1869 286 To the Editor of the "Bible Treasury."

Sir, — At all times, but very specially in this day of abounding error, it does indeed seem of first-rate importance to cleave to the written word, looking for the Spirit's guidance therein as the only and all-sufficient rule of faith and practice. You, sir, I am sure, will not dispute this — you have often pressed it upon your readers. Though deeply respecting those whom God has given to be pastors and teachers in the Church, I dare not receive any proposition on their authority merely — in principle that would be Popery, and would neither be faith in God nor in His word. In that word I read "the church, which is his body." (Eph. 1) I read moreover of "churches of the saints," "churches of Galatia," "the church of God which is at Corinth," and so on; and I feel no difficulty about these things. Clearly, in principle and before error and division came in, all believers in a given place would meet together as God's assembly in that place. I read too of "the church in thy house." It is perfectly plain the Church existed before and quite independently of any meeting of the Church. Some members of the "one body" assembled together to worship God, but their assembling did not make them to be members of "the Church, which is his body:" they were such before. And most cordially do I agree with you (p. 252 of your "New Testament Doctrine of the Spirit"), that all the members of Christ are responsible to "abandon everything that falsifies their relationship in conduct, position, and objects;" and that "they ought to assemble and walk together according to the word of God, the Holy Ghost being allowed His own place of sovereign action for the glory of the Lord Jesus." But where, I do most earnestly ask, do you find any scriptural warrant for the (to me, startling) assertion, that as to the Church "here below," as you say, "it is not the simple fact of being members of Christ's body that constitutes the Church"? Where does the New Testament say anything of the kind? You have certainly given no proof from God's word; if you can give it me in your periodical, I shall be truly obliged to you. Oh! how often am I reminded "the Lord sees not as man sees." He does bless those who seek Him, though amidst much of error and mistake, it may be. Let the "two or three," or more, by all means meet in what they believe to be "the more excellent way," as plainly indicated in the word of God; but let them not unchurch their brethren, but rather seek to win them by love to a fuller and more practical realization of their privileges, instead of stumbling them by saying hard things, which cannot affect their consciences, when no proof is given from God's word. What the difference in your mind is between "His Church" and the "Church of God," I must leave you to determine. (p. 252.) Whether I say, God's book, or the book of God, appears to me precisely the same thing.

Yours, Sir, very sincerely, ANXIOUS.

["Anxious" is disturbed and perplexed without the least reason. Membership of Christ is said of the Christian individually; the church or assembly supposes the corporate relation of all who are baptized by the Holy Ghost into one body. All Christians are members of that one body, but they are not on Church ground, they do not meet en ekklesia (1 Cor. 14) in the sense in which scripture speaks, unless they are gathered to the Lord's name, which implies now the free action of the Spirit for Christ's glory and according to His word. To say that because they meet as Wesleyans or Independents, they come together en ekklesia is mere sophistry, which aims at obliterating the landmarks of God's word under cover of upholding it. This may influence souls, the self-willed assuredly, and perhaps the weak. It is a work worthy of disappointed spirits, whose ambition enormously exceeds their power. Alas! the hand that could not build a hovel might destroy a palace. The objection of "Anxious" seems to me either ignorance or a denial of the Church.

"God's assembly" is true of those assembling truly on that ground, even if but a few; "the assembly of God" is strictly true only of all Christians so assembled. Even the comparison fails; for strictly "the book of God" means the whole of it; whereas a part of it, if not the whole, might be justly characterized as "God's book." Undoubtedly scripture contemplates all the members of Christ meeting en ekklesia, and nothing else; but it does provide even for two or three so gathered, and in no way imprints such a stamp on ever so many saints otherwise met and guided. If a large family break up in disorder and sin, and two or three return to the family board they ought never to have left, do they or do they not hold the family character? do not those who turn their backs lose it, whatever they may be individually? It is idle and worse to call this unchurching our brethren, or saying hard things; it is really to unchurch their systems, and to say the truth in love to themselves. — Ed. B.T.]