Book traversal links for Is The Comforter Come? And Is He Gone?
People must retrograde if they do not advance. I know not whether those who believe with scripture, that the Church, the body of Christ, began at Pentecost, have made progress because they bow to scripture and to Christ, or that those who reject the truth on these points have lost or gone back from what they had; but the distance seems immeasurably enlarged. Whether it be that failure in faithfulness has been the occasion of the latter losing so much precious truth, I will not pretend to judge; but the ignorance of a vast field of scriptural knowledge is very striking. In the writer of the tracts I comment on, I recognize one whom I had long known, and, though entirely and in every way separated from his present course, one whose laboriousness I recognize with thankfulness to God. I am sure, and it is a joy to me, God will recognize all that is of Himself in him. But light on these subjects there is not in his tracts, but simple darkness; and all that his tracts prove is total ignorance of what the Church is, and what the presence of the Holy Ghost the Comforter is, as scripture speaks of each—of the two points, that is, of primary importance for Christians now, and those by which God is working to lead the saints on, out of the state they are systematically in, to go forth to meet the Bridegroom. The same darkness exactly it is which confounds the coming of Christ for the Church, and His appearing—I say the same.
The opposition to these two truths (the Church, and the rapture, so-called) ever and necessarily go together. The denial of these leads Christians back to, or retains them in, that out of which God is calling them.
I admit then the importance of the difference; I insist on it. I do not speak of terms of communion, but of that by which God is acting in His saints and sending even a clear gospel to sinners. That which reduces the Church to the level of Judaism reduces *he gospel to the obscurity of the legalism opposed by Paul. It is this that makes me take up these tracts. For it is really tedious to go over the ground so often trodden without one new idea, even an erroneous one, to enliven the journey; for all that is said in these tracts has been completely answered again and again. One would think that the writer must be ignorant of all that has passed in the discussion he introduces with such naive solemnity, objections without the least force to one acquainted with scripture, after the ignorance they testify of has been exposed hundreds of times.
The writer has found an obscure passage in the very valuable tract he comments on, and has made the most of it; he has found an incorrect expression used by one of his own friends who holds the truth on these points, and he makes the most of that. The latter is, “when Christ was in incarnation.” It is inexact; but every one can understand what is meant, and the speaker was quite right. He means, evidently, the period of Christ’s life on earth when incarnate down here. In the former the expressions may lead an ignorant person to confound the state of life into which Christ has entered (and what is necessary to association and union with Himself, in contrast with His state down here, in which there could not possibly be union) with the fact of life in power in the Son. This last is the prerogative of the Son at all times (yet never revealed till He was incarnate). He could and did quicken while on earth (John 5), but there was no union with Him. But this is obscurely expressed, and union with Him in life spoken of, or, as it is there expressed, “be united to Him in the same life that He has,” which might lead to suppose union to consist in life—a notion as common as it is unscriptural and false. And, as this is the false doctrine of the commentator, he has naturally taken it in his own sense; as to which one may fairly excuse him. But his whole system of doctrine as to it is mere popular error, a hundred times exposed.
It is exceedingly important to see the doctrine our opponents, with the mass of Evangelicals, hold as to the Holy Ghost—their total denial of what constitutes the essential difference of the christian position; and that, not only as to the Church, but as to the individual. What constitutes the essential difference of the present christian state (not its foundation, but its essential difference) is the presence of the Comforter. This it is the prophets had prophesied of; this it is Christ had promised; this it is He gave as the witness of His being gone on high and set down at God’s right hand. T. M. and his companions affirm that this is lost to the Church. There was nothing, they will have it, peculiar at Pentecost, but what are called miraculous gifts, and they are gone. Here are his words: “The scripture is, ‘baptized with the Holy Ghost,’ or ‘in the Holy Ghost.’ Acts 1:5; 2:15. The obvious meaning is, that they were to be submerged or baptized into the powers of the Holy Ghost, which took place at Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost came down upon them … Does our speaker mean to say that we have now the Pentecostal baptism which he connects with 1 Corinthians 12:12, &c? If so, we must now be in the enjoyment of Pentecostal gifts, which most certainly we have not.” “The fact is, that our being baptized by one Spirit into one body is not subsequent to regeneration, but an integral and necessary part of it.” I believe these statements to be the root principle of the apostasy prophesied of, and a denial of the essential characteristic of Christianity, the power and grace consequent on the exaltation of Jesus to the right hand of God, and the fruit of His finished work. This consisted simply, they say, in the enjoyment of Pentecostal gifts, which most certainly we have not.
Let us see how scripture speaks on this point. The fact of miracles clearly does not make the difference. They were wrought of old, and by the Lord, and, through His power, by the disciples. It is true that, in their extent and in their character in certain respects (and these very interesting ones, such as tongues), there was a difference. The apostles were to do greater things than those which Christ had done, because He went to the Father. But the fact of miracles did not make the difference. They were wrought of old. But the outpouring of the Spirit was spoken of by the prophets as distinctive of the great time of Messiah’s blessing— the hoped-for promised blessing. It was identified with the blessing of Abraham coming on the Gentiles. The Jews received it then. Galatians 3:14. This was the glory of the great promise in Joel; this, the blessed promise connected with the Redeemer come to Zion, Isaiah 59; this the promise of full blessing by the same prophet in chapter 32:15. Messiah did come and was rejected; but this presence of the Holy Ghost (though Christ was not there, and so far in lieu of His presence) became for that very reason the essential, necessary, distinctive, present blessing of Christianity, founded on the perfect accomplishment of His work and His exaltation to the right hand of God. This the Lord carefully teaches us Himself in the Gospel of John: “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, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” This is a most important passage. No Christian in the world thinks that that divine person began to exist after that. I need not dwell on this with any who are in the truth.
Scripture shews that that divine Spirit is the direct agent in creation and on creatures from the beginning. The Spirit of God moved on the face of the waters. By His Spirit He garnished the heavens. I might cite other passages; and even the Lord Himself in His blessed works on earth could say, “If I by the Spirit of God cast out devils.” So every believer knows that the Spirit of God wrought on the prophets. I need not multiply quotations.
But that this divine Person should come and take up His abode on earth, consequent on an accomplished redemption, was a wholly new thing; and this was so distinct and prominent a fact, and a faa so characteristic of the earthly condition, of a state of things which was the special object of God’s eternal counsels, that it is said, looking at earth, “The Holy Ghost was not yet.” That which could be called the Holy Ghost (that is, His personal presence on earth in the redeemed) was not yet; and the reason is given: Jesus was not yet glorified. The Holy Ghost might accomplish every divine operation which was to be wrought; but He could not dwell, and have a temple on earth as come down from heaven, until Christ was in heaven as man having accomplished redemption—till Jesus was glorified. This distinction of the previous operations of the Spirit, and His coming down, is clearly made by Peter: “The prophets searched what and what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories which should follow; to whom it was revealed that not unto themselves but unto us they did minister the things which are now reported unto you by them which have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.” The Spirit of Christ was in the prophets. Now the Holy Ghost is sent down from heaven. But the end of John’s Gospel treats this subject at large (chap. 14:16): “I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Comforter that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knowedi him; but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” The Father had been revealed in the Son. That they ought to have known (ver. 9, 10); but now they should know that He was in the Father, and they in Him, and He in them. This was a wholly new thing by the Comforter. The Father was to send Him in Christ’s name.
In chapter 15 Christ, on the other hand, sends Him from the Father, and He was to testify of Christ. “When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father.” And so immeasurably important was this, that, great and precious as was the blessing of having Christ there, He told them the truth: “It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you, but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”
Now I beg the reader to weigh very earnestly all these testimonies of the Lord to the sending and coming of the Holy Ghost, after, and consequent upon, Christ’s going away. They were told accordingly to tarry at Jerusalem till they were endued with power from on high. On the departure of Christ they were assured they were to be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (Acts 1:5.) The importance of this we may judge of by its being presented by John Baptist as one of the two great features which distinctively characterized the Christ, the other being that He was the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:33; Matt. 3:11.) But, further, we are assured that it was only on His going up on high that Christ received the Spirit to this end. (Acts. 2:33.) “Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear.” So Peter testifies to his auditors, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” So, again, Acts 5:32: “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him”—connecting this gift, as spoken of in Acts, with John 15:26,27. So in John’s Epistle we read, “And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him; and hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.”
Now these scriptures make it plain, as plain as God’s testimony can make it, that the Holy Ghost—what is called distinctively, “the Holy Ghost” and the Comforter—was not given until after Christ was exalted; that, if Christ had not gone away, He could not have come; and that He never came till Christ had been so exalted: then He was sent, Christ having then received Him according to the promise of the Father. I say the Holy Ghost, as thus come, “was not” till Christ was exalted. If it was merely an integral and necessary part of regeneration, then nobody was regenerate before at all. That the Comforter thus promised was not regeneration or quickening16 is quite certain, however, because “the Son quickens whom he will.”
And further, during His lifetime the dead did hear His voice, and they that heard lived; yet the Comforter was not yet come. The Father raises up the dead and quickens them, and so the Son quickens whom He will. But the Comforter could not come till Christ went away. The coming of the Comforter is not quickening. But T. M. will surely say,” Of course it is not.” The coming of the Comforter was after Christ’s exaltation. It was the conferring of “Pentecostal gifts, which most certainly we have not.” Now this is just the point. The Comforter is not quickening: as is certain. That took place before Christ was on high; the sending of the Comforter did not. It is then the enjoyment of “Pentecostal gifts which certainly we have not.” That is, we have not the Comforter! Do you not see, my reader, what a serious thing this is—where this dreadful system lands us in the total denial of the presence of the Comforter as the portion of Christians? What then comes of the statement, that the promise of the Holy Ghost, to be received after they repented and were baptized, was to all that were afar off, even to as many as the Lord their God should call? What comes of the Lord’s promise, that He would give them another Comforter, who could not come till He went away, but that He would abide with them for ever? Whatever the Comforter was, He certainly was not given at all till Christ went away and was glorified—that is, was not what existed before in action of the Holy Ghost in prophets and saints. If it be only Pentecostal gifts, and if we certainly have not the enjoyment of them, then the Comforter is gone. But if it be something else, though displayed in these, if it be the true presence of God by the Spirit on earth in the saints, then my opponents, and alas! many others, are denying the true presence of God on the earth in His saints— that immeasurably important and divine fact, which was to characterize Christianity, and be the source of all our present blessing—what alone makes Christianity what it is. If God dwells in us by His Spirit, this is not merely Pentecostal gifts, nor is it merely the fact that I am spiritually alive through grace.
The doctrine of T. M.’s tract is the denial of the presence of God by the Spirit with the Church or the saint; though Christ has promised He should abide for ever with us, and that all whom God should call should receive Him. Let us now trace what scripture teaches us positively on this point also. These quotations will serve to shew also the deadly error of T. M. in confounding the baptism of the Holy Ghost, or the saints receiving Him, with regeneration, or being born again.
The scripture is as plain as words can be. First, in the quoted passage: “This spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive.” They believed on Him, and must do so, before they received the Spirit thus; but we are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. That is, they were first children, regenerate, and afterward received the Holy Ghost. And this is distinctly thus followed out in Galatians, “We are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus;” and, having received the adoption of sons by the Son’s coming down here for us and redeeming us, “because we are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” Note, it is not Pentecostal gifts, but the Spirit crying Abba in our hearts.
Again, Peter says, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Now I suppose T. M. would admit that, when they had repented and were baptized, they were what he calls regenerate. But this, according to Peter, was only the ground of their receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost as a consequence. Indeed, all the eleven were quickened believers, clean through the word spoken to them; but they were to receive and did receive the Holy Ghost afterwards.
In perfect analogy with Peter’s sermon, Paul asks the disciples at Ephesus, “Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?” —a question perfectly senseless had that receiving been an integral and necessary part of their regeneration. Their answer was, “We have not so much as heard if the Holy Ghost is”—that is, if what John has taught us has been fulfilled, that Christ would baptize with the Holy Ghost.
Again, we read in Ephesians, “In whom, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” Again, in 2 Corinthians 1, “He that stablisheth us together with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God, who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.” So in 1 Corinthians 6:19, “What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost… which ye have of God?” It is not a regenerate state of the heart; but the body the temple of the Holy Ghost. Again, in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, they lie to the Holy Ghost—lie therefore to God. For the Church was builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
We have thus the certainty from scripture of the personal presence of God in the Church, and in the saint, in the person of the Spirit, after and distinct from believing and being children, and the seal of that faith, the fruit of accomplished redemption, and hence after, and only after, the exaltation of Jesus, by whom and in whose name by the Father He was sent down as the other Comforter. And this is simple, when we consider who are regenerated, and who are sealed; for unbelievers only can be regenerated, believers only can be sealed.
There never was any thought of God’s dwelling in the midst of His people until redemption was accomplished. He never dwelt with Adam, never with Abraham, but visited both. But so soon as Israel was redeemed out of Egypt, He tells them that it was that He might dwell amongst them. (Ex. 29:46.) Now He does so by His Spirit, but that is consequent on redemption. Figures taught the same thing: the leper or the priest, first washed— regeneration; then sprinkled with blood, as we with that of Christ; then anointed, that is, with the Holy Ghost—not the washing of regeneration, but the Holy Ghost given to us. So, when we receive the promise of the Spirit through faith, the faith comes first. The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirits that we are sons, and He helps our infirmities, making intercession according to God. I might cite other passages, but let these suffice. Believers are sealed with the Holy Ghost; unbelievers are regenerated by Him, and they must be the latter before they can be sealed by that Holy Spirit of promise.
And is it merely gifts? Our body, remember, is a temple through our receiving Him; it is not a mere action from without, but His dwelling in us. Is that merely Pentecostal gifts? The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given to us. He is the earnest of our inheritance. We are led of the Spirit, guided into all truth by Him. Is all this gone, or is it merely regeneration? Is there not a personal presence of the Holy Ghost the Comforter, dwelling in the saint whose body He makes a temple, dwelling in the house of God, the habitation of God through the Spirit?
The distinctive character of Christ, besides being the Lamb of God, was that He could baptize with the Holy Ghost. But this could not be till He was exalted to the right hand of God. He was anointed and sealed, the scripture tells us, but stood alone until He died. And now we are sealed and anointed with the promised Spirit which He has received as exalted of the Father. This constitutes Christianity—the exalting of Christ and the consequent conferring of the Holy Ghost.
These teachers come and assure us that it was all the same before: only that Pentecostal gifts were given which have wholly ceased. So that we are reduced, though Christ be exalted, to the old patriarchal or Jehovah condition. It is the denial of Christianity—I do not say of Christ, but it is of Christianity. And now remark how this connects itself with the doctrine of the Church. Christ having been exalted as man to the right hand of God, the Holy Spirit comes down and unites us to Him, the Head, as sitting at God’s right hand. “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” That is the body of Christ: He the Head on high, we His members on earth. Hence it could not be till Christ was exalted. You must have the Head to have the members. If Pentecost be merely gifts, this is not the case—there is no union. Gifts do not unite. They are exercised in the members of the already one body. But if they be only distinct gifts, we are regenerate individuals and no more.
But it will be said, “Had not the Son quickening power from the beginning?” Undoubtedly. This is not the question at all. We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. This had no application whatever until He was incarnate. It will be said, “It is a figure.” Be it so, but it is a figure which applies to Him only when He is become a man. And when He had become a man, we could not then be members of His body, because He had not accomplished redemption, and taken His place as man on high (the place in which He was to be Head as man), and sent down the Holy Ghost to unite us to Himself. And here is the application of the plain words, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone.” He is not speaking here of divine quickening power (that had nothing to do with being alone), but of Himself, man, the Son who had taken the place as a man, the Christ. As man, He was alone, not united to men, though a true man. If He died, He would, being exalted, associate believers with Himself, yea, unite them to Himself. He might, as Son of God, quicken souls in a divine way: and the essence of everlasting blessing is in that; but we could not be quickened together with Him as one raised from among the dead, raised up together and made to sit together in heavenly places, unless He, a man, was raised.
And this is the doctrine of scripture, “What is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and every name which is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come; and gave him to be head over all things to the assembly, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Now whomsoever he might divinely quicken, all this is impossible—evidently has no place—till Christ is raised and exalted as man. It is as sent, as raised, and exalted by God, that He is given to be Head to the Church, His body. It is the exalted man that is the Head, who is surely the Word, the eternal Son. But it is not as Word, or Son, that He is given to be the Head of the body, but as a man raised by God from the dead. Such is the doctrine of the word of God.
T. M. and his friends may think it a small thing, if they have life from God, to be united to Christ, the exalted Head on high; I do not; scripture does not. It is the exceeding greatness of God’s power to usward who believe. Now it is perfectly clear that Abraham could not be this, because Christ was not incarnate and exalted. He may have been quickened by the Son; he could not be united to the risen exalted man at God’s right hand; for none such was there. T. M. and others before him tell us that he will be hereafter, that there is some new work of God to go on in another world, by which what did not and could not take place in this world will in the next.
But we must have some other authority than T. M., or any one else, for this. We must have the word of God. I shall shew, farther on, that scripture speaks otherwise in the rare passages that refer to it. One thing is certain, which is the main point for us, that in this world the distinction exists. Abraham was not united by the Holy Ghost to a glorified man in heaven, for there was no glorified man in heaven; the Holy Ghost consequently was not yet, who unites us. Is it a small thing that there is a man sitting at the right hand of God, and that we are united to Him?
And here, let me remark in passing, is the tendency to confusion in the passage of the tract made use of by T. M., “united to him in life.” The words are perfectly true, but there was no distinction previously made between the quickening power of the Son of God, and our being quickened together with Him as a man raised from the dead, and raised up together, and made to sit together. And as T. M. is wholly ignorant of the last, and only knows life-giving power in Christ, which he considers union (as many others whom I cordially own as Christ’s saints), he takes “united to him in life” in the only sense he is acquainted with. So far it is, as I have said, an excuse for him; but the excuse is his entire ignorance of this wondrous truth, our quickening together with Christ, and our union with Him, so as to be members of His body, as described in the end of Ephesians 1 and beginning of Ephesians 2. And this is the assembly viewed as the body.
It has another character—the house of God. As such, it is the habitation of God through the Spirit, as we see in Ephesians 2. Compare i Timothy 3:15. Hence in 1 Corinthians Christians are told, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” None of this is regeneration, but the personal presence of the Holy Ghost on earth. T. M. may count this a small thing. I need hardly say that such an assembly never existed before Christ’s exaltation. He gave Himself to gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.
But, further, T. M. insists that the baptizing into one body is by regeneration, not by the Holy Ghost given, the Pentecostal gifts being the only other blessing by the Spirit. But then he cannot have read the chapter (1 Cor. 12), because it speaks of gifts, not of regeneration at all. See verses 1,4—indeed the whole chapter. “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.” “To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom,” and so on. The gifts are the manifestations of the Spirit given to profit withal. “All these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” I ask any man in his senses rf this can apply to regeneration. And now what follows? “For as the body is one and hath many members … so also is Christ; for by one Spirit we have all been baptized into one body;” and then he proceeds to consider the diversity in the members. Again, “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the assembly, first apostles,” &c. In a word, there is not a word about regeneration in the chapter; but the Holy Ghost distributing gifts to each severally as He will, and that we are baptized by one Spirit into one body, each member having his distinct office; all of which has nothing to do with regeneration. The Church, then, being Christ’s body, could not exist before the Head was in heaven, as Ephesians i teaches clearly, nor the habitation of God through the Spirit when the Spirit was not sent. But the doctrine of the Church’s being only now set up, or revealed, is positively taught in scripture. The apostle says, Ephesians 3, “To make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things, to the intent that now unto principalities and powers in the heavenly places might be made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.” So in Colossians 1, “The mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.”
T. M. and his friends tells us it was and must have been revealed in the Old Testament. I can only say I prefer believing the word of God, which tells me it was hid in God (than which nothing can be more absolute), and is now manifested. T. M. goes so far as to say it was formerly not fully revealed, and not revealed at all to Gentiles (p. 23): a thought there is not a trace of in scripture; while scripture declares it was hid from ages and generations—hid in God. Yet we are told the death of Christ was to produce a formal and visible unity, and that the children of God were scattered abroad in former ages; that is, in plain terms, were not an assembly, but after the death of Christ were.
We are told that Stephen speaks of “the assembly in the wilderness;” no doubt T. M. may find (hundreds of times, and with three distinct words in Hebrew) the assembly or congregation. Was that the gathering together in one the children of God which were scattered abroad? This is trifling, often as it is quoted. I cannot consider the person who deliberately quotes Acts 7 to prove the Church to have existed then, an honest man. Of course it was an assembly: so was the riot at Ephesus, and called by the same name. Is there any honesty in applying it to the body of Christ—these men whose carcases fell in the wilderness? There is only one quotation which is plausible—not for the existence of the Church, it proves the contrary, but—for its being prophesied of. It proves the contrary of its existence before Christ’s resurrection; because the Psalm has gone on to the resurrection, and brings this in it as the fruit of it. But it is plausible as alleging it was prophesied of. It is quite sufficient for me to know that the mystery was hid in God; but, like all difficulties in scripture, it gives fresh light if God be patiently waited on. It is quite clear, if we look at the Psalm, it refers to the remnant of Israel, and then to all Israel. And it was literally so fulfilled in John 20. The Psalm then goes on to the millennium. Whereas the mystery hid, the assembly of which the epistles speak, is the uniting Jews and Gentiles into one body (suvsswma) in Christ. Psalm 22 does not touch on ascension. It was fulfilled by the Lord before His ascension, necessary, as we have seen, to His sending the Holy Ghost. Psalm 22 passes from the resurrection to the last days, when all Israel will be gathered, and leaves out entirely what Paul calls the assembly.
We have spoken and justly spoken of the Church, as Paul speaks of it. The mere word may mean anything, from the tumultuous meeting at Ephesus to the bride and body of Christ. But to apply these uses of them to that bride is an abuse of words, or wicked cavilling. The quotation of the passage in the Hebrews has nothing to do with the matter. The epistle does not ever go on the ground of union with Christ, or of the Church; but on Christ being a mediator between God and the saints, or as One over God’s house. The passage is quoted, not to say anything good or bad as to the Church, but to shew that Christ is not ashamed to call the saints brethren. Blessed truth! But it is all on Jewish ground (that is, Christ’s connection with the remnant) though we are grafted in. The saints are viewed as partakers of the heavenly calling, not as members of Christ’s body. But the passage in the Psalm was not, any more than the type of Eve, and many other such, in the smallest degree a previous revelation of the Church. Now we have the Church, we can apply Eve to it. But Eve was simply Adam’s wife and the transgressing woman, as known in the Old Testament, and revealed just nothing at all. And Psalm 22 spoke of the Messiah in the congregation of Israel and revealed nothing more. “The congregation” to a Jew was the congregation of Israel, and the Gentiles are not hinted at in the Psalm till the millennium is spoken of. Now I have the key to it, I can use it for the congregation as begun after Christ’s resurrection at Jerusalem. But it revealed beforehand absolutely nothing of the mystery of the one body of Jews and Gentiles.
Let me add a consideration which may facilitate, to persons who, like T. M., believe in Christ’s coming before the millennium, the thought of persons being saved and regenerate who form no part of the Church or body of Christ. There will certainly be saints on earth during the millennium. Now before that begins the marriage of the Lamb is come and His bride has made herself ready; so that it is perfectly clear there are saints, regenerate persons, who do not form part of the bride. For the bride is ready, and the marriage come, and these saints are manifested afterwards.
I will now examine the statements from which T. M. concludes that the Old Testament saints form part of the body of Christ— concludes, for scripture he has none. I meet constantly,” I believe,” “I think,” “it is scarcely conceivable that he should have left out,” and the like. All this is nothing but proof that proofs were wanting.
The quotation of Heb. 11:39, 40 is rather impudent however: T. M. says, “Until we of this dispensation were ready to share like blessings with them;” the passage, “God having provided some better thing for us.” That is, the scripture declares that we have better things, though perfected in resurrection together; T. M. and his friends, that we have like blessings. Well, I believe scripture—that we have a better thing—and not T. M. But this is the whole question—just what they will not allow. “The mother of us all” may be excused, as the author is not versed in criticism. But every one who is acquainted with the subject knows that the true sentence is, “Who is our mother” so that it is a testimony the other way.
T. M. asks if it can be supposed for a moment that, if the Old Testament saints pass into a real and substantial resurrection condition in glory … that they are not united to Christ and to us in this dispensation, and that in the fullest sense, and in the same sense as we are united to Christ, as part of His body. I answer, I suppose nothing, but learn from scripture. But why not? Why are all risen saints necessarily part of the body and bride of Christ? It is clear when on earth they were not; for the Christ we are united to did not exist as head in glory. What scripture has T. M.? where some future act by which they are? The giving life is no proof of union at all. Possession of life is not union. My children receive life from me; they are not my bride.
T. M. asks, “If the Holy Ghost be God, how is it that He has not been always here?” Here you have the key to the whole system: the sending of the Comforter, consequent on Christ’s death and exaltation, is wholly ignored. Supposing I were to say, Is the Son God or not? If He be, how can it be said that He was not always here? My question ignores Christianity, as to the Father’s sending the Son to be the Saviour of the world. T. M.’s question ignores Christianity as to the sending of the Spirit and His dwelling in us. His spiritual actings are not confined to this dispensation; but His presence as sent and dwelling on earth is, if scripture be true. As regards the assertion that the tract commented on says, that “it is life in Christ which unites to Christ’s body,” I cannot find it. It says, “united to Him in the same life that He has,” which is quite true, though it has misled T. M. But it adds, “It is not, however, life only, but the presence of the Holy Ghost down here, that forms the body.” T. M. is quite unwarranted in saying that the tract asserts, that it is life in Christ which unites to Christ’s body. I repeat, the communication of life by Christ, or the possession of life from Him, is never union. It may be necessary to it. Both may come in an instant, but life and faith must be there for us to be sealed with the Holy Ghost, by which we are united. On this scripture is clear and positive, as we have seen. God took care at the beginning that there should be an interval. I see no reason, now the Comforter is come, why we should not be sealed the instant we believe; but believing must come first, or there is nothing and no one to seal, for believers only are sealed.
T. M. asks, Are we to come to the conclusion that so honoured a servant of Christ (as Enoch) is to have no place in it (the Church)? He then speaks of Noah. My answer is, You must conclude nothing at all, but give me some scripture for it. The Church did not exist: so they could not be in it. Where was the body when there was no head? Where was the assembly of which Noah formed a part? Where was the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven to unite, or the Christ to be united to? All that is said here, is false reasoning without scripture. In the recital of their deeds, the apostle says, “And these all… received not the promises: God having provided some better thing for us.” That better thing then they had not, in spite of all the claptrap appeal to prejudice. It was expedient that Christ should go away, so excellent was what the apostles got; so far is it from being true that they had nothing better than the patriarchs. “So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” The apostle was contrasting law and faith, and shewing who got the blessing. But what the blessing is is spoken of—the blessing of the nations by Him; not the Church, of which there is no question, good or bad. The Church was no subject of promise at all.
And Paul carefully distinguishes (Col. 1) the ministry of the gospel, and the ministry of the Church to complete the word of God. No doubt, as believing Abraham was blessed, believers will be blessed with Abraham. But this says absolutely nothing of a place in the Church. Whoever believed was blessed, as was witnessed in Abraham; that Abraham had righteousness by faith and we too—all true; that he is the heir of the world—beyond doubt; but how these shew that he was a member of the body of Christ, no one can tell. They do not speak of the matter. Abraham had a heavenly hope; but why does this say he is of the body the Church? The passage is shewing that the law brought a curse and faith a blessing, as the case of Abraham proved, and that hence we, having faith, got blessing with Abraham; but that the blessing involved identity of position, there is not a trace of. That it did not, is proved by the passage—falsified by T. M. in quoting it— that God had provided some better thing for us. The mystery formed no part of revelation, no subject of promise. It was hid in God. I have already remarked that an historical type does not reveal a thing at all till the antitype comes. It is a simple history. Romans 16:25 does not simply relate to the preaching of the gospel, as is said. It speaks of a mystery kept secret since the world began, but now made manifest.
The bringing in of the Gentiles was not an unrevealed mystery. It is referred to in many scriptures; but Romans 16:25 speaks of a mystery kept secret since the world began, and to say that this is what is plainly taught in the Old Testament scriptures referred to is a bold defiance of scripture, and that is all. To say that “Rejoice ye Gentiles with his people,” and “I will set thee for a light to the Gentiles,” is a matter kept secret since the world began, is to trifle with the word of God. The only thing it proves is that the writer is ignorant of the mystery, now it is revealed, and knows nothing beyond the passages quoted. The Lord, it is said, expounded after His resurrection the things concerning Himself. It is scarcely conceivable that He should have left out the calling of the Gentiles in His exposition. Concerning Himself is not concerning the Church, but as to His own person. The Spirit was to come to guide them into all the truth. It is expressly stated, that He was shewing them “that Christ must suffer and enter into his glory.” (Luke 24:26, 44-46.) A person must be singularly hard driven up to quote such scripture as this, and in the face of positive scriptures that it is now revealed by the Spirit, and had been kept secret since the world began—hid in God. The calling of the Gentiles is not in itself the formation of the Church. “Rejoice ye Gentiles with his people” is a different thought. It justifies blessing to the Gentiles which the Jews would not hear of, “forbidding to preach to the Gentiles that they might be saved.” But it treats the Jews as God’s people, whereas in the Church there is neither Jew nor Gentile at all.
All this proves merely that T. M. has not the smallest idea of what the Church is, and is really most tedious to have to answer. No one denies that Christ spoke prophetically of the Church, though the Church itself was not yet revealed; but John 10:16 does not even do this. Gathering individuals into a flock does shew the calling of the Gentiles, which had always been revealed, and approaches the outward state of things here. But the doctrine of the Church is not in it at all (that is, of the body of Christ). All this still only proves (what indeed makes all plain, as to the whole of these teachers), that they have not the scriptural doctrine of the Church at all. John never speaks of the Church—once of a local church—but never of the Church, but of Christ and individuals. None of the apostles speaks of the Church, nor uses the word of Christians as a whole, but Paul. It was a dispensation committed to him, as he tells us. Christ prophesies of it; the Acts relate historically its being founded; but no one speaks of it as a teacher, or doctrinally, but Paul. The nearest approach is an allusion in i Peter 2 to the temple: “We are built up a spiritual house.” T. M. is forced to admit that this purpose of God in gathering the saints into one was revealed in a manifested form and visible unity, never known or seen before. It is easy to say, never known or seen. When did it exist before? Where was the head to which the body was to be united? or did it subsist without any head at all?
That Ephesians 3:5, 6 does not mean fellow-heirs with all the Jewish redeemed, if by that is meant they should be one body, is perfectly certain, because chapter 2 shews that Christ made of twain one new man, and that this is the way they are fellow-citizens and fellow-heirs, thus reconciling both in one body. It is very convenient to take only the expression “fellow-heirs” and to leave out the one body, which is expressly revealed to be a new thing. And note here a striking proof that in every sense the Church must be a new thing—as a fact, not merely as a revelation. Judaism was founded on and maintained by the keeping up the middle wall of partition; the Church is founded on its being cast down. To have revealed the Church during the subsisting of Judaism would have been to have destroyed the whole force and value of the revelation by which Judaism subsisted. The Lord, when His death was approaching which was to do it, could prophetically reveal it, in general terms, as a fact, and so He does in Matthew 16. But that was because Judaism was passing away. T. M. is obliged yet again to admit that the Gentile calling, comparatively hidden and unrevealed, is “the subject of a positive and bodily manifestation.” “Now that the head has appeared, the truth of the body is no longer kept secret, and the secret purpose of God, hid in other ages from the sons of men, is becoming manifest.” Was ever greater confusion? The truth of the body then was kept secret; it was a secret purpose of God hid in other ages from the sons of men. So we say; so scripture says; so T. M. says now. But why in the beginning of the sentence is it “comparatively hidden?” Here it is a “secret purpose” and “kept secret.” Which is true? Why alter scripture, and say “comparatively hid in God?” But the calling of the Gentiles was neither comparatively nor in any other way hid, but revealed as clearly as possible in passages already quoted, “Rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people,” &c,—not even comparatively hid; but the other, if we are to believe scripture, was kept secret—hid in God. Why will not T. M. believe it, instead of changing scripture to meet his theory and contradict himself in the same page?
But Colossians i affords another important witness besides verses 25, 26, namely, verse 18. It is as risen from the dead that Christ is the beginning, the Head of the body. It is not merely that as Son He quickens and gives life (this is blessedly true), but that as risen from the dead, He takes a wholly new place Himself, as man, is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, and becomes the head of the body, the Church. It is not merely the value of a work, or the operation of divine power, but a place now first taken, and a special place; not a place held in common with others (which, in a certain sense, is true of resurrection), but a place of pre-eminence, in which He is alone: the Head and the assembly united to Him as His body. T. M. is forced to admit the difference now of a manifested form and visible unity never seen before: let me add, a union with Christ impossible before; for we could not be members of Christ until He took His place as Head.
But T. M. assures us “that when they (Jews and Gentiles) pass out of them into an eternal state, these distinctions vanish.” The distinction of Jews and Gentiles has vanished now in the assembly, because it is an eternal thing—is what remains. But where does T. M. find that the Church’s distinctive position, which he cannot deny here, vanishes in another world? Where is his gospel of a new work in that unseen world, which is to introduce those who were not in the Church here into it there? I read, “To him be glory in the Church throughout all ages.” It is an eternal relationship as such, which the Church, formed here, keeps. So I read, “The tabernacle of God is with men.” But that is the heavenly Jerusalem, the Bride, the Lamb’s wife, still God’s dwelling and with men. So in Hebrews 12,1 read of the Church of the firstborn whose names are written in heaven, and of the spirits of just men made perfect. Why this distinction, if all are to be swamped in one?
Thus, while these teachers are obliged to invent a new gospel as to another world, to make the distinctions, which they cannot deny, vanish there, the few passages which speak of such subjects clearly speak of their continuance. Page 27 of T. M.’s tract is a revelation of his own. But what is important to me is the real present difference of the Church. Now all that T. M. says in this part of the tract proves only that he has not the idea of the Church at all. He knows, he tells us, no redemption apart from the blood of Christ; nor do I. Christ’s death and resurrection must be the basis of all union, relationship, and blessing: agreed. No life apart from Christ’s eternal life. As far as I understand T. M.’s meaning here, I admit it, though I doubt he apprehends the force of eternal life as used in scripture; but as he uses it, I have already said the same thing. No power to quicken the soul save the power of the Holy Ghost: all right.
But all this does not say one word of union with Christ, the Man exalted to God’s right hand, by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven and dwelling in us. He adds, “according to this view I am constrained to admit all believers into the Church of God.” But in the blessings he has spoken of, he has not mentioned a single thing which, according to scripture, constitutes the Church of God. He tells us, that when immortality sets in, there shall be but one flock and one Shepherd, one body, one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one God and Father of all. This does but add to the confusion and display of ignorance the tract exhibits. All this is true now> and cannot apply as to much of it “when immortality sets in;” there will be no hope and faith then. But farther, while it is true now, it will not be true at all when we are glorified; because when, for us at any rate, “immortality sets in,” and that is the proper hope of our calling, there will be saints on earth in quite a different state. Let me remind my good friend, T. M., too, that at that time the marriage of the Lamb will have come, and His wife have made herself ready; that is, the Church will be complete and the marriage will have taken place.
T. M. asks the reader’s careful consideration of Galatians 4:1-7. He tells us, they (the Old Testament saints) are called “the heir,” “lord of all,” “children.” “Thus they had all the privilege and calling of the Church.” Could I ask a clearer proof of the total ignorance of what the Church is than this tract displays? Not one of these terms gives the proper character and standing of the Church at all. No doubt the individuals who compose it partake of all this. But the Church’s place is not spoken of at all in it. There is nothing of union with Christ the Head; nothing of being His body; nothing of being the bride; nothing of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. They were children not differing from servants, whereas we have the Spirit of adoption; but the Church’s place is not spoken of. When will these dear friends submit to learn the truth, instead of printing and publishing their own (scripturally) unlearned thoughts!
I do not go into other questions. Errors and false grounds of attack, even on his own friends, abound in this production; as, for example, that as to the gospels and epistles is a most untrue and unfounded accusation on the author’s own shewing. But we can expect no right judgment from those who do not submit to the word. But I confine myself to the one question.
We are told that ‘building on the rock’ is a Jewish prophecy. (Is. 28.) It is nothing of the kind. Jehovah is, no doubt, called a Rock, and Christ is prophesied of in Isaiah 28 as the sure foundation-stone. But the only point we are concerned in is the building of the Church on it, and of that Isaiah does not say a word, nor allude to it. The Lord’s statement is not the revelation of the assembly, which is brought out as union with a glorified man, but it does surely teach that the Church was to begin thereafter. If He had said, I build, or, am building, it might be said; but it was a new direct revelation to Peter from the Father, that that humbled man, the rejected Messiah, was the Son of the living God; upon that He declares that He will build, not had been building, His Church.
T. M. quotes John 15 as a proof that the Church was formed on earth. I deny entirely that John 15 applies to the Church. The branches are cut off: members of Christ’s body cannot be cut off from it. The vine was Israel, but not the true Vine. Christ on earth—only on earth—was the true Vine. I say on earth, for there is pruning, and bringing forth fruit, and cutting off. All this is on earth, and was true then. The false application of this to the Church has led to a mass of difficulties. There may be an analogy in professors now—the Church in its outward profession; but that is all. The same substitution of Christ to Israel may be seen in Isaiah 49, and Matthew’s use of Hosea’s prophecy, “I have called my son out of Egypt,” but all relating to earth. The Church is seated in heavenly places in Christ; there is no pruning and cutting off in heavenly places. These views lead astray on every point.
It is a loose way of speaking to say, “fortunate to live a few days longer till Pentecost was come.” The thief himself was the first witness, so to speak, that the veil was rent. I do not know whether T. M. thinks it a small thing that “the way into the holiest” was not made manifest till Christ died. One thing is certain, that he counts the gift of the Holy Ghost, the coming of the Comforter, which made it expedient that the blessed One should go away, a very small matter. The thief was not so fortunate as to wait a few days.
I reply to his questions.
First. The Gospels do not contain the widest possible form of instruction. I know no part of scripture so blessed, because they present Christ Himself to me. But they teach me that as to truth there were many things which Christ had to teach, which the disciples could not then bear, and that the Spirit was to guide them into all truth. If T. M. does not believe this, he does not bow to what Christ says in the gospels.
Secondly. We are to believe that the Church was not related to Christ when He was on earth; because Ephesians tells us He was to be exalted in order to be the Head of the body, and that by His death He was to make of twain one new man, and reconcile both in one body by the cross.
Thirdly. No doubt the disciples were children of God while Christ was on earth, but they had not the Spirit of adoption, nor did Christ own them as His brethren. The expression of “brother and sister” has evidently no relation to this. They were as much His mother as His brethren.
Fourthly. It is no part of our faith that the blood of Christ gives an equal standing and relationship to all whom it cleanses— not even as on earth. It gives power to enter into the holiest. It did not on earth to the Old Testament saints; it will not to the millennial saints on earth. It is “a new and living way which is opened to us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh.” As to any standing and relationship with Christ in the heavenly state, that must be learnt from scripture, not from human inferences. When a scripture is brought which teaches me that all saints are the body and bride of Christ, I shall of course bow. I read that God has reserved some better things for us. Salvation is the same for all; but our special place must be learned from God’s revealed purpose. If the result must be the same, why are there those who sit on the right hand and on the left, others who do not? If there is a difference in degree, as T. M. is forced to admit, then the blood of Christ does not involve equality of place; if it did, it must be absolute equality; if this be not so, the inference is false. We must learn from the word what is true.
Fifthly. We are to limit Matthew 16 to the formation of the Church at Pentecost and after. It is not an Old Testament prophecy at all. It does not contain a promise to Israel in the millennial days. Were it even so, it could not be true of days preceding Christ’s coming.
Sixthly. We are to hold that the Old Testament saints are not united to Him. It is a delusion to hold that men are united to Christ because they are quickened and raised by Him.
The seventh is a mere false accusation against his own friends. No such thing is said in his friend’s speech, as quoted by T. M. It is only said they are not so easy to be understood, which is quite true, and for the reason stated.
Eighthly. Romans does not contain the truth of the Church. In practical exhortation, it alludes to it as existing in chapter 12; but it is not at all the subject of its teaching. It speaks of what is even more important, individual justification and peace, forgiveness of sins, and judgment of the law of the old man, and freedom from it in a new life. Nay, more; it does not (save in an allusion, in order to speak of intercession) speak of Christ as ascended. It teaches us the new condition into which Christ’s death and resurrection bring us. It is so far a contrast to Ephesians, that Romans begins with man in wickedness and sin, and presents the remedy; Ephesians, with God’s purpose, and, looking at Christ dead, and we dead in sins, shews us quickened together with Him, does not teach us justification as responsible men on earth, but a new creation, by which we are associated with, and united to, Christ in heaven.
Ninthly. It is undoubtedly true that we are first regenerated and then sealed and baptized into one body. I speak of no interval of time being necessary; but the consequence of the divine acts is perfectly clear from scripture. It is impossible an unregenerate man can be sealed: T. M. ought to see it is an absurdity; whereas only an unregenerated man can be regenerated. He ought to know that we are children of God by faith, and that it is after we have believed we are sealed. The truth is, he does not believe in any sealing at all, in any gift of the Holy Ghost to us but Pentecostal gifts, which we certainly have not; and hence these questions. It is well this infidelity as to the promise of the Spirit should come out.
Tenthly. The operations of the Spirit are not limited to this dispensation; but the sending of the Comforter is, because Christ expressly declares it could not come till He went away, and when it did come, was to abide for ever, not go away like Him. The Holy Ghost is not the same as the gifts of the Holy Ghost. He distributes, when come, to whom He will. All this is but infidelity as to the presence of the Spirit. True, the Church has so grieved Him, it is hard often to discern His operations; but God is calling back the conscience of the Church to its sin in this respect, and what it has lost; and these teachers are denying the evil. It is only repeating what I have said in the body of title tract, but there cannot be a more complete denial or ignoring of the specific sending the Comforter on Christ’s going away—that is, of the essential characteristic of Christianity which is the ministration of the Spirit.
Eleventhly. This question betrays the same setting aside of the Church that the former did of the Spirit. Scripture never says, the Church which is in the Father, but “the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father.” And the difference is all important, because, though a local church may stand locally in the responsibilities of the body, it is a candlestick which may be removed out of its place. But the body of Christ cannot come to nought. Further, there is no question of sonship or union. The Church, the assembly, is not a son of God, nor can there be union with the Father. The question is a complication of blunders. Individual Christians are sons, the church of the Thessalonians has nothing to do with being a son, and, save Christ in a divine way, no son is in the Father. The whole question is a blunder.
In fine, I see nothing in this tract—save the denial, in ignorance (I fully admit) not of the foundation of a sinner’s hope, nor of the work of God in him for salvation, but of the essential and characteristic truth of Christianity, both as to the Spirit and the Church. Other grave errors are in it; but it is only of these that I have any desire to speak. I would add, that a sentence of his friend’s, of which T. M. makes a great deal, is wholly unfounded. “Forgiveness of sins,” he says, “includes everything.” It does nothing of the kind, in any sense. Nor is even “redemption in Christ” a justifiable expression. “In whom we have redemption through his blood,” is a very different thing. It states that in Christ we have a certain measured blessing, whatever else we may have besides. And this difference is the whole question here. Is not the purchased possession redeemed? Is that on the same level as is here spoken of—no getting any higher? “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance.” Is that the same as an inheritance in Him? Clearly not, to every spiritual mind. The inheritance is what is below, as distinct from our calling. In Him we have obtained it; but the inheritance is not in Him. All this is fallacious language; which I notice, because from the fallacy most mischievous conclusions are drawn.
It is then ever true, that for every blessed soul there must be regeneration and a holy nature; there must be redemption and cleansing by the precious blood of Christ. Confiding faith in Him is the privilege of the saints at all times. But take the whole dealing of God with us now, and all depends on and is wrought by truth which no prophet could have used at all. Go no farther than Peter’s sermon (Acts 2): not a word of that would have been said by a prophet. Take John 16, God’s whole present testimony in the world: not one word of it possible but by the coming of the Comforter. I only pray the reader to recall what is lost by T. M.’s doctrine of the Comforter being only Pentecostal gifts—no Spirit of adoption, no love shed abroad in our hearts, no earnest of the inheritance, no taking the things of Christ to shew them to us, no unction of the Holy One by which we know all things, no access into the holiest or to the Father, no knowledge of the things freely given to us of God, no knowledge that Christ is in the Father, we in Him, and He in us. I need go no farther. None of these are Pentecostal gifts, which are gone; none simply regeneration; for they are by the Spirit sent down, and given consequent on Christ’s exaltation; whereas regeneration, T. M. insists, was at all times true. Is all this (and I might largely add to the list) lost? or what is the Comforter?
16 It may be well to observe that the author does not himself believe that regeneration is identical with quickening, but rather expressive of the new state of things which the Christian now enters in Christ. The word is here employed in its ordinary usage as equivalent to the new birth.—Ed.]