded by other things which are not after Christ. We may well therefore be deeply in earnest about the matter for ourselves. Its importance to-day cannot be over estimated. Deceptions and delusions in religious circles abound, but the truth which is according to Christ Jesus our Lord, known and practised, is sufficient to preserve us in the way of life and blessing for the pleasure of God.

1. The Mystery.

The riches which we have before us are immediately connected with the mystery. It will therefore be necessary to say a little as to this. In contrast to the ages previous to the redeeming work, resurrection and exaltation of Christ, the mystery is now revealed.

Silence was kept as to it in the times past, but it is now made manifest for the obedience of faith (Rom. 16:26). It was hidden from ages and generations, but is now declared to the saints of God (Col. 1:26). This mystery we are told was "hid in God" Himself previously (Eph. 3:9), therefore the revelation of it cannot be found in Old Testament times, or before the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. That it is now made known in our day should profoundly affect us.

The above three Scriptures which speak of the mystery show the care with which this divine secret was guarded from time immemorial until the day the gospel of God's saving grace came to us. The gospel however, is not itself the mystery as Romans 16:26 shows. It is now made manifest with a view to obedience, - called "obedience of faith." Colossians 1:26 tells us that it is now made manifest to the saints of God, and that the truth was specially given to the Apostle Paul to minister it to the Gentile believers, and thus to complete the Word of God. Ephesians 3:9 speaks of it being made known now to "the sons of men," having been revealed not only to Paul the special minister of it, but to "His holy apostles and prophets in the power of the Spirit." What then is this wonderful mystery which God has so graciously made known in our day after keeping it a secret so long? Our Scripture (Eph. 3) tells us. Going beyond and far above all the great and glorious promises of God made in the past to the nation of Israel; a higher and vaster range of glory, which is not of Old Testament promise, but which is according to eternal purpose, believers from among the Gentiles are made one in Christ with those from among the Jews, becoming thus in Him, who is exalted by God above every dignity and intelligence in the universe, heirs together of the reserved inheritance in glory, - a united body in Christ, the assembly, - and joint partakers of the life which was promised in Him before the ages of time, now made known in the glad tidings. (Verse 6).

Such thoughts did not enter the Jewish mind. The Jew expected according to the promises, that Israel as a nation should have the supreme glory in the world, in a system of nations subservient to her, with her King, her Messiah of David's line, in her midst, but it never entered their minds that from among themselves and from among the nations there should be an out-calling, the ek-klesia, united to the Christ rejected by them and exalted to God's right hand over all things, nor could it be known until it was revealed by God Himself.

Supremacy on earth belongs to Israel and will yet be theirs, when the nation is clothed with Christ; but this cannot be until the body, the assembly, is glorified with Christ her Head in heaven, and Israel has repented of the guilt of having rejected and crucified Him. Revelation 12 opens with a symbolic vision of her glory which follows. She is clothed with the sun; supreme power is vested in her, for the Lord is her everlasting light. The moon is seen beneath her feet: all derived authority is received from Israel in the earth. On her head is a crown of twelve stars, which speaks of the administration being hers in bestowed perfection. The Man Child who is to shepherd all the nations is of Israel (verse 5), for truly "salvation is of the Jews" as the Lord Himself said, for He came of them after the flesh, and He is the Saviour of the world to bring in blessing and order and glory. Nevertheless, the mystery has in view not only this, but the centering up of all things in the heavens as well as upon the earth in Christ, and the filling of all things by means of the assembly, the body, which is "the fulness of Him that filleth all in all." This is according to eternal purpose as we said, and rises far above the glorious promises to Israel. God has now made known the very mystery of His own will, according to His own good pleasure which He proposed in Himself (Eph. 1:9).

The Head of this system of divine greatness is already glorified, and those who are members of His body are united to Him by the Spirit given. At present they are heirs of the inheritance of glory; soon they shall actually inherit. They are already in the body; soon they will be exalted along with the Head. His life is theirs now, and when Christ who is their life shall be manifested then shall they also shine out with Him in glory.

Much of the wisdom of God is shown through Israel, but now through the assembly there is made known the all-various wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord; and that, not to men, but to "the principalities and authorities in the heavenlies." This was in view even in the creation which He called into being at the beginning, though He did not reveal the secret till Christ had secured redemption, and was set as Head over all things to the assembly. It is therefore said "now" as contrasted with the past when the mystery was kept secret, and not in contrast with the future, for it has an abiding sense according to "eternal purpose." The perfect display of God's wisdom is secured, - "all-various," or "all variegated," - a word only found here in Scripture, and used of the magnificent blendings of colour in a masterpiece of art. To bring the failure of the assemblies into these verses is to mar the teaching in this connection. To dwell upon the divine grace and love and power and wisdom seen in Christ and the assembly according to the purpose of God will rightly affect us.

In chapter 5, after speaking of Christ and the assembly in the past and present, and looking on to the future, to the time when Christ will present her to Himself all glorious for the joy of His own heart, it is said, "This mystery is great but I speak as to Christ, and as to the assembly" (32), - having added for our present help, "We are members of His body; we are of His flesh and of His bones." What rich comfort and cheer this gives us now, even before the end is reached! Not only is union ours in the precious sense of Bridegroom and bride, but unity, - members of the body of which Christ is the glorified Head, - one with Christ! How can we praise Thy grace, Lord Jesus, as our hearts desire to do?
  "Ascended now in glory bright
    Life-giving Head Thou art;
  Nor life, nor death, nor depth, nor height,
    Thy saints and Thee can part."

In closing these remarks as to the mystery itself, we feel constrained to mention the intense and rapid progress of another mystery, which, in the sphere of Christendom is sweeping onward like a destructive flood; it is called "The mystery of iniquity" or "lawlessness" (1 Thess. 2:7). It was at work even when the apostles were on the earth. It has been working in opposition to Christ, and the assembly acts as a restraint, but when that restraint is removed at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ for the assembly, it will rush forward, carrying off those who "received not the love of the truth that they might be saved" (ver. 10). May the truth we have spoken of, - in the love of it, - so fill our hearts that we may be kept above all religious workings in opposition to it, "preserved in Christ Jesus," where all that is good and perfect is ours.

2. The Glory of the Mystery.

Before we speak of the riches of the glory of this mystery, we must seek to grasp, as the Holy Spirit enables us, the special distinction, or glory of the mystery; for these riches, though they are to be displayed in the universe as the outcome of the mystery, are not exactly called the riches of the mystery, but the riches of the glory of it. The difference has not been observed sufficiently, but it is important.

The glory of the mystery is that which is distinctive of it when compared with other circles of blessedness in the universe of God. Creation has its distinctive glory. ISRAEL HAS HER OWN GLORY ALSO. It is the same with the mystery. The thoughts of an Israelite, from every part of the kingdom, turned instinctively to Jerusalem. Even Daniel during the captivity looked thitherward, and prayed with his window open towards the city. Nevertheless, it was because of the city, and the throne of Jehovah, the ark, of the Lord of all the earth, and Jehovah's own presence there, that a peculiar distinction was given to the city and kingdom of Israel above all others. The glory of the Lord had been seen to fill the temple. Sacrifices had been offered; the magnificent building had been reared up; and when the priests and Levites "praised the Lord, saying, For He is good, for His mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord: so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God" (2 Chron. 5:14). What other nation or kingdom was so honoured? What other people had God so nigh unto them? What other city was so privileged? What house or temple was filled with the cloud of Jehovah's presence? - And there was the ark which contained the stones of testimony given miraculously at Sinai, when the glory of the God of Israel appeared before their eyes; when there was seen "under His feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness." Six days the glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai. "The sight of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire."

Moses exhorted them to keep the statues and judgments which God had given them, saying, "This is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations" (Deut. 4:6), for it would be recognized that thus they were distinguished from others. We know, however, that they failed utterly, but when God presently takes them up again according to the new covenant, it is said, "The Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to Thy Light, and kings to the brightness of Thy rising" (Isa. 60:2-3); again, I will glorify the house of My glory. Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as doves to their windows?" (8). "The nation and kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish" (12). "They shall call thee, The city of the Lord, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel" (14). "The Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting Light, and thy God thy glory" (19). "Yea, I will be the glory in the midst of her saith the Lord" (Zech. 2:5). Messiah will be known by her then. She will have returned to Him. Like Thomas, they will own Him as their Lord and their God when they see Him. He will be known and owned at Jerusalem by all, and "the Lord shall be King of all the earth" (Zech. 14:9).

This constitutes Israel's glory, but the glory of the mystery transcends this altogether. Great and glorious indeed the former is, but the latter surpasses it in its vastness and outshines it in its splendour; rising far above the heights of Israel's exaltation, and outreaching the widest ranges of her dominion, the glory of the mystery glows with the richest radiance, and blesses the beholders of it with its abiding beauty and universal brightness. It outranges all national glory, for that which is according to God's eternal purpose must necessarily extend beyond His greatest promises for time. Indeed, it might be said that the mystery and its glory, even as we know it now, partakes of the nature and character of "eternity." Oh! that we might value this more than we do!

As we have seen, Israel is to shine in national supremacy on earth, because of her Messiah, in the sight of all other nations of the world who will be blessed through her. The assembly is the body of Christ, - not a nation under Messiah, but a living organism, a vital system, one with its glorious Head, - united to Him who is the Head of all principality and power. It is for the universe. It will be through its immediate and intimate association with Christ at God's right hand, and its oneness with Him, through power, redemption, resurrection, and the gift of the Spirit, the divinely provided means for the blessing and ordering of all things, - as it is said, "the fulness of Him who fills all in all;" and it is also for the eternal pleasure of God, that there might be to Him "glory in the assembly in Christ Jesus unto all generations of the age of the ages." The One whose body the assembly is first went down into the depths before He ascended as Man into the transcendent heights where He now is. "He that descended is the same who has also ascended up above all the heavens, that He might fill all things." From that exalted position He has given gifts for the calling out and building up of the saints who are to share with Him in His heavenly glory, holy and without blame before God in love, dwelling with Christ as His companions and brethren, and reigning with Him as His bride when He fills the universe with glory.

  "What will it be to dwell above
    And with the Lord of glory reign?"

How far all this transcends that which will give Israel her distinctive place on earth words are scarcely adequate to express; but, as the heavens are higher than the earth; and the vast universe far outspans the world; and the thrones, lordships, principalities and authorities in the heavens surpass in greatness and majesty those on earth; so the distinctive "glory of the mystery" excels that of Israel, magnificent and glorious though that be, as we have seen. Israel will be in immediate association with the Messiah, King over all the earth; but the assembly will be united to Him, a new creation in Himself when all things in the heavens as well as upon the earth are centred up in Him. Oh! glorious beyond telling is this! Eternal praise and glory be to Him whose love counselled it, whose grace saved us in view of it, and whose Spirit made it known to us!

Seeing, then, that the distinction of both, flows from the way in which Christ Himself is known, for a fuller understanding of "the glory of the mystery," we need to say a little concerning the pre-eminence which is His in all things, as "Firstborn of all creation" and as "Firstborn from among the dead." The former distinction became His when He came into the great creation which He had made. The reason given for this is "because by Him all things were created" (Col. 1:16). How could the Creator have any place less than the first when He was pleased to honour that creation by coming into it? The latter distinction is His in relation to the assembly which is a new creation in Himself, - a pearl being the symbol of it used by the Holy Spirit. The symbol is deeply interesting and instructive; a pearl is not a creation in the original sense, but rather the beautiful outcome of irritant trouble in the original creation; and, therefore of it, but yet separate from it, - a new creation, with powers of iridescence, which exhibits the colours of the rainbow of the first creation with a soft and exquisite perfection, which can be found nowhere except in the pearl brought up from beneath the deep waters, and taken out of the fish's shell. As having the glory of Firstborn from among the dead, our Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the body, the assembly. Now mark the reason given for all this, - "That He might have the first place in all things" (Col. 1:18).

If we reverse the order therefore of these two distinctions, and meditate upon them before God in the Spirit, we shall see how it is that the distinctive glory of the mystery is related to the glory of Christ, the Son of the Father's love, according to the eternal purpose which centres in Him, for the blessing and order of the wide creation. We see Him pre-eminent, first in every part, in every position, in every place, - "in all things," and, His body glorified with Him, so that the assembly thus honoured, stands because of Him, and as subject to Him, in that distinctive place which, as a new creation in Him, is used for the blessing of the wide creation of which He is also the Firstborn. This then is the glory of the mystery which God hid in Himself till the Head of the assembly was glorified. What a distinction it is! Oh, that we could speak of the glory of Christ, the Son of the Father's love, in His resurrection, redemption, reconciliation and administration better, and so show more clearly the "glory of the mystery" with all the greatness and loveliness which He bestows upon it.
  "In His blest face all glories shine,
    And there we gaze on love divine."

3. The Riches.

We have seen that the mystery, which was so long hidden, but now made known, is distinct from the promises to Israel, which involve their supremacy under Christ in a world-system of nations; for it is formed in Christ of those who are called out from the nations, from Jews as well as Gentiles, all of those being thus called out becoming unitedly heirs of the universal inheritance in Christ, one body in Him, His assembly, and together partaking of the life promised by the gospel in Christ Jesus. The glory of this mystery has also come before us; and we have seen that this distinction transcends that of the nation of Israel, when she is exalted under her once rejected Messiah; for the assembly which is His body and His bride is not simply distinguished in association with Him for the earth and for time, but for heaven and earth through eternity sharing in His glory when as Head over all He fills all things.

We will now consider the riches which result from the glory of this mystery. This would seem to be altogether beyond us had not God graciously made it known; as we read, - "The riches of the glory of this mystery among the nations, which is Christ in you the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). Here then we are distinctly told what these vast riches are, - Christ in us the hope of glory! - Christ, in whom, we are told in verse 19, "all the fulness of the Godhead" dwells: - in us, not now apart from those who form His body, but livingly in them; - the hope of glory. The glory is always in view in the truth of the mystery, which is according to God's purpose of love before time began, which was revealed in time after the Head of the assembly was glorified, and which after time ceases shall be for eternal blessing universally and glory to God in the assembly in Christ Jesus.

To aid our understanding of these riches we will again refer to Israel. We spoke of their national blessing and glory, and great were the riches connected with that glory. In David and Solomon, the high priest, and the temple filled with the glory of the Lord, we see the heading up of the nation's blessing. What great riches flow from this! - first for the nation, then for their Lord and God, and finally for the world. We purposely name them in this order, for God must necessarily first bestow the riches before there could be any responsive return to Himself, or any outflow to others. He is the gracious, generous, and glorious Source of all.

When the stores of riches described in 1 Chron. 28 and 29, were gathered together for the temple, David turned to God, and said, "Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine: Thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and Thou art exalted as Head above all. Both riches and honour come of Thee, and Thou reignest over all … All things come of Thee, and of Thine own have we given Thee … O Lord our God, all this store that we have prepared to build Thee an house for Thine holy Name cometh of Thine hand, and is all thine own." Furthermore, Solomon anointed, is a special type of Christ; and, in this connection we have that remarkable word, - "Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord;" and it is also said of Him, "I will make him My firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth" (Ps. 89:27). This plainly points on to the glorious Firstborn of Colossians 1. God said to Solomon, "Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee." In a pre-eminent way "wisdom and knowledge" are stored in the mystery. God gives all first, "and Solomon passed all the kings of the earth in wisdom and riches."

The temple and all the wealth was given back to God. The glory of the Lord filled the house, and fire came down from heaven and consumed the vast offerings which were offered to God. The people bowed themselves to the ground and worshipped the Lord. The king and all the people bowed their hearts before God and worshipped the Lord. The king and all the people offered sacrifices. Solomon offered twenty-two thousand oxen and an hundred and twenty thousand sheep! The priests waited on their offices, and the Levites praised the Lord with their instruments of music. They sounded their trumpets, and all Israel stood before the Lord when the house and its riches were dedicated, continual offerings to their Lord and God were to be offered up as a sweet savour to Him there.

Moreover, the fame of Solomon, Israel's king spread abroad, and "all the kings of the earth sought the presence of king Solomon, to hear His wisdom, that God had put in his heart." The queen of Sheba said to him, "It was a true report which I heard in mine own land of thine acts, and of thy wisdom, howbeit the one half of the greatness of thy wisdom was not told me: for thou exceedest the fame that I heard." To the ends of the earth the rich benefits of Solomon's administration should have flowed out, making his God known, His statutes, and His judgments, through Israel. This will be so when the true Solomon holds the sceptre.

It is to be noticed, that, in the epistle to the Ephesians, which speaks most of the mystery, the city, the household of God, the temple in the Lord and the habitation of God are spoken of. In a far higher sense than the earthly type, all things will be centred up in Christ for the administration of the fulness of times (Eph. 1:10): and the "greater than Solomon" whose riches are unsearchable and whose wisdom is divine shall fill all things in heaven and earth. He is the hidden Wisdom which God predetermined before the ages for the assembly's glory, - "God's wisdom in a mystery" (1 Cor. 2:7). Of Him it is said in Proverbs 8, "Whoso findeth Me findeth life" (35); and again, "Counsel is Mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength. By Me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth. I love them that love Me; and those that seek Me early shall find Me. Riches and honour are with Me; yea, durable riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold, and My revenue than choice silver." Christ, in whom all fulness dwells, is in us, and He is our life. "When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with Him in glory." He shall come to be "glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe:" but He is in us now already, the hope of glory. It is this which constitutes the riches of the glory of the mystery. The wealthy stores of Solomon's day were mostly gathered during the times of testing and trial and conflict of David's day. We are told that the present trial of our faith is much more precious than gold, and will be found to praise and honour and glory in the day of Jesus Christ. It must be in mind that He in us the hope of glory, and God has given to us surpassing riches in Him. Like David we can say, "All this great store cometh from Thee. All the praise and the honour and the glory are Thine."

The riches of redemption are very prominent in the two epistles which unfold the mystery.
1. The riches of God's grace (Eph. 1:7).
2. The exceeding riches of His grace (2:7).
3. The riches of the glory of God's inheritance in the saints (1:18).
4. The riches of His glory (3:16).
5. The unsearchable riches of Christ (3:8).
6. The riches of the glory of the mystery (Col. 1:27).
7. All riches of the full assurance of understanding to the full knowledge of the mystery of God; in which are hid "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (2:2-3). It is in the mystery that this complete store of wisdom and knowledge is found. Nowhere else has God confided it, and the whole treasury is there, - "All the treasures!" Why then should saints of God turn elsewhere, to philosophies and vain deceits? Christ is enough? Yea, more than enough for the assembly. He is in us. Anything that turns the mind and heart from Him is a delusion, however good and interesting it may seem. After telling us of these treasures, the Apostle at once exhorts, "As therefore ye have received the Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him, and assured in the faith, even, as ye have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving;" adding that all the fulness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily, and "ye are complete in Him, who is the Head of all principality and authority." The Godhead fulness is in Him, and we are filled full in Him! How wonderful! How glorious! How exceeding are the grace and love and power of God which has brought it to pass!

The grateful and thankful heart finds relief and rejoicing in the presence of such magnificence to know that our God and Father receives a rich response to such lavish wealth which He has bestowed upon us. Of His He receives. Abundant offerings were rendered Him in Solomon's day. Offerings of thanksgiving, praise, worship and adoration in a higher way are His as the result of the glory of the mystery. Blessing and honour and power are ascribed to Him for ever and ever, and there shall be glory to Him in the assembly in Christ Jesus unto all generations of the age of the ages. Time and space forbid, even if we were able to do so, to expatiate on these responsive riches which shall be His from us for ever, and even now as in assembly our grateful praise and worship flow in Spirit and in truth.

And then, there is not only the filling of our own hearts with Christ, and the uprising response as we bring Him before our God and Father who gave us such an unspeakable gift, but the overflow for the blessing of others. Isaiah, looking on the reign of righteousness on this earth, said, "Behold a King shall reign in righteousness, and a Man shall be as rivers of water" (Isa. 32:1-2). When our Lord Jesus Christ thus reigns in Israel, through His administration these waters of refreshment and blessing shall flow out for the blessing of the world. When, however, the assembly is glorified with her exalted Head the vast universe shall reap the riches of administration. Heaven as well as earth will benefit; thrones, lordships, principalities and authorities, visible and invisible now shall all receive of the riches of that glory, and every creature shall bless and praise His holy Name. Surely this, known and rejoiced in, will affect us now. As our hearts are full of Christ, the Son of God, there will be an overflow to others around us; for the divine order is, - Christ in us first; responsively offered to God in praise and worship next; and then the overflow for others. May this mark us more and more. Note the climax of the fifteen "Songs of degrees." Beginning with a cry of distress (120) we rise step by step to the heights of blessing (134). Then we "bless the Lord" in the sanctuary, and from that holy and happy place look outward and say, "The Lord that made heaven and earth bless thee out of Zion." Blessed ourselves, we bless our God and Father, and then seek the blessing of those who are outside.

We are nearer than ever we were to the ripened fruition of God's eternal purpose; the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ for His well-loved assembly draweth nigh; all glorious and holy she shall soon be presented to Himself, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; His love shall be satisfied in the dearest object of His heart; we shall be satisfied in Himself and His eternal love; glory supreme shall shine in unfading splendour; but He Himself will be our everlasting Light and Joy. What shall we say to these realities, beloved brethren? Shall we not answer to them in our walk and ways and words, by being more and more conformed to His moral glory now? As these riches are the joy and rejoicing of the heart, the rusty and corrupted mammon of this age will count little with us; grace will be ours to refuse anything that would tarnish for our souls the riches of the glory of the mystery. All our walk here will be affected and our path shine brighter and brighter till the perfect day; all our ways will be ordered in relation to Christ and His interests, and all our words will become more gracious and health imparting. Nothing short of perfection in Christ will be before us. If it be otherwise, then our interest in the riches of the glory of the mystery is not of the Holy Spirit of God but of mere religiousness. Our love for Christ and all His own will be strengthened and deepened, for Christ loved all and gave Himself for all; yea, He loves all even now with an unchanging love. Our hearts therefore say with the apostle, "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in incorruption" (Eph. 6:24).

H. J. Vine.

"The Mystery" in Practice.

"So is Christ." (1 Cor. 12:12). We cannot to-day see, in actual form, our Lord Jesus Christ, as did the Apostles and others when He was on earth, because He has, gone to the Father, and has sent down the Holy Spirit as the other Comforter and as the blessed Agent of all the grace of God here below.

We shall, thank God, "see Him as He is" and be like Him, when He comes again; but, though He is personally invisible, we are aware of His presence on earth in that wonderful structure called His body.

This we know is composed of all the children of God, (and only such) who believe on Him during the time of His rejection, to the moment of His return. These have been quickened by the Spirit of God, by whom also they are united to Christ in glory as members of His body, and thus formed into one perfect and divine unity; so united that in describing its absolute completeness the Scripture says, "So also is Christ." The two, Christ on the one hand, and His members on the other, in this mystic unity are so identified as that one name, that is "the Christ," covers and denominates both. Just as, it may be remembered, in describing the type of the human family, in Gen. 5:2, we read, "Male and female created He them, and called their name Adam" - the woman was merged in the man, even as she was also, "of his bone and his flesh." "So also is the Christ."

Now this, though spiritual and mystic, is surely not invisible. Each of its members, great or small, has its own place to fill in the whole, each is a "member in particular" and none can fulfil the functions, or do the work of another. All are interdependent and under the control of the Head, just as the human body acts in its varied members in perfect organic harmony and order; and it is used, in our chapter, as an illustration. This takes the truth of the "Mystery of Christ" out of the region of mere theory, and presents it in a truly practical light.

The blessed Head on high is ever active on behalf of His members. How dear to Him we cannot tell. He loves them to the end. He described them to Saul of Tarsus as though they were Himself. "Why persecutest thou Me?" How perfect the identity; how close and inseparable the tie!

But this implies similar activity on the part of the members, in relation to each other. "Hence," if one member suffers, all suffer." Do we appreciate this touching fact as we should? "If one member be honoured all rejoice?" - or this? What mutual affection, regard, sympathy, and unselfish consideration, if so. What withering up of mere party or sectarian animosities there would be. But the church as the body of Christ has lost, in leaving her first love, those family, nay those corporate affections that shone in fervent reciprocity in early Pentecostal days. Iniquity abounds and love waxes cold.

Albeit the unity of the body remains intact. No power of evil can break or mar that unity. "For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body … and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." Could unity be more perfect. Could the proper articulation of co-membership be better secured? Need the ear say, in jealousy, because I am not the eye I am therefore not of the body, when the ear though less beautiful, can perform in its own province, that which the eye cannot? Each is necessary in its place.

Far less may the eye say to the hand, in unbecoming pride, I have no need of thee, for the eye, spite of its glory, cannot do the essential, if lowly, work of the foot. Such an idea in the body natural, were folly; though, alas, possible and actual in the body spiritual.

These members, these gifts, have been set in the church by God Himself, and each is placed by Him in the sphere intended.

But what a marvellous organism does the body of Christ thus present to us! How divine the conception! How profound the statement: - "So also is the Christ."

But, secondly, if we turn to Eph. 3 we find that the mystery of Christ affects a wider field than the body itself. This unity is to be viewed as an exhibition of the manifold wisdom of God, by principalities and powers in heavenly places, the wonder of the ages, the vessel of the surpassing riches of His grace in His kindness to us through Christ Jesus. There we find what are called, "the unsearchable riches of Christ," and there are to be seen, if eyes are only divinely open, the administration - the practical and visible operation of this mystery.

In Chapter 4 of the same epistle we see the operation itself, first of all the kind of spirit that is absolutely necessary in those who would endeavour to keep the unity, not indeed, of the body, but of the Spirit, with whom that body is so closely allied, animated, and sustained in vigour.

And so we have gifts from an ascended Christ for the perfecting of the saints of whom the body is composed, till we all come in the further unity, that of the faith to the "measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." How practical in every sense is the mystery of Christ, as it is now revealed by apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

This is proved, thirdly, in the epistle to the Colossians, by the agony of soul through which the Apostle passed, when in prayer for that assembly and others. The riches of the glory of the mystery, hidden for ages but now revealed, is "Christ in you the hope of glory." It was the coping stone to all the revelation of God; it completed the Word of God.

In the mystery of God, he tells us, are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; and to be possessed, therefore, of that treasure the soul is put on guard, intelligently against the mental seductions of the foe, such as philosophy, the traditions of men, circumcision, all that militates against the cross, the worship of angels, an abuse of the body which panders to fleshly pride - things which could have no existence, not be allowed, if the fulness of the Godhead bodily, in a risen Christ, and His headship as the ascended Man, were truly held.

In 1 Cor. 12 the mystery has for its object the mutual care of the members; in Eph. 3 the enlightenment of heavenly principalities and powers; and in Col. 2 the preservation of the saints from the intellectual attacks of Satan and the world.

This is all intensely practical, the importance of it causing such conflict to the Apostle, who was specially appointed to be the minister of the church.

No wonder then finally, that in Romans 16:25. he regards it as essential to the establishment of the believer in the truth of the gospel, of which it is the complement; and although, without the knowledge of it, the believer may be justified, yet He lacks an apprehension of Christianity proper, and his work cannot but be defective.

J. Wilson Smith.


A person is walking in the Spirit when Christ is the paramount object to him. Then the eye is single, and the effect is, the body is light, luminous is really the idea. It is a wonderful thing, that in the place where my Lord was rejected I am to come out in the light of my Lord.

Power To Apprehend The Truth.

The might of divine power is in constant energy on behalf of those who are saved by grace, and who are sealed by the Spirit. In Ephesians 1:19, it is called the surpassing greatness of God's power towards us who believe; - the power by which the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from among the dead. In chapter 3:20, the power is said to work in us, and according to that power, God "is able to do far exceedingly above all which we ask or think." As regards its operations then, this mighty power is both towards us and in us.

Those who are Christ's co-heirs, members of His body, and partakers of life in Him, are, notwithstanding the exalted favour and blessing which has been bestowed upon them, entirely dependent upon God's power for the needed strength to apprehend by the Spirit the vast range of glory of which Christ is the Centre; and which according to the precious truth of the mystery, they share with Him in a most intimate way, as His body and His bride. This strengthening is also needed, that Christ may be dwelling in the heart through faith, and that founded as to our character and rooted vitally in the love of God, we may increase in the knowledge of the love of Christ; which, nevertheless, however great our enjoyment of His love may be, still surpasses knowledge; for like Himself, it is infinite; but though we are dependent, thank God, we are so upon One whose resources are exhaustless, whose power is immeasurable and whose grace and love towards us are illimitable.

How this encourages our hearts therefore to seek His face in regards to these great things, - the greatest things in some respects! Fallen man, in his fleshly state, has neither the mind nor the power to enter into them; nor could "the natural man," even at his best, apprehend them, for "they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14); but those who have redemption in Christ through His blood have the Spirit, so that "we may know the things which have been freely given to us of God." Paul felt that the saints at Ephesus needed divine strength to apprehend these things. He therefore prayed, - "I bow my knees to the Father" on your behalf, he told them (3:14). We also need to pray for ourselves if we are to rightly apprehend the truth. The apostle desired strength in "the inner man" for them.

This inner man, which every saint of God has, is the result of the work of God in us. It is contrasted with the "outward man" (2 Cor. 4:16); and it is "renewed day by day" as we walk with God. In the exercises of the seventh of Romans, the believer makes the discovery that he has this inner man which delights in what is of God (22), though the principle of sin still causes him distress. It is in the inner man therefore the Father is asked to grant strength by His Spirit in Ephesians 3:16; and that according to the riches of His glory. Every family in the heavens and on the earth receives being from Him, - He is the Source of all. How vast then are His riches! With what confidence we may ask to be strengthened according to them! We need to do so if we are to prosper in divine things! It is no question of earthly matters or the circumstances of our pathway here. We are dependent upon the Father of mercies in regard to them also; but this has to do with things that abide in glory and blessedness for ever. Those who minister these things likewise need to pray for those to whom they minister, lest their labour be in vain. If Paul bowed his knees to the Father in regard to them, we do well to do so.

Nor should we allow the mistaken thought to deter us, that it merely effects our own advance in the great things connected with the mystery of Christ and the assembly. It is not simply this which the true heart desires, surely, but that God should be glorified, even as the apostle concludes his prayer, "But to Him that is able to do far exceedingly above all which we ask or think, according to the power which works in us, to Him be glory in the assembly in Christ Jesus unto all generations of the age of the ages. Amen."

H. J. Vine.

Prayer In Relation To "The Mystery."

"The mystery" belongs to a range of things which is purely spiritual, which therefore the Holy Spirit alone can reveal, communicate and give power to discern. Hence the exceeding importance of prayer in connection therewith, for ourselves, and for each other. There are two great reasons for this intercession; firstly, that a state of soul may be produced which shall be receptive of the divine communications; and secondly, that protection may be afforded from the Satanic agencies which seek to nullify and obscure this revelation of God. Urgent at all times, even in the church's brightest days, it is still more so in those that witness its far departure from the first love which was once its glory and testimony.

The revelation of God can never fail; His purpose that it should be known must be satisfied; and although many, alas, may turn from the truth and give ear to fables, or short of this may be indifferent to what God would make known; nevertheless, the Holy Spirit will find hearts to whom He can confide the truth. Herein lies the need of prayer which in the divine economy is a mark of the pulsations of spiritual life, and the opening up of channels of supply to the other members of the body of Christ. By such means the Holy Spirit works in order to produce the bridal affection which is the true response of the church to her coming Lord.

The importance of prayer in relation to "the mystery" is amply set forth in the epistles of the Apostle Paul. In Rom. 16:25-27, his heart turns to God for the power, that would establish the saints (to whom he had communicated the gospel) in this further truth, without which they would not be fully furnished for the service of God, the glory of Christ or the blessing of man. In Col. 2:1-3 the prayer of the apostle reached to an agony of conflict for all who had not seen his face in the flesh, that such a soul condition might be produced in them by the comfort of the love of God, that there might be such knitting together in love, so that all the riches of the full assurance of understanding of the mystery might be theirs. In chapter 4:12 of the same epistle, one of Paul's companions was like-minded. Epaphras was one who laboured fervently in prayers, that the saints might stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. Is there not searching power in such an example that should reach our consciences, yours and mine beloved readers? In Eph. 1:16-23 Paul prayed that the saints might know the exceeding greatness of the power of God, which had taken Christ out of the lowest place in death, and had set Him in the highest spot at His own right hand, as Head over all things to His body the church. He desired that this great and glorious fact might possess their souls, for then they would seek supply and direction from no other source. Again in Eph. 3:14-21, he prayed for that which the Father alone could accomplish by His Spirit, viz., that Christ should so dwell in their hearts, that they might be firmly established in His love, so that they might look out upon the greatness and grandeur of that eternal secret now revealed, of Christ and the church, His body, by which glory shall be brought to God by Christ Jesus unto all generations of the age of ages.

Thus we have:
God's ability to establish, in Romans.
God's desire and will, in Colossians.
God's power and love, in Ephesians.

Do we need ought else? here are matters which may well cause us grief and shame that we have thought so much of human agencies, and neglected to draw by prayer upon the resources of God, by which alone 'the mystery' can be known and maintained.

Brethren, do we value these matters above all earthly things? do we estimate aright their great importance for the glory of God, the heart of Christ and the joy of the saints? if so, Let us pray.

James Green.

The Sufficiency of Christ Triumphant for the Entire Need of His Body on Earth.

J. N. Darby has beautifully written, "Christ never fails, and there cannot be a want in Christ's church without there being an answer to it in Christ's heart." Yes, and how blessed, how full of comfort it is to know that His heart not only discerns and feels and responds to every want, but that His love is not an impotent love, but that He has triumphed over the whole power of the enemy in order to meet the needs of His church from His exalted seat of glory! This comes out in Ephesians 4.

"But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore He saith, when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things) (Eph. 4:7-10).

He once stood a Man upon earth, come down from Godhead's fullest glory to deliver men from the bondage of a great foe. He met for Himself first of all all the subtlety and power of that foe, for He had to be tested Himself. How could He deliver others unless He were able to stand free Himself. In the wilderness He was tempted, and triumphed, and Satan left Him for a little season. Having failed to bring Him beneath his yoke by his wiles and allurements he returned and confronted Him with all the terrors of darkness and death in Gethsemane. How little we understand that conflict which caused the sweat of blood to fall from His sacred brow to the earth! We can only stand by and wonder, but our wonder deepens to adoration as we hear Him say to His Father. "O my Father, if this cup may not pass from Me, except I drink it, Thy will be done."

Thus He proved Himself to be invincible before the whole force of the enemy, but thus far He stood alone, and He had become Man to deliver men from Satan's captivity, and to do this He had to descend into the lower parts of the earth, "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone." He had to go into judgment and death; to meet the great oppressor in his own stronghold and there destroy his power, as David tracked the lion to his lair that had robbed his flock of a lamb; and this He has done, that "through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver those who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage" (Heb. 2:14). Now He has ascended up far above all heavens that He might fill all things. He has travelled in His conquering might from the lowest spot in death to the highest point in glory, having made Himself master over the whole dominion of darkness, the captivity in which men had been held captive. So could He say to John, "I am He that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore. Amen; and have the keys of death and hell." It is as Man that He has gone up; His exaltation from the side we are viewing it is in virtue of an accomplished redemption and the overthrow of Satan's power. He glorified God His Father; and as Man He fought for men and His triumph has been gained for men, the deliverance is for them, little though they care about it; and the announcement of it is sent out to them by the evangelists that the exalted Christ has given to them, though we have sadly to ask, "Who hath believed our report?" Sad it is that men love their captivity rather than the glorious liberty into which He can bring them.

But if men at large despise the gifts He has given for their blessing, and spurn the blessing which might be theirs through belief of the truth, nevertheless the great purpose of God for this present moment is being carried out, and the gifts are enumerated, "and He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers" (Eph. 4:11). They are given the building up, the blessing, and the completion of His body. They are given, "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12).

The apostles and prophets are those who laid the foundation. They abide for us in the Scriptures which contain the inspired words. The evangelists, pastors and teachers still abide. How solemn yet how blessed the position of any and all who are such! How needful that they should be in close contact and communion with the Head of the body so that their communications to the saints who form it may be from Himself to His members. The purpose is, says J. N. D., that "the assembly, and each one of the members of Christ, should be filled with the thoughts and the riches of a well-known Christ, instead of being tossed to and fro by all sorts of doctrines brought forward by the enemy to deceive souls."

Yet while there are special gifts, every member of the body has his own special gift, for, "unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ."

Christendom has spoiled everything, and few now look only to the Head for the giving of gifts for the needed ministry to the saints; few indeed recognize Christ as the One all-sufficient Head of His assembly. The majority walk by sight and must have some visible authority to which to turn, and whether this be pontifical, episcopal, presidential, congressional, or what not, it is all in principle the same, and correspondingly the loss is great.

Oh that there might be an awakening on the part of the saints of God, who are the body of Christ, as to the complete adequacy of Christ to maintain His own assembly; there would follow the abandonment of every human organization that has grown up in Christendom; the turning away from every worldly device for the furtherance of God's work; tradition would cease to enthrall, precedent would no longer guide, but Christ would be all. What power and blessing and liberty would be the result for all who did this. Their part would be the one that Peter found when he left the boat to walk on the water to go to Jesus. "If it be Thou," all he wished to be assured of. Then he stept forth out of everything to which a man might cling, to learn that none but Christ to whom he stept forth could maintain him, but that He was altogether competent. Let us go forth unto Him, He cannot fail us; evangelists, pastors and teachers may fail, every member may fail in the exercise of that gift that Christ has given to them, but Christ the Head abideth the same. Times and circumstances change, hence we cannot act upon precedents, or rely upon tradition; we have no need to, for the power and wisdom and care of the Head is equal to all changes, and every crisis; His Name, His word, His grace, His direction are all we need.

"When human cisterns all are dry,
Thy fulness is the same;
May we with this be satisfied
And glory in Thy name."

No good in creatures can be found,
All, all is found in Thee,
We must have all things and abound
Through Thy sufficiency."

How full of beauty, are verses 15 and 16. "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 unto the edifying of itself in love." Commenting upon them, J. N. Darby says, "The Christian is to grow up according to all that is revealed in Christ, and to be ever increasing in the likeness of his Head; using love and truth for his own soul — the two things of which Christ is the perfect expression. He is our pattern; and our pattern as having overcome, and as having ascended to heaven, our Head, to whom we are united as members of His body, there flows from this Head, by means of its members, the grace needed to accomplish the work of assimilation to Himself. His body, compacted together, increases by the working of His grace in each member and edifies itself in love.

This is the position of the assembly according to God, until all the members of the body attain to the stature of Christ. The manifestation, alas! of this unity is marred; but the grace of its Head to nourish and cause its members to grow, is never impaired any more than the love in the Lord's heart from which it springs. We do not glorify Him, we have not the joy of being ministers of joy to each other as we might; but the Head does not cease to work for the good of His body. His faithfulness is glorified in our unfaithfulness without excusing it."

Does not the heart stir at the thought of being a means of supply from the living Head to ones fellow-members! To have a part in the nourishing and increase of the body, to its development to the full likeness of Christ! What a favour, what a high honour is this! This is brought within the reach of the feeblest member of this wonderful body; and if these few pages, put together in fear and trembling, and many prayers, result in any being stirred up in these things to fulfil those functions which are proper to them as being members of this body, then will those who have laboured be abundantly compensated, for in this the Lord will be glorified and His saints truly edified.

J. T. Mawson.

The Secret of the Dispensation.

The word dispensation occurs twice in our common version of the epistle to the Ephesians, - viz., Eph. 1:10 and 3:2. In both cases the Greek word so translated is one which means the law or arrangement of a house. Being closely allied with the word for steward it is sometimes translated stewardship. Speaking in general terms we may say that a dispensation is that regime or ordering of affairs which God is pleased to institute at any given time.

Ephesians 1:10 looks on to the glorious regime to be established in the coming age which will have as its crowning characteristic the gathering together in one and heading up of all things in heaven and earth in Christ. In connection with this there has been a secret, "the mystery of His will," as verse 9 shows; though the secret is now an open one to "us," i.e. His saints of this dispensation. This coming age is the theme of many a glowing Old Testament Scripture which must have warmed the heart of saints living in pre-christian times, and which still fire and animate our hearts to-day; still it will be found that such Scriptures view the age as being that of Messiah's glory, with Israel gathered under Him as the head of the nations, and the Gentiles ordered and blessed subordinately to Israel. Only in very rare instances - as Hosea 2:21 — is the heavenly sphere alluded to. God's will as to it however embraced more than earthly things. He purposed in Himself according to His good pleasure a wider and more wonderful unity of glory. Not only all things on earth - including Israel and the nations, but all things in heaven, - including the church and angelic hosts, are to find their unifying Head in Christ. No Old Testament saints would have divined that secret, though it is fully made known to us.

That dispensation is future, but in chapter 3:2, we have a present dispensation, and one far more limited in its scope though far more intimate as to its character. The apostle speaks of it as "given me to you-ward" - that is, he was the steward of it as far as the Gentiles, such as the Ephesians, were concerned. This being so, and bearing in mind how utterly lost and hopeless the Gentiles had been, as stated in chapter 2:12, it is easy to see that it is indeed a dispensation of the grace of God; the coming age will be rather the dispensation of His glory.

This dispensation, too, has a secret connected with it - a secret, that is, from the standpoint of all who lived previous to the death and resurrection of Christ, the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, and the subsequent passing of the period of transition and the revelation of God's first thought in connection with the church. At the time of writing the Ephesian epistle the secret had been divulged by the Spirit to apostles and prophets (verse 5), though it was revealed independently to Paul (verse 3), and he alone was the steward of it as regards the Gentile saints (verse 2).

What is this special secret of the dispensation now revealed to us? Only three passages furnish us with its details, though others allude to it. The three are Ephesians 2:9-22; 3:6; and Colossians 1:27. That the first of these three Scriptures is an unfolding of the mystery is proved by verses 3 and 4 of chapter 3 where the apostle appeals to that written previously as showing his knowledge of the subject. It is worthy of note, by the way, that he calls this passage previously written "a few words" though it is the longest and fullest passage of the three. This shows us that it is a condensed summary of the matter, and we may expect to find in it great fulness and depth.

The secret of the dispensation has then to do with God's work among the Gentiles by which an election from amongst them is brought, equally with an election from amongst Israel, into the fulness of blessing in Christ. Both come in on equal and identical terms, and not only so but also upon a footing and into relationships which are altogether new.

These things being of the very essence of the matter we first point out, how they are stated in this Scripture.
(1). Both Jew and Gentile are made one, "the middle wall of partition" and "enmity" being abolished "in His flesh" i.e. by the death of Christ. (verses 9 and 15). Both are reconciled "in one body" (verse 16). Both have access to the Father by one Spirit (verse 18). This warrants us in saying that both come in on equal and identical terms.

(2). They do not, however, come in upon the old footing as propounded in the law given to Israel. It is not that Gentiles are now to be admitted to the share in Israel's standing before God. The blood of Christ has made them nigh in Christ Jesus (verse 13). His death is indeed the efficacious ground of it, but by it He has made "in Himself of twain one new man" (verse 15). Both are brought to God in one body, but it is as reconciled by the cross (verse 16); both have access to the Father but it is by one Spirit (verse 18) and not by ordinances as of old. It is evident then that both are brought in on a new footing. The old fleshly Adam standing in which both shared is set aside, the national standing as the people of Jehovah which belonged exclusively to the Jew is also set aside, and the election from both comes in "reconciled by the cross," "one new man," "in Christ Jesus."
(3). The relationships into which they come are far beyond any in which Adam stood even in innocence, and equally beyond Israel's national relationship with Jehovah. They are not one nation but one body (verse 16), approaching the Father, (verse 18) rather than Jehovah. Further, such are "of the household of God"; built into that which is destined to be "an holy temple in the Lord" and "builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit as a present thing (verses 19-22) .

This then is the secret of the present dispensation stated in few words. Ephesians 3:6, gives us the same in fewer words; and Colossians 1:27, presents the same great theme in even fewer still, but from a different standpoint, when it says that "the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles," is "Christ in [or among] you [i.e. Gentiles] the hope of glory." The prophets had predicted that the Messiah should be amongst His people on the basis of redemption, and that earthly glory should be established in connection with it; but that Christ should be in, or amongst, an election from the Gentile world was an unheard of and amazing thing, awakening the liveliest expectation of His ultimately shining forth in a glory of yet wider dimensions.

Other Scriptures there are, which though not exactly or directly referring to the mystery yet throw additional light upon it. The whole of 2 Corinthians 3, for example casts light on Colossians 1:27.

These other passages we must however pass by, our present object being to reach the practical bearing of all this truth upon the lives of the saints who compose the church.

The whole of Ephesians 3 save verse 1 is in the nature of a digression. About to write instructions as to their behaviour the apostle evidently felt it needful to enforce them by a statement of his peculiar authority in regard to such as themselves. He had not merely knowledge of the mystery by direct firsthand revelation from the Lord, but authority, since the dispensation or "house-arrangements" in respect to all mentioned in the latter part of chapter 2 was, as far as Gentiles are concerned, given to him (verse 2). Of it he was made a ministering servant (verse 7), his work as such being to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ and to make all see what the fellowship (or administration - J. N. D's translation) of the mystery is. He not merely enunciated the newly revealed truth in its terms but saw to it that in practical fellowship or administration the truth was exemplified amongst and carried out by the saints, so that whether nationally Jews or Gentiles they were together, altogether above and apart from the racial and religious animosities which characterized them by nature, in the happy recognition and consciousness of the new footing established in Christ, and the new relationship with the Father, with Christ, and with one another, in the power of the Spirit of God. There was then a practical expression upon earth, of that which is the real secret, the great characteristic thought of the present dispensation, and thereby to heavenly powers, the manifold wisdom of God was displayed. The unity thus established in the church between Jew and Gentile still abides before the eyes of the heavenly powers and still shows forth God's wisdom, for there has been no splitting of the church into a Jewish section or a Gentile section. Cleavages there have been, alas! - almost without number - setting forth all too clearly before heavenly eyes the folly of man, but none of them have been along the lines of that original great fissure removed so wonderfully by the wisdom of God. We are speaking, remember, of the fellowship of the mystery and not of the vital oneness of the body.

Then, is recorded, verses 14 to end, that wonderful prayer of the Apostle, in which he asks for a mighty work of the Spirit in the inner man of these Gentile saints that Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith, and that with all saints they might enter into the fulness of these wonderful things. A mighty work within indeed needful if these erstwhile worshippers of Diana were to be lifted in their own soul's knowledge and enjoyment to the level of these serene and holy things while still they lived in Ephesus and trod its streets. No less a work is needed within ourselves.

Chapter 4:1 picks up the thread from chapter 3:1 and the apostle commences his practical instructions in the tenderest tone, yet with all the weight and authority of chapter 3 behind him. The great business of these Ephesian saints and of ourselves is to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called. A superhuman task indeed! which is only possible as the apostle's prayer is fulfilled in us.

The central point of endeavour is to be the keeping of "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." The "unity of the Spirit" was and is an actual subsisting fact. We did not make it, nor can we break it, but in the actual wear and tear of daily life and walk, we may keep it or we may let it go. The exhortation is that we keep it in the uniting bond of peace. Verse 3 is then the main exhortation of the passage, verses 4 to 6 enforce the exhortation by reminding us how unity is the outstanding feature of Christian life and profession in all its departments. Verse 2 gives us the all important moral features in the strength of which alone can the main exhortation be carried out in practice.

A brief consideration of how all this must have appealed to the Ephesian saints may help us. The assembly in that great city was predominantly Gentile (2:2; 4:17), though with a Jewish strain in it (Acts 19:1-7; 20:21), hence there was ample scope for friction and trouble. Yet peace between them had been established in Christ (2:9-15) and the uniting effect of that bond was to be felt in their endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit - so called because the one Spirit is the vital and animating principle of the one body into which they had been called.

The keeping of the unity calls into exercise four great moral characteristics: -
1. Lowliness. That mind which is the exact opposite of the mind of Adam. He would exalt himself; the lowly mind goes down as Philippians 2 shows. This is most essential, and particularly important for the Gentile in his dealings with the Jewish saint. The remembrance to which the apostle called them in chapter 2:11-12, was calculated to produce it.
2. Meekness. The opposite of the pushful self-assertive spirit. Again very important for the Gentile since there was the divine order even in connection with the gospel of "to the Jew first and also to the Gentile."
3. Longsuffering. The patient and long-continued acceptance of personal discomforts or even wrongs, a thing only possible to one of a lowly and meek spirit.
4. Forbearing in love. Intimately connected with the third, and its complement - the love that bears with that which might offend in others, instead of seeking redress by violent methods.

All these things would be much called for on the part of the Gentile in his dealings with the Jew. By legal training and the hereditary instinct of centuries the latter carried within himself the tendency to take the narrow, self-centred, legal view of things; the matters mentioned in Acts 15 and in Romans 14 show this. Nothing but long-suffering coupled with the love that beareth all things would enable them to abide together in peace.

That the Jew would equally need these things in his relations with his Gentile brethren goes without saying. Indeed, experience shows that the disposition to push things to extremes and let go the unity of the Spirit is more deeply ingrained in the narrow Jewish type of mind than in the large Gentile type. These four excellent features were indispensable on both sides.

They are not less indispensable for us to-day but more so if it were possible. At the present moment difficulties and points of cleavage as between Jew and Gentile do not exist, yet with the lapse of centuries the very fact that the church is a unity established by God is largely lost sight of, whilst the essential character of that unity as set forth in chapter 2:9-18 is recognized in even less degree. Never did we need in deeper measure the apostolic affirmation that "there is one body and one Spirit" and the exhortation "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

Some of our readers who have for long been "gathered on the ground of the one body" may regard such remarks as superfluous as far as they are concerned, but we are persuaded that they are not so. The tendency to overlook the fact of one body and one Spirit reaches our minds in many subtle forms.

Take a case in point: - Certain believers, and therefore members of Christ's body, become awakened by the Spirit of God through the Scriptures to those parts of the circle of truth that concerns the church, its position, privileges, and destiny, together with its responsibilities, as the witness on earth for Christ during the period of His rejection and absence; and in order to practise what they have learned they withdraw from many religious organizations of purely human origin, and revert to the simplicity of that divinely instituted through the apostles. All this is done in simple fidelity to the Word of God without thinking of themselves at all, but as the years pass and the energy of faith somewhat declines, self-occupation re-appears, and the question of what position they themselves now hold as a result of so acting is raised in many minds. Nothing now will be easier than to assume that by their forsaking a man-made position and occupying the ground of the church according to the Scriptures they have thereby acquired a renewed corporate status, which is all their own and in which other Christians do not share.

The subtlety of this idea may be seen in the fact that it is very possible to entertain it whilst strongly insisting on the truth of "one body." This latter may be proclaimed and contended for, and yet people may so idealize it in their minds as to see nothing inconsistent with it in the idea of another "body" - especially when this other "body" lies within the true "one body" which the Spirit originally formed.

Thus very easily we may take for granted in our minds what has no existence in God's mind as revealed to us in His Word. After all there is one body and one only. It therefore should go without saying that we should have nothing corporate outside the one corpus, and even the fact that certain members of the one corpus revert to the truth of that one corpus, after centuries of diversion from it, does not reincorporate them as a small inner corpus within the one corpus. ONE body God has made, and never more than one will He entertain, whatever we may do.

We pursue this no further, but merely remark two things: First; we have not been combating a mere notion, an abstract idea of no practical consequence. This thought, if entertained, leads to consequences in conduct, and especially what we may call assembly conduct, of great gravity. Second; we emphasise the fact that we have been speaking of that which is corporate and not that which is collective. God does indeed entertain the idea of a collective life and testimony and that in days of failure and ruin, and He clearly sets it before us in such a Scripture as 2 Tim. 2:22. The gist of the forgoing remarks is that when those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart, are most ardently following righteousness, faith, love, and peace, they acquire no special corporate status by doing so. They have a corporate status truly, but it is that of members of the "one body" originally instituted by God.

Having thus briefly considered our present day need of the apostle's affirmation "there is one body and one Spirit" it only remains to point out the exhortation which the Apostle founded upon it. In religious circles unity is all the rage, yet the "unity of the Spirit" is unthought of, and to come closer home - how shall we keep the unity of the Spirit if we have in our minds this second lesser unity of which we have spoken? To say the least there will be some occasion when the claims of the two unities will clash, with the almost certain result that we yield to the claims of the smaller, yet more tangible, "body" of our own creating, as against the claims of the larger and less realizable "body" of God's creating.

And then the spirit and manner in which the unity is to be kept! Here is the mind of Christ, and it is to be exhibited in the members of His body. These are not things to be passed on in a hurry so as to meet some disuniting crisis, but things to be wrought into the fibre of our souls by the Holy Ghost. We need them always. They are as necessary in carrying out a solemn Scripturally ordained act of excommunication, or of departure from the iniquity of a Hymenaeus or Philetus, as in confirming Christian love to a once sinning but now repentant saint.

Lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, forbearance in love. Surely a marvellous quartet of Christ-like graces! Almost, we might say, a condensed summary of 1 Cor. 13. Possible for us only as love, the divine nature, is produced in our hearts. We stand convicted. Here has been the failure. Here must be the recovery. May God work it in us by His Spirit.

F. B. Hole.

"That the Gentiles should be of the same body."

The mystery takes us to the height of God's counsel, and the unfolding of this constitutes the top stone of Paul's ministry.

For the creation of a superstructure in which every attribute of God is called into activity, and His nature finds a display in the supreme blessing of the subjects of His love, it was necessary that there should be a sure and immutable foundation. It was essential that in the exercise of His love, according to His counsels of grace, no question could possibly be raised as to His righteousness in so acting.

That foundation was well and truly laid at Calvary, where Christ secured the glory of God and maintained all His righteous claims in respect of those His grace would call. "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good pleasure in man." If we are to progress in the apprehension of this "great mystery," it is also essential that in our souls too, the foundations as to the righteousness of God be well and truly laid.

These two thoughts: the foundation in righteousness and the top stone in glory encompass the ministry of the Apostle Paul.

The mystery is referred to in three epistles: Romans, Colossians and Ephesians.

At the end of Romans (Rom. 15), after he has laid bare the foundations in the gospel of God, the apostle quotes four Scriptures, selected in divine and unerring wisdom, from various parts of the Holy writings, bearing on Christ's place among the Gentiles. The first is, "For this cause I will confess to Thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto Thy name" (verse 9). Confessing among them indicates that He has taken up their cause, and that He has them with Himself in the perfection of an accomplished redemption. But He also sings among them to God the Father. He has got beyond the narrow confines of Israel, and, no longer "straitened," Christ reaches the height of His joy, and, with gladness of His heart, He sings among the objects of His everlasting love.

And what is the consequence? "Rejoice ye Gentiles with His people." And again, "Praise the Lord all ye Gentiles, and laud Him all ye people." And again, "There shall be a root of Jesse, and He that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles, and in Him shall the Gentiles trust."

These Scriptures clearly shew that though the mystery was not made known in the Old Testament Scriptures, yet God would prepare those who had faith for this widening out beyond this, and for the gathering together the Gentiles in righteousness, peace and joy. But, passing on to the Colossian epistle, the great present purpose of the gathering of the Gentiles, the forming of the one body, is developed.

We read of the "saints to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of the mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you the hope of glory." He not only confesses among them, but, marvellous thought, He is in them now and they are to be associated with Him in glory. Christ is in them the hope of glory.

In Ephesians we are in the noontide splendour of the purpose of God. Time does not limit the horizon. But we learn that this marvellous creation of divine wisdom and skill, the new man in Christ, is according to the purpose of the ages which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

In one verse (chap. 3:6), we have a highly concentrated description of the mystery: "that they who are of the nations should be joint heirs, and a joint body, and joint partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel" (N.T.). Three things come before us here: the inheritance; the body, - the complement of Christ; His promise in Christ Jesus, outside of all dispensations. The immensity of this must appeal to every spiritual saint, affording an adequate subject for the contemplation and study of our adoring hearts and minds always.

Two thoughts, however, stand out pre-eminently in connection with this great unfolding; and they are these: God has got a habitation, and Christ has got a bride. The latter is the crowning point of the whole divine scheme, and is the most thrilling feature in this great mystery. It is concealed in Paul's prayer at the end of chap. 3, where the apostle sets the top stone to his ministry in leading up the saints to the spiritual affections of the bride - "that Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts." Where a man dwells he is at home. In chap. 1, we see Christ trusted; we also see Him seated here - supreme thought! He is at home! And where? In the heart of His bride! United to Him in that blissful relationship, we survey with tense interest, the vast sphere of His glory, and knowing the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge we are filled to all the fulness of God.

May God grant us to know better His portion in the assembly in Christ Jesus in which there shall be glory to God unto all generations of the age of the ages. Amen.

D. Brown.


The Unity of the Spirit.

W. H. D. writes as follows: -

"You may be sure I hailed with the greatest pleasure the announcement of the Quarterly Supplement, and have read it with deep interest. But I must confess to a shade of disappointment; I am at a loss to understand quite what the four contributors have set before themselves as the object of their writing; what in point of fact is the precise effect they wish to produce upon their readers.

"They enlarge much and most justly upon the extraordinary wonderful blessings and destinies that God in His grace has designed for those who believe His witness from among the Gentiles, that vast multitude, His church, which He has gathered out during this 2,000 years to a heavenly in contrast to an earthly portion, and they rightly insist that the heavenly destiny of the church separates its interests entirely from the course of this world. But there seems to be a tendency to fix the mind so entirely on the heavenly side as to lead to the feeling, if not the thought, that the earthly side is not so material. J. T. Mawson prints Eph. 4:1-3, in large capitals at the end of his article, but he does not appear to lay any stress on the point of the exhortation, which is, to keep the Spirit-made Unity in the uniting bond of peace; this surely applies to earth only, for in heaven there can be no need."

We had hoped that the exhortation of Eph. 4:1-3, being printed in capitals at the end of the paper referred to would show that we do lay great stress upon it; this was certainly our purpose in thus giving it prominence.

We welcome this criticism from the pen of a valued correspondent, whose letters always give us food for thought; especially so, as generally what is expressed by one is thought by many. The object we have in view in this publication is to bring afresh before our brethren in Christ the truth of the assembly which is so precious to Christ, and which holds its unique place in the purpose of God. To Ezekiel, it was said, "Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall shew thee; for to the intent that I might shew them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel." (Ezek. 40:2.) Then the house which was to be God's dwelling was shown to Him in all its parts. And the impression to be produced upon the people is clearly stated in chapter 42:10. "Thou son of man, shew the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern."

This is the effect we desire to produce upon our readers and ourselves; as we go over the truth of Christ and the assembly we want to feel with them before the Lord how inconsistent are the ways of the vast majority of those who through infinite grace have their part in the one assembly with the pattern that is shown us of it in the Word. We want to set the truth before them so that they may measure the pattern, and in exercise of soul give heed to the exhortation, which our correspondent desires to have emphasized. We know of no way by which the saints of God can be delivered from false positions and false ways and false doctrines but by the ministry of the truth. "Ye shall know the truth" said the Lord "and the truth shall make you free." It is by ministering the truth that we shall help others, and, by acting upon it ourselves, and here we have to confess with shame much failure; few can link their manner of life with their doctrine, as could the Apostle Paul. Yet however imperfectly we carry out the truth; however far our feet lag behind what our eyes see; yet this is our desire, to understand the truth better, to minister it more clearly and in the power of the Holy Ghost, and to walk in it and be under the influence of it more truly with all saints.

The first part of the exhortation which our correspondent thinks we fail to emphasize is the first exhortation in the epistle to the Ephesians, and consequently of first importance. The apostle, as the Lord's prisoner, suffering bonds for His name's sake and for this special revelation from the Lord of which He was the special steward, beseeches us to walk worthy of the vocation set before us in the earlier chapters; we cannot know it unless we read them, we must not come to the exhortation of chapter 4, except through the teaching of chapters 1 - 3. As we learn them we measure the pattern. And the exhortation of Chap. 4 is to be consistent with what we have learnt. In those chapters we learn where God has set us: abounding towards us in all wisdom and prudence, and, according to the mighty power that raised up Jesus from the dead and set Him as Head over the whole universe, He has raised us up who were dead in trespasses and sins, to satisfy His own great love. Saved by His grace, we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which He hath before ordained that we should walk in them. We were once without Christ, aliens from the Commonwealth of Israel, strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
1). Yet from that hopeless afar off place we have been made nigh in Christ Jesus by the blood of Christ. That is the new position.
Jew and Gentile are brought together, and Christ has made of these twain in Himself one new man. That is the new man in the new position.
3). He has reconciled us unto God in one body by the cross. That is the new unity, not of ordinances but of life.
4). And both have access to the Father through Him by the Spirit. That is the new favour, for what favour could be greater than to have access to the Father, the source of all glory and grace.
5). We are now fellow-citizens with the saints. That is the new dignity, but not only have we our part in a city where is maintained a polity which is entirely of God, but we are of the household of God, where His secrets that lie behind His administration are known and where His very character must be maintained. A new responsibility surely attaches to that.
6). In the Lord they are builded together an habitation of God through the Spirit.

These things are all included in our present vocation of which we are exhorted to walk worthy; and this can only be done as with the absence of pride which is the chief characteristic of the flesh, we walk in lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering bearing with one another in love. This is the life of Christ in practical manifestation and only in this life can we walk worthy of our vocation which is in Christ. The Spirit also has His part in this. "Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Diligence is needed for this, but of what sort? It is not enough to say, "We are all believers, let us obliterate all differences and walk together." That would be comparatively easy, for to do that we should only have to drop all prejudices that keep saints apart, or make compromises in regard to them. The unity of the Spirit means more than that; in this the man from whose carnal will all prejudices spring is obliterated by the cross, he has no place in it. We speak here of the man after the flesh, the old man, who showed himself in the Jew as a proud and intolerant bigot, and, still shows himself in that way in many who profess to take very high ground; and who showed himself in the Gentile in lawless will and unrestrained licence. That man has come under God's judgment in the cross, and has no place in the unity of the Spirit. God has displaced him as being utterly useless and profitless for His purpose, and has created in his place the one new man.

Our quotations from Ephesians 2 prove this. It is "in Christ Jesus that we are made nigh by the blood of Christ." He has abolished the enmity in His flesh. i.e. His dead body on the cross. It does not say that we are reconciled to one another, but it does say what is greater and higher, that both Jew and Gentile, between whom the greatest hostility existed are reconciled to God in one body by the cross.

The unity of the Spirit is inclusive of all who are in Christ and exclusive of all that is not of Him, and in the endeavour to keep this unity we also must be both inclusive and exclusive. We must be exclusive first of all in regard to the man that brings in dissension and division, and that man we find very ready to assert his will in ourselves. The more we walk in the truth of the cross of Christ as to ourselves the better able shall we be to walk in the grace of Christ towards those who are His. Let us measure the pattern, and learn the truth, we are "in Christ Jesus;" "in Himself;" reconciled to God "in one body," and are "a holy temple in the Lord."

In endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit we do not form a new unity or build a new church, but walk in the truth of that which already exists, though so little seen. "All saints" must have their place in our affections for they are all in the unity of the Spirit. Christ is the centre, all saints are the circumference, and the Spirit the binding power. "There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling." There is set forth the vital unity that can never be dissolved and into which no failure can come. What we earnestly desire is to know more of that and keep the truth of it in a practical way, not in conflict one with the other, but in the bond of peace, the peace which belongs to the assembly of God.

Our correspondent continues: -

"Much space is taken up with setting forth the glories and the graces of the Lord Jesus, and none too much, no one can go far enough in that direction much less too far; but it must be remembered that what He asks for is not honour and praise in word only but in deeds "If a man love Me" He says "he will keep My words," and the thing He said of old time still holds good "Obedience is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." I notice the expression "bridal affection" occurs once or twice, but the Lord never asks for that; it is a different kind of love He seeks from His redeemed. In another quarter one hears a good deal of this and one is not surprised. Not he that offers the loudest and highest laudation "is he that loveth Me" is what He says, but "he that hath My commandments and keepeth them."

As to these closing words, we remark that the saints at Ephesus were charged by the Lord with having departed from "first love," that we take it to be bridal affection. And when the bride in unison with the Spirit cries, "Come, Lord Jesus," that will be the sweet expression of bridal affection, for which He is looking from His church. But our correspondent is right in pressing that the test of true love to the Lord is the keeping of His word. This is the one and only test. May we all be exercised as to how far we are proving that we love the Lord. To keep His word and not deny His name, will cost us something, but the compensation is great. His command is that we love one another, this stands first of all, and it is deeply significant that the one assembly that receives the fullest commendation from the Lord in Rev. 2 - 3 is Philadelphia - which means, the love of the brethren. May we all be Philadelphians in this respect.

J. T. Mawson.

"My Brethren."

"In the Midst of the Assembly."

Who is in the Midst of the Assembly?

The answer to this question determines for us the nature and character of the gathering; and seeing it is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself - as Hebrews 2:12, tells us - the One who is exalted above all as Heir of all things, we may well marvel at the honour which is thus bestowed, not upon angels, but upon men; men, once fallen and sinful; now saved and sanctified by and for Himself, and for the service of God. The glory of this grace is indeed divine, and only by the enabling of the Holy Spirit can we speak at all rightly of this wonderful phase of the truth of Christ and the assembly.

We have had prominently brought before us the corporate side of the truth connected with the mystery. There are also the collective and vital aspects of it. The very first which the Holy Spirit names in Ephesians 6, is heirship; for believers in Christ Jesus from amongst both Jews and Gentiles are brought into oneness of heirship - "fellow-heirs," or "joint heirs," as it reads. This is collective rather than corporate which is named second - "A joint body." Precedence is often given to the latter probably because of the comparatively recent revival of the precious truth of the body of Christ. The truth of heirship needs reviving also, for the place which the risen Lord has with His brethren and co-heirs is little appreciated because little understood. The grace and glory of it would profoundly affect the assembly were it apprehended in the power of the Spirit. It would impart a rich sense of divine grace, and give a character of true dignity to all gatherings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. The very thought of being associated with such an One as He is, through His own redeeming love, would make us esteem supremely
"That love which gives not as the world, but shares,
All it possesses with its loved co-heirs."

As our hearts rejoiced in this, true reverence and humility would mark us also, because it results from His own work and not ours; "for both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praises unto Thee. "This church" (properly "assembly") is composed of those called "His companions," "His brethren," and "joint heirs with Christ."

The Heir And The Heirs.

The inheritance which those who belong to Christ's assembly are heirs to is said to be eternal; and, unlike that into which God's earthly people entered, the Israelites, it is incorruptible, undefiled and unfading. When Christ presented Himself to the leaders of Israel, at the city of the great king, as having right to the earthly possession, they said among themselves, "This is the Heir; come, let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be ours." This gives us some insight into the importance of this question; and we will therefore use the analogies and contrasts of Israel and her inheritance to aid in the understanding of that which we are heirs to as belonging to the assembly of God. We will seek to carefully examine this.

The coming Heir to the glory of Israel's inheritance was pointed on to all through the Old Testament Scriptures. In Him all was to be headed up. They were to possess all in their Messiah, the Anointed One. They were to inherit nothing apart from Him. In Him was to be their portion of blessing, - their King, Priest and Prophet. Israel will yet come into the wealth of the promises made to their fathers, but meanwhile, Christ is "Head over all things to the assembly," and all our blessings are in Him in the heavenlies. In Deuteronomy 17 and 18 we are told what was to mark Israel's King, Priest and Prophet, and what was to be His relation to God's people. In view of the extremes of autocracy and democracy, seen in various nations, it would be interesting to compare them with the mind of God made known in these Scriptures, but that would divert from what is immediately before us. The king was to be of God's choosing (17:15). He was to be "one from among thy brethren" and not "a stranger which is not thy brother." He was to write a copy of the law himself and read therein all the days of his life, "that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren." David was chosen and anointed of God, and David treated those who inherited with him as brethren, yet they rightly honoured him and addressed him as "lord, the king." David, however, failed in many ways, and only in our Lord Jesus Christ is to be found the perfect answer to God's mind in this respect.

The priest also was one from among "his brethren." He ministered in the name of the Lord his God (18:7), the Lord was his portion, therefore he had no earthly inheritance among his brethren.

It is said of Christ, if He were on earth He would not be a priest, a heavenly priesthood is now His, and God is His portion; nevertheless, we read, "Such an High Priest became us" (Heb. 7:26). We need none other, for God Himself recognizes Christ alone now. Then as to the prophet we read, "I will raise up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, (Moses) and will put My words in His mouth; and He shall speak unto them all that I shall command Him" (Deut. 18:18). Especially in the gospel of John is the fulfilment of this prophecy in the Son of God related. He spake God's words to those He graciously called His brethren. "The words which Thou hast given Me I have given them" He said. "Hear ye Him," the voice from heaven commanded.

The anointing oil was poured upon king, priest and prophet. The Anointed One is Christ. It is the meaning of His Name Christ. All the three offices centre in Him, and He holds these in relation to His brethren and co-heirs. When He has His rightful place in the midst of Israel they will inherit all the rich promises and, glories which have been given to the nation; but, meanwhile, the assembly is brought into relationship with Him on new and higher ground altogether. Those who form the assembly are called from amongst both Jews and Gentiles; and, through the work of Calvary, are brought in Christ to be His co-heirs in "a new creation" as we shall see. Both Israel and the assembly inherit on account of the redemption which is secured in Christ through His blood, but the nature and extent of that which they are heirs to differ in a great degree. Psalm 20 gives us the sufferings of Christ first and then the glories to follow. He Himself was forsaken of God, and suffered when there was none to help. "Many bulls have compassed Me" He said, "Strong bulls of Bashan have beset Me round." His heart melted in the midst of His bowels. The assembly of the wicked enclosed Him; they pierced His hands and His feet. They parted His garments among them, and cast lots upon His vesture. He was brought into the dust of death. His cry to God to save Him, however, was heard, and He was raised from among the dead. If He was forsaken of God as none other, He was nevertheless raised again by Him as none other. Therefore He said, "I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee" (Ps. 20:22). This is the verse cited in Heb. 2:12. Later in verse 25 He speaks of praising Him in "the great congregation." This is clearly a further thought; and again He speaks of "all the kindreds of the earth" worshipping before Him (27). The blessing is wholly the result of Christ's atoning work; and the heirs inherit, be they earthly or heavenly, on the ground of that work.

In Hebrews 1:2, our Lord Jesus Christ is said to be the established "Heir of all things." Who can tell the glorious range of this inheritance? The Holy Spirit comprehensively speaks of it as "All things!" In Hebrews 6:17 we read of "the heirs of promise." God makes known to them the unchangeableness of His purpose, that they might have strong encouragement. He confirmed His word by an oath, swearing by Himself since there was none greater to swear by. How secure therefore is that to which believers are the heirs! Faithful is He that promised. All shall be fully accomplished in the most minute and in the most complete sense. Then in the midst of the assembly of co-heirs Christ shall sing God's praises in triumph and victory.

Christ And His Brethren.

We have seen how the truth of heirship and the relationship of brethren go together. It is so both in connection with Israel and the assembly, though in a new and higher way for the latter as we have said. This will become clearer to us as we proceed. First, however, we must observe, there is a certain use of that precious expression of relationship - "My brethren" which applies to both, and also to the heavenly relationship which is ours with Christ, the Son of God, somewhat distinct from assembly relationship simply. This also we shall see presently.

When the Lord Jesus came to take up the whole question, we are told, He did not take hold of angels, but of the seed of Abraham; and "it behoved Him in all things to be made like to His brethren" (Heb. 2:17). That shows the marvellous grace of Christ, and gives us a view of the wide extent of this grace, - "the seed of Abraham." Faith on their part is of course taken for granted, and also His work of redemption. We will now follow the way Scripture presents Christ and His brethren step by step, and observe in what manner those who are thus designated are associated with Him. By noting carefully the distinctions we shall the better understand our own place in the assembly in the midst of which He sings; and, as surrounding Him, His brethren and co-heirs, we shall respond in fuller measure to His immeasurable grace and love.

Psalm 22:22 comes first. He there speaks as the One Who is raised from the dead, Whose work upon the cross is finished, and of those who are the fruit of that work, - He calls them "My brethren." He declares to them God's name, - Jehovah's name; and in the midst of them, - "the congregation," He utters His praise. Christ's brethren here spoken of could not be limited to the assembly, the body of Christ, as we know it to-day. It is striking that this verse is cited with others which are true in connection with the believing remnant of Israel in Heb. 2:12-13. The Holy Spirit uses it in the epistle to the Hebrew brethren, as having application today rightly. To see this interesting overlapping explains many Scriptures which if confined to the assembly, the body of Christ, confuses the mind, because the word is not rightly divided in so doing. Even His Jewish disciples, before they were baptized by the coming of the Spirit into one body, He spoke of as His brethren. This will be so again after the assembly is glorified with Christ, and believers from among the Jews continue "the testimony of Jesus" as Revelation shows. Precious to them also will be the sense of this relationship, for a new nature will be theirs too, even though their hopes do not rise to the same height as that which the joint-heirs of the mystery of Ephesians 3 know through divine grace. To them will be declared God's name, and in their midst shall His praises be sounded, by Him Whose strength was weakened in the way, and Whose days were shortened; Who, nevertheless, as Hebrews 1 and Psalm 102 tell us, laid "the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of His hands." He shall "declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and His praise in Jerusalem" (Psalm 102:21). This will take place when the Anointed introduces the national blessings of Israel. The joint-heirs of the assembly are not called to national blessing, but, according to the mystery, out of the nation of Israel and out of the other nations of the Gentiles also, to inherit assembly blessing in Christ Jesus.

Before we speak of this, however, we will notice how the synoptic gospels confirm what we have said. When they came to the Lord Jesus and told Him that His mother and His brethren, desired to speak with Him, He lifted the relationship on to moral ground, and stretching forth His hand toward His disciples, He said, Behold My mother and My brethren. He tenderly maintained natural relationships to the very end of His days in the flesh, but the establishment of an abiding relationship which death could not destroy was ever before Him. Therefore He added not limiting it to the disciples of Israel - Whosoever shall do God's will the same is My brother (Mark 3:35; Matt. 12:50). The gospel of Luke connects the relationship with hearing the word of God and doing it. This again would take in those who are of the assembly to-day as having the full revelation of God as well as the remnant of Israel to whom a more limited revelation is made. Of both, the Lord could say, My brethren are those who hear the Word of God and do it (Luke 8:21). When He returns from heaven, and comes to the earth as the King, and sits on the throne of His glory, the faithful remnant of Israel have a very near and special place with Him. Before the assembled nations, among whom they have borne testimony after the translation of the assembly to be with Christ in glory, the King declares them to be His brethren (Matt. 25:40). What an honoured association is theirs! The brethren of the King of all the earth! Doubtless they will designate Him as their Lord and their King, and not indulge in the unwarrantable familiarity which is often used in speaking of our Lord and Saviour to-day; nevertheless, the glorious relationship is indeed theirs through His atoning sufferings, death and resurrection. The work of God in them has written His law in their hearts as well as in their minds, and they all know the Lord. To them His grace, love and glory are known as the Anointed of God. He is King, Priest and Prophet: they are His brethren and co-heirs. In Him they are blessed and inherit their earthly portion.

The Lord sits upon the throne as King and Priest, (Zech. 6:13), and as Prophet He declares the name of Jehovah to them. The Lord, the King is in the midst of them and they shall see evil no more (Zeph. 3:15); yea, the Lord their God in the midst of them is mighty. He will rejoice over them with joy, resting in His love, and joying over them with singing (17). And even if the name of the Father and the heavenly relationship remains to be declared to those who are joint heirs according to the mystery, nevertheless, Psalm 145 - David's, the Beloved's, Psalm of praise - shows the high note which will resound in their midst. That Psalm really ends the Song book of Psalms, for the five following are resultant bursts of Hallelujahs, all beginning and ending with "Praise ye the Lord!" Hallelujah! And no wonder. The Beloved's praise begins thus, "I will extol Thee, my God, O King; and I will bless Thy name for ever and ever," and ends, "Let all flesh bless His holy name for ever and ever." There is, however, designedly no doubt, one note missing. It is contained in the Hebrew letter N. The Psalm is alphabetically ordered, and uses every letter, of the twenty-two in the Hebrew alphabet in regular sequence, save that one. This is clearly shown in the original, which is an acrostic. Does it not indicate that the heavenly note is to be heard only in the midst of the assembly, where not only Jehovah's name is declared by Christ, but also the Father's? It is there, above the national ground altogether, that those who are the co-heirs and brethren of Christ, know the exalted privileges which are theirs as joint-heirs according to the mystery which was kept secret from the foundation of the world, hidden in God Himself.

The Singing.

We have spoken of the high and honoured association into which the co-heirs of Christ are brought, through divine grace, and through the redemption work of Calvary, and especially of that which will be enjoyed by those of the nation of Israel who are the brethren of the King. Now the mystery connected with Christ and the assembly involves co-heirs, - not as belonging to the nations or Israel, but as called out of the nation of Israel and out of the Gentile nations also, to become one as thus called out, as we have already indicated; and the relationship which is theirs as brethren of Christ is not so much with Him as King therefore, but rather as the Son of God. Both are spoken of as Christ's brethren as we have pointed out, but on different planes. The latter is an entirely new and heavenly association. This we shall see. It is here in the midst of the assembly the very highest note is sung, for to them the Son declares the Father and utters His praise. To the former Jehovah's name is declared, but not the Father's.

Matthew is the gospel of "the King," and we have already observed, He shows us the King's brethren. Again in the last chapter, when Christ was risen, the angel said to the woman, Go, tell His disciples. - (Mark the forming of the assembly, the body of Christ, by the coming of the Holy Spirit, had not then taken place, for Pentecost was not yet) - When the Lord met the same woman He said, Go, bring word to My brethren. In His commission to these brethren, He tells them to make disciples of all the nations, also that He would be with them to the completion of the age (20). The kingdom character of this commission is plain, and its time limit goes beyond that of the assembly, for the assembly, Christ's body, will be taken away before the completion of the age; and after its translation from earth to heaven the testimony of Jesus will be carried on still. It is this overlapping during times of transition that has to be understood before the word of truth can be rightly divided, and before the special place which the out-called co-heirs have to-day can be rightly appreciated, according to the truth of the mystery concerning Christ and the assembly. Moreover, although it broadens our view of the brethren of Christ, it nevertheless safely secures us from the Laodicean character of the worldwide brotherhood movement which is developing so quickly and so popularly. The truth preserves the saints in Christ Jesus, whereas Laodiceanism shuts Him outside in His true character. It professes His name, but shuts the door in His face, and vainly boasts in its self-sufficiency.

How cheering and beautiful is the application of Psalm 22:22 by the Spirit to us to-day in Hebrews 2:12! What a privilege and honour to be associated with those to whom Jesus declares the name of God! How rejoicing to the heart to be of that assembly of co-heirs and brethren in the midst of which He sings such a song - the praises of God! What music gladdens the souls of those who hear the joyful notes of such singing! It is never to be forgotten that the singing is His, Who, in the first part of Psalm 22 is described as the One Who endured the suffering of Calvary. The Sufferer has become the Singer in the midst of those who reap the results of His redeeming work. There was no suffering to compare with His, and the singing of Jesus is incomparably beyond the sweetest singing that ever reached the mortal ear. Its rich melody has never been heard and never can be heard by those who are still dead in offences and sins. It is in the assembly's midst Jesus sings. There He can express the grace and melody that fill His heart in all the ineffable blessedness of the God whom He knows so well. It is there He utters His glorious praise.

We must now pass on to that which is peculiar to the out-called assembly. In doing so, however, we will just notice the striking use which the Spirit makes of Isaiah and his two sons presenting themselves before God - a beautiful type of Christ and the remnant of Israel - "Behold I and the children which God has given Me" (compare Isa. 8:18, and Hebrews 2:13). This is applied to the assembly now, for it indicates the relationship which is ours also, and which we are about to speak of. This intensely interesting Scripture explains many similar passages when it is discerned rightly. In the gospel of John the Spirit unveils for Christ's brethren the full revelation of God as "FATHER" in the Son - "the only begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (i. 18). In Psalm 22:22 and Hebrews 2:12 it is "GOD" who is declared. Of course it is God also in John, but in the fullest revelation of Himself as Father, and as bringing us into a new and special relationship with Himself, not simply as the brethren of Messiah, the Christ, but as associated with the risen Son of God; for after He had secured eternal redemption through His death and resurrection, He sent the message of this new relationship - a relationship never before made known - saying to Mary, "Go to My brethren and say to them I ascend to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God" (John 20:17). To what an elevation of glory and love does this bring us! Such grace and dignity in relations of deep affection could never have entered the highest thoughts of the most exalted creature in the whole of God's universe! The brethren of God's beloved Son! His Father ours! His God ours! We have said that this is somewhat distinct from assembly relationship simply, and that is correct: but we must bear in mind, those alone who are of the assembly, and who are the "joint-heirs" of the mystery, are given to know and rejoice in the endless blessedness and love of this new relationship, as they sing:
"His Father and our Father,
His God and ours Thou art,
And He is Thy beloved,
The gladness of Thy heart."

To enter into the full meaning of this, we must appropriate, in faith and in the Spirit's power, the plane of Christ's resurrection and ascension with which it is connected. Mary desired to hold the Lord on the old plane, but He said to her, "Touch Me not, for I have not yet ascended to My Father." Then He graciously declared the new relationship, and when He appeared in the midst of His own, bringing the peace of His victory over sin and death with Him, the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. What singing would fill their hearts with melody and grace then! A singing that could scarcely be sung for the very intensity and sweetness of its experimental depth! A singing that we might fear to spoil by our expression of it! Nevertheless, Jesus has said, "I will sing!" Rich is His singing of God's praises as we have seen: surpassingly so His singing of the Father's in the midst of His co-heirs and brethren as the Son of God.

He says to the Father, Thou hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me, and the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given them! (John 17:22-23). How supremely this arises above all else. Oh, may our hearts enter into the truth of it, in the power of the Spirit ungrieved; and may we be sensitive as to allowing anything in ourselves that would spoil our appreciation of all this divine love and life and glory with the Father and the Son. Words seem to fail as we try to speak of it. In the beautiful type of the Father and Son, we read that Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac, and sent his other sons away eastward that they should not inherit along with him. (Gen. 25:5-6). It is in contrast to this that the grace and love of Christ shine out. He brings others to share all He possesses as His loved brethren and co heirs. Soon God's purpose will be brought to full fruition, and then, actually conformed to the image of the glorious Son of God, we shall unhinderedly and eternally be able to speak His praises as, we would, for whom God foreknew, He "predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He should be the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29); and in the midst of them, who shall tell the gladness of His heart? Who shall attempt to describe the singing which He then sings in the midst of His co-heirs and brethren? The Holy Spirit alone can give us any sense of its harmonies for it is altogether divine.

In closing, however, we would challenge our hearts. Since these things are so, beloved brethren in Christ, what should mark those who are called to such great realities, - such holy and heavenly intimacies, such glory and grace? Avoiding the Babylonish corruptions of a worldly Christendom, and the seductions of antichristian teachings, let us pursue the path of God's will by following Him Who sanctified Himself that we might be sanctified through the truth; by dwelling in faith in nearness to the Son prove the vital reality of His Word to the Father - "And the world has not known Thee, but I have known Thee, and these have known that Thou hast sent Me. And I have made known unto them Thy name, and will make it known, that the love with which Thou hast loved Me may be in them and I in them" (John 17:25-26) - for this is the present portion of the brethren and co-heirs of the Son of God, while they wait and watch for His coming again to receive them to Himself, and to take them home to dwell with Him in the Father's house for ever,
Where eternal love abounds,
And the sweetest song resounds.

H. J. Vine.

John 20.

"Oh that I knew where I might find Him!" (Job. 23:3). Such words were used by Job as he sought to reason with God as to the cause of his sorrows. Have you, beloved fellow Christian, ever had a similar enquiry arise in your heart as you considered the present condition of the church? Amidst the strife of tongues, the diverse arrangements of men, the forsaking of the truth, the evil teachings that despise the Word of God and dishonour the Son of God, do you long to find Him whom your soul loveth? Maybe you have proved Him again and again in secret help and yet you have a longing that is unsatisfied. Can it be? Is there any place where He meets His own, where His voice alone is heard, and where He makes known all things that He has heard of the Father to those He calls His friends? Yes, there is. Let us trace in this chapter the steps by which Mary of Magdala found it. It was yet dark as she wended her solitary way to the burial ground, hoping to bestow some fresh token of her love upon the body of Him who had been all in all to her, but even this was denied her. She found greatly to her surprise an empty tomb, but she found not Him. The living One was not amongst the dead. True, she saw a remarkable sight, a vision of angels. She heard them speak to her, but such things did not fill the aching void in her heart. He was absent and she had not even the consolation of knowing where the loved form lay. "Tell me where Thou hast laid Him and I will take Him away" was her request of the One she mistook for the gardener. She was looking in the wrong place, seeking the living One amongst the dead, yet it was all very precious to the heart of Him she sought. He values every yearning of the soul for His presence. Alas, that many like the disciples accept the seemingly inevitable, and not finding Him in the circumstances where they expect, turn to their own circle and concerns, and what they might have known remains unknown. But love will not thus rest. Mary has no place of rest if she finds not the One her soul loves. Homeless, yes, but it brings her nearer to the joy of His company, for it is to the homeless heart He comes, reveals Himself, calls by name, draws out the response of affection, 'Mary,' 'Master.'

But not alone was she to enjoy His presence. There was something better in His mind for her. He was going to lead her to know Him in the midst of His own, "Go to my brethren and tell them." Not until the work of the cross was complete could He use such words, or bring His disciples into the blessedness of His own relationship. Yes, "tell them I ascend to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God."

We may trace in the gospel narratives how our Lord was occupied on that resurrection day, as to one and another. He personally revealed Himself and then left them, awaking in their hearts new desires, in order that they might be drawn together that same evening to talk of Him who was risen. It was the testimony of His resurrection that brought about their gathering together.

The door was closed. The careless world of Pilate was outside, the religious world of Caiaphas and the Jew outside, and within those who loved His name were met together, with fear and joy and sorrow all mingling. To them the Lord came, in fulfilment of His own word "where two or three are gathered together to My name, there am I in the midst of them." Mark the condition. "The doors being shut, then came Jesus and stood in the midst." All else but His name was excluded, none but Himself filled every eye, every ear was attentive to the words He spake. Peace calmed all unrest and fear; Love, told forth by His hands and side; Life, communicated in the Spirit's power; Service, as they were sent forth from thence to bear His name. Such is the blessed pattern of the Christian assembly, how very different from that which fills Christendom with ritual and ceremony. No ordering of man was seen on that evening, not even the apostles had planned what should take place. There were just His own who loved Him, and He was present in the midst. They needed nought else. How the Lord loves to control such a company, whether then or now. The heart that has once tasted the blessedness of such a gathering will desire no other. But there was one man who was not with them when Jesus came, and could not believe it possible that his Master had been there either. Alas, there are many like Thomas who refuse to believe that the Lord manifests Himself without human arrangements, and although their souls are grieved at the giving up of the truth on every hand, seek Him not in His own appointed way. They go on without ever knowing the blessedness of the meeting place where He reveals the Father's name to His brethren. Nor do they know how He leads the worship in spirit and in truth which the Father seeks. Beautiful services may be carried out, and the most ornate arrangements be made, oratory and music may lend their aid; but God is a Spirit and those that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth. Dear reader, if these remarks produce any exercise in your soul, rest not content until you have found Him where He loves to be in the midst of those who refuse everything else but His peerless name.

J. Green.

The Assembly as Seen in Hebrews.

The very object for which this unique epistle was written would not lead us to expect very much to be said about the assembly, though it leads up to its threshold. Certainly nothing is said of the mystery — the church which is Christ's body, Himself the living Head in glory set in relation to it, and very little is said about the assembly. It is more hinted at than anything else. But the little that is hinted at is very beautiful and instructive.

A simple perusal of the epistle reveals the fact that it was addressed to believing Jews, who had begun well, who had "endured a great fight of afflictions," who had taken "joyfully the spoiling of their goods," but who were in danger of going back to Judaism and of casting away their confidence. The reason for this was that they had not advanced in the things of God, they had remained spiritual dwarfs. When the time had come that they should have been teachers, they had need to be taught which were the first principles of the oracles of God, and had need of milk and not of strong meat. They were babes, when they should have been men and were unskilful in the Word of righteousness.

And this condition flowed from a feeble apprehension of Christ. Naturally in such circumstances truth as to the mystery or the assembly would not be expected. But that the assembly is mentioned is just because it is in relation to Christ; and His fulness is ever beyond our feeble apprehension, and our place and privilege in Him beyond our entering in upon and enjoyment.

The epistle begins, without any formal introduction, with the word God. No name of the writer is given as in every other epistle in the New Testament. This forms an arresting exception.

Adolf Saphir, himself a converted Jew, has beautifully pointed out that the great point in Hebrews being the glory of the Person and work of Christ as entirely superseding the shadows and bringing in the glorious substance, every name that can be suppressed is suppressed. For instance, if the object of the Holy Spirit is to present Christ as the Apostle of our confession the name of the writer is suppressed, even if he were the Apostle Paul, as seems likely, though we should respect the anonymity of the writer as chosen by the Holy Spirit. When the name of Moses is introduced necessarily as the apostle of the types and shadows it is to contrast his position with the far more glorious place the Son of God has as the apostle of our confession. Moses was a servant, faithful in all his house; Christ is a Son over His house. Who would give up the Son for the servant?

Again, Aaron is brought in as the High Priest of the types and shadows. Christ, the High Priest of our confession is brought in in contrast. Aaron and his successors were not "suffered to continue by reason of death." They passed away. Their little day was soon run. But Christ "continueth ever because He hath an unchangeable priesthood." He is made a priest after a superior order, even that of Melchisedec, "not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life." Who would give up a permanent Priest for one of uncertain tenure?

Then again in quoting Scripture we are not given the names of the writers from whose books, etc., quotations are taken. The formula is given in one instance, "One in a certain place testified," but generally speaking the quotation is given direct without any indication of its source, save that it is Scripture, coming with all its plenary authority.

When it is necessary for the sake of establishing a point in chronology as in chapter 4 after using the words, "He spake in a certain place" (verse 4;) "And in this place again" (verse 5;) we have the sentence, "Again, He limiteth a certain day saying in David" (verse 7). Notice the writer carefully avoids saying that david said it, but that god spoke it - God spoke it in David.

This all helps us to see that we can have no right idea of the assembly, nor can we take up with power and intelligence our assembly position till Christ has His own place in our affections and spiritual intelligence. As Matt. 16 so beautifully points out there must be the revelation made by the Father of the Person of Christ, "the Son of the living God" in order that upon the confession of Him and upon the foundation of His own Person Christ should build His indestructible assembly.

Priesthood was the common privilege of the saints of God addressed in this epistle, yet such was their carnality and backwardness, that the unfolding of the truth was so ordered as to bring them to this point: -

"Having therefore brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say His flesh; and having an High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near" (Heb. 10:19-21).

They had not entered in as yet, but it was all the time their place and portion. To enter in in the Spirit's power would have been to have entered intelligently and practically into the assembly. The High Priest presupposes under priests - the very name, High Priest, presupposes a divine system.

The assembly was indeed a necessity for the Christian, for outside of it was only a Judaism which had rejected, and still rejected Christ, and heathendom the table of demons. Thus they were exhorted not to forsake the place where alone Christian blessings could be found.

The whole book furnishes the idea of a divine system of which Christ, as High Priest, is Head and Director. If we speak of Christianity as that divine system we have in mind that which the truth forms, and not the corrupt system which Satan has succeeded in introducing by the bringing in of bad materials in relation to persons, and doctrines in relation to teaching, and which is described by the coined word - Christendom.

The idea of the Tabernacle that God should dwell among His people is carried on, as it is designed to be, into the antitype. So, after the glories of the Person and work of Christ are described in chapters 1 and ii. we read that

"Both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctifieth are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren." (Chap. 2:11).

The sanctifier and sanctified are all of one. Just as Aaron and his sons were all of one, of one stock, of one sanctuary occupation, of identical interests, so, as antitype answers to type (as far as a meagre type can answer to a glorious antitype) Christ and His people are all of one. This is a new creation, a resurrection scene as far as we are concerned. What a message given by the Lord to devoted Mary on the very day of His resurrection,

"Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father: and to My God, and your God." (John 20:17).

What a sudden and glorious outshining of what was hidden in the heart of God for His own, and now made possible by the death of the Lord Jesus on the one hand, and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit on the other!

So we follow from Heb. 2:11 just quoted:

"Saying, I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee." (verse 12).

There we get the person, the Lord Jesus: the new circle, "my brethren," the church the occupation, praise, and the object of it, God Himself.

Thus without the truth of the assembly being elaborated, we get it, in this remarkable way. So great is Christ's thought towards His own, that immediately the glories of His person and work are set forth we get the wondrous truth of Christ in the midst of His assembly, singing praises to God, the Leader of the sanctuary service; then that being so the writer follows on with his theme, the superiority of the antitype over the type, of the substance over the shadow, of the source over the channel, of Christ over Moses and Aaron, leading up to the exhortation of the believer to draw near, even into the holiest of all.

How blessed to see all this! How affecting! How delivering from the system of men and from his earthly and worldly religious organizations.

"Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach" (Heb. 13:13).

A. J. Pollock.

"My brethren."

"Go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God."

In the whole range of revealed truth there is nothing higher or more blessed than that which is declared in these words of the Lord Jesus. Those men whom He called "My brethren," were the sons of men when He found them - Simon son of Jona, and James and John the sons of Zebedee, and so forth, - sinners every one of them; lying under the judgment of death, for death passed upon all men, and so upon these men, for that all have sinned. And yet here is this glorious resurrection chapter, they are sons of God, and to them is given the life, nature and power proper to that exalted relationship. They stand associated with Christ in this relationship which none could claim but He, a relationship which He enjoyed to the full in all the perfection of His own worthiness. No angel knows it, or ever will, but those men knew it; it was theirs, according to the purpose of divine love, and it is ours also, according to the same unalterable purpose, it is the place and portion of all who are of Christ's assembly or church - each one of such can say "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons [children] of God" (1 John 3:1).

This is the relationship into which the risen triumphant Head and Leader of His church brings all His own. We do not now speak of the church as the body of Christ, that is but one aspect of it. As the body, the church has been formed for the manifestation of the graces of the Head of it now, and of His glory hereafter. It has this special relation to Christ; it is the vessel in and through which He displays the fulness of His wisdom and knowledge to every created intelligence; there is more in it than this, but this we believe is the chief thought in it. As the body of Christ, Christ presents through it all the treasures of divine wisdom and knowledge man-ward and creation-ward so that the will eventually be filled with the glory of God, and unto Him will be glory in the church in Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end.

But under that wonderful designation "My brethren" the assembly appears in another aspect. It is collective and not corporate, it is not in the first place for the display of glory before the universe, though that will have its place when the sons who are joint heirs with Christ come into the inheritance with Him (Rom. 8), but it is for the joy and satisfaction of the Father's heart. The Father comes first. He must ever be first.

It may be said that here we ought to speak of the family and not the assembly, but as we proceed with the subject we think it will be clear that the truth of the assembly has its place in this connection. In that wonderful 8th. chapter of Proverbs, wisdom speaks, and we have no difficulty in seeing that wisdom can be none other than the Son of God, for He is God's resource, the One by Whom every problem in the universe is solved - Christ, the power and the wisdom of God. "The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old" we read, bringing to mind the opening of John's Gospel. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God," and the 1st. of Hebrews, "by Whom also He made the worlds." But there was something deeper, fuller and more blessed than that which was displayed in creation. Before any of these things in which God's power and divinity are displayed existed, wisdom says, "Then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him, and I was daily His delight rejoicing always before Him." "Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world," are the wonderful words that were addressed to the Father by the Lord in John 17. They explain this passage in Proverbs 8. What joy and what delight, what love, surpassing all human comprehension, do these words unfold! But wisdom continues, "Rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth; and My delights were with the sons of men." Again one must turn to the New Testament, and there we learn that the Father and the Son are one. Their object, work and joy are one. That which delights the Father delights also Jesus Christ, whom He sent into the world; and the sons of men in whom wisdom delighted before there were any of them are the subjects of communion between the Father and the Son, and of the intercession of the Son with the Father. Hear His own words.

"I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were and Thou gavest them Me; and they have kept Thy word. Now they have known that all things whatsoever Thou hast given Me are of Thee. For I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from Thee, and they have believed that Thou didst send Me. I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine. And all Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine; and I am glorified in them."

These wonderful statements made first about the first disciples of the Lord are true also of all who have followed them, they were all "chosen in Him before the foundation of the world."

But notice that not only are the sons of men spoken of as the Lord's delight, but the habitable part of his earth also. Evidently there was to be a suitable dwelling place on earth where the Father and the Son could delight in and with these who were brought to know them.

Creation was not this. Adam was made in the image and likeness of God, and most wonderfully endowed, and he was placed in a garden made habitable for him by God's own goodness, but God's delight in him was soon spoiled, nor was that garden a habitable place for man and God for long, for sin came in, and the trail of the serpent defiled that Paradise, so that it was impossible that God should dwell there, and the man also was turned out of it.

It is helpful to see that wisdom does not say my delights are with man, had the passage read thus we might have supposed that Adam unfallen was only meant, and that when he fell Satan had triumphed over God and for ever robbed Him of His delight in men, but it is the sons of men in whom wisdom delights. God would take up the sinful sons of that fallen head and by His own power and wisdom make them such as He could delight in.

Nor did Israel and the land of Canaan yield any truer satisfaction than Adam and Eden had done. That land was surely made a habitable place for the chosen people, for it was a goodly land, flowing with milk and honey, but they did not make it a habitable place for God. "Israel" we read, "was holiness unto the Lord, and the first fruits of His increase." Yet God said to them, "I brought you into a plentiful land, to eat the fruit thereof and the goodness thereof; but when ye entered ye defiled my land, and made my heritage an abomination." (Jer. 2:7). But when Israel failed and Canaan became an abomination God was not defeated, hence we read, "How shall I put thee amongst the children and give thee a pleasant land?" Here are these two things again - the sons of men brought into relationship with God, and the habitable part of His earth - but the question is asked how could these wayward men of Israel, how could any of the wayward sons of men be brought to answer God's thoughts in a place where He could dwell with them? God's own answer is, "Thou shalt call Me, My Father; and shall not turn away from Me." (Jer. 3:18). It is evident that God could only secure men for Himself according to His own desire by bringing them into this wonderful relationship with Himself. In the knowledge of Him as Father their hearts would be satisfied, and so they would be secured for ever for God's own satisfaction. It is this that seems to be hinted at in this remarkable statement.

If we come back to John's Gospel we find the way in which this is brought about. First we hear the Lord Jesus saying to the woman of Sychar, "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him." (John 4:23). We cannot worship One Whom we do not love, and we cannot love One Whom we do not know, and we cannot know God unless He is revealed to us. For "no man hath seen God at any time." So that none could tell his neighbour what He is in the full blessedness of His nature, but, "the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." (John 1:18). And now being fully revealed, all may know Him from the greatest to the least, and this knowledge is eternal life.

It is as the Father, name of infinite grace and love, that God desires to be worshipped, and as neither angels nor men knew Him in this way they could not worship Him. But the only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, came to reveal Him in all the fulness of His love, and in Christ we see the Father seeking worshippers, not among angels, but among the sinful, unhappy sons of men.

Three great steps had to be taken by the Lord if God's end had to be reached, and it is interesting to see that these three steps were first revealed to women.
1. He must come into the world.
2. He must go into death.
3. He ascend again to the Father.

The First Step.

That the first of these great steps had been taken was revealed to the woman of Sychar (John 4). What a need was hers! She was a woman with a sinful past, an empty heart, and a hopeless future; true picture of all who are outside the blessing that Christ has opened up. The Lord met her where she was and revealed Himself as the Giver of the living water, which should not only be in her a well of perennial satisfaction, but should spring up to its Source, the Father, and so yield satisfaction also to Him.

There had to be a probing work to fit her for this, as there must be with us all, and this work the Lord accomplished until He had brought her to the point where she confesses that Christ was her only hope. "I know" said she "that Messias cometh, which is called Christ; when He is come He will tell us all things." The Lord's response, "I that speak unto thee, am He," changed her life, and sent her to witness to the men of the city that Christ had come. "Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did, is not this the Christ." He searched the sinner and revealed Himself as the Saviour. So the men of the city say, "We have heard Him ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world."

We become familiar with the great truths that are revealed to us in the Word, and consequently they often lose their greatness in our eyes, yet how wonderful it is that the Son of God should come into the world, and should come as the Saviour. Two things made this necessary, first, that God might be revealed, second, our need of salvation. It was God who sent Him not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved. More than thirty times in the Gospel of John the Lord speaks of Himself as being sent into the world by the Father. He glories in it, and so shall we if we understand it. No angel could have fulfilled His mission, He only could make the Father known, and the Father sent Him to do this. The only begotten Son shone as the light in the darkness, He came near to men full of grace and truth, seeking for them in their misery, to take them out of it and lead them to His Father. David cried: "O send out Thy light and Thy truth: let them lead me … Then will I go unto the altar of God, my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise Thee, O God, my God”. But David could never have imagined that God's light and truth would come forth in the person of God's Son, in order to lead multitudes to the Father Himself. But this has happened, and in it our souls do greatly rejoice.

The Second Step.

But the revelation that He made of the Father would have been in vain, if He had taken no other steps than this. He must die. This was the second step. This fact was plain to Mary of Bethany. She alone of those who followed the Lord had perceived this. The disciples thought that they were following Him to the throne and kingdom, and to the outward senses it looked like it when multitudes of Jews followed Him because He had raised Lazarus from the dead. They were carried away by the temporary enthusiasm of the Jews which led them so far as to meet the Lord with loud hosannas. But Mary understood, and brought forth her alabaster box and poured its costly contents upon His feet. For His burying she had kept it. How long she had kept it we know not, but there it was to be brought out at the right moment. She honoured Him, owning His kingly glory by her act, but she knew that notwithstanding all that glory, He Himself was going into death. The relationship in which His own were to stand with Him before the Father could not be after the order of natural life, that life was forfeited by every sinner, none could abide in it except Christ who was sinless, and if He had chosen to live He must have lived alone, for "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abideth alone." Even Lazarus, who was raised from the dead into the old natural life, must die again. If death were to be removed Christ must die; if those who were under its power were to be delivered from it He must pass into the depths of it, for only by coming where we were could the Lord come into definite contact with us, and this He has done. His love to us, and His Father's will carried Him into death in His search for those whom He would bring forth out of death to be His brethren and worshippers of the Father.

The Third Step.

But the third step had to be taken, He must go to the Father; and for this He was constantly preparing His disciples from John 13 onwards.

We come now to our resurrection chapter, in which to Mary Magdalene was revealed the full and glorious truth. When she realized who He was she thought that the old relationship, that of an earthly Messiah in the midst of an earthly people, was to be resumed. Hence His words, "Touch Me not." He must ascend to His Father. The new relationship was to be a heavenly one.

Psalm 22 records for us the path of sorrow that the Lord trod in the fulfilment of the will of God and also of His triumph. And there we learn what was foremost in His mind; for when heard from the horns of the unicorns and brought out of death He exclaims, "I will declare Thy Name amongst My brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I sing praise unto Thee." These very words of the Lord are quoted in Heb. 2 where we learn that the congregation in the midst of which He sings is the Church, and in the Church His brethren also are. The Church is the habitable place for God upon the earth to-day, in it He can rejoice; those who form it "are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit." (Eph. 2:22); and the brethren of Christ are the sons of men in whom He delights. So that at last He has His habitable place on the earth, and the sons of men in it.

But the Church is here only for a while, the brethren that form it are partakers of the heavenly calling, but in the fact that it is here, we see the triumph of Christ. Oh, that we understood it better. Consider that wonderful description that is ours - "Holy Brethren." two words are found in Ps. 22. There, in giving the answer to His own question, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" the Lord says, "But Thou art holy." This is the very nature of God, and this is the nature that is ours as those who are sanctified and one with the risen Christ, our Sanctifier; and we are His brethren, those of whom He spoke when He said, "I will declare Thy Name unto My brethren." Nature and relationship all according to God! And this is His assembly, His Church, that which is of Himself. Where the Father's name is known, where Christ triumphs in His own, and sings the praises of God. If God of old inhabited the praises of Israel, how much more will He dwell in this higher and perfect praise! How blessedly habitable must that place be to Him in which His Well-beloved, raised up from the dead, sings in the company of His brethren.

Think of those men who for fear of the Jews had hidden themselves in the upper room in Jerusalem; they possessed neither dignity nor renown before the world. And they cannot have been proud of each other; but we read, "Jesus came and stood in the midst." What a change that made! He had called them His brethren. What a dignity that gave them! How honoured, how honourable in this new relationship and association with Christ were these sons of men, now the sons of God! And Jesus was supreme in that new circle. And where He is supreme there the assembly is. He is the great Leader of the many sons, the Firstborn amongst many brethren. He has so blessedly accomplished the will of God that even now He can present to His Father those in whom the Father can delight.

Surely there is in this side of the truth that which ought most blessedly to engage our hearts and minds, and make us with purpose of heart to seek to enter into the joy of it, and seek to be in the state of our souls just that which we are in the thoughts and purposes of God. No higher place could be given us than this, we cannot by effort enter into it. It is ours, given to us in sovereign grace, and the Spirit has been given to us also that the place may be known by us experimentally and in power.

J. T. Mawson.

The Mystery.
Great is the mystery hid during ages,
      Secret of God made known unto all.
  Hitherto hidden from seers and from sages,
      Teachers of ethics, the great and the small.
        Concept inscrutable,
        Purpose immutable,
           Matchless, divine.
        Told now to men of God,
        Writ now with pen of God,
           Line upon line.
  Glorious conception of wisdom eternal,
      Marvellous thought for our glory designed,
  Wonder unspeakable, searchless, supernal,
      Counsel supreme of the infinite mind.
        Ere shone a star or sun,
        Ere were His works begun,
           Ere this creation:
        Born was the thought of God,
        Project and plan of God,
           Man's exaltation.
  Eye has not seen those things, ear has not heard of them,
      Never has fancy the fringe of them reached;
  Never to creature was uttered a word of them,
      Till by the Spirit the gospel was preached.
        Then in its glorious might
        Broke forth the living light
           Darkness assailing:
        Then from the heights above
        Shone forth the thought of love,
           Then the unveiling.
  This to establish on stable foundation,
      Needed the infinite work of the Son,
  Righteousness satisfied - His exaltation
      Tells of the worth of the work He has done.
        Fortresses stormed and spoiled,
        Dark machinations foiled,
           Crushed their activities;
        Smitten hell's sources dread,
        Captive fell forces led
           Into captivity.
  Back from the battle saluted victorious,
      See Him enthroned on the right hand of God,
  Head over all things created, and glorious,
      Centre and Sun of the universe broad.
        Head of the Church, for which
        He, in His grace so rich,
           Suffered such sorrows,
        Bore on the cross of shame,
        When smote the sword of flame,
           Infinite horrors.
  Part of Himself His loved members on earth are,
      Part of Himself, His own flesh and His bone.
  They in this world's estimation no worth are,
      But they will sit with Himself on His throne.
        Then at the great decree,
        When men must bend the knee
           Lord Him confessing,
        They shall what love has wrought
        Learn, and the power that brought
           Into such blessing.
  One with Himself! Then our part is none other,
      Than to be with Him where ever He be;
  Not for the ages eternal another
      Wish we to think of, to hear, or to see.
        Bands all unbreakable! Love all unspeakable,
           Told when He died.
        His in His love unknown,
        His, ay, His very own,
           Body and bride.
  James Boyd.


It is plain to all who have eyes to see and hearts to understand that the world is in darkness, i.e., in ignorance of God. And the blame for this condition of things lies entirely at its own door, for "the light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not." (John 1:5). And this is not said to be because men cannot perceive the light that shineth, but because they won't, for they love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19); they are wilfully in the darkness; consequently they lie under condemnation. This condition can only be described as death - moral and spiritual death. It is alienation from the life of God, it is bondage to sin; it is active hatred of God; it is subjection to the wicked one, for "the whole world lieth in the one (or wickedness)" (1 John 5:19); it is but the prelude to "the second death," i.e., severance from God.

No writer in the New Testament describes the world in such terse and uncompromising language as John. He sees it in its native blackness; a sphere in which the Father has no place, as witness the casting out of His sent One; the stronghold of the devil in his fight against God; he sees it by the light of the Father's world in which he dwells, and as inspired by the Holy Ghost he writes what he sees, and well it is for us to consider his words, that we may understand out of what we have been delivered, and what grace has made us in contrast to it. It exists in darkness, in death, under condemnation, in active enmity against God; wilfully sinful, lying in the very lap of the devil, it is his nursling; it is the barracks and the battle field where he trains his army of men to resist and fight against every rightful claim of God over them.

But John describes, also, what we might well call another world, composed of those who are said to be "born of God," and as described by John there is not a feature in common between the two. Those who have entered this world by Divine generation have the light of life and do not walk in darkness; they are of God and not of that wicked one; they love God and one another; they shall never come into condemnation, and over them the second death shall have no power, they have passed into life out of death; their dwelling-place is a sphere of life and light and love. Death is characteristic of the world in which sinful men please themselves, life is characteristic of the world in which those who are born of God dwell.

The first mention of life in John's Gospel is in chapter 1:4. Speaking of the eternal Word by whom all things were made, he says, "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men" and the last mention of life in the Epistle is, "This is the true God and eternal life." He is the first and the last, we must begin with Him, nor can any know what life is or enjoy it except in Him.

We cannot define what life is, but when we see it in manifestation we are able to tell the nature of the creature, person or being, whose life it is, and the life of God has been manifested in the world so that we may know His very nature. The Word who was God and with God poured forth from Himself all created life. He was the originator of every system and character of life in the universe, His own all powerful word was sufficient to do this, for He spake and it stood fast, but when we read, "In Him was life" something more is meant. "All creation was made by Him but it does not exist in Him. But in Him was life, in this He was in relation with a special part of creation, a part which was the object of the thoughts and intentions of God. This life was the light of men, it revealed itself as a testimony to the divine nature, in immediate connection with men - for 'this life was the light of men' - as it did not with respect to any others at all." (J. N. D).

There is no light for men apart from the incarnate Word. Men have no light in themselves, though they may become lightbearers, and shine as lights in the world when the word of life has its place in their hearts, but naturally they have no light, "Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection?" (Job. 11:7). "The world by wisdom knew not God." (1 Cor. 1:21). "The god of this world hath blinded the eyes of men that believe not." (2 Cor. 4:4). But if God, for the great love that He has towards us, is pleased to reveal His own life to us, that surely shall be light to us, and we shall want no other; that surely shall dispel the moral darkness that enshrouds our fallen nature, unless indeed, our case be entirely and eternally hopeless. This revelation of Himself has come to pass, not in creation but in incarnation, not by works of power in the physical spheres, but in the lowly life of Jesus. And this manifestation of the life of God in the world has brought into being the new world of which we have spoken. The Creator was in the world, a man in the midst of it, but it did not know Him. He came to those to whom in former days He had committed His oracles, but they received Him not, and yet the manifestation of the life was not in vain, the light of it was effectual, for Jesus could say, "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and the prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight." (Matthew 11:28). And these babes "were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." These form the new world, the new circle, having a most blessed centre, and a well-defined circumference - in the world but not of it; enlightened and vitalised by Him in whom life is; God Himself from whom the life has flowed forth, being the object of the whole circle and every soul in it. "He is the Fountain and the Focus of life; it issues from Him as its source and returns to Him as its object." (Liddon).

To contemplate the One in whom this life is is the first business of all who belong to this new world, they cannot know what their life is unless they do. "We beheld His glory," said the apostle, and again, "the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness and shew unto you that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us" (1 John 1:2). It was not our privilege to be with Him, as were those wonderfully-honoured Galileans, and actually see Him, and hear Him, and handle Him, as He tabernacled amongst them, but what He was, and is, has come forth in words, as He Himself said, "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." (John 6:33). And the disciples recognized this when they said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." And because the life that was manifested abides in the words He spoke we do not walk in darkness.

"In Him was life, and that life was the light of men" and this was the true Light which shines for all, but its blessed life-giving rays could not have reached us, quickening our souls into life, apart from the death of the Life-giver. It is well to be constantly reminded of this fact. He came from God, even the Father, to bring those who believe on Him into life, to share, in fact in the life that He manifested, but it could not be apart from His death. Hence when first the term "eternal life" is used in John's writing, which seems to be the way this life is described when it is a question of its impartation to men, it is in connection with the death of Christ. So we read, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." (Chapter 3:14-15). This was because death lay upon us, sinful men, as the judgment of God; and sin could only be expiated and death removed by the death of the Son of Man, made in the likeness of sinful flesh, yet entirely holy and true. This has taken place, and while demonstrating the condition of sin and death in which men were it is also the great proof of God's love, in this His nature has been fully revealed.
"Inscribed upon the cross we see
In shining letters, 'God is love.'"

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

God made Himself manifest in that great gift, and what light is this to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, who looked upon God as their foe, as some tyrannical being who only created them to crush them! Life, and light, and love are inseparable. The life is the light of men for in it is declared the love of God. "God is light," and "God is love."

We proceed no further with this side of the subject as it is ably dealt with in the following paper, but turn to that which is our purpose in this paper, namely the practical outflow of this life which has been given to us, and into which we have been called. The reception of this life is individual, as the Lord said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation but is passed from death unto life." (John 5:24). And the maintenance of the life must be individual also, and this is by feeding upon Christ who gave His flesh for the life of the world. His death is efficacious; His love is infinite; the expiation He has made is total, absolute, perfect. To appropriate that by faith brings us clear of all that separated us from God, and it becomes the food upon which the new life that is ours lives. But having eaten His flesh and drunk His blood, and finding these to be meat and drink indeed we dwell in Him and He in us. In Him is this new life, and all who have it are in Him; He is the centre of this new circle of divine life and binds it altogether in one. So that we must consider others who are there. We are in relationship with Him and with the Father, but with all others also who are in this sphere of blessing.

It is wonderful to see how when the light had fully shone in the world and the darkness rejected it, and men began to plot His death, the oneness of His own is brought into prominence. The first intimation of this occurs in chapter 10, where He declares that He must give His life for the sheep that there might be one flock and one shepherd. Then in chapter 11 we learn that He must die that "He should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad." In chapter 13 when Judas had gone out and He could look upon them as one in the life into which He brought them, He gives them the new commandment which should keep them in practical oneness. "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." His is the measure and manner of the love wherewith we who are in His life are to love each other, and so it will be as His life finds expression in us. We have been brought together into one flock, one family, one assembly - brethren of Christ, that this love might have occasion to develop and flow out one towards another. This could not be in isolation, and everything that divides the children of God one from another hinders the development and outflow of this love. Love binds us together, it is the flesh in its lust and pride, and the devil in his perpetual hatred of all who are of God that scatter and divide.

Coming to Paul's side of the truth we find that we are to "walk in love as Christ also hath loved us, and given Himself for us," but that simply means that the life that is ours now in Him is finding its normal expression. And the necessity for this amongst the saints of God is clearly set forth in 1 Cor. 13 while the beauty of it is also disclosed for us. Love is of God. He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and this never fails.

In Colossians 3 we find this same life - for there is no other - showing itself in the saints as one body. "Christ is our life;" Hence we read:

Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; and whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him."

This is the character of the life we are to live for "the little while" that Christ is hid in the heavens, and so take His place in the darkness, blameless and harmless the sons of God, without rebuke, "in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world: holding forth the word of life." For Christ now, and like Him morally, because living in His life; with Him soon in His Father's glory, when we shall be altogether like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Then the purpose that was His as far as we are concerned, that brought Him forth into this world will be fully and for ever realized.

J. T. Mawson.

Love is of God.

Beloved let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love."

There is no subject with which we occupy ourselves when we are together so much as love. When we approach God, we have to speak to Him continually about His love. If we seek to encourage one another in the knowledge of God, we have to speak of love, because God is love. We have no such thought of God naturally. We think, like the wicked servant, that He is hard and unkind. That was the thought we had in our unconverted days. What an awakening it is to our souls when we learn that God is love, when our eves have been opened, and we have been turned from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God, when the Holy Spirit has shed abroad in our hearts the love of God! What a marvellous light it is, the light of the perfect revelation of God by the Holy Spirit that He has given to us! We are partakers of the divine nature, because we love Him. The love that first loved us has got a response in our hearts. The Lord says, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love to one another." Why? Because there never was any leader amongst men who taught love but Himself. There is no system of religion but Christianity which has love for its very life. No one lives to God who does not love Him. Peter says, "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren." That is the way it works out. The practical effect is love to the children of God. See, says the Apostle "that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently." He desires that we might be more in the enjoyment of that love, and that we might be able to express that love to one another. Paul says, "Be ye kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." (Eph. 4:32.) How is it that he can speak to us in that way? Because in the second chapter of the epistle we are said to be quickened with the life that is in God. There is no life there anywhere but in God. "God who is rich in mercy for His great love wherewith He has loved us" has stepped into the realm of death, and "has quickened us together with Christ." Hence we are to be imitators of God, as dear children, and walk in love, as Christ loved us. John speaks a great deal about love. What was true in the Gospel in Christ is now true in the saints, as presented in the Epistle. He says, "He that saith he abideth in Him, ought himself to walk even as He walked." How did He walk? He walked in love. Then he says, "Brethren, I write no new commandment, but an old commandment, which ye have heard from the beginning." Christ never altered the character of His teaching. He taught the same thing from the beginning to the end, and He is teaching the same thing to-day, so that we are asked to let that abide in us which we have heard from the beginning. The old commandment was that we should love one another. He says he does not write a new commandment and again he says he does write a new commandment. How is that explained? It is the new commandment when you come to the epistle. It is the old commandment in the Gospel, because in the Gospel it is only found in Christ; in the epistle it is found in us.

John would encourage us. He says, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God." All natural affections are of God. Natural love is of God, and in spite of the fall it has been preserved in the hearts of human beings, otherwise the world could not exist. But when he says, "love is of God," he meant it is His nature. It is divine love which has been manifested, the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, so that we love Him. Our love to Him, and to one another, is only just the faint springing up of that love that has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit of God. Love is of God, and he that loveth has God's nature. What does that mean? He is born of God. More than that. He knows God. We know men. We have no difficulty about that, because we are men, and we know what men are. We do not know what angels are, fallen or unfallen. We could not give any account of them. If we wanted to approach an angel, or get a favour from him, we should not know how to address him. We should not know how to affect him at all. We know how to approach men, and we know how to approach God. We know God. He that loveth is born of God. God is his Father. He is a child of God. God knows us perfectly, He knows all those that are His. He knows the one that loves, but the one that loves knows God. What a wonderful thing that we in the midst of this world of darkness, can say, "We know God." Not only do we know Him, but we know Him a very great deal better than we know ourselves. We sometimes think we know ourselves very well, but after all, most of us who are converted to God would have to say, "We never conceived the depths of evil that lay in the flesh as we do now that we have been brought to the knowledge of God." You cannot tell so well how things are in the darkness as you can in the light. We are brought out of darkness into God's marvellous light, and there we see things as they really are. I say our knowledge of God is greater than our knowledge of ourselves. It is only as we know God that we do know ourselves. It is a wonderful thing, but it could not be otherwise that our knowledge of God is always in advance of our knowledge of ourselves.

"In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him."

It is not a mere sentiment we have in our hearts. It is not anything we have conceived ourselves, some idea that may be baseless. It has had its most perfect manifestation. Naturally, we should put verse 10 before verse 9, and supposing one was preaching the gospel of the grace of God, it might be right to do so. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." When we are awakened to a knowledge of our sinfulness, it is that we want removing. We want our sins forgiven, but John, speaking of what divine life really consists in - because love is the nature of the life - says, "In this was manifested the love of God towards us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him." It was not merely that He had compassion on our lost and ruined condition, but it is rather that God might have something out of us. We must be brought to God. He must have us. He must possess us, not only that He might have His own pleasure in meeting our deep need, but that we might live to Him. He would possess us in that way, because if He has got our affections He has got us. If you get a man's affections, you will get the man. If you get God's affections you get God, and if God gets hold of your affections, He gets hold of you. He sent His Son into the world that we might live through Him, and live to Him in a new life, in the life of Christ, who lived perfectly for Him. "In Him was life." The Jews thought it was in the law, and it would have been there for them, if they had been able to fulfil their obligations, but they were not, and instead of finding life in the law, they found death. Here is One in whom life is. They had thought it was found in the Scriptures, as the Lord says, but He tells them, "They testify of Me." The Scriptures pointed to Him as the One in whom life is. "But you will not come to Me, that you might have life," He had to say to them. In Him was life. The tree of life was here in this world when Jesus was here. God sent Him into the world that we might live through Him. There was the necessity of His death, but I am only stating what He was when He was here, irrespective of His death. He was the One in whom life was. As to whether it was available for men or not apart from His death, that is a different matter, but it was in Him. So He says in John 6, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven." He was the bread of God that came into the world, that a man might eat thereof and not die. We must begin by the appropriation of His death. He had to die in order that we might be able to appropriate Him, that He might be made available for us, but the object of God in sending Him into the world was that He might possess us wholly for Himself. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us." We do love Him now, but that is not where we are to see and know what love is. We are not to look at the saints to see love. We are to look at God. There you have the source of it. The love that saves comes down from heaven. It does not rise from our hearts to God; it comes down from God's heart to us. "He loves us," and it is in the death of Christ that the love of God is seen in all its greatness and glory. No creature can measure it, because no creature can measure the death of Christ. If you can measure what it was for the Eternal Son to lay aside His Godhead glory and come down into this world in humiliation, and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, then you would be able to measure the love of God. We could not possibly measure the death of Christ, because it is of infinite value, and God alone knows the value of it, but if we could measure it, we should be able to measure the greatness of His love. We can do neither, for the one is as great as the other.

Then he comes to the application of it. "Beloved, if God so loved us." What then? Naturally we would say that we ought to love Him, but it is not put that way here. "We ought also to love one another." Whom did God love? He loved us. He loved the brethren. What will that love do if it gets into my heart? It will do the same thing that it did in the heart of God. It will turn towards God's children. It does not say we ought to love God. The law said that. Here it says, "If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." That is our obligation, but is it a law of liberty? Every saint of God in the world is precious to our hearts. We may get under the power of the world, and the flesh may become dominant, so that this love may not be seen, but at the bottom of our hearts, and in the heart of every believer there is love to all the the children of God. But here love is practical. "Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth." What is the good of secret love? "Open rebuke is better than secret love." What is the good if it lies only in my heart, and is not manifested towards anybody else? It is of no value to anybody. God's love was in deed and in truth. The commandments of God in the New Testament are infinitely beautiful, and most encouraging. Take for instance what the Lord says to Peter. Peter says, "How often shall my brother trespass against me, and I forgive him - until seven times?" The Lord says, "I say not until seven times, but until seventy times seven." There is no limit to our forgiveness of one another. Is that a tremendous demand upon us? No, it tells me that what God is seeking is to make Himself manifest in us. Hence, if He says there is to be no limit to my forgiveness of my brother, that means there is no limit to His forgiveness of me. I have only to act towards others as He has acted towards me. If we love one another, God is seen in us. We read in John 1, "No man hath seen God at any time." What is the answer to it? "The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." The answer to it in the Gospel was Jesus; the answer to it in the Epistle is the saints. "By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another." If we love one another practically what will be the effect of it? Everybody will say, "These people are disciples of Jesus." Why so? Because nobody ever taught it but Himself. They have been in the school of Christ. Every avenue in which the love of God has run in Christ will run in you and me. If we love one another the saints will get their share of that love. If we are going on with God the saints get it, and the world gets it. The world hears the Gospel, and we rejoice when the Gospel is preached. We help those who preach it, if we cannot preach it ourselves. What is the spring and fountain of all that? All these energies proceed from the nature of God, which we have, for God is love. The love is perfected in us, and there is nothing lacking. Wherever you go saint and sinner are met by the love of God, for "we have seen, and do testify, that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world."

"Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Christ, God dwelleth in Him, and he in God." But what is God? God is love. He dwells in love, and love dwells in Him. "He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him." Then we have, "Herein is, not our love, but love with us made perfect, that we may have boldness for the day of judgment." The love of God reached us when we were in our sins. When we believed the Gospel, that love was shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us, and nothing can separate us from it. It is with us day and night, and that love of God will keep step with us through our whole wilderness journey. It will never abandon us for one single moment. It will keep step with us right through until at last it will have its satisfaction in that day when we shall be changed into the likeness of Christ Himself. Then love will have its satisfaction. It began with us when we were sinners. It is always ours, and all its power is always at our disposal. When we are in the glory like Christ, then the love of God, which has been with us all the way through, will be perfectly satisfied. "Herein is love with us made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment." When the day of judgment comes, we shall be like Christ Himself, we shall be like the Judge. We have boldness for the day of judgment, because "As He is, so are we in this world." If we are before God in all that love and favour and grace that rests upon Him, if that is the love and favour that rests upon us, then we may be perfectly assured that when the day of judgment comes, we shall be like Him, because as He is, we are now. It is a marvellous statement. It may be very difficult for us to take it in, but there it is. Is He in the love of God? So are we. We are supposed to know it now. We do know it in a way. By and by the world will know it. When we appear in the same glory as Christ, the world will say, "After all what was preached here was true. The Father sent the Son, and He has loved those people as He loved His own Son." "That the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me." Do we believe that we are treated by God exactly as Christ would be treated in the same circumstances? It is a marvellous thought. We need to carry it really to the Lord to have it made good in our souls. We hear these things so often that our familiarity with them seems almost to breed contempt. They have not the power over our souls that they ought to have, or as perhaps they had the first time we heard them. They ought to have infinitely more power over us every time we hear them, but we are such foolish things, and so wayward. We get so occupied with seen things, that we do not live in the power of these unseen things.

There is no fear in love - no terror. Perfect love casteth out fear. The perfect love of God gets in, and fear has to take its flight. The love of God casts out fear. "We love Him, because He first loved us." When we did not love Him at all, when there was not one spark of love in our hearts towards Him, He loved us with all His heart. He loved us with all His heart when we hated Him with all our hearts. That is the thing that will get right into our souls that it may be the life of our being. Then we will go through this world as different people to that we would go through it if we had not it in our hearts. He goes on to say, "If a man say, I love God, and hate his brother, he is a liar." John does not mince matters. He that loveth not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? If I see God in a man, if I see the divine nature there, and my heart does not go out to him, you may be quite sure it does not go out to God. If a man did not love Christ, who, perfectly manifested God upon earth, it only proved he did not love God. Your brother is the one who has the divine nature. You see it in him, and if you do not love Him in your brother, you will not love Him in Christ. If you do not love Him in Christ, you will not love Him in heaven. This is the commandment, that he who loves God, love his brother also. It is not a grievous commandment. It is not a commandment of which we are afraid. It is not a commandment we do not wish to obey, or to which we would close our ears. It is a commandment we love to obey, if we only keep ourselves in the enjoyment of that love, and the power of God's Holy Spirit, then the saints will get all the benefit of that love, and we will be greatly blessed ourselves, for "If a man love Me, be will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and we will come unto Him, and make our abode with him."

James Boyd.

Joint Partakers of God's Promise.

In connection with the truth of "the mystery" the thought of the oneness of all the saints in Christ is strikingly prominent. In Ephesians 3 it is specially conspicuous, for we are told there, that the mystery which was previously hidden, but now made known, reveals that all are "(1) joint heirs and (2) a joint body and (3) joint partakers of God's promise in Christ Jesus by the glad tidings" (6). This verse shows that all the saints, according to the mind of God, are one collectively as "joint heirs," one corporately as "a joint body," and one vitally as "joint partakers of His promise in Christ Jesus." In all three aspects oneness is insisted upon by the Spirit of God in relation to the mystery concerning Christ and the assembly.

In our papers on this most important subject, we spoke of the central fact of the mystery, - the corporate aspect, and of the riches of the glory of it. We then considered the primary part of this great truth, - that of joint heirship. The third and final fact now remains to come before us. May God graciously help us in our meditation upon it. His promise in Christ Jesus, of which the beloved saints of God are joint partakers by means of the gospel of His grace, must be exceedingly blessed, for it is hall-marked by divine permanence and perfection, as everything in this relation connected with Christ and the assembly is, for it is according to His eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The dewy loveliness of it must abide in all the freshness of youth eternally. The bud, the blossom, the beauty, the bloom and the fruitful benefits may disclose their varied treasures, yet all develops and enlarges from the same vitality already participated in from the beginning. That handsome Prince of noble mien and generous mind, has still the life-blood flowing in his veins of which he partook when a babe. Right and admirable growth there has been, but potentially all was there from the first. It has but found the suitable and essential means of expressing itself by proper stages of growth. Fundamentally the original principle remains the same however, and without it the development were impossible. Of our blessed Lord, the King of glory, the Originator of life, it is said, "In the beauty of holiness from the womb of the morning, Thou hast the dew of Thy youth." In Him it abides in eternal perfection; and of His bride, the assembly, it is said, after sharing in His Kingdom glory for a thousand years, - she comes "as a bride adorned for her husband." In lasting freshness and responsive love she is still beautiful and pleasing to Him whose glory she is. Like her beloved Bridegroom she retains eternally the dewy loveliness of youth, along with all that she has gained since He first made her His.

The "Joint Partakers."

The redeemed from amongst the Jews and from amongst the nations are the joint partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus, and the gospel is the means by which they are called into it. Unlike Israel of old, who partook of special privileges through their natural birth as belonging to that nation, the rich blessings of the mystery are ours now through the call of God in the glad tidings of His grace; for the "preaching" is "according to the revelation of the mystery, as to which silence was kept in the times of the ages" (Rom. 16:25). It is in Christ Jesus we jointly partake of the precious promise of God. This involves a new standing for us altogether outside of Judaism and the distant ground on which the nations stood, having "become nigh" in Christ Jesus by His blood. A new state is also ours, for "if any one be in Christ there is a new creation, the old things have passed away; behold all things have become new: and all things are of God Who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ." The old standing and the old state have no place there, "for in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation."

We are told in Ephesians 2 that Christ has broken down the middle wall of enclosure between Jews and Gentiles, making both one, and becoming Himself the bond and peace of the joint partakers. The old enmity which had existed between them He has annulled in His flesh, reconciling both to God in one body by the cross, where the enmity was slain when He died for all. The Jew spirit however still asserts itself where this truth has not been learned experimentally. Where new creation in Christ Jesus is not known in power, religious pride, pettiness and rancour appear. So also does the Gentile love of lawlessness with impatient and impetuous energy show itself insubject to God's order. It is therefore of the utmost importance that the truth should be known in experimental power by the joint partakers of the promise of God; for it is said in regard to the new creation in Christ, "As many as walk by this rule, peace upon them and mercy" (Gal. 6:16). They are created into one new man in Him where He is our peace, therefore oneness is to be known by the joint partakers in gracious reality: unity will necessarily be sought in a practical way, according to the instincts of the new nature which is ours, and the one Spirit who indwells all, for none of us are independent of the other joint partakers. In Ephesians 4:3 we are exhorted, because of contrary influences which are not of the Spirit nor of the new man, to use diligence to keep "the unity of the Spirit," - in a practical manner, - "in the uniting bond of peace." Only the real are embraced in this unity, and only the true joint partakers can respond truly to the exhortation. Others may appear to do so, but it is in the very nature of the joint partakers to ever seek practical unity according to the truth. Nor will their desires remain unanswered, for at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ all will be completely assembled to Him.

Judah and Israel were held together in practical oneness under David, the anointed of God, as joint partakers of the blessings secured in Him for the nation; but even in His days the divisive spirit showed itself in "a man of Belial." "He blew a trumpet, and said, We have no part in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: every man to his tents, O Israel" (2 Sam. 20:1). The seed was sown that day: and though the evil work was stayed there and then, nevertheless it bore its bad fruit long after, for we read in Rehoboam's reign that the people answered the king, saying "What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David" (1 Kings 12:16). So Israel departed, and the break between Judah and Israel was made. In contrast to this, the true joint-heirs surely say, All our portion is in Christ Jesus as also is our inheritance eternally, let us abide in Him! We are all joint partakers of God's promise in Christ Jesus by the gospel.

God's Promise.

There are many promises of God, and we are told that they are all confirmed and established in Christ, the Son of God; - "for whatever promises of God there are, in Him is the yea, and in Him is the amen, for glory to God by us" (2 Cor. 1:20); but it is a special promise which is in view in the truth of the mystery, not "promises," but a specific, distinct "promise." It is not plural, but singular. Just as in Eph. 3:11 we read of "the purpose" which centres in Christ, so this is also something distinctive. It has the stamp of eternity upon it as all the essentials of the mystery have. The inheritance of the joint heirs is eternal, the body of which we are joint members is eternal, and the promise in Christ Jesus is likewise. It was given before the ages of time: it will endure beyond the ages of time: but it is ours in Christ Jesus now, the "Spirit of promise" being already given to us; and He is the power by which divine realities are experimentally enjoyed.

The law proposed life for man, but it was unable either to give life or secure righteousness from man in the flesh. We are told, "It was weak through the flesh" though in itself "holy, just and good." Do and live, it said to the sinner of Adam's race; but the sinner could not do, therefore the holy law of God could only condemn him, and "the commandment which was for life, was found," says the apostle, as to himself, "to be unto death" (Rom 7:10). Had there been a law which was able to give life, "then indeed righteousness were on the principle of law" (Gal. 3:21); but before the law, yea, "before the ages of time" God had promised life for man. That promise is in Christ Jesus, therefore He must come where we were to free us from sin and death, that we might have life in Him. The law, as we have seen, said, Do and live. The Lord Jesus, when we could do nothing, died that we might live, - died that the promise might be ours actually, - died that we might be joint-partakers of it in Him. How great the grace of God to give such a promise! How wonderful the love that brought His beloved Son to die to secure it for us! How marvellous the wisdom that devised the plan! All glory to God.

It is of promise, therefore it is not of law; and yet the fact of it being mentioned in connection with the law indicates what was in the thoughts of God for us; so also did the first tree which is named distinctively in Scripture - "the tree of life!" This was not forbidden like the other tree, but after man fell he was governmentally placed beyond its reach, and the giving of the law, rightly understood, brought home to man, his sinfulness and his own incapability to obtain eternal life. He was shut up to God, and He found a way for us to "partake" of that which was in His heart for us before the world was, through the death of His Son; so that He could say, of the one who appropriated His death in faith, life was his, - "He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life."

This life in all its infinite preciousness knows no decay or ending. Promised before the ages of time, it abides beyond the glorious days of the Kingdom and dominion of the Son of Man; far beyond the days of millennial magnificence, right on through the ineffable blessedness of the eternal state when God is all in all. Yet even now it is ours in Christ Jesus. It is ours by the grace of God. It is ours by the gift of God: If "the wages of sin is death" - rightly and justly - nevertheless, "the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). That gift cannot be measured; it is beyond every human estimate or definition, but thanks be to God, it is ours through the act of divine favour.

We are told in Ephesians 4:17-19 of those who are alienated from it all, - "estranged from the life of God." What a contrast they are to the joint partakers of God's promise! They walk in the vanity of their mind, - and what foolish vanity it is! The seat of all true balance in man is submerged in darkness, - "being darkened in understanding." Ignorance of all that is right before God and man enslaves them, although they may profess to be wise. Grossness and hardness of heart leads them to "cast off" every refined and even proper natural feeling; and as a result they abandon themselves to lasciviousness, while unsatisfied lust leads them more eagerly to work all manner of uncleanness and greed, for such are still joint partakers of the life of "the old man which corrupts itself according to the deceitful lusts." The joint partakers of the mystery have put off the old man and put on the new, and in contrast to the other, it is created in "truthful righteousness and holiness." Life according to God is known here. His promise is realized here. His gift is enjoyed here. The life which is in Christ Jesus is partaken of by the saints of God. Therefore to abide in Christ is all important for us, and to let the word of the glad tidings which called us into it abide unspoiled in us; for "if that which ye have heard from the beginning abides in you, ye also shall abide in the Son and in the Father. "And this is the promise which He promised us, eternal life" (1 John. ii 25).

"In Christ Jesus."

In two other passages the Spirit of God speaks through Paul of this promise in Christ Jesus besides that which we have considered in Ephesians 3:6. The eternal character and nature of it are shown in both (2 Tim. 1; Titus 1); and in each scripture the glad tidings are also mentioned as the means of its being made known to us, according to the commandment of our Saviour God. In the first, when failure was spreading widely amongst those who professed the faith of Christ, the apostle falls back upon the changeless promise of life, and holds even his service "according to the promise of life, the life which is in Christ Jesus." Other things may alter and men may fail, but this abides, for it is ours in Christ Jesus, as God Himself promised. It is termed, "The promise."

The apostle seeks to strengthen Timothy in his trying path by this truth. Seven times he speaks of what is "in Christ Jesus" in this second letter. The truth of Ephesians is specially indicated. All is secure eternally in Him he seems to say, therefore be encouraged, - "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." Even the glad tidings which call us into these rich blessings were getting into disrepute, but Paul exhorts him to "suffer evil along with the gospel according to the power of God" and then with gracious and tender thoughtfulness he reminds him that He "has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages of time, but has been made manifest now by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has annulled death, and brought to light life and incorruptibility by the glad tidings." How cheering and stimulating is all this! In Christ Jesus all is ours and all is secure eternally, and the gospel of divine grace makes known the triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ over death and corruption for man, so that life and incorruptibility might be now his through faith in Him.

In Titus 1 the Holy Spirit adds, in regard to the promise of eternal life, that the One who made the promise could not fail of its accomplishment in regard to the elect, for He says, God "cannot lie."

What a comforting limitation of holy perfection is this! and then the eternal life for which we have the sure and certain hope to enter upon in all its fulness at the return of our Lord Jesus Christ is already manifested in the word of the proclamation of the gospel, and that, as we are told in Titus 1 and Romans 16:26, "according to the commandment of the everlasting God."

The life therefore is ours now in Christ Jesus. It is "the gift of God" in Him to us (Rom. 6:23). There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, and there is no separation from the love of God which is in Him (Rom. 8:1-28). Divine grace and power have set us, through Christ's death and resurrection, where the eternal promise is already the portion of the joint partakers. In view of all that God has done for them in and through Him they have good reason to "boast in Christ Jesus," and to join with the apostle when he says "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ" (Eph. 1:3). It is of God that we are in Christ Jesus for His everlasting glory and our present and eternal blessing.

"By the Gospel."

The means by which we have been called into this is the gospel. It is the instrument which God has used. He has called us in His grace by the glad tidings, and He has saved us. Our works had no place in the matter, for the very best works done by man out of Christ are called by the Spirit "dead works." No deeds of ours could have given us a new standing in Christ Jesus before God, in a new and living state; but having heard the Word of the glad tidings, and received it in faith, we "passed out of death into life." Aaron's family might enjoy a place of special nearness to Jehovah through their natural birth, but this has no place in connection with the mystery of Christ and the assembly. Not by natural birth or family privileges but by the gospel are we brought into these vital realities. "In Christ Jesus ye who were once afar off are become nigh by the blood of Christ."

The gospel is that which God uses in the power of the Spirit. Of old, God's earthly people entered into possession of the land by conquest, but that of which we speak is ours through no prowess of our own. It is by the divine and effectual call of the glad tidings which we have believed. Truly the experimental and practical enjoyment of our rich possession involves energy on our side, but that is another matter. Official appointments gave men under the old covenant great advantages, but this does not count here. The apostle of life, John, it is striking to notice, does not speak of these things. He does not even call himself "an apostle."

How wonderful indeed are the glad tidings of the grace of God to-day! They call us into blessings of the most exalted character - blessings that are abiding — eternal!

They call us into a fellowship which is above every other known in heaven or earth by the favoured of God, - "the fellowship of God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." They give us a hope which is greater than any other, - conformity to the image of God's Son in heavenly glory, "the hope of the gospel." Little wonder then, when failure abounds on all hands, that these glad tidings are attacked so severely. Nevertheless, God's Spirit is here, and will maintain the preaching of the word in divine power till the end, - "the Word of God is not bound;" with royal grace it hastens onward to complete its glorious mission; nor will it cease to do so until the last of the joint partakers of God's promise in Christ Jesus according to the mystery receives its glorious message. We may well therefore, like the Philippians of old, as fellow partakers of the benefits of the glad tidings, be found "labouring together in the same conflict with faith of the gospel"; "standing firm" in "one spirit" and with "one soul"; watching at the same time that we conduct ourselves "worthy of the glad tidings of the Christ;" and showing practical fellowship with those who faithfully proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Soon the message of grace will have accomplished its task, and all who share in the eternal riches of the mystery will be glorified with the Head of the assembly. His fellow heirs and brethren, the fellow members of His body, the assembly, and the fellow partakers of the promise in Him will be all together then as one with Himself where He is! The promise given before the ages of time will be known in all its actual fulness; the life manifested in Him when here on earth will be enjoyed in suitable and glorious surroundings then; the eternal life for which we hope, but which is ours now by God's gift, will be entered upon unhinderedly; the oneness of those who are joint partakers now will be seen in a glorious unity; and then "when Christ who is our life shall appear," we also shall shine forth with Him in splendour and glory. Lord Jesus, hasten that day! We long for its brightness and beauty, and, above all to see Thee, its Centre, and its Sun.
"Lord, haste that day of cloudless ray, -
That prospect bright unfailing;
When all shall shine in light divine
And glory never fading."

H. J. Vine.

Living Stones and Priests.

1 Peter 2:4-9.

Perhaps there is no form of evil we so easily slip into as that of clericalism. I do not mean elders or deacons, who were from the beginning, appointed by the apostles, or by men like Timothy or Titus who were commissioned by the apostles to do this (Acts 6:3; Titus 1:8). These cannot be appointed to-day, for we have neither apostles nor their delegates, but where we find men who have the qualifications for such offices, it is our privilege to recognize them. This is nothing but godly church order; but to attempt to put them into office is another matter.

There are two reasons for the insidious way in which clericalism has crept into the church of God, and for the hold it has got upon His people. One is that saints are so busily engaged with the things of this world that when they come together they feel themselves unable to take up the service of the sanctuary, and they are relieved if they can find anyone willing to approach God on their behalf. Another reason is the desire on the part of some to occupy a position of honour, and to be of some importance in the assembly of God; and this is considered by them adequate compensation for the extra burden by this means heaped upon their shoulders. This soon develops into a paid ministry, a priesthood, and popery. Such are, if you believe them, the clergy (Greek kleros). They are lords over God's kleron, and monopolize the name that rightly belongs to all believers.

All believers, whoever they may be, are the lot, heritage, kleros, of God, separated to Him out of this world, purchased by the precious blood of His own Son, born of God, possessing His life and nature, priests holy, and priests royal, and all these things are as true of the babe in Christ, as they were of the apostle himself, for this we are taught in the first and second chapters of this epistle.

And all these things were true of those believers whom Peter here addresses as "newborn babes." They had not made great progress in the knowledge of God, but they were the fruit of His testimony, as rendered in this evil world. Every one of them had a living link with the living God; for His word had got into their hearts, and had taken deep root there; and the word when it gets rooted in the heart, is the link between the soul and God. It was this, from Abel down to this present day, and it shall be while this world lasts, for there can be no other link with God. It is the revelation of His grace and love, the light of the knowledge of Himself in the heart of the believer. It is the incorruptible seed, and it lives and abides for ever. Where that seed is, there is the vital spark of divine life; and where it is not, there is moral death. The word of truth is that by which we are born again (James 1:19); and the word of truth is the gospel of our salvation (Eph. 1:13).

Now the gospel is that which has turned us to the Lord, He whom the Spirit of God here calls "a Living Stone," a stone rejected of men, but chosen of God, and precious. We have an early intimation of this in Matt. 16:13-18, where Peter is said to confess Jesus as the Son of the living God. This was a definite revelation of the glory of His person made to Peter by the Father; and our Lord says "Upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." This power of life that was in Him was manifested in His resurrection: He could not be bound by the cords of death. By dying He annulled death, and by the same act He broke the might of him who ruled over man, holding him in bondage by the fear of that which was the expression of the judgment to which man was liable on account of sin.

Now to this Living Stone we come. The believer is a living stone by the life-giving power of Christ. He is of the same nature as the rock upon which this glorious edifice is being built. Everything in this building is of the same nature, from the foundation to the top stone. The stones are instinct with the life of the Son of God, and by Him are they put in their places, and the whole building is growing to a holy temple in the Lord (Eph. 2:21). Here the hand of man does not appear. Here can enter nothing that defiles. The Lord Himself is the builder, and therefore is everything secure. I have no doubt that when it is revealed in the day of the glory of Christ, it will be seen to be the Holy City, that comes down out of heaven, having the glory of God. Then the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and the nations of them that are saved shall walk in the light of it.

It is being builded of living stones; not like the temple that Solomon built, which, though the wonder of the world, was built of stones cut out of the natural rock; all lifeless material; this house is instinct with the life of the Son of the living God.

But the stones that compose the building are the priests who offer the sacrifices. Every stone in the building is a priest and qualified to offer sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. But as the building is a spiritual house, so are the sacrifices spiritual. The temple in the past dispensation was a material house, and the priests were a carnal priesthood, and the sacrifices were of a carnal order also. Here everything is spiritual, everything divine, everything pulsating with the life of Christ. Every stone in the building is radiant with the love of God. The house is resplendent with His grace, His righteousness, His holiness, His faithfulness, His truth. The temple built by Solomon was glorious, but the temple being built by the greater than Solomon has a glory that excelleth.

And the priests are the stones that compose the building, and they are the aggregate of the redeemed of this dispensation. They have boldness to enter into the holiest. They can draw near, not at stated times only, but at all times. And their sacrifices are spiritual. They draw near to present Christ to God. As the Israelite brought his offering to God, whatever it may have been, it was typical of Christ, so does the priest of God in this dispensation draw near to God with Christ upon his lips, to tell Him what He has learned of Him. He may be but a babe in Christ, and may have as yet learned little of the glories of his Saviour, but such a sacrifice is ever welcome to God. His offering may be small, like two young pigeons in the old order, but it is acceptable to God, because it is Christ. He may have learned much about His Redeemer, and may be able to present that which in the past might be represented by a bullock, but it is no more acceptable than the smallest presentation of Christ. A man rich in faith brings a large offering, and a poor man brings a small offering, but both speak in the ears of God what they know of the same Person, and both are acceptable, for Christ is precious to God, and also, through grace, to us. And this priestly service is to go on continually, not only when we come together, and not only when we retire into our chamber and shut the door, but at all times, and in all places. We can always draw near to God, and we shall always find a welcome.

There is another character of priestly service spoken of in verse 9, that is, a royal or kingly, priesthood. We are kings as well as priests. Melchisedec was both, and so is our Lord and Saviour, Jesus. We also are both, and in the meantime, before the day of reigning comes, we exercise this priestly service by showing forth the virtues of Him that called us out of darkness into His marvellous light. We are to come out down here in the heavenly characteristics of Christ. These are to be displayed before the men of this world. On the one hand, as holy priests we present Him to God; and on the other hand, as kingly priests we present Him to the world. With God this meets with acceptance, but with the man of this world it meets with utter rejection, and awakes persecution from the haters of Jesus. We have been called out of darkness into His marvellous light, and in His light we are to shine in this dark world. But the light is always hated, and therefore we are not disappointed if we meet with the same kind of opposition that fell to the lot of our Lord, for He has said that if they hated Him, they would hate us also. But next to being saved, to suffer a little for Christ is the greatest favour He could confer upon us.

May we be thankful for our privileges.

James Boyd.

"Behold! I and the Children."

Many years ago, when I was but young in the faith of Christ, I was crossing the Atlantic to preach, by the help of God, the gospel which was precious to my own soul, and the saving value of which I greatly desired others to know; feeling that, be the nation what it might, it consisted of but two classes, the saved and the unsaved - "the children of God" and "the children of the wicked one" - the "wheat and the tares," spoken of by the Lord in Matt. 13.

I longed earnestly that all might be saved, might taste of the grace of God, and become His happy and holy children, and as I was meditating on the blessedness of their relationships, I began to compare it with other relations in which the children of God stand toward Him.

Children they are to begin with: they are also saints; then we find sheep of Christ and members of His body, and also the house of God, composed now, as it is, of living stones. That is, we have a family, a flock, a body, and a house, where, indeed, in the fullest sense, all is, or should be, vital. The first of our two classes - the saved, may, in the days of Christianity, be regarded as consisting of these four component parts; that is, each saint is a child of God, a sheep of Christ, a part of the house and a member of the body of Christ, and each has the privilege and the responsibility of these varied relationships. Let us consider that of the family.

First, the whole human race is (we read in Acts 17) the offspring of God "who hath made of one blood all nations of men." That is, God is Creator, and, in a secondary sense, Father of the whole family. Man was made of the dust and God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul. "The first man is of the earth (the dust) earthy" (1 Cor. 15) and to dust he returns. We do not read of any such infusion of breath into the nostrils of lower animals. Special attention was given to man as the destined head of creation. Hence when we reach the end of the long genealogical tree of Luke 3 we read the words: - "Adam which was the son of God," or more correctly: - "Adam which was of God." Mark these words; man came directly and immediately from God. Just as Seth was "of Adam," so Adam was "of God." The degrading theory of evolution from a lower animal - a gorilla, an ape or a toad, has no place here, nor should it have in the conception of him who was created in the image and likeness of God.

No, Adam, man, was "of God." That was his origin; and, though fallen and marred in every way by sin, he still retains that image. We are low enough morally in all conscience, let us not lower ourselves further. Our origin was high - inferior only to angels, let us endeavour to realize it, and act more worthily of it.

Second. Children. This signifies relationship. To be a child there must be birth. There is no such relationship in mere adoption - no consanguinity, no participation in nature or life. Affection there may be, but that is all. Hence, God's children must be "born of God." This alone forms the family. Let no one presume to think, as alas, so many do to-day, that they are the children of God who have never been "born again," nor "taught of God," nor drawn to Christ by the Father - Let no mistake be made here. You cannot claim God as Father, nor truly address Him as such, unless you are His child. We are not children of God by creation but by grace; and, in this view, the popular idea of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man is an absolute delusion and a most mischievous error. The chasm existing between the children of God and those of the wicked one cannot be bridged by the efforts of statesmen, politicians, philanthropists or dreamers. Such well-meant efforts are a mere waste of time. There must be a change of nature effected by the Spirit of God - a new birth. This dream of the brotherhood of man was little understood by the first two brothers that ever lived, nor has the spirit of it developed during the intervening centuries, as the merciless cruelties of recent wars declare.

But the family of God, nevertheless exists. The precious relation between God and man as Father and child, that are made such by the grace of that Father, the cleansing death of the Son, and the work of the Spirit within - this is a fact placed beyond all dispute, and made visible in the life and conduct of all those who are commanded to be "imitators of God as dear children." They love one another. This did not Cain, who, in a passion of jealousy slew his brother, proving that he, spite of his offering, was "of that wicked one," while Abel in virtue of his requisite offering, obtained witness thereby that he was righteous, and therefore on the divine side of the chasm. He was clearly a child of God.

The children of God have His nature, and that nature must express itself. They are "taught of God to love one another," and that not merely in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth; and this love is the strongest proof of their relationships with God. Oh! that the love of the 1st Christian century were but half as strong in the 20th; still thank God, spite of the abounding iniquity of the day, we do love one another, and desire the good and blessing of the whole family of God. We "love as brethren." The family is the circle and sphere of love. And how? "For God is love" - How much might be written on this fairest feature in the divine family! The Apostle John dwells on it continually, his great theme being the display of the nature of God in love, first in His Son and then in the family: whilst giving equal force to the exhibition of His character in righteousness. He states that "God is love," and also that "God is light."

How can you explain the mystery of a man, for the first quarter or half of his life, being a God-hater and a persecutor of His children, like Saul of Tarsus, and then, for the rest of it, being a lover of God and of His people. It is a miracle. Yes, but it is the miracle of new birth. It is the mighty moral change that transfers the man from being a child of the wicked one to that of a child of God, and, thank God, such a miracle is not uncommon - it is God's work. Is this change necessary for the enjoyment of future blessings? It is absolutely necessary. Heaven would be a positive and intolerable hell to a child of the wicked one. He would (if he could enter) find not one element congenial to his nature or taste. He hated God and His holy ways on earth; nor could he love them in heaven. Oh! it is well and happy even now to be a child of such a God and Father, but what will it be, soon and forever, in yonder house of love and light and glory - all secured for us by the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Third - "Sons of God." We need not treat of angels, who are so-called in one or two passages, seeing that they do not belong to the race of man; but, while the relation of children flows from the nature of God by whom they were begotten, the position and rank of sons is given them on account of the Spirit of His Son who now dwells within them - now - in these days of Christianity and the presence of the Holy Ghost on earth. The children are raised from a condition of non-age (minors) to that of full-age (majority) as we read in Gal. 4. They can cry by that Spirit, "Abba Father" after the pattern of the Son of God Himself when in the dark shades of Gethsemane.

"If children then heirs - heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ," true, but note the inevitable consequence: - "if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be glorified together" (Rom. 8:17). Co-heirships in glory means companionship in suffering and testimony till the glory itself shall come, and then the whole blood-bought family, in all its members, shall be "conformed to the image of the Son that He may be the firstborn among many brethren," then shall He say: - "Behold I and the children which God hath given Me" - all are in the same relation - "My Father and your Father," albeit He and they - the "I" and the children given to Him - differ so widely. What a family when all shall resemble, the Son of God - conformed to His image - He the chief foremost - most glorious! What a family when all shall be in the Father's house - at home - in the presence of Father, Son and Spirit; where evil, sorrow, death and Satan are displaced for ever by good and holiness and joy and life divine!
"Where deceiver never can enter,
Sin-soiled feet have never trod,
Free - our peaceful feet may venture
In the Paradise of God."

J. Wilson Smith.

Paul and the Mystery.

It was as a prisoner at Rome that Paul wrote the Epistle to the Ephesians. Some say that it was a circular letter: whether it was so or not is of secondary importance, its great interest to us is that in it we have the fullest opening out of the great mystery CHRIST AND THE CHURCH. If Israel, God's earthly people, were once the centre of all His ways here, now, the church, the body of Christ, is infinitely more so. The Apostle, severed from every link that would connect him with Israel, is now conducted by the Spirit to apprehend fully, and in practical detail, the secret of God, which had been kept secret from the foundation of the world. Cut off from everything he valued on earth, he can now contemplate in a cloudless atmosphere the full beauty and grandeur of the great mystery.

There are two great things peculiar to the mystery: one is that we all - Jew and Gentile - are raised together and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ; the first thing is that we are heavenly; and the second is, that in the same power which raised Christ up we are raised up. That is a power entirely outside and beyond everything of man; and resulting from it, there should be, because of this power working IN us, a growing up to Him, the Head in all things; and this with absolute and decided victory over all the power of the devil. So that there is not only the height to which we are raised out of all here, but the immense moral superiority in which all are placed now on earth, the very place in which we were alienated from God. We are brought to the greatest heights (for God hath made us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ, Eph. 2:6), by the greatest power, (His mighty power which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead, Eph. 1:19-20), and because we are heavenly, we are competent to be descriptive here of Christ, from the highest circle, the assembly, down through the various relationships of life to the very humblest conceivable, the condition of a slave, and at the same time, superior to the wiles and the power of the devil. This the latter part of the Epistle brings out.

How entranced the Apostle must have been as all this by the Spirit came before him with inspired words. Surely he would justify God as to all the discipline he had been subjected to, in order to make him a vessel fit to impart the greatest communication ever made to a man. We little understand all the pains, as I might say, which the Lord takes with us to render us in any measure suited for His work.

J. B. Stoney.

"The Glory of God and Jesus."

"But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:55).

"The glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God", and a man upon earth full of the Holy Ghost, unafraid of that glory and in living union with the Man exalted there - this was the revelation of an entirely new order of things, a heavenly order of things, which can only be known on earth by the Holy Ghost who has come from that glory. Let us diligently seek to understand this - and it is only by the teaching of the Holy Ghost that we can understand it - then we shall understand Paul's gospel and "the mystery" of it (see Eph. 6:19; Col. 1:25-27).

The truth of the assembly, the body of Christ upon earth, really commences with this that Stephen saw. His eyes were turned away from the world; he probably never was held by the gross things in it, but he had had his part in the religious side of it; but now we see him separated from it, the temple, the priests, the learned leaders of the Jewish system, all have faded from his view; even an earthly kingdom with the divine Messiah at its head is surpassed and entirely eclipsed by that which now enthralls him - the glory of God, and a Man at the right hand of God. This wonderful revelation is the more arresting in that the Man who could stand at God's right hand, in the presence of that glory before which the highest angels fall prostrate with covered faces, was the One whom the world had judged to be only worthy of a malefactor's cross, but it is not that which we wish to emphasize here. It is the fact of the glory of God and Man being in absolute consonance. We know that that Man was "Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever" (Rom. 9:5), but that is not the point of this passage. The Lord is spoken of by His personal human name. It was JESUS whom Stephen saw, the One who was born in the manger at Bethlehem, who died upon the cross of Calvary, who was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, and who had ascended bodily to that glory. He was and is for ever absolutely agreeable to that glory, nay, altogether necessary to it, and that this might be known the heavens were opened, and Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, saw by the power of the Spirit that to which he had to bear witness ere he died, and that which was to be the beginning and body of all Paul's ministry. The glory of God has found a Man; apart from this the purpose of the glory in regard to men could never have been fulfilled, and itself must have remained hidden from the universe for ever. That Man is Jesus, who loved us and died for our sins, and consequently we cannot be indifferent to this great fact. Our hearts are glad because of what this means for our Saviour; we have often considered Him as the despised and rejected of men, "the shame of the cross and Jesus" we often think of together, but now it is "the glory of God and Jesus"; we cannot but be glad and rejoice as we consider this.

This is only one side of the new order of things which here comes to light, and yet we must dwell further upon it, for everything takes character from it. We must not confine our thoughts of the glory of God to the place of exaltation into which Jesus has gone, that is described as "the right hand of God"; there is much more in the expression than the thought of locality. It is the shining out of what God is in His very nature. The expression has its own special significance. Moses desired to see the glory of God, but the time had not then come for it, though God gave to His servant a partial revelation of it, proclaiming His name as merciful and gracious.

These two qualities are an integral part of that glory, as the prominent place that they occupy in the Epistle to the Ephesians proves; but the glory of God - the full display of His nature and ways - could not be revealed until He had a Man in whom it could shine forth and who could maintain it in all its radiance, undimmed and untarnished by any failure for ever. That God has secured this now is proved beyond doubt by the fact that He has thrown open the heavens and shown to us "the glory of God and Jesus".

The other side of this new order is more surprising and, perhaps, more difficult to grasp, but just as real and true. It is that the Holy Ghost has come down from the exalted Man, our Lord, bringing with Him the full knowledge of the glory of God, for He is the Spirit of that glory, and that He now indwells believers on the earth and unites them in a vital union with Christ who is exalted at the right hand of God. Stephen is a pattern of this, for he was not only a witness to what his divinely-anointed eyes beheld, but he became descriptive of Christ in the midst of the most adverse circumstances. It was not in the fact that his face shone like an angel's that he was descriptive of Christ, for the glory of an angel is not the glory of God, and his face shone in this manner before he looked up steadfastly into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus; but it was in that most wonderful grace that made him pray with his last breath, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge". Thus was the life of Jesus made manifest in his mortal flesh. But this could not have been had he not been a member of the body of Christ, and he could not have been that had not the Holy Spirit come from Christ to make him so. What else but Christ, morally, could the Holy Ghost bring from heaven? Nothing. What other business has He but the displacement of self and the forming of Christ in the lives of those whom He indwells? None. And Stephen is the pattern of it. In him we see a man upon earth brought into perfect accord with the glory of God, and this not only in the fact that the glory of God and Jesus filled his eyes objectively, but that the life of Jesus was formed in Him subjectively, and manifested itself practically in the very world out of which Jesus had been cast.

Stephen may have been an amiable man or the reverse, it matters not; what he may have been naturally had no place here; he was full of the Holy Ghost, and Stephen was displaced and Christ shone out. "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Beholding the glory of the Lord he was transfigured into the same image.

But the Holy Spirit who filled Stephen did not dwell exclusively in him. He dwelt in Stephen because he was a member of the body of Christ on earth, and every believer in the exalted Lord Jesus is equally a member of the body of Christ; and, consequently, the Holy Ghost dwells in each and all. And the body is to be descriptive of Christ. This is the great theme of the Epistle to the Colossians, and to this end we who "were sometime alienated and enemies in our minds by wicked works, now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present us holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight" (Col. 1:21-22), i.e., in the presence of that glory we are as Christ is, for we are part of Him, and He is in us as His members, and consequently we are to be as He is in the place where He is not. Nothing in which men can boast or contribute can help the body of Christ. The best that man can produce belongs to the world that is passing away, for the glory of man is as the flower of the field. But the assembly, which is His body, has its origin in and takes its character from the glory of God; the Man who is entirely agreeable to that glory is its Head and life; and the Holy Ghost who has come from that glory is its unwearied power. And we are looking for the glorious day when the work of the Holy Ghost in the Church will be finished, and when it, as the holy city, shall descend out of heaven from God, having the glory of God (Rev. 21:10-11). That which she will be then, when her light shines forth like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal, is being formed in her now by the Holy Ghost. She is being fashioned according to the glory of God and the Man who is at the right hand of God, and while failure proclaims itself wherever the eye turns in that which professes the name of Christ on earth, there is no failure in this work of the Spirit; and there shall yet be displayed to the universe the triumph of God in His counsels of blessing, and He shall have glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. J. T. Mawson.

The Holy Spirit in Relation to the Church.

The right understanding of the place which the Church fills in the ways and purpose of God, depends upon the knowledge of the special activity of the Holy Spirit in connection therewith.

It must be plain to even a superficial reader of the Old Testament, that the Spirit is constantly referred to as the active agent and power in whatever work God undertook. Creation was brought to pass by the energy of the Spirit, whether the starry universe above, "By His Spirit He hath garnished the heavens" (Job 26:13); or earth beneath, "The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" (Gen. 1:2). When God would save the world of Noah's day from the consequences of their sin and folly, His Spirit strove with men (Gen. 6:3). If a man like Bezaleel was called to do some special work, such as the construction of the tabernacle, then he was filled with the Spirit of God in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and in all manner of workmanship (Ex. 35:31). Others there were like Gideon (Judges 6:34), Amasai (1 Chron. 12:18), Zechariah (2 Chron. 24:20), with whom the Spirit clothed Himself for the time being, that He might witness through them. Yet again, a Samson is suddenly thrust forward by the Spirit on various occasions, to execute deeds of valour against the enemies of Israel. By the same action of the Spirit a Saul is caused to prophecy, or a David enabled to govern. But in all these cases the Spirit acted upon men from the outside, and used men for His purpose without reference to their inward moral character; no more striking instance of this can be found than that of Balaam (Num. 24:2).

Then, after the kingdom was established and slowly sank into corruption and decay, the action of the Spirit changed, and He definitely took the line of the Spirit of prophecy, the testimony of Jesus the Messiah, revealing beyond the dark night of Israel's sin, the bright morning of God's purpose for them and the world-wide blessing that would ensue. Nevertheless, these revelations did not extend beyond the earth. The peculiar work of the Spirit in connection with heaven, which was to fill the long interval until these things should be accomplished, was a secret hidden in God. With the returned remnant of Judah, the Holy Ghost was the Spirit of encouragement amidst circumstances of opposition and depression (Hag. 2:5). "My Spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not." Then followed a period of silence for about four hundred years, to be broken by the raptured utterances of holy men and women announcing by the Spirit the advent of the Christ of God. In due time He came, conceived by the Holy Ghost, and when the hour of His service arrived, publicly sealed by the same Spirit. Now for the first time there was a Man on earth to whom the Spirit was given without measure. In Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead, consequently His words were the words of God; they were Spirit and they were life; all He did was done by the Spirit, and to say otherwise was to blaspheme against the Holy Ghost. At last came the closing scene of Calvary, when in the shedding of His precious blood, He through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, the Holy Ghost thus witnessing that the redemption price was paid, His work was done. But the wondrous story does not end, for His resurrection declares Him to be the Son of God with power. By the Spirit of God He is raised from the dead, and on His ascension to heaven, a new era, the Spirit's day, begins. It commences in heaven, for Christ having ascended in victorious power leading captivity captive, receives gifts in the man, according to Ps. 68:18. As really and truly a Man in the glory of God as when here on earth, He receives of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:33). At His baptism the Holy Ghost descended upon Him in relation to His personal excellence; none could share in this: but as man in heaven, redemption being accomplished, He received the Holy Ghost that He might shed forth the same upon His redeemed on earth. It was, in fact, the prelude to the fulfilment of His word to them; "Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, not many days hence" (Acts 1:5). It was this act which distinguished the Church in its formation and calling from all that had gone before. There was now a Head in heaven and a body on earth, made one in the power of the Spirit: but we must examine this more closely.

During the ten days that followed the Lord's ascension, the disciples were drawn together by their common interest in the facts of His death and resurrection. They were a company of individuals, the remnant of Israel, separated from the nation by their faith in the Messiah, but they were not incorporated into one body in which each would be members one of another in union with the Head. On the day of Pentecost the prophecy of Joel, which has a millennial bearing, was antedated, and the pouring out of the Spirit which took place constituted the baptism with the Holy Ghost; the result being that by one Spirit they were all baptized into one body (1 Cor. 12:13). It is important to observe the significance of this giving of the Spirit. It was the act of the risen Head in heaven in the exercise of the office foretold by John the Baptist, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost". As in baptism there is an immersion in the element of water, so this initial company of believers was, so to speak, submerged in the Holy Ghost, brought absolutely under new direction and control, and received a new name, "the Christ" (1 Cor. 12:12), for they had become one body with the Head above. The signs of the Spirit's presence were wind and fire; wind is a fitting symbol of the liberty of the Spirit unfettered by human control, while the cloven tongues of fire set forth that the Spirit could rest upon each on the ground that judgment had been accomplished, and that henceforth Jew and Gentile in one body had access through Christ by one Spirit to the Father, to offer praise and worship, in spirit and in truth. A beautiful illustration of this inaugural baptism is in Psalm 133. The precious ointment was upon the head of Aaron, but it went down to the skirts of his garments; when Christ received the anointing of the Spirit as Man in heaven it was shed forth upon all His own, so that the feeblest member was reached by it, nevertheless, it was still upon Himself the Head. In this lies the force of the Scripture "He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (1 Cor. 6:17). There could be no repetition of this initial act; the one body was formed, there could be no other, and to it believers have since been added by the sealing of the Spirit. Sealing must not be confused with the baptism of the Spirit. Sealing is individual, baptism is collective. When a believer receives the Holy Ghost, the seal of his faith in Christ, he is brought into that one body which was inaugurated at Pentecost.

Another result was consequent upon the coming of the Spirit; those who formed the one body became also the dwelling place of God. God the Holy Ghost was in personal presence, not an influence exercised from a distance on certain occasions, but actually present and abiding. Note the twofold action in Acts 2:2-3. Filling all the house where they were sitting, and resting upon each one of them. The first indicated that God had again a house on earth, even as when the glory filled the tabernacle, or the temple which Solomon built. But here was now no material building made with hands, but a temple of living stones having Christ for its foundation and inhabited by the Holy Ghost; maintained by Divine power in the midst of a hostile world, until at the coming of the Lord it shall be translated from earth to heaven. The second was the announcement that as members of Christ's body they had all been made to drink into one Spirit, the Holy Ghost was not only dwelling amongst them, but abiding within each as our Lord had promised: "He dwells with you and shall be in you (John 14:17). What a blessed unity! who that realizes it in the smallest measure would wish to substitute for it the patchwork devices by which many seek to hide the present broken condition of the Church. The various efforts on foot to produce some outward unity, are at best the seeking for some compromise in which each sect shall be able to maintain their sectarian differences under the cloke of outward conformity, and in the process, alas! every vital truth is being given up, and men are found usurping the place which belongs alone to the Holy Ghost. What, then, is the path in which the Spirit would lead the members of Christ in this day of confusion? Not, indeed, to make a unity, but to acknowledge the union which He formed at Pentecost; not to seek a fresh baptism of the Spirit, but rather grace to walk in the power of that which has been bestowed; to cast away the things which have caused the disruption and scattering, and to allow the Holy Spirit to gather to the Name and authority of the Head all who acknowledge that Name alone. The Holy Spirit has never departed from that first inauguration at Pentecost. He asserts as clearly as ever to-day, there is one body, one Spirit, one hope of our calling (Eph. 4:4). The Lord's Supper is the continual expression of it. "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, one body, for we are all partakers of that one loaf" (1 Cor. 10:17). All the members of the body have part in this, and none may be excluded, except those who in doctrine, or practice, or ungodly association, are found inconsistent with the holiness of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, which the Holy Spirit is here to maintain. Should any such be excluded from that which it is their privilege to do, it should be grief and sorrow to the other members of the body, for being one body and having one Spirit, the members should have the same care one for another, suffering with those that suffer, and rejoicing with those that are honoured. This will suggest the consideration of how much help and ministry is lost, in failing to maintain the truth of the Headship of Christ. He has set gifts in the Church, given them not to a part but to the whole. These gifts are distinct; there are various services and operations, yet none are opposed, but intended rather to work together for the edifying of the body of Christ; because the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God, operates all things in all. Alas! how easily we let slip the brightest and the best things, and in mistaken zeal build closed houses which shut away from one another those who are members of the same body to their own loss and the loss of those who dwell not with them. God changes not His purposes; the day of manifestation will sweep away the wood, hay, and stubble of human devices, and reveal the workmanship of God. Then shall we adore the marvellous grace of Christ, who, as Head of His body, has amidst all the failure sanctified and purified His Church, by washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself glorious, holy, and blameless, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing. This is His side; if the contemplation of it causes us to be ashamed of our side, may we consider our ways, and seek grace to walk together more worthy of the calling wherewith we have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, bearing with one another in love, using diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit.

James Green.

Membership and Fellowship.

The baptism of the disciples with the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost marked a new departure in God's ways; entirely new things were then and there established. In the first place the "one body" became an accomplished fact. Secondly, the Apostle's fellowship came clearly into view. Membership is in Scripture connected with the former, not with the latter.

Between the one body and the Apostle's fellowship the closest connection exists, yet are they quite distinct and distinguishable things. The one was, and is, a fact of a spiritual nature only to be apprehended by faith, the other, a fact of an historic nature, though based upon spiritual realities, capable of being apprehended by ordinary powers of observation, at least in its beginnings before human failure had marred it.

The one body is an actual existing fact on this earth. It is the body of Christ, sometimes spoken of as His mystical body, though incorrectly as we believe, since the word mystical tends to infer that it is something lying in the region of pure theory, or something hidden in the heavens, and thus to obscure the fact that it is an existing thing on this earth. This truth is clearly seen in 1 Corinthians 12, where we find members feeble or honoured, suffering or rejoicing, as the case may be. These experiences are actual, not theoretical, and are clearly upon earth and not in heaven.

The one body was formed by the baptism of the Spirit: this 1 Corinthians 12:13 shows. Seeing that this baptism took place on the day of Pentecost it may be wondered why the fact was not revealed, and stated in Acts 2. But a very essential feature is that the body embraces both Jews and Gentiles, and hence it was appropriate enough that the revelation of the fact should wait until Gentiles too were baptized into the body. In Acts 2:15-17, Peter treats the reception of the Spirit by the Gentile Cornelius and his friends as a baptism of the Spirit, and it was after this and through Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles, that the truth was revealed, though the body had existed from the day of Pentecost.

The fact that, though the one body existed from Pentecost, its existence was not recognized apart from the subsequent revelation as to it, which revelation, like all others, needs faith for its reception, just proves what we previously asserted, viz., that the one body is a fact of a spiritual nature only to be apprehended by faith. That three thousand souls had on the day of Pentecost received the new teaching of the Apostles and, consequently, consorted with them in their society and fellowship, was a fact of another order, capable of being apprehended apart from faith.

In 1 Corinthians 12 the salient point as to the body is its oneness, and this oneness is based upon the truth that it is formed by one Spirit, and is therefore of an organic nature with nothing of the artificial about it. The one body is therefore the fruit of an act of God. It is His workmanship. We did not make ourselves children of God. We were born "not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13). Equally so, we did not make ourselves members of the body of Christ. That, too, was not of the will of man but of God. It comes, therefore, under that declaration which applies to all God's works of a spiritual nature, "I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever" (Ecc. 3:14). No human opposition nor failure can touch it. It abides to-day.

And its unity abides to-day: this can be said with equal certainty. The multiplied divisions of Christendom have not in the least affected it, though they have grievously marred the fellowship which was so fair in apostolic days. "There is one body." Those words are as true to-day as when penned to the Ephesian believers.

Let us, then, again emphasize this oneness. There has been but one body all through the ages, and there are not two, in any sense whatever, to-day. It is very necessary to ponder this in all its bearings lest, in some subtle sense, which we hardly discern, we do after all entertain the thought of more than one. Some who firmly believe in one body, and would utterly repudiate the thought of two opposed bodies, which might be expressed diagrammatically by two circles side by side, might yet be very inclined to contend most stoutly for the same thought in a guise which might be expressed by two circles, one large and one small, the smaller within the larger especially if in the diagram the circles were not concentric, and the centre placed in the middle of the little one.

Into this one body are "we all" baptized (1 Cor. 12:13). Here all saints are in view - all who have received the Spirit of God. The body in its universal aspect is before us. The words with which verse 12 closes - "so also is Christ" - prove this. The body is identified with and bears the name of the Head, but, then, that is the body viewed universally and not in any restricted or local sense. Elsewhere, however, the body is viewed locally in this Epistle, as, for instance, verse 27 of chapter 12. In this verse "the" should be omitted, and we read, "Now ye are body of Christ, and members in particular". That is, the whole assembly in Corinth, comprising every Spirit-sealed person in the place, bore that character. In chap. 12:17, the local aspect of the one body is also evidently in view.

When, therefore, we view the Church as the one body - the body of Christ - we are considering it as set by an act of the Spirit of God, in pursuance of the Father's counsels, in certain relations with Christ: relations which involve a very high and wonderful place of privilege, and, further, which are intended to profoundly affect our lives, and particularly our behaviour one to the other. In other words, proper Christian fellowship is largely, though by no means exclusively, carried out in the light of the truth of the one body.

The Apostles' fellowship of which we read in Acts 2 was of course proper Christian fellowship. It came into evidence on the day of Pentecost through three thousand souls receiving the Apostles' doctrine, and that doctrine was the Apostles' as received from the Lord Jesus Christ. "I have given them Thy word" were His words as recorded in John 17. The full character of the fellowship, however, hardly appears to have come out at once. We turn to the Epistles for that.

In the Corinthian assembly true fellowship was gravely imperilled. Corinth was second only to Athens in its love of philosophies with their attendant schools of teaching, and the tendencies prevailing in the world crept into the Church. This resulted in their forming parties, or schools of opinion, around favourite teachers, parties which, if unchecked, would have developed into open divisions. Four things, indeed, seem to have marked the Corinthians, which successively and progressively mar true fellowship:
1st. Worldliness (chaps. 4:8, 5:1-2, and 6:11-18 in the second Epistle).
2nd. Men far too prominent in their thoughts to the obscuring of what is of God (chaps. 1:20, 3:21, 4:6).
3rd. Schools of opinion formed round the teachings of certain of these men (chaps. 1:12, 3:4).
4th. A tendency with the leaders of the parties to evolve peculiar and distinctive doctrines, even false ones (chaps. 4:6, 15:12).

Confronted with these evils the Apostle Paul in his two Epistles sets before them as a corrective the true character of Christian fellowship. He alludes to it three times, in chapters 1:9-10:16-22, and 13:14 of the second Epistle.

In the first place it is the fellowship of God's Son. It is not here "with" but "of", that is, the fellowship is formed around Him, He is its unifying centre; and upon it His character is impressed. 1 Samuel 22 may be taken as an illustration. From the time of David's sojourn in the cave of Adullam a fellowship began to gather about him. It was his fellowship. It was not Abiathar's, though Abiathar by a combination of circumstances was brought into it. David was its unifying centre, and his character was stamped upon it. Abiathar or any other of David's followers might have been laid low by one of Saul's javelins, and the fellowship have remained unimpaired, but had David been smitten to death the fellowship would have been at once dissolved.

In the second place the character of Christian fellowship is determined by the death of Christ, of which the loaf and the cup in the Lord's supper are the symbols. His death was not only the highest expression of His love, but also the consummation of the breach between Himself and man after the flesh, and man's world. By His death, His fellowship, which is that of the Apostles, stands disconnected from Jewish sacrifices and fellowship as much as from that of heathen idolatry, as 1 Corinthians 10 shows.

In the third place it is the communion or fellowship of the Holy Ghost. Not only have we all been baptized into one body by the Spirit, but we "have been all made to drink into one Spirit". Every one called to the fellowship of God's Son has drunk of the living water of which John 4 speaks, and, consequently, has within him that well of water springing up to eternal life. Christian fellowship is not, therefore, merely an association which finds its centre in an outside Object, even when that object is so great and glorious as Christ; it is one which also palpitates with an inward spring of vitality and power in the Spirit of God. Here were the Corinthians making little circles round various teachers which should throb with admiration of the teacher in question. To such, the Apostle says, "the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all". He had previously told them "All the saints salute you, and bidden them "Greet one another with an holy kiss". Did they respond? Anyway, to get away in mind from the confined and stuffy atmosphere of sectarianism into the fresh currents of the Spirit is a blessing indeed.

The Apostle John in his first Epistle supplements the above by telling us of the vast range of spiritual treasure which is held in common by all those brought into the Apostle's fellowship. The Apostles started with the knowledge of the Word of life, and of the life itself which had been manifested to them in Him. Thus their fellowship was with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. All this they gladly communicated to all brought into their fellowship, so that they, too, might hold it in common with themselves, and share in the fullness of joy which it brings. It is clear, therefore, that Christian fellowship does not consist only in an association of an outward kind, but involves also the most blessed intercourse and mutuality of Divine knowledge and affections which all are brought to share with the Father and the Son, and with one another.

For a brief moment at the beginning of the Church's history there was perfect agreement between the membership of Christ's body and the fellowship of the Apostles. The truth that was of a spiritual nature and only to be apprehended as revealed to faith, found an accurate representation whereby it was displayed before men. We do not, however, travel far into the Acts of the Apostles before we find discrepancies between the two appearing, and soon there are to be found a number within the circle of the Apostles' fellowship, whose membership of Christ's body was open to question. We refer to the Judaizing teachers of Acts 15:1. In Galatians 2:4, Paul alludes to these as "false brethren unawares brought in". Notice they were "brought in", and hence he calls them "brethren" , but he stigmatizes them as "false" .

"Brought in" - to what? we may well ask. Not into the body of Christ, for the Holy Ghost makes no mistakes in His actings, and that is His work. Brought into the circle of apostolic fellowship yes; for even while Apostles were still personally on earth, errors of reception were committed, and the circle of their fellowship - the visible Church on earth - was no longer a faithful transcript of the one body of Christ.

Now that we are near the end, with the Church's home-call before us, it is important for us to remember that all the failure and break-up so sadly manifest, is only in the sphere of fellowship - the sphere of membership remains untouched. It is also important for us to remember that the responsibility rests as much as ever on every saint, to walk according to the Apostles' fellowship, though the only way in which we possess the Apostles to-day is in their writings - the New Testament. To commence to deal with how this may be done would carry us beyond the proper limits of the present article.

F. B. Hole.

The Holy Spirit of Promise".

The work of the Holy Spirit of God finds a large place in the Epistle to the Ephesians. This might be expected where the mystery concerning Christ and the assembly is so prominent, for the Spirit's special mission in the world during the present period is immediately connected therewith.

He is designated "that Holy Spirit of promise" in chapter 1:13; and twelve times is He spoken of in this epistle. His present service in securing the assembly, the body and bride of Christ, for her living Head in heaven is shown, and that in accord with God's eternal purpose in Christ.

That purpose concerning His beloved Son filled His heart and mind before the ages of time; and, though to the natural eye it appears otherwise, He works all things in regard to it: "according to the counsel of His own will" everything is resolved in relation to that unalterable purpose, for the deep joy of His own heart, and for the glory and satisfaction of His Son.

The Holy Spirit has come. Eternal redemption having been obtained in Christ through His blood, He seals those who believe in connection with the exalted Object of divine counsel, and gives them a foretaste of the glory to which they are going, while He comforts, cheers, and strengthens them on their way, ministering the unsearchable riches of our Lord Jesus Christ and His surpassing love to their expectant hearts. Christ is the glorious Object in view in all the Spirit's work, just as He is also of the purpose and counsel of God, and He becomes the one pre-eminent Object of our hearts too, as the Spirit is unhindered and ungrieved within us.

Neither ourselves nor the Spirit are to be objects for us. It is His pleasure to show us the things of the Father and the Son. The Lord Jesus said, when speaking of His coming, "He shall glorify Me, for He shall receive of Mine, and shall announce it to you"; adding, "all things that the Father has are Mine".

When Abraham counselled concerning his son, his eldest servant undertook the journey to a distant land to obtain a wife for Isaac. His whole mission and work had the son in view, and that according to Abraham's purpose. The rich gifts of "jewels of silver and jewels of gold and raiment" would impress the fair damsel: the golden earrings, and the golden bracelets with the other precious things, would tell her of the wealth to which Abraham's son was heir. The words of the unnamed servant, too, would extol the object of his service, and one whom she had never seen would become endeared to her as she journeyed to join him where he was.

The Spirit has also brought to us the jewels of divine grace, the silver riches of redemption - the golden treasures of righteousness - and the precious things of the excellencies of Christ. He tells us, too, of Himself, of His glory and His love, and so wins our hearts for the Son of the Father, that it can be said of us - before we see Him face to face —"Whom having not seen ye love; in Whom though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye exult with joy unspeakable and filled with the glory ".

As we have previously seen, the mystery in the first place speaks of Christ's co-heirs; secondly, of the fellow members of His body; and thirdly, of the joint partakers of life in Christ. When Rebekah came to Isaac he dwelt at "Lahairoi", at the well of "the, living one". There she shared in all that was Isaac's. As one with himself she partook of the same inheritance and of the same life. At the end of the Bible the Spirit shows us the bride of Christ - one with Him in glory - one with The Living One. Everything is seen to be marked by life in the energy of the Spirit. The Book of Life is there. The Fountain of life is there. The Tree of life flourishes there. The pure River of water of life flows there; and meanwhile, before the Bridegroom calls her, the Spirit and the bride say to Him, Come! She longs to see Him! Then, turning earnestly to those still "dead in trespasses and sins", she says, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely"!

Life and the Spirit are found together in the Word, and both are the portion of those who belong to Christ. Indeed, it is said in Romans 8:10, "The Spirit is life on account of righteousness". This is ours to know in divine power now, before the glorious day to which we are hastening onward. Therefore we may well allow our glad notes of praise to resound along the heavenward road
"Now by grace the Spirit's given,
Here to us these themes belong;
Let us sing the song of heaven;
'Tis our everlasting song!
Endless life in Christ possessing,
Let us praise His glorious Name,
Glory, honour, power and blessing,
Be for ever to the Lamb!"

The Spirit and Christ's Co-Heirs.

The first mention of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians speaks of His sealing the co-heirs (chapter 1:13-14). This sealing is individual, but it is in view of what is collective. Each one who hears the Word of truth, the glad tidings of salvation, and believes in Christ, is immediately sealed with the Spirit of promise. It should not read, "After ye believed", but "having believed ye have been sealed".

The Spirit is here designated "The Spirit of promise" because the heirs and the inheritance are before the mind. His coming was often foretold. He is yet to be poured out on "all flesh" ( Joel 2:28). We have an example of it in Acts 2; but only one hundred and twenty were then baptized by Him. This was extended necessarily to Gentiles who believed (see Acts 11:15); nevertheless, there is no repetition of this baptism now as some seem to seek after.

By the gift and baptism of the Spirit at the beginning both Jews and Gentiles who received Him were made one. That was according to the truth of the mystery — fellow-members of the same body. Since that time He seals individuals (thus, too, they are vitally brought into the one body), and He gives them a foretaste of what is to come, when He will pervade all, for He is "the Earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession". In God's own time the inheritance will be actually possessed by Christ and His co-heirs. They have the firstfruits of the Spirit now, as being indwelt by the Spirit of promise; and these co-heirs are the sons of God, the brethren of Christ; therefore, because they are sons, the Spirit of God's Son has been sent out into their hearts, crying, Abba, Father (Gal. 4:6). In Ephesians 2:18, their liberty of approach to the Father is said to be by "one Spirit", for though He graciously seals us individually as the sons and heirs of God, yet, what is collective is in view as we have said. Christ presents them with Himself before the Father. They are one with Him, and He is not ashamed to call them brethren. His own Spirit - the Spirit of God's Son - is in their hearts. All this subsists vitally.

Now, though the sealing of the co-heirs comes first in Ephesians, because the marking off of those who are to form the assembly is in view; yet, it is well that we should notice other things in connection with the work of the Spirit.

The preaching, which calls sinners out of darkness into this marvellous association, is by the Holy Ghost sent from heaven"; and those who believe are "born of water and the Spirit". Scripture tells us that the water is the Word, and this is made operative in those who hear in faith by the Holy Spirit. A new nature is the consequence, and this delights in what is of God, in contrast to the old nature which finds pleasure in fleshly lusts. The love of God, too, is shed abroad in the heart, the love which was manifested when Christ died for us, "the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord", the love which God commends to us.

Moreover, the Spirit abidingly indwells those who believe. He is the power by which they enter into, and do, those things in which the new nature delights. The truths of Scripture become living and real to them, for the same Spirit who inspired the one indwells the other. This explains the fact that such understand what the most educated students of Scripture, if unconverted, fail to grasp. Those who have the Spirit may be guided into all truth, but those who are in the flesh, still unsaved, cannot know these things. The normal way of the Spirit is to teach us through the inspired writings. He brings them home to us by ministry or by private reading of the Word of God.

We have said, the Object in view in all His service is the Son of God, for He is here to glorify Him before our hearts. Even in the ministry of the truth of Scripture, He leads our thoughts to the One who is Himself the Truth personally. He may bring many things before us; and, when grieved, give us a sense of what we have done to so grieve Him; but, normally, His gracious work is ever to lead us to the Son of God, giving us to know His personal glory and love, and the portion which is ours with Him as His co-heirs.

The mystery itself was revealed at the first by the Spirit to the apostles and prophets. He is the Unction of 1 John 2:20, by whom we know all things. It is He also by whose power we are strengthened in the inner man so that Christ, the Centre and Sun of the coming glory, might dwell in our hearts through faith; so that the surpassing love of Christ may be our present portion. He it is who enables us to wield His sword - "the sword of the Spirit" - in the conflict with the powers of darkness, who would rob us of the enjoyment of our part with Christ. It is by Him we are maintained in the spirit of prayer and supplication; and in Him the kingdom of God is known - its righteousness, peace, and joy. How needful, therefore, is it for us to heed the exhortation, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption".

He would ever keep the Object of His mission, and the true Object of our hearts, before us; but the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. Those who are the sons of God are led by the Spirit, and the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in them as they walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. It is the Spirit who witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God; and "if children, heirs also: heirs of God and Christ's joint heirs: if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him" (Rom. 8:17). He is already glorified at God's right hand as Head of the assembly, and
"The Spirit doth unite
Our souls to Him our Head,
And forms us to His image bright,
While in His steps we tread".

The One Spirit and the One Body.

We learn in Ephesians 3:6, that the unifying of all believers into one body is the second part of the mystery: called out from amongst Jews and Gentiles they are made one. Chapter 4:4 teaches us, "There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling". The "one Spirit" is named again in chapter 2:18, in regard to our access to the Father; also in 1 Cor. 12:13, in reference to the fact that "by one Spirit we have all been baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bondmen or freemen, and have all been given to drink of one Spirit". This emphasizes the vital unity of all true believers, and the power by which this unity subsists.

Throughout all the present period the Spirit maintains this vital organism, whatever failure may come into the professing assemblies of Christ: during the time of Christ's rejection, of His bodily absence from the world, of His exaltation at the right hand of God as the Head of the assembly, the Spirit never fails in His gracious work.

When Christ ascended to the Father, the Spirit came down at Pentecost upon about one hundred and twenty believers who were gathered together in one accord at Jerusalem. That was the beginning of the body, the assembly. It was the baptism of the Spirit. From that moment it could be said, "There is one body and one Spirit". It could not have been said previously, for redemption had not been secured, and risen life in and for man was unknown. Moreover, the Head of the assembly, the body, was not exalted, nor the Spirit given. Both were necessary for the forming of the one body and the uniting of it vitally to its glorious Head. It is said of our Lord Jesus Christ in resurrection, "He is the Head of the body, the assembly, who is the Beginning, Firstborn from among the dead". The assembly could not have been in being before this.

The truth of the one body was not unfolded till long after Pentecost, though the body was itself there. The truth was given to the apostle of the Gentiles to minister. There had been national dealings with Israel, and individual dealings with Abraham and others, but nothing of a corporate nature before Pentecost. Such a thing as the members of one body being vitally united together by the Spirit to a living Man in heaven was not and could not be previously known. The very gifts which are peculiar to the present dispensation are for "the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12). They had no existence till Christ was ascended to God's right hand. Those, too, which are in the assembly itself derive their diverse abilities and operations from the Spirit given at Pentecost.

The importance of the peculiar and special constitution of the assembly needs to be better understood, and the functions of the members of the body in the Spirit's power also. "All these things operates the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each in particular according as He pleases. For even as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of the body, being many, are one body, so also is the Christ. For also in the power of one Spirit we have all been baptized into one body" (1 Cor. 12:11-13). This aspect of the truth not only preserves from clericalism, but also from independency; for all the members of the one body are necessary; and where the Spirit is unquenched collectively He manifests His activities through the members for the profit of all. If all the gifts in the assembly were thus happily in function there would be oneness and yet diversity in ministry, and the distinct operations of the Spirit therewith would be for the comfort, cheer, and blessing of the whole.

The apostle Paul often refers to himself as the persecutor of the assembly. He, above all the others, became its devoted servant for Christ's glory after his conversion. Then, we are told in Acts 9 the assemblies had peace; being edified and walking in the fear of the Lord, they increased through the comfort of the Holy Ghost. Where the Spirit is unhindered in His gracious and encouraging work, prosperity in the assemblies is sure to be present. He is called the Comforter, also the Spirit of Truth. He leads, He guides, He teaches, and He glorifies Christ. He is in us and with us, nor does He leave us even when we grieve Him, for we are sealed by Him unto the day of redemption. May we therefore have grace and solicitude to see that no hindrance exists on our side. May we be self-judged, and free in heart and mind to be led and guided by Him.

In speaking of the gifts named in Ephesians 4 we said they had the edification of the assembly in view. The first two named had to do with the foundation; the second two (for they are not three) with the continuation of the work. We are distinctly told that "the apostles and prophets" laid "the foundation" (Eph. 2:20). These were given from Christ ascended, and have no connection with Old Testament prophets. The "evangelists" and "shepherd-teachers" are the two gifts remaining to-day, and will remain till the work is complete. There is also, as we have indicated, the functions of the body for its self-building up, through the working in its measure of each member and part, and thus it makes "the increase of the body to its self-building up in love ".

There is still one body and one Spirit to-day: one living organism energized by the Holy Ghost: every member is livingly joined to the exalted Man, the Head of the assembly; and it is to Him we are to grow up in all things, as we await His coming again, for
'Tis thence - now Christ is gone on high,
Redemption's work complete -
The Spirit brings His glory nigh,
To those who for Him wait".

The Spirit and the Life.

We have spoken of the Spirit of promise and the co-heirs also of the one Spirit and the one body; and it now remains for us to consider the Spirit and the life.

We saw that, primarily, the truth connected with the co-heirs was individual, but that the collective was in view, according to the first part of the mystery of Christ and the assembly. Likewise that the corporate aspect of the truth was contained in the second. In that which is now before us we have the vital side, according to the last part of the mystery.

The assembly could have no being at all apart from life in Christ Jesus. This is a fundamental matter, as Ephesians 4:17-25 shows. Either we are altogether "alienated from the life of God", or we are of "the new man" and "members one of another", partaking together of divine life. The Spirit is the power of this new life; therefore progress in every grace is to be expected; nevertheless, we either have life or we have not.

The Holy Spirit is so completely identified with this life, that in the first part of Romans 8., where the truth of freedom from the law of sin and death is prominent, He is Himself said to be life. Not only is the mind of the Spirit "life and peace" in contrast to the mind of the flesh which is "death"; but, we are distinctly told, "The Spirit is life on account of righteousness". A new principle of life in Christ Jesus, the risen Man, which makes free from the old principle of bondage, is ours. This new principle is called, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus". Eventually, at the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ, the very bodies of the saints will be "quickened", made alive, raised or changed (for quickening covers both) "on account of His Spirit" which dwells in us. Freedom from sin and death will be actually and altogether enjoyed then. Spirit, soul, and body will be blameless, and glorious too, for we shall be like Christ in scenes of incorruptibility, immortality, and glory, where the Holy Spirit pervades all in heavenly perfection.

Even now, those who partake together of life in Christ Jesus, are variously spoken of as having "eternal life", "passed out of death into life", "quickened with Christ", "alive from the dead", "living stones," etc. At the present time such are built together in the Lord, we are told, "for a habitation of God in the Spirit" (Eph. 2. 22). What cannot be found in a house of lifeless material God finds in this living structure. There He receives heart response to the "great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins" (chapter 2:5); "worship in Spirit and in truth" rises to Him in that habitation of divine life and love.

In this connection the Spirit is spoken of as being in us, and as "springing up into everlasting life", like water rising to its source's level. In the death of our Lord Jesus Christ the "great love" of God has been fully told out: its manifestation is seen at Calvary's cross; and those who appropriate the death of Christ in faith have eternal life (John 6:54). The love and the life go together; and worship flows from the knowledge of God's love, and of the One whose love it is. The Spirit sheds abroad that love in the heart, therefore worship rises responsively to God in life and love by the Spirit in His habitation, in the house of God. He dwells in the praises of His own. These are grateful and melodious to Him, for all subsists in vitality and love.

It is there also that His glory is known. All within speaks of it, for all is in Christ. The tabernacle is the type. Every board of it was covered with gold, speaking of Christ being our righteousness. The blue, the purple, the scarlet, and the fine twined linen tell of His heavenly, royal, and human glories. It was set up on sockets of silver, speaking of the redemption ground on which God's living habitation now rests in Christ, through the blood of the cross. The oil, too, as well as the blood, had its place in relation to the tabernacle. The anointing oil indicates the Spirit of God. He it is whose gracious ministry brings the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, before us. He glorifies Him and shows His things to us. These things are seen by those who dwell in God's habitation in the power of the Spirit. The natural eye sees them not. Creation and Horeb show God's glory in a measure - His power, His divinity, and His holiness, but
"ALL His glory shines resplendent
In the person of the Son,
Jesus Christ His well-beloved,
Who redemption's glory won".

Moreover, we are told, "The Anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you" (there was no natural light in the Tabernacle, it was provided by the oil). "The same Anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him". There is no need to turn elsewhere. Eternal life is here. The Father is known, because the Son has declared Him, and the Spirit leads us into the deep reality of it all. The Anointing teaches us. God is known in His sanctuary. This could hardly be said of creation simply, in the same way and measure.

The Spirit is often associated in Scripture with "living water", "springing water", "rivers of water", "running water", "breath", "wind" and "oil" or "unction". Movement is characteristic of the Spirit. He is called "the eternal Spirit". We do not get the names "eternal Father" or "eternal Son" in the Bible. The truth of the eternal Father and the eternal Son is abundant in Scripture, though not the designations. Figures of love, grace, and strength and glory are associated with these. The flow of the Spirit carries into the current of eternal realities. Fruit, too, is produced in living grace amongst those who are the subjects of His work. Mere religionists and others may try to imitate this to-day, but there is an entire lack of the heavenly and pious character of the other, even though austere rules are observed to produce it. The fruit of the Spirit which is "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, fidelity, meekness, self-control", against which there is no law - is borne with becoming grace and for the honour of God. Love is necessarily first, and it is striking that joy should be the second named. "Full of joy" and "full of the Holy Ghost" go together.

We are exhorted to be "filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:18). If we are filled thus the right condition and the right Person will be characteristic of us. To be full of the Spirit is the very opposite of being full of ourselves, our joyful feelings, or anything else. Our joy will be full indeed, but the Son of God will be before us, for the Spirit glorifies Him when He is unhindered. He will direct our gladdened gaze to Him and His things. Nor are we filled like a lake, or like the dead sea which has no outlet. The living grace of the Eternal Spirit flows into our rejoicing hearts that it may flow out as "rivers of living water": to all around the refreshing and vivifying waters are to flow: "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and chanting with your heart to the Lord; giving thanks at all times"; and to "whosoever will" the water of life is to be free: to the weary and the fainting, to the heavy laden and burdened; to the lost and the sinful, to the "dead in trespasses and offences" the fresh, living, bountiful rivers are to flow out: the word of life is to be gladly proclaimed in the gracious energy of the Spirit.

H. J. Vine.

Gatherings of Assembly Character.

During special seasons of revival, and the various activities which accompany such times, there is usually present the danger of being carried to extremes, so that the safe ground of the faith is practically forsaken, and that which is designated by the Spirit of God, "the pillar and base of the truth," is either neglected or abandoned altogether. That is the danger.

Until they were well disciplined, and seasoned by experience, the British army in France lost largely through the zeal and energy of keen soldiers whose valour often carried them too far, taking them beyond the limits set by military wisdom, and so putting themselves out of touch with support from the base of operations.

It is of the utmost importance that the present truth of Christ and the assembly should therefore be understood by us; otherwise, even our zeal in service may put us practically beyond the direction of Headquarters; and we may carry others with us to disaster, even when we think success is attending our aggressive campaign as we pierce far into the enemies' lines.

It is right to "fight the good fight of faith". We are told to do so. But the base must be well established, and the communication lines maintained intact. To abandon gatherings of an assembly character, where the presence of the Lord in the midst is known, is to court defeat; showing, shall we say, either ignorance or independence of God's present order.

The Assembly.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said, as He looked forward to the present time, "I will build My assembly" (Matt. 16:18). He also indicated that the schemes and attacks of Satan would be directed against it; but, He gave us this assurance, "The gates of hades shall not prevail against it". We should, therefore, be encouraged, and remain true to that which shall come through in triumph and victory, as being loyal to Him who is engaged in the construction of His assembly, allowing no wile of Satan to turn us aside.

This building is in progress now. Having secured eternal redemption by His sufferings and death at Calvary, Christ ascended to God's right hand and gave the Holy Spirit to be in us and with us till His return. We are, therefore, thus formed into one - "built together for an habitation of God in the Spirit"; and upon "the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (whose teaching is still the groundwork of the assembly), the building being fitted together in Jesus Christ the Corner Stone, "increaseth to a holy temple in the Lord" (Eph. 2:21).

It cannot be gainsaid that this glorious work still goes on, for the Holy Spirit Himself in the above Scriptures tells us so; but we may ask the question, Why is the assembly being thus builded? The answer is quite plain. In the future God is going to have a universal metropolis, where His Throne will be, with Christ as the Centre. This is the assembly, "the bride, the Lamb's wife". At the present time the material is being gathered together and fitted for the day of glory; and it becomes, meanwhile, as we have seen, an habitation of God in the Spirit. In the past, before Christ ascended to God's right hand, this building did not exist at all. The dealings of God with the nation of Israel and the other nations and peoples (who are to be ranged under the King of kings and Lord of lords in the millennium) are in abeyance till the assembly is complete, and till it is glorified with our Lord Jesus Christ. It is now being prepared for that glory.

The Head of the assembly is already glorified; and the assembly is not only the house of God, it is also the body of Christ. Over all things Christ is exalted as Head, and He holds this headship in relation to the assembly. He is Head over all now, though it is only apparent to faith. In the future it will be seen publicly that this is so; and the assembly which is His body, complete then in glory, is the fullness of Him who filleth all in all (Eph. 1:23).

At the present time the assembly as Christ's body is said to "grow up to Him in all things who is the Head, the Christ; from whom the whole body, fitted together, and compacted by every joint of supply, according to the working in its measure of each one part, works for itself the increase of the body to its self-building-up in love" (Eph. 4:16). Mark, this is no question of gift, but of each member fulfilling its function in the body which is the assembly. To neglect this for any other sort of religious activity is a very serious matter. Nothing furthers this "increase of the body" like gatherings of an assembly character.

As to the past, before the Head of the body, the assembly, was glorified, there could of course be no body on earth united to a Man in heaven at all. That is a self-evident fact.

When our Lord Jesus Christ ascended on high, in view of filling all things, He gave gifts to men. These, we are told, were given for the "edifying of the body of Christ, until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God". A definite end is in view. The work of the ministry at present is for that purpose. This refers to the exercise of gift very specially; but it is important to see that even in this case the prosperity of the assembly is the object. Where, then, is the loyalty to our Lord Jesus Christ on the part of those servants who are indifferent to gatherings of an assembly character?

The gifts are enumerated in Ephesians 4:11. In the past - before the Giver of them, the exalted Man, gave such gifts - they clearly did not exist. The new work, in relation to the glory which is yet to be manifested, is that for which our Lord Jesus Christ gave them to men. It is for those who are thus gifted to be true in their work to Him who gave them for the edifying of the body, the assembly.

We have spoken of the assembly as the house of God and as the body of Christ, and of the ministry, and of each in relation to the future, the present and the past. We will now consider what is the Scriptural ground of gatherings of an assembly character.

The Ground of Gathering.

In the first intimation of the assembly, in Matthew 16 we are told that the rock foundation of Christ's assembly is "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16-17) as revealed by His Father who is in the heavens. That is the ground upon which it is constructed as a whole. All gatherings which partake of the character of the assembly also find their ground in who and what He is, as we shall see.

Fellowship is involved in such gatherings, and all true believers are "called into the fellowship of God's Son Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Cor. 1:9). If the upbuilding or edification of the assembly be in view, we are reminded that the Foundation already laid is "Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 3:11).
"The Church's one Foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord."

If the gathering be for prayer then it is said, as an abiding fact, by our Lord Jesus Christ, "where two or three are gathered together to My Name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20). This covers a wider field than prayer simply, though it is in connection with prayer that the words were spoken. The Name of Christ is the ground given here. The Name speaks of who and what He is. Those gathered know this. They are gathered "to His Name", and He Himself is in the midst of them thus gathered.

In the last book of the Old Testament, when failure abounded, we read that those who feared the Lord got together, and the theme of their meditation and conversation was "His Name"; what He is became everything to them. That brought them together, and made their gatherings seasons of delight both to themselves and to the Lord who hearkened to what they said of Him. It is the same to-day! In Himself perfection is found by those that fear the Lord, although unrighteousness marks "organized religion", which professes His Name.

If the gatherings be for thanksgiving, for praise, or for worship - to "offer up spiritual sacrifices" - to exercise the functions of the "holy priesthood" - we are told that such offerings are "acceptable to God by Jesus Christ". We draw near to God "by Him": He is the One by whom we approach. In Him we have boldness, and He it is also who is the Stone, elect and precious, the Foundation of those who sing the songs of praise in Zion. He is the chief Corner-Stone likewise. He first suffered in the outside place to sanctify the worshippers by His own precious blood, and then passed in to the near place in God's own presence. "BY HIM therefore", it is said, "let us offer the sacrifice of praise continually to God, that is the fruit of the lips confessing His Name" (Heb. 13:15).

Gatherings of an assembly character are "to His Name" and "in His Name". It is as He is known that the true ground of gathering is understood. We ourselves - the saints, the assembly - could never be the ground. The assembly is builded by Him, and upon Him, and in Him. It should be noticed that the Philadelphian character of the assembly, which goes right on till the Lord's return, is faithfulness to His Word and His Name. What is involved in that Name - who and what He is - may be entered into more by some than others, and this will greatly affect the tone of the gatherings. Those who thought upon His Name in Malachi's day would increase in the knowledge of it; and now it is fully revealed, and the Spirit is given, therefore we should advance much more in the excellent knowledge of its preciousness. Moreover, those who are of His assembly stand in relationships to Him which were unknown to these godly saints of Old Testament times as we have shown.

The recognition of this will greatly enhance to us the wonderful privileges which are connected with gatherings of an assembly character of to-day, for He who is Lord of all, exalted to God's right hand in glory, is known now to the assembly as its Head and its Bridegroom. They are united to Him by the Spirit as His body, and they are brought into union with Him as His bride. Indeed, the truth of the one body should affect all our gatherings of assembly character now. Twelve loaves on the table in the Temple might remind the priests who drew near that the twelve tribes were always represented before God, but the one loaf on the table of which we partake to-day reminds the worshippers in the presence of God that all true believers "are one loaf, one body" (1 Cor. 10:17). This should never be lost sight of.

However much the assemblies may have been corrupted, the Scriptures are enough for us. They are able to "fully furnish" us. The Spirit who inspired their writing is in us. He leads us into the truth, and He forms us into one body. He is here, moreover, to glorify the Son of God. We have no authority to form religious gatherings after our own ideas. Necessity is not enough, as some say. We are told in 2 Timothy 2 to follow righteousness, as having departed from iniquity. This must necessarily involve our coming together in a right way - "with those that call upon THE LORD out of a pure heart".

All instructed believers will admit that the final words of the Bible have in view the close of the assembly's history in this world. It is there we are told of a special ministry of Christ "in the assemblies" in view of His return (Rev. 22:16-17), with the result that true believers are awakened to invite Christ to come - "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come!" These "assemblies" then are found at the end! Who therefore could think of giving up gatherings of an assembly character? Nay, rather let the word of exhortation be heeded as never before, as we draw near to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ - "not forsaking the assembling (complete assembling, i.e. of all the saints) of ourselves together, as the custom is with some; but encouraging one another, and so much the more as ye see the day approaching" (Heb. 10:25).

The Value of Such Gatherings.

This question has been raised. One would otherwise be exceedingly slow to propound it or answer it. Their value to those who are saved by God's grace cannot be estimated. It is so vast. Scripture shows us also that such gatherings are of priceless value to God Himself. There is glory to God in the assembly in Christ Jesus eternally, and the praise that rises to Him now brings glory to His holy name.

As to ourselves, first of all, we are kept in the sense of the love of Christ when we are together in assembly to remember Him in the great expression of divine love, when He died for us. Then there is also the building up of our souls in the things of God; the edifying of the saints in the truth. This takes place in ministry when we are together in assembly character as nowhere else. Special addresses and preachings, important though they be, cannot do what the other does for us. Even prayer and thanksgiving in such gatherings are edifying, we are told in 1 Cor. 14:12-19. All the Scriptures are open to those who thus meet together. A great part of them are closed to those who do not. Ignorance of these is freely admitted by many who follow the religious meetings of expediency which abound in Christendom, to the neglect of the order given in the Word of God for the coming together of the saints.

The truth thus learned sanctifies us, and by it we become partakers of the divine nature. The Holy Spirit guides us into all truth when unhindered, and we are liberated from the influences of the world which is made up of lust and pride. We are filled with divine joy in a deepened knowledge of God as He is made known in His beloved Son, and He becomes the rejoicing of our hearts as He manifests His presence in the midst of those gathered together. What words can express the riches of the glory of this? Our gain is beyond telling! It is not simply that we ere freed from the oppression of Egypt, but we are brought into the wealth of the land of God's promise in Christ according to His eternal purpose, as the Spirit brings the glory of Him who is the blessed Object of that purpose before our glad hearts.

Moreover, in the exercises connected with such gatherings we are being prepared for the coming glory of which we have spoken. The trial of our faith in regard to this will be found to praise and honour and glory in that day. To miss these exercises means to miss a great deal for the time of His glorious reign. In Ephesians, where the saints are viewed as set in the land in Christ, we are told of the conflict which goes on in relation to this. The hosts of darkness seek to get us to give up in our souls the heavenly ground on which we are set in Christ, but we are told to "stand", not in our own strength, but as "strong in the Lord". The gain of all this is great indeed.

We are not, however, to think only of the value of gatherings of an assembly character to ourselves. Are we not told that the Father seeks worshippers? Where does He receive worship in Spirit and in truth as He does from those who are redeemed by the blood of Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit when assembled together? The vast creation cannot render this to Him as they do! It is said, Let all the angels of God worship Him. They do this, but they have not the same Spirit of relationship, nor do they yield the same character of worship as the redeemed. Even our growth in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is furthered in such gatherings, is not only of great value to us but to God also. We are told that "a wise son maketh a glad father". As we grow in wisdom we minister to the pleasure of God. Is not this an incentive to us to seek to promote each other's spiritual advance - for His sake? The praise and honour, and glory too, of which we have spoken, found as the result of trial of the faith of these wise sons in the day of Christ's glory, will be of great value in His holy sight.

These gatherings not only promote that which is of surpassing value to us, but, we repeat, that which is of value to God, who is ordering all things at the present time in view of the day when everything in the heavens and upon the earth shall be headed up in Christ, the glorious Centre of all. To gather around Him now prepares us for that day, when the assembly which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all, shall be glorified together with Him. He fills our hearts together now in His presence before that time, when He will fill all things. We learn now something of the order which is pleasing to Him, and in the precious knowledge of the Father and the Son, the high privileges of eternal life are enjoyed already.
"Brought to rest within the circle
Where love's treasures are displayed,
There we drink the living waters,
Taste the joys that never fade."

When in Israel, that which typifies our gathering to Christ's Name was maintained, all prospered; when the exercise Godward of the priesthood, which drew near to Him at the place of His Name, at the temple, was in full function, there was prosperity, peace, and blessing to the uttermost bounds of the kingdom. This gives some idea of the value of assembling together to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Such help in the outgoing of the light and the truth more than is usually understood. "Bring in" and I will "pour out" is the order (see Mal. 3:10).

In conclusion, we would emphasize the importance of having no pattern before us less than that which is given by the Holy Spirit in Scripture as to the assembly. If we yield to other ideas we shall not be following righteousness, however near the original they may seem. We have no authority to forsake the path of God's will made known in the Word. There it is said by the apostle John, "He that knows God heareth us: he who is not of God does not hear us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the Spirit of error" (1 John 4:6). More are affected by the latter spirit than they are aware of. If we love God we love His children, and shall desire to gather with them. If we do not, where are we? It is written, "Everyone that loves Him that has begotten loves also him that is begotten of Him". He loves God's children, and how can any do this and deliberately avoid gathering with them before the Lord?

We are doubtless nearing the return of our Lord Jesus Christ! That longed-for day is swiftly approaching! Not only do we see signs in the nations and in the awakening of national hopes in Israel, but the revival of the ministry of Christ Himself and His love, as foretold, shows this. At that glorious time all the saints of God will be gathered together to Him in the air, as we are told in 2 Thessalonians 2:1, where we are besought to be unshaken in view of it - "by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our complete assembling unto Him". This word "complete assembling" is used in one other place, Hebrews 10, as we have already pointed out. There we are exhorted not to forsake the "complete assembling" of ourselves together, as the day of His return approaches God would not have just some of them, but all true believers assembling around the Lord. Then, as He Himself and His love fills every heart, that precious Scripture shall be fulfilled - "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come".
"Spirit and bride with longing voice, say, come;
Yea, Lord, thy word from that bright home, is,
'Surely, I will quickly come!'
E'en so, Lord, come."

Meanwhile, gatherings of an assembly character are to be maintained, and will be, even as the Word of God, which never fails, shows. To deliberately neglect these, therefore, is a very serious matter, whatever the pretext may be.

Henry J. Vine.

Apostolic Fellowship.

The Apostles' fellowship, as we have seen in a previous paper, did not long continue in its original power; yet it is quite evident that for so long as any of the Apostles remained on earth a considerable measure of power was present, and a proper discipline was largely exercised.

It is worthy of remark that discipline is connected with the church viewed as a fellowship, though it should be exercised in view of the fact that the Church is the body of Christ, and the house of God. The latter truth particularly bears upon it, inasmuch as "Holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord, for ever" (Psalm 93:5), yet if discipline be exercised so that the holiness and order of God's house be maintained, it is exercised in the sphere of practical fellowship. Offending saints were dealt with in apostolic times by their fellow-saints even to the extreme penalty of "putting away" from amongst them, so that no vestige of practical fellowship remained; yet no pretence was made of such offenders being cut off as members from "the body", nor removed as stones from "the house". All action in such connections lies in the hands of God alone. The only sphere where saints are competent to act is that of fellowship.

Passages that bear upon discipline in the assembly occur in several of the Epistles, and a careful examination shows that they divide under several heads.

There is first of all apostolic discipline. This peculiar form of it is hinted at by Paul in 1 Cor. 5:3-5, and alluded to further in 2 Cor. 10:2-10; 13:2 and 10. An example of its exercise is given us in 1 Tim. 1:20. A further threatening of its use is found in 3 John 10. Acts 5:1-13 may also be cited as an historic account of such action. This, the most powerful form of discipline, has closed with the departure of the Apostles.

Secondly, there is that form of discipline which may be exercised by a servant of the Lord acting as an apostolic delegate - such as Timothy and Titus - or by a bishop or elder duly appointed. (1 Tim. 5:20; Titus 1:9-11; 3:9-11.) "Rebuke before all"; "convince"; - stopping their mouths; - "Reject". These were actions taken under authority duly bestowed, and therefore autocratic - if one may so put it. This form of discipline also hardly exists to-day.

Thirdly, there is assembly discipline, or at least discipline of a collective nature. This may be exerted in varying degrees of severity. 1 Thess. 5:14, gives us, perhaps, its mildest form: "Warn them that are unruly". Stronger action is contemplated in 2 Thess. 3:6. If warning did not suffice they were to 'withdraw' themselves from such a disorderly brother. He was to be shunned and avoided and made to feel how the saints condemned his disorder. Again, in verse 14 of the same chapter a still severer form of discipline seems to be indicated. Some disorderly brother might aggravate his position by disregarding the Apostle's word, and with such "no company" was to be kept. Yet, even so, as verse 15 shows, he was to be admonished as a brother, and not put in the outside place of excommunication as an enemy. Rom. 16, 17 indicates action of a similar character to above. Then there is 1 Cor. 5:9-13, and here we have the extreme limit of assembly discipline. In each of these cases the responsibility to act rests on the 'brethren' - on the assembly as such - and not on individuals of gift or authority.

Fourthly, there is that action which becomes incumbent upon the faithful believer however humble, when and if disorder supervenes generally in the Church as a consequence of Scriptural discipline ceasing to be exercised. 2 Tim. 2:16-21 speaks very definitely of this. The responsibility to "depart from iniquity" always rests upon all who name the name of the Lord, and that in every shape and form, for verse 19 is the statement of a universal principle.

The case in point, however, which gave rise to the statement of the principle, is that of Hymenaeus and Philetus, and their very grave perversion of the truth concerning the resurrection. It was error of a fundamental nature calculated to overturn everything. The foundation of God was, indeed, sure and beyond their reach, but they overturned the faith of those who fell under their influence (v. 18). The faithful believer can have no compromise with this, and the illustration of a large establishment with its many vessels with their various uses is brought to enforce the necessity of purity both personal and in associations - that is, both inside the vessel and outside too. This passage, be it noted, is not addressed only to Timothy, in his authoritative position in the assembly, but to all. It is "every one" (v. 19) and "a man" (v. 21).

The question has been raised: - assuming the above to be correct, how are we to account for there being no trace of any such action, either by Timothy or other faithful men during the early centuries of Church history?

An answer is furnished by 1 John 2:19. Writing a quarter of a century after Paul's farewell letter to Timothy, John tells us of the anti-Christian teachers who plagued the Church even in apostolic days. "They went out from us", and thus they revealed their true character. The first inroad of "grievous wolves", (Acts 20:29) was repulsed by apostolic energy and the faith of the saints; and throwing off their sheep's clothing the wolves retired discomfited.

They are still seen as outside in 2 John 7-11, and being there a faithful saint, though a woman, is not to give them a foothold even in her house. Looking on to the last days, Paul prophesied that this sort would creep into houses and lead captive silly women; but the faithful woman of 2 John is to keep her door shut and withhold her salutation, inhospitable as it might seem. She was to resolutely decline fellowship down to the smallest detail.

The Epistles do not close, however, without giving us a warning as to the abuse of discipline within the sphere of Church fellowship. 3 John 9-10 shows that very early the adversary sought to discount godly discipline, destroying its force and effect, by a gross caricature through one Diotrephes. This man committed himself and others to three things. First, he would not receive the stranger brethren who had gone forth for Christ's name's sake, taking no support from the world. Second, he cast out of the Church those that would - and apparently did - receive them. Thirdly, he would not receive the Apostle John himself, apparently because he supported the stranger brethren, and disapproved of and condemned his highhanded proceedings.

So much for this short survey of apostolic instructions as to discipline in the assembly.

With the close of the apostolic writings we leave the sure ground of divine inspiration for the uncertain sands of human history. We may do well to step, in our minds, straight from A.D. 96 to A.D. 1921. Not that we would for one moment belittle the gracious movements of the Spirit of God through many different servants of Christ through the centuries, but we believe it will conduce to a clearer apprehension of the bearing of Scripture upon the present situation, and also enable us to avoid historic details which may be open to question, if we do so.

If, then, we ourselves had been but recently converted, and were just rejoicing in the discovery, from the Scriptures, of what the Church is in the thoughts of God, and of the nature and characteristics of Christian fellowship as originally instituted and regulated through the Apostles, what would be our first impression? Would it not be that the religious organizations - with which the majority of our fellow-Christians are connected - bear little or no resemblance to the apostolic model? And what would be the first question which would arise for solution? Would it not be as to whether we were bound to continue in such unscriptural organizations or whether, on the other hand, there were any apostolic instructions which would authorize the ordinary believer without gift or office in the Church to clear himself by separating from them? The passages quoted above in connection with Scriptural discipline, under the fourth heading, would soon satisfy us as to this. If in certain contingencies the individual believer was not authorized to act, all true believers ought to be presumably still in the "parent Churches" of east and west, Greek and Roman respectively, except they had been individually excommunicated by those bodies; a protesting and persecuted minority without doubt, but still there!

Finding ourselves, however, outside, the next question would be as to what Scripture authorizes us to do? 2 Tim. 2:22 supplies the answer. We are to earnestly pursue the things pleasing to God along with others who "call on the Lord out of a pure heart". It is evidently supposed that there will always be such.

We may be tempted to think the instructions of this verse very meagre for such a situation as is suggested, but are they as meagre as first sight might suggest?

"Follow righteousness", i.e., what is right. Well, what is right under such circumstances? First, to humbly and brokenly confess the failure, and not make believe that things are all right when all wrong. Secondly, to recognize that God always starts with what is right. He never, like man, experiments with the imperfect at the beginning, gradually advancing to the more finished production. Hence the way of faith, the right way, is always to revert to God's original thoughts and institutions as far as may be practicable. In the last years of Israel's history as a nation the Lord recalled them to "the old paths" and "the good way" (Jer. 6:16). It is not otherwise to-day.

We have no authority to construct anything, to organize fresh "Churches" on an improved basis as compared with what we are outside of. Nor have we authority, if we revert to the order of the assembly as established by the Apostles and revealed to us in the Scriptures, to aim at producing a more select assemblage of saints than ever the apostolic assemblies were - an eclectic company of extra choice souls - and to institute a more rigid and searching discipline, and narrower tests than Scripture intimates to attain that end. A very tempting thing this under the circumstances, and specially appealing to many earnest Christian people with a tendency to pay more attention to their own subjective consistency than to the great objective claims of CHRIST and the Church.

We are, however, authorized, we repeat, to go back to that which God instituted at the beginning; but having done so we cannot of course claim to be the original institution; at best we can only be some saints who revert to its principles, and walk according to them.

A further question now arises. Assuming that, stirred by the Spirit of God some saints are walking together according to the original instructions of the Word of God, and therefore enjoying fellowship which is apostolic in its character - what are the features which would mark it and them?

It would begin by embracing all saints as to the principle of it, and welcoming all saints, not Scripturally disqualified, as occasion might arise; though in practice it is possible that a very small percentage of them might enter into and enjoy it. The mass might remain quite unexercised as to it, and content with their various religious organizations. This is a matter of very great importance, and no fellowship which overlooks or repudiates this feature can be apostolic in its character, but must be essentially sectarian.

There would be observed the discipline which Scripture enjoins. As to morals (1 Cor. 5), as to doctrine (2 Tim. 2:17-21), and as to association with evil (2 Tim. 2:21 and 2 John 9-11), action would be taken in the fear of God according to the Word, ever remembering that as we must not fall short of, so we have no authority to go beyond what is written, inasmuch as what is written is sufficient to make the man of God perfect or complete, "throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Further, such fellowship would be enjoyed in the light of the whole truth as to Christ and the Church, just as of old the Apostle's fellowship was founded on their doctrine. This would be a corrective to the tendency always present to regard fellowship as a matter of voluntary association, to be taken up or laid down according to one's personal likes or dislikes. It would also preserve from tendencies either in the direction of an independent congregationalism or that of a Romish metropolitanism. Let the truth as to the church being God's house, and the body of Christ, in its widest or universal aspect, be firmly held, and the former becomes impossible. Let truth as to the body of Christ in its local aspect be seized and the latter tendency is checked. Both of the Corinthian Epistles in their introductions throw valuable light on this. The first is addressed primarily to the Church of God at Corinth, but linking with them in a secondary way all saints everywhere. The second is again addressed primarily to the local assembly at Corinth, but secondarily to all the saints in the surrounding province of Achaia. Here, then, we have first the local assembly, the primary sphere of all practical fellowship with its responsibilities of discipline and the like; secondly, the surrounding assemblies of the province, the first to be affected when any breakdown occurs in the local assembly; thirdly, the whole Church everywhere, the ultimate boundary to which such breakdown may extend its influence.

Again, we may safely say that any fellowship truly apostolic in character would be free from the assumption of being what it is not, or of possessing powers not within its reach. Any lofty claims to a Church position, or power not shared in by other believers who may not have had light to separate from unscriptural systems, would be very destructive of apostolic simplicity and reality. We must continually remember that at this late hour in the Church's history there is no prospect of saints being more than a feeble remnant, adhering with some degree of fidelity to God's original thoughts. The official side of things has lapsed. If men with the qualifications of an elder or bishop are to be found, we may well be thankful and submit to such, but no power of official ordination available for us to-day is delineated in Scripture.

The last feature we would mention is this: If and when difficulties and mistakes occur in the midst of such as walk in apostolic fellowship, they should become an occasion for a fresh experience of the unchanged resources of the great Head of the Church and His Spirit, and there should be no attempt to grapple with them by purely human, and much less by worldly, means.

Difficulties and mistakes will most certainly occur. They occurred in apostolic times, and it is worthy of note that though the Apostles were armed with special powers of discipline to deal with such, they used those powers very sparingly, and only in the most grave and obstinate cases, as we have previously seen. The more excellent way even for them was that of pastoral care and oversight whether in person or by letter as in the case of the Corinthians and Galatians. To the Apostle Paul the intervention of the Lord, caring for His own interests in His assembly, was a thing to be counted on and expected. Compare Gal. 4. verses 11 and 20 with Gal. 5:10. His confidence as to them was "through the Lord". How much violent action amongst saints - action if not actually opposed to Scripture, at least beyond Scriptural limits - would have never taken place if the faith which makes Christ on high, and the Spirit here below living realities to us, had been more in exercise? Then saints would have been content to act within the limits that Scripture assigns them, and count on the Lord by His Spirit present in the Church to act for His own glory as to anything beyond.

In all that has been advanced above there is nothing new so far as we are aware, and it is a fact that some ninety years ago not a few saints of a godliness and power hardly known in these days began to walk together in fellowship of this kind. It is also a fact that as time elapsed and faith and spiritual energy declined, there has been a tendency to depart from fellowship of an apostolic character, towards one of sectarian narrowness or unscriptural breadth. This has greatly complicated matters, and largely obscured the practical blessedness and simplicity of the truth.

The truth, however, stands together with the responsibility of every saint to know it and walk according to it. Just as in years gone by it was the path of faith, in the presence of the ruin of the professing Church, to revert to the truth of Scripture and walk in obedience thereto, so is it to-day in the presence of the further failure amongst those who have essayed so to walk.

Some have spoken as if the failure on the part of those who have set out to walk in fellowship of an apostolic order, has rendered any further attempt to so walk abortive, and shut us all up to a kind of helpless acquiescence in what can by no means be defended from Scripture. We venture, on the contrary, to affirm that the door of repentance (Rev. 3:19), of faith, and of first works (Rev. 3:20) - "hear my voice" is faith and "open the door" is first works - is open even in the extreme end of the dispensation; and that if failure occurs ten times over, and the situation becomes far more involved, yet there will never be any valid reason against a simple return to the truth of Scripture. Want of faith or courage upon our side alone will hinder.

Casting a prophetic glance forward Paul commended the saints to "God and the word of His grace" (Acts 20:32). Such is our resource to-day. We need but faith to discern His mind and courage to obey.

F. B. Hole.

The New Interest and the New Power.

Every one gets what he values. Mary Magdalene had simple and undivided affection for Christ, and she was the first to see Him on the resurrection day; then she gained intelligence. If I have true affection for the Lord - if my heart is right - I am sure to become intelligent sooner or later. Mary goes about His interests; she no longer has fear of losing Him; she is now in association with Him, and His interest is hers. We are in association with Him, in unchangeable relationship to Him. Oh, that we might be alive to this. And what should occupy us now? Christ's own treasure. Our souls want to know better that Christ's interest - His Treasure - is on earth. What are His saints - His assembly - to us? First, what are they to Him? The answer to that question will decide for us what they are to us if we are devoted to Him.

The Holy Ghost is the new Power, and the only power for this new interest. You can carry on the testimony with the new power, but with nothing else. Any human resource is a hindrance. The enmity of the world is aroused if you refuse its help, but you can only maintain the interest of Christ by the new Power on earth. Here it is that we have failed; we have found resources in the world in one shape or another instead of leaning solely on the Spirit of God.

J. B. Stoney.

The Spirit's Work in the Building Up of the Assembly.

We purpose taking up this subject very briefly, God helping us, as it is unfolded in the Epistle to the Ephesians.

James tells us that the body without the spirit is dead, referring to the human body and the human spirit. In the same way the Spirit of God is necessary for the life, activity, and manifestation of life in the Body of Christ. But the body of Christ is likewise spoken of in Ephesians as the household of God, a holy temple in the Lord, God's dwelling place and shrine, His assembly on the earth.

It is as the Holy Spirit is active in the assembly, that the mind of God will be expressed by the assembly. The assembly is not a machine, but a living intelligent organism, made up of the intelligence and life of each member of it; it is as response is made to the Spirit that God's mind for the assembly can be carried out. How vastly important our subject is, and how feeble must our best attempts be to state it.

It is by the Spirit that the assembly is brought into existence, and by the same Spirit the assembly is maintained.

The Holy Spirit of Promise.

The Lord in those memorable chapters in John's gospel - chapters 13-17 - spoke much to His loved disciples, ere He left them, of the coming of the Holy Spirit consequent on His going to His Father. In Acts 1:4 we are reminded that the early disciples did not receive the Holy Spirit one by one, but that they were commanded to assemble themselves at Jerusalem there to await the promise of the Father, the blessed Holy Spirit of God. It is of the utmost importance that it should be seen how the Spirit came on the day of Pentecost, as it clearly proves that our individual responsibility as Christians flows from our corporate position as part of God's assembly. The Spirit came and formed the believers into one body - Christ being the Head in heaven, the believers, the body on earth.

Once the assembly is formed individuals are added one by one, but they are added to the assembly, and not merely indwelt as individuals. That we are indwelt is blessedly true, and consequent on believing on Christ, receiving the Gospel of their salvation, believers are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise; sealed, claimed by God for ever for Himself; the Holy Spirit betokening what character He would impart to those sealed, the earnest of our inheritance, the living proof, the taste of the believer of what will be His portion in God's presence for ever.

Access by One Spirit to the Father.

In Ephesians we need to follow carefully the 'we' of the Jewish believers and the 'ye' of the Gentile believers. It was no new thought to the Jew that he was in relation to God. The tabernacle and temple services constantly kept this before him in typical fashion. But it was a new thing for the Gentile to be brought into blessing equally with the Jew.

That the Gentile believer should be blessed equally with the Jewish could only be brought to pass in and through Christ, and that by an absolutely new range of blessing affecting them both. Christ's death brought the law to an end as a MEANS of life. No one ever maintained life before God on the law principle. Yet the moral law is never set aside, and in Christianity love is the mighty controlling power, "love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10), and it is by the Spirit's power "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit." But the believer is not under law, though as led of the Spirit he fulfils its righteousness. So great is the breakdown of the flesh, that only in NEW creation can man be blessed, and in new creation "there is neither Greek nor Jew" (Col. 3:11).

In Christianity we come into new creation and therefore with new relationships. Not the least of these is that of sons to the Father. To have access to the Father means that those who have access are sons. If I have access to the King I have access to him who is a father, but to have access to him as father I must be his child. So in Christ Jesus all - Jew and Gentile - are brought nigh by His precious blood. He is our peace, not only settling every question that lay between us and God, but doing it in such fashion, and blessing us with such blessings that go far beyond settling variance between us and God, blessings of an entirely new and positive nature and connected with the purpose of God, that the middle wall of partition is broken down, and of Jew and Gentile in Christ one new man is made.

It is said there was a wall of partition in the court of the temple, pierced with gates, which admitted a Jew, but which meant death to a Gentile, if he ventured to pass through. How sweet that all restraint is gone, and that Jew and Gentile are lifted into heights that are outside of every feeling of racial animosity and pride, so that we read, Through Him [Christ] we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father" (Eph. 2:18).

The Mystery of Christ Revealed by the Spirit.

Again is emphasized the wonderful place the Gentile has as well as the Jew in Christianity. This mystery was not made known in other ages, and was revealed by the Holy Spirit to the holy apostles and prophets.

Judaism was exclusive, and treated the Gentile as an alien from the commonwealth of Israel and stranger to the covenants of promise, which indeed he was. But Christianity has altered all that no longer will the Jew in this dispensation enlightened by the Gospel look to Jerusalem as the centre, and earth as the sphere of his blessing. The believer looks to Christ in glory and finds his true home in the assembly on earth. Consequent on Christ taking His place on high and sending the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, believers are fellow-heirs of these spiritual blessings: members of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the Gospel. But stress in this passage is laid on the fact that Gentiles (see Eph. 3:6) were admitted to these privileges as much as the Jew.

How formative must these thoughts have been in the souls of the believers, and as they met in the exercises of the assembly how they must have put a deep mark on their worship. No wonder that the Apostle Paul glories in his commission to proclaim "among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8).

* * * *

"Strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man". (Eph. 3:16).

Here we find the Apostle bending his knees in prayer to God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, that the believers might according to the riches of God's glory, "be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man" (Eph. 3:16). Evidently the Apostle realized that the presentation of the truth in set terms would not effect God's purpose, that only as the Holy Spirit in mighty power gives perception to the believer through deep exercise of soul can such be attained.

And for what did the Apostle desire this strengthening of the inner man? It was that Christ might dwell in their hearts by faith - wonderful truth - that rooted and grounded in love they might be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length, and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. Mark that expression, "with all saints". How the Spirit throughout the Word emphasizes that Christianity is not an individual thing! It puts the believer into relation with the whole, and spite of failure this is still true, though failure renders the expression of it very difficult.

We are not told what the breadth and length and height and depth are. They define that which is indefinable. They measure that which is immeasurable. When we have said what we can about them we have said very little. We are on the edge of a vast ocean of divine purpose and love.
Breadth - it takes in all saints.
Length - it stretches back to distant ages when God, before time began, purposed us for blessing in Christ; it stretches forward to coming ages, when throughout eternity the saints will be in all the blessing and fullness of these purposes in Christ.
Depth - this reminds us of all the distance and shame and suffering the blessed Lord went through in order to open up all this righteously and give effect to God's wonderful scheme of blessing.
Height - we look up and see Him, who went into the lowest depth, now in the highest height of glory, and the believer made to sit in heavenly places in Christ.
The love of Christ - that which made all this possible to us, and introduced us into it - that love which went into death itself, and which passeth knowledge, infinite, eternal, divine. What exercise for our hearts! No wonder the heart of the Apostle, surcharged with divine joy, has to find relief in doxology and worship.

The Unity of the Spirit.

The believer is bid to endeavour "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3). This is a unity the Spirit makes, a unity we cannot make or break, though as individuals we may fail to answer to the practice of it. That is to say it is explained that "there is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling" (Eph. 4:4). If I am a Christian I am linked up with every other Christian as a member of the body of Christ. This is a unity I cannot make, nor can I by any action of mine cease to be a member of that body, cease to be linked up in life with Christ, the Head, and the members of His body, of which I am a necessary and integral part.

But remember there is not only one body but also one Spirit, and it is well to keep these two thoughts together. The body without the Spirit is dead, and it is only as the Spirit is active and has His way with us that the body is effectual in carrying out the mind of Christ for it. It is in seeking to be under the Spirit's guidance that we shall endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Lowliness and meekness and long-suffering and forbearance in love are qualities the Spirit would produce in us to this end. How happy if the seven ones in Ephesians 4:1-6, have a large place in our thoughts, and we adjust ourselves by the Spirit's power in relation to them.

"Grieve Not the Holy Spirit of God" (Eph. 4:30).

We must refrain from lengthy comments or else the space at our disposal will not nearly suffice. There is so much fullness in the Word, and the theme is tempting.

Suffice it to say that once the doctrinal part proper of the epistle is passed the Apostle puts right practice before the believers on the ground of their having put off "the old man, corrupt according to the deceitful lusts", and having put "on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and holiness". These exhortations to truthfulness, industry in providing means for sustenance and the help of others, purity of speech, are based on the ground that the believers were members of each other (see Eph. 4:25). Let it be observed the believer is "sealed unto the day of redemption", that is, till Christ comes to claim His own at His coming. We cannot grieve the Spirit away - what a comfort and stay! - but we are exhorted not to grieve Him. May we pay heed to this.

"Filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 4:15).

To be "filled with the Spirit" does not mean that one believer has more of the Spirit than another, but that the Spirit has more of one believer than another. That is to say, one believer may be walking carelessly, going on in a cold worldly state, and the Spirit of God is grieved, and not free to fill the heart with the blessed things of God. On the other hand, a believer may through yielding to the Lord in his life have such a filling of the Spirit that it can only find expression in praise and worship, "making melody in your heart of the Lord" (Eph. 5:18). Here we get the Spirit of joy and praise.

There is a teaching abroad that makes this filling to be a subsequent thing to the gift of the Spirit to the believer, and to be brought about by a special act of surrender and faith, and that the believer who has thus, as they say, received the baptism of the Spirit, lives on a higher plane than the ordinary Christian. We are assured that this teaching, whilst it is often the outcome of a sincere desire to be heavenly minded, is mixed up with erroneous teaching that in the end fixes the attention of the believer upon his attainments instead of on Christ and His glories.

"Praying … in the Spirit" (Eph. 6:18).

Note the earnestness of this exhortation. "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication FOR ALL SAINTS". And, further, that Paul might make known boldly "the mystery of the gospel".

Doubtless we are right to pray about our temporal needs and difficulties, but those who get no further than that don't touch this. This is expressed as the heart sees the vast field of truth concerning Christ and the Church, the Head and the Body, the heavenly relationships of the believer with the Father, that such prayer for oneself and "for all saints" is made. Do we know anything of it?

We have practically only pointed out every place where the Holy Spirit is mentioned in this wonderful Epistle to the Ephesians. Space forbids anything but the most meagre and inadequate comment, but if the reader is led to study this subject first hand and meditate upon it, we are assured that great blessing must be the result.

How can I be connected with a system which is allied to the State, or with a system seeking a place in this world, or with a system substituting man's ordering of the assembly instead of God's, if I lay hold of the wonderful truth of the Spirit's work in the building up of the assembly? May God give every one of us faithfulness to Him, subjection to the headship of Christ and dependence on the Holy Spirit. It is the praise of God and not that of men that really counts.

The Supremacy of Christ in the Assembly.

If the saints of God are to be gathered together, according to the thoughts and will of God, it must be by the truth and power of God. The truth is in Christ and the power is in the Holy Ghost, and apart from these there is no assembly of God at all.

No one will deny that the truth and power of God are unchanged, and are as able to gather the saints together now as in the first century of the Christian era, and it will be readily admitted by every thoughtful person that to knowingly introduce or be satisfied with any substitute for them is to despise them, and Christendom abounds with such substitutes. This must be displeasing to God, and while He is wonderfully patient with our ignorance, He cannot sanction or give His support to anything but that which is from Himself. God will only stand by that which He formed at the beginning, and if we are to have His approval and support, we must come back to that, and every truly exercised Christian will say, "I want nothing except that".

When God formed His assembly at the beginning, and gathered His saints together into "the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord", He was not experimenting, as some seem to think, but He was displaying, in what He did, His manifold wisdom. His truth, sufficient for His saints until the end, was fully revealed, and this abides; men may have departed from it, believing in their folly that they can improve upon it; His blood-bought saints may be indifferent to it, or be satisfied to go on in ignorance of it, but God does not change His truth because of this. It abides the same, and any who seek in lowliness of mind to carry out His thoughts, will most assuredly have His approval and support.

We propose then to consider the character of the gatherings together of the assembly as they are set before us in the Word. 1 Corinthians is the Epistle to which we naturally turn, and the 9th verse of chapter 1 sets very definitely before us the character of our fellowship together. "God is faithful, by whom ye were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord".

The assembly at Corinth, when gathered together, was not a voluntary gathering of believers, each claiming his right to be there because he was a member of the same body, much less was it a free assembly in which every one had a right to take part in ministering according as his impulses led him. There were those at Corinth who took this view of the matter, and these are corrected by the apostle, especially in chapter 14. The assembly is supposed to bear this character by many to-day, but their conception of what the assembly is, is very far from the truth. Nor was it a gathering together of a select, or selected company of believers, who had attained to a certain standard of knowledge, or who saw eye to eye as to certain lines of truth, or followed certain leaders, or adopted certain systems of teaching. That sort of thing began to show itself in that assembly, but it was most sternly rebuked in this inspired Epistle. There are those who would make it this to-day, and who have gone so far as to say that it is necessary now for us to choose our company. The former is the introduction of the principles of democracy into the assembly, and is a challenge to the truth of the assembly. The latter is pharisaical and sectarian in the extreme, and if possible is more destructive of the truth than the other. The former tends to lawlessness and disorder, and the latter to pride and bondage.

No one has any rights in the assembly but Christ; that is fundamental to the truth of the assembly, and of every gathering having an assembly character. Where it is not acknowledged the assembly is not. It is our purpose in this paper to press upon our readers that the assembly is Christ's own circle, the sphere in which He is to be supreme, and where His rights are to be maintained. It has been formed on earth by the Holy Ghost for this very purpose. Every loyal heart will acquiesce in this, and rejoice that such a circle has been formed on earth, and desire to be intelligently in it, and the more so because when Christ came into this world His every right was refused. The princes of this world, we are told in this very Epistle, crucified the Lord of Glory. Let that title, given to Him here, come before us in all its greatness, and we shall begin to realize the dignity of the assembly of which through grace we form a part, and the necessity of ever yielding to the Lord His rightful place in it.

Our minds are carried back, as we consider this title, to Isaiah 6, where the prophet saw the Lord sitting upon the Throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. There the sphere that bore His Name was filled with His glory, and the seraphims stood before Him, with covered faces and feet, and cried one to another, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts". It is this same Person of whom John speaks in the 12th chapter of his Gospel, when he sadly records the fact that when the Lord of Glory came to His own, they had neither eyes to see Him, nor ears to hear Him, nor hearts to understand or appreciate His person or mission (John 12).

As we consider His personal greatness, and acknowledge that every sphere in the universe should be subject to Him, and yet see how completely He was refused by men, how His every right was denied, it must be a cause for joy to us, that now He has a circle upon the earth in which His rights are acknowledged and His name revered.

He has been raised from the dead, and on the resurrection day He gathered together the company of His disciples whom He loved and who loved Him, and stood in the midst of them, showing to their enraptured eyes His hands and His side, which had been wounded to death for them. There we have a pattern of the assembly when gathered together. Was there one in that circle that would have talked of his own rights on that memorable evening? Would they not gladly and unitedly acknowledge His rights who was their Lord indeed, and His alone? "Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord."

When the assembly is gathered it is a circle formed upon earth in which Christ's supremacy must abide unchallenged, or it loses its character and ceases to be for His pleasure. It is a circle where Christ is all and in all, and the Holy Ghost dwells in that circle to maintain in it the rights of Christ. We read that no man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost, and that we believe means that all who thus call Him Lord are subject to Him. We must remark here, that the Lord is not spoken of as Lord of the assembly, which is His body, but as Head to it: the Epistles to Ephesus and Colosse unfold this side of the truth. But that He is Lord in the assembly when it is gathered together is as plain as can be in this 1st Epistle to Corinth. His Lordship is the most prominent truth in the Epistle, as will be easily seen by tracing out the number of times in it that this title is given to Him.

From what sorrow and disaster would the saints of God have been saved if they had remembered that the things that are written in this Epistle "are the commandments of the Lord" (1 Cor. 14:37) and had been subject to these commandments. Has anyone else a right to command in the assemblies of His saints? Certainly not! If it is His circle, He only has rights there, and the place of every one whose privilege it is to be there is that of subjection to Him. What blessing, what continuous streams of blessing would flow to the saints if His supremacy were owned by all, for He exercises His authority in perfect love. He, the one perfect, all-wise Administrator, administers the fullness of God for the blessing of His own when they are gathered together in His name.

Those who are called and gathered into this fellowship are a sanctified company. They are "sanctified in Christ Jesus", as 1 Cor. 1:2 tells us; and Hebrews 2:11 confirms this. There we read, "He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren"; and though in Corinthians, saints are not viewed as the brethren of Christ, nor is the Lord presented as Lord in Hebrews 2; yet what is interesting is that there He stands in the midst of those that are sanctified, and here in the Corinthian Epistle it is the sanctified ones who come together in His name; in the midst of them He is. These sanctified ones are not left to choose their own company, they are each chosen and called of God. The sovereign call of God sets aside the will of men.

These are the two things we desire to specially bring to the consideration of our readers: (1) That the assembly is Christ's own circle, and that this should be owned gladly and practically when it is gathered together; (2) That it is composed of those who are sanctified in Him, that is, set apart for His pleasure, to be at His disposal, separated to Him. All true believers are called to this - they are all saints by calling, and sanctified in Christ Jesus; and they call on the name of the Lord, that is, they own His Lordship. God grant that it may be done in greater reality.

It is not difficult to discern where these great truths are operative in the soul; the marks are lowliness of mind and subduedness of spirit. Alas! we have suffered much from just the opposite. We have known men professedly acting in the name of the Lord, set aside His commandments, and act in His sphere not according to His Word, but according to their own wisdom, which is folly; we have heard them talk of principles and seen them apply them to the hurt and scattering of the saints. We have to confess how little the truth has been in power anywhere; how often it has been held in terms, and how little it has been carried out in practice.

An important question and one that exercises many is, whether it is possible now to act upon the truth as it is presented in this 1st Epistle to Corinth? In some quarters it is definitely denied that we can: that since it is impossible now to gather the whole assembly together in any place, it is presumption for any to endeavour to act upon the full truth as to assembly gathering. We believe that to take that ground is to haul down the colours and surrender the fort. Jude's Epistle was written for days of widespread apostasy, and in it we are exhorted to "contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints", and surely that includes the whole faith, in which 1 Corinthians has its part. Paul's 2nd Epistle to Timothy was written to help us in these very days in which we live, and there Timothy is told to hand that which he had learned from Paul to faithful men, who would be able to teach others also; surely the truth given in 1 Corinthians had its place in that which Timothy had learned from Paul; and if anything that Paul taught, as having received it from the Lord, has come down to us, it has been committed to us that we might hold it fast as the testimony of the Lord, practise it, and pass it on to others. They are not faithful men who faint and surrender the truth or any part of it because of difficulties, and innumerable difficulties will beset us if we are determined to be faithful men; but in this good fight we shall be only the successors of Paul, and the grace in Christ Jesus that strengthened him to this end will be at our disposal.

"When ye are gathered together." Three times in the Corinthian Epistle we read of the saints there being gathered together:
1. "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together" (1 Cor. 5:4).
2. "When ye come together therefore into one place (1 Cor. 11:20).
3. "If therefore the whole church be come together into one place" (1 Cor. 14:23).

It is impossible to gather the whole assembly in any place together now, and this being so it would be nothing less than presumption for any company of Christians to claim to be the assembly of God in any place; yet it is still possible for even 'two or three' to gather together in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and as they do so, being subject to the truth, their gatherings will have assembly character.

The first of these three gatherings together is special, and most solemn. At Corinth, it was the calling together of the assembly in order to clear the Name of the Lord from complicity with evil. It was for the maintenance of the holiness of His name. It ought not to be difficult to see the necessity of this at the beginning, and it is surely as necessary to-day. The fellowship to which God called His saints at the beginning was a holy fellowship, for God is holy, and it originated with Him, and we can form no new fellowship; to do so would be to ignore that which was from the beginning; subjection to the Lord carries us back to that. Our Lord's Name is holy, for He is "the holy and the true". The Spirit of God who has formed the assembly and by whose power it only can exist is the Holy Spirit; and the faith which we are to hold together is "our most holy faith", so designated for days of apostasy such as these are. Hence evil must be judged and put away, for even Christ, our Passover, is sacrificed for us. Our sin and evil were judged in the Person of our Substitute at the cross, not that we might think lightly of sin and evil, and tolerate it in ourselves and each other, but that we might accept that judgment of it, and be henceforward righteously and practically free from it, keeping the feast with sincerity and truth.

In such matters as these zeal has often outrun knowledge, and care is needed that in them the Word is the guide, and the only guide. Tradition, precedents, policy, and all those things that have so large a place in the ways of men, should have no place here; "the commandments of the Lord" alone are to lead us.

It should be clear that, if a wicked person is "put away from among yourselves", for any to hold to such a person, is to be a partaker of his wickedness. Suppose one is rightly rejected for evil conduct, or for the denial of the truth as to Christ, which is more serious a thousandfold, though not so considered by the majority of Christians - it should be clear to all, that any who persisted in expressing fellowship with such an one must be one with him, and so one with his evil deeds. 2 John tells us that this is so, and surely all ought to see this; and moreover, those who hold to one who is rightly rejected must share his rejection. Fellowship would have no force otherwise. There can be no neutrality, no compromise in such matters as these. All who desire to be consistent with the fellowship into which God has called all His saints, must be zealous as to this; there must be a coming together for this purpose when necessity calls, or the character of the Lord is ignored, and the truth of assembly gathering gone; and the only way, where there is indifference to the presence of evil, is separation, after due patience and grace, for any who would still "Call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Timothy 2:19-22).

The second of these gatherings of the assembly (chap. 11) brings out the love of the heart of the Lord. So much has been written on the Lord's supper, and as we hope to take it up in detail, if the Lord will, in a future paper, we refrain from comments here.

The third of these gatherings is not the least important, for it was designed to promote the edification of the saints, and this surely is imperative if they are to fulfil the will of the Lord; in it comes out the wisdom of the mind of the Lord. The difference between the gathering together of the assembly in chap. 14 and that for the Lord's Supper in chap. 11 is that in the latter the assembly ministers to the Lord, and in the former the Lord ministers to His assembly by the Spirit through His servants, and we are not prepared to say which is the more important of the two, for assuredly both are indispensable to the joy and glory of the Lord, and for the edification and joy of His saints. The two are interdependent upon each other, they are the normal gatherings together of the assembly. It is evident that at Corinth this gathering was greatly abused. Unspiritual men thought more of the display of their own powers than of the edification of the saints and the honour of God's Name, hence there is given this long chapter of reproof and instruction. When the Lord was on earth He maintained in all His ways the honour of God's holy Name, and those same ways yielded a constant stream of blessing to those who came to Him. His assembly should be descriptive of Him. Those who are gathered in His Name should bear His character, consequently there should be these two things constantly maintained - the honour of God's Name and the blessing, not only of those who form part of the gathering, but even of the unbeliever who comes in (verses 24-25).

Let it be noted that though the carnality of the Corinthians turned these gatherings into profitless and disorderly meetings, the remedy was not their abandonment. Instead, the Apostle instructs them as to what became them when so gathered, and we should do well to carefully and prayerfully consider these "commandments of the Lord".

Gatherings together of the saints of God according to instructions given in this 14th chapter have largely ceased. They come together to-day for the Lord's Supper, for prayer, for the reading of the Scriptures regularly, but not for meetings of this sort. It is true that there is no meeting more capable of being abused than this; ought it then to be abandoned and something else that man can control substituted in its place? Is it not as incumbent upon us to come together in this way and for this purpose, as it is to come together for other assembly purposes? Is the Lord still the one Lord? Is His Word enough for our guidance still?

But where such gatherings are held, there is often great disappointment in them. A correspondent, who is no mean judge as to things spiritual, writes: -

"If we go to a large meeting [of this kind] we find much time taken up by men who lack spiritual substance. I was at -. The chief feature was the unseemly haste of men whom God never intended to speak. … The general subject was 'power'. One almost heard the creaking windlass as with aching back the waterman raised the driblet of water from Jacob's well. Scripture presents the artesian well. What a contrast!"

That such a report should be possible is deeply humiliating, and should cause general exercise of heart. The reason for such a state of things is, we believe, lack of faith in the Lord and of subjection to Him. If saints when gathered together were conscious of their interdependence one upon the other, of the importance of true ministry, and of the indispensability of the Lord for this, there would be more waiting upon Him. Better by far to wait upon Him for one hour and have half an hour devoted to profitable ministry than "one continuous stream of orations all day. Prayer non est and the ministry fourth rate", as our correspondent describes another meeting of this sort.

What a different story would be told if there were more of that which marked the saints of God in Malachi's day - the fear of the Lord; if saints gathered together in the sense that they were gathered by God's call, and that the Lord was in the midst of them, that they were not there to act as they pleased, but that they were in Christ's own circle in which He directs by the Spirit as to what pleases Him. This is a matter about which much prayer is needed, and self judgment and confession of failure. We urge upon our readers the necessity of a revival in our souls of the sense of what the assembly is to Christ; what it must be to Him to have His saints gathered together in His Name so that He can manifest Himself to them. We believe that this will only be through much exercise of heart and waiting upon the Lord, and, above all, the keeping of His commandments, by which we prove our love to Him who is our Lord.

Is it not an evidence of lack of faith in the Lord that such gatherings are now only held on special occasions, if they are held at all, and when large numbers are able to come together? Is it not evident that this was one of the usual regular gatherings of the assembly locally, and consequently held as often, at least, as the gathering together for the Supper of the Lord?

We ask these questions that exercise in regard them may be produced.

J. T. Mawson.

One Loaf: One Body.

When saints endeavour to walk according to the truth of the church as set forth in Scripture, and thus come together in practical fellowship according to the apostolic pattern, we must not expect that they will be left in peace. The adversary of God and His people is too watchful and untiring for that.

More to be feared than open and gross breaches of God's trust or order are the more subtle deviations from truth and simplicity which spring up almost imperceptibly in the course of years, and entrench themselves in people's minds or ever they are aware of them; until finally the deviation becomes accepted as the original main road of truth, and is tenaciously contended for as such.

By way of illustration we mention three specific matters which have come under our own observation.

The first concerns the truth of the 'one body '. The chapters in which this truth is alluded to are Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 10, 12 to 15; Ephesians 1 and 4; Colossians 1 and 2; and if these be carefully read and considered, it will be found that the bearing of this truth is in the direction of unity, love, consideration, mutual forbearance, and the like, and that nothing in the nature of church order and discipline stands connected with it. Ephesians 4:1-4 may be taken as summing up the apostolic application and bearing of the truth in question.

We have, however, lived to see a very different use and application of it. Years ago, when believers walking according to the truth of Scripture somewhat increased in number, and groups of them were found in many parts, it was recognized that the truth of the unity of the body, equally with other truth, should regulate their dealings with one another as much as it would have done, if instead of being a small and insignificant remnant they had been the whole church in their various localities. From this it was deduced - rightly as we judge - that in such matters as cases of discipline, or other assembly acts, the local gathering acted for all, and hence its actions were bound to be respected unless evidently contrary to Scripture. The unity of the body was thus rightly invoked to prevent independency, and consequent confusion of action.

Of later years this last-named ecclesiastical application of the truth of the one body seems in many minds to have been so magnified out of all proportion that it has quite eclipsed the primary application as Scripture presents it. With some it seems now to be regarded as the truth itself, instead of a secondary application, which is deduced from Scripture, rather than plainly stated in it.

Hence in some difficulties that have arisen an altogether disproportionate amount of effort has been expended in trying to show that this or that group of saints is 'off ' the ground of the one body by reason of their having made some false ecclesiastical step, such as the non-recognition of a judgment, or act of some other meeting, and the like.

Moreover, by the magnifying of this secondary application to the obscuring of the primary, the truth of the unity of the body has become the great ground of excommunication or rejection, rather than that of reception. Who, for instance, has heard of a meeting receiving some one and then demanding that all other meetings shall receive him under penalty of being regarded as 'off' the ground of the one body? Such dealings are always entered upon in order to produce acquiescence in acts of excision or rejection.

Thus, by over emphasizing the secondary, the primary force of the truth is overlooked, indeed is nullified. Similar cases by which the Word of God was made of none effect were common in the time of our Lord, as the Gospels show.

The above naturally leads one to inquire whether there may not be a further misconception underlying this diversion of the truth from its proper setting. We submit that one such misconception entertained by not a few is the assumption that the fact of saints gathering in the light of the truth upon the ground of the one body confers upon them a corporate status, distinct from that which belongs to the church as a whole.

Certain parts of Scripture contemplate the breakdown in the professing church, and indicate our path and resources in view of it. Such are Acts 20; 2 Tim. 2; 2 Peter; and 2 and 3 John. What have these to say, bearing upon this point?

They make it clear that though wolves would enter from without, and there would be no safety in the elderhood (i.e., rule as originally established by God) within, yet God and the Word of His grace are always available: that no matter how high the tide of evil might rise, the foundation of God would stand sure, and faithful men be found able to teach others; and not only so, but that to the end there would be some calling on the Lord out of a pure heart, if only a few: some who love the truth, and have a good report of the truth itself. There is, however, no hint that such faithful souls by so doing acquire any special corporate status. They may enjoy much collectively which they would not as single individuals; but corporately they have nothing apart from the whole body of Christ.

Indeed, whether in the Old or New Testaments, when once an institution of God fails it does not appear that at some subsequent date He grants any renewed or special incorporation to any fragment of the whole, however godly or enlightened the individuals composing it may be. It is always a case henceforward of individual faithfulness, together with a reverting in heart to the original status, in which status the faithful individual has part by reason of his forming part of the original institution, and not because he may take up with others a true remnant position.

Notice, for instance: -

When Israel made the golden calf, they could only proceed from that point as upheld by the individual faithfulness of Moses (See Exodus 33:12-17).

When in the land and Joshua dead, they rapidly fall away. Revivals were granted, but always in the power of individual faith and action. "When the Lord raised them up judges, then the Lord was with the judge [it does not say, then the Lord was with the people], and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge" (Judges 2:18).

When after the captivity some returned from Babylon, they were evidently led by the faith and energy of individual men of God, such as Zerubabel, Ezra and Nehemiah. Under the influence of these men they began brightly, afresh embracing God's thoughts as to all Israel, and holding themselves as connected with such. See for example Ezra 6:17; 9:4-15. It was just because later they began to arrogate to themselves a special position far more exclusive and lofty than Israel's original calling that they developed the frame of mind that prepared them to reject the Messiah when He came.

In the New Testament the truth of the mystery was committed to Paul. He was also the "wise master-builder" who not only laid the foundation, but afterwards in his Epistles treated of matters connected with order, discipline, and administration in the churches. It is especially striking, therefore, to find that in his farewell Epistle to Timothy he addresses simply a faithful individual, and that he designates the aggregate of faithful individuals, not by a phrase which indicates any special corporate status as belonging to them, but by one which indicates their moral character. "Them which call on the Lord out of a pure heart."

The position of a remnant, then, in all dispensations is an individual one. The present moment is no exception. Saints who in later years have rallied to the truth and met on the ground of the one body have not acquired any special corporate status by so doing; at best they have been but faithful individuals walking in the truth. The fact that they have no status beyond the original status of the church, which all the saints share with them, does not give them licence to disregard any part of the truth. Though individuals they are responsible to be governed by assembly truth, because by all truth.

The third thing to which we now refer is the fact that the cup and the loaf of the Lord's supper are linked with the oneness of the body. The cup and the loaf represent the blood and body of Christ. In 1 Cor. 10 they are spoken of as the communion of His blood and body rather than the representation of it, inasmuch as "we being many are one bread, one body"; and hence not only is there the thought of our identification with the death of Christ, as the Jew is identified with his altar, or the heathen with demons, but also the thought that we are all so identified together as one body, for as it adds, "we are all partakers of that one bread" (verse 17).

It should be carefully noted that these words simply indicate that the partaking of the one loaf in the Lord's supper is the expression of that unity, and therefore may be appealed to as the sign or proof of it. It does not mean that our eating of the one loaf is the cause of the unity. We say, for instance, "It will be fine to-morrow for the barometer is rising", and by this we mean not that the barometer produces the fine weather but that it is the sign of it. So our common participation in the one loaf is the sign and setting forth of the fact of our being one body.

This is important, because the almost certain result of believing that saints who meet upon a Scriptural basis thereby obtain a special corporate status will be to connect the Lord's Supper and its communion with that "inner circle" instead of with the whole body; making it thus the expression of 'our' fellowship instead of proper Christian fellowship. This in its turn creates a tendency to the exclusion of people from the Lord's supper apart from the authority of Scripture, because they do not please us, or are out of harmony with the aims we are pursuing, or for other similar reasons.

If an individual sits down and partakes of the Lord's supper, he is thereby recognized as a member of the one body and as fit for Christian fellowship; no such point is raised as that of whether all can agree with all his views and actions. This is pretty clearly indicated by verses 23 to 29 of 1 Corinthians 10.

It is a striking fact, and one for which we beg careful and special attention, that the very chapter which most enforces the fact of fellowship or partnership in connection with Christ's death and His table, does not close without dealing with matters in which liberty for the exercise of individual conscience and faith is claimed. A clear proof this that the extreme view of fellowship which makes all in it responsible for and identified with every individual act, has no foundation in Scripture. We are not, of course, supposing views and acts that challenge the truth.

If one contemplated breaking bread with saints assembling in a certain place, in view of the foregoing, it would be a pertinent question to ask - Do you wish me to regard myself as thereby linked up with an association which you have formed, and committed, so to speak, to your platform; or is it that you wish to receive me as a member of the body, that is, linked up with the association which God originally formed, and committed to identification with the death of Christ?

In practice a great deal hangs upon this. In the one case it is just sectarianism, though the members of the sect may be very enlightened and commendable. In the other case it is walking, so far at least, in the truth.

F. B. Hole.

Ministering To The Lord In Assembly.

The first king of Israel fought with mistaken zeal for the freedom of God's people from their enemies and to establish their national supremacy, but he became himself an oppressor. The second king, David, fought from a different point of view altogether. He would not rest till the centre was established where offerings according to God's mind could ascend to Him. Long before, it had been revealed that the Lord desired this (see Deut. 16. and elsewhere), but until David's day it was altogether neglected. He, however, succeeded in this, and prospered also in that which Saul failed with fleshly earnestness to accomplish.

The place of Jehovah's name became the centre of the nation where continual songs and sweet savour offerings arose in fragrant meaning to the Lord, for they foreshadowed the present time when worship in spirit and in truth should rise to the Father, who was seeking those who should thus worship Him (John 4:23), the new and "holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5).

As long as the offerings were abundant at the God-appointed centre, Israel triumphed to the uttermost bounds of her kingdom; and whenever a revival took place, the doors of the Lord's house were opened for ministry to Him. The principle is the same now. A Person, the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, is the Centre as well as Head of the assembly, and as we 'draw near' together and 'offer up' that which the Father seeks, there will be prosperity in the work of the Lord around. "Bring in and I will pour out", said the Lord in days of great failure (Mal. 3:10), and such "a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it"; others would therefore get the overflow!

That which typified worship was commanded in the Old Testament. The real worship and "the true worshippers" are found in the New Testament; but though the Father's heart desires this, it is not now commanded. Its precious and rare sweetness could not thus be produced. It rises responsively. We do not here seek to answer the oft-repeated question, What is worship? but only to indicate one of the highest, if not the highest, practical functions of the assembly.

Supplication, prayer and intercession seek from God, but worship ministers to Him. So do thanksgiving, praise, blessing and adoration. At the institution of His supper the Lord "gave thanks". Thanksgiving is, therefore, characteristic of the remembrance of Himself, also praise, blessing, worship and adoration as the power of the Holy Spirit is unhindered. What rich fullness would thus mark the worship of the assembly! It will be so in glory for ever when all things are centred in Christ. To further this now is surely the aim of every true servant of the Lord.

Some have esteemed it a waste of time and labour, but the thought betrays a lack of the true knowledge of our God and Father, and a serious disregard of that which He seeks. When Mary lavished upon the Lord the costly ointment which filled the house with its pleasant perfume, some one thought it waste and that it ought to have been sold and used for the relief of the needy (John 12:5)! To be found in the company of such an one is extremely undesirable. Surely the One who was thus ministered to was worthy of it! yea, of even more costly ointment still if it could be found! The best and most precious is His due. May we have grace and power by the Holy Spirit to give Him more as His love and glory fill our glad hearts.

Behold that glorious scene around the throne in heaven! The Lamb is seen there, and that "as it had been slain"! A new song concerning His worthiness and His redeeming blood sounds sweetly from the assembled throng. Innumerable multitudes then utter His praise, and the saints fall down and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever (Rev. 5). The Spirit of Promise gives the earnest of this in the assembly now.

In closing, let it be noticed that it was when the Lord Himself was being ministered to, that the sending forth of blessing to the needy sinners of the Gentiles took place by the hand of a most extraordinary servant of Christ. In Acts 13 we are told that this took place in the assembly at Antioch - "They were ministering to the Lord". It was then that Paul was separated for the work to which he was already called of God. Who can measure the extent of the blessing which followed? or number up those who have been reached as the result of Paul's subsequent service? Yet he in his abundant labours ever afterwards sought to establish such in Christ Jesus, that there might be glory to God in the assembly in Him (Eph. 3:21) .

H. J. Vine.

When Ye Come Together.

It is of the first importance for the right understanding of any portion of Scripture, to observe the setting in which it is placed. Many a difficulty is solved by this alone. The question has been raised as to the possibility of having a meeting such as is alluded to in 1 Cor. 14 at the present time? It is a serious thing that in the denominations of Christendom such a meeting rarely or never takes place. Human arrangements and control are substituted for the free action of the Spirit of God. But then the fact of the presence of the Divine Spirit in the Church has been so lost sight of, and the will of man has become so paramount, that no wonder that the conclusion prevails, that a gathering with no visible president, leader or chairman, must result in confusion, and be without profit or point. Yet it is evident in reading this chapter that the meetings of early Christians were framed on the model here set forth, and that the result, when not abused, was to edification, teaching, comfort and a sense of the Divine presence, which is certainly lacking in gatherings formed after the pattern on which the world transacts its concerns.

In correcting the disorder which was present amongst the Corinthians, the apostle does not suggest to them their need of a presiding leader, but rebukes the lack of spirituality whereby the liberty of the Spirit was made an occasion for the flesh to assert itself.

That we may obtain an answer to the above question let us turn back to the 10th chapter and discover, if we can, the conditions under which such a meeting can be held with profit to those who come together, and above all, glory to the name of our Lord.

In chapter 10 ver. 15, the apostle addresses himself to wise men, for one who does not truly belong to Christ has no part in this matter. He reminds them of the precious ordinance that the Lord has ordained, in order that the import of His cross may be kept vividly before the hearts of His own. Paul has before him, first of all, the significance of the act of partaking, rather than the order in which the supper is partaken of. He, therefore, places the cup before the loaf, for he has in his mind the fellowship of the one body, the body of Christ, the church, and this could have had no existence at all, unless the blood of Christ had been shed. The cup is the communion or fellowship of His blood, the loaf the fellowship of His body. Both these fellowships, His death and the one body, belong to all Christians, the two things are fundamental, and without them no gathering is Christian in the true sense of the word. Christian fellowship depends upon the cross, where flesh, and sin, and all that belongs to man in the flesh, has been judged and condemned. When this is apprehended the confusion, to which the Corinthians were prone, is disposed of entirely.

In the latter part of chapter 10 the impossibility of connecting the Lord's table, characteristic of Christian fellowship, with the table of demons which marked the heathen, or the altar connected with the Jew, is demonstrated. For Jew and Gentile had banded themselves together to crucify the Lord of glory, and the presence of that Lord is in the midst of those gathered to His Name. The moral principles of each abide, the self-righteousness, exclusive ritualism, and superstition of the Jew, and the will of man expressing itself in the broad rationalism of the Gentile. Alas, for the confusion of these things with the name of Christ in the professing Church. It is this which writes upon it the name of 'Babylon'. Is there any path for true hearts but to heed the command of the Lord, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing and I will receive you" (2 Cor. 6:14-18). In chapter 2 is unfolded the place which the Church has in relation to Christ; He is its head, it is formed of Him, it is for Him, it is under His authority, it is one with Him. The relation of the man to the woman in God's order of creation is used to illustrate these truths. Then follows the partaking of the supper, the remembrance of the unsearchable love of Him who gave His body and blood, the loving response which He has made it possible for us to give to Him for the gift of Himself.

Thus far we have seen four conditions for a Christian gathering; the Cross of Christ, the Body of Christ, the Authority of Christ, and the Love of Christ. These things are on His part to us, but we need also to recognize that which has been given to be on our side to Him, that is, the Holy Spirit, and love, chapter 12 gives us the first, and chapter 13 the second.

In chapter 12 the Spirit of God is seen indwelling the one body, and imparting to each member gifts according to His own will. There is a variety of manifestations but all to profit and all in marvellous unity, the figure of which is the human body. All is divinely tempered together,

The members act not for themselves but for the good of the whole. How wonderful must be such a meeting where the Spirit thus controls, and flesh is silent. For the flesh is subtle, and only too ready to find occasion for boasting even in the gifts of the Spirit, and to produce pride, and jealousy, and envy. Therefore something else is needed if edification and profit are to result, and that is an atmosphere in which the Spirit can work, and which can only be produced when He is ungrieved, that is, Love. Chapter 13 tells us that without it all, gift, speaking, sacrifice, is nothing. Love is the great essential, for it is the character of Christ reproduced in the saints. Well may chapter 14 open with the exhortation, "Follow after love".

These are the things which make such a meeting as is described in chapter 14 possible. Seeing also that these conditions are God's gifts from above, there is no need to despair because of our failure, and to seek human resources. The fullness of God waits for a subject heart, captivated by the love of Christ, and it is His delight to lead such into His own joy when gathered thus together, even if it be but with little strength.

To know His presence in the midst is the next thing to seeing His face; hence chapter 15 tells of the precious truth of resurrection and the power whereby the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed at His coming. The truth of God's assembly abides, and Christ is faithful to all who keep His word and deny not His name. To such He will manifest Himself.

James Green.

The Cross of Christ.

As the children of Jacob had to date their beginning as a nation in relationship with God from the Passover night when the lamb was sacrificed for them, so must we in our thoughts continually go back to the Cross of Calvary where Christ, our Passover, was slain for us. We could have had no existence as the children of God, or members of the body of Christ, apart from that cross of sacrifice. There could have been no assembly at all to gather together, and we should have remained for ever the children of wrath, if Jesus had not died. But now we live, and the life that is given to us is eternal life; but we owe it all to the death of our Saviour. We are to be gathered soon, the whole multitude of God's children, into heaven's cloudless joy; but then, as now, we shall date our knowledge of God from the cross, and we shall discover our origin there, and like the sound of many waters our grateful praises shall roll upward, and for ever, to the Lamb that was slain.

Consider Him coming forth from His eternal glory, from the glory which He had with the Father before the world was made: see Him take the place as a Man amongst men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: follow His footsteps along that road upon which no human eye smiled, for it was neither approved nor understood by men - that pathway that "led only to the cross"!

What great purpose was it that set His face as a flint in that way of sorrow? It was the Father's will, and what was that will? It was that we might live; that He might gather His saints together as His assembly now, and have us as His "many sons" in glory hereafter, all conformed to the image of His dear Son, that He might be the Firstborn amongst many brethren. And nothing less than the cross could make this possible; His incarnation amid the lowly surrounding of Bethlehem's manger was not enough: His life of service and sorrow amid the need and misery of men was not enough: His prayers, His works, His tears were not enough. His agony and sweat of blood in the shades of Gethsemane were not enough all these had their part in the unfolding of the heart of God, and in the making known of His own deep perfections; but if guilty men were to be pardoned, if dead sinners were to live, if He was to build His assembly, if heaven was to be filled with "a multitude of sons", Jesus must die. For "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit".

It was death as the judgment of God that He endured, the penalty of sin. Two things met at the cross - our sins, and the judgment of God. Our sins - not as we see them and measure them, but as God knew them and saw them in their exceeding sinfulness, and those sins were laid on Jesus, nay, more, He, the Sinless One, was made sin for us, made sin that in His own sinless Person He might bear to the uttermost the judgment of God against sin, and herein lay His sufferings, unmeasured and immeasurable. It was this that made Him say in the garden, "If it be possible let this cup pass from Me", and upon the cross, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken Me?"

Little wonder then that we make the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ our boast and glory, strange that we should ever forget it. How great was the love that moved Him to endure the cross! Love that each of us can take to himself as his very own, and say, "The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself for me". He loved His assembly and gave Himself for it.

J. T. Mawson.

The Open Meeting and Its Abuse.

The subject of the open meeting and its abuse is not of my choosing. Our good editor, feeling its importance, has particularly requested me to deal with it.

I must confess that I do so with hesitation and reluctance. It is always easier to indicate an abuse than to suggest a remedy. Still, it is the act of a coward to turn from a task because of a disinclination to perform it. So counting upon the indulgence of the reader, we will, Bible in hand, approach the subject.

What is meant by "the open meeting"? The question is not unnecessary, for what is familiar to some must not be regarded as intelligible without explanation to all. We use the term 'open meeting' in contrast with meetings for the preaching of the Word (whether to saints or sinners), meetings convened by any servant of Christ for the exercise of his own ministry, or where he ministers, either alone or with others, by invitation of those responsible for such meetings. In the strictest sense of the word, the 'open meeting' is not one specially convened for prayer, or for any other defined object, but is one in which all assembled wait on the Lord for guidance as to who shall take part, whether in prayer, praise, or ministry of the Word.

That such was the character of meetings held at Corinth in apostolic times no careful reader of 1 Cor. 14 will have the hardihood to deny. And the possession of miraculous gifts, far from being essential for such a meeting, seems to have contributed (where those who possessed them were not guided by the Lord) to the abuse and consequent confusion which were even then apparent. If God was the Author of the liberty that characterized these assemblings of the saints at Corinth, He certainly was not the Author of the confusion that resulted from their abuse.

The weekly meeting for the Supper of the Lord, though for a defined object, is, we believe, rightly left 'open' for the leading of the Lord. It is particularly liable to abuse by those who come with thoughts of their own blessing, rather than the remembrance of the Lord, before their minds. Such will often give out an unsuitable hymn, or give thanks in a way hardly in accord with the simple object for which the meeting is held. The remedy is, of course, a greater sense of the Lord's presence (for where even but two or three are gathered together in His Name, there is He) and a better understanding of the purpose for which we assemble to break bread, viz., the remembrance of Himself.

But probably what the editor had in his mind when asking for a paper on "the open meeting" was the largely attended meetings held in various centres on special occasions: Bank holidays and other days when freedom from ordinary occupations enables the Lord's people to come together in one place from surrounding localities, usually for two meetings, with tea between.

Such meetings are particularly liable to abuse. And the abuses generally arising are of four kinds: -
1. An unseemly haste in rising to minister, a competition for the platform in which those who know what it is to wait on the Lord for guidance and opportunity will decline to take part.
2. Unsuitable speakers taking part, with no result save to weary and depress their unfortunate hearers. Such often are the readiest to rise, thus shutting out those who are really able to edify the gathering.
3. Inordinate length on the part of some, selfishly appropriating time which common courtesy, to say the least, would lead them to leave to others who might, equally with themselves, feel that they had a message from the Lord.
4. The treating of 1 Cor. 14:29 as if it were a dead letter. How are these abuses to be remedied?

To begin with, it is a question whether "the open meeting" is the most suitable for occasions like these. The assembled company is composed of persons from various localities. Generally a large number of young people, with Christians from the denominations are present, and not infrequently unconverted persons. It is not, strictly speaking, an 'assembly meeting'. The majority present are there by invitation from those in local responsibility, and are, for the time being, their guests. It is, therefore, the established custom in many cases, that those who address the assembled company should do so by invitation; two or three speakers both afternoon and evening. This, of course, is not guarding against abuse of the open meeting but doing away with it altogether. It is quite within the competence of those who arrange and convene meetings on these special occasions to decide whether they should be 'open', or be addressed by chosen and invited speakers.

If it be decided that the meetings should be open let them be so in a genuine way. Let not the conveners write north, south, east and west to invite their favourite speakers on the assumption that they will speak. Anything that savours of unreality is abhorrent, not only in the sight of God, but to all right-minded persons. Pretence of any kind is to be deprecated. Does it not seem to border on insincerity to profess to have 'open' meetings and yet invite special speakers from a distance?

Presuming that a genuine open meeting is to be held, it might help to guard against abuse if one of the conveners, or an elder brother, were at the very commencement to say a few words to the following effect: -

"Brethren and sisters, we are here to wait upon the Lord, for Him to do with us as pleases Him. If we count on Him, we may be sure He will not disappoint us. Let us really wait on Him. Any brother who rises to speak with unseemly haste necessarily discounts whatever he has to say in the minds of those who know what Divine guidance is. And let none imagine that because his heart is warm with some precious truth he is, therefore, called to minister it. There may be a hundred brethren present with hearts burning with desire to impart to others what they themselves enjoy. They cannot all speak. The Lord has His way of making His guidance and pleasure known. Let us wait on Him. And let there be consideration for one another. For one brother to speak for forty minutes is a trespass, since it may shut out one led to speak equally with himself. And let us remember the exhortation of 1 Cor. 14:29. If in the days of miraculous gifts it was ordained that the prophets should 'speak two or three' how much more necessary is this wise provision in days like these?"

That such an exhortation would carry weight is highly probable. That it is called for none will doubt. We have known a brother, after an opening hymn, rise to pray and then immediately, without sitting down or waiting even for a moment to see if anyone else may be led to minister, proceed to open his Bible and speak. We have known such to speak for the best part of an hour, making it impossible for others - who may have received a word from the Lord to minister - to speak.

When an opening exhortation, such as that suggested, remains unheeded, what is to be done? The writer remembers that at a certain meeting to commend a newly-married couple to the Lord, an elder and respected brother stated that it was the express desire of the saints that the meeting should be mainly for prayer, and that it would have to conclude within the hour. Yet, in spite of this, two brethren from a distance spoke, one after the other, for forty-eight minutes, so that not a single brother in the assembly where the bride had lived, and where she was known and esteemed, had an opportunity to raise his voice in prayer to God for her and her husband in their new path. If ministering brethren do such things, can we wonder if lawlessness prevail among those whose knowledge is perhaps less?

What remedy have we?

The answer would seem to be: Either abandon the 'open' meeting, save for local occasions, monthly fellowship meetings, and the like; or let the principles of the 'open' meeting be explained from time to time, and those who transgress be expostulated with in a firm, but kindly and brotherly way.

Above all, let there be prayer by those who feel the seriousness of the abuses referred to, that there may be greater intelligence given as to the nature of 'assembly meetings' and what is involved in the presence of the Lord. His love and faithfulness, His gracious forbearance and readiness to help may always be counted on.

H. P. Barker.

More About the "Open" Meeting.

Considerable comment has been made, both favourable and otherwise, on a paper that appeared in the last issue of the SUPPLEMENT, entitled "The Abuse of the Open Meeting." We are sure that such a paper was needed, and also that it by no means exhausted what ought to be said on the subject. It dwelt chiefly on the side of the conduct of those who take part in ministry at these gatherings together of the saints of God, but there is the other side also, the conduct of those who are gathered together. Seeing that they are the many, and those that minister are the few, they must exercise by far the greater influence on such gatherings.

Those that minister, if truly led of the Lord to do so, "speak unto men to edification, and exhortation and comfort" (1 Cor. 14:3), or as it has been well put, "they build up, stir up, bind up." And the responsibility of such is very great. If they give forth something of their own they surely do it in self-sufficiency; and they ignore the Lord as the great Administrator in the assembly, and the presence of the Holy Spirit as the only power for true ministry. Hence, not only is the time of all gathered wasted, but the character of the gathering is set aside; the voice of men and not the voice of the Lord is heard, and the saints of God miss for the time being the direction that they should have for that special moment. We need only to carefully consider all this to see how serious a matter it is to take part in such gatherings, and what dependence on the Lord should characterize those who do so.

But what of those who come together for ministry? The way in which they come and the object before their minds in being present will most surely greatly affect their gathering together. The meeting that we are discussing, which is described in 1 Cor. 14, is a gathering having assembly character, and as such the Lord is there, for those gathered are there "in the name of the Lord Jesus." Faith in this great fact is of the very greatest importance, apart from this, these meetings must degenerate into mere voluntary gatherings of believers, at which it would be far better to arrange beforehand who should speak, so that all might know what to expect. This is a matter that concerns every individual, for if the gathering is an assembly gathering it means that "the King holds Court." It means that we are together because it is the Lord's wish and according to His ordering, not because we like to meet our brethren, or like to hear ministry, but because the Lord calls us into His presence; it is Himself and His will that is prominent and not our brethren and our likes.

If His Majesty the King holds a Court, they are very privileged people who are invited to be present, and they deem it a high honour; how much more highly honoured are they who are invited to the court of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, for nothing less than this is every assembly gathering. Every one attending court at the King's invitation must be there in court dress according to the regulations. And so all who come into the presence of the Lord should be exercised in coming to be there according to His thoughts; not surely in a legal frame of mind, but self-judged, and with preparation of heart by the Spirit to meet Him who is so glorious and yet who is known to us by the love that led Him to die for us. If all who come together are thus prepared, how different will be the atmosphere created, and how free will the Lord be to reveal Himself. We are talking now of all present, from the oldest to the youngest, and not of those who minister only. If invited to take tea with a friend, we would endeavour to be neat and clean, and to conduct ourselves in his house in a fitting manner, recognizing him as the head of it, and our host. But how often do those who are "called saints" gather in the Lord's presence slovenly in mind and spirit, without due preparation of heart, having never looked into the glass of His word in their homes, or sought His presence in their chambers before coming, and so are totally unfit to speak to Him in His circle, or hear His voice when He speaks in His own place. We urge upon our readers the need of much thought on this side of the question, for herein lies the cause of unprofitable and powerless meetings. Every individual member of Christ's body present at such meetings is either a help or a hindrance, and none can escape the responsibility that rests upon them.

Having come together we must recognize, not that so many or so few gifted men are present, and that our time of profit will be great or small in consequence, but that the Lord is there, and the Holy Spirit. If the Lord's presence is realized, songs of praise will surely rise from united and glad hearts to Him, and quiet and confident waiting and expectation from Himself will mark all present, and He will not disappoint those that wait upon Him. The ministry given will not be something that has been laboriously prepared for the occasion, as though this were a matter of individual service, but it will be fresh and spontaneous, because from the Lord for the moment; and five words given of that character will be better than ten thousand drawn from memory, for they will be the fresh springing up and flowing forth of living water, and not the pumping up out of a stagnant pool.

When should these open meetings be held? This is an important question. In some places they are held once a month, or once a quarter, or once a year. But if we take our guidance from 1 Cor. 14. shalt we be satisfied with this? Is it not clear from that chapter that such meetings were the regular gatherings of the assembly, and were held certainly not less often than those for the taking of the Lord's Supper? They were not special occasions held when Paul or Apollos could be present, but the ordinary every-week meetings of the local assembly. If we take up these meetings at all, ought we not to take them up in this way? What warrant have we for taking them up at all if we are not prepared to take them up according to the Scriptures? It is said that there is neither faith nor power for such meetings now, but if there is faith and power for the gathering together of 1 Cor. 11, why not for that of 1 Cor. 14? It is the same Lord that presides at both gatherings, and faith has to do with Him, and it is the same Spirit who is present at both, and all power is in Him.

Much failure evidently marked this special meeting at Corinth, but the apostle did not tell the Corinthians to cease to hold it because of this, but he instructed them as to how to conduct themselves in it. The chapter is there in the God-breathed Scriptures for our instruction also, and is specially said to be the commandments of the Lord, it would be a sad thing if it became a dead or useless chapter to us because of lack of faith on our part.

J. T. Mawson.

"Tarry one for another."

The Evil of Individualism.

Just as it is necessary to avoid sectarianism if we would walk in fellowship after the apostle's pattern, so is it also needful to shun individualism, which is in some respects the opposite extreme.

To clear away possible misapprehensions, let us again affirm that we fully accept the oft-repeated statement that in days when the outward unity and order of the professing church has broken down, the path of faith becomes an individual one; by which we mean it is a path which must be entered upon and maintained in the energy of individual faith. 2 Timothy 2:19-22, is clear evidence of this. The responsibilities and privileges there enforced lie upon "every one," "a man"; and the whole passage is addressed not to a church but to Timothy, a faithful individual; and consequently, when verse 22 is obeyed, those thus pursuing righteousness, faith, love, and peace, are only individual members of Christ's body who are walking together in the truth.

All that we fully grant, and yet it must also be maintained with equal clearness that such members of Christ's body who are thus together will only walk in the truth as they are governed by it in its entirety. To ignore the truth as to the Church of God will not do.

Let us assume that such a gathering of saints exists before us. We would then point out to them that, in the first place, they must not assume to be what they are not. They are not the Church, nor are they a church, in the sense of being a corporate body with a constitution of its own. They are simply members of Christ's body (which is the Church) who aim at gathering together and walking according to its original constitution.

But, in the second place, we should point out that the break-up and failure which has supervened has in no wise relieved them of the responsibility to walk according to all that Scripture indicates as the will of the Lord for His Church. We are not at liberty, if we would obey and please Him, to assert our individual action, or judgment, or ministry, to the over-riding of practical fellowship in these things, whether it be the individual person or the individual gathering of saints.

The believers at Corinth, as the Apostle Paul wrote to them, were carnal, and walked as men, consequently they had fallen into sectarianism by forming schools of opinion round favourite leaders. It is equally plain that they also were asserting themselves as individuals in a wrongful way, and that this individualism was working havoc in their midst. We will now point out the evidences of the working of this false principle as we have them in the First Epistle.

In chapter 10 the question of association with idols and idolatry is being discussed. The apostle begins with the history of Israel as the professed people of God, and shows how ruinous such association had proved in their case. This leads up to the exhortation of verse 14. From verse 15 onward the apostle appeals to them on the ground of that which is set forth in the Supper of the Lord. The true character of the cup and of the loaf is that they indicate Christ's blood and body; and moreover of His blood and body they are the communion or fellowship. We all share in that one loaf as one body (verse 17), not as so many individual believers. Here we have the Supper of the Lord viewed in its abstract nature and bearing, and individualism is clearly excluded in connection with it.

In chapter 11:17, the apostle carries his corrective ministry further, and turns to mistakes and abuses which were amongst them in their actual comings together - their assemblies. We must distinguish, of course, between the church at Corinth and their actual assembling together in that character. Throughout this article we use the word "church" for the former and reserve the word "assembly" for the latter. The saints at Corinth gathered together sometimes in connection with the ministry of servants of the Lord - to listen to Apollos and receive help through him, for instance (Acts 18:27) - these meetings were not "assemblies" in the sense in which we now use the word, i.e., actual convenings of the church as such in subjection to their risen Head acting by His Spirit in their midst. The church might thus meet in assembly for discipline (chap. 5), for eating the Lord's Supper (chap. 11.), for ministry to edification, exhortation and comfort (chap. 12, and 14:1-5), for prayer and worship (chap. 14:9-17).

First of all, then, in connection with their assemblies, he turns to the parties which existed among them and which were clearly visible when they came together "in assembly" (verse 18), (see N.T.). This sectarianism may result in select parties of a very rigid and exclusive sort grouped round the chosen teacher or preacher, but evidently it is, after all, closely connected with individualism, inasmuch as it springs out of an exaggerated sense of the importance of the individual who is made the centre of the party. It ends in saints "holding" the party leader instead of "holding the Head."

In verse 20 the apostle turns to the assembly for eating the Lord's Supper. Here there were grave abuses existent, but we are now only concerned to point out that in eating what they professed to be the Lord's Supper they were really eating "every one … his own supper" (verse 21). They so individualized that sacred memorial that it became a scene of unseemly disorder, every one acting for himself. Hence the apostle's injunction in verse 33, "Wherefore, my brethren, … tarry one for another."

All this is extreme and horrifying, and would be utterly inexcusable if occurring now that we have the Word of God in our hands in a way that the Corinthians had not. Still we have to watch against subtler workings of the same thing. We do, indeed, break the bread and drink the cup individually, but we do so as those who belong to the one body, in keeping with the one loaf of which we partake.

In chapter 12 the gifts or manifestations of the Spirit are in question. These were found in different members of the body as the Lord in His wisdom was pleased to ordain, but they were given to individuals in view of the whole. "To each the manifestation of the Spirit is given for profit" (verse 7, N.T.) and that profit the profit of the whole body as the subsequent verses show.

Now if the gifted member is to sink himself, his self-importance which would naturally be fanned by the possession of a gift, and the self-pleasing which might guide him in the use of it, he must be thoroughly under the sway of Divine love. Hence the magnificent chapter 13 which comes in as a parenthesis.

Chapter 14 picks up the thread from chapter 12 and gives us a glimpse of the Corinthian assemblies for ministry, prayer and praise. The individualist got up and, speaking with an unknown tongue, he edified himself (verse 4), whereas the Divine purpose in the assembly was that the Church should be edified.

Verse 26 is very illuminating. In their assemblies every one of them had a psalm, a doctrine, a tongue, a revelation, an interpretation. The following verses give instructions regulating the use of these gifts, and from these verses, and verse 31 in particular, we gather that there was nothing wrong in each of them having something to contribute; since all might prophesy one by one - not on one occasion, doubtless, but there was liberty for all as the Lord might direct on different occasions. The trouble rather lay in that individualism that led them to degrade the Lord's Supper into each eating his own supper. They degraded that which was the assembly of the Lord where He ruled and directed by His Spirit into a free and easy meeting of a lot of individuals each with his own ideas and his own little bit which he eagerly desired to throw into the common pot.

The difference between the assembly in function as directed by the Lord and the individualist meeting of the Corinthian stamp can be likened to that existing between a fine-woven linen bed-spread and a patchwork quilt. The Bible itself consists of 66 books written in different epochs by different men. Yet a Divine unity pervades it because written under inspiration of the Spirit of God. A similar unity of ministry or prayer or worship will be discernible in the assembly as controlled in its activities by the Spirit of God, and the more so controlled the more it will be discernible.

So completely was the Spirit of God to be in control in the assembly that if a prophet were on his feet, presumably having arisen as controlled by the Spirit, and a further revelation were made to another prophet sitting by, the earlier speaker was to at once accept it as a signal that the time had come for him to stop; and resuming his seat he was to give place to the other.

Under the existing conditions of one-man ministry, and liturgical forms and customs, which hold sway in the religious organizations, all this part of Scripture has been reduced to a dead letter. But it is sadly possible to have gatherings of saints apart from such restrictions and with freedom of ministry, and yet for it to only result in meetings of this individualistic Corinthian type. Indeed it must so result unless we are prepared to keep before us the truth of the church in its practical fellowship and working. No assembling together of saints to-day, we repeat, can be more than the gathering of a few of the members of Christ's body, but so gathered they must act in the light of the whole truth of the church if they would be obedient.

In concluding our brief review of the Epistle, we might note that the use of discipline and exclusion mentioned in chapter 5 also involved assembly action. Apostolic energy and action is indeed prominent in verses 4 and 5, for as yet the consciences of the Corinthians were asleep, but the final action to be taken in verse 13 was of an assembly character.

The Second Epistle shows us that such action was taken, and that "the many" or the mass of the saints put their hands to it (chap. 2:6). They were so stirred to zeal by the First Epistle (see chap. 7:11) that the great mass of them came together and solemnly put the offender away from their midst. To-day, alas! saints are often so lethargic that only a few come together to act if such a sad occasion arises and the punishment is inflicted of "the few" rather than "the many."

If we now consider for a little how these apostolic corrections and instructions apply to-day, we shall be quickly aware of how much need there is of attention to the instructions of chapter 14. It is still possible for a few saints to gather together on "assembly" lines though only a fraction of those comprising the church in their town. Thus assembled they may break bread, or pray, or wait upon the Lord for ministry through two or three of His servants what we call an "open meeting." Are we free from individualism on these occasions? By no means. How often do we notice thanksgivings and particularly hymns of praise and worship, quite excellent in themselves individually considered, yet obviously quite out of keeping with what has gone before or what follows, complete misfits if judged from the standpoint of the Spirit's action in the assembly! How often times of prayer when the same petition is voiced again and again by various brothers, seemingly forgetful that the first who was led to ask it did so as the mouth-piece of those present, to be ratified by all saying "Amen" at the end of his requests; and that therefore, save in exceptional cases, such constant repetition is needless since all have already asked it! How often again is there that tendency to coming together, each having his hymn, his prayer, his Scripture portion to be got out at all costs!

Further, we have to beware of the individualism which takes a form which has been sometimes spoken of as "independency." This may take the form of an individual saint asserting himself, his judgment, his actions against the assembly where he is found, or the form of an individual assembly acting in complete indifference to, and as having no connection with, other assemblies equally walking in subjection to the same Lord.

Here some may at once object that we find but little in Scripture as to these errors. We grant it. The case of Diotrephes (3 John) bears upon it, but generally speaking these troubles are such as have afflicted the church in these later centuries. Apostolic authority acted as a check on that form of individualism at the beginning. We have become more exposed to it in these last days, when saints have essayed once more to walk according to the truth but without apostolic authority in their midst other than the apostolic writings, and even without an appointed elderhood as at the beginning. Their position is similar to that of the Jews who returned to Jerusalem under Zerubabel, Nehemiah and Ezra, who had no king and a very imperfect priesthood. These externals they had lost, and it would have been folly, if not worse, to have assumed power they did not possess in ordaining a king and more priests for themselves. The loss of these externals did not, however, exempt them from obedience to the whole law.

Hence to-day, we submit, we have special need of grace and wisdom in this matter. We have no wish to hinder the servants of the Lord, but they must remember that they are members of Christ's body, and if they profess to be walking, with as many as are available, in a path of obedience to the whole truth of the church, they must bear these things in mind. That which is right for the individual is clearly right for the individual gathering of saints also. We must carefully avoid, therefore, the position of independency that is commonly called "Congregationalism."

It is perfectly certain that failures have often occurred in the past both with individual saints and individual gatherings as to these very things, and if the Lord come not for a while they will occur again. "What then," it will be asked, "are we to do?"

Our responsibility is to act under the Lord, that is, in obedience to His word. Powers of discipline still remain to the saints collectively, as indicated in Romans 16:17-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15. Even in the very flagrant case of Diotrephes, the apostle contents himself with threatening action if and when he came. He did not urge Gaius or Demetrius to attempt strong counter-action themselves. Individualism or independency is not to be met with counter-independency. The spirit of division cannot be overcome, according to God, by the spirit of counter-division. If in mistaken zeal we attempt so to meet it we always run the risk of making the remedy worse than the disease, and of swallowing a whole camel in our endeavours to strain out the gnat.

In writing the above we bear fully in mind that a time may come, according to 2 Timothy 2:16-21, when individual action is not only permitted by Scripture, but actually enjoined. That time is when evil, having come in, is of such a character as to overthrow faith, by attacking the foundations. Then, assuming that it gets beyond all assembly action, the individual must act for himself in faithfulness to his Lord.

We owe our position, if indeed we do gather to the Lord's Name, to such individual action in faithfulness to the Lord. In the position we are bound to act as governed by the whole truth as to the church and the apostle's fellowship, and not act on an individualistic basis. If by reason of unfaithfulness the position be abandoned or corrupted, then once more individual action according to 2 Timothy 2 becomes incumbent upon us in order that a place according to God may be taken up, and personal purity maintained.

We have one more application to make of the truth which is before us. A good deal has been said and written during the past fifteen years as to the unscriptural character of "circles of fellowship." In so far as such "circles" are of the kind which says "I am of Paul," etc., or formed to champion some special truth or truths, we quite agree. Yet we must not forget that there was a circle of fellowship in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. In the early morning it consisted of about 120 names, by night-fall it was expanded to over 3000. That circle of fellowship was "the apostle's fellowship."

Later on at Corinth the Divinely-formed "circle" was imperilled by sectarian "circles," not yet openly separated from each other, but parties formed within the church, the fruit of their carnal condition. In this connection 1 Corinthians 11:18-19 are very illuminating. "Among you," says the apostle, "there must also be sects." There was no such must in the case of the Ephesians or Philippians, where the prevailing state was one of spiritual freshness and power. If saints walk in the flesh, fleshly tendencies must be manifested. But on the other hand such fleshly manifestations only serve to throw into relief such as faithfully adhere to what is divine and thus are approved of God. There were evidently some in Corinth who would not range themselves under any of the party standards.

Now it is more than likely, when the "Paul" and "Apollos" and "Cephas" parties were forming themselves at Corinth, and some of the more spiritual and faithful souls were declining to join in their movements, that to the careless or worldly-minded onlooker they only appeared to be forming a further party. But even if they found it difficult or impossible to prove they were not, and thus vindicate themselves, they were approved of God and in the view of the inspired apostle. With that they had to be content.

While, therefore, we have no more desire to form "a circle of fellowship" than we have to form "a church," we suggest that it may be well to find out first of all exactly what is meant by people when they use the term "circle of fellowship," and secondly that we should make very certain that the proposed remedy for the "circles" of fellowship, against which protest is raised, is not that of each individual being allowed to form his own circle of fellowship. Otherwise we are only practising Corinthian-like individualism under a new guise.

We do not want "a circle" of fellowship, but fellowship we do want. It is a precious treasure. Let us be careful, therefore, lest as an old proverb puts it, we "throw away the child with the bath-water." Human ideals often incrust themselves upon the truth. In discarding the incrustation it is all too easy to let slip the truth. Rather let us "tarry one for another," as Scripture enjoins.

F. B. Hole.

How to Conduct Oneself in God's House Which is the Assembly of the Living God.

The above words are given to us by the Spirit in 1 Timothy 3:15, where we are also told that the assembly is "the pillar and base of the truth." It is where the faith of God's elect is found, where the faith which was once delivered to the saints is maintained without deduction or addition, without the giving up of the latitudinarian or the going beyond of the newfangled. The truth finds its witness and support in the house of God which is His assembly, nor can it be found elsewhere.

It is no question of the strength or of the weakness of those who are of the truth, but of the truth itself. When the great apostasy takes place in Christendom (as the Spirit has expressly foretold) those who belong to the assembly of the living God will remain still "the pillar and base of the truth." It is this which we are to recognize, and in it we are to know how to conduct ourselves. There may be and are numerous religious organizations, but those who are of the faith have to do with the truth and with those who are of it; there may be and are many men who have messages to-day, but the One who is the Truth personally said, "I have come into the world that I might bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is of the truth hears My voice" (John 18:37). The Lord Jesus spake these words when the question of His Kingship was raised by Pilate. The 1st Epistle to Timothy keeps this in view.

God's House.

In the house of a monarch, in a royal household, courtly conduct is rightly expected. Those who share the privileges and dignities of the King's palace are to behave themselves in reference to the regal inhabitant of the house. This is not easily appreciated in these days of extreme democraticism. Just so in regard to God's house; unless we have a true sense of God's greatness and glory we shall lose the proper appreciation of the conduct which becomes the house, the assembly, which is God's habitation. Let the true knowledge of God in Christ be reverently maintained in the soul, corresponding behaviour will then result in reference to Himself and to those who form His house - "the assembly of the living God."

One has often read of a royal household falling into disrepute by their bad behaviour, and of men rising up against them. We are to see to it that God is rightly represented before others through those who are of His house. "Great is the mystery of godliness" we are told, and its effects are very wholesome towards others. It is this aspect of the house which is prominent in the 1st Epistle to Timothy.

In 1 Peter 2:5 the house is viewed as the place where spiritual sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise are offered to God: in Hebrews as that over which Christ is, as Son, the High Priest by whom we approach: in Ephesians it is God's habitation in the Spirit. The aspect in 1 Timothy, as we have said, is rather that which represents God in the world - "the pillar" as well as "the base of the truth"; "and confessedly the mystery of piety is great. God has been manifested in flesh." 1 John gives us the royal family in the house - all are born of God; speaking metaphorically, all have the sang bleu the Divine nature is theirs. They dwell in God and God dwells in them. They know the Father and the Father's love. They are the children of God, and the world is unable to take cognizance of them as such, for they dwell where the unregenerate cannot enter, though in the duties of this life they may know them well enough.

In the assembly, then, the presence of God is known. Thanksgiving and praise ascend to Him there. The Lord Jesus Christ is the One by whom we draw nigh; and it is the Spirit who gives our hearts to rejoice in the love and in the relationships which are ours. Glory and strength are in His presence: honour and majesty are His. Holiness becomes His house for ever, while they that dwell there shall be still praising Him. In His presence is fullness of joy - and John writes "that our joy may be full" - at His right hand are pleasures for evermore. It is the place, too, where the truth is found, as we have said, and where the witness to it is also maintained in practical piety and true reverence for the presence of the living God.

Behaviour in it.

How different is all this to what characterized the descendants of God's people in Malachi's day, and to that which so largely obtains now. In Malachi 1:6, God asks, Where is Mine honour? and again, Where is My fear? for by their behaviour they showed they did not reverence Him; yet they said, Wherein have we despised Thy Name? They had no right sense of their departure from God. Their offerings were polluted, and "the table of the Lord was contemptible" in their eyes! How appalling was their state! Still they expected pay for the smallest services in connection with God's house (verse 10). They profaned His Name. They said, "The table of the Lord is polluted, and the fruit thereof, even His meat, is contemptible"; also, "Behold what a weariness it is!" and they "snuffed at it"! How keenly must the Lord have felt all this - "the great King, the Lord of hosts, whose Name is great among the nations"! Judah, the royal tribe, profaned the holiness of the Lord (chap. 2:11). They wearied Him with their words. Yet they said, "Wherein have we wearied Him?" when they said, "Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delighteth in them"; again, "Where is the God of judgment?" (17) They robbed Him of the offerings which were His due. Nevertheless He said, Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, and an overflowing blessing shall be poured out (chap. 3:10). Still their words were stout against Him. They said, It is vain to serve God, and they called the proud happy.

What a picture of unrelieved sadness this would be, did we not read of those who truly honoured and feared the Lord at that very time of general declension. They spake often one to another, and without attempting to put others right they "thought upon His Name." They honoured it, and behaved according to that Name, conducting themselves according to the holiness, greatness and grace of it (verse 16). To such it is said, "Unto you that fear My Name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings" (chap. 4:2). So to-day it is said, "I Jesus have sent Mine angel (Malachi means My messenger, or angel) to testify to you these things in the assemblies. I am the Root and Offspring of David, the bright and morning Star." The testimony in the assemblies at the end is to Himself and to His coming again, and this results in the Spirit and the assembly saying to Him, Come. The truth is found with such at the close of the assembly's history on earth, and what becomes the house of God marks them, although they may be surrounded with a similar state of unreal profession as beset those that feared the Lord in Malachi's time.

A House of Prayer.

It is of the last importance, therefore, for us to further what will help in the direction of the positive things that are found in the presence of God, whose house those who hold fast are, and these things should be treasured and upheld by us. We have named several of them here, but there are also supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings. The Spirit of God exhorts to this "first of all" in 1 Timothy 2. It is also said, "I will therefore that men pray everywhere" (verse 8). Looking back over nearly half a century two men, marked by this, leave the impress and fragrance of God's presence on the spirit. The first, not a religious official, but a pious believer, always prayed before leaving a house at which he called. Young and unsaved I was nevertheless convinced of the reality of the living God, whom he addressed in faith. The second, known soon after God called me by His grace, always proposed prayer when we met, when we parted, when we entered on the Lord's service in the open air or in halls or in visiting. He did indeed "pray everywhere," as the "men" of God's house are instructed to do. More than words this habitual dependence on God brings Him near to our souls, for as we draw nigh to Him He draws nigh to us.

Isaiah spake of God's house of prayer in which men should be joyful (Isa. 56:7). The Lord Jesus said it should be "called the house of prayer" (Matt. 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46). Merchandise, however, had invaded its holy precincts then, and it obtains even more extensively now. They made it a den of thieves, and the Lord "cast out them that sold therein and them that bought." By-and-by He will "send forth His angels and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Matt. 13:41).

In the Epistles, written to those who compose the house of God, unceasing prayer is earnestly urged. Some say, It is impossible to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). God does not exhort us to do the impossible. Some cease to maintain prayer. We are told not to cease, but to continue with all perseverance in spite of every opposition. In relation to the house of God, "kings and all who are in dignity" are to be remembered, "that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all piety and gravity" (1 Tim. 2:2). This is all the more remarkable for the truth of eternal kingship had just been emphasized by the apostle, as he said, "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen" (chap. 1:17). Majesty, glory, honour and incorruptibility in this house of prayer are borne up. The elevating effect of it is surely very great, but in this day of degrading and profane principles the truth can only be upheld through Divine grace and power. Intercession, prayer, supplication and thanksgiving are therefore an imperative necessity.

In our day there is always One who intercedes. In Isaiah's day it was said, Truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth; and the Lord saw that there was no man and wondered that there was no intercessor (Isa. 59:16). Thank God, His beloved Son at His right hand "ever liveth to make intercession"; and thank God also for His house, where prayer is still maintained. This is good and acceptable in God's sight we are told; for He would "have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." All are therefore to be prayed for, and "kings and all that are in authority" particularly, by those who belong to the house of God.

God is There.

Those who are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ and have been born again by the Word, coming to Christ - the man-rejected Stone, the accepted of God - are built up a spiritual house, and they are for a habitation of God in the Spirit. All our conduct is therefore to be ordered in view of the great fact that the living God dwells in His house.

Even in regard to the behaviour of one believer towards another the apostles used this truth to exhort them accordingly. To the Thessalonians who had been called out of idolatry and uncleanness it is said, "He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man but God, who has also given to us His Holy Spirit" (1 Thess. 4:8). To disregard any brother, and overstep his rights, is to do wrong against God, who dwells in those who are His. It is wholesome and elevating to regard each other rightly, and not to think carelessly of the saints of God. This is no difficult matter where the love of God is known. The children of God love because they are first loved by Him, and every one that loves God loves him that has been begotten of Him, and we know that we love the children of God "when we love God and keep His commandments" (1 John 5:2).
"In Thine own house there love divine
Fills the bright courts with cloudless joy;
But 'tis the love that made us Thine
Fills all that house without alloy."

Twice in the Scriptures we are told that "God is love," and where the knowledge of His greatness, glory and majesty is cherished this most blessed fact will be valued rightly, for the more we see of His infinite majesty the more wonderful will this love appear to our worshipping hearts, and this will govern our conduct in the house of God which is the assembly of the living God, for it is such an One who is there.

When our Lord Jesus Christ appears in Divine splendour and glory His greatness will then be seen publicly. This is kept before us in 1 Timothy so that corresponding results may be produced in us now. That appearing, it is said, shall show "the only Ruler, the King of those that reign and the Lord of those that exercise lordship, who only has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen, nor is able to see, to whom be honour and eternal might. Amen" (chap. 6:15). Timothy is reminded of Christ's witness before Pilate concerning kingship, and is exhorted therefore to be true and to "keep the commandment spotless, irreproachable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ." Christ is "our hope" (chap. 1:1). He will bring everything right. Meanwhile prayer is to characterize the house of God, as we have said. Men are to pray everywhere, being in a suited state for God's holy presence. Women are to dress modestly and learn in quietness. Overseers are to be irreproachable in their own homes, and ministers also.

True piety is to mark all. Elders are to be honoured as fathers, and elder women as mothers, the younger as sisters with all purity. Pious aged widows who are destitute are to be cared for, and the younger are to give "no occasion to the adversary in respect of reproach." Elder brethren who lead in divine things are to be honoured doubly, specially those labouring in word and teaching. Servants are to honour and render profitable service to their masters. The rich are to be liberal. False-named science is to be avoided, while righteousness, piety, faith, love, endurance and meekness are to be pursued.

These things are to be seen and learned in Christ, who is the image of the invisible God; and as they mark us increasingly God will be in measure correspondingly made manifest in those that compose His house. His character will be represented in His assembly, which is "the pillar and base of the truth." God is true, and the truth expresses what is true; therefore the possession and witness and maintenance of the truth are necessary if God is to rightly be represented before men. This is what is in view in 1 Timothy. The assembly of the living God is for that purpose, in the aspect of which we have spoken. What an honour to be called to make Him known in all our conversation and conduct! May we appreciate it more highly.

Offerings to God.

We cannot close, however, without saying a few words as to what is for Him alone and which He alone can rightly value as to that which is offered to Himself in His house as to the "spiritual sacrifices" which ascend to Him, "the fruit of the lips" which He esteems so highly - the praise, thanksgiving and worship which the knowledge of Himself and His redeeming love produce in our hearts, and which the Holy Spirit enables us to render when we are free from self-occupation.

As we said the house of God in Hebrews is that over which Christ is as Son, the High Priest by whom we draw nigh. He saves completely from every hindrance - "to the uttermost" - those that come to God "by Him." Having Him as "a great Priest over the house of God," we are exhorted to "approach with a true heart" (Heb. 10:21). All access is through Him (Eph. 2:18) and by Him, and we are told also to offer the sacrifice of praise "by Him." To ignore this way of Divinely-appointed order in God's house is a serious matter, and to set religious officials in the place of Christ, as is often done in Christendom, is far from right conduct in the assembly of the living God. We are instructed in 1 Peter 2:5, as to offering up "spiritual sacrifices" in a "spiritual house," but we are distinctly told that they are "acceptable to God by Jesus Christ," and not by anyone else. The Father finds pleasure in those who come thus before Him through His beloved Son.
" From our guilt His blood has freed us,
'Tis through Him our souls draw nigh;
And the Spirit, too, has taught us
Abba, Father, thus to cry."

We may therefore come boldly into His blessed presence, and, rejoicing before Him, give Him our united praise and worship, blessing His Holy Name together. "Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty; give unto the Lord the glory due unto His Name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness," it is said. How wonderful that we can give to Him! Nothing in ourselves and unworthy too; yet set with the mighty by God's rich grace, and enabled to offer to Him in the beauty of holiness, in the beauty that is ours in Christ through His redeeming work at Calvary. The gift of God's love to us is immeasurable and unspeakable, nevertheless we can respond to His infinite grace by giving to Him again, saying, "Of Thine own do we give Thee." May He receive that which gives Him pleasure in increasing measure from those who belong to the house of God which is the assembly of the living God.

H. J. Vine.


Having invited correspondence we consider it only right that our readers should have the benefit, if any, that may arise from it. It is with some hesitation, however, that an endeavour has been made to meet the difficulties raised in the following letter; but as they are, alas, very common difficulties, they cannot be ignored, and it may amount to moral cowardice to shirk them. Others may be able to give clearer and more definite help; if so, the pages of the Supplement are open.

"Dear Bro, - I have recently received a copy of Scripture Truth with the Supplement No. 5. I am delighted with these papers, the teaching is so clear and Scriptural. They arrived at a very opportune moment, for it is not long since I found my way outside the religious systems of men, and I have since been through much exercise of soul in seeking to walk in the right path for God's people. I therefore gladly accept your invitation to send questions to your magazine. There are some questions which are troubling me greatly. I wish now I could express myself plainly enough for you to understand my difficulties. However, I will try to do so."


"First, with reference to fellowship. I found in this city three different companies of believers claiming to be gathered to the Name of the Lord, but each in separation from the other, inter-communion being strictly forbidden."

It is plain that in apostolic times only one assembly was recognized in one city, or to put it more correctly, the assembly in each city was viewed and addressed in its unity and oneness. When cliques and sects began to spring up in any one of these assemblies, as at Corinth, they were unsparingly condemned by the Holy Spirit in the Word (see 1 Cor.). They were an evidence of a rampant carnality and not of a higher spirituality as the sectarians thought. If the germ or bud of division met with God's rebuke at the beginning, the fully developed and vicious fruit cannot have His sanction now. Hence we have no difficulty in concluding that the state of things which you deplore in your city is wrong, radically wrong; it is contrary to the truth and Christ dishonouring; it could never have been if there had not been disobedience to the Word. There may, of course, be just cause for separation. If a company of believers in any place refused to judge known evil, either in morals or doctrine, as directed by the Word, it would be, we believe, incumbent upon those who desired to be faithful to the Lord, after due patience, to separate from them, for to do otherwise would be to say holiness and truth are of little account; consequently the name of "the Holy and the True" would be denied and His Word not kept. But such separation would be the last resource, after all efforts to exercise the consciences of the company had failed. Cases of this kind have arisen in the history of the truth, and it would not be right to characterize those who so separated as sectarian, they have simply stood for holiness and truth against complicity with evil and error. "Let every one that nameth the Name of Christ depart from iniquity … but follow righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Tim. 2:19-22) would be sufficient warrant for such action, and enough also for the guidance of all who in every place call on the Name of the Lord, for what is done according to the truth and in the Name of the Lord in one place, would surely satisfy all who love the truth and hold to that Name wherever they are found. The one Head will direct all His members in unison, and there is one body and one Spirit.

We need not say that such a course must always be deeply serious, to cause a separation where one heart and one mind should prevail at the bidding of some leader, or because of some difference of judgment, or of the interpretation of some passage of Scripture is to be guilty of the gravest of sins, because it is sin committed in the holy circle of the Lord's interests. This we know has been done, causing widespread confusion, and stumbling many of the saints of God. The condition of things spiritually that made this possible is our common shame; but those directly responsible for these difficulties will have to answer to the Lord for their self will and independence of Him. All who would walk in the truth must surely decline to recognize separations of this sort, for they are contrary to the truth. You may say that all this does not help you in your difficulties, but it will, we trust, at least, direct your exercises in the right channel, so that you will not waste your time weighing the claims of one company against another, but weigh all in the light the Word gives for such conditions, and that may result in many others being exercised about a state of things that must be displeasing to the Lord.


"I walked alone for some time, then was received into the fellowship of so-called -- Brethren. I longed for an expression of the unity of the church, but here I learned that although there were three meetings of these Brethren within a radius of a few miles, they were not in fellowship with each other; the City meeting had separated from the other two meetings some years ago, and the breach was not healed. This caused much confusion. The meetings would not receive from each other locally, yet the assemblies in the Eastern States received brethren from all of the assemblies here. A case actually occurred where two brethren from the meetings at variance here were on a visit to the Eastern States, and were both received on the same Lord's Day in one assembly, but returning home they could remain in separation from each other. I was much concerned on the question of unity in discipline and other matters, and soon withdrew from his meeting."

Do not let the desire for an "expression of the unity of the church" control you. That unity exists and will be fully expressed when the New Jerusalem - the bride of the Lamb - comes out of heaven having the glory of God. Meanwhile it is not expressed, though we may act in the faith that it is no mere doctrine but a reality - "There is one body and one Spirit." If an expression of the unity of the church is your one thought, Rome will claim to express it, but she is the great harlot.

But an expression of unity, or to more correctly express our thought, unison is much to be desired, but if it is gained at the expense of the truth the gain is an incalculable loss.

But while we cannot find a full expression of this unity in these broken days, it is altogether another matter to deny it in practice, and the state of things that you describe is clearly a denial of it, and confusion. It all arises from the the idea of independent assemblies, that each must act for itself regardless of what may happen elsewhere, and this is the principle of congregationalism, and not of the church of God.

One Scripture that would prove that all who are subject to the truth would act in unison is 1 Cor. 1:2. The directions and commands that the Lord sent through Paul to the assembly at Corinth were for "all that in every place call upon the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." Hence unity of discipline would be secured, for no one would assert that the Lord would direct an assembly in one place to act in one way, and direct another somewhere else in the opposite. As Head of the body He will move all who are subject to Him in one direction, and the one Spirit is here to give force to that direction. The one Lord administering in each assembly will produce one mind in all. Hence there will be unity in discipline and in everything else. It does not follow from this that one assembly must have the approval of all assemblies before it takes any necessary action. But that what it does is so clearly according to the Word that all who are subject to the Word will recognize the leading of the Lord and gladly acquiesce.

Official Oversight.

I was afterwards received into the fellowship of another company which I learn was once in fellowship with what was called the 'Needed Truth' party. The principles of that party are still practically maintained in this meeting. Your article on 'Apostolic Fellowship,' in SUPPLEMENT 5 has caused me to think very much. I have fears that I might have swung to an extreme, and that 'Needed Truth' principles are but a reflex of the Romish Metropolitanism mentioned in your article. Could you therefore enlighten me as to whether there is Scriptural ground for the assertion that all meetings in a city should form the one local assembly? In all cases of discipline, etc., these meetings act as one, and they have one united oversight."

It is clear, we believe, from Scripture, that all saints in any given place are looked upon as one assembly, even though through difficulties as to distance, etc., they were not able always to meet in one place. The Epistle to the Galatians was written to assemblies in a province, and they are addressed as one. They had come under the influence of error and were being swept away as one, and the apostolic letter was to call them back as one to the truth.

There is no Scripture for an official oversight to-day. Bishops, elders and deacons were appointed when the church in the house character was in order. But these were not appointed by the assemblies, that is another principle of congregationalism, but by the apostle or his delegates. No

word is given to us as to the continuation of this, and the apostle, in his farewell to the saints, did not commit them to the oversight but to God and the Word of His grace. The Lord is faithful and will raise up and maintain faithful men who shall have the moral qualities that fit them to care for the saints and their needs, and such will be recognized by all who are subject to the Word. But the appointing of an oversight is going beyond the Word. We must look for what is moral and not official in these days.

The Use Of The Word "Church."

Again, when in Scripture we read the expression 'The Church of God,' does it only refer to the local assembly or has it a more comprehensive meaning?"

The designation "church," or "assembly" as it should be, is used in the Word for the local assembly and also for the whole body of Christ upon earth. The first time it is used (Matt. 16:38) it has in view the whole assembly without any reference to locality, and every time that it occurs in the Epistle to the Ephesians it is used in this way.

It is of the greatest importance that the truth as to its oneness and completeness should be understood, otherwise it will not be possible to act in the truth of it in the local assembly.


" I would like further to mention the question of 'worship.' In this city there is a large meeting. I have always felt strangely attracted to this meeting, but withheld from seeking fellowship because of several things that I cannot get clear about. The order of the worship meeting drew me very much. These brethren maintain that there is certainly a Divine order in the worship meeting. Could you tell me, therefore, if it is a mistake to address our God and Father in prayer before the breaking of the bread? It is maintained that the Lord Jesus should be addressed personally until the act of remembrance is past. It is then He conducts the assembly in Spirit to the Father's presence in the Father's House, sings praises in the midst of the assembly, and declares His Father's Name to His Brethren. It is claimed there is no worship until we come to this phase in the meeting. That other meetings that do not maintain this order, only keep the Passover and cannot rise to the height of privilege there really is in the Lord's Supper."

To have rules and regulations in the conduct of meetings for which there is not Scriptural warrant is the sure badge of a party, no matter how intelligent those who compose it may be. Moreover it means that the authority of the Lord and the guidance of the Holy Spirit are set aside, and you will be able to realize the seriousness of that. Further, since the standard set is a high one, and must be attained to regardless of the state of the assembly, nothing but insincerity can ensue, and true worship - worship in spirit and in truth ceases, for that cannot be arranged and directed by us, it must be spontaneous and free.

Nevertheless we believe that where the Lord leads there will be order, and since the object of the coming together is to break bread in the remembrance of the Lord in His death, this should be, and will be, where things are right, the first and chief thing. The heart and mind of the assembly, as guided by the Holy Ghost, will certainly dwell upon the Lord in death, with accompanying adoration to Him, but it would be a bold thing to say that the Father has no part in this, and no note of praise or word of worship should ascend to Him in connection with it. To whom did the Lord give thanks when He instituted the Supper? To the Father, surely. Then the Father may be addressed before the Supper.

The expression, "The act of remembrance is past," jars upon our mind. It is well that no time should be wasted, and that the Lord's Supper should be eaten early in the meeting, since it is for this we come together; but even here the principle contained in the words, "Tarry one of another," would prevent undue haste. Yet the whole meeting is a remembrance of that that we shall never forget even in heaven, and there is no true worship that is separated from the death of Christ. The blood was ever in the Holiest.

We believe it is utterly wrong to say that not until the Supper is eaten does the Lord lead us into the Father's presence. The expression itself is unscriptural. What is said is, "I will declare Thy Name unto my brethren in the midst of the assembly will I sing praises to Thee." We are in the presence of the Father when we assemble, if we do it rightly, for His presence is the home of the brethren of Christ. And the Lord is there to make the Father a reality as the Father to us, for this is what declaring His name means. We should have from the beginning a sense of the Father's love and favour in our hearts, and it is thus that we look back into death, the death of Christ, and there learn the greatness of His love (1 John 4:9-19). To say there is no worship until after the bread is broken is to say what is not true, you may worship individually in your own room, and there may be assembly worship in any meeting of the assembly. No one can keep the passover now. The Christian feast is the Lord's Supper, and to make a certain standard of intelligence necessary for this, as these friends of yours are doing, is to spoil it. Love is the quality needed. Love to the One Who died for us, though the more intelligent we are the better, if love is maintained.


"I do earnestly hope you will enlighten me on this question, having observed the order mentioned I sometimes feel distressed in our worship meeting at what appears to be confusion. I know the Holy Spirit will lead the assembly in that order which is pleasing to the Lord. But it is thought by these brethren, who really seem to have remarkable intelligence in the mind of the Lord, that those meetings which do not observe this order are not according to the Truth. They say the Lord will only give light to that which is according to His Name, and this question of order is light given for these closing days."

We should advise you to beware of those who talk much about "fresh light," and "light for closing days." We must remember that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light, and we may be easily deceived. The Word is enough. To that Word of grace we are commended by the great apostle of the Gentiles, and John said, "He that is of God heareth us."


"One more question as to baptism. Is an assembly right in refusing fellowship to any who have not received believers' baptism?

To make believers' baptism - by which is meant the immersion of believers - a test of fellowship, is to make a narrower test than the Word and to form a Baptist sect.

"Dear brother, I do hope you will help me with these questions. At present I am away in the loneliness of the Australian bush, many miles from the address given at the head of this letter. I have been away some weeks now from the fellowship of meetings. But these questions have given me much thought, and after receiving the Scripture Truth direct from England, I felt impelled to write to you. You may not have time to answer me personally, but I am assured a little ministry on these questions would be very helpful." A.G.K.

It will be a great joy if we are able to help you and your earnest friends who are searching the Word. One closing word we would say. In avoiding all error and all sectarianism, and in taking the separate path that the Word indicates, be sure and walk in love towards all the saints.

J. T. Mawson.

The Lord's Supper.

Notes of an Address on 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.

The Lord's Supper, which is the one feast of the assembly of God, stamps upon that assembly a wonderful character, and marks it out as being in complete contrast to the world while still in it. If we have learnt in any measure the meaning of it we are greatly favoured of God; if we have not learnt its meaning we do not understand the blessedness and character of the assembly at all. We cannot consider it too often; it is an inexhaustible theme, and that because it presents our Lord to us in the fidelity and invincibility of His love. The occasion of its institution emphasizes this; it was on

The Same Night In Which He Was Betrayed.

This is arresting, and we must pause and consider why the supper is identified with this blackest of all black nights. Had Paul been left to his own wisdom to give an account of the institution of the supper he would most probably have connected it, as we should have done, with the crucifixion. He would have said, "It was on the night before the crucifixion that the Lord took bread." But that was not the way in which he received it from the Lord, nor was he so inspired by the Holy Ghost to write it.

It was on the night of the betrayal. The betrayal is the background that throws into bright relief the love that moved the Lord to give to us the supper that we might have it until He comes as a memorial of His death for us. The betrayal was very definitely in the Lord's thoughts; how keenly He felt it we must surely feel, as reverently we consider Him in that solemn hour. "One of you shall betray Me," He said to them (Matt. 26:21). "One of you that eateth with Me shall betray Me" (Mark 14:18). Then in Luke 22:21, after they had partaken of the supper, His words are recorded, "The hand of him that betrayeth Me is with Me at the table." And here in 1 Cor. 11 though now in the glory of God, the Lord does not forget this; it was on "the same night in which He was betrayed" that He took bread and gave thanks. There was base treachery in the inner circle and this caused Him the deepest pain. Jerusalem He loved, but it had never professed to love Him. It had always despised Him, proudly asking, "Who is this?" When His love took Him to it to spend laborious days in the midst of it, it offered Him no welcome, or rest, or home. It left Him friendless on its streets, with no place to lay His head unless He sought it on the Mount of Olives. He felt this, and only His touching lament and tears can tell us how keenly He felt it. But in this inner circle He surely could find consolation and rest! These disciples of His, the "you" to whom He loved to speak, they surely would be faithful to Him; for one and all of them had protested oft and again their love to Him! No, He cannot rest even here, for having gathered them together He says, "one of you shall betray Me." Treachery within was a hundred-fold worse than hatred without, and this treachery was well calculated to discourage and destroy a less than perfect love. But He rose up above it all and in connection with it all He instituted the supper which was to be to all His own, as long as ever they needed it, a memorial of His love that no failure on their part could destroy.

I am sure that none who are truly and vitally the Lord's could do what Judas did; he was a child of the devil, and the devil was in him; nevertheless he was in that circle, he was one of the "you," and he had received the same tender consideration at the Lord's hands. He had been in that best of all company, and had had the best of training and circumstances, but this only brought out the worst that was in him, and proved that the flesh is incorrigibly bad. And the flesh in Judas was no worse than the flesh in Peter and John, and you and me, and the lesson that his treachery should teach us is that we can have no confidence in the flesh. Then in what and whom may we place our confidence? In instituting the supper the Lord replies, "You may trust in Me." For the supper tells us of love that carried Him unto death for us.

"What love with His can vie?" "One of you shall betray me," said the Lord, and the disciple whom Jesus loved seemed to enter into the full meaning of it all, for he reclined upon Jesus' bosom. It was as though He said, "Lord, I cannot trust my heart, or depend upon my love to you, but I can trust Your heart and I can find perfect rest in the love that beats in Your bosom for me." And the supper invites us, and encourages us to act as he acted, so that we also may call ourselves "the disciple whom Jesus loves." The love of Christ is not measured by our response to it, it does not change as ours changes, but it will continue in all its strength "till He come." What a resting place is His bosom! What solace and joy His love yields! and that it might be ever fresh before us the supper has been given to us; and that we might clearly see that it is not a love dependent upon our faithfulness it was instituted on the night of the betrayal - the same night.

This should give us confidence in gathering together to partake of it, and should teach us that the joy of the feast springs altogether from what He is in the greatness of His love, and that our fitness and title to partake of the feast rests upon the value of His death which we recall in it.

That then is the setting; see now how He acts in it.

He Gave Thanks Unto God.

Behold Him in the midst of those disciples, lifting heart and voice in thanksgiving to God, His Father, with the bread in His hands which was to be to them the symbol of His body given in death for them. He gave thanks as their Leader and Head; they were those whom He would call "My brethren" when He had overthrown the power of death; they were to be the beginning, the nucleus, of that assembly in which He would raise a perpetual song unto His Father, and theirs. So now in the midst of them He gives thanks, and the thanks must have been for His death and the great results of it. He looked beyond the cross and beyond the tomb, and measured the favour, immeasurable to all but Himself, in which His assembly should stand with Him before the Father as a result of His one offering, and with this in full view He gave thanks. That act stamped upon the assembly its first distinctive feature, it is a thanksgiving company and the Lord's supper is an eucharistic feast - a feast of thanksgiving. In this the assembly of God - that which God has called out of the world - stands in vivid contrast to the world. The world does not and will not give thanks; "neither were thankful," is one of the charges that God brings against the heathen world in Rom. 1:21, and it is not the least item in the heavy indictment drawn up against apostate Christendom in 2 Tim. 3:2. But the saints of God can and do give thanks, from their hearts they can cry with exultation, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

It should cause us much exercise that we give thanks so feebly, and that often murmurings and repinings take the place of praise. We are not living up to our character and privileges when this is the case, and the reason of it is that we have lost the sense of the favour in which we stand, or have never known it. Nothing is more calculated to restore to us a sense of this favour, or teach us what it is, than the Lord's supper, the feast of thanksgiving. For in the death of our Lord the heart of God was fully declared. His love flowed out there towards us without any reserve, and that when we were both dead and guilty, as we read in 1 John 4:9-10: "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son, to be the propitiation for our sins." Hence our sins removed, and our souls quickened into life, what can we do but adore and thank Him Who is the source of it all?

Our thanksgiving is commensurate with the sense of God's favour in our souls, the more fully we enter into this the fuller our thanksgiving will be. It is feeble at the best, yet it is to me a most cheering and comforting thought that a perfect thanksgiving has entered the Father's ear; for when the Lord gave thanks He did so as fully knowing the favour in which His own would stand with Him. That perfect thanksgiving abides, and I delight to think that when the saints of God come together they do so in all the fragrance of it.

He Brake The Bread.

Having given thanks, thus giving God the first place, He brake the bread and gave it to His disciples, saying, "This is My body given for you, this do in remembrance of me." It was to keep powerfully before them His own personal love to them, and in partaking of this broken bread the assembly responds to that love and shows its devotion to Him. I speak of it, when it is done, not as a matter of form but with hearts moved by His love to grateful adoration. In this again the assembly stands out in contrast to the world; it is a company devoted to Christ whom the world despised and slew. I know of no better illustration of it than that of Joseph of Arimathea. The Lord hung dead upon the cross; all the world had followed its princes in crucifying Him; then stepped forth Joseph and identified himself with that dead and dishonoured body. It was as though he said, "The world hates Him but I love Him; the world has slain Him but I claim His body even though it metes out the same treatment to me." So we, when we partake of that broken bread, identify ourselves with the dead body of Christ, for as far as the world knows and cares He is still dead; the world's last act against Him was to rend His side. We know that He lives in resurrection life and power; but we recall Him as He was, and identify ourselves with His death.

His body was given for us. His love led Him to sacrifice Himself on our behalf; it is upon this that we dwell, and dwelling upon it our souls are bound the closer to Him. The cup also He gave to them, for the two elements complete the symbol of the Lord's death - His body given and His blood shed "for you;" "in remembrance of Me." Here is His love, here is our response to it.

We Are One Bread And One Body.

In partaking of the supper the assembly declares itself to be one body, for all partake of one bread. There is unity in the assembly, and only there. It is a unity of life formed by the Holy Ghost, and by His power it will be maintained until the assembly appears in glory without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Here also the assembly stands out in contrast to the world. There is no unity in the world, it is characterized by sin and discord and disintegration. One class in it may combine to defend itself against another class, but there is no vital unity, no true cohesion. This can only be found in the assembly, for it is still true that "There is one body and one Spirit." Outwardly we do not see this unity. The flesh and the devil have wrought sad havoc in the ranks of those who are one in Christ; and the cliques and sects and parties, which are our great shame, deny this blessed and indissoluble unity in practice, yet the unity exists in spite of all the outward denial of it, and it is well to dwell on this side and to hold fast to this truth that "we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread." This is part of that faith once for all delivered to the saints, and we are called upon to earnestly contend for it.

"Till He Come."

We show the Lord's death by eating the bread and drinking the cup "till He come." We announce the fact that He has died in the world and that we hold to Him who has died. It is said that after James II. was driven from the British throne, at royal banquets when the toast "The King" was honoured, his secret adherents drew their glasses across the finger bowls, meaning by that act "we drink to the king across the water." What they did by stealth we do openly - "we drink to the King across the water" to Christ our earth-rejected Lord; we are identified with the death of Christ, and though men may be indifferent, angels behold us in this act of responsive love, and learn that Christ has not died in vain.

We link His death with His coming again and that coming again is our hope and joy. The assembly is a community awaiting the return of the absent Lord, the heavenly Bridegroom. Here again she stands out in contrast to the world, for that which is to her "that blessed hope," is that which will fill the world with alarm; that which will be the consummation of all our hopes will be the overthrow of all its schemes and the blasting of all its ambitions.

Here then are some of the distinctive features of the assembly of God that plainly prove that it is not of the world but of God.
It gives thanks to the Father.
It is devoted to Christ.
It is one united body.
Its great hope in the coming again of the Lord Jesus.

May these things be seen more definitely and practically by us all for His Name's sake.

J. T. Mawson.

The Leaven.

1 Corinthians 5.

The Apostle Paul, in this chapter, alludes to a gross case of immorality, which had taken place (verse 1) and was unjudged in the assembly at Corinth (verse 2). He himself had a very definite judgment about it (verse 3), but he desired that the matter should be the subject of assembly action, in conjunction with his own apostolic authority (verse 4), the name and power of Our Lord Jesus Christ being connected with their gathering together, in order that the offender might as a wicked person be put away from among themselves (verse 13).

It is important to notice that such a judgment must of necessity meet with the approval of godly conscience in every assembly. The sin was evident, and the saints at Corinth were exercising the Lord's power in His assembly, that the holy name of the Lord might be vindicated. These things would show that their action was in relation to the whole church in every place. The man so dealt with was unfit for communion in any Christian assembly. For such reason alone can this extreme discipline be used, and under such conditions alone can the act of an assembly be ratified in heaven. Verse 5 seems to go beyond anything that assembly action could do, apart from apostolic authority; for it involves, unless he repents, the death of the guilty person, who nevertheless being a believer in Christ would yet be found saved in the day of glory. Verse 6, "Your glorying is not good."

They were going on as if all was well, yet with this corruption in their midst; how deadening to the conscience is unjudged sin. The apostle then states a principle of great importance, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." The sin of one affected the whole assembly in Corinth. Here the leaven was immoral conduct, in Gal. 5:9, where he repeats the statement, the leaven was evil doctrine, its result would be the permeation of the entire mass, unless its action was stopped, otherwise it would eat as doth a gangrene (2 Tim. 2:17). In this case the saints were to purge it out from their midst, to express their judgment of it, by refusing Christian company to the guilty brother. In the spirit of self-judgment, that his sin was the guilt of all, they were so to act that they would be a new lump, unleavened. Then is brought forward the fact which should touch the affections in the deepest way. The judgment of sin had fallen upon Christ for them.

What stronger motive could be adduced, for holiness and purity of walk, than that Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. To allow personally or collectively that which is contrary to His cross, that for which He took our place, and suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, would indeed be the deepest treachery, and the worst of all sins, the sin against love. Therefore we are to keep the feast, apart from leaven in any form (verse 8), a reference doubtless to the seven days which followed the Passover, during which leaven was not to be found in the houses of the Israelites (Ex. 12:18-20). This feast of unleavened bread is typical of the present period. Leaven is always a type of evil; the apostle speaks of it here in three forms: (1) The old leaven; (2) The leaven of malice; (3) The leaven of wickedness; and contrasts it with that which is unleavened, sincerity and truth. It is well to have these three forms distinctly in our minds. The old leaven is the character of the old man, the natural product of the virus of sin derived from Adam. Its actions are detailed in verses 10 and 11. With this the Christian must have nothing to do, he must be unleavened, having put off the old man with his deeds, and having put on the new man, the character of Christ. The leaven of wickedness, while including the immoral deeds referred to, goes farther, for it is seen in contrast with truth, and is characterized by false doctrine subversive of the truth. This leaven, in fact, lay at the root of the Corinthian trouble, as well as of the Galatian. Their manners were bad, the evil communications had made them so (chap. 15:33). The corrective for this was to know the truth, God and the word of His grace. But besides these two forms of leaven there was another, more subtle but equally sinful, the leaven of malice. In seeking to avoid bad conduct, and evil doctrine, we are ever in danger of allowing injurious thoughts, of using hard speeches, and making false accusations, against those who are fellow members of the body of Christ. With the most laudable desire to maintain the truth sectarianism may be fallen into, the malicious character of which is manifested by manner of speech as much as by action. To avoid this leaven, it is most necessary, if we desire to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, to regard our brethren in relation to that unity, to put away all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, evil speaking with all malice, and to be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven us. To seek restoration and healing, and to be followers of God as dear children.

Malice may be defined as speaking of others with intent to injure or depreciate them, bearing a grudge. Its root is pride; the soil in which it grows is prejudice; its stem is self-exaltation, and its fruit is the hypocrisy of the Pharisee. Hence it is contrasted with sincerity, the quality of being generous and transparent, esteeming others better than ourselves and readiness to go along with the lowly. The Pharisee in Luke 18 was malicious, his speech betrayed him, he trusted in himself that he was righteous and despised others; the publican was sincere, his words bore witness to it. The boastfulness of those who amidst the Corinthian schisms said they were of Christ (1 Cor. 1:12, and 2 Cor. 10:7) to the exclusion of others, exhibited one of the worst fruits of the leaven of malice, for it accredited a party with a position, that could rightly only belong to the whole. In conclusion the comment of Robert Leighton on 1 Peter 1:22, is worth quoting. "Seeing ye have purified your hearts unto unfeigned love of the brethren," he says, "How few are there that have truly maliceless hearts and find this entire upright affection towards their brethren." Who of us is there that does not need the rebuke?

James Green.

"One Flock, One Shepherd."

John 10:16.

The Spirit of God used the apostle Paul to direct the attention of the saints to the vital aspect of Christ and the assembly under the eloquent figure of the Head and the body, and He also gave to us through John a vivid illustration of the same truth in the beautiful representation of the Shepherd and the flock.

There is one Head and one body; there is one Shepherd and one flock. The first being an essential unity subsisting in one vital organism, the second an essential oneness in life also, sheep being necessary for a shepherd even as a shepherd is necessary for a flock. It is striking to observe the apostle Paul himself indicated that the assembly and the flock are to be identified as one (Acts 20:28), when he warned the elders of Ephesus regarding similar perils to those we read of in the tenth chapter of John.

The body receives protection and direction from the Head, so also does the flock from the Shepherd.

It is therefore necessary for the members to hold fast the Head as we are told in Col. 2, and for the sheep to follow the Shepherd. This being experimentally true of us we shall be preserved in Christ Jesus where Divine love is known, and be united together unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding to the full knowledge of the mystery of God, for this is contained in both the figures to which we have referred. Just as it is said in Ephesians that those who are called out from the Jews and out from the Gentiles become "one body" in Christ according to the truth of the mystery, so also it is said in John 10 that "other sheep" as well as those of the Jewish fold are called to form the "one flock."

The Shepherd And His Sheep.

Divine love has been shown towards us in the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Divine power is manifested in His resurrection. In these two relations He is spoken of first as "the good Shepherd" and secondly as "the great Shepherd." In 1 John 3:16 it is said, Hereby we have known love, because He has laid down His life for us; and He Himself said, "I am the good Shepherd; the good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep." (John 10:11). Our sins necessitated that death if we were to be saved from perishing eternally, and elsewhere we are told that Divine love is commended towards us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). His death was the great expression of the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There is, however, power as well as love energizing on our behalf, and both in accord with the righteousness and holiness of God, to bring to glorious fruition His eternal purpose in Christ Jesus. We read in Eph. 1:19 of "the surpassing greatness of His power towards us who believe, according to the might of His strength in which He wrought in Christ in raising Him from among the dead." That was the manifestation of Divine power, and in Heb. 13:20 we are told that the great Shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ, was brought again from among the dead by the God of peace in virtue of the blood of the eternal covenant, therefore the present care for us of our great and exalted Shepherd is based upon His atoning death at Calvary. The good Shepherd died to save us, the great Shepherd lives to care for us. Power is exercised on our behalf in love which has fully expressed itself in Christ Jesus, therefore He could assure us that no sheep of His can ever perish.

We have said that we have both protection and direction in the Shepherd, amidst the aboundings of evils and perils in Christendom to-day. Nothing but fatal callousness could make us entirely indifferent to them and to the provision of Divine love and power for us in Christ the great Shepherd of the sheep. Unless we feel the one we shall not appreciate the other. In any case the dangers exist, and God has not left us in ignorance concerning them. Let the one who carelessly wanders from the flock of God heed this word of the Holy Spirit before it be too late. "Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour"; also, "Men shall arise speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them." Violence and deception are both at work.

It is true that the one who abides in Christ can say, "I will fear no evil," but that is because he follows the Shepherd with the flock, and not that he is indifferent to what he does not fear. The Lord led Israel like a flock through the wilderness, but Amalek smote the hindmost of them. Our Lord Jesus Christ protects all His own to-day, but it must be remembered that a shepherd gathers the sheep together for this. They are a flock and they themselves flock together. That is in their very nature and it is proved in their so doing. We speak now of what is normal of course. This is specially true when the sheep have a sense of some peril at hand. A fox in a field is enough to cause them to run together; and, with the lambs inside the closed circle, they turn their faces to the foe. The wolf is used by the Lord in John 10 and by the apostle Paul in Acts 20 to illustrate the cruel nature of the men who trouble the flock of God to-day.

The danger from such is very real, they seize upon individuals wherever they can, and then proceed to scatter the sheep! The Shepherd cares for and gathers the sheep; the wolf troubles them and scatters them. The distinction may be easily observed by the feeblest lamb. Thieves are also spoken of so that we may be forewarned as to those who come for unrighteous gain. Such are ready to commit any act of deceit, violence or destruction to attain their selfish ends and to secure their ill-gotten spoils. The good Shepherd gives all for the sheep; these take all they can from them. He enriches them that they might be together in life and health; they enfeeble them. The hireling too is pointed out by the Lord as a cause of weakness; pay is pre-eminent in his thoughts; no Divine love has place in his heart; he does not truly care for the sheep, therefore he flees when danger appears. The good Shepherd dies for them, and as the great Shepherd He never leaves or forsakes them: the hireling flees at the sight of a foe and forsakes the flock he has no real love for, because he is no more and no less than an hireling.

In all this we learn the importance of simply trusting to the one Shepherd of the one flock. Protection is found in Him, and direction also. He not only preserves us, but He directs us to refreshing streams and nourishing pastures, where we can be built up together in our most holy faith and abide in the happy enjoyment of His unchanging love. Paul warned even elders of the danger of drawing away souls after themselves. The Lord directs us into the fields of Divine abundance, and care is needed lest any should turn the sheep from following Himself and from flocking together around Him.

Sheep Marks.

There are certain marks by which the sheep of our Lord Jesus Christ can be distinguished. Religion is no guarantee that we are His, for those to whom He said, "Ye are not of My sheep," were bigoted religionists, associated too with the place of Jehovah's name. It was in the temple when Jesus walked in the porch of Solomon, that He told these cold professors of religion this. "It was winter" in more senses than one. They were celebrating a religious feast, and they surrounded Him, asking questions of unbelief, and He to Whom their whole Bible pointed said, "Ye are not of My sheep." They were strangers to the faith which works by love. At heart they were unbelievers whatever their mental process of reasoning may have been.

In contrast to these the Son of God tells us what are the marks of His own sheep - "My sheep" as He calls them:
(1) They "hear My voice" (John 10:27). His Word in the Gospel has reached them in the power of the Spirit, and in this way His voice has livingly become known to them.
(2) "I know them." There is nothing haphazard in this matter of eternal import. In view of the corruptions and imitations of the faith the real are comforted in 2 Tim. 2:19 with this same fact: "The Lord knoweth them that are His."
(3) "They follow Me" He further says. This is encouraging for those who are perplexed by the rival claims of sects and parties and their leaders. The sheep of Christ simply follow the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and He gives them what none other could give, as He says,
(4) "I give them eternal life." We may be able to explain this gift in a very limited measure, but it is ours nevertheless and it is not simply life in eternal blessedness, for it involves also the knowledge of the Father and the Son.
(5) "They shall never perish." Tried as they may be on their journey to the Father's house, not one of the flock, however, can be lost, thank God, for Jesus said:
(6) "No one shall seize them out of My hand." The thief may come, the wolf may scatter, the hireling may flee, but the Shepherd's hand of omnipotence holds every one safely. Moreover,
(7) "No one can seize out of the hand of My Father." In the Son's hand we are perfectly safe, and in the Father's hand we are equally so we are doubly safe, if it be necessary so to express it, for we belong to both the Father and the Son.

In addition to these seven marks, we are told in verse 4, The sheep follow Him because they know His voice. A contrast is given in the next verse, which those who waste their own and others time and energies in dealing with the vapourings and teachings of strangers, would do well to consider: "They will not follow a stranger, but will flee from him, because they know not the voice of strangers." The importance of this should be thoroughly grasped. It may be said, Some have been known to follow evil teachers and leaders. But the Lord said His sheep do not follow them, and do not know them! On the other hand they flee from strangers. Those, therefore, who do follow them cannot be His sheep. We speak of course of what is characteristic, and not of some sudden impulse from which a true believer will be recovered. Rome educates its students as to what is considered error by that system, but Christ's sheep "know not" the voices of strangers, and it is a serious mistake to try to make them know, and to be wise as to such. Rather should we encourage and edify each other in that which is good, till we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, the great Shepherd of the sheep.

It is true that He knows all, and that they know Him as well as His voice, nevertheless they may increase in the knowledge of Himself, and this should be furthered. Knowledge has a great place in the 10th chapter of John as being true of the sheep of His pasture. Jesus said, "I am the good Shepherd and I know those that are Mine, and am known of those that are Mine, as the Father knows Me and I know the Father, and I lay down My life for the sheep." How blessed for the sheep to be gathered around the same glorious Object as that which fills the Father's heart with ineffable pleasure! He is enough our minds and hearts to fill! When He spoke to those who were not of His sheep, and told them that none could pluck any of His own sheep out of His hand nor out of His Father's hand, adding, "I and My Father are One," they took up stones to cast at Him! It is the grace of God which gives His own a different Spirit, and draws them together around the One they rejected, for, as we said before, sheep flock together. This is one of the important marks which must not be forgotten. There is something wrong when a sheep is seen alone by itself in the field.

Fold or Flock?

How are the sheep of Christ held together? The question is one of momentous importance. It has been raised in various forms and terms for long centuries, and ecclesiastical conflicts have furiously raged in regard to it times without number. The question may have been put in a scholarly manner or in a simple upright fashion, and arguments may have been advanced with the display of erudition or in the forcefulness begotten by the sense of right against wrong; nevertheless, the matter to be settled is simply this, Are Christ's sheep held together by ecclesiastical hurdles in an organized fold, or simply as a flock under the hand of the omnipotent Shepherd? Many subtle disputations may be advanced according to the tendencies and inclinations of those who enunciate them and the quality of their abilities to reason them out, for we are Divinely informed, "God made man upright, but He has sought out many "abstruse reasonings" as the word "inventions" is better translated; and, seeing that this is so, the more trustfully we bow to God's own Word regarding this important matter the safer shall we be; for true safety lies only in accepting what the Word of God says as to it. The arguments of the human mind with its varied bias — whether against or apparently for that which we are told in the Bible — have proved themselves to be untrustworthy, and in some cases their prejudicial dogmas have become hateful even to the most tolerant of men, and despicable to the most considerate.

Influenced probably by the idea that a fold was an absolute necessity for sheep the translators rendered John 10:16, "one fold, one Shepherd," whereas it is now well known to be "one flock, one Shepherd." The two ideas are quite different. The first makes the Shepherd insufficient for the flock; the second simply states His all-sufficiency. The wrong translation has always been an enormous stronghold of the Romish system, and it is still the plea of sectarian ecclesiastics where ignorance of the Word prevails. One said to a servant of Christ known to me, "You must have a fold." "Very well," answered my friend, "have your fold," and now read John 10:3, where we are told, the Lord Jesus Christ "calls His own sheep by name and leadeth them out"! What have you left in your fold after He does that? Not one of His sheep! Doubtless the fold refers to the religious system of Judaism, but the principle of out-calling remains; the very word translated church, ecclesia, means that! Ever since the out-call of Abraham, God has acted in that way.

When the apostasy and corruptions of Christendom, foretold in Scripture, reach their organized fruition in Babylon the great, it is imperatively commanded by a voice out of heaven, "Come out of her, My people, that ye have not fellowship in her sins" (Rev. 18:4)! God's people so addressed are doubtless Jews. They are properly "His people," and the flock of God, the assembly, will have been previously translated from earth to heaven like Enoch of old. We speak, however, of the principle; and before that day, even now, we are instructed to separate from iniquity and vessels to dishonour, so as to flock together after the Lord Himself (even as we read in 2 Tim. 2) and "pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." Unless we had the Word of God for all this we should be in a fearful dilemma, but He has given us in the Bible all the guidance we need, and His grace is abundant, while the great Shepherd is sufficient for the flock without man-made folds. It was an earnest preacher, in whose name a large fold was made after his death, who himself said, "Let names and sects and parties fall, and Jesus Christ be all in all." He is enough for the flock truly.

Faith is required to accept this, but what have we without faith? By faith we stand! Christ dwells in our hearts by faith! Without faith it is impossible to please Him! Folds suit those who walk by sight. They are pleasing to men who prefer lifeless forms to living energies, and to those who choose legal rules instead of the Spirit's power. Even in the addresses to the seven assemblies in Rev. 2, 3, those who have ears to hear are bidden to heed what is said to all seven, wherein are found self pleasing, Christ exclusion, dead profession, worldliness, immorality, and satanic doctrines and practises. Faith and the Spirit's enabling are necessary therefore to follow that which is according to God's will when such iniquity abounds in Christendom. God, however, has foretold it all for the preservation and guidance of the flock of His pasture, so that they may still follow the Lord together without distraction.

Each one may still say to the Lord the great Shepherd of the sheep, "Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me." In spite of the evils we have named, they may still rejoice that their cup runs over, as they follow Him together. Nothing will ever force Him to give up those for whom He suffered, bled and died. None can pluck them from His hand or from the Father's hand. Each one can look forward to the end of the journey with confidence and say, "I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."
Then shall we see His face
With all the saints above,
And sing for ever of His grace,
For ever of His love."

One Flock.

We pointed out that just as in the epistle to the Ephesians we have the truth of the mystery made known, that those whom God calls out from both Jews and Gentiles become one body in Christ, "joint heirs, and a joint body, and joint partakers of His promise in Christ Jesus by the Gospel" (Eph. 3:6), so in John 10 we have the same truth made known in relation to the one flock, for we are told that our Lord Jesus Christ leads "His own sheep" out of the Jewish fold, and brings the "other sheep which are not of this fold," but who hear His voice when He calls, and consequently there is one flock formed of both over which He is the one Shepherd. Each figure gives us the truth of the oneness of the saints in life and nature, the former, however, being a corporate oneness, whereas the latter is collective. Both, however, are vital, and remain true notwithstanding the failure which was foretold and which is so evident in Christendom.

Now although each figure involves oneness, and also as another has expressed it togetherness, nevertheless the idea of religious organization is foreign to both, for the body is an organism with all its members vitally united together, and a flock is made up of sheep who because of their very nature flock together. An organization may lose many of its members and yet remain intact, but this is not so with the body of Christ. A fold would still be a fold even if the sheep were outside of it and only goats remain within; the one flock of Christ is not a fold nor goats of His flock. Some say, "True there is one flock but there are many folds." Yes, there are many folds, but there is no instruction given in the Bible for men to make them. The flock is the result of the work of God Himself. What would happen if man-made hurdles were thrown down? The sheep would flock together after the Lord alone.

Others say, "See how the sheep are scattered! Look at the divisions in Christianity! You must have a fold to hold them together!" Such reasoning is common enough amongst earnest and well-meaning men, but it is very bad reasoning all the same. Nor has the oft-tried remedy of the fold proved successful. It has turned out contrariwise: it has hurdled off sheep from sheep and helped forward the scattering. Moreover the scattering was foretold by the Lord in John 10, and in the same chapter He told us what was the only remedy - Himself, the Shepherd of the sheep. His voice is heard, He brings them together, He knows His own sheep, they know their Shepherd, His hand and the Father's hand hold all safely, and one flock without a fold is divinely secure.

The Old Testament indicates the same thing. Ezek. 34 speaks of the sheep of that day being scattered, but the Lord said, I will deliver them out of all the places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will feed them. I will save My flock and they shall be no more a prey, and "I will set up one Shepherd over them and He shall feed them" (23). "Ye, My flock, the flock of My pasture are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God" (31.) There was no one shepherding them, for those that should have done so "fed themselves and fed not the flock." Just as in our day, however, there were not only those who fed themselves, but those that scattered the flock abroad, and the Lord Himself alone could gather the sheep. In the history of Christendom this process of scattering has been in evidence from the days of the apostles, not that the Lord ever ceases to care for His flock; nevertheless ruthless men have fulfilled His words in this work of cruelty under the guise of zeal and religion. Nevertheless the "one flock" is always in the care of the Lord. He watches over them all and the feeblest is not overlooked by Him. The flock may suffer from direct enemies, self-seekers and false friends - this was foretold by the Lord - but in Him they have all that is necessary for them.

In Jer. 31, the chapter of the "new thing" and "the new covenant," whilst not excusing the bad men who have scattered the sheep of Israel, the Lord shows that He has Himself been behind it all for good, and calls to the nations to see that they are not out of His care, saying, "He that scattered Israel will gather him, as a shepherd doth his flock. For the Lord has redeemed Israel and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he. Therefore shall they come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd; and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all." They shall "flow together!" Take the hurdles away! that is what the one flock will do! Let the scatterers cease their scattering! The sheep will flow together to the goodness of the Lord! The good Shepherd knows His own sheep and they know Him. Let the hindrances disappear, and the liberated sheep - the one flock as we have said - will happily flow together and flock around the One who gave His life for the sheep.

There is but one flock, and they bear the sheep marks we have spoken of. Even though the sheep be scattered there is still the one flock. They may be distressed and suffer, as we have seen, but they do not seek the hurt of others. It is not God's mind, however, that the sheep should be separated from each other, but that they should be together. We see this in the truth of Christ and the assembly as well as in the Shepherd and the flock. We are to endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace, for there is one body and one Spirit. The sheep are to follow the Shepherd together, and it is natural for them to do so, because of their life and nature. Moreover, in view of the approaching day of the coming again of our Lord Jesus Christ we are exhorted not to forsake the "complete assembling" of ourselves together.

"I know my sheep."

We are writing that the saints of God may be encouraged to gather together according to the truth, that they may meet in assembly and know the Lord Himself in their midst. It is always possible, of course, that goats and hirelings and even a thief may be present, but the sheep have protection and direction in the great Shepherd. They look to Him. They follow Him. Moreover in Ezek. 34. He says, "I will judge between cattle and cattle, and I will set up one Shepherd over them, and He shall feed them" (22). This principle of the Lord judging His people is found all through the Bible. In Hebrews 10 from which we have already quoted, it is stated again in verse 30. The exercises through which we pass are to educate us to simply trust in Him.

Those who belong to the Father and the Son find rest in the knowledge of the omniscience of the great Shepherd. He knows His own sheep: He knows their names; He knows themselves. This truth is given for our comfort and direction also in 2 Tim. 2, as we have pointed out. There may be false doctrines taught, unrighteousness practised, and vessels of dishonour at hand, nevertheless "the Lord knoweth them that are His"; the foundation of God standeth sure. Therefore, in spite of others, the real are exhorted to follow that which is good "with those that call on the Lord out of a pure heart." The pure or sincere heart in calling on the Lord characterizes the true sheep, and it is the Lord Himself upon whom they together call. Therefore let such be found in assembly around Him according to the Word of God. We cannot correct others mistakes, but surely the sheep can follow their Shepherd together instead of being hurdled off from one another or led astray by biased men.

Nor must we be hindered when some turn away to the mire of the world, for Scripture supposes this. They may have been washed in the waters of religion, figuratively speaking, and remain still unclean in their nature. The sheep are clean animals, but some are not sheep, they are unclean. 2 Peter 2:22 speaks of such turning back like a dog to his own unclean vomit, or like a washed sow to her rolling in the mud. These things are foretold so that we should not be deterred from going on together after our Lord Jesus Christ, growing in grace and in the knowledge of Himself, and finding all we need and more in Him, ever remembering that He knows His own perfectly. The foreknowledge of God overlooked none of the sheep of Christ. They were "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father," and, indeed, they were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). So perfect is the Divine knowledge of the flock, we read, "Whom He has foreknown, He has also predestinated to he conformed to the image of His Son, so that He should be the Firstborn among many brethren." That is the end in view, for from eternity to eternity they are known to Him. "But," this Scripture reads on, "whom He has predestinated these He has also called." The time arrived when the call of grace reached each one, and that in an effectual manner.

From this time a work of Divine grace and power in the sheep gives them a nature and capability to know the great Shepherd, the Son of God. He said, "I know My sheep and am known of Mine." blessed this is. They know His voice and they know Himself. One could say, The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me. The good Shepherd gave His life for the sheep, and they know Him. They know not the voice of strangers, and they do not follow them, for they have the Lord Jesus Christ to follow. Twice in John 10 He says, I am the good Shepherd. First in connection with laying down His life, and then as to what He is in Himself (John 11:14). Outwardly in His work, and inwardly in Himself, He is good. The sheep have tasted indeed that the Lord is good, and they know Him.

The character of this knowledge or intimacy is also exceedingly blessed, for the Lord Jesus said, I know My sheep and am known of those that are Mine, "as the Father knows Me and I know the Father" (N.T.). How wonderful! Of course this does not state the measure of the intimacy which exists between the sheep and the Shepherd, for they could never reach to the same measure that exists between the Father and the Son, nevertheless it is true that the same character of intimacy is theirs with Him. Great indeed are the grace and power and love which brought this about and made it known to us. To know the Son of God, the great and good Shepherd of the flock as the Father knows Him and He knows the Father! Who could have imagined such exalted blessedness? - yet so it is! - the sheep of His flock know Him thus! We might have said with one of old, Such knowledge is too wonderful for me! but His grace and power and love have produced by God's Word and Spirit a nature in the sheep divinely fitted for this marvellous privilege. The knowledge of God's things and God's Word has a great place in the Bible, and the word "know" often occurs in John 10, but what can compare with that of which we have spoken?
Lord Jesus Christ, what grace is this,
Which gives our hearts to know
The Fountain of eternal love
Whence living waters flow?
The Father's well beloved Son,
Wellspring of grace divine,
Thou giv'st our hearts to know Thyself
And we are ever Thine.

In closing may we not challenge our hearts and ask, Do we respond to the grace and love which have made us one with all the saints of God? Do we meet often in assembly with our fellow-members of the body of which our Lord Jesus Christ is the glorious Head? Do we flock together with the sheep of God's pasture? Do we seek to be completely assembled together as the day of Christ's return draws nigh? In simple words, Do we walk according to the truth that there is one body? Do we gather in the truth that there is but one flock? Do we put into practise the truth of the mystery that all the saints are "fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and joint-partakers of His promise in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 3:6)?

Eph. 2:21.

"In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord."

In the previous part of the epistle, the Christians - Jew and Gentile are looked at as the one body of Christ, "the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" - that is to say, it looks at the Christians in their heavenly association.

But in the verse before us we have the Christians looked at as "an holy temple in the Lord." The figure is changed. This sets before us the great truth of God dwelling in the midst of His people on this earth. But not only does God dwell but the word temple carries the thought of a shrine, a dwelling place indeed, but connected with the thought of holiness, because of who it is that dwells. It becomes a sanctuary, a sphere of priestly activity, a place of worship - a place made by the persons who compose it, not by stones and mortar. "God … dwelleth not in temples made with hands" (Acts 17:24).

It is this thought that is so largely not recognized nor acted upon by Christians. The building is "fitly framed together," that is, Christians are not so many individuals, who can pick and choose their associations, but God sets us in relation one to another with the view of being His dwelling place on earth.

The apostle Peter runs parallel with this when he writes: "Ye also as lively [living] stones are built up a spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5). One stone cannot make a building, nor do stones choose their own place. Each stone finds its place according to the mind of the Divine Architect.

This idea runs right through Scripture. Did God redeem Israel out of Egypt simply to relieve them of intolerable bondage? Nay, it was to bring them to Himself, and even the tents of the "common" people had to be pitched in a certain order round the tabernacle, and holiness became them in their ways.

Did God demand the half shekel of silver - the redemption money, when He numbered the people, and that was an end of it? Nay, the half shekels produced over one hundred talents of silver which was used in connection with the tabernacle, principally as sockets for the boards, again emphasizing the same truth.

There is great energy as to appropriating personal blessings, if we may so put it, and great activity in serving others, in Gospel effort, whether in home or missionary spheres (would there were still more of this), but if Christians generally sought to enter into the sense of God dwelling in their midst, of taking up what is, after all, the highest privilege of the Christian, that of their priesthood, how different things would be. Service in other directions would not lose, but infinitely gain. It is this taking and maintaining of assembly ground that is of such vast importance.

We have no choice in this. The responsibility is ours, whether we like it or not, but in taking it up we find that our privilege is so immense that responsibility becomes a matter of joy. A married man has responsibilities towards his wife, but if these were irksome and distressing it would speak little for his love. If love is as it should be his responsibility is his privilege, his joy, his delight. So with divine things.

Lastly the building "grows." Grow is a word that is only rightly applicable to that which has life. A child grows, a plant grows. In all its stages a child, a plant is complete; development may add size, and qualities latent in the child or plant become patent, but we never think of either at any stage as incomplete. So God's temple is ever looked at as complete, yet growing; but surely the end is in view when the last stone shall be added, when the whole ransomed church of God, whether as we say triumphant or militant, whether the saints are passed away or living, shall be caught up by the summoning shout in the air, and God shall be still in the midst of His people.

It is not a little remarkable that whilst the word "temple" is used in Rev. 21:22 in connection with the church in millennial display when we come to the fixed eternal state we get the word "tabernacle." "Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people" (Rev. 21:3). The last glimpse we have is that of God dwelling among His people for eternity. May we anticipate that day by seeking to take up the Divine thoughts even now, so giving God and His Word in this connection a true practical place in our lives. What a change in association this would make with multitudes of Christians.

A. J. Pollock.