[From the French.
Dear Brother,—I received your letter, and I thank you for it. I found it here on my return from a round I have just been making, with blessing to my soul.
I reply to the principal subjects of which you there speak to me. You are mistaken in supposing that I am acquainted with the details of what has gone on at V. I have, of course, heard something said about it, but nothing to make me thoroughly know what belongs to the case. However, I do not much mind as to that, but I wished to reserve any judgment it would be needful for me to form, until I might see the persons who were interested in the judgment which might be passed upon them. It appears to me to be the most straightforward thing. Moreover, I do not at all pretend to judge of all the circumstances and all the conduct of those whom I meet in going from place to place. In charity, I may apply myself to it, but I do not feel myself under obligation to solve everything that every one’s mode of proceeding may have occasioned. From the little I have heard said, I believe the flesh has intermingled itself with the affairs of V. It is an extremely sad thing, I deplore it in the result, both on the one side and on the other. Before God I deplore it, but if you think flesh which knows better how to conceal itself, which is more agreeable and less clashing, more adroit in directing its way across circumstances in order not to displease—not to make itself manifestly culpable—if you think, I say, that such flesh pleases me more than that which, less yielding, knows not how thus to regulate itself according to circumstances, you are mistaken; and I think, dear brother, if you reflect upon it before God, you will not be slow to recognise that it is not more pleasing to God either.
I deplore all these things, but the judgment that man passes thereupon matters very little to me. I am sure, before God, that it is often entirely false; and do you believe, my dear—— (and I love you much, and I hope I shall love you, even if you should put your threat into execution), that to threaten me with withdrawing from me your confidence, which at the same time I assure you is a thing to me very sweet, would influence me as to the judgment that I should pass on the circumstances I might meet in my arduous life? Alas, my brother, weak indeed as I am—and I am more and more feeling my weakness, and my entire dependence on grace, and I hope always to feel it, more and more—for these seventeen years I have had to undergo the consequences, painful and trying to my heart, of the convictions and of the faith that God Himself has wrought in my heart by His word. I have suffered from it, and greatly; but whilst making sometimes humiliating experience of my weakness, I have had a recompense, I could not tell you how abundant, even here below.
I have seen the flesh intermingle itself with principles that I find in the word; in the walk of individuals who profess these principles, I have deplored the manifestation of the flesh, but I have not disavowed the principles. I have also seen poor brothers, who embraced them, act in haste, driven to despair by the behaviour of those who ought to have known things, and who should have been guides. I am not speaking particularly of V. I have seen these brothers falsify and throw these principles into discord, sometimes, with other truths that I myself cherished greatly; but do you think that the course of the others commended itself to my heart and to my judgment more than that of the poor brothers who perhaps lost their way in some respects in the details?
As to Geneva, it has been said to me, Will you judge and condemn those brethren who have separated themselves? and this has been put to me as a test. I have replied, that if I judged those who separated themselves, I must judge others also, and I did not pretend to do either the one or the other: that if I were at Geneva I should act according to my conscience, and should endeavour to walk individually in peace.
I do not altogether ignore what has been done by adversaries of the brethren, who in different places have separated themselves from the dissenting movement. I desire, nevertheless, to ignore it as far as possible, that my heart may be kept free from the painful influence of these things, and that love may abide: but you must be a very slight observer of the hand and of the ways of God, not to see that there are, although the flesh may mix with it, two principles which are in conflict, and that those who like clericalism, have done all that they could to put into bad odour the principles of those who do not believe this clericalism to be of God. I have seen the fruits in those who have subjected themselves to this yoke, and in those who have not, and I cannot say that the result has weakened my convictions.
I do not believe that Dissent is according to the word of God. The more I have read the word of God, the more the thing has been discussed, the more profoundly I have been convinced of it. If those who leave it, in pursuance of convictions founded upon the word of God, have not behaved well in the detail of their separation, one ought to warn them of it, as of the work of the flesh. My conscience does not reproach me with having failed therein, when occasion required it, and christian fidelity.
I cannot say that the conduct of the leaders has inspired me with confidence in their course in preference to that of those who have separated from them. It is possible that they are beyond the sphere of my brotherly warnings, by their position, higher according to the world; if it is so, I must leave them there, save in praying to God. It is He who, at the end of the reckoning, will judge both, and then each will have his praise from God.
As to your ordination (“consecration”), dear brother, I do not attach any importance to it, knowing the persons who did it, and I cannot say that that presents itself in God’s sight as a commendation for a special work. It is a little, it seems to me, throwing oneself on the wrong scent over words. That all the formalities, dissenting or national, may not have taken place, is very probable. The truth penetrates, although it may be dishonoured, and although those who have propagated it may be repulsed as innovators. It is what generally comes to pass. That some who like to profit by it and glory in it, like also to mix it with the old wine which suits their taste, I understand also. That only shews me that they are weaker in the faith in this respect, that they have not enough of it to follow with simplicity their convictions, nor the plain path of faith; that is all. God upholds them for the main thing of their Christianity; I do not believe He approves them in what is equivocal, in the faithlessness of their course. Ordinarily, it is the first step toward falling back into what one had pruned off by reason of the light being too strong for these things to subsist in it.
I do not believe, dear brother, that your way has been the way of faith. I do not cease to love you for this. That others should be glad to have you under their influence is to be understood. I do not think this way of acting has been of faith, and I think I already see its .baneful influence in your letter; you will pardon me for saying so. That your path may be externally more easy I believe; this it is for me, that in the present state of things is the evil. That which most separates from the world, and even from the religious world, is that which makes the testimony clearer. I am not saying that this evil has been your intention, but it is the effect of the way of acting. Our want of faith associates itself always, according to its measure, with the world, and the place of the religious world of the day is there. It is thus that I judge the thing, and I do not doubt that my judgment is right before God…
If the brothers at V. have acted in the main by faith, and have mixed much of flesh with it, God will certainly humble them for this last, and will none the less bless them according to their faith. It is thus, in these trying days, that His grace is forced to act, if I may so say. For the rest, I shall endeavour to act according to a good conscience before God; the consequences are of little moment to me. I believe, from what has been told me, that the flesh manifested itself, and that they did things that my judgment disapproves, but I am still judging from their adversaries’ account, for, except a single one for a moment, I have not seen them; but I do not think you can be able to judge of it without bias, or that it would be right for me to take your manner of seeing for a rule that I ought to follow. I do not venture to give you advice thereupon, but I hope that God will decide you in all things, and I ask for you, very dear brother, dear to me and to the Lord, who has loved us both, with His church, all graces and all blessings, and an abundance of His communion, and may God bless you in leading souls to Him.
Your very affectionate brother.
St. Hippolyte du Fort, April 11th, 1844.
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[From the French.
Very dear Sister,—I hear that some of the sisters have had dreams about the coming of Jesus. This has given me some uneasiness, for although absent in body, I am with you in spirit, desiring and seeking the good of all of you, the dear redeemed ones of our precious Saviour. It is by the word of God, our rule and our light in these last days, that we must abide. I do not pretend to say that God may not give warning by a dream, for he word of God says that He can do so; but we must be much upon our guard.. We have no need of a dream with respect to matters clearly revealed by God.
There is danger of the imagination being exalted, of our thinking ourselves something extraordinary, and of the simple word not having its true importance. Satan is exceedingly busy just now, in disturbing and troubling souls, and in alluring us by his wiles from the place of repose, where it is of all importance that we should be in these days. The apostle alludes to this in 2 Thessalonians 2, where the enemy sought to divert them from their quiet looking for the Saviour, whose coming had been promised them in the scriptures, and by the testimony of the Spirit, already given.
Satan desired to trouble them by Borne means, and the apostle shews that signs and wonders are generally found on the enemy’s side. He would have already succeeded for the moment if he could divert them from a scriptural expectation. “But of the times and the seasons, ye have no need that I write unto you, for yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them… But ye are not in darkness that that day should overtake you as a thief.” You are of the day. That is the position of the Christian. He is .peacefully already of the day. He needs neither signs, nor wonders, nor dreams. He has the word. He ought to possess his soul in patience, humbly keeping his place. You will generally find that sisters are the ones who have seen these things, and I have not, moreover, noticed that this has drawn them, or others, nearer to God. God can use sisters, and often honour them greatly in their service, but it is well that this should be in much quietness and modesty of spirit; lest the enemy, who ever seeks, and seeks more than ever now, to trouble and mislead the souls of believers—lest, I say, he should take occasion from the weakness of the vessel—weakness which demands honour from us, but which, on the part of the sisters themselves, requires patience and quietness. So I beg these sisters to weigh these things well, and not to allow themselves readily to put faith in these dreams, as if they came from God. Let them not allow themselves to be carried away by their imagination, lest they should fall into the snare of the enemy, and lest he should take advantage of this to shake the faith of some.
We are in times when the enemy tries to surprise us; the word is the great thing for us, and our strength. “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation. Thou hast a little strength … hold that fast which thou hast… I come quickly;” this is the direction for our days. May God keep you all, beloved, in His holy keeping. Walk humbly, close to Him, and He will not fail you. My heart is with you; my prayers rise to God for you; and if times are difficult, they are times which keep the children of-God more occupied than ever. If we walk as those who have but a little strength, He will set before us an open door, which no man shall shut. Let us be content with small things, and we shall have all the blessing of the Lord. And do you, dear sister, keep near the Lord, and walk humbly and quietly, with thanksgiving, leaning upon Him. The times are evil, but the Lord is faithful. rejoice in Him.
March 5th, 1845.
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[From the French.
* * * I have lately read Numbers and the Epistle to the Philippians with edification. The setting up of the rod of Aaron, priest in grace, while in authority still, after all the murmurings of the congregation; its use, although this was by Moses; the want of its use on the occasion of fresh complaints of the congregation; all this has singularly instructed me. At the same time, when God has judged and disciplined the people, the way in which He immediately speaks (chap, 15.) of all His promises and of the land being theirs, as having been given them by Him, touched me very much. His promise and His thoughts for His people are as firm as if nothing had happened. The responsibility, and the food of the priests, as such, and of their families, as families, and the points of difference, I also found very instructive.
What struck me in the Epistle to the Philippians, is the way in which the apostle has his death continually before his eyes; then that the trials he had endured had acted as a wholesome discipline, causing Christ to be everything for him, and himself to be nothing. And what peace that gives! He knows not if he is to be condemned. For himself, the decision of the magistrates does not enter into his thoughts; for himself, he knows not what to choose; but for the church it is good that he should remain: it is decided then. He judges his case by the sole consideration that such a decision will be for the good of the church, and thus Christ will have it decided. Is it thus that we trust in Him, dear brother? Alas! no; at least too often we are not enough divested of ourselves; we cannot say with the apostle, “I have learned.” This is what we need to learn. Well, it is the life of this man, so faithful, so devoted, and so gifted by God, the life of the Apostle Paul, instructed and disciplined in this manner, and the perfect calm which he enjoys as the result of this discipline, which has lately edified me in reading this epistle.
Plymouth, April 19th, 1845.
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Dearest——,—I thank you much for your note. My mind did pass through the same process of anxiety as that of which you speak, as far as anxiety went; a qualm crossing my mind that some work of the enemy, more thorough than I knew how to judge of, was at the bottom. But I found the ground of acting on scripture my resource, and that I had nothing to do with any feeling. I had but to bring them all before God. The result has been, the avowal by N. in the presence of the brethren, of much more than any one charged him with, though I did not doubt it was so—of what no one would adopt, or at least avow with him, and has made those who were not partisans declare their thankfulness that I came down, and that it was fairly brought out. I trust he will yet disavow it, and that all will be peace. At any rate, I believe decided good has been done. My conscience is as clear as the day, as to having avoided the smallest act approaching to hostile or party feeling—quite the contrary. I admit, that in manner I might have been more calm, though quite so in conduct, indeed, I have been not only calm, but as happy as possible, and at large in ministering, for God has been very graciously with me, though it was all very painful. But when I had done what I had to do, my soul had no more to say to it than if there were nothing. We are not yet out of the wood, as I hope we may be, because Newton has not yet disavowed the purpose he avowed, but I trust it may come to this, and our relations be unhindered as before. As to me, I have no complaint, he had done nothing against me. Certain women of our company are, I believe, very angry; but I come across nothing, but go on my way, tranquilly seeking to minister as much blessing to all as I can.
The meetings on Wednesday evenings, when I have lectured, are at least doubled, and that gradually, so I hope there is blessing. I do not hesitate to say it was all over with the brethren’s meeting in unity, if that had gone on which was going on. I hope the common ground may yet be spared to us, but as I said, we are not out of the wood, and I do not holloa yet, but I trust the Lord, and am quite happy in confiding in Him. He has indeed already done more than I could ever have expected, arid why should I distrust Him? Peace be with you all. I do believe that real blessing will result, though I do not say that the neck of party spirit is entirely broken, nor grace reigning in all hearts, but I hope for it, for who can measure the love of Christ to His body? St. Paul judged his own trial and pronounced his own acquittal unhesitatingly, the moment he sees it was for the good of the church.
Plymouth, April 21st, 1845.
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[From the French.
Dear Sister,—How all these things have grieved me! This you will readily understand without my telling you so. I will not leave your letter unanswered, although I have not much to tell you, owing to the distance and the few facts that I am in possession of. Alas! I expected this trial when I left Lausanne. I said so, without going into details, to the brothers who came to induce me to stay, and this was what tried me much more when leaving than the thought of the troubles which are always the glory of God’s children, and which strengthen them where there is faith. I was hoping all had passed over without a storm; and here is something new to bring to God, and to put faith into practice by trusting to Him. This is what gives me joy, however much I may be tried, and this is not a moment when circumstances smile upon me. But that only increases my confidence in God.
One thing that strikes me is, that the persons you name are precisely the ones who had difficulty in following the path at all times, who always hesitated in the path. I only speak from your letter. Mr. G. said nothing to me about it. He communicated to me the letter that the brethren wrote to Mr. F. O. I had written so far when I received a letter from ——, who relates to me a stormy meeting which took place since. You will be surprised to know that I am quite encouraged and made happy in my soul. I am so fully convinced, while owning all my wretchedness, that I have laboured sincerely for the Lord, and for Him only, that I feel the matter is so entirely His own and in His hands, that it has inspired me with full confidence. I am happier and more confident than before receiving ——’s letter. You will be surprised at this, and I am so myself, although I should not be; it is not reasoning upon it, but the sight and encouragement of God; I feel the whole matter is His. It is quite astonishing how joy and confidence fill my heart, so strongly do I feel the affair to be His. I am happy. I do not judge by the circumstances; perhaps there has been a want of discernment, of rectitude of mind, of humility, this would be sad, but faith will be blessed, and those that walk with God, God will walk with them. This sifting was doubtless needed. I attribute to myself for the most part the necessity of it… God knows, but what is most amiable if it is not faith, could not be blessed.
The circumstances are so changed since your letter left Lausanne, that what I might say would perhaps no longer be applicable. But this is what I say; the walk of faith will be blessed, whatever is not will not. Perhaps there has been a little precipitation at Geneva, although there are some brothers who think they have remained too long, but here there is no question of that. The expectation of such a trial was what exercised me most with regard to Lausanne when I left there. I think I have said so already, but it was necessary in order that one should be placed in the pure atmosphere of divinely given faith, and that one should be happy to be there. The conscience will be at work, and God will bless His own. He turns all into good for them that love Him. That is my thought. I bless God with all my heart and spirit. Perhaps you will think it is because I am at ease that I take the thing so quietly. Inwardly I am, but outwardly I have had exercises of faith more painful even than at Lausanne. But God shews Himself in them. He makes His own feel that His support is worth all the trouble in the world; I am sure of it, and the sufferings, light as they are, do not dim the crown. If we are faithful, we shall relate our days of trial afterwards with surprise at the faithfulness of God and our small faith, even in our best moments. Salute the brethren. I shall probably get some news from them; they shall hear from me when I have something to communicate to them which testifies of the presence of the hand and power of God for us, which can fortify them. Grace and peace be with you… .
Your brother and servant in the faith.
Plymouth, September 24th, 1845.
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Dear ——,—You have this account already, but it is so short I send it, still all for private reading. I could have sent you other parts, but I extract for everybody—it is only private sentiments I have not, but which would be very interesting in private. After acknowledging the receipt of what was sent, and thanking the brethren, in substance saying he had all and abounded, &c.
5“The tribulation is not at its close; last Sunday we had a formidable riot on our meeting in your apartment. The meeting passed in perfect joy; it was very numerously attended, scarce any one was wanting. A furious crowd was before the house, but this time the police, who were on foot, hindered them from attacking us, and protected us going out. After that, the people would have taken possession of the house, but the conservatoirs restrained them, and the gendarmes, who returned, succeeded in dissipating the tumult at past twelve o’clock. Since then our sisters M. have been guarded by the Lord, and nothing has happened to them.
“Already, Friday, the transport of the benches by J. O. caused a real riot, of which J. supported the brunt without accident. They seized some benches from him, which they broke. I do not know if I told you that one Sunday morning the band entered my house also, penetrating close to my rooms where we were, several persons, and the Lord stopped them there. The brethren and sisters are generally happy. We go this morning to your room: the Lord knows what will come of it; in every case we are in His hands… . The persecution seems to arrive at a crisis. Thanks be to God, who has saved us through Jesus Christ our Lord. How sweet to think that our brethren, and above all, Jesus prays for us. Adieu.”
“Since my last letter, the Lord has permitted that we should pass tranquilly through sufficiently evil days. Our Sunday meetings had become for parties, the perspective of an engagement. The conservateurs pressed us to meet all together, and in case of need they would shew themselves and restrain the populace. From the moment that we became the occasion that parties seized to come to an engagement which might become a revolution, it seemed to me that our assembly was no longer simply a testimony, but a political affair, which we ought to avoid: the brethren were of the same judgment. The government were very uneasy, and we received overtures from members of the Great Council, who offered to ask for us from the Council of State, the German church in the Mercerie, with the proviso of having us protected there… I represented that in going there, we departed from the path of testimony, which offended the people, but was agreeable to the Lord—that this would be made use of throughout the Canton, to make our brethren go into the churches, and that our place was not to be protected but persecuted: the brethren were of this mind.
“The next day the Council of State had us requested through B. (its president), not to have our meeting all together at 22 St. Pierre [the house I lived in, where the riot was], in order not to expose the town to troubles whose issue could not be foreseen. This seemed to us a very simple direction (indice), and we agreed to disseminate ourselves on Sunday in small meetings—we had eleven in the course of the day. All were very tranquil. The Great Council is to be occupied to-morrow with the petitions relative to religious liberty. This question occupied it already Tuesday. The government seeks, in order to flatter the passions of the populace, to adopt a measure which deprives us of liberty, saving appearances as much as possible. It has shewn itself so illiberal, that the most radical of the Great Council (the government is the extreme radical) have expressed their surprise at it. I do not expect to see religious liberty granted to the children of God in this country. It is very sweet to know that that will happen as to it which our own Lord shall see good for the exercise of our faith. Men are occupied about us without consulting God; and the Lord when He is pleased to act for His children, defeats the designs of men. His counsels will be found to be very firmness itself. We are happy to be in His hands, and to have for our path Himself—not a path which men may make; though they may become the means of our trial, they cannot decide what is to happen to us.
“It is not probable that we can meet next Sunday all together. The government would not be sorry to have an occasion which would justify the measure it desires. People’s minds are in a great fermentation. The Conservatives desire to stop this torrent of passions and violence which threatens everything with subversion. In case of a serious tumult, our meetings would be the spark which would set fire to the powder. We desire to rest strangers to all political conflict, and for that reason we prefer to break ourselves up into small portions while things are in this state. If there had been no danger to run but that of seeing our meetings assailed and our persons illtreated, the brethren were all encouraged to persevere. The Lord has sustained and encouraged and fortified us. He has made us find in the trial great subjects of joy and thanksgiving. The testimony has had blessed fruit. Hesitating souls have been established, and thus have joined us. The brethren are happy, and we see that Christ is precious to us in proportion as men reject us. Adieu, very dear brother; the brethren and sisters salute you. Not being able to write you word to-morrow what the Great Council shall have done as to religious liberty, if in any case some result is arrived at, I shall only write next week if the Lord permit.
“The grace of the Lord be multiplied to you.
“Your very affectionate,
* * * * *
Somerton, May 27th, 1845.
Beloved Brother,—I answer, of course, your letter without delay. You probably do not know that Mr. Harris has declined further ministry here (though he has not left communion) and proposes to leave the place, and this on two points out of three on which I have acted; he is ignorant of the third. This, of course, modifies naturally the surprise which my step might occasion, though it is neither reason nor justification; but it is so far a proof that there was nothing hasty, and that there were serious grounds for it.
I now proceed to tell you why I did so. I felt that God was practically displaced, and so I told them, and then stated the three following points: the subverting the principles on which we meet—this, I think I may say, is not denied now by any (unless the doers of it on principle); at least, it is admitted that brethren (teachers) were intentionally kept away, and Soltau urges Mr. Harris to stay and resume his place, in order to help him to resist. Some say that they were only tendencies, and not a purpose, but the fact is not denied. I cannot here enter into all the facts, but I am perfectly convinced there were purpose, doctrine, and fact; and you have no idea of the extent to which it had gone. It was, to my mind, as bad as bad could be in other aspects. Secondly, there was actual evil and unrighteousness unconfessed and unjudged: this Harris does not enter upon. And that thirdly, a meeting which has worked in the guidance of the details of the body and service of the saints, has been not only set aside, but refused to be reinstated. This last was what finally decided Harris before his return here to decline further ministry. I had proposed publicly, as he had laboured in private (and I had also spoken of it) at the re-establishment of this meeting; and the rejection of it occasioned a stay of all moral discipline, unless on the summary judgment of two or three who took it on themselves. This deprived of remedy, for the existence of evil would not in itself be a reason for leaving, but evil unjudged and really sanctioned would, when it could not be remedied. I have only to add, that I have felt the unclouded approbation of God since I have done it. I had not before an idea of the mass of evil, and how many knew it. Yet I believe the great body wholly ignorant of it, and so I stated when I announced my withdrawal. But they almost all felt that there was something which had destroyed spirituality and love. In my judgment it was very bad indeed. I waited eight or nine months before I did this, and till every step was taken to remedy the evil; and I should have felt the Lord against me had I waited longer. I believe it has done very much good; the conscience of a vast number has been awakened, evil acknowledged by some who were’ immersed in it fast, I believe, with evil intention, and I hope more blessing may thus come from above. When I say it, I believe the withdrawal of Harris from ministering had as much, and perhaps more effect, than my withdrawal from communion, from his having been much more here latterly, and the only one who visited, and whom the poor really knew and loved. All the poor, I think I may say, have felt the evil. I told them that I did it with unmingled grief and sorrow, and only wished it might be remedied; that I loved all and valued many very much, that I believed the great body quite innocent of it, but that there was one Table and one bread, and they were all responsible, and that my feeling was that—as evil was not remedied—I could not identify myself with evil that I knew.
It seemed to me you acted quite wisely, having no information as to the sister coming here. I trust the Lord may restore you all, and it is all I desire for this gathering too. I thank you, dear brother, very much for you prayers, and feel that I need them, as I trust you may be enabled to continue them. It has been, I need not say, a time of great trial to me. Still, I have felt the Lord with me, and have been with Him, however feeble; and I am quite in peace since I left the gat Wing. Already many have separated between good and evil, and graciously; up to this, people had gone away, or held their tongues hopeless.
Kind love to all the saints. Very affectionately yours, dear brother, and praying God that light and peace and strength may be with you and all His beloved ones.
I have no desire but that all should be restored in peace here, and it would be much greater joy to return than even to have cleared my conscience in leaving; I wait upon the Lord, and in the enjoyment of the light of His countenance about it. I have avoided everything which would have the appearance of party or lead to it. I do not believe even that the enemy has ventured to charge me with it. I have no feeling of the land— God forbid I should. You are not aware that many brethren elsewhere feel as strongly, or more so than I do about it. I do not pretend to say they would therefore necessarily [have] taken the same method, but of that I have no regret. I may just add, that I have refrained from breaking bread apart, though many have stayed away, hoping they may come through grace to set all right.
Plymouth, November 12th, 1845.
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* * * I write rather because of the importance of the point than for any immediate occasion of circumstances: I mean leaving an assembly, or setting up, as it is called, another table. I am not so afraid of it as some other brethren, but I must explain my reasons. If such or such a meeting were the church here, leaving it would be severing oneself from the assembly of God. But, though wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name He is in the midst, and the blessing and responsibility of the church is in a certain sense also, if any Christiana now set up to be the church, or did any formal act which pretended to it, I should leave them, as being a false pretension, and denying the very testimony to the state of ruin which God has called us to render. It would have ceased to be the table of the people and testimony of God, at least intelligently. It might be evil pretension or ignorance; it might call for patience if it was in ignorance, or for remedy, if that was possible: but such a pretension I believe false, and I could not abide in what is false. I think it of the last importance that this pretension of any body should be kept down: I could not own it a moment, because it is not the truth.
But, then, on the other hand, united testimony to the truth is the greatest possible blessing from on high. And I think that if any one, through the flesh, separated from two or three walking godlily before God in the unity of the whole body of Christ, it would not merely be an act of schism, but he would necessarily deprive himself of the blessing of God’s presence. It resolves itself, like all else, into a question of flesh and Spirit. If the Spirit of God is in and sanctions the body, he who leaves in the flesh deprives himself of the blessing, and sins. If, on the contrary, the Spirit of God does not sanction the body, he who leaves it will get into the power and liberty of the Spirit by following Him. That is the real way to look at it. There may be evil, and yet the Spirit of God sanction the body (not, of course, its then state), or at least act with the body in putting it away. But if the Spirit of God, by any faithful person, moves in this, and the evil is not put away, but persisted in; is the Spirit of God with those who continue in the evil, or with him who will not? Or is the doctrine of the unity of the body to be made a cover for evil? That is precisely the delusion of Satan in Popery, and the worst form of evil under the sun. If the matter, instead of being brought to the conscience of the body is maintained by the authority of a few, and the body of believers despised, it is the additional concomitant evil of the clergy, which is the element also of Popery. Now, I believe myself, the elements of this have been distinctly brought out at Plymouth; and I cannot stay in, evil to preserve unity. I do not want unity in evil, but separation from it. God’s unity is always founded on separation, since sin came into the world. “Get thee out,” is the first word of God’s call: it is to Himself. If one get out alone, it may require more faith, but that is all; one will be with Him, and that, dear brother, is what I care most about, though overjoyed to be with my brethren on that ground. I do not say that some more spiritual person might not have done more or better than I: God must judge of that. I am sure I am a poor creature; but at all cost I must walk with God for myself…
Suppose clericalism so strong that the conscience of the body does not act at all, even when appealed to, is a simple saint who has perhaps no influence to set anything right, because of this very evil, therefore to stay with it? What resource has he? I suppose another case. Evil goes on, fleshly pretensions, a low state of things on all sides. Some get hold of a particular evil which galls their flesh, and they leave. Do you think that the plea of unity will heal? Never. All are in the wrong. Now this often happens. Now the Lord in these cases is always over all. He chastens what was not of Him by such a separation, and shews the flesh in detail even where, in the main, His name was sought. If the seceders act in the flesh, they will not find blessing. God governs in these things, and will own righteousness where it is, if only in certain points. They would not prosper if it were so; but they might remain a shame and sorrow to those they left. If it be merely pride of flesh, it will soon come to nothing. “There must needs be heresies, that they which are approved may be made manifest.” If occasion has been given in any way, the Lord, because He loves, will not let go till the evil be purged out. If I do not act with Him, He will (and I should thank Him for it) put me down in the matter too. He loves the church, and has all power in heaven and earth, and never lets slip the reins.
I have not broken bread, nor should do it, till the last extremity: and if I did, it would be in the fullest, openest testimony, that I did not own the others then to be the table of the Lord at all. I should think worse of them than of sectarian bodies, because having more pretension to light. “Now ye say we see.” But I should not (God forbid!) cease to pray continually, and so much the more earnestly, for them, that they might prosper through the fulness of the grace that is in Christ for them…
* * * * *
Dearest Brother,—I take up my pen at last to answer your letter. As to the facts connecting themselves with scripture I had no difficulty as to myself, the difficulty was as to demonstration to others. In the first place, Mr. Newton’s statement in April was to have union in. testimony here, against the teaching of the other brethren, and that he trusted to have at least Devon and Somerset under his influence for the purpose. And this was done most assiduously and perseveringly, so that at last in some places, they had to tell Mr. N. they would bear it no longer; but the saints here had no present proof of this. No person who moved in the sphere of the teachers but knew that they were by calumnies, reproaches, and letters, keeping away other brethren. Nor do those that are honest now deny it. But the body of the brethren here had not seen these letters, and in the (what I must call) audacious state of conscience the leaders were in, I should have been challenged to produce them. Here their case broke down in April, because McA. had seen them and put them to silence. Each Sunday was as regularly N. and H. as in the establishment, and everybody knew it: there was no arrangement written—nothing to be proved. A poor man gave out a hymn, no one would raise it: whose fault was that? At length the facts were not denied, but they were said to be accidents; though N. had told me at the Bristol meeting that his principles were changed, and B. had been reasoning with me on the ground of it, and declaring the brethren elsewhere who sought to serve the saints cyphers, and five cyphers never could make one unless they were regularly recognised. The persons in authority had been named by Mr. N. here as those he recognised and none else. The Friday meeting had been broken up, and Mr. S., owning there ought to be one, said he could not move in it because Mr. N. would have only those he chose, and it would produce a rupture with him. It had been openly taught by N. and B. that the Lord did not now use poor uneducated men, as those He chose before His resurrection, but after that, such as Paul, Luther and Calvin, Wesley and Whitfield, and myself now. It came to such a point, preventing people speaking in the room, that S. called it jockey-ship; now I confess to you in what professes to be a meeting where the blessed God is, I do not like going on with jockeyship. But what could be proved here? Some one got up too quick, that was all—and perhaps did it in a case where the majority would go with him as to the effect, keeping down some speaker they did not like; and in the particular case the sisters had already tried to silence him by making a noise with their feet. The Holy Ghost was totally disowned, the body of the poor miserable, and utterly despised and rejected. But I did not leave for all this. It was when all remedy for this was rejected with scorn, that I then said I could not stay. Every attempt by ——, ——, etc., and others to investigate the evil before
the brethren has been rejected. You may well suppose the difficulty of dealing with facts before the body, that it was constantly denied in toto, in the face of a settled arrangement (not in words but in fact) to speak alternate Sundays, that anybody was hindered—and at least three cases of prevention by the authority of Mr. N. and those he employed. And as to those without, when S. pressed their having kept away Bellett, and that he felt they had sinned, Mr. N. said—on his asking could he acquiesce in his coming now—he thought he could, because all were sufficiently made up now to resist his teaching. But on the avowed principle of clericalism it was peremptorily refused to let the brethren judge anything about the matter.
If scripture warrants me to separate, from the worst evil as to corporate action I ever met, then I am sanctioned in separating from this. If the unity of the Church is to be the sanction of evil, we are landed in Rome at once. It was taught (not here) that in reference to the noble Bereans, that was Jews searching the Jewish scriptures, and that now God had raised up gifts and teaching, it was quite otherwise. Besides, there are things that sicken one, which you cannot say much about. I never, in all my experience in and out of the church, really met so little truth and straightforwardness; and nothing could be proved which had been said and done twenty times over, unless you had witnesses by, and then others were ready to say it was something else. I would not have stayed in it, my dear——, if I were to walk alone and have no church at all to the end of my days. But God has ordered it otherwise, and given exceeding peace and quietness to those who have through grace delivered their souls from it. I have no doubt a direct power and delusion of the enemy was there, from which we have been rescued by the Lord’s goodness, and are in the blessing and liberty of the Spirit of God, though poor and feeble. The visit of the brethren has, I think, to any heedful mind, left no doubt as to the standing of Ebrington Street. Romans 16:17, is just what I acted upon, on coming to Plymouth. The denouncing of godly brethren as subverting the gospel, by letters sent to India, Canada, Ireland, and everywhere, and. hindering any teachers not ready to receive N.’s views coming here as far as they could, and making a focus of Plymouth, was causing divisions. And it was just—though I shrank from using such a hard word—3 John 9, 10 that was precisely going on at Plymouth. No calumny was too bad to cast on the most godly brethren, to discredit them and hinder their coming here. I dare say if I had apostolic power I might have acted more efficiently, but I have not a regret or a cloud on my mind as to my path being where I was, save that I might have left in April. The Lord never roused the conscience of the body till I left.
But I close: I am most sorry to rake up what this letter does (as I have only mentioned things just as they occurred to me to satisfy your mind) without trying to make out all: for many to me most material things I have not mentioned as to facts and evil—but sorry, because the truth is we, who are come out, have our minds with the happy testimony of the Holy Ghost, completely clear of all this, do not ever think of it, and have no need to think of it any more. This has been one of the happy features, the subdued, happy, gracious spirit of those who have left; we are in another world as to our minds.
Affectionately yours, dear brother.
Poor dear Mrs. N. is very ill—I suppose dying off, but peaceful. But there is nothing now to distress her. She is now quite peaceful, I hear.
Plymouth, January 20th, 1846.
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[From the French.
My very dear Sisters,—I have been much touched by your kindness in reminding me of your christian affection. It seems to me, in fact, incredible that four months have rolled away since I wrote to Lausanne. It is true that I have not replied to M. G. since the month of November, that is to say, I have a letter from him of that date, to which I have not replied. But the time passes so quickly that I do not doubt it, for in fact I have been very desirous myself for news of you, though there has been such a considerable lapse of time. However, I have a confidence in God that keeps me in peace, even when long silence gives me the desire to have news of the brethren. As for my health, to dispose of it as quickly as possible, the Lord gives me the strength that seems good to Him; more than that would not be well. The troubles of this year have worn me a little; moreover, one is worn year by year if it pleases God, though His longsuffering is still salvation; may the time roll on still more quickly—my desires are fixed on the land of rest, this precious rest of God. My heart opens yet more to the thought of the glory, and of the rest that Christ is preparing for us, and I sigh for the moment, and with all my heart; my heart and my joy are there. The circumstances I have had to pass through, I believe have made my soul more ripe, at least, I hope so, for the joys that are with Christ, have bound me more and more sensibly to Him, and to all that has to do with Him—that is found in Him. All this (though I am very feeble) is better known to me, more felt. I am more cut off, more for Him; it is not that I am deceived as if the flesh and the conflict were no longer for me. I know well it is not so. But my life is more hidden with Christ in God. As to my spirit, my abode is more there, and it is worth while, dear friends. However, I am a poor, miserable, sorry creature. I know it well. But in the measure in which I accompany soul after soul to the gate of heaven, I begin to think that it is almost time I should go in there. I wait. I belong to Him, who has truly the right to dispose of me and of all these things. Till then I work as a hireling that accomplishes his day, and alas, I am but a very bad workman, not worthy to be called such—still, happy to be one.
You must not think, dear sisters, that the circumstances have discouraged or depressed me before God. They have been painful, but not more so than I expected when I left Lausanne, in many respects less. I believe that more faith, less regard for the feelings of the brethren, would have greatly shortened my work. But I trust that He who searches the hearts will find there at least the intention of charity. I warned them of it when I was here three years ago. But God does His work, and I never more felt His faithfulness, and His great goodness. Never has my faith been more encouraged. Never have I felt more sensibly that God was acting, and that I could count on Him. In looking back, I am struck with all His grace. The sifting is severe, but it is a sifting of love. Since I acted decidedly, my peace and my joy are very great, as well as of all those who have done the same. Consciences have need, as well as the heart of the spiritual man has need, to be awakened; and that has been done. Never have I enjoyed so much communion in worship, and of the presence of God. Oh, how true it is that our Bock is faithful, and that He is near to us, to those who call upon Him with faith.
As to the desire, dear sisters, that you express to see me again, I bless God for it. I need not tell you that I share it; it is what the Holy Spirit always produces. However, I think only of owning how God has been with you, and how He has blessed you. Think what a comfort for me to know that God was keeping you faithful to Him, and in patience, whilst I was being tried here. I hope truly that it will have been a moment much blessed for you all, and that you have learnt to lean more than ever upon His faithfulness. I have the thought of making a run to the south of France, if God permit, this year, spring or autumn. I do not propose anything definitely for Switzerland, not knowing what will be the state of things, or if christian work will not be impossible, or that my presence will but stir up for you the unpleasantness, but I leave all this to the future that God will shew us. It seems that God would that the waves should be calmed a little. I await His will. My affections are as strong as ever for Switzerland, at least, for the work of God in that dear country. I write in haste. For the rest, it is for my brethren down here in great measure that I dispose of the few moments that are at my disposal in a work that I pursue for them; it is this that has hindered me greatly from writing. Peace be to you in all things, dear sisters. You will have received news that crossed your letters. I would write to some of the sisters in particular, according to the time I should have for that. They must pardon me, if this is a little delayed, and receive for yourselves, dear sisters, my many thanks for having thought of your poor brother, and in commending you with all my heart to Him and His grace, the assurance of my cordial affection in Him, and may the hope of glory be very present to you and refresh you.
Your very affectionate brother.
Plymouth, 22nd, 1846.
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Beloved Brother,—I was glad to get something from you, and glad to get this letter. In reply to it I can only say, without answering for every expression in it, after running it over, instead of quarrelling with it as an objection, as to the general bearing and object of it, I believe that it is having departed from what has suggested itself to your mind which has been the weakness of the brethren. I believe that churches have been merged in the map of ecclesiastical popular hierarchism and lost; but I believe that the visible church, as you call it, has been merged there too. Still there is a difference, because churches were the administrative form, while the church as a body on earth was the vital unity.
What I felt from the beginning, and began with, was this: the Holy Ghost remains, and therefore, the essential principle of unity with His presence for (the fact we are now concerned in) wherever two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them. When this is really sought, there will certainly be blessing by His presence. We have found it so, most sweetly and graciously, who have met separately here.
When there is an attempt at displaying the position and the unity, there will always be a mess and a failure. God will not take such a place with us. We must get into the place of His mind to get His strength; that is now, the failure of the church. But there He will be with us. I have always said this; I know it has troubled some-, even those I specially love; but I am sure it is the Lord’s mind. I have said we are the witnesses of the weakness and low state of the church. We are not stronger nor better than the others, dissenters, &c; but we only own our bad and lost state, and therefore can find blessing. I do not limit what the blessed Spirit can do for us in this low estate, but I take the place where He can do it. Hence, government of bodies in an authorised way, I believe there is none; where this is assumed, there will be confusion. It was here; and it was constantly and openly said that this was to be a model, so that all in distant places might refer to it. My thorough conviction is that conscience was utterly gone, save in those who were utterly miserable.
I only therefore so far seek the original standing of the church, as to believe that wherever two or three are gathered in His name, Christ will be; and that the Spirit of God is necessarily the only source of power, and that what He does will be blessing through the Lordship of Christ. These provide for all times. If more be attempted now, it will be confusion only. The original condition is owned as a sinner, or mutilated man, owns integrity of conscience or a whole body. But there a most important point comes in: I cannot supply the lack by human arrangement or wisdom: I mast be dependent. I should disown whatever was not of the Spirit, and in this sense disown whatever was—not short of the original standing, for that -in the complete sense I am, but—what man has done to fill it up; because this does not own the coming short, nor the Spirit of God. I would always own what is of God’s Spirit in any. The rule seems to me here very simple.
I do not doubt that dispensed power is disorganised; but the Holy Ghost is always competent to act in the circumstances God’s people are in. The secret is, not to pretend to get beyond it. Life, and divine power, is always there; and I use the members I have, with full confession that I am in an imperfect state. We must remember that the body must exist, though not in a united state; and so even locally. I can then, therefore, own their gifts and the like, and get my warrant in two or three united for blessing promised to that. Then if gifts exist, they cannot be exercised but as members of the body; because they are such, not by outward union, but by the vital power of the Head through the Holy Ghost. “Visible body,” I suspect, misleads us a little. Clearly the corporate operation is in the actual living body down here on earth; but there it is the members must act, so that I do not think it makes a difficulty. I believe, if we were to act on 1 Corinthians xii., xiv., farther than power exists to verify it, we should make a mess. But then the existence of the body, whatever its scattered condition, necessarily continues, because it depends on the existence of the Head, and its union with it. In this the Holy Ghost is necessarily supreme.
The body exists in virtue of there being one Holy Ghost. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling. Indeed this is the very point which is denied here. Then Christ necessarily nourishes and cherishes us as His own flesh, as members of His body; and this goes on “till we all come,” &c. (Eph. 4.) Hence I apprehend we cannot deny the body and its unity, whatever its unfaithfulness and condition, and (so far as the Holy Ghost is owned) His operation in it, without denying the divine title of the Holy Ghost, and the care and headship of Christ over the church. Here I get, not a question of the church’s conduct, but of Christ’s, and the truth of the Holy Ghost being on earth, and His title when there, and yet owning of Christ’s Lordship. And this is how far I own others. If a minister has gifts in the Establishment, I own it as through the Spirit, Christ begetting the members of His body, or nourishing it. But I cannot go along with what it is mixed up with, because it is not of the body, nor of the Spirit. I cannot touch the unclean, I am to separate the precious from the vile. But I cannot give up Ephesians 4 while I own the faithfulness of Christ.
Now if we meet, yea, and when we do not meet, all I look for is that this principle should be owned, because it is owning the Holy Ghost Himself, and that to me is everything. We meet and worship; and at this time we who have separated meet in different rooms, that we may in the truest and simplest way, in our weakness, worship. Then whatever the Holy Ghost may give to any one, He is supreme to feed us with—perhaps nothing in the way of speaking; and it must be in the unity of the body. If you were here, you could be in the unity of the body, as one of ourselves. This Satan cannot destroy, because it is connected with Christ’s title and power. If men set up to imitate the administration of the body, it will be popery or dissent at once.
And this is what I see of the visibility of the body: it connects itself with this infinitely important principle, the presence and action of the Holy Ghost on earth. It is not merely a saved thing in the counsels of God, but a living thing animated down here by its union with the Head, and the presence of the Holy Ghost in it. It is a real actual thing the Holy Ghost acting down here. If two are faithful in this, they will be blessed in it. If they said, “We are the body,” not owning all the members, in whatever condition, they would morally cease to be of it. I own them, but in nothing their condition. The principle is all-important.
Christ has attached therefore its practical operation to two or three, and owns them by His presence. He has provided for its maintenance. Thus in all states of ruin it cannot cease, till He cease to be the Head, and the Holy Spirit to be as the guide and the Comforter sent down.
God sanctioned the setting up of Saul; He never did, the departure from the Holy Ghost. The “two or three” take definitely the place of the temple, which was the locality of God’s presence, as a principle of union. That is what makes all the difference. Hence, in the division of Israel, the righteous sought the temple as a point of unity, and David is to us here Christ by the Holy Ghost.
On the other hand church government, save as the Spirit is always power, cannot be acted on.
Let me hear from you, for this is of all importance at the present moment.
Ever, beloved brother, very affectionately.
Plymouth [Received], February 5th, 1846.
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Dear Brother,—I thank you for your kind attention in sending me the paper. The form of it would induce me to decline any attention to it—an anonymous circular on such a subject seems to me an anomaly, and of very evil example in the church of God. But I feel bound further to say, that I feel obliged to decline any participation in it (I speak individually, I dare say many may join in it with a true heart) whatever.
You must be fully aware that the things you would confess, and others with whom you think it right to associate, would be entirely contrary to what I could judge right before God; the things that I may judge evil and the root of all this, you probably (indeed, there can be little doubt) would not confess at all; nor can I think there is in the actual state of things, any confession of what I judge to be evil before God, but quite the contrary. Thence I judge that to pretend to join in any common confession —and you must think the same—would be hypocrisy, and really awfully mocking God. I decline it therefore altogether; indeed, I think the whole thing an evil, though I am in full charity towards you, and I do not doubt many in many places will join in it sincerely, and be blessed. I have felt it more honest, and indeed bound to say to you openly what the Lord I believe leads me to by His grace. The plainer the better, I think, in the present state of things; but I remain
Yours in sincere affection in Christ.
[From the French
Very dear Brother,—I was much pleased, I need not tell you, to receive your letter. I understand well that work prevents one from writing, and that those who labour much do not so much like writing either, but this only makes communications all the more pleasant when one does receive them. Blessed be God that you have been able to give good news; and always, when one can do so of one’s work and of His grace, to say in fact that God is working recalls us to Him, and that is what always gives us joy.
Indeed the work has been remarkable at——, but God has been better than our thoughts; this is not surprising, but we ought at least to bless Him for it with all our hearts.
Now as to the questions of doctrine. If Christ is in our hearts and in our words, God uses, dear brother, very imperfect expressions to communicate blessing to souls; and He even uses erroneous expressions; nevertheless, they bring with them into the soul something imperfect or erroneous; also those who observe it are stumbled by it. I can say to an exercised soul that his salvation is finished, because I am only directing him, outside himself and the judgment which he exercises on an internal work of which he is incapable of judging, to Christ, whose perfect work is the simple object of faith. I could not say it to every one; this would be to interfere with the election of God, of which I know nothing: but I can say to all, that propitiation has been presented to God. They have but to look there, and going to God by that blood they will be received; they have nothing to wait for. They will not go unless the Father draw them, but this is a matter of sovereign grace, with which I have nothing to do in my preaching—in my teaching, yes, but not in my address to unconverted souls.
In the blood which is put upon the mercy-seat, it is not a question of those who are saved or of election, but of the majesty of God, which demands this satisfaction for sin. I can address all, and declare to them that this satisfaction has been made, and that God the Father has perfectly accepted it. But I cannot say to all that Christ bore their sins, because the word does not say it anywhere. If He had borne their sins, they would certainly be justified, and consequently saved by the life of Christ, and glorified.
Thus in Romans 5:18, the gift has come “towards”—not “upon”—literally it reads, “So then as by one offence, towards all men to condemnation” (it is the direction towards which a thing would go if left to itself, not its coming upon), “so by one righteousness towards all men for justification of life.” This is why he says “all.” But in 5:19, “For as indeed by the disobedience of the one man the many have been constituted sinners; so also by the obedience of the one the many will be constituted righteous;” here it is the effect, not the tendency, therefore he says “many.” The thing is not limited to the one who accomplished it, but extends in its efficacy to those who are interested in it; the many are constituted sinners or righteous in virtue of these two works. So it is said, Romans 3:22, “[The] righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ towards all, and upon all those who believe.” It is one thing to put the blood on the mercy-seat, this was God’s lot; another to confess the sins of the people on the head of the goat Azazel. On account pf the one, God can act in the testimony of love towards all, His righteousness being satisfied; on account of the other, He owes it to Christ never to find those sins again: they have been borne into a land not inhabited. Now this is not true of the sins of the wicked: therefore it cannot be said that it is not on account of the fruits of Adam’s sin that men are condemned, for it is said, “For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience.” And “If ye believe not that I am he ye shall die in your sins.” Thus I quite believe that Christ died for all, but I cannot say that He bore, as a substitute, the sins of all. The word, it seems to me, is very clear on this point in its doctrines, in the consequences that it draws from them, and in its types. So that I take ajntivlutron uJpeVr pavntwn in the simplest and widest sense. Satisfaction has been presented to God for men, but here (1 Tim. 2:6) it is evident these words refer to the desire to make of Jesus, at least of the Messiah, a mediator of the Jewish nation. No, says the apostle, He is so for all. God qevlei (not bouvletai) that all, not the Jews only, should be saved; He has given, therefore, one Mediator for all, who has made the propitiation which was necessary, and demanded by the majesty of God, so that the door is open to all through the satisfaction that He has made to the outraged majesty of God. But God has predestinated His own: He calls them; He quickens them. For if the matter rested there (that is to say, at an open door) no one, not even the elect, would come. But Christ has confessed the sins of those thus brought as if they were His own. He “shall justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities.”
Farewell, beloved brother. May our good and faithful Lord and Saviour sustain you and us, and guide us; we need it; and blessed be His name for it, He has it at heart to do it. Yes, we may pass through strait and difficult places, but He is not the less faithful; only let us look to Him, and He is there, even when He seems to forsake us, in order to put faith to the proof, and to make us known to ourselves. However, we have usually exposed ourselves to the enemy before things come to this pass, then He makes us feel within what we have failed in as to watchfulness without. If the enemy is outside, it is not a question of our strength, but of that of the door which keeps him out; if we have opened it, our own is in question. This makes us feel what we are, and also where we have failed in watchfulness and prayer, but He is faithful. Greet all the brethren warmly. I have been very happy during my illness: it has made me feel much more than ever that heaven and the bosom of God is my rest, my home, seeing that I shall be with Him for ever.
Peace be with all the brethren, also yourself, your dear wife, and your little ones. I hope to visit the Continent this autumn. Greet warmly also for. me our brother ——. May God keep him so that he may be content to be little.
Yours very affectionately,
In the fellowship of the Lord.
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Hereford, July 4th, 1846.
Dearest ——, —First as to transubstantiation. I have generally found that in sincere Roman Catholics where there was a value for Christ, though in some respects natural, this remained the thought in their mind; it connects itself with a sensible apprehension of Him like a picture, and seems to be borne out by scripture—respects it though it do not rightly divide or understand it. Yet the scriptural reasons seem to me most strong and plain on the point, yet a person may be a true saint and hold it. If the mass or sacrificial part is given up, this touches the knowledge by faith of the completeness of the one sacrifice, and our known forgiveness by it. There is no need of Syrian or Protestant commentators to know, that it is used for designating things they represent. It is the universal language of man. I say of a portrait, that is my father; that is my uncle. No one doubts an instant what it means. “It is the Lord’s passover.” “I am the true vine.” “I am the door” is the converse. And it is as much and as surely said of the cup as of the elements: “this cup is the New Testament in my blood” —thereby demonstrating the mode of speaking. As soon as the sense attached by the church to it is got rid of, our ordinary use of language would not convey the Roman sense to the mind. It is really an imposed one. Further, St. Paul positively calls it bread we break: why is this not literal? In what follows we have those figures which no language can speak without—”the cup which we bless.” Was it the cup he blessed? Proper literality in the strict sense would make nonsense of all language—is not its known sense. I drink a glass of wine—who ever doubted what that meant? It is not, as men speak, the literal sense to give the physical one. He drew a picture of vice in his sermon. Who thinks he drew a picture! So in a nearer case; a man brings his sin (chattath) to the Lord. Christ “was made sin.” “These bones are the whole house of Israel.” Does any one doubt what it means? There are many such in Ezekiel—only here we have no verb at all. And now as to the scriptural meaning and doctrine.
First, if the Roman Catholic one were true, it would be a sacrament, not of redemption, but of non-redemption. That doctrine holds that the body, blood, soul, and divinity of the Lord Jesus are all contained in each of the elements. But if the blood be thus united to the body, there is no redemption at all. It is the blood shed which is redemption; and therefore we are called to drink it as a separate thing. It is a broken body we are told of, and shed blood. If the blood be in the body there is no redemption. Christ has not a life of blood now, for flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom. If I take it shed, I own the great and blessed truth of redemption: take it otherwise than separate and as shed, and it is a sign that there is none. And this leads me further: there is no such Christ in existence as that signified by the sacramental institution. There is a glorified Christ with a glorified body in heaven, but this is a broken body and shed blood—that is, it is a dead Christ we, in the power of resurrection, recognise and feed on, that by which we were brought in—that all precious sacrifice. But there is no dead Christ now. There cannot be a broken body and shed blood now. There is no such thing in existence, while faith knows all its value in the one blessed act of the cross. Hence further, it cannot be literal, or rather physically true. “This is my body which is broken,” but it was not broken then. The living Christ did not hold actually and literally the dead Christ in His own hand. And this is absolutely necessary to the literal, or rather (without meaning to offend the feelings of those who have learned to renounce it) the gross carnal sense. The broken body and shed blood clearly represent a dead Christ; we know the unspeakable preciousness of that wondrous fact such as none is like. It is all our hope, the death of the Son of God; but there is no dead Christ in existence; hence it cannot be a physical reality. It is shed blood I need for my soul—where is that literally?—and further, it was not literally true then. Christ was not broken and His blood shed when He spoke to His beloved disciples. And yet this feeding on death is the very thing that is precious. A Jew dared not; it was death to him. But now Christ is dead, death is life and gain to us. Hence too we must drink His blood; that is, take it as shed out; “he that drinketh my blood.” The doctrine of concomitancy—that is, a whole Christ in each element—fails here; because the very point of power is drinking it, that is receiving it as shed, taking it as such.
Hence, while I find that the literal is merely an imposed sense, contrary to the plain meaning of the words according to all habits of language, I find that it is on scriptural grounds—as to the eternal truth of Christ’s doctrine and Person—an impossible thing; that is, contradicts the truth. There is no dead Christ now; but this is clearly a dead Christ. And further, that it subverts the sense and spiritual power attached by Christ to it —His broken body and shed blood—and makes it really, though unwittingly, a sacrament of non-redemption. Such is Satan’s craft. Further, it cannot be literally true that Christ held Himself dead in His own hand: nor, as the breaking really represents His suffering and death, did He in any sense do this indeed at any time. Though after it He gave up His Spirit to His Father. Hence I lose all, by this pseudo-literal sense, my soul wants, my faith enjoys—a suffering Christ, a dead victim. It is my salvation. I adore the grace in it. My soul feeds on it. I need it: I worship and joy in it, though humbled at what called for it; and my heart goes out to these sufferings, and to Him who endured them. But there is no such Christ now—no dead Christ to be literally true. If it is not a dead Christ, it is nothing at all to my faith. If it is a dead Christ, it clearly cannot be a literal one, for we all together who love Him through grace rejoice in His exaltation.
The fact is, it is a very modern doctrine. It was never established till Innocent the Third’s time, in the Council of Lateran, and was written against by esteemed doctors just before. And while you find many magniloquent though unintelligent expressions in the Fathers, one of the earliest—if the Roman doctrine be maintained—is a heretic, Irenseus. I remember that he says that after the ejpivklhsi" two things were there, bread and Christ. I attach no importance to this as authority. I think him wrong, imperfectly taught by the Holy Ghost in it; but it is a proof—not of truth, I never would use it as the smallest authority for it, but—that the Roman doctrine was not held by an early saint. Consubstantiation was more the common thought of doctors I think who took a real presence. To me one is as unsound as the other. It mistakes the object of faith, a Christ dead and shed blood.
I do not add the common arguments, “Whom the. heavens must receive” therefore, not here. Nor the ubiquity of Christ’s body being unsound as to its reality. You will be familiar with them. To a faithful soul, though these be true, the meaning of the Holy Ghost will have more power. I agree with you as to “In remembrance of me.” I must give more room than remains to me to the authority question, which (D. V.) I will write about speedily.
Thank you, dear brother, for your news of the saints, and your interest in my poor body. But we are privileged to say—may we be enabled to act on it!—the body is for the Lord and the Lord for the body. It is a happy thought that even in this (it) is so.
Ever, affectionately yours
In the blessed Master.
Plymouth, July 16th, 1846.
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To the same.]
My dear Brother,—There is a fund of grace in dear——, but he has been in a bad school. Really——’s humility (though he be a devoted man of God) consists in counting that they have infinitely more grace than any one else, and shew it in condescension. I know nowhere such amazing confidence in self… This is associated with a kind of latitudinarianism which substituting grace in manner for fidelity, makes the supposed possession pf superior grace a reason for swamping every principle of God. There is a tremendous deal of putting on of cant (forgive me the word, for I own the love under it at——) in it, but being flattery and looking like grace it wins people. It must be met kindly but decidedly, for it is insinuating and mischievous, and I think poisons the springs of christian simplicity and plainness. I should always meet assumption, whether in the form of superior grace or otherwise, as being entirely the contrary to grace. And I should be plain in principle, though not in the way of controversy; for the enemy is seeking to swamp it under this pseudo-charity in many a way. At any rate, dear brother, the exercise will do you good. You have had none to deal with at all æquis armis, and your own grace and full trusting in the Lord will be tried. Lean on Him, and fight the good fight of faith. Never allow your own importance thus to come into question, while firm as a rock in disallowing all this false pretension. It is all pseudo-grace, though there be real grace in those who have it: much better to get at this and speak plain English than speak about grace and flatter.
And now, while urging you to count on the Lord and fight the battle, His battle, yourself—this is really called for: it is time we should rouse ourselves and buckle on our armour, if we have what is worth contending for, and not look merely to others to help, while I am sure I will render all the help I can; but it is a time of putting faith to the test, and they that quit themselves like men will not lose their reward. But I will now turn to your perhaps more important questions.
Authority in the church is neither more nor less than the power of the Holy Ghost. There may be added at the beginning the apostles as constituted companions of Jesus, and having directions from Him. But now this is simply the working of the Holy Ghost in the church. This may be in an individual, according to the measure of power given to him, or it may be in the body; but it will always recognise the Holy Ghost in the body and in all the members. This is most marked in the epistles. They speak as to wise men who have an unction from the Holy One. This is the whole matter: this once departed from, some mere arrangement takes its place, and the Holy Ghost is in principle —namely, in faith—set aside, and weakness is soon apparent. The kingdom of God is in power; but that power is known only to faith.
As to traditions, no one who has read the Greek Testament can a moment doubt that the word is, in the New Testament, a doctrine delivered, not handed down; though this might sometimes be the character of what was delivered. Tuvpon eij" o}n paredovqhte of Romans6:17 makes this plain. So tradition in the popular sense is in contrast with scripture. But in the passage you refer to [2 Thess. 2:15], it is either the direct word of prophecy in the church there or the apostle’s epistle: nothing handed down in the church is secured by subsequent authority. The saints were to keep the doctrine they had been taught— the body of saints. Suppose I were to write to the body of saints in ——to hold fast what they had been taught, whether vivâ voce, or what I had written to them by letter, what would that have to say to the authority of the church or tradition of a subsequent era? Yet this is exactly the case, save that that teaching was divine and inspired, and therefore the exhortation had its peculiar place and weight: taV" paradovsei" a}" ejdidavcqhte, ei[te diaV lovgou ei[te dij ejpistolh'" hJmw'n clearly just to be a doctrine delivered.
Nor do I see what the communication of what he had learned to faithful men [2 Tim. 2:2], so as to form teachers, has to do with tradition. Nobody, unless they deny ministry, could gainsay this, and so far as a man could be trusted as receiving it from St. Paul, it would of course have weight; but that is just the question. It was not authority, but a means of communicating truth; the confounding these two things is the generally unperceived sophism of Milner’s End of Controversy. A rule of faith, he says, or means of communicating Christ’s religion. It must be plain, etc.; but these things are not the same. A mother does it to her babe, but she is not a rule of faith, perhaps does it perfectly rightly, but that alters nothing. Now here the apostle is directing the means of communicating truth to others, of course as surely as he can, but not setting up either authority or a rule of faith. When I had a dozen young men reading with me at Lausanne, I was doing this according to my ability. Was I dreaming of setting up authority or a rule of faith in them? Clearly not. The written word is clearly such the moment we own it inspired.
The real question is, Is it addressed to all saints as possessing the Spirit so as to use it? They are the church. Ministry may be a means of communicating, and a very precious one, as Ephesians 4; but they are never a rule nor an authority. A rule must be an existing quantum of doctrine, but this no men are. That as an authority must be infallible, which none is but God. Infallible is not perfectly right. I may say what is absolutely right, but I am not infallible. Whenever the apostles spoke by inspiration, they uttered in revelation what was absolutely right from God, but this did not make them infallible. God is, because in His nature He never can say anything but what is right. When God spoke by them, as every true Christian believes He did, they were absolutely right: but God remained the alone infallible, who never could of Himself say anything wrong. This was not communicated to an apostle, since if he did not speak by inspiration, he was as another man—more experience perhaps, but a man. Inspiration comes from the infallible One, but does not render the inspired one infallible, but only perfectly right and divine in what he utters as inspired.
Further, I believe God will secure by His power that the truth shall not be lost in the church to the end. It may be only in an upright godly few, as when almost all the professing church and Pope Liberius among them turned Arian. But this does not make the church infallible; but it does prove that God will keep His elect in vital essential truth to the end. But being kept is not authority. I am persuaded I shall be kept in the truth for the end—sure of it through grace; but this is not making me an infallible authority; it is just the opposite; I am subject to the truth. So the church, the elect saints, are subject to the truth always. They may have accompanying obscurities on many points, but they will never deny saving truth to the church. Many foolish things may be brought in and added, but it will not deny saving truth.
This the Council of Trent, and hence the Catholic body (I do not say every individual) have pretty much done. Hence the difference of the Establishment. The prayer-book has added a mass of destructive, false, and superstitious errors, but the articles in general, though obscurely, do not deny but proclaim saving truth. Hence the Galatians Paul was afraid of; they were on the point of denying really the saving truths, though recovered. The Colossians were introducing superstitions which led to this, but they were not met exactly in the same way, as they were not denying justification by faith for example, as the Galatians were well-nigh doing. But this is saving subjection to the truth, not authority; and this is the real point of difference.
They say, with a law we must have an interpreting judge. God says, with My word I must have saving faith mixed—the heart must bow to it itself; another cannot do this. No one denies that one can help another according to the measure of the Spirit—that is, help spiritually the soul in reception; but this is not authority; it is ministry. The truth received has God’s authority, and by the truth we are subject to Him. The word of God can have no authority to apply it, nor power either, but God Himself. Its whole object is to bring the soul and conscience into direct and immediate relationship with Himself. Interposed authority as to conscience sets aside God. There cannot be a judge with God’s word, because Christ is. (There may be discipline, and, in this sense, judgment in which the whole body acts, but this is another question) but the whole point is the authority of God’s word itself on the conscience; and mark, because God has said it, discerning it such, we set to our seal that God is true—not that the church is. The church it is that believes it, and thereby it is the church. So “ye received it not as the word of man, but as it is in truth the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” The church does not judge about the word of God. The word of God judges it, first as sinner then as saint. Whoever gets above this gets into sin—is not a doer of the law, but a judge.
I do not enter here on the external part of the question, that the tradition, nor even the authority is not to be found, though de facto many things are surely believed. It is clear that the local priest is not, though he may be a means of communicating. It is quite clear that the ponderous tomes of councils are not a more clear, or accessible, or intelligible rule of faith than the living word. But the truth is they are not agreed when it resides in a Pope or Council; and this is serious. It will be said certainly in both. But the Council of Constance deposed, and that of Basle set itself above the Pope and ended without him. Also there were two, and neither owned by the former. And yet more. The Church of Home cannot pronounce with unanimity which are the general councils. There are (I trust my memory) nineteen, but they dispute as to the enumeration of them. What a difference from the pure word of God!
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5 From Lausanne.