Not quite at the end till I turn round towards England again, the Lord sparing me and holding me up.
I have just made ninety-six. hours of railroad, without stopping, and am all well. My mind fully turns to England when I have done in these parts.
Were I young, with (humanly speaking) life before me, there would be ground for staying, for the work is opening. It is in many respects on a new footing, and the question of this position and the truths of Scripture as to the full position, and the walk too, of the Christian is raised everywhere. But I am not young, and cannot think to carry out the work myself; and God, I trust, will raise up instruments, as He has a few. It is not His mind, I believe, to be out of weakness. In the state of the church it becomes us to take part in her sorrows.
As regards your first question, I think there is a mistake as to the position of the assembly, both in the sister and also of the brother who objected, perhaps in all. When a person breaks bread, he is in the# only fellowship I know—owned members of the body of Christ. The moment you make another full fellowship, you make people members of your assembly, and the whole principle of meeting is falsified. The assembly has to be satisfied as to the persons, but, as so receiving to break bread, is supposed to be satisfied on the testimony of the person introducing them, who is responsible to the assembly in this respect. This, or two or three visiting, is to me the question of adequate testimony to the conscience of the assembly.
At the beginning it was not so, that is, there was no such examination. Now I believe it a duty according to 2 Timothy 2. Nobody comes in but as a believer. This again makes the distinction of member of the particular assembly. Still I do not think a practice such as this sister’s is satisfactory. I admit fully every case must stand on its own merits, and so be dealt with. Where breaking bread is intermitted, it is all well to mention it, though this be in some cases uncalled for, where the assembly knows about it and is satisfied; but if persons break bread, they are as subject to discipline as if always there, because it is the church of God which is in question, though represented by two or three: Christ is there. If it is merely an occasional coming as a stranger, the person not being known, it is well to mention the fact.
What is not satisfactory in such cases is, first, it is accepting the person by the assembly as if they had another fellowship besides membership of Christ, which I do not recognise at all. And, secondly, I should fear there was a reluctance to take honestly the reproach of the position, the true separated position of saints, and [the wish] to be able to say to others, I do not belong to them, I only go as a believer. I only go as a believer, but then I accept the position. Waiting for them to get clear is all well. A true believer has title at the table; but if they meet as members of Christ’s body, they are all one body as partakers of one loaf.
I do not admit them. I own their title, wait upon their want of light, but would not allow them to put me in the position of a sect (and “full fellowship” means that) making allowance for their ignorance, and waiting upon it. They do not come really to break bread with us on the ground of the unity of the body, if they think they are not one with us in coming; for if we are true and right, they are not one with the body of Christ, the only principle of meeting I know at all.
I repeat, in the present state of the church we must have much patience, as their minds have been moulded in church membership; but I ought not to falsify my own position, nor sanction it in the mind of another. If the person is known to all, and known to be there to break bread, all mention is needless; it is a testimony to the unity of the body. If an occasional thing, the person who introduces is responsible.
I remember a case, where one growing in truth came to help sometimes in a Sunday-school, and from the other side of London, and asked the brethren if he might not break bread when there—time even did not allow of him to get back to his Baptist service—and he enjoyed the communion of saints. Brethren allowed him gladly j and, if my recollection is right, his name was not given out when he came afterwards. Very soon he was amongst Brethren entirely, but his fellowship was as full when he was not; and had he given occasion, he would have been refused in discipline, just as if there every Sunday.
The other question is for me a more delicate one, because it is a question of the state of the soul, as of the church, when darkness covers it. Many, many souls cry Abba Father (that is, have the Spirit of adoption), which are clear in nothing, save that their confidence is in Christ and His work only; and as doubting is taught in the church, and a plain full gospel unknown and even rejected by teachers, this state is the natural consequence; and it often requires spirituality to discern the real state of a soul, if really under law, undelivered or legalised by teaching. Hard cold knowledge of doctrine is not what I seek. Then there is the danger of throwing back a soul just when it wants to be encouraged. Doubts brought in by conflict, when a soul can really say Abba, are not a ground of rejection, though it shews a soul not well established. Yet a soul exercised, but not yet resting in Christ’s work, is not in a right state for communion. So with young converts—it is far better for them to wait until they have peace, only carefully shewing it is not to reject them but for their own good. I should not look for understanding deliverance, but being personally able to say, Abba, Father. The intelligence of deliverance is the consequence of sealing. But if a man be not sealed, he is not in the Christian position. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Peace through forgiveness is, as to Christ’s work, the evidence of faith in Christ’s work, and that work received by faith is the ground of sealing. Then one is delivered; but the intelligence of this is another thing. Israel out of Egypt was brought to God—delivered. Through Jordan they entered in, were circumcised, and ate the corn of the land. But a sealed person alone is in the true Christian position; and this is founded on the sprinkling with blood, that is, faith in Christ’s work, by which we have redemption, not in the knowledge of deliverance. This is its effect.
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Mark 16:20, I think, plainly shews that it was not written till all the gospel history which we have in the Acts, etc. (the Revelation only excepted), was over. God has given His history of the foundation of Christianity, and would allow, at the utmost, but this brief notice of the general dispersion of the doctrine of Christ. That it is a summary of the facts we have in John and Luke, the Galilee account ending with verse 8, we have already seen.