In Answer To The Work Of Mr. P. Wolff, Entitled, “Ministry As Opposed To Hierarchism And Chiefly To Religious Radicalism,” Valence, 1844
This answer to Mr. Wolff’s pamphlet upon Ministry was written immediately after the publication of that work. The author of the answer having been absent from the country for eleven months, the manuscript remained in the hands of a friend until his return. Since then, evangelistic labours and other occupations, still more important than controversy, have retarded the preparation of the manuscript for the press, to which it is at last given up.
In this interval the Evangelical Society of Geneva, and the Lay Society of the Canton de Vaud, have recommended Mr. Wolff’s pamphlet in their reports; so that the approbation which is given to this pamphlet, pretty plainly marked by facts, is now avowed. This renders my task more painful, but less difficult; for I can treat the writing which I am answering, not as that of a young student who is making, so to speak, his first campaign, and whom one would desire to spare, but as a work sanctioned by grave men who must have weighed things, who must have felt their own responsibility towards the Church of God, when they publicly recommended a treatise upon a subject so serious as that of ministry. It is to be supposed that they have examined the reasonings and the proofs advanced as having been taken from the word of God; and, by recommending this work to the whole Church, they have made themselves responsible for its contents.
The Lay Society, it is true, is careful not to take the responsibility of all the contents of the work; but, desiring the refutation of the system which it calls “Plymouthism,” it points to Mr. Wolff’s pamphlet as answering this end. (Sitting of the Committee of June 9th, 1843: Bulletin, No. 5, pp. 155, 156.)
The Report of the Evangelical Society of Geneva makes no such reserve. These are the words (p. 35): “Others have combated this [Plymouthism] with advantage; more particularly a student of our school of theology, in a work whose scriptural arguments cannot be shaken.”
There will be found, in the body of this answer, inconsistencies in the feelings which I have expressed with regard to that work. Sometimes my heart has spoken in favour of the writer; sometimes I have not been altogether able to contain the indignation which I felt in seeing the way in which the word of our God has there been treated.
I have left these inconsistencies such as they are, because it was the true expression of what I felt. But now that this work must be regarded as the statement of the feelings of the Evangelical Society of Geneva, or at least of its leaders, and that they have put their approbation upon these arguments by calling them scriptural, the reserve which the circumstances of a young man called for no longer exists. Looked at as coming from the hands of learned, grave, and pious men—men in a responsible position—men who, in other respects, I esteem and love—this work coming, I say, from their hands, requires to be put in its true light. I have not in my life (and I have been in painful controversies) seen such a pamphlet. Of what are these gentlemen approving? It is a temerity which erases with a dash of the pen all that has been written on ministry from the time of Chrysostom until our own; there are self-contradictions of the grossest kind, provided that in both cases these opposed sentiments serve to establish at all costs a system that one loves; it is profound unbelief as to the presence and operations of the Holy Ghost; it is a contempt for the word, such as I have never seen the like of in any controversy; it is assertions boldly made as to the contents of the word and the use of words to give the advantage to the views of the author, which, when one examines the passages in which the word is found, are not supported by a single example, and which must have weight with those who do not know Greek, and who would not suppose—God be thanked for it—that things are affirmed in spite of all truth and of all honesty.
All is levelled to the present system in the desire of saying, We are rich. Ministry is not the exercise of a gift; no gift exists; nevertheless, the Church enjoys all its blessings! And why all this unbelief, and this lack—what shall I say—of conscience? It is this: having too much light to go on at ease with the deadness and the errors which they acknowledge in the systems that surround them, they have too little faith to free themselves from a yoke under which they groan in the work they are doing. They have resolved to flatter the flesh as well as the forms of the systems which shackle them, in order that these systems may lend them the liberty of following out the work which they do not dare to do without that.
As to the pamphlet which is before us (every one will judge of it when he has read the following pages), I can only see in it the public statement of the infidelity of the professing church of these last days—a contempt for the word of God, which deserves to be branded in a much more powerful way than I could do it—assertions the most false, which it is impossible to attribute to the ignorance of those who recommend this work; and which proves a use of the word which (if one must attribute such a use of it to the force of party spirit) marks, in a terrible manner, what the estimation is in which the word is held, when it is a question of the interests of a party. These are strong expressions. I should not have used them, if it were only a question of an opinion on ministry, or if they were not Christians who had made themselves responsible for them: but it is a question of the whole basis of the hopes and of the activities of the Church of God, and of the authority of His word, which are sacrificed without hesitation to the interests and to the pride of an irritated party. Weariness of controversy almost stopped my pen. I thought that tears would be more suitable than an answer. But there are souls who have a right to the explanations that are necessary for exposing what the bold assertions are worth which characterize the pamphlet patronized by the Committee of the Evangelical Society of Geneva, and of what weight is the authority of those who can patronize it: and I have deeply felt that he who uses the word in such a way, by concealing himself under Greek, does not deserve to be spared, when presented to us by men quite capable of appreciating the use and the consequences of it. The more they are esteemed (and in many respects they deserve to be so), the more necessary it is to expose the roots of bitterness which they wish to sanction. If it were a Peter who had become guilty of that which draws others away into a path of dissimulation, it would be so much the more necessary to resist him to his face.
I do not expect to see principles which are of faith adopted by those who have not faith to follow them. Neither do I think that, at this moment, it is controversy that leads souls to enter the path of faith. It is the time for walking in it by the grace of God, and not for talking about it. The circumstances which surround us, and the progress of evil, call for that which God alone can give, a firm and active walk in the path in which faith alone will find means to exist; for events press upon us every day more and more.
If I answer Mr. Wolff’s thesis upon ministry, it is because it is a subject of the greatest importance, and because it will furnish the opportunity for developing the truths which are now most precious to the Church.
If Mr. Wolff’s pamphlet were only the production of the student whose name is attached to it, I should probably have said nothing about it. Let us do justice to the writer. It is a work which displays a tolerable amount of diligence, and shows an application the fruits of which at such an age do honour, according to men, to the writer, and are worthy of a more advanced period of life. If anything here or there betrays youth, that will not be a subject of reproach with me. That the activity of a youthful mind should have produced, as he says, a new system, does not surprise me. That, in the eyes of its author, it should be a system before which all that has been said upon ministry in all ages of the Church, passes away like a shadow—that the author should manifest a certain self-confidence, this may be natural to the ardour of youth. I shall not stop at it. He may dispose in twelve lines of all that has been written on ministry from Chrysostom to Mr. Rochat, confessing that he lacked the means of enlightening himself, not having been able to found anything upon the works of his predecessors; and he may deal thus in order to introduce a system of which “the systematic whole is entirely his own”: I have no feeling against him on that account. I only recall it because of the importance which this fact acquires, when one reflects that such a judgment is approved by the party to whose jurisdiction the writer, so to speak, belongs. It is at least clear, according to this, that every system of ministry hitherto acknowledged, all the principles upon which ministry has been based, have been obliged to fall before the light which has entered by means of the discussion which has taken place on this subject. In order to combat what is advanced, it was necessary to set aside all that had been said on ministry by all theologians, both by those of primitive times, and by those of the Reformation and modern times. I acknowledge, however, that Mr. Wolff’s treatise is the cleverest and the gravest that has appeared in the controversy begun upon this subject.
This pamphlet, appearing at the moment of such a controversy, is evidently more than a student’s thesis; while it is one fruit of his labour, it is the expression of far more than that. Puffed in the journals of his party, printed with encouragement and the concurrence of persons of that party who seek to profit by its publication, and spread it abroad by their friends and their agents, this opuscule must be considered in the main, as the expression of those who propagate it; for one must not attribute to them the dishonest tactics of a corrupted Christianity, which would like to profit as much as possible by a work, with liberty to disown it afterward, if one saw itself in danger of being compromised by its means.
My intention is to bring to light, for upright souls, the principle of this pamphlet, and to point out the force of certain reasonings, which have a hold upon the flesh and may act upon it, and which are calculated to trouble simple hearts.
The evident and even avowed object of this work is to attack what I shall allow myself to call the new light which God has sent, and to maintain, such as it is, all that exists. In order to this, he borrows all that he can of this light, so that in many respects I find myself agreeing with the writer. After all, this is the road that many are following now. They borrow all the light that they can without troubling themselves to walk in the path of faith which this light has revealed.
In order to sustain at all costs existing things, it became necessary to sacrifice all the principles of ministry established by the Reformation. We must not mistake. When the author says of Calvin’s system on ministry, “good as a theory based upon the experience of the Church,” that is tacitly saying that this system is not based upon scripture; for he overthrows, without warning his readers of it, all Calvin’s system in the body of his work.
Sufficiently young only to be enamoured of his own ideas, he has not been able to keep silence about it, as one may see in his preface. All his system is his own. He has not been able essentially to base his work upon the works of his predecessors. The thoughts of Calvin were in effect based in great measure upon the Bible: but, as Mr. Wolff says, his theory, or rather his practice, was based upon the experience of the Church. A man of sufficient integrity of heart by grace deeply to honour the word, and energetic enough to create a system, Calvin acknowledged, in many respects in theory, the truth as to ministry. In practice, he formed for himself a system adapted to circumstances and to his own character. More light has entered; the word has been searched; the energy of the Holy Ghost is at work; and what he created as a system answers no longer, either to the creative energy of its author, or to the need produced by the Holy Ghost. Those who, led by the Holy Ghost, have searched the word, have, while following the word and the principles and truths that Calvin himself found there, found themselves outside his system in several particulars. They followed the word and not the system. From that time, war has been waged against them. They were innovators, etc.
Meanwhile a class of persons has formed itself (the party with which Mr. Wolff is connected), a party which wishes to attach itself to Calvin’s ecclesiastical system and to profit by it as much as possible, because this does not require faith (for a Socinian does it as well as themselves), and at the same time to introduce a spiritual activity subordinate to that system.
Mr. Wolff is a partisan of this new system; but he has been consistent. He has felt that, in adopting the principles which Calvin drew from the word, it would be impossible to maintain his system. He therefore denies those principles. His object is to justify at all cost what is being done. I shall give sad proofs of this presently.
Let us first state this important fact that, in order to combat those who follow the word, he has felt himself obliged to set aside all the principles of the reformers on ministry. He has felt that, once admitting what they had drawn from the word, it would be necessary to go still farther and to abandon their practical system; but this requires faith.
Fundamental Difference between Calvin’s System and that of Mr. Wolff
Calvin’s theory is based upon the existence of gifts; the theory approved by the party which Mr. Wolff represents is based upon this—that gifts have absolutely ceased. It is evident that a system which is based upon gifts, and another which founds itself upon their absence and which makes of that absence its fundamental principle, are two thoroughly opposed systems. One may, in order to spare the flesh, practically follow the same forms, but the principles are completely opposed.
Calvin divides the gifts into ordinary and extraordinary, as the basis of the difference between the present and the apostolic condition of ministry. Mr. Wolff affirms that all the gifts were extraordinary, and that Calvin’s whole system is false with regard to this, and that ministry has undergone no modification. Calvin’s system is founded upon the difference between charges and gifts; consequently, he distinguishes between a bishop and a pastor. Mr. Wolff’s whole system is based upon the identity of the bishop and the pastor. If bishop and pastor are not the same thing, all his system falls at once to the ground, because in that case the pastor is a gift given by God, and he has need neither of the imposition of hands, nor of being established by man. If the author can, on the contrary, identify them, he will in this case apply all that is said of the bishop in the epistle to Timothy to the pastor as well as to the bishop.
I do not enter into the detail of differences, for Mr. Wolff’s system changes all the Calvin system. I only call attention to the great principles, or rather principle, by which they diverge. Calvin admits that gifts are needed for ministry; Mr. Wolff absolutely denies all relation between these two things. “Ministry,” he says, “is exercised without gift.” He is consistent: he felt that it is impossible to reconcile the existence of gifts with the system of his party and with Calvin’s ecclesiastical system. Calvin admitted the things that he found in the word, then added traditions and customs. He created a system which the light that then existed bore with. The party which now opposes the light is bolder; feeling that they cannot reconcile them, and determined to remain attached to existing things, they confess this unbelief on this point, and set aside at once, the gifts, the Holy Spirit, and the word which speaks of them.
Ministry, according to them, has no connection with the gifts of the Holy Ghost. It is good at least to be clear as to the true foundations of the system which opposes the brethren. It is merely a question of purely natural gifts; the Holy Ghost has nothing to do with it, absolutely nothing. It is not (mark this well) a conclusion which I draw; it is the avowed basis of the whole system. A man must be regenerate by the Holy Ghost in order to be a minister, as he must to be a Christian; but as to his ministry itself, the Holy Ghost has nothing to do with it. These are Mr. Wolff’s own words (p. 68): “It is only because their ministry is not a gift of the Holy Ghost, that ministers are ambassadors of Christ.”
I fully admit that he is perfectly consistent. At the close of the Jewish dispensation, the forms (such as priesthood, etc.), and the power (Christ, who was without forms) are found in opposition. The same thing is true now: faith chooses power and eternal things; unbelief always attaches itself to forms. The Reformation, so precious in many respects, mingled together some things which were of God and others which were of man; the manifestation of the energy of the Holy Spirit disentangles them. Those who have not faith to lean upon God alone now throw themselves boldly on forms and applaud the avowal which flows from youthful candour, or from a certain self-complacency. This avowal is, that power does not enter into their plan. They are ministers, or rather their ministers are ambassadors of Christ, because their ministry is not a gift of the Holy Ghost!
Is it necessary to write any further for simple souls who walk in faith? No. But unhappily there are not wanting persons who seek to embroil others, nor persons who, attaching themselves a little to the light, a little to their own fleshly ease, are ready to fall into the snares that human reasonings may spread for them.
I only desire that great attention should be paid to what the thing has come to. God has permitted it to be said loudly; one can no longer mistake. Mr. Wolff is perfectly right: we must deny the existence and the operation of the Holy Ghost in ministry, or abandon the whole system. Things are coming out every day more distinctly. Such an avowal as the one of which we have been speaking is more than I should have dared to expect for helping souls to see things clearly, and to make them understand that the true question for each one of them is this: Do I believe that the Holy Ghost acts in ministry, or not? Such is the question which arises between our brethren and their adversaries—such is the question which agitates Christendom.
We shall see what are the grave consequences of this question; but it is very evident that the position taken by those who embrace Mr. Wolff’s system is to deny the operation of the Holy Ghost in ministry and to resist His energy wherever He may be at work; and this is what I have seen becoming continually more distinctly marked.
Mr. Wolff’s Judgment of the Rochat System
I have said that the object of Mr. Wolff’s pamphlet is to maintain existing things, and to oppose our brethren. He says of Mr. Rochat: “a scriptural system.” This is good, because Mr. Rochat opposes the brethren, and maintains more or less a clergy appointed by men. It matters little who appoints them, as Mr. Wolff says elsewhere, provided that it be men, and that there be no gift.
But, at the same time, although it may be convenient to establish a unity of opposition to our brethren, in order to maintain a clergy appointed by men, in some way or another he must, in another part of the pamphlet, destroy all this in order to maintain with exactness the system of the party. The following are the terms in which, after having called Mr. Rochat’s system a scriptural one (p. 9), Mr. Wolff expresses himself with regard to the very same system in page 37 of his work, “I must add here that an election by a church, in Mr. Rochat’s sense, cannot agree with a divine vocation of the bishop “; and lower down, “If a church, when it needs a pastor, sets about voting, by means of which the member who receives most suffrages is constituted a bishop, that bishop has received no vocation from God; he is established in the name of man, and by man only. This result is inevitable.” I am therefore obliged, according to Mr. Wolff, to suppose it a very scriptural thing, that the one who is bishop over the flock of God should be established without any vocation from God. It matters little. There are thirty-seven pages between these two sentences, and in each place these contradictory statements are made in order to sustain what is existing in his party.
Example of the Same Spirit with regard to Evangelists
After having secured the distinction of an official evangelist, in order to support the clerical principle, Mr. Wolff extols (p. 43) the employment of those who have not received this charge by the imposition of hands. But why so? Because “they are employed at the present time.” They ought not to be called evangelists; because “we must carefully distinguish between what is a ministerial charge, and that which is only a testimony rendered to the gospel, voluntarily preached by a zealous and able Christian” (p. 43). But alas! they are so called. This title, therefore, may still be preserved, provided that it is explained, and that one avoids a confusion which would be dangerous for the Church, between those who do the work, and those who are charged by men to do it. I say, those who do the work; for we must suppose that these men who evangelize thus approved, are sent of God. Hence, in our days we see many of these who are sent by men, but “they have not received the imposition of hands.” The whole thing, then, is to distinguish the clergy.
Another Example with Regard to Teachers
From page 45 to page 48, Mr. Wolff absolutely denies the charge of teacher in the Church. But he fortunately corrects himself (p. 49) by adding these words, “That which has just been said with regard to teachers must be considered as in no wise affecting the degree of doctor of theology that the universities confer.” It would be difficult to understand how it did not affect it. If I have rightly understood, this doctor is a kind of pastor, who, by means of the students, extends his functions to a larger portion of Christ’s flock. But we have had enough of this adulation of everything which supports the interest of a class and of a party, at the expense of faith, of the action of the Spirit, of the word, and of the truth.
On the Pretended Connection of Political and Religious Ideas
The thought of the influence of political over religious ideas is a vulgar one, though well calculated to exercise an influence over those who are, after all, governed by political motives of a special kind; but it will have no hold upon those who are guided by the Holy Spirit and who seek His teaching in the word.
For the rest, it is a very superficial idea. I notice it, because the true Christian is so characterized by a spirit of submission and of obedience, that sincere souls might be troubled by it; and this is how Satan seeks to take advantage of the spirit of obedience, in order to lead the Christian to obey man. No one who has read history a little but is aware that there is not a single accusation brought against the religious movement of our days, that was not brought against the Reformation, and that every movement of the Spirit of God, acting, as it does, upon the inert mass which renders it necessary, is treated by those who love to sleep, or at least to remain on their bed, as a spirit of innovation and of radicalism. Everyone who asserts the rights of God in presence of those who are in possession of an authority which despises those rights, will be necessarily a despot and a radical in their eyes.
This is an old accusation, and one which always comes from the wrong side. When Pontius Pilate could find no fault in Jesus, the priests and the rulers insisted the more, saying, “He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to this place,” Luke 23:5. What do they say against Paul and Silas at Philippi? “These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,” Acts 16:20. And at Thessalonica? “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also,” Acts 17:6.
I exhort those who are simple, not to make themselves uneasy about a political principle or any other, but peacefully and firmly to follow the path in which the Holy Ghost leads them, walking by faith, and remembering that these accusations (for in how precious a way the word provides for every need of God’s children!)—that these accusations, I repeat—are always found in the Bible to proceed from the enemies of the truth.
Moreover, this appearance of discernment and of philosophical depth is nothing but the superficial spirit of unbelief. God has at all times so prepared the suitable circumstances, for the impulse His Spirit should give. The circumstances for the Reformation were all prepared beforehand. They were equally all prepared for Christianity. The blindness of philosophy sees only these circumstances, and does not discern the power of God which is acting in them.
Unbelief is always the same; but those who act by faith know very well that they are led by something very different from, circumstances; and often, in their simplicity, they do not know that circumstances favour them, save by the promise that all things shall “work together for good to them that love God,” and “who are the called according to his purpose,” and such are by no means the weakest. If I must speak “as a man,” I say, that the man of one idea generally does more than the one who knows how to philosophize about everything. The energy of the one, and the abstraction of the other who judges everything, very rarely meet.
For the rest, the application of the pretty common and true principle, that Christians in general alas! yield more or less to the influence of that which surrounds them, is somewhat badly made. As to the brethren whom the author attacks, he is singularly mistaken; for in England, on the contrary, they are accused of being all aristocrats, and the system is accused of being made for aristocrats who are discontented with nationalism. Philosophers look upon them as a reaction from the extreme democracy of the English dissenters.44
If the Spirit does but act, it matters little: God produces effects of His grace, and the world judges them, passes on, and perishes in its wisdom. Some Christians perhaps yield also to the philosophical and systematizing influence of the age. I hope our brethren will avoid this, as much as they avoid politics. Scientific reasonings upon what is passing do not save souls, neither do they lift up Christians who have fallen. We are the servants of God: God will prepare, and God will direct, all the circumstances; we need not even occupy our minds with them, save in order to admire in it the good hand of our God. Our part is to follow the impulse of the Holy Ghost, and to be guided by the word.
The truth is, that the democratic and radical principle (that is to say, the will of man) is found both in Presbyterianism and in Dissent.45 When the Holy Spirit acts, He knows how to touch all the chords of the human mind and to adapt Himself to them in grace, reserving for God all His rights and all His sovereignty; but God alone knows how to do this: it requires power.
What we must seek for is the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, and not be either democrats, or aristocrats, or despots; but we must be what is divine, and walk according to the principle of the grace of Christ, in whom the sovereignty of God and the heart of man unite, and are at peace. God’s will is not that things should go on without this, for they would be going on without Him.
Let us examine the contents of the pamphlet.
On the introduction of Mr. Wolff’s Pamphlet; in which, while denying the continuance of gifts, he asserts his intention of defending ministry from the attacks directed against it, and from all the various modifications men have sought to make it undergo.
In the introduction, the writer declares that his object is to defend the primitive state of ministry against the modifications of all kinds, which people have sought to make it undergo. At the same time, let us remember, the writer affirms that all gifts have absolutely ceased to exist. This is already rather strong.
Ministry exists absolutely without modification; but all gifts have ceased to exist. How then could ministry subsist without modification? In the days of the apostles, as well as now, gifts had nothing to do with ministry!
Let us take the list of gifts preferred by Mr. Wolff himself, the list given in i Corinthians 12:28. “God hath set some in the Church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”
This list mentions apostles, prophets, teachers, governors. These are evidently gifts; hence all this had nothing to do with ministry! The prophet might edify, comfort, exhort; but that was no ministry. What does the word of God tell us? We read there, that the Lord put Paul “in the ministry “(1 Tim. i:12); and Paul says of himself, etc., “Who then is Paul… but ministers?” (1 Cor. 3:5). He approved himself in all things as God’s minister; 2 Cor. 6:4. If he was “made a minister, according to the gift,” he says, “of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power,” Eph. 3:7. In spite of all that, according to this system, Paul, as apostle, was not a minister of the word. On the contrary, “it is” (says Mr. Wolff, p. 68), “because his ministry was not a gift of the Holy Ghost, that he was an ambassador of Christ.”
This we can understand, that his ministry was the exercise of his gift in responsibility to Christ, and not the gift itself; but I think one could hardly believe that in all the apostle says of his ministry in the passages quoted, and in so many others besides, he never speaks of his apostleship, and that this is another thing, altogether distinct; he spoke of his ministry and not of his work as an apostle. Reader, can you understand that? There was no connection between his ministry and his apostleship; so that, his apostleship being a gift of the Holy Ghost, it could not be a ministry! The ministers of Satan might be false apostles (2 Cor. 11:13, 15); no matter for that: the true apostles are not ministers of Christ. There exists no connection between the apostleship and the ministry!
The writer, p. 67, insists on the word gift, declares it impossible that it can be connected with the idea of ministry, and grounds his reasoning on this. In the passage quoted above (Eph. 3:7), it is grace (charis) and not gift (charisma), a word on which the writer insists, p. 70. But in 1 Peter 4:10, we read: “As every man has received the gift (charisma), even so minister the same one to another”—literally, exercise this ministry “as good stewards of the manifold grace (charis) of God.” In Romans 12 ministry—if even one alleged it meant serving tables—is called a gift (charisma), according to the grace (charis) given.
In 2 Corinthians 3:8, so far is it from true that the word separates ministry, as being from Christ, from gifts, as being from the Spirit, that there the ministry of the gospel is called “the ministration of the Spirit.” In Acts 1:17 the apostleship is called “this ministry.” So also, in verse 25, “That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship.”
It will be objected here that the gift of apostle was not yet given. This is true; the gift was necessary for the accomplishment of the ministry. But the apostleship, which is here called ministry, is called gift (charisma) in 1 Cor. 12; so that the distinction between gift and ministry is completely false, unless the writer means that the apostles exercised their apostleship or ministry without gift, in the face of the words of the Lord, who told them to tarry in Jerusalem, until they were “endued with power from on high,” that is, with gifts for that ministry. See also Acts 6:2-4; ch. 20:24; ch. 21:19, etc., and Romans 11:13, where Paul says, “I speak to you Gentiles—I magnify my office”—ministry (diakoniari). See 2 Corinthians 4, 5, 6, and 1 Corinthians 4.
After these quotations, one can simply leave to the confusion it deserves, a theory which, in order to justify a ministry without gift, has been willing to affirm that ministry has undergone no modification, and to deny all connection between gifts and ministry even in the days of the apostles. In the case of the apostles themselves, we have seen that it is completely false, and that (instead of its being true that the minister could not be an ambassador for Christ if his ministry were a gift of the Holy Ghost, and that ministry was exercised without gift), the word, on the contrary, affirms that the apostleship was a gift and a ministry;46 and that the apostles could not be ambassadors of Christ, that is, exercise their ministry, until they were endued with power from on high, that is, until they had received the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost; which Mr. Wolff himself calls, by way of distinction, the gifts. We have seen at the same time that Peter extends this principle to every gift, whatever it may be; and that each one, according to the gift he had received, must exercise his ministry. Mr. Wolff applies this passage to what was properly called a gift (P- 73).
We have anticipated a little; but all this is the whole subject. We have been brought to this point by the introduction itself. There the writer declares that his task is to shew “that ministry has undergone no modification”; and his system, for the demonstration of this, is, that ministry is exercised without gift, and that there is no connection between gifts and ministry.
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 1, Entitled, Priesthood And Ministry.
I will say but few words on this chapter. It is not true that in both covenants the title of priest is given to all the faithful. It is singular that opposition to the light always shews itself united with the desire of lowering the distinctive privileges of Christianity. The nation of Israel was called a kingdom of priests because of their nearness to God as a nation, but without a distinction of believers or unbelievers; whereas, in the present covenant, believers are called priests because of their nearness to God in heavenly places, a nearness infinitely above what belonged to the Jews; and even what will belong to them during the millennium.
As to the word ministry in Greek, what Mr. Wolff says is entirely incorrect: it is a sample of the way in which the word is used in this pamphlet.
First, when he says that we find the word used in two distinct senses: in a general way for all that is outward ministry, administration, etc.; then in a special way to designate a special service; and when he says afterwards that “when we find this term used absolutely, it always designates the ministry of the word”; all that is false, though convenient for the end he has in view. What does he mean by this, at the same time, in a special and absolute way? And if it be not his intention to put the absolute use in the category of special use, then absolute and general become the same thing, and the contradiction is flagrant. For how can it be, as Mr. Wolff says, that when it is used in a special way it is called the ministry of the word, if, whenever it is used absolutely, it signifies the ministry of the word? It is evident that one of these phrases contradicts the other; one says, that in a special sense it is called the ministry of the word, the other, it has this sense when it is not called so. The fact is, that ministry of the word is found but once; and that in that case it is contrasted with the absolute use of the word in the sense of serving tables (Acts 6:1-5). All this proves that Mr. Wolff only thinks of his system, and in nowise of the word in the Bible, save to pick out of it what may suit him, if one does not take the trouble to examine things for oneself.
The Greek word is simple enough: it is one who serves, any servant who was not properly a slave; diakonia is any service whatever. It was very natural to use this word in speaking of evangelical service; but the word is used in the New Testament as elsewhere, to signify service; this service might be the ministry or service of the word, or of tables, or of angels, or any other service of whatever kind. The word is used in an absolute way with respect to service of angels in Hebrews 1:14. In 2 Timothy 4:11, it is said of Mark, “He is profitable to me for the ministry”; here it does not appear that it is merely a question of the ministry of the word; we see the use of this word diakonos with respect to Mark; when Paul and Barnabas departed from Antioch, they had Mark to “their minister [here, hupereteen]”; it was not, I suppose, to preach to them. At some later period perhaps he may have purchased to himself “a good degree,” in the ministry, a more honourable service in the family. When Paul says (2 Cor. 11:8), “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them to do you service”; it is evident that it is in a figurative sense, however absolute, and it does not refer to the ministry of the word as such. He had been servant of the Corinthians, and others had paid his wages. In Romans 12:7, we find the word used absolutely, together with, and as distinguished from, divers ministries of the word; and in 1 Corinthians 12:5, it is used for all services, of any kind, done to Christ. The only time when it is used with the expression “the word,” it has its usual sense modified by the expression “word,” as it might be by any other. That is, “that service was occupied with this,” in contrast with serving tables. But the service of tables was just as much a special service as that of the word; only of a lower character evidently in the administration of the family. And the fact is, that the only time this expression “ministry of the word “is found, the word ministry is used in an absolute way to signify the service of tables (Acts 6:1); and it is thus explained, in verse 2; then verse 4, the ministry of the word is contrasted with it; but it is added, “of the word”; and thus this word is not used in an absolute way with respect to the word, but on the contrary with respect to tables.
It appears to me, that it is Hmiting the thing, as the word does not limit it, when they pretend to confine the work of the ministry to the ministry of the word: for instance, Ephesians 4:12. Moreover, it is affirming what ought to be proved. At all events, in most of the passages, it is not so, as we have just seen. Angels have not the ministry of the word; and ministry is contrasted with that of the word in Acts 6:1-5. The fact is, that what Mr. Wolff says is absolutely false and contrary to the ordinary known use of this word in the word and outside the word. If we consider attentively the use of the word diakonos, minister, he who does the service, this will come out with still greater evidence. For the word diakonos used absolutely one may consult John 2:5, 9; Matthew 22:13; ch. 20:26; ch. 23:11, and the parallel passages; also John 12:26. This idea of servant must naturally be modified (as the word ‘service’ (diakonia); see 2 Corinthians 3), according to the person whose servant one is, or the service one has to fulfil; one may be minister of,God (2 Cor. 6:4), of the gospel (Eph. 3:7; Col. 1:23) of the Church (Col. 1:25), etc. The word, taken in its general use, has its general acceptation of servant (Rom. 16; Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8, 12). Finally, the word diakonia has the general sense of service, and has to be modified in its application by words which are added—of the word (Acts 6), of death, of righteousness, of the Spirit, etc. (2 Cor. 3). There is not one passage which shews that the absolute sense signifies the ministry of the word, but quite the contrary.
Observations On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 2, Where He Speaks Of The Vocation To Ministry
It is true that the substantive “vocation “is applied to the effective calling of God in a general sense:47 but called (as an adjective) is applied in the same sense to Christians and to ministry. In Romans I: i, we read that Paul was called an apostle; and in verse 7, that the saints at Rome were called. The same term is applied to the vocation of apostleship, and to the vocation to salvation.
This chapter of Mr. Wolff presents to us all that is false and ridiculous in the principle of his pamphlet. Ministry is exercised without gift; such is the principle of Mr. Wolff. These two things, ministry and gift, are totally distinct. Ministry, he says, is connected with the Lord Jesus; gift, with the Holy Ghost.
And yet Mr. Wolff speaks here of the ministry of the prophet, which, we must therefore suppose, was exercised without gift. A singular ministry this!—that of a prophet without gift; a ministry the vocation of which was from God alone. So that, in this case, we cannot speak of an outward vocation. It would be very difficult to conceive what could be the ministry which a prophet exercised without gift.48 The case is more striking than that of an apostle, because the office of the prophet was not so varied as that of the apostle. The only thing the prophet did was to prophesy. Of two things, one, according to Mr. Wolff’s system: either they prophesied without gift; or else, exercising a gift, it was no longer a ministry.
One might perhaps have found the means of escaping this contradiction, by saying to oneself (as I endeavoured to do myself in order to find some explanation), It might be that the prophets exercised their ministry when they spoke to comfort and edification, and that it was a gift when they revealed the future. Not so. All was gift—and miraculous gift; for what is said in 1 Corinthians 14, on edification through prophecy, is quoted by Mr. Wolff as a proof that prophecy was a miraculous gift, the signs of which, when exercised, shewed that all pretension to possess it now was merely a delusion (p. 73, No. 12). So that, in the case of a prophet, a person was called to a ministry by God alone; but then, at all events, it was wholly a gift, and the exercise of this gift is no ministry at all.
All that can be said on such confusion is, that, the object being to strengthen that which exists, without real fear of God, the consequences necessarily become apparent, if the word is consulted. God has not permitted it should be otherwise. Here the contradiction is ridiculous.
The division of vocation to ministry, which Mr. Wolff establishes, is not even exact. As an instrument, a person might receive his vocation by means of an angel, as well as by means of men. Under the Old Testament it was much more the case. There is something similar in Revelation 1:1: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave … and he sent… by his angel unto his servant John.”
We have, then, to remark, on this chapter, that prophecy, which was wholly a gift in all its parts, is acknowledged to be a ministry, and that consequently ministry was the exercise of a gift, because the prophet did exercise his gift when he prophesied, and if that was not his ministry, it is very difficult to know what was his ministry as prophet; this is a positive contradiction of chapter 5.49
One remark more on this chapter. Whoever is somewhat familiar with the word of God would have supposed that, after having spoken of apostles and prophets, coming to evangelists and teachers, one would have again found the list of Ephesians 4, or at least some other Ust taken from the word of God; but not so at all. All lists are given up, because what is now in existence is the only object that one has here in view, and the train of thought in the word is of small import. Thus, after apostles and prophets, we have bishops, evangelists and teachers, because such do exist, but such an enumeration exists nowhere in the word; and the bishop is not found in any list whatever among all those contained in the word of God.50 This already presents something equivocal. They are compelled to abandon the Holy Ghost’s way of thinking and teaching, so as to carry their point, even to include in the list what is never found there in the word of God, what the word never places there, and to make up for themselves another list, totally different from every list which is found in scripture.
I repeat, when, to support a system, one is thus compelled to abandon the word of God, that alone is a sad thing.
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 3, Concerning The Name Of Bishop, Elder And Pastor.
Mr. Wolff supposes first that there is the ministry of a bishop, properly speaking; but he does not say if it is a general administration or a ministry of the word. Nevertheless, as the writer here uses this term in an absolute way, and as, in that case, according to him (p. 13), the word “ministry always designates the ministry of the word,” it seems to me that it is in this latter sense what he calls the ministry of the bishop51 must be taken. But he lays down all this—without any proof—at the basis of his system. Mr. Wolff ends his chapter 2 by saying, “we shall first treat of the bishop”; without even mentioning where he finds, according to the word, that it is a ministry. In that case, this false basis once admitted, the only thing that remains, is to shew the identity of the word ‘bishop’ with other terms; this appears simple, and it would be hard to know why there is such haste to bring forward that point. But, in effect, the whole of Mr. Wolff’s system rests on this basis.
The apostle had said, Christ “gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” According to Mr. Wolff himself (p. 50), it is a classification of ministry, and he gives it with others in the place we quoted. But the bishop is to be found in neither of these classifications, and, for the system, God’s classification does not suffice; a classification must be made on purpose, striking out the pastor from the list of the word, and inserting the word ‘bishop’; and then, as a consequence, it must be shewn that pastor and bishop is the same thing. And wherefore all this? Because in Ephesians 4, the ministries are gifts given from on high, and one has to get rid of the pastor as being a gift given from on high.52 The pastor, then, is laid aside, and hidden behind the bishop, for whom, says Mr. Wolff, it is but another name—a function of his—and the bishop who is not in the fist, the bishop who, according to the word, is not a gift, but a charge, is carefully and with great effort presented to view, to shew that the pastor is nothing else but the bishop.
Whence so many efforts to change what is simple? Christ ascended on high and gave gifts unto men: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Why avoid so carefully the plain testimony of the word? It is a bad sign; it is more than a bad sign. The revelation from God has authority; it is perfect, and it cannot be altered without introducing error. The pastor is given by the Holy Ghost in the list of gifts.53 One cannot make Ephesians 4:11, to be a classification of ministries to the exclusion of gifts, erase the pastor and substitute the bishop in his stead, without betraying oneself as supporting a bad cause, based on something else than the word of God, a cause which cannot bear the testimony of the word, such as God has given it to us. I may be told that no allusion is made to Ephesians 4:11—they have made a list for themselves. First of all, this is not true; it is the list of Ephesians 4:11, with the substitution of the bishop for the pastor. And if even it were a list made up for the occasion, how comes it that the lists and classifications which God gave do not suit our adversaries, and that they must have fresh ones? The reason is very simple; their system is not taken from the word of God.54 They wanted to get rid of the gifts, and the pastor is a gift given from on high. And why get rid of gifts? Because, “to pretend to the present existence of these gifts is to set up by the side of ministry a rival power which impedes it” (Wolff, p. 69).
Such is the sad part which the gifts of the Holy Ghost are made to play, according to that system.
But, one might say, in the days of the apostles there were, according to your system (p. 77), gifts, and by the side of these gifts a ministry, entirely distinct, it is true, but which subsisted at the same time (p. 69), which was neither destroyed by means of them, nor “compelled to throw itself into clerical despotism, to maintain its rank and dignity.”
This is an evident difficulty. Here is the way in which they seek to remove it. There was among these gifts (p. 77) “the gift of discerning of spirits, which could judge of these gifts and assign to them their proper importance and place.” Where is all this to be found in the word? “The prophet had to be subject to this”; and it is added (p. 74), “how much more the other gifts.” All this is an invention of the writer’s imagination.
The apostle, settling the order of service, says, “Let the prophets speak two or three,” he refers to prophets, “and let the others judge.” Not a word about him who had the discerning of spirits. The apostle laid down the rule for this, as for every other arrangement in the Church, and those who spoke acted according to those directions.
The idea of the writer is subversive of the apostolic authority. He who discerned the spirits did just what those very words express; he judged if it was by a demon or by the Spirit of truth that any one spoke.
Having based his system on a principle which is false, the consequence and the errors which flow from it are endless.
The writer tells us against that the only time the word ‘pastor’ is found in the New Testament, it presents itself as the ideal expression of what a good bishop should be. But this “only time “is very awkward for him; it is the passage we have quoted. Christ, having ascended on high, gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. This is what Christ gave. How this word ‘pastor’ is the ideal expression of what a good bishop should be, one cannot say; but the writer cannot deny that the pastorship connected with the doctorship is a ministry, unless a passage of the word of God is not to be received as evidence. As “in this enumeration of the charges of ministry there is no mention of the elder, or the bishop, nothing can prevent assigning the denomination to the bishop” (p. 15). What a mode of reasoning! Because God has not named a charge in a list of gifts, one of these gifts must be that very charge!
The grand argument by which Mr. Wolff seeks to assimilate and confound the pastor given from on high (Eph. 4:11), with the charge of bishop, a charge unto which the apostle or his delegate can appoint, is, that it is said to the bishops of Ephesus, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God,” Acts 20:28.
That the bishop is exhorted to feed, that I do not deny; but if such a gift be useful in the charge of a bishop, it does not follow that all those who possessed it were in that charge, and still less than that charge was the same thing as the gift. I can exhort my clerk to write well and to count aright, and he must know how to do these things in order to be a clerk; but it does not follow that every writer and book-keeper is a clerk. That charge supposes confidence, which extends to many other things: the handling of money and goods, intercourse with buyers, etc. Thus a man may be a pastor and be lacking as to many things requisite in a bishop, and may never have been invested with this charge. A man may be lacking as regards authority for governing, in discernment, oversight, the gravity necessary to act upon thoughtless minds in the details of life; or a personal knowledge of souls; and at the same time he may be capable of feeding souls with very great success, without being invested with the charge of bishop. That gift, that of feeding, may, together with other qualities, fit him for the charge of bishop; but a charge with which one is invested is not a gift given by Christ ascended on high.
The falseness and the futility of this reasoning, which tends to justify the alteration they have introduced in the list which God gave us, are proved by a similar passage, John 21:15-17, where it is said to Peter, “Feed my sheep” and “Feed my lambs.” Do they mean that, because of these exhortations of the Lord to Peter, apostle and bishop were the same thing? It is of no use saying that he called himself “an elder.” He does it in effect, as a touching testimony of affection and humility; but do they mean that apostle and bishop are the same thing? Well, if the conclusion is evidently false in this case, it is equally so in the other, which is perfectly similar. See again 1 Corinthians 9:7, where Paul applies the word ‘feedeth’ to himself. He is never called an elder.
Moreover, Mr. Wolff is, in this respect, in contradiction with himself. He says (p. 14), that “the names of bishop, elder, and pastor, refer to one and the same charge”; and, on the contrary, he says (p. 15, 40), that “the function of pastor is connected principally with the episcopate”; and he gives as a proof of this that an apostle who was not a bishop calls himself a co-elder. This is very slight ground for denying that a thing called “gift” by the Holy Ghost is a different thing from a charge, of which the passage makes no mention. The last proof the writer gives, to establish the identity of pastor and bishop, consists in the denial that there is a particular ministry of pastor” (p. 16), and saying that it is only the ministry of one who was, at the same time, pastor and teacher; and then he concludes that “the name of pastor is in this passage nothing but one among many functions, attributed to one and the same ministry.”
We must always remember that there is not a word of all this in the passage, which presents to us a list of gifts and not of charges, by Mr. Wolff’s own avowal, although he contradicts himself. I say, by Mr. Wolff’s own avowal, because he admits that the outward vocation was wanting in the prophet, who, consequently, had not, nor was, a charge. This is what I admit, that here, in Ephesians 4:11, the Greek supposes doctorship and pastorship to be connected; but that is all, absolutely all; and without a single word being said about the attribution of a charge. I say that doctorship and pastorship are here connected, because such a phrase in no way supposes the union of these things in every case; it only shews that they are joined together in this case. Of this we find one of the strongest proofs in the expression, “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Greek form is exactly the same; but if these things can never be connected but with the same person, then the Son is no longer God. This remark overthrows all the reasoning that Mr. Wolff gives here, as well as that of page 47 of his pamphlet. Here again is another example which applies directly to the point in question. The same Greek form is found in Ephesians 2:20, where it is said, “Upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” The form is absolutely the same, and I can apply to it the phrase of the writer (p. 47). “It is only through error or through ignorance of the language that people can have seen in apostle and prophet two different ministers.” But everyone knows quite well that they were different, though connected in certain cases. So that the writer’s reasoning as regards the pastors and teachers is false, and according to his expression (p. 47), “it is only through error or through ignorance of the language that he could say all that he has said.” He has met with a rule laid down by Greek grammarians, which I admit as a general principle, a rule applied very extensively by Middleton and another English writer, Veysey, but particularly in the famous work of Middleton. But a little knowledge, people say, is a dangerous thing. Mr. Wolff has not had patience enough to examine carefully for himself the application of the rule, and he has applied it altogether wrongly.
The fact is, that Mr. Wolff’s system cannot hold good in the face of Ephesians 4. This chapter, for his system, is a classification of ministries; but to come to that one must introduce the bishop. On the other hand, to say nothing of apostles, prophets who are mentioned there are for him a gift, and an extraordinary gift too. So that he must lop off prophets, and then expunge pastors from this classification of ministries, and bring in bishops in their stead. When once this is done, teachers still remain, but they are not a ministry; so that this title too must be eliminated and looked upon as a qualification of pastors and evangelists. Here is the process. He easily disposes of apostles and prophets—they are ministries established by God alone. That is soon said. But as to gifts, this they cannot be—they are ministries. But, finally, he is not willing to consider them: in effect it would be rather inconvenient, since he is compelled elsewhere to make them to be gifts. As to pastors, it is an easy matter. Bishops are employed in feeding, therefore pastor and bishop are the same thing; we will put in bishop instead of pastor, and we have now two parts of the system of our day—evangelists, and bishops or pastors. But there still remain teachers in the list, and this is not a ministerial title now. Well, the gordian knot must be cut. It will be neither gift nor ministry, but a qualification of the evangelist or of the pastor. And thus is the revelation of God cut down to the measure of man’s will and of man’s sin; and man will be content with this.
In fine, according to Mr. Wolff, bishop was a charge and not a gift; and these are, according to him, two things essentially different: a gift cannot even be a charge, and the charge can exist without gift (p. 67). But it is quite certain that pastor is a gift. In the passage, Ephesians 4:11, the apostle speaks to us of gifts which Christ gave when He ascended on high. This evidently is a way of presenting gifts under the most important point of view. Christ, for the good of the Church and the perfecting of His saints, gave these gifts when He ascended up into glory unto His Father. There is no question here of any intervention of man to confer a charge; these are things from on high, which are to be exercised for the good of the Church. It is a question of the body of Christ, and of the joints of supply in that body—joints among which one may be more important than another, but which are all looked at under the same point of view. “Unto every one … is given grace.” It is not a question here of a charge conferred by men, but of grace given according to the measure of the free gift of Christ.
Is it possible to be plainer or clearer on the nature of the thing itself?
Now Mr. Wolff admits that, in effect, there is no outward vocation for some; he cannot deny it. But does he not perceive that all here are absolutely in the same category and included in the same definition? And it is for this case alone that he chooses to substitute a charge. But the passage gives them all as being of the same nature, and in the same case, and in the same moral order. It is wresting the word in order to take out one of these “gifts “so as to stamp upon it another character and change its nature. The answer is “he gave “: it is a gift. Why do violence to the passage in order to make of the thing a charge under another name? Besides, these gifts, pastors and others, are placed in the body as joints of supply, according to the gift of Christ to each. This is never said of the bishop, who, in effect, was a charge, and not a gift, according to Mr. Wolff’s distinction.
The bishops (and not a bishop, for there were always several) were local charges; they only acted within the precincts of the particular church where they were found. The bishop was not a gift, nor a joint of supply in the body according to the measure of the gift of Christ, but a local charge, for which, among several other things, the capacity to feed was suitable.
The pastor was a gift, a grace; he was given from on high as a joint of supply in that body; he was to act according to the measure of the free gift of Christ, which was bestowed upon him.
The pastor is never presented as a charge established by men, although the bishops who were, according to God, established by men, with a special object of local oversight, may have enjoyed this gift and used it in their locality. These things are connected by one end, as the authority conferred upon the apostles by Christ was connected with what was given to them, and the gift rendered them competent to exercise that authority. For the apostle, although directly from God, was also a charge, and that, we may say, given by Christ as man, acting with authority in the government of the Church; and the charges of authority flowed from that.
The pastor is a gift in the body; the bishop, a charge in a particular church.
If I am asked why I believe that, I repeat, Because God has said it in as many words in the word, and He has done so in the plainest and clearest manner. So that one must alter the lists God gives us, suppress the fact that the passage (Ephesians 4:11) is a list of gifts, and fall into the grossest contradictions* about ministries, charges and gifts, to enable him to get out of it.
The apostle, by way of comparison, applies the word55 ‘feedeth’ to his own ministry also; 1 Cor. 9:7.
Hence, according to God, the bishop is a local charge established by men, doubtless, according to the direction of God, by the Holy Ghost (Acts 13:23; Titus 1:3); and the bishop must possess divers qualities enumerated in the word. There were several in each church.
The pastor, on the contrary, is a gift given by Christ when He ascended up on high. The pastor is placed as a joint of supply in the body of Christ. He is therefore responsible for the exercise of this function, as for a talent entrusted to him; Eph. 4:11. Woe to the pastor who does not feed!
The bishop may be called to feed and to teach also—as a quality of charge. Historically I do not doubt, that, as man has ever more and more eclipsed the action of the Holy Ghost in the Church, the gift has by degrees been lost in the charge, but this does not change anything in the word; and we live in times, where one must have recourse either to the word or to popery.
If any one would know the history of local pastors, here it is. At first (and that even till rather recent dates in certain countries) the presbyters or elders (for it is the same word) from the central town where they resided, visited the villages around, in order to perform the service and edify the faithful. Gradually the villages wished that one of the presbyters should settle in their midst. This took place; and thus a parish was formed. From the same source came the origin of patronage, or the right of appointing, in the middle ages. The lord of the place promised to endow the presbyter, if he came to reside near him in his village. The right to choose the presbyter was then granted to this lord; and, in imitation of the Jews, tithes were granted. Those who have observed the ways of a separated flock in a large town, will feel no difficulty in understanding how villages were served, and the natural progress in the establishment of parishes—the village flock wishing to have in their midst the appointed minister. Ecclesiastical laws, feudal laws, and other circumstances greatly modified all this, no doubt; but historically the progress is very evident. For us, this in nowise alters the truth which is in the word, and in nowise modifies the duty of acknowledging that which it contains and the ways of God which it declares, and of abandoning, if God gives us light, the tradition of men. The increasing corruption of that which attaches itself to those traditions demands imperatively that the faithful should be decided in this respect, if their desire is to be saved, or at least not be saved as through fire. It is sad preoccupation, to attach oneself to the hay and stubble men have built on the foundation, which is Christ.
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 4, Concerning The Different Systems On The Vocation Of The Bishop.
In all the rest of the pamphlet we must expect to find the bishop and the pastor confounded; this will create much difficulty; but we will try to get out of it.
“The bishop,” says Mr. Wolff, “can only, it is evident, receive his vocation from God, or from man, or from both together. Hence three different systems.”
“In the first system,” says Mr. Wolff, “the pastor holds his ministry from God alone; men are not to come in, in any way; this is the system of the Quakers, of the Irvingites, and of those called Plymouth Brethren.”
All this is false. Firstly, the Quakers have elders who form a separate class, and who adjoin to themselves such or such other grave person to be elder with them, but with the consent of the assembly. Those who speak or feed may, or may not, be elders. Even their ministers (for the Quakers also distinguish between elders and ministers) are recognized by the elders after a certain time for the probation of their gifts, and they always remain subject to the judgment of the elders.
Secondly, the Irvingites have an angel, a sort of head pastor, and six elders besides, when the rules are followed. All are established by men (namely, their apostles), and they hold to that like papists.
Thirdly, those whom the writer calls Plymouth Brethren (as far as I can dare to speak for them) believe that, as the bishop was established by the apostles, he cannot be established in our day with the same formal authority. They leave the pastor where God placed him, that is, as a gift given by Christ when He ascended up on high and received gifts for men.
In the second system, says Mr. Wolff, the bishop holds his ministry from men alone, and he attributes this system to Limborch and Neander. As to Limborch I know nothing of him. As to Neander, except the direct appointment by men, he is just what people call a Plymouthian, and therefore Mr. Wolff says of him (p. 9): “a new theory, original, wholly destitute of proof.” In the third system, which Mr. Wolff calls mixed, “the bishop receives his charge by a twofold vocation from God and men.”
As regard this point, or this system, we must always bear in mind that the ecclesiastical system of the Reformed Church of France, etc., distinguishes between the bishop or overseer, and the pastor, so that what the writer says is not at all the system of Calvin—a system based on this, that the ordinary gift of pastor, which is distinct from the bishop, still subsists. According to Calvin, for the Church to exist, it is absolutely necessary there should be gifts now. And Mr. Wolff, on the contrary, says (p. 78), “If there are gifts at the present time, unless they are all there, ministry cannot be maintained in the Church.”
He goes still farther. This doctrine of Calvin,56 he says, “is one of the principal sores of the Church; every church where it may be received will become only a volcano” (p. 70). If a minister believes in gifts, Mr. Wolff advises him to resign his charge. “It can no longer be allowed now for a minister to remain uncertain on this point.”
Finally, after having destroyed all the scriptural bases of the system of Calvin, in his desire to confound those who in their weakness rest upon God and the word, the writer goes on to establish this last system, which is his own. But what animosity of opposition does not this pamphlet manifest. To get rid of the activity of the brethren, their adversaries think proper even to undermine all their own house. As blind as Samson, without having his strength, they bring down the house upon their own heads, without touching those they wish to destroy. These, taught by the word as to the ruin which is coming, are already gone out of it.
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 5, Where The Writer Shews That The Bishop Is Established Of God.
In general I agree with the writer that the bishop was established of God.
But we have to call attention to the confusion between pastor and bishop—a confusion in consequence of which the passages he alleges are, for the most part, wrongly quoted. The passage, Hebrews 13:17, “Obey them that have the rule over you,” does not speak particularly of pastors, but in general of those that rule—an expression, moreover, which does not prove there was a charge. Hence it is in no wise said that they must give account to God for the souls they feed, God having entrusted these souls to them. They watch over the souls, “as they that must give account.” It has often been remarked that “give account for them” is not a faithful translation. We have already considered the passage, Ephesians 4:11: the bishop is not flamed there.
Acts 20:28. This passage is very clear, as proving that the bishops at Ephesus, and therefore elsewhere, were established of God; but here again is a confusion the importance of which is great enough.
The writer will have it that, because the Greek word translated established or made—is used in Acts 20 and in 1 Corinthians 12, the establishing is the same in both cases. But he has not perceived that, in the first of these passages, it is a question of establishing certain persons in a charge; and, in the second, of establishing the charge or the function itself. It is one thing to establish a professorship in a university, and to endow it, and another thing to set or establish an individual in the functions of rector of the same university. In the passage, Acts 20, God had set or established certain persons in the charge of bishop; and in 1 Corinthians 12 God had set or established in the Church certain gifts, certain joints or members of the body. He has constituted the body thus. So that there is no analogy whatever between these two passages as to sense.
Hence the writer has quoted no passage which speaks of an immediate or inward call. There is on the part of God the appointment of certain persons; but this is not an inward call. What the writer gives us is nothing but reasoning which ends in very little. One passage only declares that the Holy Ghost had placed certain persons in the charge of overseer; and this I fully admit; but it is not said there was an inward call. And I make the remark, that it is not even said that God set or established bishops in His Church; this is nowhere said. Nowhere either is it said, that God, according to that power which creates and orders, has set such a function in the body. This is said of gifts, comparing them with the eye, the ear, etc., which God has set in the natural body. When He set certain individuals in such a charge, it was, in that case, sanctioning the existence of that charge; but the word of God does not go so far as to say that God has established the charge itself. A charge is not of the same nature as a function in the body. The fact is, that a bishop was a local government; it was not the impulse of the Holy Ghost acting in the way of gift; it was a charge to which one was appointed. The Holy Ghost had established certain persons in that charge. And here is the importance of this remark. It was not something that existed in the individual who acted in such or such a way. It was a charge—outward as to oneself—which one could desire, and for which certain qualities were necessary. Hence, one could be appointed to that charge, and the vocation from God was not, in that case, His own power acting in the way of gift (a power which He had divided, which the Holy Ghost had divided); but that vocation was merely the appointment, on God’s part, of an individual to the charge in question, and his being established in that charge. Hence, when it is a question of a charge, we have the only true vocation from God—namely, His appointment of the individual. The Holy Ghost established him in that place, in that function; He did not establish the function itself, save by the act of appointing the individual. It need not be added that the Holy Ghost appointed persons having suitable qualities.
What we have then to inquire into is—how God established these bishops. It is thus that we shall discover what that vocation is that is received of God.
Of this we have very plain instances in the word. A man is not established of God in a charge through a quality only; this may render him fit for the charge; but, as Mr. Wolff says, he must be regularly installed in that charge; he is not a bishop, he is not established as bishop, either by God or by men, before that, whatever may be, moreover, his qualities. Accordingly Christ appointed and sent the twelve, to whom, at a later period, after His ascension, He gave gifts, necessary for the charge of apostle, as He had, during His life here below, given that which was necessary to render them messengers of His glory as Messiah on earth. But He had appointed them in His stead. The apostle Paul, specially charged with such a function, appointed elders for the government and oversight of each church. He sent Titus invested with his authority to do the same at Crete. Thus, at least, God established them. This is all that the word positively says on the subject. Am I thinking that the authority of God was wanting there? In no wise. I say that God had established these bishops according to the authority conferred upon Paul by the Lord; an authority which he exercised through the power of the Holy Ghost, as he says on another occasion: “When ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Holy Ghost had established elders by his means.
Whatever be the means, that which we find in the Bible, and that which I consequently ask for, is, that the Holy Ghost may establish persons in those charges. For do not come and tell us that the Holy Ghost established the charge, and that it must be continued. That is not what the word of God says. It says that the Holy Ghost established the persons who were invested with it in the charge we speak of. That is what I ask for in those who pretend to be invested with it now. If the simple fact that they are in it were sufficient, without asking who set these persons in that charge, this fact would suffice just as well for the Romish priests as for any others. They would be established by the authority of God, by the Holy Ghost, and they ought to be recognized. It would be complete popery, in its real principle, namely, the authority of God attached to a man, without proof—the authority of the Holy Ghost attached to the possession of a charge, and not the legitimate possession judged by the proof of the authority of the Holy Ghost. That is what concerns the establishment of the bishop by God Himself.
I now ask for the proof of the establishment of the individual in the charge on the part of God. In the case of a gift, it is no longer the same thing; for it proves itself. But a charge of authority needs to be legitimated. One has no right to say that the Holy Ghost established bishops. The Holy Ghost did establish certain persons as bishops. Shew me this and I shall be content; but it is your .task.
Mr. Wolff owns (p. 37) that the election by the church excludes the vocation of God. But, to be consistent, you must shew me some one established by a perceptible intervention of the Holy Ghost (otherwise the choice by anyone else excludes it equally); but this they do not pretend to. Or else, you must shew me someone established according to the word by some supreme authority. But in the word this is found to be attributed only to the apostles and their delegates.
If it be objected that it is written, “Obey them that have the rule over you … for they watch for your souls”; and, “know them which labour among you”;57 I reply, I consent to this, and I do still more than consent (for the word of God does not need the consent of man). May God lead His children to do so! Such is my prayer.
I bless God that there is in His word ample provision for times when a state of disorder prevents every thing from being outwardly legitimated. The heart of man is put to the test in a most precious way. Those who are humble will discern all that is of God, and submit themselves to it; the flesh will rebel against everything. But when, by using the phrase “The Holy Ghost has established,” people seek to force upon me that which man has established, and to determine an order of things as obligatory, in circumstances where God demands patience and humiliation, I require from such to produce their evidence. Such a pretension must be legitimated; otherwise, I dishonour the Holy Ghost, whose authority and name are introduced to uphold that which is only from man, which is only an authority, a ministry, without gift. But it is necessary, and it is the least that can be required, that an authority without gift should produce the clearest evidence that it is established by the Holy Ghost, before one can own in it such an authority. This is what I have not seen as yet. And when this pretended authority is used to hinder the activity of love, or to arrogate to itself the right of ruling it, as it were ex officio, and to deny any gift whatever, the thing becomes most serious. Is it of God? Now this is a question of the utmost gravity.
But here is a person who desires that charge, who possesses all the qualities which the word demands, who is blessed of God in it: for my part, I would support him with all my might, and so much the more because he cannot legitimate his vocation in an outward way, nor say, “The Holy Ghost has established me,” and appeal to evidence. But let him abide in sincerity, in that position of acknowledged weakness, because we will both of us, then, rest upon God, and the strength of God will be there. If, on the other hand, I have laboured in a place, if God has blessed me there, if He has gathered many souls, if He has Himself raised up true bishops, who work together and help and teach and watch over souls; and if I have to labour elsewhere, would I scruple to exhort them, nay, to beseech of them, in the bowels of Christ, to watch over the souls which God had given me in that place for my reward? If I have love for souls, if I love Christ, and if I am led by the Holy Ghost, I could not act differently. If these same persons sought to place themselves in a position where it would be a question of a right, all the work of love would be thoroughly destroyed.
Whoever cannot feel the difference between such conduct, and the fact of insisting on a ministry without gift, I pity him.
Let us remember also, that elders (of whom there were always several established in each church by the side of gifts) are quite a different thing from a young man who leaves an academy, having perhaps natural talents, perhaps piety, but not one of those qualities required by the word of God for elders. The elders which the word depicts are quite a different thing from the young ministers whom Mr. Wolff presents to us in that sad picture in which he sums up their features by saying, “After suitable study, all preach without gifts.” See the last page of his pamphlet.
To recognize a labourer according to his gift in his field of labour is a positive duty; he who does not will suffer for it. This is what religious societies are not doing in their pretensions to direct the work. They respect ministers whom they know to be not established of God; they often allow souls and their own work to pass into a system which they believe to be not of God, and they oppose every other labourer who is not subject to them.
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 6, Concerning The Human Vocation Of The Bishop.
In this chapter Mr. Wolff shews that bishops were established by ministers. I have nothing to add to what I have already said, except that it is very convenient to speak of bishops established by ministers, because we have ministers now. Whereas the word of God speaks only of elders established by apostles and their delegates. Give us then, for the establishment of elders, either apostles or their delegates.
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 7, Concerning The Election Of The Bishop By The Flock.
Here again the writer spares me the trouble of saying much. His desire is, at the beginning of the chapter, that the flock should take a part in the nomination of the pastor, and that the ministry should have the right of presenting him. He states all this, without caring much to see what is found about it in the word.
All the system which chooses to appoint pastors in such a way is so much outside all that is found in the word, that I have nothing to say on the subject. I have already explained the origin, historically, of this custom. The flocks which one has in view being in fact unconverted for the most part, it is still less needful I should speak of it. “We cannot but approve of such a custom “(p. 20). It would be convenient to free oneself from the government and consistories, and to follow the liberal influence of the age. All that is outside my task. I have already discussed the subject of all the remainder of the chapter, in the same sense as Mr. Wolff.58
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 8, Concerning The Imposition Of Hands.
In this chapter Mr. Wolff asserts that there were in the apostolic Church two kinds of imposition of hands; the one, miraculous, which communicated extraordinary gifts; the other, ordinary and without miracle, which was conferred by all ministers.
I agree also with the general idea of this chapter, namely, that there was an imposition of the hands of the apostles which was special to them, and which, in general, distinguished the apostle. Long since have I written, and even acted, in making this distinction.
But there are ideas in this chapter of Mr. Wolff, which require to be discussed, not only because of their importance, but also because those ideas bear on subjects, with respect to which Mr. Wolff, while he has received certain views which the brethren whom he opposes have had long since, has nevertheless fallen into the confusion out of which these truths should have brought him. It is comforting, however, to have at least a certain ground, where there is some light in the understanding, and on which scriptural argument can have a hold.
When I say that Mr. Wolff had understood certain views which the brethren whom he opposes received long ago, I do not mean that he has borrowed them. I know not where he found them; but I am glad to bear witness that there is a very respectable production on the precious word of God. I will explain where it appears to me there are serious gaps in the system which the writer thinks he has found there; but, at least, he has searched the word on the subject, and this is always worthy of respect.
We must here notice a striking part. The moment one searches the word, it comes out that theology and theologians are worth nothing at all. As to the two kinds of imposition of hands (the difference of which forms the basis of the writer’s production, and he is right in the main) “old theologians did not distinguish between them” (p. 27); “hence the vagueness and obscurity into which of necessity they fell” (p. 29). And the writer adds, “This confusion in the ideas has produced two results, both equally sad.”
Poor theologians! Even when, at any cost, they will uphold the imposition of hands which is practised in our day, for that is always the object, at least they are compelled to throw aside all the system on which it is founded. In short, it is impossible to search the word without putting aside all the theological system on ministry. This is a singular confession, when one chooses to support that system. It is true, that it is impossible to read the word and to follow, even one moment, the system of theologians, the established system, as to the ideas. It is what I have felt myself.
Here now is what Mr. Wolff condemns as one of the sad results of the confusion he spoke of. I am almost afraid I may be accused of irony in quoting, however seriously, what he says. “Some have thought they saw in ordination something mysterious and sacramental, I know not what magical transformation, which must stamp an indehble character on the man who undergoes it; and clerical pride has favoured that error” (p. 27). Such is one of the results of the theological system on the imposition of hands.
Further, the distinction adopted by the writer, and which old theologians had neglected, is, he says, of “so much importance, that it is only in this that I can see the means of restoring to the ordination of the minister all its dignity, by keeping it pure from superstitious ideas.”
Here, then, we have all the old system on this subject entirely condemned. Is it surprising that others, who have searched the word before Mr. Wolff, have condemned it also? And it is not merely a question of some flaw in the theory; the ordination of ministers is tainted with “superstitious ideas” ; and “clerical pride has favoured that error,” the distinction which alone could keep it pure not being found in theology.
And if, on one hand, this was true, as I fully believe it was, and if the thing has gone very far on a very serious point, which is nothing less than the ministry which God has established in His Church; and if, on the other hand, I have found, like Mr. Wolff, that, according to the dissenting system, the bishop or the pastor is absolutely without vocation from God, is it surprising that I should have withdrawn far away, on the one hand, from those superstitious ideas favoured by clerical pride; and, on the other, from a system which establishes pastors or bishops without any vocation from God? That is what I have done, because I believe what Mr. Wolff believes. I know not whether he has hitherto received or not an ordination conferred according to those superstitious ideas. If he has, I hope God may grant him more light. If in keeping away from both these things, I subject myself to the accusation of belonging to a new sect, I must bear it with patience: it is clearly what is demanded by light and a good conscience; and then the blame of men becomes of very little weight. Moreover, I am not the first who is of a “sect” which is “everywhere… spoken against.” May God give unto us, if we have not the same gifts, the same courage as unto him who endured such contempt from those who, calling themselves Jews, were, most of them, liars.
As to the imposition of hands, I do not at all reject it, provided it is left in its proper place. But this I ask, if an upright man, whose desire is to act according to the word, having the convictions expressed by the writer of the pamphlet, would not have withdrawn from national ordination, and from dissenting ordination?—from one, because tainted with superstitious ideas, and founded on an error which is favoured by clerical pride; from the other, because applied to men who have received no vocation from God; yet in spite of all, acknowledging that, on both sides, there are individuals blessed of God? Then, having seen that theologians had based everything on a false system, he would have waited in order to see clearly the will of God, instead of building up again the things which the word of God had overthrown.
I have been present at the imposition of hands done with simplicity, when it went not beyond the light I had; I was present and felt much joy. But I think that ministry can be exercised without it, without any human vocation being necessary; and I found this on Acts 8:4; chap. 11:21; Philip-pians 1:15, etc.; because I see from those passages, that they preached, that they evangelized, that they announced the word (I will not even mention here either the prophets or Paul), all the words which can express in the highest way the act of announcing the word being used, without the idea of ordination; and it is said that “the hand of the Lord was with them “; and because I see and believe what Mr. Wolff carefully avoids seeing, and what he wants to fashion according to his own mind, namely, that the ministries which concern the edification of the Church are gifts; and if they are not called charismata they are none the less gifts which Christ gave. And I bless God for it; because His work is not hindered, nor clothed with superstitious ideas, although man has marred the outward order established by the apostles.
What I desire is, that ministry be independent, and that it enjoy its true dignity, as being of God, and dependent upon God; that it be the Holy Ghost who may direct both the work and the workmen; and that in the Church of God money may become servant (deacon)—and this is a great privilege—not the master of ministry.
Let us always remember that the ordination of young students, who have just left an academy, is as far as can be from the establishment of elders in the Church; that there is no similarity whatever between the two things; and that what “is practised now” has introduced into the ministry founded on that system, a mass of Socinians, Rationalists, and Arians, and conferred upon them all the rights of ministry.
Mr. Wolff was educated at a school formed by men whom the ministers, ordained according to that system, had expelled from their midst because they believed in the fundamental basis of Christianity. To see oneself reduced to the necessity of choosing between such a state of things and a system which, if it be more scriptural in its forms, establishes its charges in such a way as excludes the vocation of God, or to place oneself outside of all—is one of the most striking proofs of the state of failure in which the Church is.
Now what is the place given to the imposition of hands? This is shewn to us in Hebrews 6. The imposition of hands has its place there, as one of the elements of the beginning of Christ; an expression which, in effect, connects this ceremony with things that existed before the gift of the Holy Ghost. It seems to have been a very ancient ceremony, everywhere used as a sign of blessing.
The case of Joshua may be added to those pointed out by Mr. Wolff. This ceremony was at all events used as a sign of blessing, for healings, for children, for those who served the tables, and many others. We must not, I think, confound the case of the sacrifices with this imposition of hands. The imposition of hands on the victim identified the victim with the sinner, or the worshipper with the victim; that is what we see in Hebrews 7:7. In that case, he who laid his hands on the victim was not a superior who blessed, nor a brother who “recommended “another “to the grace of God,” Acts 14:26. He who offered a burnt offering laid his hands on the victim, and was thus presented to God according to the acceptance and sweet savour of the victim. In the offering for sin, the sin of the guilty one was laid upon the victim, which, thereby, became sin in his stead. Neither in the one nor in the other of these cases was it a question of blessing; nothing was conferred. In the burnt offering there was not even transmission. In that case, the imposition of hands expressed an idea of representation. If one means to say that he who receives gifts or a charge must represent him who conferred them, in this very general sense one might recognize a certain analogy between the imposition of hands on an offering, and the imposition of hands on a man to confer a gift or invest with a charge. But in healings and in the case of children this idea also is lost. For the rest, I am not anxious to dispute anything here. The idea is rather vague and imperfect; but it does not affect the question we are treating. A brother, who has been dead many years, sought to establish, in a short publication, this analogy, and the connection between Hebrews 6 and the sacrifices; but it seemed to me that there was a certain confusion of ideas between blessing and identification or representation. All acts of power, in blessing, presented themselves under the form of imposition of hands—healings like all others; but then there was no representation. In the case of the burnt offering, nothing was transmitted; the imposition of hands expressed another idea.
I admit that, in the order of the Church at the beginning, the Holy Ghost was conferred by the imposition of the hands of the apostles: this is incontestable. It was, in my judgment, a sign of apostolic power.
But the writer has thoroughly overlooked the bearing of this fact, and in making gifts to cease (the possession of which he connects with the imposition of the hands of the’ apostles), he brings in the cessation of the presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church. This I will now establish.
Mr. Wolff says (p. 270), first, that one must distinguish between the gift and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. In this he is perfectly right: this is what the Irvingites did not do, neither also has the writer of this pamphlet on ministry done it himself. Hence I am anxious to call attention again to the point, that all that is found in Ephesians 4 is there called gift, not ‘charisma tou pneumatos,’ but equally gifts; the word used indicating, according to Mr. Wolff, a free manifestation of the Spirit (P- 72, 5°).59
Let us now examine the very grave subject of the gift of the Holy Ghost; for it is certain that, if Mr. Wolff is right, we must give up not only the gifts but the gift of the Holy Ghost.
It is possible, according to his system, that we may not have to give up the life which the Spirit has communicated to us, the life according to the power of the resurrection of Christ: but we must give up the gift of the Holy Ghost as seal, and not the gifts only.
According to Mr. Wolff, p. 73, No. 16, and p. 37, the gifts communicated by the imposition of the hands of the apostles were an extension of the gift they received at Pentecost. In effect, we see one and the same result in what comes to pass on the day of Pentecost, at Caesarea (Acts 10), at Samaria (Acts 8), and at Ephesus (Acts 19). Those who received the gift “spake with tongues, and prophesied.” Whether at Csesarea, where the Spirit works in a special way, as a testimony of the admission of Gentiles; or at Samaria, where He is communicated through the imposition of the hands of the apostles Peter and John; or at Ephesus, where He is communicated through the imposition of the hands of the apostle Paul—a proof of his apostolic rights; it is evident that, in all these cases, it was an extension of what came to pass on the day of Pentecost. But what took place on the day of Pentecost was the gift of the Holy Ghost Himself; it was the promise of the Father; it was the Comforter sent by the Son from the Father, and by the Father in the name of the Son; it was the Spirit of truth, to reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment, to communicate the things of Christ to the Church; for it was the Spirit whom Christ sent when He went away (John 15; ch. 16; Luke 24:49). It was that other Comforter, who was to abide for ever with the disciples; John 14. But the gift which the apostles communicated or transmitted was only, by Mr. Wolff’s own confession, “an extension of that gift which the apostles themselves received at Pentecost” (p. 31). It is not a question of giving up gifts and saying they no longer exist; but one must say that the Spirit, who was to abide for ever with the disciples, has no longer an existence on earth. It is the gift that it lost, not the gifts; for the imposition of hands was a transmission of what had been received. Now, that which had been received, was the Holy Ghost the Comforter, the Spirit of truth; this it is, then, that has been lost. It is evidently of the utmost gravity; and, at the same time, nothing is more simple. The imposition of hands transmitted that which the apostles themselves had received at Pentecost; and this it is which would be lost. But it was the promise of the Father, the Holy Ghost Himself, that the apostles had received. It is this, then, which is lost, according to Mr. Wolff! What shall we say of those who, to sustain what is practised in the present day, treat with such inconceivable levity the basis of all power, of all testimony, of all manifestation of the glory of Christ, of the existence of the Church—that is, the presence of the Holy Ghost Himself? of those who recommend and carefully circulate a tract, which absolutely takes away from the Church the Holy Ghost, such as He was given at Pentecost, the Comforter; and who do so, either through partiality for the clergy, or through a sad preoccupation which prevents them from perceiving what they are doing?
Are we really come to this, that those who think they are pillars of the Church give their approval to that which denies the presence of the Comforter; and, while denying it, seek to persuade us that the Church enjoys “all the primitive blessings”? The gifts were only “the manifestation of the Spirit.” How much we have lost in this respect, alas! is but too evident. All that was, under the apostolic administration, a public sign of the presence of the Holy Ghost to the world— that was directed and even conferred by that ruling ministry— all this is lost. It is that very thing on which I insisted, as being a proof, among other things, of the state of failure in which we are; but to say, on that account, that the Holy Ghost no longer exists in the Church, except as grace of life— and that is what this pamphlet says—is to deny the basis of all Christian hope; it is that which at the same time shews what is at the root of the question discussed, and that all is lost on the side of those who think to uphold such a system.
I do not conceal from myself that what I say is very strong language. I do not deny that some few have, through ignorance, maintained what I denounce; but the principle here professed takes absolutely away all source of power in the Church, all testimony rendered by the Holy Ghost. It puts out the Holy Ghost, as having no existence in the unity of the body. It is to deny, in its principle, the existence of the Church, and the glory of Christ, and all testimony to be rendered to Christ on earth; for there were only two testimonies: one, that of the twelve, because they had been with Christ from the beginning (and we may add to their number Paul as to the heavenly glory); the other, the testimony of the Comforter sent by Christ from the Father, of the Spirit of truth “which proceedeth from the Father,” John 15:26, 27. As to the testimony of the twelve, we have it no longer personally; and, according to Mr. Wolff, we have not the Comforter either; for that is what the apostles received on the day of Pentecost. If you think that we have the word, as taking the place of the apostles and of the Holy Ghost, say so at least, that we may know what to abide by; and deny openly—not the gifts but— the presence of the Holy Ghost in the Church. Say, it is no longer true that there is one Spirit and one body. You no doubt admit grace to believe; but as to that one Spirit, it is no longer any question of Him. What an awful confirmation of the failure of the Church!
Let us now examine the passages quoted for the miraculous imposition of hands; and we shall see that it is a question of the reception of the Holy Ghost Himself, as well as of a particular gift sometimes conferred in that way; and we shall see at the same time by these passages, and by others that we are going to quote, that the reception of the Holy Ghost is never confounded with the faith which the Holy Ghost may have produced in the heart.
Acts 19:2. The apostle says, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost”—or rather, “if [the] Holy Ghost was [come]” —that is, if that baptism of the Holy Ghost, of which John had spoken, had taken place. It is clear then here, that, although the gifts of tongues, and of prophecies, etc., did manifest the presence of the Holy Ghost, they had not in any way received the Holy Ghost as the Comforter sent by the Son.
Acts 8:15-17. “Who”—Peter and John—“when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Then laid they their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost.” We may well suppose that the Holy Ghost manifested Himself as elsewhere, since Simon perceived it; but it is not directly referred to. One thing is clear—that the disciples had not received the Holy Ghost before.
Acts 10:44. In the case of Cornelius, the Holy Ghost, without imposition of hands, “fell on all them which heard the word”: a proof that (although the imposition of hands, according to the ordinary administration at the time of the apostles, was the means used for communicating the Holy Ghost, that the manifestation of power might be there), nevertheless God was sovereign in this respect. It shews, moreover, that when once the Holy Ghost was in the Church, He was to abide there for ever, and that the means of His manifestation was a secondary point. The Holy Ghost was there, ever abiding there; He did not content Himself with only giving unto individuals to believe; but He abode in the Church as in a temple, acting sovereignly for the good of the body, according to the will and the wisdom of God. That all the means of the manifestation are in a state of disorder, that the state of ruin in which we are throws obscurity on all these things, this it is on which I have insisted; but to use it in order to deny the presence of the Comforter is to do the work of the enemy; it is the spirit of unbelief and of impenitence.
Other passages present this subject to us under another light also, proving to us that the result of this doctrine is to deny the Holy Ghost, as seal of the promise to the individual; for this presence of the Holy Ghost is something added to faith.
John 7:38, 39. “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet [given],” etc.)
Galatians 4:6. “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts.”
Ephesians 1:13, 14. “In whom ye also [trusted], after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance.”
We see then in these passages that the seal of the Holy Ghost is added to faith; and if we have not that Holy Ghost of promise, we neither possess the Spirit of adoption, nor the rivers of living water, nor the earnest of our inheritance. It is not here a question of gifts; it is not a question of power in the Church. If we lose what was transmitted by the apostles— what they received on the day of Pentecost—then, that which we lose is the Holy Ghost of promise, who is received by all those who have believed; it is the source of all joy and energy.
Whatever may have been the manifestation that is wanting now; whatever may have been the apostolic administration which transmitted the gift, if the thing transmitted is wanting to us, it is not a question of gifts; it is a question, both for the Church and for the believer, of the Holy Ghost Himself. What the apostles transmitted was the Holy Ghost, and not merely gifts. If we lose that, where is the Church? and where is the Christian? See 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22.
Of The Ordination Of The Evangelist.
There is one thing more to notice on this chapter.
The prophets laid their hands on Paul and Barnabas at Antioch, when these were set apart for their work among the Gentiles. Reader, you will no doubt think that Paul and Barnabas (for he also was called apostle) acted as apostles in this mission; that what Paul did in all the churches to order what concerned their walk, that all his remarkable labours in Asia Minor, in Macedonia, in Greece, were apostolic labours— the work of an apostle. Not at all; that cannot agree with Mr. Wolff’s system, because the imposition of hands, in the ordinary sense, must always be “from the higher to the lower, never from the lower to the higher. Everywhere the minister lays his hands for a charge either for an inferior or equal to his own, and never for a higher charge” (p. 32). That is all very well; but moreover, says the writer,
“The blessing must always, in its importance and effects, be proportionate to the elevation of the one who gives it. Hence, when it is Jesus Christ who confers the imposition of hands, it operates miracles, it heals the sick, it raises the dead. When it is the apostles, they share with simple believers the miraculous gift which was laid on their heads at Pentecost” — a fresh proof, it may be said by the way, of what we have said; for it is certain that it was the Holy Ghost Himself, the Comforter, who came down, so that it is this which is lost—and not merely gifts. The writer confounds the special form of manifestation, and the administrative means of transmission, with the presence itself of the Comforter. “Finally,” he says, “when it is a question of the other ministers, they invest the candidate with the charge they received themselves.”
Thus the ministry which Paul exercised was not in the least the ministry of an apostle.
You may suppose that the conclusions I draw are forced. Listen rather to Mr. Wolff on Acts 13:1-3: “Paul and Barnabas,” he says (p. 28, 2o), “were marked out by the Holy Ghost to receive the charge of evangelist, which was to be conferred upon them by their colleagues.” Thus all the labours of Barnabas or of Paul were in nowise an apostolic work. This is rather strong. “But,” says Mr. Wolff, “the text expressly tells us that it”—the imposition of hands—“was only conferred upon them with a view to their charge as evangelists.” This I have not found. It is quite true that the apostles did not disdain (very far from it) this solemn recommendation to the grace of God for the work (for it is thus that the Holy Ghost designates this imposition of hands, Acts 14:26); but to say that it was simply an ordination from the higher downwards! an ordination to the charge of evangelist, this, assuredly, is rather strong.
But there is still another difficulty. “As to the other ministries,” says Mr. Wolff, “they invest the candidate with the charge they have received themselves” (p. 32).
This is indeed very convenient, in order that pastors may make pastors of certain young students who are candidates; but Barnabas, Simeon, etc. (Acts 13:1), were prophets who had received a vocation from God alone, and not a charge; and Paul and Barnabas depart as evangelists. So that, according to Mr. Wolff, the prophets had invested the candidates with a charge which they had not received themselves.
I hesitated a little, lest it should be dishonouring the precious word of God to introduce all this, as shewing what a terrible mess is the result of the desire to authorize that which is practised. If I have been wrong, may God deign to forgive me, for it is very painful. But such absurdities and such contradictions are always the consequence of having adopted a system, and then seeking, at any cost, to establish it by the word. If the word has been dishonoured, it is the system that dishonoured it, and not I.
Of The Ordination Of The Bishop.
We have only one point more to treat, as regards the imposition of hands.
We have seen what is alleged for the ordination of evangelists. We have seen the preaching of the word without ordination presented under every form (Acts 8:4): they spoke, they evangelized or announced the word (lalountes), Acts 11:19; both words are used in verse 20. In Philippians 1:15 they preach, they are heralds (kerussousin)—a word habitually used by Paul for his own ministry and by which he indicates his own function. The only case alleged of the ordination of an evangelist being the mission of the two apostles at their departure from Antioch, there only remains to be examined the ordination of the bishop.
It was necessary for Mr. Wolff to point out the two ordinations, of the bishop and of the evangelist, because this answers to the evangelists and to the pastors of the present day. Having seen what is said about one, let us see what there is about the other.
I admitted the difference in point of fact between the imposition of hands by which the Holy Ghost was communicated, and the imposition of hands which was ordinarily practised (although, as a division, it is inexact). I acknowledge that when it is a question of the imposition of hands by Timothy, it is not a question of the gift of the Holy Ghost; but I stop there. All the remainder of Mr. Wolff’s page 34 only contains arguments which are utterly groundless.
First, all this reasoning is founded on the idea, that the imposition of hands was only practised for evangelists and for bishops, which is entirely false. For it is never said that hands were laid on evangelists, and it is quite certain that hands were laid on deacons, at least in the case of the seven in Acts 6.
Secondly, Mr. Wolff (p. 34), in favour of the imposition of hands on the bishop, alleges the injunction given to Timothy, to “lay hands suddenly on no man,” 1 Tim. 5:22. But almost the whole of the epistle comes in between the rules for choosing elders and this verse 22 of chapter 5; and all kinds of subjects are treated between the two passages.
Thirdly, the passage, 1 Timothy 5:22, does not immediately follow after some exhortations about the elder;60 but it applies to Timothy’s personal conduct. I think it probable that hands were laid on elders; because I see that this ancient sign of blessing and of setting apart for a charge was universally used; and that, among other things, the epistle treats of the charge of elder. But so little is it true that it is impossible to apply to any other than the bishop the imposition of which this passage speaks, it is very evident that it is a direction for Timothy’s conduct in every case in which he might be called to lay hands on any one.
In favour of the imposition of hands having solely the bishop for its object, Mr. Wolff alleges a second passage, namely, 1 Timothy 4:14: “Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” His reasoning on this second text may lead to a conclusion more or less just, but which only serves to establish the fact that the word of God never says that hands were to be laid on the bishop. It may be supposed, and one may reason about it with pretty much probability, but the word does not say so. All that Mr. Wolff dares to affirm on this passage is that it alludes to it; but we have only this reasoning of Mr. Wolff, “If the elders laid their hands on Timothy, it must be supposed that they had themselves received the imposition of hands.” But all this does not affect the question, which consists in inquiring who appointed these elders.
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 9, About The Twofold Vocation Of The Elder.
On the subject of the twofold vocation of the bishop, I find nothing whatever that is scriptural in Mr. Wolff’s system. What is called inward or immediate vocation is not to be found in the Bible in the case of the bishop. The Bible supposes that a person may desire to be a bishop, but that is all. Where that desire exists, not a word is said about an inward vocation as a quality requisite for the charge. If a young man desired to be a minister, according to the present system (and it would be very difficult to find the least analogy between that and the choosing of bishops in the New Testament), the first thing which an evangelical friend of the young man would ask him is, “Do you feel yourself called of God to the ministry? “Not a trace of such an idea is in the epistle to Timothy: “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work,” and thereupon follow the requisite qualities, without a single word about inward vocation. It was a charge entrusted to persons who were qualified.
But the confusion is the natural consequence of the confusion which is made between the pastor and the bishop; it results from having denied all the gifts and excluded them from ministry, and from the will to maintain, at any cost, the existing system and the flesh which rests there.
A second remark presents itself here. Mr. Wolff says (p. 36), “that it is God who gives, who sets the bishops in the Church; it is men, the ministers, who establish them.” But in the word of God the expression “given” is never used in reference to the bishop; never is it said that God, that Christ, gave bishops.61 Never is the word ‘set’ used as to the charge. The Holy Ghost had put certain persons in that charge. In Acts 20 it is nowise a question of an inward vocation, but of the simple fact that the Holy Ghost had placed them there; and Mr. Wolff himself acknowledges that a person is not set in a charge by an inward and immediate vocation. Hence it is not true that God sets bishops in the Church; but He sets persons in the charge of bishop in a flock.
All that Mr. Wolff says on this subject is therefore altogether false from one end to the other; it is a theory or arrangement for sanctioning that which exists without any scriptural foundation—a theory, which, after all, is a thing quite different from the theory itself, which makes bishops of young students who have none of the qualities which God demands.
Mr. Wolff says that the word of God contains nothing against the Church’s choosing among those who have already been called to the ministry, or among those who are ready to be received. There is in such expressions a boldness which really demands something more than the brief remarks I can give here; it is sought to justify oneself by adding to the word of God systems and thoughts of which not one trace is found there. Where is there to be found in the word of God a single trace of choosing among those who are already called to the ministry—unless it be in the case of those who said, “I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos”?
The apostle or his delegates appointed certain persons having certain qualities to a certain charge: was the Church afterwards to choose among them, or even to choose others, leaving them aside? Is it not true that the apostle appointed such a person bishop in such a town? And how, if the Church took no active part in the vocation of the bishop, could it choose among those who were called? It is very convenient to say of any one that he is called to the ministry, because this is done now; but where is that to be found in the word? No one in that case was called to the ministry; but the bishop was established in a special charge.
In the case of the bishop, it was a question of a local charge; and Mr. Wolff admits that at that time there were ministries of apostles and of prophets, whose vocation was from God alone. Could the churches choose according to their will among the apostles and prophets? In all this portion of the pamphlet there reigns, in order to flatter that which exists, a contempt for the word of God, which one would do well to weigh before the Lord. God will judge.
When the writer speaks of the candidate for ministry, what does it mean? Was a person candidate for the function of apostle or prophet? Was a person then chosen by such or such a church? For these were ministries. And when the apostle chose and established bishops in each town, even if there were men who desired that charge, were these churches (one knows not where) choosing amidst a company of young ministers the one who suited them? It is wrong, very wrong, thus to treat the word of God.
Finally, whether one takes ministry as being the exercise of a gift, as was the case with the apostles or prophets (for it is absurd after all to pretend to say that the prophet exercised a ministry without gift); or looks upon it as a charge, as was the case with the bishops established by the apostle, by Timothy, or by Titus; the idea of choosing among candidates or among those called to the ministry, is equally foreign to the word, excluded from the word. And the idea that a young candidate or an ordained minister should go and make himself heard, that the population of a place may choose him, is certainly not to be found in the word of God.
I cannot admit that a bishop is not a bishop without the imposition Of hands. I have already said that, reasoning from analogy, it is probable that hands were laid on one who was to be bishop. But if the apostle had appointed certain persons bishops, and had established them by his own authority, they would be bishops. It is not a question of the distinction between desire and reality, for a man might have desired to be appointed without being appointed, not having the requisite qualities. It was only a question of this fact: had they been established by the apostles or by some other competent persons?
To insist on the imposition of hands as to the bishop (a thing which is not said in the word), then cleverly to add (p. 38, 20), “Thus he who will be pastor without receiving the imposition of hands, has not really received any charge; his ministry ought not to be received by any church”—this is nothing but a conjuror’s trick. For after all the pastor is not named anywhere except in a list of gifts. Such is the fact; and not a word of what is said of the bishop and of his charge is applied to him in the word.
As for the testimony drawn from Acts 13 (p. 38, 30) we have already found the reasoning of the writer to be entirely false. Thus all the high words he addressed to the brethren at the close of the paragraph are not worth much.62 The man who thinks that Paul and Barnabas received the collation of the charge of simple evangelists from prophets and teachers at Antioch, and who makes this the basis of his reproof, needs in effect to cry out very loud in order to make himself heard.
That in the present system “ministry is debased, so as only to see in it an altogether human order of things,” this I acknowledge. Has one any trouble in recognizing the picture we find in page 41?63 Where did Mr. Wolff find the original of that portrait? Will he have us to remain in a system which thus degrades ministry?
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 10, About Evangelists.
After having, in support of election by men and ordination, assimilated the pastor to the bishop, Mr. Wolff puts on the same line and in the same condition the pastor and the evangelist, in order that the election and the ordination which he connects with the first may be indispensable for the second. The charges of evangelist and of pastors,” says Mr. Wolff, “are so much of the same nature… that they may often be blended together, and that one may pass from one to the other,” etc. (p. 44).
The grand principles having been discussed, I will try to be brief, on this point.
The author has placed himself here in a complete confusion, which I shall only have to point out.
First, Mr. Wolff will have it that those whom the Spirit of God calls apostles can be nothing but bishops or evangelists.
What connection is there between a bishop and an apostle or sent one? This it would be difficult to discover. Moreover it is a merely gratuitous assertion. I allow myself to consider as being apostles those whom the word of God calls apostles, that is, as having been especially sent by the Lord, although it may not have been, as to all of them, with the same authority.
Secondly, Mr. Wolff confounds the messengers of the churches (2 Gor. 8:23) with the messengers of Christ. As to the application of the other passages, it appears to me more than uncertain. When Paul says “us the apostles,” it does not mean, necessarily, Silvanus and Timothy, who were with him. Even if it be so (and I am not anxious to dispute it), it is never said that their functions were those of an evangelist.
Thirdly, as to 1 Corinthians 12:28. In spite of Mr. Wolff’s assertion, the evangelist is not named here.
In fine, having done with this confusion, I acknowledge that the evangelist was a gift of God according to Ephesians 4:11.
As to the vocation which, according to Mr. Wolff’s assertion, the evangelist receives from men, I stop here. We have seen that all, according to their ability, preached; and that the mere fact that Paul wished Timothy to accompany him does not shew that he was called to a special charge as evangelist, and shews still less that all evangelists had received a vocation from men.
Paul tells Timothy to do the work of an evangelist; and this seems to me rather to contradict the idea that a special vocation as evangelist had existed long before. Timothy, at that moment, was a delegate of the apostle for a special object; and Paul exhorts him to do also the work of an evangelist. This is most simple, but agrees very little with the notion of an evangelist specially appointed to that. We have already considered sufficiently the case of Paul and Barnabas.
I admit that all those who bear testimony according to their ability, are not, properly speaking, evangelists. The evangelist is a gift (Eph. 4:11); but the imposition of hands on an evangelist is never mentioned, either as necessary for his work, or in any respect whatever. We find ever and again in the author the desire to sanction at all costs the present order of things. An evangelist, according to him, partakes so entirely of the same nature as the pastor, that he may settle in a place, after having formed a flock; but I shall say nothing about it, for the reason—that there is not a syllable about all this in the word. If he who acts thus has both gifts, it is all well; if not, it is very wrong.
To understand the way in which Mr. Wolff draws conclusions from the word, I also beg of the reader to compare the quotations which he has made from Acts 18:26; 1 Corinthians 16:19, and Romans 16:3, with a view to shew that Aquila was in turn pastor and evangelist, having, we must suppose, received the imposition of hands. Perhaps we ought to suppose he had received it twice; for nothing authorizes us to suppose that ministry was conferred by wholesale, as it is practised now. A special charge was conferred, those who received the collation of the charge being solemnly recognized by competent authorities, as being called to it of God. For otherwise, it would be a question, not of various ministries or of vocation, but of ministry in general, without a special charge. This is what is practised in our day. One man, after having been recognized as fit to be a bishop, goes on to present himself, upon his own authority, as evangelist; another, after having been ordained as evangelist, goes on to assume, upon his own authority, the charge of bishop in a locality which pleases him. We must remember, that, according to Mr. Wolff’s system, it is by no means a question, in ministry, of the exercise of a gift, but of a charge which is only received by the imposition of hands. A man evangelizes without a gift, a man is a bishop without the requisite qualities, a man preaches without a gift, and if any one has been ordained as evangelist, according to this chapter 10, it becomes no longer a question either of the choosing of bishops by the apostle, or of their appointment by him or his delegate; all that disappears. A man abides in the place where he has evangelized and becomes a bishop, “having undergone,” as Mr. Wolff says, “I know not what magic transformation, which stamps him with an indelible character, something mysterious and sacramental.” After that, the charge is no matter; the qualities demanded in the word are no matter. Pastor and evangelist are charges which are “so near akin,” that a man, when ordained for one, may establish himself in the other.
I do not know how this strikes the minds of others; but for me, there is something that is most shameful in this servile adulation of what now exists. I admit that there may be skill enough in this, and a certain cleverness; but in the face of the word, and the immensity of the interests which are found in it, thus to be able to use skill to flatter all that exists—and that in the face of the word of God, the testimony of His love—what shall I say?… Each one will judge according to the value he may attach to that word and to the grace of Him who gave it.
It is quite true that the church of Jerusalem was a centre, that it exercised a certain authority and a certain oversight; at least it was so during a certain time, the apostles being there. But that Barnabas had received a mission as evangelist or pastor, is what we see nowhere. It is true, that he was sent to Antioch by the Church, which took an interest in what was going on there; and when he arrived there, he exercised his gift, he “exhorted “those who had already been evangelized; that is what we find in Acts 13:23, in the passage quoted by Mr. Wolff, page 44. Guided by the same interests and the wants that existed, Barnabas goes to seek Saul. In that, he used his Christian liberty, as Paul did when he took Timothy with him.
When Mr. Wolff says that the functions of evangelist are described at length in the pastoral letters of Paul, I hardly know what he means. Nothing is said in the epistles of Paul of the functions of an evangelist. He writes as apostle, he commands as apostle: he shews what he was as apostle, and especially as apostle. Does Mr. Wolff wish to deny his apostleship or to bring down his apostleship to the level of an evangelist, in order to exalt the authority of modern evangelists, as he has done by his pretended ordination to the charge of evangelist at Antioch? I repeat, I hardly know what he means, if it be not that; for otherwise the apostle never speaks of an evangelist except to name that gift (Ephesians 4), or to exhort Timothy to do the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:5).
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 11, Concerning Teachers.
First of all, I admit that there is not in the Church a charge of teacher. In the word, the teacher is presented as a gift.64 It is only those who will have doctors of theology like Mr. Wolff, who think that doctorship is a charge. Mr. Wolff, who denies (p. 45) that doctorship is a charge, says (p. 49), that a professor of theology ought to consider himself as a functionary in the Church.
When men choose to make all ministries to be charges, or a clergy, and deny at the same time that ministry is the exercise of a gift, they must naturally imitate Mr. Wolff, and seek for information as to those charges. It is not surprising that the author, after having called prophecy a ministry, and denied at the same time that ministry was the exercise of a gift, should meet with difficulties in this respect. But as for the person who, resting on the ground of the word, finds there—in Ephesians 4—that the teacher is a gift connected with that of pastor; who sees in 1 Corinthians 12 that God has set teachers in the Church; who reads in Romans 12 that he who has the gift of teacher is to be occupied in a modest manner with the accomplishment of the duty connected with the exercise of that gift: the person, I say, who sees all this, does not find much difficulty as to such a simple thing.
All that Mr. Wolff says on the subject presents such confusion, that it is impossible to get clear of it; for he makes the teacher to be a sort of quality which pervades every charge; but in the passages already quoted, the word of God presents to us the doctorship as a gift. It is not only a doma, but a charisma; and, according to Mr. Wolff, gifts have absolutely ceased in the Church.
It is therefore somewhat bold to quote Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12 as lists of ministries, and even to tell us (p. 46), “It is therefore in this last passage that we are compelled, by exegesis and grammar, to recognize the proper classification of ministry”; since he affirms that ministry is not the exercise of a gift, and that both these passages present a list of gifts; in Ephesians 4:11, they are called domata, and in 1 Corinthians 12, they are charismata. See verses 30, 31, 38.65
Hence in our turn we might ask ourselves, which was the ministerial charge—with imposition of hands—formed by the different kinds of tongues, and by the gifts (charismata) of healing? If one did not trouble the Church by such contradictions—if one did not seek to weaken faith, a confusion of that sort would only excite compassion. I question whether such a mode of treating the word and the Church might not rather call for severity.
The blame lies in a greater measure with those who encouraged the young man who is the author of such a pamphlet, than with him whom they have put forward, applauded and encouraged in such a work. It is the abettors of the thing who are the most guilty.
I have already answered the remarks on the union of pastors and teachers which the writer presents in this chapter.
In result, admitting there was no charge of teacher, as there was of bishop and of deacon, it is very evident that in the teacher was a gift which might be possessed by an apostle, or by a bishop, or any other, or by a man who only had this very gift of teaching.
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 12, Concerning The Classification Of Ministries.
I have not much to say on this chapter. I will state my thoughts on the subject he treats when I shall speak of gifts.
We have already seen that ministry is the exercise of a gift: even deaconship (diakonia) is called a gift (charisma). I am not speaking of the charge of deacon, but of the service of ministry called diakonia (Rom. 12:6, 7).
The only remark which I have to make here is, that the things which Mr. Wolff will classify here as ministries are presented as gifts in the chapters of the word which are quoted— Ephesians 4, domata; 1 Corinthians 12, charismata; although, according to Mr. Wolff, ministry be not the exercise of a gift.
I shall add, that I do not deny the distinction between a foundation-ministry and a propagation-ministry—I would rather say of building on the foundation; 1 Cor. 3:10. Moreover, the two words are found in page 51; and I acknowledge that this ministry was to continue from age to age.
It is at least fourteen years ago that I insisted on these very things with Mr. Irving, before the system to which he gave his name was manifested.
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 13, Concerning The Perpetuity Of Ministry.
Mr. Wolff says that ministry will continue to the end of the dispensation; that the apostles and prophets who are the foundation abide, govern, preach, and prophesy by means of their institutions and their writings, and there is no reason for ceasing to establish evangelists and bishops.
That ministry must exist is a point on which we agree.
But, first of all, where did the writer find, as a classification, and as a list of ministries, this catalogue: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and bishops? It is a purely arbitrary list, it is in nowise scriptural. Such an arrangement of ministries is nowhere to be found in the word.
It is well to remember that, to establish his system, Mr. Wolff is always under the necessity of altering that which is found in the word.
Further, I deny that the Church possesses every ministry, and that it has, as Mr. Wolff says, apostles and prophets. That, as foundations, they have accomplished their work, that their writings are of authority in the Church, we all know; but there was in them something else, namely, the exercise of their authority in power, and this was attached to their person. They, the apostles, commended themselves by the power of God. They knew that after their departing grievous wolves would enter in. What would have mattered their departing if all their ministry still subsists? If wisdom in action, influence, promptitude, discernment of the machinations of the enemy, and the testimony borne to Christ, if all did really subsist as during their lifetime, the Church would be in a state far different from that in which it is found.
It is a sweet and precious thought that God is sufficient for the Church, in His grace, at all times; but to say that the ministry of the apostle always subsists, is to say that the revelation of certain rules constituted the whole of that ministry, and that there was in the apostle neither personal power nor personal authority: it is to disown the importance of the presence and power of the Holy Ghost. Mr. Wolff himself says that the effect of the gift of prophecy was such that unbelievers acknowledge that God was there, but that it is no longer so now. How then can he pretend that the ministry of the prophet still subsists? Perhaps he will say that when the prophet prophesied, he was not exercising a ministry, but his gift; but he cannot expect that men of good sense will attend to such absurdities.
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 14, Concerning The Apostasy Of The Church.
I have already written enough on this subject to spare myself the trouble of saying much about it here, and to spare my readers the wearisomeness of a repetition of what I have said elsewhere.
I must state this, that I in nowise accept the picture as here given of my opinions. Mr. Wolff says that “in our days, an opinion such as would prosper amid ruins has a great chance of success.” This is very extraordinary if there are no ruins and if everything is firmly established, as is asserted. If we are in the midst of ruins, this can be understood; but how comes it that an opinion, such as would prosper amid ruins, has in our days a great chance of success? Alas! conscience, the heart, fear even, speak too loudly not to be heard at times, in spite, and in the midst, of cunningly devised systems.
I beg leave to say, that the writer is greatly mistaken in what he asserts on the doctrine of the Irvingites. They did not teach the existence of apostasy, but that the Holy Ghost had left the Church and had returned there. Ecclesiastical authority was their idol.
It is, I think, because it has not been recognized that the Church should be visible, that things go on so badly.
Mr. Wolff and others besides him strongly oppose the idea, that the Church should be visible. The Church was at the beginning, and ought always to have been, the manifestation of the glory of Christ by the Spirit; it has almost entirely ceased to be so, and those who have Christ’s glory at heart will feel it. The glory of Christ will be fully manifested in the glorified Church; but the Church ought to have manifested it here below.
Moreover, this is the universal order:
Man responsible, man according to the counsels of God; Israel responsible, and Israel according to the counsels of God; the Church responsible, and the Church according to the counsels of God. We might even add, Christ responsible, and Christ according to the counsels of God.
In every case, except that of Christ, man has failed in the the responsibility in which God had placed him; but this has only the more glorified the faithfulness of God in the accomplishment of His counsels; this does not prevent God’s being righteous in His government, where man has failed. (See Romans 3.)
I do not feel the need of following out the reasonings (p. 55) by which they have sought to make of the Church a counterpoise to the pastor, as if it were a constitution from carnal men. It is just this habit, merely carnal, of the age and of the country, which has done so much harm to souls and to flocks. To my mind, the flock which feels that its business is to be a counterpoise to its pastor, is in a sad state. I am not surprised at many things that have happened, if such principles are approved of. For the rest, all that is merely ad captandum, to catch flies; but alas! all that is based upon the rejection of the Holy Ghost. At the beginning, the Holy Ghost was leading on together all believers as being of one heart; but flesh needs a counterpoise.
I do not believe, as Mr. Wolff makes me say (p. 55), that bishops were functionaries specially destined to the outward service of the Church; besides, it is rather an obscure expression.
It is a fact, that it is not given to every congregation to have a pastor (this is counted among the practical changes which, it is pretended, we have provided for in our theory); it is a fact, I say, and a subject of prayer that it may please God to grant a remedy wherever it be needed.
In effect, I do think that bishops were established in a charge, whereas in the word of God ministry is connected with a gift. I think that the bishop was attached to a particular church, which was not necessarily the case with a pastor, because the latter, according to the word, was placed as a joint of supply in the body. To say that, less the miracles, such a pastor was an apostle,66 only shews in the writer the ignorance of what an apostle was. An apostle founded the churches which the pastor only fed; he made ordinances for all the churches, with the authority of Christ; he chose bishops, he governed all the churches after they were formed. If one did not know how simple souls are confused through bold assertions, when the word seems to have been examined, there would be no need of replying to such accusations, except that I have always remarked the efforts of my adversaries to bring down the idea of the Church, of apostleship, and of everything to the level where they are themselves, in order to quiet their conscience at the expense of the glory of Christ and of the manifest proofs of the love of God towards us.
Mr. Wolff undertakes to prove four things:
First, That the word apostasy (2 Thess. 2:3) does not in any way refer either to the Church or to the dispensation (p. 57).
Secondly, That Romans 11, above all verse 22, only concerns the Christian individually; that it is quite a personal thing (P. 57).
Thirdly, that the present state of the Church proves quite the contrary of an apostasy (p. 58).
Fourthly, That the notion of a visible Church is “nothing else but that of the papists “(pp. 59, 60).
We shall, in a summary way, touch upon these four points, and shew,
First, That the word ‘apostasy’ (2 Thess. 2:3) does refer to the dispensation.
Secondly, That the passage, Romans 11:22, does concern the dispensation, and not the Christian, the child of God individually.
Thirdly, That the present state of the Church, on Mr. Wolff’s own avowal, does prove a state of ruin.
Fourthly, That the notion of a visible Church is perfectly scriptural.
1.—The word ‘apostasy’ does refer to the dispensation.
It is false that, as Mr. Wolff pretends in 2 Thessalonians 2, there is a reference to the son of perdition only.
We find mentioned there:
First, A system of iniquity which was already working in the days of the apostle. And if it was already working, I ask, Where? Was it in China, or in Africa, or in what was called the Church?
Secondly, An apostasy is mentioned; and
Thirdly, The manifestation of the lawless one.
The son of perdition, the man of sin, is presented as a different thing from the apostasy. It is written, “Except there come a falling away [apostasy] first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” And, although the manifestation of the son of perdition follows the first event that breaks out, the verses we read afterwards shew a power of Satan, to the influence of which shall be given up all those who have not received the love of the truth. Is that a solitary word? Happily, in spite of the folly of some, the thing comes too strongly home, for all to listen to that which almost all, nevertheless, would like to say, “We are rich”; but this expression describes in a few words the pamphlet of Mr. Wolff.
I recommend those who distrust the “Plymouthians” to read in the “Essay on the Kingdom of God,” by Mr. F. Olivier, who cannot be suspected of Plymouthism, from page 12 to page 69; or, rather, I invite the admirers, of Mr. Wolff’s principles to be so kind as to read 2 Thessalonians 2 from one end to the other, and to decide afterwards if there is only one word on the point in question. For the rest, when it comes from God, one word often says a great deal at once; and if the word ‘ love ‘ in God’s mouth tells more than volumes could contain, the word ‘ apostasy ‘ speaks loud enough to those who feel for the beauty of the Bride of Christ and the glory of His name, from whatever quarter the apostasy may come in.
2.—Romans 11:22 does concern the dispensation. I have sufficiently, in other writings, examined Romans 11— a passage always applied by Christians to Gentiles, or, at least, to the Gentiles of the West, until the consequences of this were felt. The person who can believe that in this passage it is merely a question of an individual threatened with the same fall as that of Israel, and of the fall of someone who stands by faith (for then it is not a principle on which men are standing, but already a reality in the heart of the individual), the person, I say, who can believe that the fall of Israel as a dispensation is applied as a threat to an individual who is really standing by faith, I must leave under the effects of his views.
Where, says Mr. Wolff, is it spoken of the Church of the dispensation? Paul answers, “I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles.” Is not that the dispensation? He speaks of the reconciling of the world in contrast with Judaism: is this not a question of the dispensation? He speaks of the lump being holy by means of the first-fruits; he speaks of a wild olive tree graffed in: is an individual the wild olive tree? And if he addresses himself to the individual conscience, it is to the Gentiles as enjoying the privilege of the dispensation, and not as to an individual he is speaking. Could he have spoken thus to a Jew? Clearly not. It is therefore perfectly certain that it is not here an entirely personal matter. Is the apostle speaking of an entirely personal matter when he concludes by saying, “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery … that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in”?
What the author says (p. 58, 20) about two apostasies is so thoroughly absurd that I do not know how to take it up. Does he to such a degree count upon the credulity of his readers, or is it that his ignorance of the word has betrayed him? “He speaks,” he says, of two apostasies; “and this would prove that there is no general apostasy, and then, that an apostasy does not destroy the Church for ever, since the first serves as a warning to avoid a second?” Is it possible? But, finally, there are two apostasies. Can one simply read Romans 11 without perceiving that it is the Jews who are fallen? I could not have supposed (I think I must say so) such blindness. What are the branches which have been the object of God’s severity? Well, according to Mr. Wolff, this passage speaks of a past apostasy of the Jews (that is the first), and then of a future apostasy of the Gentiles (and that is the second); and the first serves as a warning to the second. In this, Mr. Wolff, at least, sees clearly. He speaks of two apostasies, of a past apostasy, and of a future apostasy; and “the first serves as a warning to avoid the second,” that is all perfectly well. But then it is perfectly clear that the first, of which the apostle speaks, was of the Jews, as a dispensation cut off. Well, the second is of the Gentiles; and this also is very clear, for he says,” I speak to you Gentiles.” The Gentiles are threatened with the same thing, if they do not continue in the goodness of God; if that apostasy, even, takes place for the Gentiles only, Mr. Wolff cannot very rightly boast of it; there was no need of speaking of the Jews as a nation; the thing had already befallen them.
3.—The present state of the Church does prove a state of ruin.
As to what the writer says, page 59,1 only see in it the spirit of Laodicea. If Mr. Wolff takes the trouble to read Acts 2 or Acts 4, he will understand the difference between our position and the one which is depicted in those chapters, without dreaming of taking advantage of the state of the Church of Corinth, a state which hindered the apostle even from visiting that church. For the rest, he has been unfortunate in alluding to Sardis, which according to many enlightened Christians is a prefiguration of protestantism; for—O! that consciences would awake!—the Lord says to that church, “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.”
Mr. Wolff may be content with such a state of things; but I do not think that the man who takes to heart the words of the Lord would seek an excuse in the face of such a threat from His mouth.
Moreover, it is not a question of the apostasy of a church, but of the state of the dispensation and of the Church. Faith ever identifies the glory of God and the people of God; it can present unto God His own people with unlimited confidence, resting on the ground of the faithfulness of God, and cannot bear with that which dishonours God in His people. Thus does Moses refuse to receive the glory of becoming the new stock of the people of God; he appeals to the” glory of Jehovah Himself” who had brought forth His people out of Egypt, praying even to be blotted out from the book, rather than the people; but when he was come down and when he saw the sin of his people, he said, “Consecrate yourselves to-day to the Lord, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother.” Then he took his tent “and pitched it without the camp, afar off from the camp.” Those who “sought the Lord, went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation,67 which was without the camp.”
4.—The notion of a visible Church is scriptural.
The word of God, it is said, does not intend any visible Church; that is to say that the word of God does not intend the manifestation of the glory of God and of His light in the Church (such is the doctrine opposed to us). It consents to this, that the Church should be one in glory, but not on earth. Here below, there are only churches.
One thing is certain, that, if this principle be true, all the National Churches, the Lutheran and the Presbyterian, are a public lie against the word of God; their unity is a human invention; they are not churches. The word of God, according to the pamphlet, only recognizes the Church in glory, and local churches as at Corinth, or at Sardis.
The thing is most simple and very evident: all the conclusion one has to draw from such reasoning is that those who patronize and circulate this pamphlet are disposed to use every means to oppose the truth which condemns their want of faith.
What is most painful in all this is, that they are content to sacrifice the glory of God in the Church, as well as their own system, if only they can persuade souls not to receive the light. Their system is not of faith. The light of faith once set aside, they hope, yet with little confidence, to uphold it against the attacks of unbelief.
But it is sad to see a system, which gives itself the name of the Church of God, exposed, like the Jews, to the hatred and contempt of the Gentiles, on the one hand, and, on the other, having against it the testimony of Christ and of His apostles—a system which denies its own privileges—a system subject to Caesar, which will neither acknowledge its bondage, nor follow the testimony of faith, which is the only means of deliverance— a system which is ripening for judgment, because it denies the power and the rights of the Holy Ghost. I have discussed this subject elsewhere.
The heart and conscience must acknowledge that the Church ought to be one, so as to be able to glorify the Lord on earth; a spiritual man will own this without any need of reasoning. But one must produce testimony from God for those who will not have it so, and in order that those who desire nothing but the glory of Christ may be strengthened and be able to close the mouths of adversaries. I do not call adversaries all those who hold contrary opinions. There are many children of God who are ignorant of the truth on this subject; there are also many who deceive themselves and who, dazzled by the pretension of those who oppose the truth, are carried away unwittingly. Mr. Rochat (who, with the Dissenters, opposed this truth) has acknowledged it publicly. He has acknowledged this sense of the word ‘ church,’ namely, the aggregate of the elect on earth at a given period. I am content with that definition. Only such an expression brings out the cause of the opposition to this truth—that if the word * church ‘ has such a sense, it is certain that, in that sense, the Church is in a state of ruin. And here I do entreat Christians to give serious attention to this, that when our adversaries accuse me of denying that there is a Church on earth, it is by denying themselves that there has ever been one: if there was, then it is certain that all is in a state of ruin. They admit that there were Churches, but they say that there never was a Church. They feel that, if once this were admitted, the truth respecting our state must necessarily be admitted also; but, satisfied with themselves, they deny the existence of a Church of Christ on earth, rather than confess their sin.
On some objections to the word ‘ruin’:—
These objections, so many times repeated, seem to me puerile and only betray a conscience which does not like to face the question. The word ‘ruin’ is used in a moral sense, as well as in a material sense: and it is evident that such is the case, when it is applied to the Church. If I say that a man is ruined, the man still exists; if I say his reputation is ruined, it is not that he has none, but that it is a bad one. If I say that a thing has been the ruin of such a man, it is clear that I speak of the moral effect of such or such a thing, and that I do not mean that the man is no longer in existence. Moreover we have seen that Mr. Wolff himself uses the word.
Hence, when I say that the Church is ruined, or when I speak of the ruin of the Church, it is saying that the Church is not at all in its normal state; it is as if, for example, I said that the health of a man was ruined.
Those who oppose this, not being willing to acknowledge the state of misery in which we all are, yet feeling that if the Church in its unity was at the beginning the depositary of the glory of Christ it is so no longer, boldly deny that it ever was. Let us, then, go over a few passages on this important subject. Here is what Mr. Wolff himself says, “We will not stop to refute this notion of the visible Church, this notion being nothing else but that of papists,” etc. “As to us, it is enough for us to know that it is spoken in scripture of a Church (in the singular) which God has purchased with His own blood,” etc. “This Church has certainly never apostatized; it has never been either outward or visible. When it shall be complete, it will be visible in heaven. This Church is always called in Scripture —in the singular and absolutely—the Church. By its side, we find churches, such as the church of Jerusalem, the church of Laodicea, the church that is in the house of Philemon, or in that of Priscilla and Aquila, etc. Those churches are visible, outward, independent of each other; but there is no mention whatever of their unity in one body. We deny that in Scripture a third church is ever mentioned. The Church, and the churches: such is the only distinction it admits. I know that the idea of a visible Church, the body of Christ, is necessary to the invention of the apostasy, and that it serves as its basis.”
First, we again find here the entire overthrow of all ideas of nationalism. There is a Church which has never been either outward or visible. The churches are independent one of another. “In effect, wherever there is ever so little spiritual activity, the old systems must fall. But this is singular, that the great champion of the independent churches, Mr. Rochat, is compelled to own that there is a third sense of the word ‘church’; and that Mr. F. Olivier, who also opposes the views that Mr. Wolff combats, has been obliged to acknowledge the apostasy in his pamphlet, and that he has given on the subject the most striking and painful details: only he wants one to say “kingdom “and not “church”; but he is agreed as to the thing itself. For my part, I insist on this point, namely, that the kingdom cannot apostatize because of the king; but let us now pass on. The apostasy, according to Mr. Olivier, exists.68
I now come to quotations. The reader will think perhaps that Jerusalem, Laodicea, the house of Philemon, are just thrown out without design. Not at all; this book is full of art. It is said of the church at Jerusalem, “The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” If the church at Jerusalem was not a particular church, as the writer would lead one to suppose by introducing it thus as if by chance, we should have here a most positive passage as to the Church, as one and visible here below. Laodicea is chosen, because it is said of that church, “I will spue thee out of my mouth”; and if this were anything more than the rejection of a particular church, it would be the Church rejected on earth. I have sought to be charitable: but this pamphlet is full of similar stratagems. The church in the house of Philemon, in order to be enabled to apply the church titles and functions to every small assembly. Translate: “the assembly in thy house,” and these mysterious ideas of organization will soon disappear.
Let us now consider what concerns the church of Jerusalem. We must remember that the Church, which is one, according to Mr. Wolff will only be so in glory: “It has never been outward nor visible. When it shall be completed, it will be visible in heaven.”
The Church therefore does not exist; that is very clear. There is only the gathering in of the members one by one. It does not exist; one may lay it aside, save in the cases where the word speaks of it prophetically, or anticipatively, in hope, realized in spirit; but all action applied to a church on earth does not apply to it. For instance, it is clear that Hebrews 12:23 applies to it anticipatively; it is of the whole assembly, which will be visible in glory, that the word speaks anticipatively. And this assembly, according to me, was also manifested on earth, but I admit the application given by Mr. Wolff. That does not remove any difficulty, for here is what is said of the church at Jerusalem: “All that believed were together, and had all things common… And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” There is a Church which was one and a visible church; that is very clear; but it is not said that the Lord added to the church of Jerusalem such as should be saved (this is the expression used to designate the spared ones among the Jews, “the remnant according to the election of grace”); but He added them to the Church. We must recollect that there were persons “out of every nation under heaven”; but that Jerusalem was still the centre of the operation of the Holy Ghost. It was there God had begun to gather together the elect; they had been gathered together nowhere else. God, in His sovereign providence, gathers together Jews from all sides, and by the power of the Spirit He forms, unto the name of Christ, an assembly where are found the twelve apostles. Can any one believe that, when the Holy Ghost calls this the Church, He is only speaking of a church which is independent of other churches? No, where else is it said, of any particular church: “the Lord added to the church … such as should be saved”? We can understand it when God, ready to judge the Jews and Jerusalem, transferred His elect, daily, into another system, into the Church. Some time after, this body sends out decrees everywhere: does that look like the independence of the churches, of which Jerusalem was only one? Finally, it is not said that God added to the church of Jerusalem, but “to the church,” to a church (in the singular), and in an absolute way to the Church according to the writer’s own expressions (p. 60).
The passage, Acts 20:28, which the writer quotes in favour of his opinion, can hardly bear the interpretation he puts upon it; for it would be difficult to say how the elders feed the Church, if the Church was not outward, nor visible, and if, indeed, as a Church, it had even no existence. If (as Mr. Wolff says here, p. 61) Acts 20:28 applies to what is composed of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven, it was not therefore the flock at Ephesus; and he owns this: “It is a church,” he says, “in the singular,” a church which is not visible, but which will be visible in heaven. But, in that case, how can it be fed on earth, if it did not exist there? For that is the Church which has to be fed, which Christ has purchased— that Church, in the singular. Consequently it was on earth, and it was a flock of God with which the bishops could be occupied according to their position.
But there are passages which are too evident for it to be necessary to employ much reasoning. Paul gives directions to Timothy, “that thou mayest know,” he says, “how thou oughtest to behave thyself”—rather “how one ought to conduct oneself” — “in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth,” 1 Tim. 3:15. This cannot be said of a particular church, unless it be as an opportunity, as it happened with regard to Ephesus; Acts 20:28. Certainly it is clear that it is not a question of Timothy’s conduct in the Church gathered on high in glory. Therefore, the Church in the singular, the house of God, the pillar and ground of the truth, was really something owned of God on earth.
In Ephesians 4:4 we have one Spirit and one body; Christians being “builded together,” Jews and Gentiles, to be “an habitation of God through the Spirit.” Such is our calling. But, in that case, “the whole body fitly joined together and compacted” “maketh increase” by the working of the members, “according to the effectual working in the measure of every part … unto the edifying of itself in love.” Here then is, expressly, the unity of the body on earth.
1 Corinthians 12:13. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” In verses 27, 28: “Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles … after that miracles, then gifts of healings.” Here is the Church in the singular in an absolute way. It is very certain that the apostles were not all in the church of Corinth, and not less certain that the gifts of healings were not in heaven. This is a passage which requires no reasoning. The unity of the body, of the Church, on earth—this is what the passage affirms most expressly.69
John 17. The Lord asks that those who should believe through the words of the apostles might be one, “that the world might believe that the Father had sent him.” Then He adds, without praying: “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; … that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” Here we have the glory presented as a means of their being made perfect in one, and as a means of making known to the world that the Father has sent Jesus, and that He loves all those that Jesus has saved, as He loves Jesus Himself. And Jesus prays also that they may be one—those who believe through the word of the apostles, that the world may believe. This must evidently take place on earth, as the glory will take place in heaven.
The writer of the theses has felt all the importance of this question. If the unity of the Church on earth is a truth, he understands that he cannot deny the present state of things; but it is evident that to escape the effect of such a truth, and the judgment which such a truth pronounces on their position, those persons deny a truth which is positively proclaimed in the word—and one of the most important truths.
Mr. Wolff passes over 2 Timothy 3 and the epistle of Jude, without stopping to consider them, saying, that in those passages, it is so far from being a question of the apostasy of the Church, etc. (p. 60). It does not seem to me, that to say that perilous times should come, when men would have a form of godliness while denying the power thereof, is to say nothing of the fall or the ruin of the dispensation. The first of these passages is a description of the general state of things in Christendom, a state which proves that those who profess Christianity are become corrupt, like the heathen of old; for what is said of Christendom (2 Tim. 3) is very similar to the picture which Romans 1 traces of the corruption of the heathen. As to the epistle of Jude, what it says of some persons who had already crept into the Church, and who were to be the objects of the judgments of Christ on the ungodly, seems to me rather an important circumstance. It is rather a serious revelation, which shews that it was in the bosom of the Church that the objects of the most terrible judgments of God were found. It appears that Mr. Wolff attaches little importance to this; but it is, alas! to attach little importance to the glory of God in His people. Such is the awful evil which these pamphlets disclose.
As to the progress of the evil, of the mystery of iniquity, this is what I have to say about it. One may, indeed, present the difficulty, that it is Christendom, and not the Church, that is in a state of ruin.
Here is my answer: The evil has begun in the Church; Christians have, in principle, fallen into Judaism. The door has been opened to false brethren; and this, by degrees, has formed Christendom! Thus the Church has lost its unity, its power, and its holiness, and has ceased to bear witness to God in the world; and what is called “the church “is now the centre and the power of evil and corruption in the world. After all this, there will be an open revolt, and the lawless one, the man of sin, will be manifested. Thus the fault has begun with the Church, with Christians. Moreover, although Christians may separate themselves from this evil (2 Tim. 3:5), this does not prevent the state of things, the dispensation, from being entirely marred, nor God’s putting an end to it by His judgments to make room for Christ and His glory. Thus, although the elect are glorified with Him, it is none the less true that all will be cut off here below. It was thus that God put an end to the kingdom of Saul to make room for David; and to Judaism to make room for the Church, although, at all times, He has saved the elect. The gates of Hades shall not prevail against the Church; but it is the resurrection which will be the proof of it; for the Son of the living God is mightier than he who has the power of death. This does not prevent God from removing His elect to heaven, in order to send His judgments on the inhabitants of the earth—to destroy those who corrupt the earth.
The repentance of a particular church is not the restoring of a fallen dispensation, as Mr. Wolff pretends (pp. 63, 30, 64, 40), alleging even the example of the Jewish dispensation in its falls and restorations; for, after all, as we see, they are reduced to speak of the fall of a dispensation. The writer even goes so far as to say (p. 64, 40) that “every time there were men who feared God, they restored the whole dispensation, and partook of all its blessings.” This is inconceivably bold. Did the faithfulness of some men fearing God restore the unity of the kingdoms of Israel and of Judah? Did it throw down the golden calves? Did it identify the Israelites with the temple and altar of God? Never. Did the piety of Josiah turn away the wrath of God from Judah? No: after the account of what Josiah did, when he “turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might” (2 Kings 23:25), it is added (v. 26), “Notwithstanding the Lord turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal.” Was the whole dispensation restored? Or did the men who feared God partake of all the blessings of the dispensation, when they said, like Isaiah, “We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we” had no eyes: we stumble at noon day as in the night. We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before thee,” etc.? (Isa. 59:10-12). Did the men who feared God partake of all the blessings when Jeremiah said that he who should flee to the Chaldeans would save his life (Jer. 21:19)? Were all the blessings of the dispensation enjoyed when there were seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal? Was it so after the Babylonian captivity, when there was no longer the ark, no longer the Urim and the Thummim? For it was only later that God put an end to all hope, when they had rejected the testimony of the Messiah. Does any one dare to say that the Jews enjoyed all the blessings of the dispensation, when, according to Mr. Wolff, Jesus acknowledged it with all its institutions? Was that enjoying all the blessings of the dispensations—to be subject to the Gentiles, and to have been delivered by God into their hands? (See Neh. 9:36, 37.) Was that enjoying all the blessings of the dispensation—to buy the high priesthood for money?
I am not surprised that one who could speak of the Jews as enjoying all the blessings of the dispensation, finds the Church in as good a position as at the beginning. Mr. Wolff’s parallel is correct enough.
As for me, I see but one thing—the faith of the godly woman who spoke of the coming of Jesus “to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” It appears that, on the one hand, these persons who looked for redemption in Israel knew one another, and that, on the other hand, they knew the ruin and judgment which had fallen upon Israel; because the Israelites also thought that they were enjoying all the blessings of the dispensation, and because they thought they were rich and had need of nothing. Thus it was that the light which had come in grace was found to be for judgment. In this sense, Christ overthrew the Jewish dispensation; but whose was the fault? Who was it, on the one hand, that said, “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind”? And who was it, on the other, who judged that they might get rid of Jesus, in order to avert the consequences which their folly in acting thus has brought down on their head? When there is a conflict, in faith alone is there wisdom. But I admit that one who finds that Israel enjoyed all the blessings of the dispensation even unto the coming of Christ, and that the history of Israel is a proof that a dispensation cannot fail or be cut off—that one, I say, who can assert that Israel is a proof of this—Israel deprived of everything—Israel, on whose forehead God has written “Lo-ammi,” not my people—that such a one may very well believe the same thing also of himself and of the Church of God. But how can I depict my grief in insisting on these things! I feel that the more earnestly the light is presented to them, the more those whom I love (for whom I could say with Paul or Moses, Blot me out rather from Thy book; for I cannot refrain from seeing that what is now a fallen dispensation was once the beloved bride of Christ—that it is always such as to its responsibility and its duty)—I feel that the more earnestly the light is presented to them, the more it is pressed upon them, the more deeply will they sink into darkness. But what is to be done? Can we leave those who love the light without a warning when the judgments are approaching? We cannot. May God grant us only to conduct ourselves by His Spirit in love, and with such patience as is never weary towards them, and to commit everything else to Himself!
The writer does not stop there; he adds (p. 64, 50), that to speak of the ruin of the dispensation, is to be guilty of an insult against God and other things besides; but it is quite unnecessary to answer such reproach.
God, having placed man under responsibility, will cause the lie of man to abound unto His glory—I have no doubt of it; but nevertheless He will not fail to judge man’s wickedness on that account. There was only a very small number of the elect who enjoyed the first blessings of Israel, and, certainly among the ten tribes, they were not enjoyed. And what do we see in the Church? Already, in Paul’s day, he said, “All seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ’s,” Phil. 2. And he knew that evil would enter in after his departure; Acts 20.
According to Mr. Wolff himself, there remains not a single gift. It is at least very singular, if we enjoy all the blessings of the dispensation, that not one gift remains.
Finally, the writer goes still farther, and says (p. 65, 6°), that “if the dispensation is ruined, we are without any commands or any directions from God; we have no longer any right to the use of the sacraments, or to the common worship of the faithful. Nothing remains to us of the dispensation but its ruins. There is not in Scripture one single precept, not one single commandment of the Lord, which can be applied to us, and that we are bound to obey. We can neither attain to the holiness to which the first Christians were exhorted, nor bear any responsibility,” etc. It may be that the writer cannot find anything, if everything is not there. For my part, I believe that “the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.” I believe that ministry subsists, and that, although there is nobody who can order or settle everything as an apostle would do, it is none the less true that “where two or three are gathered together “in the name of Jesus, He is “in the midst of them “; and that the word of God provides for the wants of His people in their present state, as in every other state. When, by His judgments, God had deprived Israel of the prophets and of the Urim and the Thummim, the writer might have expressed the same complaints and reproach; but this reproach I find very ill placed in the mouth of one who declares that not a single gift remains to the Church. This would lead one to suppose that, in the writer’s opinion, gifts were not a means of sanctification. But there are precepts for the “perilous times” as there were for the times of blessing, when “great grace was upon them all,” when none said “that aught of the things which he possessed was his own,” Acts 4. God never forsakes His people.
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 15, Where He Shews That Ministry Is Not The Exercise Of A Gift.
I have already replied to this chapter. I only need to recall the passage of Peter, “As every man hath received the gift [charisma], even so minister the same [diakoneo] one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
Mr. Wolff says, “Ministry is not the exercise of a gift.” The word declares in as many words (i Pet. 4:10), that ministry is the exercise of a gift. Mr. Wolff quotes this passage as speaking of gifts properly so called, in order to shew that such a gift cannot exist now; but there must be a singular preoccupation of mind not to see that ministry and gift are absolutely identical in this passage.
Further, all the passages quoted by Mr. Wolff, as giving us classification of ministries, are, in the word, lists of gifts (domata) (Ephesians 4); charismata (1 Corinthians 12). The idea of a maximum of ministry, of gifts, is to me quite new. Indeed it was perhaps the principle of dissenters to choose the person who, in their eyes, had the most gifts. It may so happen that inferior gifts are not exercised, when there are superior gifts; and it may so happen for better or for worse. “The spirits of the prophets “were “subject to the prophets,” however miraculous even the gift might be. To suppress an inferior gift is an evil; but if, in a given case, there be, according to the Spirit, on such or such an occasion, more edification in a superior gift, the rule of the word is “Let all things be done unto edifying.” The fact that Paul spoke during the whole night does in no wise shew that there were no gifts at Troas; any more than his discourse at Miletus shews that the bishops of Ephesus had none. In the case of the bishops it was not a question of gifts, except in a practical way that of feeding: but this does not affect all other ministry.
The notion of a person returning from a place as bishop, because he had exercised his gift where it might be profitable to brethren, is nothing more than the dream of the writer.70 The bishop is a charge, and, according to the writer himself, a charge and a gift are two distinct things. A church cannot limit the number of its ministers, because the ministers are not its ministers but those of Jesus Christ, exercising their gifts as service in the body. The word of God gives rules for the edification of assemblies, that all may speak, and all may be edified. As to this, it matters not if it be pastor or prophet, it is a question of abstract reasoning on the inconvenience which might result from several gifts.
To say that 1 Corinthians 12:4, 5, 28, distinguishes between gifts and ministry, is a sad specimen of interpretation. We shall speak of this when we discuss the cessation of gifts.
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 16, Where This Writer Pretends To Prove, By Twenty-Five Reasons, That The Gifts Of The Holy Ghost Have All Ceased.
The writer begins his demonstration by rather a remarkable avowal. It is, that the existence of gifts by the side of ministry is impossible—at least by the side of such a ministry as Mr. Wolff will have. In order that his ministry may exist, it is necessary that gifts should have absolutely ceased. I believe it. It is on this point the popish system (that is, a ministry which has God’s authority, having its vocation from Him, without dependence on the Holy Ghost, and without flowing from His energy, without partaking either of His gifts): and so true is this, that if there were gifts, it would no longer subsist. It is important well to understand this position. The basis of the whole pamphlet is the absolute incompatibility of ministry (according to the system of Mr. Wolff and his party) with the existence of the active energy and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. Yes, the writer says so (p. 69): “To pretend to the present existence of gifts is to establish by the side of ministry a rival power which hinders it, which enervates it, and which, by placing itself above it, ends either by killing it, or by forcing it to throw itself into clerical despotism in order to maintain its rank and its dignity.” What a confession! But at least we can bless God that He has been pleased to compel our adversaries thus to avow what is true as to their system. The Holy Ghost must be excluded! This is what decided me on that point many years ago; but I did not expect to find a public avowal of it.
The writer seeks to avoid setting everybody against him by admitting brotherly exhortation; but even this resource the word takes from him; for exhortation is a gift (charisma) according to the word (Rom. 12:6-8).
This subject is most important, and it is worth while examining it somewhat thoroughly.
According to Mr. Wolff, the source of error about gifts (p. 70, 1°) is in this, that the gift of the Holy Ghost has been confounded with the gifts or graces of the Holy Ghost.
I admit the difference which exists between the gift of the Holy Ghost and the gifts of the Holy Ghost, but not in the least for the reasons given by Mr. Wolff; reasons which appear to me false and contradictory, and which overthrow the whole teaching of the word of God on the subject. When one speaks of the gift of the Holy Ghost, it is the Holy Ghost Himself who is given. The expression itself is only found once, in a direct way, in the word; nevertheless it is alluded to elsewhere. When one speaks of the gifts of the Holy Ghost, one speaks of what the Holy Ghost has given. As, for instance, 1 Corinthians 12:8, “For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit,” etc. These are evidently gifts of the Holy Ghost, and not the gift of the Holy Ghost, that is, the Holy Ghost given. But Mr. Wolff confounds all that.
I admit that charisma is used for the gifts bestowed by the Holy Ghost; but this word is used in a much more general way. Hence Mr. Wolff contradicts himself by saying exclusively, as we shall see; but we shall speak of it farther on. Let it suffice for the present that I admit the use of the word charisma, not as the only word used for gifts, but when it is a question of gifts: these gifts are the gifts of the Holy Ghost.
Let us see now what is absolutely lacking to us according to Mr. Wolff’s system, who will have it that gifts no longer exist. With this object let us examine the things to which the expression applies in the word.
In Romans 12 we find the following enumeration: prophecy, ministry or service, teaching, exhortation, ruling, shewing mercy. I stop there, because in what follows practical grace takes the place of gifts by a kind of imperceptible transition. “Let love be without dissimulation,” is what follows; but all the things I have quoted are charismata. These things no longer exist in the Church according to Mr. Wolff.
In 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 we read that it is by the Spirit that are given the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, the gifts of healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, the interpretation of tongues: it is the Spirit who worketh all these things. Lower down (v. 28), apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, gifts of healings, helps, governments, tongues—all these things are gifts. Consequently, according to Mr. Wolff, all these things are wanting to the Church.
We read (1 Pet. 4:10, 11), “If any man speak… if any man minister,” or exercise ministry. These things also, speaking, exercising ministry, are gifts (charismata). Consequently these things are wanting, according to Mr. Wolff.
Let it not be supposed that I am forcing anything. The writer (p. 71) quotes these passages, save 1 Peter 4:11, as speaking of the gifts which no longer exist. He adds (p. 74) that “whoever may speak in the church has certainly not a gift, because of this.” Not only then there does not exist, and cannot exist, either miracles or tongues; but further, there cannot exist either teaching or ministry (or service), or exhortation, or ruling, or faith, or governments, or word of wisdom, or word of knowledge, any more than apostles or prophets; one cannot speak nor serve either, for if any one speaks, he is bound to do it as having a gift (charisma). In spite of all that, we are told that where there are a few faithful men, one enjoys all the blessings of the dispensation!!
Such is, if we take the words and the passages according to Mr. Wolff’s interpretation, the effect of his principles.
But further, there is a passage where it is a question of gifts, a passage which Mr. Wolff has omitted—it is Ephesians 4. It is true that the word charisma is not found there, but it is equally gifts, and gifts presented in the same character as in 1 Corinthians 12, presented under a very important aspect, as being members of the body (Eph. 4). There is one Spirit and one body, and Christ having ascended up on high, gave gifts unto men (domata): apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, and pastors. Perhaps Mr. Wolff wishes these to be ministries, but the word calls them gifts (domata), and not ministries. And it is a question of the one body which answers to the one Spirit (v. 4), as well as in the passage, 1 Corinthians 12; the Church being the habitation of God through the Spirit (Eph. 2:22). Thus—always according to Mr. Wolff—there are neither pastors nor evangelists either, if gifts no longer exist. It is of no use saying they are admitted as ministries; the word of God only presents them to us as gifts; we are here not to invent a system, but to receive what the word reveals and declares. That is what Mr. Wolff pretends he is doing. In that case, I ask him in what passage these things are presented as ministries and not as gifts (except, that what is true, and what he denies, the word of God, in the most positive manner, presents ministry as the exercise of a gift). Let a person read Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4:10, 11; and then let him tell us if these things are presented as gifts or not; if they are gifts, we must no longer, according to Mr. Wolff, seek them at the present day in the Church, gifts having ceased.
But there is something to point out as to the use of the words. First, the word charisma is used very generally in the word for a free gift, as in Romans 5:15, 16, where it is used indiscriminately with dorea and charts and dorema. The difference is this, that charisma and dorema signify rather the thing given: dorea and charis, the former the free character of the gift, as with an intention to express that it is a gift; the latter, charis, expresses the grace, the principle by virtue of which one gives freely.
There is something more. Mr. Wolff distinguishes (p. 70, 1°) between “the gift of the Holy Ghost, which every Christian receives when he believes, and the supernatural gifts which are produced by the same Spirit.”
Although a person now may receive the Holy Ghost at the very moment he believes, it is nevertheless evident that the disciples, who had believed, had not received the Holy Ghost during the life of Christ here below. We read in John 7:39, “This spake he of the Spirit which they that believe on him should receive”; and Peter says to the Jews, “Repent, and be baptized… and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” I suppose that this is to receive the Holy Ghost when one believes. Now this is dorea, the gift of the Holy Ghost; but this word is used to designate the gift of the Holy Ghost which Cornelius received (Acts 10:45), of which gift Peter says that it was the same thing which they had themselves received at Pentecost (Acts 10:47). It is certain that when the Lord (John 7:39) speaks “of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive, for the Holy Ghost was not yet,” He does not speak of grace to believe, but of what came to pass on the day of Pentecost, of what happened to Cornelius, to those of Samaria, of the gift concerning which Peter said, “The promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” But, in all these cases, it was receiving the Holy Ghost after having believed. (See Acts 2:31; ch. 10:46; ch. 11:17; ch. 8:20.)
But all that, according to Mr. Wolff, was only miraculous gifts, gifts that were independent of the gift of the Holy Ghost. It matters not that the Lord spoke “of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive.” It matters not that Peter said, “Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” It matters not that in Acts 8 it is said, “For as yet he was fallen upon none of them”; and that Simon saw that “they received the Holy Ghost” thus, that “the Holy Ghost was given “thus. It matters not that Peter called it “the gift of God,” dorean. It matters not that this gift was “the promise of the Father “(Acts 1:4; ch. 2:33), even the Comforter, of whom He had spoken who was now ascended to the Father. (Compare Ephesians 4; Acts 2:33; John 16; Luke 24:49.) It matters not that this Comforter was to abide for ever with the Church, and that the promise was for as many as the Lord should call; Acts 2. All that was only miraculous gifts, independent of the gifts of the Holy Ghost; and consequently all has completely and equally ceased. Those are the only passages which speak of the gift of the Holy Ghost, of receiving the Holy Ghost. Page 73, 150, Mr. Wolff disposes of the passages in Acts 10:45; ch. . 11:17; ch. 2:4, 33, 38. Page 71, 6°, he disposes of Acts 8: all that, according to him, was independent of the gift of the Holy Ghost, it was miraculous gifts. But the fact is, that we must in the same way dispose of the seal of the Holy Ghost (Eph. 4:30; ch. 1:13): for it is the Holy Spirit of promise. See Acts 2:33, 38; ch. 1:4; Luke 24:49.
Let us remember that, although Air. Wolff disposes of these passages as referring to miraculous gifts, they are the passages which speak of the gift of the Holy Ghost, dorean, which he distinguishes (p. 70, 70) from gifts, charismata, and which also, at the same time, are not the gift of the Holy Ghost, but the gifts which have ceased. That is, the whole system is false from one end to the other, and is nothing but confusion. It was the Holy Ghost who was received, whatever might be the manifestations of His presence.
I admit the difference between the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the gifts which the Holy Ghost gave; but I affirm that what was given at Pentecost, at Samaria, at Joppa, was the gift of the Holy Ghost who was promised: I affirm it, because the word of God says so in the passages quoted.
Having proved the falsehood and the contradictions of Mr. Wolff’s system, I will shew what the word of God says on the subject—a subject of great importance.
First, although the Holy Ghost has acted from the beginning in creation, although He has from that time acted in the soul, acted in the prophets and others as a divine Being, as God, using them as His instruments, He had not descended to take His place and dwell on earth, as He has done in the Church. The glorification of Christ, of the Son of man, was necessary for that. This is what is said in John 7:39; chaps 14, 15, 16; Luke 24:49, and in the beginning of Acts, as, for instance, Acts 2:33, a passage already quoted: Christ glorified, ascended on high, sends from the Father, and the Father sends, in His name, that other Comforter who was to abide for ever, the Spirit of truth, the Holy Ghost. This Comforter, witness of the glory of Christ, was the seal of faith in that glory, and the revealer of all the truth. Himself, the God of love, and fruit of that love for the soul, shed it abroad in the heart; it was the Holy Ghost Himself who was given, the Holy Ghost who had been promised, and who was the seal of faith, the seal of him who believed (John 7; Eph. 1:13; 2 Cor. 1:21, 22.) That it was the Holy Ghost Himself who was thus given, is what is proved by the passages quoted from John and Luke, and by their accomplishment in the beginning of Acts.
We have seen that this gift was to abide for ever, and that it was for as many as the Lord should call. We may add that we are builded together to be the “habitation of God through the Spirit,” and that the Spirit dwells not only in the individual, but in the body;71 a truth Mr. Wolff has entirely lost sight of, except to deny the unity which results from it. See Ephesians 2:21, 22; 1 Corinthians 3:9, 16; Ephesians 4:4.
Let us now see what are the effects of the presence of the Holy Ghost, of that glorious gift of God. Let us remember that the word of God only speaks of the gift of the Holy Ghost, in speaking of the Comforter, of what came to pass on the day of Pentecost, and of that which corresponds to that day.
First, “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
The little children in Christ have the unction of the Holy Ghost, and know all things; 1 John 2. I suppose it will not be denied that this is the Holy Ghost. We are anointed, sealed, and we have the earnest of the Holy Ghost in the heart; 2 Cor. 1:21, 22. We possess Him—that Comforter—as the earnest of the inheritance; we are sealed—we are “sealed unto the day of redemption,” Eph. 1:13; ch. 4:30. He is a Spirit of adoption in our hearts, so that we enjoy our relationship with the Father; Gal. 4:6.
He gives us the certainty that we are in Christ; 1 John 3:24. He lusts in us against the flesh, and produces fruits; Gal. 5:17, 22. He sets free, quickens, puts to death the deeds of the body, leads, cries Abba, Father; He bears witness Himself that we are children, and sympathizes with our infirmities; (Rom. 8). He leads us into all the truth, communicates unto us that which is of Christ; He is the same who was to shew the things to come (John 16), the Comforter.
He it is—and the same He is—by whom the apostles received spiritual things, were able to communicate them, and by whom, thereupon, others were able to discern them; 1 Cor. 2:12, 15. And here observe, that it is the same Spirit whom the apostles received in order to know the things of God, and by whom others have discerned them; that is, the apostolic gift of revelation and of communication, and the gift of spiritual understanding in the simple believer.
He is the same Spirit who unites the body (1 Cor. 12:13); we have all been baptized in the power of one Spirit, to be one body.
This is what must be given up, if one has to give up the gift of the Holy Ghost (dorea), the gift Mr. Wolff calls “miraculous gifts.”
No, it will be told us—no: the miraculous gifts alone are denied. But I reply that the Holy Ghost whom we have received, the dorea, is what Mr. Wolff calls “miraculous gifts “; that is what was given to the hundred and twenty at Pentecost, what was given to Cornelius, etc. It is He who gave to the apostles to know the truth, and who gave to others to discern the truth—He who was in all the believers the earnest of the inheritance—who was the Holy Ghost of promise, that is, the gift (dorea) given at Pentecost.
He who led into all truth was the same as He who shewed the things to come. The fact is, that it is the Holy Spirit Himself, the third Person of the Trinity, who came down from heaven, as the second did at the time of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. What He does is another thing, which follows after the fact of His presence. If He sheds abroad the love of God in the heart, or if He causes some to speak divers tongues, it is always the same Spirit; or if His presence proves the sin of the world and the righteousness of God, it is always the Holy Ghost Himself who is there—who produces spiritual fruits, or who acts in whatever way it may be; who gives liberty and causes to abound in hope. Jesus Christ Himself was brought again from among the dead by the same Spirit, who was the Spirit of holiness in Him; our dead bodies will be raised on account of His Spirit who dwells in us; Rom. 1:4; ch. 8:9-11.
The epistle to the Galatians presents to us in a very distinct way this gift of the Holy Ghost, which marks the present dispensation in all its forms, its moral and miraculous effects. He who is led by the Spirit is not under law. The fruits of the Spirit are love, faith, peace, etc. If one walk in the Spirit, one does not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. The Spirit lusts against the flesh; Gal. 5:18, 22, 26. At the same time, we are told that we have received the Spirit, not by works of law, but by the hearing of faith; Gal. 3:2. He who ministered to them the Spirit, and worked miracles among them, did it, not by works of law, but by the hearing of faith. Christ had borne the curse, in order that “the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles,” and they “might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith,” Gal. 3:14. Here we clearly see what Spirit was received through faith. There was only that Spirit received through faith, who was followed with miracles and who was thus recognized. Stephen, full of the Holy Ghost, and thus fitted for the service to which he was called, bears an irresistible testimony, on account of “the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spake.” Was it another Spirit who rendered him fit for the service of tables (Acts 6:3), and by whom he confounded his adversaries (Acts 6:8, 10)? or is it not true that those who have served well “purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus,” 1 Tim. 3:13? And if Timothy had received a gift by the putting on of hands, a charisma (2 Tim. 1:6), he must stir it up, because “God hath not given us the Spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Are we to give up also power, love, and a sound mind? Compare Romans 8:15. This is what Mr. Wolff (p. 72,90) puts in direct contrast with the Spirit who sanctifies. When Timothy is exhorted to “keep, by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us,” that good thing which was committed to him, was it a question of something different from the Holy Ghost given—the Comforter? If we wait “through the Spirit “(Gal. 5:5), it is by this same Comforter who is given.
If we examine the epistle to the Ephesians, we find one and the same Spirit presented also as working in every way, among the rest in that which Mr. Wolff (p. 72, 10°) declares to be merely miraculous, and this, moreover, I do not deny. He is (Eph. 1:13, 14) the earnest of the inheritance, the seal of those who have believed, the Holy Spirit of promise. He is the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ (v. 17). They had, Jew and Gentile, “access by one Spirit unto the Father” (chap. 2:18); they were, Jews and Gentiles, “builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (v. 22); that is to say, God dwelt there, through the Spirit, as in a tabernacle. It was the same Spirit who revealed to men the mystery by the holy apostles and prophets. It is this same Spirit who strengthens in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in him by faith (chap. 3:5, 16). There is “one body, and one Spirit” of unity (chap. 4:3, 1); but “unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (doreas)—the word used for the gift of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. It is the same Spirit whom we must not grieve (v. 30). We ought (chap. 5:18) to be “filled with the Spirit… singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” But here we have, very probably at least, an act which is accompanied with that which was miraculous—“psalms and hymns and spiritual songs”; yet, are we forbidden to be filled with the Holy Ghost, and to sing in our hearts, because the miraculous act has ceased? for one must go as far as this. The word is “the sword of the Spirit”: we must pray “in the Spirit” (chap. 6:17, 18). Here then we see one and the same Spirit acting and manifesting Himself in every way—a Spirit whose presence answered to the presence of God in the tabernacle, and who acted in knowledge, in prayer, by the word, in unity, giving sometimes a psalm or a spiritual song; but it is always the same Spirit, the Person of the Holy Ghost as present, and revealing the presence of God in the Church. I have said enough to shew how the word of God speaks on this subject; I can now briefly state what the word of God presents.
The Holy Ghost has come, in person, on earth in the Church; He is present in Person; He is some one who can be grieved. He is present in two ways—in the individual and in the Church: “Ye are the temple of God, and … the Spirit of God dwelleth in you,” 1 Cor. 3:16. “Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost,” 1 Cor. 6:19. He is, Himself, the gift (dorea) of God, sent by the Son, sent by the Father. Therefore, while He is God, we do not find that prayer is addressed to Him: not that all praise be not due to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but because He is always looked upon as on earth, as the Son was there; and He does not glorify Himself, but He glorifies the Father and the Son, and He is the source of all prayer and praise to the Father who gave Him, and to the Son who is glorified.
But, just as the Holy Ghost is the gift, so also, as the sovereign Spirit, as God, He gives, He “divides to every man severally as he will”; and there we find the gifts, the charismata. These may vary ad infinitum, may be more definitely marked, or modified, or lost. In this sense, practically, the Spirit may be quenched in the manifestation of His gifts, or the exercise of these same gifts may be despised. But the Holy Ghost Himself is there unto the end, not only as the sanctifying Spirit, as if it were something different, or, so to speak, another Spirit: it is the Holy Ghost Himself who maintains the rights of Christ, who represents Him, who is the other Comforter sent by the Father and by the Son (and it is not only in individuals, but in the Church) who acts in the Church in righteousness, but as sovereign also.
The manifestation of the Spirit may take place in such or such a way; but it is the Holy Ghost who is there, who manifests Himself. And this presence of the Holy Ghost was so really the presence of God in the Church, His tabernacle, that when Ananias and Sapphira sought to deceive the disciples, the apostle said, “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost? Thou hast not lied unto men but unto God.” And God, as we know, exercised judgment as in His own house, and both the man and the wife, who had agreed together for that, fell down dead.
Was this a question of gifts only, or of the presence of God in the Church by the Holy Ghost? In effect, one of the functions of Jesus Christ, announced by John the Baptist, was, to baptize with the Holy Ghost; this came to pass on the day of Pentecost; Acts 1:5. Has the Church then entirely lost the baptism of the Holy Ghost? It was, according to Mr. Wolff, the communication of gifts. It is then that the Church was endued with power from on high. Is that power entirely lost? It is very clear that it is not only a question of gifts, if all this be lost, but of the presence of the Holy Ghost Himself in the Church. And mark here that, in speaking of gifts, it is said (1 Cor. 12:13), “By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews,” etc. We see clearly by this expression in what way gifts were connected with Him who, by His presence, constituted the unity of the whole body, and the existence of the Church as established here below, and in fact for ever.
The Holy Ghost having come from God, at the same time being God, the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. Being sent by the Father, He is a Spirit of adoption. Being the Spirit of Christ, He forms our affections and our walk according to the pattern of Christ. Sent, because the Son of man, rejected on earth, was received at the right hand of God, He is especially the witness of the glory of the Son of man, and of the grace that can flow out to the world as following after His glorification. Hence He comes on all flesh, and not only on the Jews; so that here grace and gifts are identified, for instance, in the tongues. The Holy Ghost overflows the narrow limits of Judaism, and, extending to the judgment of Babel, He reveals to all nations, to each in its own tongue, “the wonderful works of God.” It was a gift, but it was also a remarkable testimony to grace. Miracles bear the same testimony; they shew that God in goodness had come into the midst of the evil, and both overruled and cast out the power of the prince of this world; for such was the effect of the presence of the Holy Ghost. It was God who in grace had come into the midst of the world, having the Church as the vessel of His power, and thus acting in man, and acting there in testimony to the glory and victory of Christ as man. We see in Acts 2 and 4 the union of all this, and that in the normal state the presence of the Holy Ghost produced grace, unity, power, and joy. God was there, and the evil hid itself, as vanquished before His presence—a presence which, identifying itself with the new man, with the Christian, occupied with the state of things in which sin had plunged the old man; and the effect of this was, as in Samaria, quite natural (although the malice of the heart opposed it): “there was great joy in that city.” But the object was not only to bear testimony (that the world might believe) to the grace of God and to the victory of the Son of man over the power of Satan—a testimony borne in the aggregated Church by sovereign grace, to the glory of the Son Himself, who was not ashamed to call His brethren those who were sanctified. The Church itself was also the object. God had given His beloved ones to Christ. Christ had undertaken their salvation. He “loved the church and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.” Thus He nourisheth and cherisheth it as His own flesh. It is not a question of manifesting His rights and His glory to the world, although His glory be found there, and will at a future time be found there in a far more evident way (to wit, when the whole Church will have come unto perfection); neither is it a question of the operation of God properly speaking, in testimony, in the midst of evil. It is a question of the affections of Christ for the Church, and the care He takes of it in His faithfulness. It is a question of cleansing it by the word, in order to present it to Himself in glory, and cause it to grow up into Him in all things while it is down here.
Hence (although it is painful for me to be so didactic and methodical on a subject so precious and so full of strength and joy; but it is in order to be understood by those who are occupied with it) it follows that the Holy Ghost acts in three ways.
First, He is God present and working in power.
Secondly, He manifests, by His operations, the glory of the Son of man, and thus the relation of God in grace with the world.
Thirdly, Christ Himself nourishes and leads by His Spirit the Church, His body, for the edifying of it in love.
The first two of these three things are found in 1 Corinthians 12. God, by the Spirit, is there, in contrast with the demons who, as instruments, governed and seduced the world; but then it is a question, first of all, of acknowledging Jesus (and Jesus as man) to be the Lord, faithful to God, the conqueror of Satan. It is for this that God is acting in the world; as it is what makes an essential distinction between the Holy Ghost and demons. No one, speaking in the power of the Spirit, can say, Anathema Jesus; nor say, through a demon, Lord Jesus. Besides that, “there are diversities of gifts”; but not many spirits, as was the case with the demons, of whom there were many. There is one Spirit. There are diversities of services, but one Lord, He to whom the Holy Ghost bore witness. “There are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” That which was an operation of God was, at the same time, a gift of the Holy Ghost, and a service done to the Lord whom that Spirit glorified and whom the God “who worketh all” had made “both Lord and Christ,” and placed at His own right hand in glory; Acts 2:30-36. The identity of the operation of God and of the Holy Ghost is seen by comparing verses 6 and 11. If the Holy Ghost works and speaks in us, He works and speaks to render testimony to Christ, the Lord; and thus He causes him who speaks to act and to speak as servant or minister of Christ (not to be independent, because he has the Spirit). Therefore, the apostle says, Many members “are one body, so also is Christ.” The members are directed by the head; the head uses the members. Therefore is it said (2 Cor. 3:8) “the ministration of the Spirit.” The Holy Ghost gives the gift, and the individual thus made competent exercises his ministry, according to the passage of Peter, which we have already quoted, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same”—or exercise ministry therein “as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”
Therefore, uniting the three things, as in the passage we are considering, the apostle says (2 Cor. 3:5, 6), “Our sufficiency is of God; who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament [covenant]; not of the letter, but of the Spirit,” etc.; and (verse 3) “Ye are the epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.”
Was not the apostle acting in his own gift of apostle when he did this? If not, do pray tell me what he did with his gift? No: it is evident that the object of the Holy Ghost was to give the link of these three things: the Spirit acting in gift, the operation of God therein, and the service or ministry to the Lord.
Further, it is not as concerning the Persons in the Trinity that all this is presented to us, but it is the order of the acting of God, of the Lord, and of the Spirit, looked upon as acting on earth. If the Lord and the Spirit had been spoken of, one might have supposed something inferior to God; for the heathen were accustomed to spirits of Python, etc., and to lords in great number. Therefore does the apostle insist upon there being but one Spirit who gives divers gifts, and not many spirits; one Lord who governed all that and was Head in all that—the Lord whom the Spirit glorified; lastly, he insists on this, that it was God Himself, the one true God, who worked in all that.
And mark that the writer himself calls our attention to the use of the word spiritual gifts (pneumatika) in 1 Corinthians 12:1: “A name,” he says (p. 70), “which is assigned to them exclusively.” He mistakes in saying “exclusively,” for the word is often used for the things of the Spirit in general. See Romans 15:27, 1 Corinthians 9:11; ch. 2:13, in which last passage I would translate “communicating spiritual [things] by spiritual [means]”; or “[the things] of the Spirit by [words] of the Spirit.” But here the things of the Spirit are gifts. Now, treating of these things of the Spirit, he speaks of the ministries of the one Lord. How then can one say that these ministries were not among those things of the Spirit?
And here I recall what I have already pointed out in part, namely, that in 1 Corinthians 12:4, 9 it is a question, according to Mr. Wolff, of gifts properly so called (p. 70); the repetition of the same subject in verse 28 is a classification of ministry (p. 50); and (p. 71) 1 Corinthians 12:28 is a catalogue of gifts, and gives us five. In this chapter, therefore, as on the other hand it is God who works, all the beauty and ornament of Christ in His body on earth was connected with the presence and operation of the Holy Ghost. The operation of God, the lordship of Jesus, the service of the believer, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost, were identified in the unity of the body, in the service of each member, in the diversity of gifts which were the manifestation of the Holy Ghost. We have in all that a dissertation on the things of the Spirit, the pneumatika. But it must not be thought that the action of the Holy Ghost consisted solely in fresh revelations; the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom were gifts of the Holy Ghost as well as a prophecy properly so called. As Paul says also in chapter 14, “If I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? “It is sometimes supposed that there must be a fresh revelation if the Holy Ghost is working in the one who speaks; it is not so at all. “He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.”
We saw that there is another object, to wit, the nurture and increase of the Church. Here then, it is no longer the beauty and ornament of the Church before the world, even by the gifts of the Holy Ghost, nor the operation of God in testimony, but the care Christ takes of His own body, of His flesh; Eph. 4. “He ascended up on high … and gave gifts [domata] unto men.” Here the act of giving and the gifts are specially connected with Christ, who, as Head, nourishes the body. It is not a question of adorning the aggregate, or of acting in virtue of the rights of Christ, but of the relationship between the body and the Head. It is gathering and nourishing the Church, and not acting by the members of the Church, by particular acts of power.
The epistle of the Ephesians presents two great subjects as to the Church: First, the coming glory of the Church, a thing which is secured; it will enjoy the glory in the heavenly places with its Head. In spirit, it is seated there in Him. Secondly, Besides that, it is the “habitation of God through the Spirit “here below.
Two things flow from that: unity in humility and the Spirit of peace; grace given to every one according to the measure of the gift of Christ. But the gifts here given, the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, the pastor, and teacher, have all for object the formation, establishment, and edification of the body. And we must here observe that it is functions or permanent gifts that are given; it is a pastor, it is an evangelist. It is not a gift of such a character given to an individual thus gifted by Christ ascended on high. The pastor himself, the apostle himself, is the gift. Christ received the gift having ascended up on high, and He manifests it in the function of the individual; and the gift is here connected with continual service, and is not merely a manifestation of power. In 1 Corinthians 12 it is rather power given for service, power which might be used through vanity, as it really happened. Here the member serves by the gift, which only acts in the blessing of the body.
I have spoke on this more fully elsewhere, and I only recall the great principle for the aggregate.
In Romans 12 the Spirit of God presents the gifts (charismata), that those who possess them may use them humbly, confining themselves to what they possess, and may be occupied with that. 1 Peter 4 speaks of them, that each one may use them in giving all the glory to God, acknowledging that all came from Him. As to this passage (1 Pet. 4), I am agreed with Mr. Wolff that it is a question of a gift; and the translation, “according to the oracles” is not the word of God, but a sense people chose to give it. “If any man speak [let him speak] as [announcing] God’s oracles.” But it is of no use saying, as Mr. Wolff does, that this only applies to gifts, and not to that which one now says in the Church. The answer is easy. This passage forbids speaking in any other way, and forbids it with this object, “that God in all things may be glorified.” The apostle does not allow that anyone should speak without ascribing the thing to God; and without speaking as announcing the words of God. If any one speak, let him speak thus.
It would be a singular commentary on this passage, to say, This means that, if any one speak by the Spirit, then he must speak by the Spirit: otherwise he may speak as much as he likes, without troubling himself about it; inasmuch as a man is a minister, he may speak without thus ascribing all to God.
In 1 Corinthians 12 we have therefore the presence of the Holy Ghost as one in the Church, then the operation of God, then the gifts as manifestation of the Spirit. In Ephesians 4 we have the gifts which Christ received, which are being exercised in the edification of the body. In Romans 12 we have all that is done for good in Christians service treated as gift. Lastly, 1 Peter 4 we have the obligation of thus ascribing all to God.
Now God may withdraw as He pleases gifts which He distributes as He pleases (that is, some of those which are only a testimony rendered to the Church before the world); but Christ nourishes the Church according to His faithfulness, and this rests on another basis. This also may be weakened if the Holy Ghost is grieved. Nevertheless, the Holy Ghost Himself remains in the Church for ever.
And this calls forth an important remark as to this question, whether the evil is without remedy. All the strength and energy of the Church being derived from the presence of the Holy Ghost, the comparison of what the manifestation of the Holy Ghost was at the beginning, and the forgetting of His presence now, will lead us to feel all that is humbling in our state, and to understand the sentence of God unto cutting off, and not unto restoration. But the thought that the Holy Ghost abides for ever with the Church gives us an unlimited source of hope— that God will do all that is necessary for the blessing of the Church in the state where it is. And as it is the presence of God Himself, one can put no limit to what He could do. But what He will do will be according to our need and our state, and not as though He Himself ignored the state which the presence of His Spirit leads to feel, as though nothing had happened. Hence I fully believe in the cutting off of the dispensation, because of the failure of the Church; but I put no limit to what God, meanwhile, may do in grace towards believers. Only, it will be according to the truth, as to their state, and according to the faith which recognizes that.
I shall follow briefly Mr. Wolff’s remarks. Page 70, 1°. It is Mr. Wolff who mistakes; charismata and pneumatika are not used exclusively for spiritual gifts, as we have shewn in quoting the passages where those words are found. The versions are not mistaken. The expression “the gift of the Holy Ghost” is only found once in the Bible, and it simply means the Holy Ghost given. The expression, “the Holy Ghost which is given “is found elsewhere; but it equally refers to the idea of the presence of the Holy Ghost. For instance, “He therefore that despiseth [his brother], despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit.” And, “Hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God,” 1 John 3 and 4. We see evidently that it is a question here of the Holy Ghost as present, from whom one ought to distinguish the evil spirits which acted in the false prophets.
If I consult Mr. Wolff, he applies the thing referred to in the passage (namely, what was given at Pentecost) to miraculous gifts. All this paragraph therefore is false; it is Mr. Wolff who confounds the gift and the gifts.
Page 70, 20. Be it so: three quarters of the gifts are lost; but then how can it be said that all the blessing remains to the dispensation?
Page 70, 30. I do not say that some gifts are miraculous and others not; but the word distinguishes between gifts which were the signs of power to the world, and the gifts which were for the edification of the Church; and also, between the gifts that laid the foundation and those that built upon it. Mr. Wolff admits it. That is the reason why some may subsist, and others not. For the rest, the word calls gift (charisma) all that in which the Holy Ghost acts in blessing in the Church. This is what Mr. Wolff has not observed at all.
Page 71, 40. I again repeat, if that beauty, that diversity, that harmony, as members of a body, are entirely lost, how is it that we are not in a state of failure and ruin? How can one conceive this?
Page 71, 50. I find a variety of gifts now very evident, although it is not a variety such as existed at the beginning. The result of Mr. Wolff’s system having prevailed practically in the Church is, that all the gifts are confounded and their distinction lost; but it is very easy for a spiritual man to distinguish between a man who has a gift for teaching, and another who has a gift for exhortation, or another who has a gift of evangelist. For the rest, the system in vogue hinders the development of gifts. This is not surprising, when men, “having studied, all preach without gift” (p. 94).
Page 71, 6°. It is not said that the disciples in Samaria received gifts besides the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is said that they had been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, but as yet the Holy Ghost “was fallen upon none of them.” Nothing more positive or clearer. That the Holy Ghost acted in their heart to produce faith there by the revelation of Jesus, I do not deny; but in the word of God this is never called the gift of the Holy Ghost. Not a word is said about receiving the Holy Ghost till after having believed; the contrary is expressly stated.
Page 72, 70. That the gifts were the manifestation of the Holy Ghost, of this gift of the Holy Ghost, is perfectly true. This being acknowledged, the word of God calls gifts of the Holy Ghost, not only signs of power, but according to the godliness and truth which grace produces, every instrumentality of blessing which was found in the Church: exhortation, the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge; 1 Cor. 12; Rom. 12. What has given rise to all the difficulties on the subject is, the want of godliness, which does not own the only source of all these graces.
Page 72, 8° and page 73, 140. I repudiate the neological tinge of Neander. On the other hand, Mr. Wolff mistakes if he thinks there is no connection between the gifts conferred and the vessel which contains them. The tone of his fourteenth paragraph is far from proper. When the man who left his house gave gifts to his servants (Matt. 25), he gave gifts to every man according to his several ability. God prepares the vessel as well as places the gift in it; Acts 9:15; Gal. 1. Paul was “a chosen vessel”; he was set apart from his mother’s womb; but he had not yet received the gift.
Page 72, 90. This requires no remark; the confusion which is found there having been already pointed out, namely, that Mr. Wolff speaks as if there were two gifts of the Holy Ghost.
Page 72, 10°. Faith indicates a special gift, that special energy of faith which is not found in all. I see nothing that limits it to the first ages. There are persons endowed with much more faith than others; 1 Cor. 14:15, 16. He speaks of foreign tongues which served as signs to unbelievers (v. 22), signs which are distinguished from that which was for the edification of believers.
Page 73, 11°. What do these words mean: “The Holy Ghost was miraculous enough?” Can one say that God is miraculous—that a Person of the Trinity is miraculous? That the Spirit whom they had received did act in a miraculous way, and that this was distinct in many respects from His sanctifying action, I do not deny; but it was the same Spirit who acted, though in a different way. Only one must distinguish between the new nature, and the Holy Ghost who produces it and acts in it. The union is intimate; but they can be spoken of separately, for the Spirit is God. I can say, “He that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit.” I can say, “The Spirit … beareth witness with our spirit.” I can say, “He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit,” and add, “because he maketh intercession for the saints according to God.”
The new nature is not God; it worships God. But God has intimately united Himself to it by the Holy Ghost: it abides in God, and God in it. But the most miraculous gifts, when God Himself was speaking, as in the case of prophecy, were subject to the order of God in the Church, because they were entrusted to the responsibility of man, and acted in man as servant of Christ.
Page 73, 120. I think that this effect has often been reproduced more or less perceptibly.
Page 73, 130. I am perfectly agreed that if a man speaks, he ought to speak as announcing the oracles of God; I Peter 4. Hence, I am very much blamed for having asserted the truth as to that passage. But the thing being thus, it is absolutely necessary that Mr. Wolff’s ministers without gifts should be silent, because the apostle says, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God … that God in all things may be glorified.” Not the least idea that one might be allowed to speak otherwise, for then God would not be glorified. The ministry Mr. Wolff proposes to us is precisely the thing condemned by this passage.
Page 73, 150. True, the centurion and his friends received the Holy Ghost as the apostles did at Pentecost, but it is the only gift of the Holy Ghost which they received. They did not receive another sanctifying Spirit; the Holy Ghost had produced faith. I believe it; but they did not receive, either before or after, the Holy Ghost in another way.
Page 73, 160 and page 74, 170. In general, I agree with these two paragraphs; but the Holy Ghost who was given has not left the Church—I mean the Holy Ghost given on the day of Pentecost. Here Mr. Wolff confounds the gifts and the gift. That the extraordinary administration of these things by the hands of the apostles has ceased, I do not deny. That the order, the testimony, the power of the Church in the world, are weakened by it, and have by degrees become as it were destroyed, I confess with humiliation. But the Holy Ghost who was given on the day of Pentecost, of which these things were only an extension—the Holy Ghost abides. He is sovereign, He is mighty; and the gifts for edification have not ceased. If the gifts which were signs have disappeared with the apostolic age, the testimony of the Church to the world, in its power and its unity, has also by degrees disappeared with these manifestations of the Holy Ghost.
Page 74, 18°. Mr. Wolff, as we have already remarked, is completely mistaken; the discerning of spirits was not regulating. “Let the other judge,” it is said (1 Cor. 14:29), when gifts were exercised. The rules for the exercise of gifts are given in this passage; and there is no question of the gift of discerning of spirits: a responsibility moreover which is attached to every Christian (1 John 4), although there are no doubt persons specially gifted for that.
Page 74, 19°. This is an extraordinary confusion. First, women had gifts as men had; certain gifts, according to the express promise of God by the mouth of Joel; but the exercise of gifts was regulated, for men and for women, by the Holy Ghost, who had given them, and who had the right to regulate the use of that which He had entrusted; this He has done through the authority of Paul.
Page 74, 200. The bishop was only a charge; but, as a quality of a bishop, a gift (charisma) is required—that of being “apt to teach”; perhaps one might add that of pastor. But the qualities of bishops do not in any way affect the question of gifts, which were found, according to the writer himself, by the side of ministry.
Page 75, 210 and 220. Mr. Wolff here arranges things in a very convenient way, provided one considers the power of the Holy Ghost as being of no importance in the Church—that power which, for instance, made men to fall down on their faces, and confess that God was there—a power which, according to Mr. Wolff, has entirely ceased. Prophecy which was “to edification and exhortation and comfort “is lost, according to Mr. Wolff; this, according to him, explains everything else.
The loss of all that matters nothing; tongues even—so remarkable a sign by which God acted on those outside, for their conversion, and for the establishment of Christianity in the world, all that is lost. No matter, according to Mr. Wolff. What a distressing and heartless system!—this system which explains everything, and feels nothing! One half of Christendom invaded by Islamism, the other by popery! no matter. Protestantism declining, and in most infidel; the gifts all lost: it is all one. For, according to Mr. Wolff, if there are a few believers, as in the Jewish dispensation, all the blessing remains to the Church. That the sovereign goodness of God has given to us in His written word a sure and complete revelation of His thoughts is precious beyond all that man could say or be able to say. And in the failure and ruin of everything as to power manifested in the Church, this has a value and a wisdom to which an adoring sense of that goodness is the only true response. This is the chain which, by the truth, links us to Him; this is beyond all price—God has revealed Himself therein. That this word is the only guide, as a written rule; this is a thing to which we cannot too firmly cleave; this it is that has the authority of God. Nothing can be added to it, nor taken from it. But does this touch the effects of the power of the Holy Ghost? Far from it; we need the Holy Ghost to understand even, and to use, that word. It is the sword of the Spirit to reach the heart. If gifts only consisted in revelation, and in signs to prove it, there would be something to say; but it is not so. All that was done in the Church, was, as we have seen, by the Holy Ghost: and the presence of the Holy Ghost had in nowise for its only object the confirmation of revelation. He was to abide for ever, and, by the gifts of teaching, of exhortation, of wisdom, of knowledge, to edify and comfort the Church. For the rest, in the word it is never said that the gifts confirmed the canon of Scripture; they confirmed the word spoken by the mouth of those whom Christ had sent. Miracles are not attached to Luke, to Mark, to the Acts, nor declared to be the means of recognizing the inspiration of any book whatever. The books of the holy Scriptures have not had this outward confirmation. If it be otherwise, let it be shewn. That the doctrine which is found there was confirmed, when it was preached viva voce, this I acknowledge. The warrant for the inspiration of Scripture does not therefore rest on gifts, whether in apostolic times, or now. That the authors were inspired, I fully acknowledge. That the Holy Ghost is the author of it every Christian believes; but I do not know where that infinitely precious work of the Spirit is called the exercise of a gift. The epistles may, in part, be considered as the exercise of the apostolic gift perhaps: but in general the inspiration of the written word, that work of the Holy Ghost which guards the pen and the thought of the writer, is a special work. Hence we must not confound revelation with the action of the Holy Ghost in the gifts. Sometimes the Holy Ghost spoke in the way of revelation; but His action for the most part was a different thing from that; it consisted in exhortation, teaching, wisdom, knowledge—things which did not require fresh revelations. Besides, the Holy Ghost never contends with Himself. To those who have received the holy Scriptures as inspired, a spirit which would refuse to submit itself to the written word, would by that very thing be proved to be an evil spirit; and all that it would seek to add would, by the help of the Holy Ghost, be proved by the word to be false, because the word is perfect. This was even true of Christianity in the face of the Old Testament: it rested upon the written word, and presented what had come to pass as the fulfilment of what was foretold, teaching none other things than those which Moses, the law, and the prophets had said, and approving those who (if it was an apostle who preached) “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” And the Lord Jesus Himself preferred the authority of the written word, as an instrument, to His own words: “But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” But the exercise of gifts, making use of the word, explains it, applies it to the soul, exhorts, speaks with wisdom, and only recognizes the revelation by resting upon it: but they are equally real gifts of the Holy Ghost.
If, as Mr. Wolff leads one to suppose, the New Testament becomes useless through the gifts which explain and use it, how much more would the Old become so through the apostolic gifts.
Page 76, 230. It is no question of being on the level of, or above, the word. The same Holy Ghost, who gave the word as the whole truth to the Church, uses and applies it by means of gifts which He gives Himself.
Page 76, 230. Agreed. The minister must declare his mind, and say that all his hope for his ministry is in the absence of all gifts. If the Holy Ghost acts, he must abdicate his charge. But what an avowal! Does this ministerial system banish shame, as it banishes the Holy Ghost? At least let us take account of the avowal, that the system of a clergy, which hides itself under the name of ministry, that what the party calls the ministry, can only subsist by denying absolutely every gift of the Holy Ghost.
That the pastor has received no authority for regulating or for restricting the gifts of the Holy Ghost, is only confusion, supposing the gifts to exist; and if they do not exist, there is no need of regulating them. Supposing they exist, they are all regulated beforehand in the word: witness 1 Corinthians 14 for instance. When Mr. Wolff says, speaking of the pastor, that “if he reserves to himself a worship where he alone speaks, he is a usurper,” it is merely throwing dust in people’s eyes. I understand quite well that Mr. Wolff wishes that—denying gifts—the pastor who has none should reserve to himself all that he is pleased to attribute to himself. What is merely from man, man can regulate; but it is very simple, that in the exercise of his gift everyone is free save the discipline according to the word. In the case of all being assembled, the word has regulated the course to be followed: if anyone has received a gift, he is responsible to Christ for the exercise of that gift; and responsibility is always individual. If, as an evangelist, I go out to preach by myself, or if two go together, they do not encroach on the rights of anybody. If I gather people who come for that purpose, and teach them in the exercise of my gift, I encroach on the rights of no one: every one is free to do the same. If any one does it in a spirit of schism, outside the unity of the Church, it is an evil which changes nothing as to the principle. If when brethren are assembled—all for the common service, I arrogate everything to myself, then indeed I do encroach on the rights of the Holy Ghost; but in the case of the individual exercise of my gift, I am only trading with the talent I have received, and that is what each should do on his own account, and he owes it to Christ.
I admit that teaching is a gift. I admit also that ruling, or presiding, as some versions translate, is a gift; but in the word this is never applied to an assembly, as would appear to be the case, if we kept to the French version generally used. They are the gifts (charismata) according to Romans 12. That the administration of the sacraments is a gift, this is a reverie of Mr. Wolff’s. I have already remarked that Mr. Wolff is entirely ignorant of the principles of the Quakers. They have their elders who are in charge, and besides that a ministry. There are also some among them who exercise a gift before being yet recognized as ministers.
On Mr. wolff’s chapter 17, where he asserts that “to take away from the ministry the right to administer the sacraments, is to infringe upon the charge itself and to compromise its existence.”
It is remarkable enough that the writer has been unable to quote a single passage of the word of God to establish that the administration of the sacraments must be performed by the ministry. Taking away from it gifts, and attributing to it the right of taking possession of the outward forms—these do very well together: but it is very singular that it never entered the mind of the apostle to propose, as a remedy, the system of the writer. Very far from this, in an epistle which formally treats the subject of the Lord’s Supper, the Holy Ghost does not give the slightest hint that the ministry presides; but quite the contrary. The state of things which is described there excludes all idea of such order; and never, in applying a remedy for it, does the idea present itself of making the minister preside: for it is singular that, in the epistle to the Corinthians, where the interior of the administration of a church is given to us, no mention is ever made of the elders. There were some, perhaps; but if there were, the Holy Ghost passes over it, authorizing us to act even when there are none. I exhort those brethren who are occupied with this to weigh such a fact taken from the epistle to the Corinthians.
As to the quotation given by Mr. Wolff of Acts 6:1-4, it is so much outside the subject that I need not dwell upon it. The man who can mistake the daily administration of help to widows for the Lord’s Supper may very well suppose all he likes; and in Mr. Wolff’s interpretation, Acts 6:1-4, supposes that the apostles had abandoned the administration of the table of the Lord as being of slight importance, and that the deacons, and not the elders, are to preside there. What is said in paragraph 40 of page 81, is therefore unworthy of an answer. To say that the word of God which accompanies the outward act is more important than the Supper itself is to exalt a discourse without gifts above the remembrance of Jesus instituted by Himself. Moreover, where did the writer find this—“the word of God which accompanies the sacrament”? Besides, it is very certain that in the primitive Church there was nobody established to speak a word; for the prophets spoke as God led them, according to the rules given in 1 Corinthians 14. For an apostle to break the bread, when he was present (Acts 20:11), was a very natural thing, and appears to me very suitable; but I do not see that this proves that the ministry had the exclusive right so to do.
As to baptism, the apostle expressly says that the Lord had not sent him to baptize. It is very certain that Acts 10:48 is very badly rendered by “He took measures,” etc., and that Acts 17:26, where it is said that God had determined certain things, proves the inaccuracy of such a way of translating. The reader who does not know Greek may consult Matthew 1:24; ch. 21:6; Luke 5:14—“Moses commanded”; Matthew 8:4; Mark 1:44; Acts 10:33—passages which, with the two quoted here, are the only passages where this word (which signifies “to command”) is found in the New Testament.
In result, Mr. Wolff, who does not produce a single passage to prove that the ministry did administer the sacraments, admits that simple believers may do it in cases of necessity. We see that what existed at Corinth excludes the idea of such a custom; and when there was a state of disorder, when the opportunity presented itself of reminding them in what order did consist, or of establishing order if it had not yet been done; and if such order as this would have been the remedy according to God, not a syllable about it is said by the apostle—by the word, but means altogether different are used to remove the scandal. We find that, to support his system he is obliged to confound with the Lord’s Supper the administration of help intended for the widows. A cause which is thus maintained is not worth much. That in a large assembly the Supper be administered by brethren who enjoy the consideration of all, by an apostle when there was one, is just what suits order; and I have no fault to find with such an ordinance. There is not one expression in the word of God to lead one to suppose that there was any need of a minister for the Supper or for baptism—we even see the contrary—and now I use the word ‘ministry’ in the sense of the pamphlet, and in whatever sense people may like to use it.
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 18, Where He Maintains That “No One Is Pastor Who Is Not Competent To Teach And Preach.”
If Mr. Wolff is overthrowing the system which Calvin and others find in the word, that is a question which concerns those who build upon it; but—I must say so—I find a thorough difference in the way in which Calvin and Mr. Wolff respect the word. As to the translation of 1 Timothy 5:17, which he pretends is false, I am bold to say it is not false at all. I have examined twenty-two passages of the word of God where the Greek word kopiao is found, and the result of this examination is, that the translation, in my eyes, is very good. The word is used in two ways: to suffer from the effects of labour, and simply to labour. Wahl’s Lexicon (the most accurate I know for the word of God) does not even present the sense chosen by Mr. Wolff.
In Galatians 6:6 Mr. Wolff sees an elder who receives payment! But there is not a word in it about elders or a payment properly so called. I cannot conceive the desire of debasing ministry which is constantly found in this pamphlet. A minister who is paid without gift—such is the idea Mr. Wolff forms to himself of ministry. It appears to me very sad.
The apostle asks for liberality “in all good things “towards those who teach: this is a precious thing. But why seek to attach an idea of payment, and to destroy that of love, and of honour, of attachment, and of affection? Mr. Wolff has not been bold enough to translate the Greek word by “salary”; he has translated it by “honour”; and I think, with Calvin, Luther, and the English translators, that he is right.
This is incontestable—that the apostle meant that when it was a question of choosing a bishop, one should be chosen who was “apt to teach.” To say that there were no other bishops, is that which 1 Timothy 5:17 leads us to doubt.
It is singular that Mr. Wolff dares to say that the administrative functions are not mentioned; for the apostle speaks of the government of the family by the bishop as a sign of certain suitable qualities.
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 19, Where He Will Have It That Missionaries Are To Be Sent By Men.
We have seen that, in the passage, Acts 13:1-3, it is a question of the apostles and of the one who said of his apostle-ship “not of men, neither by man,” and who had already laboured for a long time before this. We have also seen that they preached and evangelized without any mission from man; so that Mr. Wolff’s assertions are absolutely false. It is rather too strong to quote Acts 13 in order to shew what an evangelist was, and what an apostle was not.
The quotation from 2 Corinthians 8:23 is inconceivable. Paul speaks of Titus, but not at all as a messenger of the churches, and it was only a question of a collection. The apostle refused to take the money without having with him some brethren from the churches, that the ministry of the word might not be suspected even in this respect. (See chapters 9:5; 8:19-21.)
Barnabas indeed was sent to Antioch by the church in Jerusalem—the special position of which we have seen, all the apostles being there. But he was not sent there as an evangelist; it was to visit on the part of that church—mother-church and metropolitan (for it was such), the believers who had already been brought to the knowledge of the Lord by the means of those who had preached without having been sent by anything except persecution. When he came, and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and exhorted them to remain firm; and other persons were added. Thus, the first church of the Gentiles and the church in Jerusalem—preeminently the church where everything had begun—were identified. Barnabas acted according to his gift; and, using his liberty, he brings Paul there. There was not that jealousy which speaks of its field. The church in Jerusalem sends Barnabas where others had laboured, and Barnabas feels himself most happy to find Paul. They had all but one object: Christ and the good of souls. But as to the mission of Barnabas, it is clear he was not sent as an evangelist, for he was sent to Christians.
As to schoolmasters, they are most useful in their place; but everything in this pamphlet has its source in the things which are done, and with the desire of upholding them whatever they may be. Except this, it is very evident that the schoolmasters have no connection with the subject we are treating. I suppose that Mr. Wolff will not prevent a schoolmaster from opening a school on his own account: in doing so, I do not think he would place himself on a level with apostleship, although he was not sent by men.
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 20; Where He Seeks To Justify Clerical Usurpation.
As to that clerical usurpation of which Mr. Wolff speaks, I have not much to say about it. When one man will be minister, and demands that every other labourer should be subject to him; when he has been named according to a system which is not of God, when he demands from the other labourers, in the same field, a subjection which the apostles did not demand, and when he does this because an authority which God does not own as regards the affairs of His Church, has appointed and established him, then there is clerical usurpation. Besides, I deny that the minister is called in Scripture, elder, bishop, pastor, leader; and I ask for a passage which shews the contrary. Mr. Wolff produces none.
It is not honest to quote Ignatius; because, if Mr. Wolff has read him, he must know that Ignatius uses the word ‘bishop’ in quite a different sense, and says that one ought to obey the bishop as if it were obeying God; the elders, as if it were Christ; and the deacons, as if it were the college of apostles.
I acknowledge, that in general, things ought to be done under the direction of those who lead, in order that everything may go on in unity and for the good of all.
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 21, Where He Says It Is “Important And Necessary To Study For Ministry.”
I do not feel the need of answering the chapter on studies; the man who denies gifts, and sees nothing but man in ministry, must naturally cling to this.
God can use learned men or ignorant men. He uses learning as he uses money—the man who seeks it will find his soul dried up, just like the man who seeks to get rich. God, moreover, chooses the foolish and weak things of this world to bring to nought the wise and mighty things. I do not think that the pursuit of learning by a man already called to the ministry will help him in his career. He that is not called, cannot study for the ministry; but all these reasonings flow from this: taking no account of the presence and of the importance of the operation of the Holy Ghost. Moreover, a student, a candidate, evidently bears no resemblance to the bishop described to us by the apostle. The emulation of a young man who studies Greek and theology has hardly the imprint of those qualities required by the Spirit of God for elders. In fine, according to this system, one must at all events have a ministry, and if one cannot find competent men, incompetent men must be appointed—for a ministry is needed.
On Mr. Wolff’s Chapter 22, Entitled, “History Of The Sects Which Have Altered Ministry.”
I am not anxious to take up the history of sects. The Papists might add to the list, and prove that protestants, with a ministry, are fallen into socinianism, neology, and all kinds of divisions and errors.
But it those who had no ministry—which moreover was not the case in some of the examples presented by Mr. Wolff— have disappeared, those who have one, on the other hand, have remained, and remain to this day; and for centuries the established ministers have taught the mass of the people errors, heresies, superstitions, blasphemies, unbelief, self-righteousness, and with all their might have kept the mass of the people far from God. Blessed indeed if any one, armed for martyrdom, dared to go out, though unsent by man, and seek to deliver those souls from under the ministry which ruined them! I do not think that the supporters of ministry without gifts gain much by comparing the evil done by those who reject a ministry from man, with the evil done by those who will have it and who adopt it. Where the Spirit of God acts, there will be good; where He does not act, all possible ecclesiastical arrangement will not prevent the invasion of the evil.
Mr. Wolff admits that the Montanists, who received a ministry, introduced clerical despotism and several errors of doctrine. The brethren of Rhynsburgh separated because of a point of doctrine.
I have already remarked that Mr. Wolff is completely mistaken about Quakers. Gurney himself is an innovator among Quakers, and judged as such by the “Conservatives”— an epithet which indicates the old Quakers. Here is the doctrine of the Quakers:—
The Holy Ghost is in every man without exception. If they listen to His voice, they are justified by degrees. The Quakers reject justification by faith; a great number even reject the resurrection of the body. They reject the sacraments. They have a recognized ministry, and elders. They prefer their inward light to the written word: they hold absolutely that the Scriptures are not to be called the word of God, and only receive, as coming from God, that portion which may have been applied to them. There has lately been a revival among them, and several have sounder views; several even have left the society. The elders are appointed and established; they have an elevated seat, facing all the others; and nowhere else is a more complete authority exercised. The members of the flocks have an extraordinary fear of them. In many respects there is not more authority among the Roman Catholics themselves. As to practical customs, the Quakers have several things which are very estimable. I do not think I have represented their system falsely; for I have known, loved, and respected very sincerely, several from among them.
It would be difficult to find between two bodies a more complete contrast than between the Quakers and those called “Plymouth Brethren,” if one except the fact that they believe that ministry is of the Holy Ghost; but even in this they act altogether differently.
When Mr. Wolff takes on him to say that the brethren have introduced modifications in the sacraments, he would have done better to say what they are: this he has not dared to do. The accusation of having done so, without even pointing out in what they have done it, simply proves ill will towards them.
We are come to the conclusion—deeply grieved, for my own part, to see such a production issuing from the hands of a young man I love. The skill I do not deny; but the spirit which reigns in it, the way in which the word is used there to serve a system, have produced an exceedingly painful effect. Neither have I any doubt that a serious contest is engaged on the subject of ministry. As to the fact of having for avowed enemies those who hold those opinions—full of unbelief and of contempt for the word—which this pamphlet fully brings to light, it has quite another effect from frightening or deterring me. It is a contest, on one side, between respect for the word, faith that owns the Holy Ghost, and the desire that ministry be free and powerful for God, while freely serving men; and, on the other, the making ministry to depend upon men, and of attaching to it (without there being gifts) an authority as from God, an authority such as to give the right of excluding all possibility of the action of the Holy Ghost.
Mr. Wolff avows it, and declares that, if there is a single gift, his ministry can no longer subsist. My desire is that each soul would reflect as to the position in which such a doctrine places the Church and Christendom.
44 The following is a specimen. “This system has great natural attractions. An aristocratic atmosphere exists in it; a sort of Madeira climate, which suits the delicate lungs of good society—of gentlemen, ladies, etc.”
45 The thing is evident. The democratic principle is this, that men have a right to choose their own magistrates, the people being the source of power, though choosing them according to certain qualities of which they are the judges. That is the principle of ministry among Presbyterians and Dissenters. They add, in one form or another, some kind of investiture for the exercise of functions. Whoever insists upon the gifts of God is evidently upon totally different ground; there is no question of politics in gifts which come from heaven.
46 The apostleship was a gift and a ministry, and this, it must be said, according to Mr. Wolff himself (for his contradictions are rather humiliating). Mr. Wolff gives the passage in 1 Corinthians 12 as a list of gifts which excludes ministry, and the apostle and the prophet are found in this list; he gives Ephesians 4 as a list of ministries, and the apostle and the prophet are found there also. (Mr. Wolff’s pamphlet, pp. n, 58, 71. No. 5.)
47 I say in a general sense, because the only application in this sense refers to the Jews; and it is quite false to say that vocation (klesis) signifies the effective calling. This word signifies, as in French, a calling, vocation. Undoubtedly, God calls the elect; (Romans 8); but so little is it true that this word signifies the effective calling which God addresses to all His elect, that it is only once found used in this sense, and nine times in a more general sense. As in French, the ordinary sense of this word in Greek expresses the character or condition which one is called to maintain or embrace (that is, the vocation). The elect have a heavenly vocation; Christians ought to abide in the vocation wherein they were called. And to shew with what levity the word is used here, the only time when the word is used in the sense of calling according to the immutable purposes of God, it applies to the Jewish nation; namely, in the passage, “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” It is a general principle as to the calling of God; but, in Scripture, this word is never applied to an inward and effectual call in the heart. In general, as regards Christianity, this expression is, as a verb, contrasted with election. Thus in the passage, “Many are called, but few are chosen,” the chosen or elect are called. Moreover, here are the passages in which this word is found: Romans 11:29; 1 Corinthians 7:20; Ephesians 1:18; ch. 4:1:4; Philippians 3:14; Hebrews 3:1; 2 Timothy 1:9; 1 Corinthians 1:26; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Peter 1:10.
48 And one must remember that ministry is “essentially different” from them (i.e. from gifts) “by its nature, its origin, and its object” (Wolff, p. 66).
49 In a word, according to Mr. Wolff, the prophet exercises a ministry which he has immediately received from God (pp. 14, 50); prophecy is a gift (p. 71); but ministry is not the exercise of a gift.
50 It is an invention of Mr. Wolff to support his system, and slyly slipped in here, that one may receive it and get accustomed to it without heeding it.
51 In effect, I do not believe that the ministry of the bishop is confined to the ministry of the word.
52 The list of Ephesians 4 is treated as a mere classification of ministry (p. 50).
53 I am well aware that the word translated “gifts” in Ephesians 4 differs from the one translated “gifts “in 1 Corinthians 12. In the tract, “On Ministry,” I have shewn the true difference. Farther on, I will speak of it in this one; but it matters not as to the change introduced here by Mr. Wolff.
54 There is still further confusion with regard to this list: Mr. Wolff says, page 47, No. 5 and 6, that the name of teacher does not designate a particular charge, but a function of evangelists and bishops, and that (No. 5) the term “teacher” includes the two charges of evangelist and bishop. Thus, according to Mr. Wolff’s system, the list which God gave us in Ephesians 4 is altogether erroneous; bishop takes the place of pastor, this latter word, according to Mr. Wolff, p. 15, being merely the ideal expression of what a good bishop should be, and the word teacher embracing the two, both evangelist and bishop, p. 47, No. 6. It is shameful thus to treat the word of God!
55 Mr. Wolff calls the “ministries “the functions which are found in Ephesians 4:11, among others, prophecy; and he says that ministry is exercised without gifts. He affirms (p. 70) that prophecy is a gift, and that it no longer exists because it is a gift. We have seen that this contradiction is very cleverly hid by the warning that, apostles and prophets being acknowledged as coming from God alone, he will say nothing about them.
56 We say, this doctrine of Calvin (namely, that there must be gifts), because, in the system of Calvin, there are gifts recognised; but Mr. Wolff, without naming Calvin, judges the system of that servant of God in these words: “To pretend to establish gifts, without miracle, is to parody them” (p. 69).
57 This passage does not prove that the Church recognised those who had laboured, but quite the contrary; for there would have been no need to take cognisance of those who laboured, if they had been publicly and officially recognised by the Church. It would have been an exhortation altogether out of place.
58 See “Remarks on the State of the Church, in Answer to the Pamphlet of Mr. Rochat” (Ecclesiastical, I, 405-413.
59 “To each is given,” 1 Corinthians 12:7; “to each was given,” Ephesians 4:7.
60 It may be applied to deacons as well as to elders. The rules for the choice of deacons are nearer to the passage than the rules given for the choice of elders; but, as I say in the test, it is a general rule for the conduct of Timothy, and may apply to every possible case of imposition of hands.
61 The expression in 1 Timothy 3:1 is sufficient in itself alone to shew the difference that exists between the gift of pastor and the charge of bishop. If God gave a pastor, he who was such by the grace of God had not to desire that gift, that function j he had it. Neither was it a question of judging of the qualities of the individual, in order to know if he was fit for that place. Christ had already judged that, when He had bestowed on him the grace to be pastor. But as to the episcopate, a person desired a charge, a certain position in a church; and the person to whom that care was entrusted was to begin by examining if the one who desired it had the requisite qualities. Could this be applied to what is said in Ephesians 4? When Christ ascended, He gave pastors and teachers. If anyone desired a gift, he had to apply to the One who gave; and if anyone aspired to a charge, he was to subject himself to an examination, that it might be known if he possessed certain qualities required for that charge.
62 “Is it not scandalous,” says Mr. Wolff, “to see in the midst of Christians some would-be strong minds resisting, freeing themselves from, duties recognised by the Church at all times, and rebelling against an institution to which the Holy Ghost Himself consented to subject Himself?”
63 “When the divine vocation in ministry is lost sight of,” says Mr. Wolff, “then one sees, as in some churches in our day, the imposition of hands conferred upon those who have no intention of devoting themselves to the service of the Church, or sought after by candidates without any certainty of ever having a charge to fill. To confer such an imposition of hands, or even to seek after it, is a monstrosity. It is to disown the inward vocation and the rights of God; it is making light of the most holy institutions; it is to debase ministry, so as only to see in it an altogether human state of things.”
64 But, then, it must not be said that there is a charge of pastor; for these two things are found in the same category, and connected with the same demonstrative pronoun, Tous de.
65 That is, for a writer who says that ministry is never the exercise of a gifts, and that ministry cannot even exist now, if there are gifts, a list of gifts is the proper classification of ministry.
66 It is singular enough that Calvin says, “Yet the pastors have a charge quite similar to that of the apostles, save that each pastor has to govern a church.” In that which is similar, in what I have said, I think I had the same thought as Calvin; but as to revelation and the power of making ordinances, the difference was absolutely complete.
67 This name was a rather remarkable anticipation of the tabernacle which was to be pitched by God’s command.
68 We might add, and also according to Mr. Gaussen; for in his pamphlet, “The Sovereign Pontiff and the Church of Rome, pillars of the truth,” etc., he applies 2 Thessalonians 2 to the papal system, as does also the French Reformed Church. Thus according to him, the apostasy is come; and we must pay attention to this, that it is not a question of the apostasy of a particular church, but of the apostasy which is to bring down judgments which will be executed at the coming of the Saviour. One may consult also “Abridged History of the Church of Jesus Christ,” etc., Geneva, 1832, vol. 1, pp. 51-133, where it will be seen how the writer speaks of the Church, both in the text and in notes L.M., pp. 100, 101.
69 The reader may further consult Matthew 16:18; Galatians 1:13; Ephesians 3:10; 21; ch. 24, 29, 32; Philippians 3:6; Colossians 1:24.
70 It is a dream he would wish us to realise (p. 44).
71 [The reader will find in the author’s later papers a correction of the phrase. Church here would be more exact than “body.” This dwelling of the Spirit is in relation to the assembly viewed as God’s habitation, house, or temple, rather than as the body of Christ.—Ed.]