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[From the French.
Dear Sister,— … I am glad that you are making experience of the value of that inner life which is developed in communion with the Lord. The outward life, however blessed it be, can never give us that which is here communicated. It is the knowledge of Christ that matures the soul. It is true that to neglect our duties is not the means to make progress in it. For He communicates Himself, and we cannot command communion outside the path of His will, while in the accomplishment of that will, we dwell in His love. However, the blessedness that accompanies it never produces the effect without that which flows from having the soul exercised before God, who places it, such as it is, in connection with Himself, and with all the resources of His grace, by making it feel its condition to which that grace applies—or rather, finding occasion in that condition to communicate the knowledge of the grace. Thus the soul is more established, distinguishes better that which is of the Spirit, that which belongs to Christ from that which assumes the form of it, and knows infinitely better how to say I know in whom I have believed. But God chooses His opportunities to teach us these things, and when He has accomplished His end, the special communications of His wisdom and His love no longer continue, for He desires we should walk by faith, according to what we know we possess in Christ; but it is none the less true, that our path is in company with a Christ much better known, and in much more communion with Him. But after having received the instruction, we have to return to the ordinary activity of a life of duty, and to those relations with our brethren in which charity is developed and exercised, as it is put to the proof, either in the assembly or in individual intercourse; unless God takes us away to enjoy the happiness for which He has prepared us by His grace—an easier and happier change. His will however is always perfect, and His grace and wisdom are found in our return to ordinary life.
Peace be with you, dear sister; I have still for some time probably, work in this country in the region of the Gard. There is a great stir there, as you may suppose, and the truth is a resting-place desired by many hearts—rather they need it, and are happy in finding it; but this takes place in spite of many prejudices—our part is to work, in grace while it is day… Your affectionate brother in Christ.
Orthez, May 6th, 1849.
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[From the French.
Very dear Brother,—Here I am in the Pyrenees, and happy enough with the brothers, considering the short time I have seen them. I have passed one Sunday with them. There is simplicity in their meetings, which B. has cultivated. There have been conversions, and in general I see that there is a sincere desire to glorify the Lord: it is not, I think, a deep and experimental study of the word that distinguishes them, although they have received a degree of light through B.’s means. But there is a measure of freshness in their affections. I also spent nearly eleven days in Pau, where I truly felt much the leading of the Holy Spirit, which has done me much good. One saw the word of life and truth laying hold of souls and forming them and fashioning them for Christ; I speak of souls converted or attracted. It is remarkable when God works, the manner in which the truth becomes as a living part of the soul, and this refreshes the heart… Up to what point all will persevere is what I cannot tell. Many had been of the national church before my arrival, and it was they in general who gave me the greatest pleasure, the truth had been received with the heart. Some will leave Pau, but it is a place for which we must pray, for there are people opposed who will seek a middle course suitable to lead away souls. But I have left them however with joy, feeling that I can trust them to God. This visit has refreshed me. We also read together every day. I have also been at Clairac; there is some good there, and a few persons who feel the need of something better, and I hope that God is working there also. Good is being done also it appears at Nerac. I was not able to go to St. Foy. But these places are worth the trouble of caring for them, and praying for them, for God is working there.
It was only yesterday that I returned here, and I hardly know the state of the work, but I believe that doors and hearts are open to good, but that the actual measure of it is small. Anyway, there has been an evident movement of the Spirit. What need we have to cast ourselves entirely on Him in the work, and how simple it is when we do this! There is one thing that gives strength, it is to keep close to Christ. God works at the same time for us, and gives us refreshment, but our part is to keep close to the Lord. The pressure of the work without that, even of that work which is our duty and our business down here, contracts the heart, tends to make us lose that largeness of heart, that capacity of presenting the love of God freshly to souls, which alone can truly introduce into this world the element that it needs—that these poor souls, withered and unhappy through sin, have need of; and if one has a heart large and full of love apart from this nearness to Jesus, the love evaporates itself into mysticism, in that which is human under pretext of being divine. It is not that I believe that in the work one will be always in that liberty which sees all in the light. It is necessary to walk by faith, sometimes. Alas, tremblingly at least, the best workmen have borne witness to it; a St. Paul, an earthen vessel, himself responsible, placed in a contest between the Lord and the enemy of souls, will feel sometimes the shock of the battle, seeing that it takes place in him and by him and the forces that are engaged. It is true that the Holy Spirit always places us beforehand in the pure and fresh region of a redemption which leaves no longer any question of sin for us. The flesh being in us, we shall be all the more confused, if there is not practical diligence, but we are there.
After all, it is but for a little while, and to form us for the enjoyments which surpass all that we can conceive, but of which we have sometimes glimpses as to their nature; and. being rooted and grounded in love, we possess the place and source of it all. It is a profound source of joy to know that the God whom I know, who is mine, is He whom I shall know for eternity, and that I do not need another. I know Him in Jesus, I have known Him as Father, it is He whom my heart desires, and whom my heart knows. There is not another, nor could be, that one should desire or know—the only true God. There is a difference between desire and love. Desire has need of something for itself, holy though it be; love possesses and delights in that which is its object. Now God in revealing to us the perfection of our salvation, has placed us in this latter position; only being infinite, He is always in Himself that which gives this energy that seeks the knowledge of Him—depths in Himself beyond what we possess of Him. But it is in Christ that all our thoughts are adjusted, set right, judged and purified; for the infiniteness of God Himself staggers the littleness of the heart of man when Christ does not give him a sure support; without depriving him of anything of the fulness which is in God, but quite the contrary, it is in Him that we appreciate what He is, and near Him. This is what is found in St. John; we dwell in love, in God; where do we find ourselves? By this we know love, because He gave His life for us; what more true, more simple, more real, more near to the heart? and a love accomplished, proved, and that certainly is ours.
I close. I am constantly thinking of Nismes, but I wait on God. I have been so retarded in my work and movements, that I hardly know how to arrange for the season of work, but God will shew us, and I have always a visit to the mountains at heart, to see those dear brethren. Salute them warmly for me. May the blessing of God rest on your family.
Your affectionate brother
In our dear Saviour and Master.
A sort of meeting for worship that had been sought to be formed here near us, is already affected. It appears that God will not recognise these efforts to form half-and-half things. What a motive for us to seek with faithfulness and energy His full blessing., and to seek it near to Him! I am sorry to write to you with so little profit, but I did not wish to defer longer my reply to your note.
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[From the French.
Dear Brother,—While travelling I read your “Life of Madame de Krüdener,” and I must tell you that it did me good. Occupation, without any relaxation, tends, if one is not very near the Lord, to impair the most intimate affections; and when the details of the work constitute the chief part of such occupation, they tend to narrow the heart. It is not so, the moment one is near Him; then, on the contrary, such details exercise the best affections, and we delight ourselves more in Him. It was so with Christ, because His life of details flowed from the fact that He lived by His Father, and was nothing else than the perfect manifestation, in Man, of what the Father was; the produce of a heart filled with perfect love, the expression of an infinite love.
The life of Madame de Krüdener, which was passed outside the narrowness of secondary questions, recalled to me this love; for she certainly had a heart of spiritual love for the Lord; and, for my part, I have no difficulty in judging the things that are to be condemned in her walk, so that I need not dwell upon them. The one who is constantly a working bee within the hive, is free to gather only honey when he alights on flowers in the open air, whatever they may be. But I will say a few words as to what strikes me when I consider mysticism, as it is found in its best forms in M
adame de Krüdener and others.
Desire and love may be very exactly distinguished. Desire supposes the capacity to enjoy the thing we desire, that is to say spiritual affections, which as to their very nature, have God for their object; it supposes one to be born of Him, though Satan often, in an astonishing manner, imitates this class of feelings; but this state also supposes that one does not possess what one desires. Love supposes that we have full possession of the object of our desires. It is no longer a need for oneself, but it is enjoyment, appreciation, in delighting in it, of the object itself. Now mysticism, while boasting much of its feelings, never gets beyond desire; while simple Christianity, giving the knowledge of salvation, puts us into full possession of the love of God. I know that He loves me as He loves Christ; that love has saved me; it was He who desired me. In love He had need of me; and this love is perfection in Christ. In peace I contemplate this love, and I adore it in Christ. I dwell in Him and He in me.
I have never seen a mystic whose idea of love was not entirely at fault in its very nature; it was something in man, which needed to be satisfied, instead of being something in God, which satisfied the heart profoundly, infinitely, and perfectly. Thence, unheard-of efforts to abase oneself, to vilify oneself, and to speak evil of oneself, as if a saved one could be anything in the presence of a Saviour, instead of being nothing and forgetting himself in the presence of so much love. When one is truly delighted in the presence of God, and beholding His excellent beauty in His temple, is one occupied with the hideous forms which hide themselves in the heart of man? I think not. We think of Him. He has given us the right to do so, by a grace which has really set aside all that we were as alive out of Christ, as in the flesh. Do we then make no humbling experience of self? I say not so. Yes, there are moments when God reveals to us the frightful secrets of that heart in which no good exists; but we do not boast, we do not say much of it, if we have truly seen God. If we try to find in man, in his love to God, something as good as the love of God to us, then we talk about it, and fancy we are humbling ourselves. This is but the vanity of the heart which knows not God, and knows not itself either; it is the true character of mysticism.
But does not such a sight of God produce a humiliating knowledge of self? Yes, when we have not known what we are, nor known the gospel which gives us the right to say, “It is no more I that live.” Such was the case with Job, as with many others. He had thought of himself, of the grace in him; then he had to learn himself in the presence of God. But the gospel is the answer to all these disturbances in the soul, by the revelation of what God is, and of what God has done for him whom He knew to the bottom, just as he was, and who has learned, in the cross of Jesus, what the love of God is when there was nothing but sin, and sin seen by God as we could not see it, but seen only to be the occasion of a perfect work of love.
God, His holiness, His majesty, His righteousness, His love, has found His rest in the work and Person of Christ: I have found mine there. The mystic never has rest, because he vainly seeks in man what he ought to seek in God, who had accomplished all before he ever thought about it. This is why they seek a disinterested love; but where? In man! Poor worshippers of man, deified in their imagination; of a man who will never be found. Here, sin is in him; in heaven he will think only of God. This is why the imagination plays so great a part in mysticism, and Satan can so often deceive by it, because the imagination and the heart of man are called into play. I do not say that spiritual affections are never there: far from it; nor that God never reveals Himself to such affections. I doubt not that He does, and thus renders the person happy, but you will find him, after all, occupied with these affections and not with Him. It is the chief defect of mysticism. In a word, I see in it an effort of the human heart, trying to produce in itself something strong enough in the way of affection to satisfy a heart awakened by the excellence of its Object: for I am now supposing a true awakening of the heart.
In Christ I see a divine heart, reflecting the perfect certainty of a love whose perfection cannot be questioned. It is peace. Now He says to us, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” What peace is expressed in those words:— “I know that thou hearest me always, but because of the people that stood by I said it.” This peace is ours. (1 John 5:14, 15.) What peace even in those words, “I know whom I have believed,” as well as in so many other passages.
Are there not, then, these exercises of the soul’s desire before God? Yes; but this again brings out a marked difference. Before having understood redemption through the cross and our portion in Christ, which is its consequence, the awakened soul is exercised; it often seeks peace and rest in a spiritual progress and love for God which are never found: but the effect of all this exercise, under grace, is to bring the conscience into play and to produce the conviction of its uselessness; that in us, that is in our flesh, dwells no good thing. Conscience takes full account of what passes in the heart and of what we are, so that we are brought to renounce all attempt to find peace in the state of our souls. We need to be pardoned, saved; we place ourselves at the foot of the cross, but not as having immutable affections. We have discovered that we have them not; and it is not only the heart which is troubled by this, although that is the case, but conscience knows that we are lost, dead under condemnation. We see things as they are in the presence of God; we need to be saved. We no longer seek good in ourselves, under the form of divine affections, but we find it in God, in His kindness towards us by Christ Jesus; we have peace.
Have the deep affections with which the cross inspired me ceased, because I am no longer crushed with the sense of need? No; conscience has intervened, and has set me in my place. What God has done, what He is, has given me peace; and now I have divine leisure (because nothing is uncertain in my relations) to contemplate that which is perfect in the object of my affections, without being occupied with myself.
The mystic humbles himself because he still hopes to find good in himself, or he occupies himself in this, as if there might be some, and he finds only evil. The Christian is humble (and that is quite another thing), because he has given up seeking good in himself, to adore the One in whom there is nothing else. Now it is not that he deceives himself, but that the intervention of conscience, by the light of the Spirit and the truth, has put him in his place. I believe, for example, that Madame de Krudener only fully reached that position in her last illness. This is what often happens. The Moravians, while sweetly enjoying Christ, often remain at this point. She was under the obligation of love; a true thing, but she did not know it. She knew that God was love, but she wished to be it also; and this is closely allied to pride of heart, until we have taken our place, as dead in our trespasses and sins, and have understood love towards us in that Christ died, and that we are dead and risen in Him.
The truth is this: there is still conflict, because the flesh is in us, and the Holy Ghost has sometimes to occupy us with ourselves, and to humble us. God being infinite and His work perfect, there is always in Him, even when our peace is perfect, that which awakens all the energy of an affection which cannot satisfy itself, although perfectly assured of the love of Him whom it beholds. This suits the relations of a creature with God, and it is happiness for us and does not detract from our peace. It is quite a different thing from the mystic desire to love, which is true, but which turns upon self, because it knows neither God nor self. Yet I find my heart so cold that it sometimes does me good, because I know well enough that I was lost and am saved, not to mix this with my knowledge of a free salvation, accomplished without me, and which fully glorifies God, and God alone: but it often does harm to souls who have not been emptied before God, not having had the work transferred from the heart to the conscience in His presence.
It is astonishing from how many errors this delivers, without a word being said. My human affections may attach themselves to the Virgin, but conscience … ? Is there any blood-shedding there? The Virgin is no more, as to that, than the most miserable sinner: she is a creature before God. Purgatory, the pretended repetition of the sacrifice, absolution, holy unction, and many other things vanish without controversy, like shadows, like apparitions of darkness in the face of the light, before a conscience which has already found itself, such as it is, in the presence of God, and has there been thoroughly purged by the knowledge of His work in Christ. The needs of conscience may throw a sincere soul into these superstitious practices, but for a purged conscience which knows God they are nothing. This is what gives me such horror of a system which traffics with the terrors of conscience to hide the love of God; manifestly the work of the enemy. But see, to say no more, in the Epistle of John, which touches the borders of mysticism, but with the finger of God, in what a manner, side by side with the highest elevation of communion with Him, he always replaces the soul on the simple ground of salvation by objective faith. This is what corrects the heart of man with his wings of Icarus. (Chap. 4:7-10, and even the whole chapter.)
Now, a few words upon your work. You are conscious that it is rather intended for the world, so that it must be considered with respect to this. A life of Madame de Krüdener carries us into the midst of emperors, queens, and titles. I make up my mind to it. One loves to see grace everywhere; that grace which despises neither great nor small. However, the ways of God are different when He acts in the power which is proper to Him. The world is then left in its true place, and His Son, and His apostles, and His servants, are arraigned before the great men sitting as a tribunal, and this turns for a testimony. It is thus that God causes His voice to penetrate into places most distant from Him, while preserving, in its perfection, the character of His own, and of that which belongs to Himself. I admire His grace which deigns to act otherwise; but I admire His perfection such as He has Himself presented it to me.
I have said that I take for granted the worldly form of the book, and that thus you have left to each the responsibility of forming a judgment for himself on the worldly life of Madame de Krüdener, by passing lightly, and without remark, over her wanderings; the grace which pardoned all, being the true contrast to the evil. It seems to me, however, that while admitting the principle that it is a life you are writing and not a sermon, the fact of having left her husband a second time, after his great indulgence towards her—of having again formed painful connections at Paris (and I would insist even more on the first step)—shewed a want of conscience and of moral spring in Madame de Krüdener, that the world even could and ought to have felt. Her husband, it is true, was no husband as to the inward ties of her moral existence; but the kindness which replaced her anew in a moral position ought to have awakened the sense of it if one had it. I think that this reproduced itself, and is found again in her spiritual wanderings, for the ways of God are righteous.
I have yet another objection to make to you. It seems to me that your desire to win the world, has led you to the mistake of introducing the letter from Monsieur de Fregeville. I do not admit that even the world calls such things “a pure homage.” After these remarks, which I make in all freedom, I come to her life after her conversion.
Her devotedness inspired me with the deepest interest. It is refreshing in this selfish world, the slave of formality, which is of use to hide itself behind because it is too ugly to be seen, and to preserve its selfishness as intact as possible without avowing it—a world without heart—a world without independence because it is without heart—it is refreshing, I say, to find something which overleaps the barriers and acts from motives which shew heart and love—that love which is the only true liberty.
Thus the devotedness of Madame de Krüdener interested me much, and also humbled me. The little that I have had of it in my life makes me enjoy hers, and it has been so little that it makes me admire what I see in her. But here also I find the ways of God. When the devotedness came directly from Him and was manifested in her ways, the energy found there became realised in a result which was altogether of Him, and was preserved from the seductions of the enemy. Now God can never abandon His ways. If man abandons them, even while devoting himself, the complement is of the enemy under one form or another. One sometimes wonders that a good part of the life of a devoted and spiritual person should be spent in mistakes and wanderings; one asks oneself how the presence of the Spirit of God, necessary to produce this life, comports with these mistakes. I say, on the contrary, that as regards the government of God, it is a necessary consequence. Can God place His stamp of approval upon that which is contrary to His thoughts? Will He refuse blessing in answer to real devotedness, because there is error? He cannot sanction the former, nor refuse Himself to the latter. What is the consequence? Blessing is found, as well as His tender care. He maintains the foundation even through ail the wanderings, but He abandons to their natural consequences the evil, and the false confidence which accompany it; otherwise He would be justifying evil.
If the work of Madame de Krüdener had had the character of that of Paul, the seal of God would have been upon that which was contrary to His will. The mercy of God does not permit this. An ardent woman, hasty, full of imagination, acting under impressions and influences, subject to the excitement of circumstances—such was Madame de Krüdener. The principle at bottom being divine, that is found in the work: Satan meddles with it; he always makes use of the flesh when we allow it to act. This is the history of all these eases. If people judged themselves healthily, if they were in the truth before God, there would be no difficulty in unravelling them. But God does not explain these things to those who have them not; this would be again to sanction evil, although He may bring us out of this state by grace, and He is faithful not to allow us to be tempted beyond our strength. If we wait upon Him there is no danger. If we rush on, He must let us see the consequences of it. If there exists the foundation of that which is spiritual, it will be found again in eternal happiness; but, in the government of God, each thing brings its own consequences. He can, in grace, and honouring the instrument, make use of a repentant and devoted woman; He has done it in His grace; but an excited woman, and one who it seems to me was little sensible of what she had been, is not a perfect instrument according to the ways of God, for carrying on a work. We see the consequences of this, in order that the perfection of the ways of God may be known.
I believe even that a certain state of things in the kingdom of God, in Christians, does not admit of a perfect instrument and mode of action according to the thoughts of God. It would be out of place; it would not even do His work. It may remain an extraordinary thing, but I do not know what the apostle Paul would do (or rather Paul would not know what to do) in the actual state of things. God always knows what to do, because He is above all. He will judge at the end. He will cause His grace to shine forth by translating into the glory those who are faithful in the confusion; but the creative energies of a perfect order are not suited to the confusion and moral culpability which result from having spoiled that order. It would be to dishonour that fresh light of a new affection of which Christ is the centre and object. Christ Himself begins with—“Blessed, blessed;” it was natural that this should come forth from the heart of Him who came from heaven; but He ends with “Woe unto you, woe unto you.” Was it that His grace had diminished? No indeed, it had but been tested, approved more glorious, His unfailing faithfulness more than ever assured to our hearts. But He could not be at the end what He was at the beginning. It is the same with the work. But, the love and blessedness of the one who understands this grace are greater than before. Paul, in the Epistle to the Philippians, is more matured, knows himself more profoundly in Christ, than when in all the energies by which he confounded his adversaries. His experience of Christ is more complete, and his heart thus more perfect in its feelings. Elias can be compared with Moses, for they were together the companions in glory of the Saviour on the Mount; but Elias, in presence of the golden calves, could not make a tabernacle as Moses did. He was, for that very reason, a still more striking witness of the grace of God.
One more remark about Madame de Krüdener, without doubt less important, but that I believe to be true. There was with her a lack of spiritual originality, not of sincerity; this serious defect betrays itself also in her work, and, among other things, has given it its character. She received impressions from Jung Stilling, from Oberlin, from Tersteegen, from Maria Kummrin. Perhaps this was natural in a woman, but that is why a woman cannot be a principal agent in the work. It is foreign to the ways of God. She may help, greatly help, but not be a principal agent; she may do things a man could not do, but not do what he does. This is true in a more important point of view. She could not receive directly from Christ, impulsion for a position which He did not give her. The love of Christ was there; the impulsion came from elsewhere. Now, when it is Christ Himself who sets the heart in motion, He acts upon the new man, as He also forms in us that new man which the wicked one touches not. His presence acts upon the conscience, silences the flesh, reduces the man to nothing—his vanity, his self-love, and his good opinion of himself; the whole man is judged in His presence, and the work produced is of Christ Himself, whatever may be the vessel. If there is danger of its being otherwise, a thorn in the flesh is sent.
When we receive our impressions, our impulsions second hand, the flesh and the heart are not judged at all, although the love of Christ may be in us. The flesh and the heart are reproduced anew, and the agent is exposed, by the very fact of his activity, to all sorts of snares of the enemy, which, on their part again, are reproduced in the work. This was the case with Madame de Krüdener; but she certainly will not lose the fruit of her devotedness, of-which I do not in the least, for my own part, doubt the sincerity. But there was too much of man with her, and man is always false. This is so true (it is important to notice it) that, while tasting the love of Christ, she never really knew the gospel, as being herself in the presence of God, until her last illness; and then she immediately perceived that she had often mistaken her imagination for the voice of God; for it is only there that man dies, and that God is seen alone, such as He is. Now as long as man is not dead, Satan can make use of him, and spiritual discernment is wanting. The fact of the accomplishment of the visions proves nothing in these things. All that also accompanies the power of the enemy; but the spiritual man, being humble, easily judges these things when God places him before them, and when he takes the word of God as the absolute guide of his judgment.
These, you will say, are remarks on Madame de Krüdener, and not on my work; except a few words of blame, you have said nothing about it: this is a poor compliment. You are mistaken. Compliments, it is true, I do not make; but the best, the true praise of a work is, that it produces thoughts in him who reads it, and such has been the effect of your work.
I have pointed out to you the defect, which has appeared to me to spoil it a little; then, from the point of view of the book itself, I believe it unimprovable except the letter of M. de Frégeville; for I do not think that at this moment you could place yourself in the presence of Christ, to relate the things and present them from the point of view that you have done in this work.
In our state of imperfection, every moral position has its own season; where, instead of starting clear from the perfection and riches of Christ, we work ordinarily in purifying ourselves, and reproduce ourselves, alas, in our work, while thinking to judge everything.
In the life of Madame de Krüdener, it would be important to know what formed her habitual reading; it betrays itself sometimes. Oberlin may be recognised. He was a devoted man, but with an unbridled imagination, a noted heretic, whose errors bear their fruits now, when what man, and even the church admire, is lost and forgotten; for the judgment of God is not that of man. Tersteegen also may be recognised: I do not know if one could trace any others; but this would be one element of that which formed Madame de Krüdener’s public character. It is well, in order not to feed the vain curiosity of the public, that your volumes contain so little of the views which acted so powerfully upon her life; yet in order to judge healthily of it, we should need to know a little more…
Montpellier, May 29th, 1849.
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[From the French.
Very dear Brother,—It is indeed the force of Ephesians 4 that you particularly point out, but you must not forget to what the church is destined in the age to come and for ever, when there will be there no power to counter-balance, as in 1:11, 12, 2:7, 5:2/7, &c.—our own relationships with the Lord; but what you say is truly what ought, to be at the present time, and it is this which has failed so sadly. Alas, my heart is always most painfully affected by it; but we await His glory. We must remember that priesthood does not apply to the church as seen in Christ, but to individuals such as they are in fact; and it maintains the relations of such beings with, or in a position such as, that of the church seen in Christ; that is to say, perfect, leaving out of count that which is down here in it. Here may come in the idea that applies to every thought of God”, with regard to that which is down here, that is to say, as having sentiments, movements of heart, &c, in view of what is passing; and in a certain sense the expression of it is human, but it is the imperfect expression of a reality. Priesthood does not touch the question of our perfection, save that that perfection has placed us in a heavenly position before God in Christ, in regard to which it is a question of maintaining poor feeble creatures on the earth. Sometimes the idea of our heavenly perfection in Christ obscures the thought of priesthood; for me it is the basis of it. Is it your thought; or only that that which is done necessarily and perfectly in heaven is presented as a function which is in exercise? The word of God speaks in fact as to children, but it is in order that that which is true may thus be within the reach of children.
As to my movements, dear brother, I am more than ever ignorant; I have just had a short but very severe illness. I had an attack in my head by the hand of God, in such a manner as to cut the thread of my moral life; of what will result from it for my career I know little. I was habitually throughout that illness in deep peace, which has done me good, but it has greatly separated me from the course of my ordinary life, and I do not know when that will be resumed. I am better, but I do not yet apply my head in an orderly way. The mountain would do me good, but there are two accounts on which it is possible that God will raise up work to me, and until I set to work I can hardly say. Also I am very poor for travelling at this moment, but I will write you a line, God willing; but I should like you, beloved brother, to develop a little your thought as to priesthood.
I do not doubt that there is a divine manner of seeing, which differs from the communications made to us who understand but in part, but the communication that is made to us is divinely suited to produce in us, as far as that can be according to our finite capacity, the effect and idea of the reality of that which is seen divinely above, so that it is the truth as far as we are capable of it, the truth for us. Nothing else would be expressed: otherwise in its elevation we should understand nothing; in a lower way the height of the divine thought would not be expressed. It is like Christ Himself, God manifest in flesh; God, but within reach of man, always such that He could say, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father”—so with divine communications. I do not know if this is your thought, tell me in one word. I have not F.’s address, otherwise I should have written to him. Tell him there are many things to cause joy in the winnowing, though one may be feeble in it.
Your very affectionate.
I am still feeble, but much better.
Montpellier, June 12th, 1849.
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To the same.]
[From the French.
Very dear Brother,—It seems to me that what you present as the thought of the Epistle to the Ephesians, is one of the most striking, but it is not particularly that of chapter 4. There is yet another very important one, namely, that Christ, and the church by Him and united to Him, will have dominion over all things, all the works of God, in blessing, when Satan is outside the scene. In this is the difference on this point, between this dispensation and that which is to come. During this one, by the power of the Holy Spirit we glorify the Lord (at least, we ought to do it) in presence of the evil, and in spite of its power; whereas, in the age to come, the Lord will have set aside the power of evil by the exercise of His own in judgment, and will govern creation in blessing according to the power of the Lord to do what is good. Only fallen man will be still in his weakness, and one will learn to distinguish better that which is of him and of the enemy; and man will be left without excuse when after all he falls, as soon as the enemy is let loose.
But this recalls to mind another part of the Epistle, that is to say, the intimate relationship between the church and Christ Himself, its internal relationships without regard to its relations with that which is apart from Christ; and this positive relationship is that which is most intimate of all and precious. This procures for us also His continual care that we may be a bride suited to Him, then that He may present it to Himself formed morally by the word, and then glorified by the powerful hand of Him who is its Head without spot and without wrinkle. We must not forget either the important accessory truth of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, not only as seal of the individual, but to form the body and animate its members. It is also remarkable that in the midst of all this, the Spirit of God makes the exhortations the occasion of introducing our position of dear children before God, that we may imitate Him.
I do not quite know what you mean at the end of your letter, unless it is that priesthood is a way of expressing that we are perfect in Christ. But if that is the thought, I do not believe it is right, dear brother; because if it is important for us to consider ourselves perfect in Christ as the starting-point, whether of confidence or of nearness to God, so that all may be judged in us and around us according to that nearness, the discovery of that which we are in fact in view of that, the needs that flow from it for our souls, for our hearts, give place to the obtaining of necessary grace by the intervention of Jesus; and all that happens with regard to these needs brings into play, produces even, affections, interest, light and tenderness of conscience, spiritual discernment, growth of our moral being, which bring us constantly nearer in fact to the light, in which we are by right in virtue of the perfection of Him who, having borne our sins, is before God according to the absolute perfection in man of that which answers to all the exigencies and to all the affections of the moral being of God Himself. And it is not enough to be there of right on account of Christ, it is a question of being there in fact according to the love of Him who has introduced us there. Now the failures and weaknesses which would place us at a distance from it, become by the intercession of Jesus so many means of understanding, and links with the love of Him who answers to it, and channels of the intelligence of what He is, and of what He desires, so that we are formed intelligently after His image. Without the presence of Christ in heaven for us, this would not be so; it is He who puts us in relationship with God, and maintains the communications of imperfect beings with the Being who is perfect; and He makes our imperfections the occasion of the communication of His grace, and that by working in our affections by His Spirit, thus placing us in known relationships, consciously enjoyed and righteous.
But explain to me more clearly, dear brother, your thought. I should much like to know it. Two reasons have hindered me from coming; I was taken ill at the mountain, after one of the happiest journeys in the Basses Pyrenees, where I felt the Spirit was working very sensibly. The attack was in my head. I could do nothing for three weeks: I am better… Then there is the printing of my “Etudes sur la Pentateuque.” Salute the brethren warmly. I always hope to see them. Perhaps I must go to England.
Your very affectionate.
I have only spoken of the moral effect besides that of fact. The precious Saviour maintains our relations.
June 29th, 1849.
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My dear Brother,—I was purposing writing to you when your note arrived. I have heard that the flesh manifested itself in the circumstances attending the leaving Orchard Street; as also it was stirred up by the way they were dealt with. I write to you to say that if this has been so—into which I do not inquire—I justify it in no way; I leave it to the Lord’s judgment. I go upon the broad ground that I get for myself—brethren avowedly clear of all upholding of Bethesda—without to me any other question. I stated in my circular I should not go where persons were received from Bethesda. Bethesda received those who had been rejected as the avowed associates of Mr. Newton, thus forcing us too, if we owned Bethesda, to receive them back again. After what I stated yesterday, I have nothing to add. I can conceive no more miserable effort to serve the doctrine than the document still upheld by Bethesda. As to people’s consciences, you must allow me to respect my own as well as others’; and, if others are determined to uphold what I believe to be wickedness, not to walk with them; if others judge so too, how can I condemn them? I have since I left Ebrington Street asked for the fellowship of none, except they felt disposed to receive me as having taken my position. I think Bethesda’s position a very wicked one, and I think upholding it is wickedness, though ignorance about it may not be. The question of doctrine is not the question with Bethesda, but that of their trying to screen those who held it, and thus to force neutrality upon others. That they will not do with me. They have taken their position, and I have taken mine; and I shall act as to all so as to make it as clear as possible. But I am not now going to take any part in what is going on: I feel sure I have the Lord with me; time will shew. I think your position a false one. I do not pretend to judge how others may have wounded your sensibilities, for I really do not know. I pronounce no judgment whatever on the acts of persons in my absence. It is very probable I might not have agreed in them, as I felt the Lord was acting, and that the truest way was to leave Bethesda and its associates alone, and that they were in the Lord’s hands. But I was not the judge of what others did. I desire earnestly that you may be brought in peace and brotherly unity out of a position I believe to be false. I have sorrows, but no difficulty. I can wait upon others, and I do so, but I cannot willingly make my position equivocal. I go on very broad plain ground. I think Bethesda very bad. I cannot own it as if it was not. I believe it has been publicly and avowedly unfaithful to Christ; hence that its supporters are upon terrible ground: that suffices to guide my conduct. In dealing with others I shall endeavour to do so according to the grace and truth that is in the Lord Jesus. Such a position is very simple and makes the path very plain, if one only knows how to walk in it. There has been division where there have been supporters and justifiers of Bethesda, but where the guilt lies in that case the Lord will judge; I am not aware, unless a very few individuals, that there has been, where there has been faithful firmness.
Yours affectionately in the Lord.
[From the French.
Very dear Brother,—You are entering I think upon that period of activity which makes a life of reflection a far more hidden life than before. This is a very real advance in christian life. I liked divine philosophy, it is still to my taste. As long as the external life is composed of this, we have the appearance of being far more spiritual and deep. Thus, the steam which escapes from the engine, appears to have much more force than that which draws the heavy train, which only appears to offer resistance to the movement that it is sought to give it; but it is when hidden for the most part, that the force really acts. In this way its reality also is put to the proof. And why do I say that it is real progress? It is because it makes less appearance before men, because it is more entirely before God, with whose approval we must be satisfied. We must be content to possess the thing with Him, nay—to find it in Him; but that is to possess it in reality. It is the principle of moral perfection, to enjoy things instead of accrediting oneself with them in the eyes of others. Active christian life is a common life of service, in contact with human passions, faults, and weaknesses, in a word, in contact with the flesh. But to act in it, to introduce God in it, and this is what Christ was, there must be power, we must be really in communion with Him—participating thus in that nature that nothing encroaches on, and which shines in its own perfection in the midst of all—to be above all that we meet with.
Divine philosophy, supposing it to be real, and to meet with no opposition when displayed before others, is an easy enjoyment, and, as I have said, one clothes oneself with it, one displays it to admiring eyes. To walk in christian life, we must be what we admire: that is another thing. We must be divine, in the sense of the communion of His nature. And this is why Jesus was the most isolated of men, and, at the same time, the most accessible, the most affable: the most isolated, because He lived in absolute communion with His Father, and found no echo, no sympathy with the perfect love which was in Him; the most accessible, the most affable, because He was that love for others. Speaking of the ineffable work which opened a way for that love through all the sin, He says: “I have a baptism to be baptised with; and how am I straitened until it is accomplished.” That baptism of bitterness and death, which made an end of sin, even in its last stronghold and its last title of destruction, through the righteousness of God against us, gave free course to that love in its infinite designs of grace; for love is of infinite invention for the happiness pf that which is loved, and the love of God purposes that which is beyond all our thoughts. It is the spring of the thoughts of the infinite God. And again, when towards the end of His course the opportunity presents itself, at the moment when the unbelief of His own makes Him say, “How long shall I be with you? and suffer you?” (for—and this is what He expects from us in this poor world—there was not, even in His own, faith or capacity to make use of the resources of grace and power which were in Him) He adds, without even a moment’s interval, “Bring thy son hither.” (Luke 9:41.) The consciousness of being isolated in His love, so that others did not even understand how to profit by it, does not, for a moment, arrest His energy and activity. The same sentence which contains the “how long,” says also “bring thy son hither.”
What was then the life of this Jesus, the Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief? A life of activity in obscurity, causing the love of God to penetrate the most hidden corners of society, wherever needs were greatest; among those whom human pride repelled, in order to maintain its own reputation, but whom the love of God sought, because He needed not to establish for Himself a reputation, or to keep one. He was always the same: and the more He apparently compromised Himself, the more He manifested Himself in a perfection which never belied itself. The love of God needed not, like human society, to protect itself from that which laid it too bare. It was always itself. The toilsome life of Jesus was passed in seeking souls in all circumstances. It went through everything that could put it to the proof, but we see in it a divine reality which never failed; then—in presence of self-righteousness and pride, and the tyrannical boldness of the contradiction of sinners, or in favour of some poor crushed soul, or, lastly, to justify the ways of God in their favour—we discover in it from time to time a divine mine of touching, exquisite thoughts, a depth of truth which betrayed its perfection by its simplicity, shewing a soul always fed with the most intimate communion with infinite love and perfect holiness; the One who could say, “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen;” who weighed evil by the perfection of good which was in Him, and found, in the fearful discoveries (if we speak of discoveries where all was open) which the holiness of His soul made, opportunities for the manifestation of infinite love—or rather, it was the love of a holy Being which made these discoveries, a love which clothed itself with a grace which, by its very humiliation, placed itself within the reach of all the needs of the heart, and which, at the same time, in presence of the pride of man, shewed itself at the height of the dignity and majesty of God.
How beautiful to see this Person (these divine qualities piercing through the humiliation) place Himself within the reach of those whom the world despised, and find—being wearied with His journey, indebted for a drink of water to a woman who scarcely dare shew herself with others—meat to eat which the world, and even His disciples, knew nothing of; and that, in the deliverance of a poor heart crushed by the weight of a bad conscience and the contempt of her fellow creatures, to whom He had given back (or rather, given) the spring of life and joy. What a prospect! how much of blessing to sinners this opened to His soul; for He did not disdain such consolation in the midst of a world which drove Him from its bosom. Thus love consoles itself: the heart that loves the sinner needs it in such a world. But where is this to be found? In retirement, in the labours of a life which had to do with the common needs of souls, but as abiding in the truth; for this life did not shelter itself from the misery of the world, to walk in the midst of that which has an appearance only, but it brought into it—precious grace!—the love of God. He was that which others could write of.
How many needs, hidden even in the most degraded souls, would confess themselves, would come to light, if a love, a goodness which could give them confidence, were presented to them: but for this, one must be content, often to find oneself in the midst of such degradation, being preserved from it only by what is within; and this was the life of the Lord. How many souls are whirling in pleasure, in order to silence the moral griefs which torment them! Divine love not only answers needs; it makes them speak. It is delightful to see the opening out of a soul, and, at the same time, to see the entrance of spiritual intelligence. One may not exactly seek the degradation I speak of, but we find the world knowing that is the truth as to what is found there, and its external forms do not rebuff the soul. But it is a life of labour, of patience And of happiness, the like of which cannot be found. Christ could say through all, “That they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” Without doubt there are diversities of gifts, but even when God opens this path before us in His grace, how slow we are to follow the track of the One who draws us there!
Courage, dear brother! grace is there in the path which He has opened to us; we find it every day as we go along; and what glory, when all the principles which have been formed in the heart by faith, blossom in heaven, and are reproduced in the fulness of their results, according to the heart of God. We must wait while walking by faith. But I must stop.
I am at——, where I am pursuing a very humble work, a work of detail, but a work in which I am very happy, feeling I am at my post, and even with little desire to leave it. God in His great goodness refreshes me a little, when I see souls refreshed and happy in the thought of His precious and perfect grace. It is a little work, but I see in it the good hand of God, who in spite of our weakness makes us feel a little how good it is to be with Him…
October 1st, 1849.
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[From the French.
Very dear Brother,—You will be rather surprised at receiving an answer to your letter now, but not, I am sure, sorry. As to Ephesians 4, we must remember that it does not treat of ornaments before the world, but the tender and precious care of Christ for that which He loves as His own flesh. In result, man cannot frustrate this care; he may know very little how to profit by it; the intelligent result down here may be but small, but the thought of God in blessing will be always accomplished, because our folly, though culpable, gives room for His wisdom. If Israel had not courage to go up the mountain of the Amorites, and as to present circumstances lost, and lost what they did not find again, they learned—at least, Joshua and Caleb and others, and we ourselves likewise—much as to themselves, which set them in a relationship much more real, more true with God, according to what Israel was, and what God was, and gave God an opportunity for the display of His grace and power, taking care of even the nap of their coats, and not allowing their feet to swell; for a manifestation much more remarkable of His power and of His ways in the crossing of Jordan dryshod, and in all the details of their entrance into Canaan, from the testimony of Balaam after the long passage of the desert—all these things being necessary to the full revelation of the ways and counsels of God. Was it then that the sin of Israel was the work of God? By no means. This unbelief was already in their heart; the arrival at the mountain was but the opportunity for its manifestation. God may permit and arrange events for the manifestation of sin— never in order to produce it—and the manifestation (being under grace) brings all into the light, and is a means of progress.
Then to say that because the church has failed it gets necessarily into a worse condition, is true and false at the same time. As a public vessel of testimony to the truth on the earth, to its shame, that is true; but it is impossible that God or Christ should be unfaithful, and the fact of the manifest and general failure, gives room for a concentration of energy and of light, so much the brighter, as the space it illumines is small. Israel, when the precious Saviour was there, was always going on worse, was tending to its ruin, but He shines with a light ever brighter, as it is concentrated in what He was Himself, instead of lending itself to His relations, true but temporary and obligatory with the Jews. This is the reason why, though all is so beautiful, the Lord appears in John with a light and perfection infinitely more touching and striking—why we see Him better than in the other gospels. We are more entirely with Him, with Him alone, with what He was in Himself. There the Jews are set aside. Who in the history of Israel shines in the midst of darkness like Elijah? the only one in testimony, the only one—save the hidden remnant, whom the eye of God recognised and whom the faith of the prophet ought to have known, if he had been near enough to God to have His thoughts. I find in the Psalms, that faith is much more simple and calm when the remnant is driven away.
It is the same, I believe, with the church, at least, one may look for it; not that the vessel should be repaired, and set right, but that the true church, those at least who in heart are waiting for the Lord, will be always more true in their position, will understand the Lord’s heart better, will be more united amongst themselves, a “little flock,” but who will know much better the voice and the heart and the thoughts of the Good Shepherd. The ground which the enemy gains can only be over the flesh and over the general testimony: it is sad, but understood by the faithful one, and, after Sardis, the manifest general condition. If I find Laodicea to be spued out, I find Philadelphia, which has the ear and heart of the Saviour, having little strength, but which has kept His word, and not denied His name. We are working for the most part with those, the half of whom do not know the immense principles in question; But if there is faithfulness, a single eye, God keeps them. But to be always waiting for the Lord, that is our strength. “There are many called, but few chosen.” Alas! decline is the continual tendency, but the Saviour never declines. Keeping close to Him, one will have, not perhaps a public testimony common to the masses—they are always rather the fruit of a testimony—but still, the testimony on His part in the fulness of His power, according to the need of the church; for His power and His love never change. This is a subject that goes to the heart, and I know that I can trust Him, though I have been often cast down at the sight of the determination of the church to put aside grace and blessing, and the power which the enemy puts forth in deceiving her.
I have lost time at Montpellier, through failing to follow sufficiently closely the leadings of the Holy Ghost, and I am suffering for it now, having to do through greater difficulty that which, having been done much more easily before, would have left me free to do what I cannot now accomplish as I should desire, but now I put myself again in His loving hands; I must learn my lesson of the mountain and the Jordan. We are in sorrowful times; let us not be surprised at it, only let us be near Him, in order to make shine clearly, without obscuring it, what He gives.
As to the second question, it is certain that the day of atonement applied to the conscience in the sense of acceptance before God for all sins until the end. Man, such as he is altogether, is, so to speak, set aside, and Christ, in the efficacy of His work, put in his place before God, and the Christian ought always to have the consciousness of it, never to have the thought that God is against him. He is not so; Christ has borne all his sins; it is impossible that they should be imputed to him, impossible that he can be too clear about it. My sins are committed in an existing relationship, and one which they do not alter, but they are much more serious on that account. But my relations with God are realities, for which according to His glory I have been saved and washed., and these relations are really interrupted by sin. The blood of the red heifer was not put upon the mercy-seat, but it was sprinkled seven times before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, where God met with the people; this secured even at all times the basis of their intercourse. Restoration was on the side of him who had denied himself, and it was a real restoration. The nature of God is against sin, and darkness could not have communion with light, but our condition is darkness if we have touched death. There is a difference when the Holy Ghost reveals God in my heart, and I am in the atmosphere of His love, and when I search for and endeavour to find the sense of His presence; it is not a question of presenting the man, but of his condition if he were presented. Now the Spirit of God gives us the consciousness of this condition in grace; but in the conscience and in the heart. He renews in the heart the consciousness of the relationship; in the conscience, the feeling of having failed in it, and this in presence of the perfect love of Christ, for the ashes of the heifer are the proof of His love, and that sin is taken away—has been taken away, rather—that it is not a question of imputation, but of the work in itself. It is the word which is the instrument of it, the truth, and the word is this truth. As to imputation, it is then no longer a question; but defilement is not imputation. Now what Christ is doing for us in heaven is to reconcile practically our present position in fact here below with our position acquired in Him, and to make good to us, being in His presence as to our personal acceptance, all the grace of God to maintain us at the height of the enjoyment of this position, or to make us rise to it in the practical sense. Therefore it is said, “for such an high priest became us, holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens,” because it is a question of this position for us, and He must be there. Now it is necessary to sympathise with our infirmities, but He “was tempted in all things like as we, without sin.” Aaron was in infirmity when he was exercising the priesthood; not Christ, because we have a place with Him in heaven, but He knew what temptation was when He was here, and in virtue of His presence in heaven (in which we are accepted, nothing being imputed), He obtains all that is necessary to put us into real relations with our position above, or rather with God according to that position. So there is no inconsistency between the sense of having our position unimpaired, and the deepest feelings of horror of sin; on the contrary, it is by having this conviction that the feeling is produced.
In our ministry we must put these things in connection; this is what the ashes of the heifer did. In John 13, he who is washed needs only that his feet should be washed, but he is wholly clean. I do not put myself back into it when I have sinned; I do not lose it. It is because the house is clean, that I have a horror of the dirt that I have brought into it. If one has lost the sense of the purity of the house, one takes less account of the dirt, but the flesh can cast itself on that. When one has sinned, it is not that any longer; being there fully in the light, with full confidence, one’s heart is cast on the judgment of what is inconsistent with such a position, and the love even unto death which has placed us there. The priesthood of Christ is exercised in order to produce right feelings, not when we have them. It is not our relief to think of it when we have failed, save as a general truth. “If any one sin” (not if any one repent), “we have an advocate with the Father.” It is not (appropriately) said, Melchisedec, king of righteousness, save as to His person, except within the veil.
I have given you a few thoughts; I do not know if they answer to your request. I write a little in haste, even after such a long delay. There is some little good in the south, but weak in comparison with the organisation which is got up to hinder souls from finding their true position.
Peace be with you, dear brother. May the Lord find us watching to take us to Himself. Salute the brethren affectionately.
Your very affectionate.
Nismes, October 23rd, 1849.
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Dearest ——,—Thank you much for your letter, which I need not say interested me much. Still, I feel, though my heart is often in England, my path is for the moment shut up here. When I say, shut up, it is not complaint, for I have everything to bless God for, and that my path for Him is to abide quietly for the moment. Switzerland will certainly require a visit before I return to England. But I have felt through much weakness, the Lord blessing my soul, fend I feel it is good to cultivate this; even in going to Montpellier, I feel that I rather dissipate myself, though there is some good there. The Lord has an intimate government of the soul which is infinite in love, but which one has to heed if one would have His face with one. At times one may have merely to go straightforward in the energy of His grace for others, and there is joy in service without much thought of self; at other times He leads in the way of exercise for our own good. We are here in a very little humble scale, and plentifully despised and opposed and spoken against by all of influence, but there is some blessing. Yesterday week in the morning, I think four at least got a clear view of the gospel and work of Christ. Yesterday I felt much less power. But it is a place where without positive power, there is nothing to do at all. This is necessarily in consequence a real trial for the soul… But I have no uneasiness; I am satisfied God is in the storm (whatever instrumentality of Satan there may have been), and I have no doubt (whatever defects and want of faith there may have been), we, those who hold fast the beginning of our confidence, are in the same boat with Christ. Hence I can leave it all in peace till God clears me my way into the midst of the conflict, exercised, but at peace. But unless it is brought to me, I remain outside, because I am satisfied that is faith. I thank the brethren much for their prayers; I feel I am a poor workman, and my work is so negative just now, that there is little to say about it. But it holds the ground where reproach only was before, and carried the testimony of how good the gospel is, into souls, though they have not courage to walk with them with whom they have found it.
I find in scripture more depth, it is more real, true in Christ, and therefore has more infinitude in its character than ever. I was much struck lately with the way in which Christ was answered and overcame in Gethsemane and on the cross. I apprehend, while looking forward to the dreadful cup, the proper and immediate trial of Gethsemane was the power of Satan. “This is your hour and the power of darkness”—the great point was to get between His soul and the Father (as before, by desirable things for life). But he could not; Christ hence pleading with His Father, receiving nothing from Satan or man in the cup, receives it from His Father in perfect blessed obedience—“Thou hast brought me into the dust of death.” Hence His soul is entirely out of the darkness in respect of His enemy, and He can say in perfect calm of others, “this is your hour and the power of darkness,” and present Himself willingly that His disciples might go free. How blessed the perfectness, which at His own cost always kept them free; for in their position Satan would have caught them in his hour had not the Lord stood in the gap—and so ever—and when needed for Peter, can allow just so much as was good to sift, but stay the proud billows for him which were to go clean over His own soul. He was then, I judge, entirely out of the whole conflict with darkness, before it came in fact. He passed through it with God, His God.
At the cross, I apprehend it was another thing. He was forsaken of God, He had immediately to do with God and just wrath against sin, and He in that place, so that love could have no refuge for His soul; and here too He is perfect, and having accomplished this ineffable work, His soul having drunk the cup unmixed, atonement having been made, He comes forth from it as heard, and His act of death is merely His own giving up His spirit to His father: in the time of peace He had said so, but He was to pass through death in His soul, and did, as an offering for sin—but then, what was death? It was one who had overcome death, undergone it in its infinite atoning efficacy, and who gives up His soul, more than pure, which had put away sin, into the hands of God His Father. What is death here, if the overcoming of Satan made it obedience? The bearing of wrath gave title to give up life into the merited reception of infinite favour. Death was His. It was not yet power in resurrection, but His soul given up to His Father. It was death, but death the closing of an accomplished life of obedience in woe, and the introduction into that infinite favour in life beyond all relationship of promise down here, which the work in which He had glorified the Father placed Him in; and so, through Him is death to us. It ceases to be a closing life; we have a title through Him to give up our souls in it into His hands as we see in Stephen; it is the closing of the conflict to be in the life in the power of which we live to Him—absent from the body and present with the Lord. He gave Himself up—it was power, though in reference to the Father, into whose hands He commends His spirit, that His resurrection might be by the glory of the Father. For in this even He did not take glory to Himself. Death, or what is called death, is thus a totally new thing; it is having done with all as a redeemed soul, to enter into another world. But I speak now of Christ. He had emerged from all this sorrow, far more dreadful hour, and could tell the thief he should come with Him into paradise, speak in peace to John of His mother—His hour was come for this—and knowing that all was accomplished, after saying, “I thirst,” give up His own soul into His Father’s hands. These two considerations have deeply affected me; save in some details, I never traced the general bearing and importance. I must close.
Though I sorrow over dear kind brethren like ——, I bless God with my whole heart that the brethren have been given to be faithful, and have proved themselves clear in this matter. Kind love to all.
Ever affectionately yours.
Nismes, November, 1849.
[From the French,
I have been thinking lately that the sufferings of Christ in Gethsemane, while anticipating the cross, were much more sufferings from Satan, who, with the power of death in his hand, sought to overwhelm Him with its darkness, so that the fear might be such that He should not offer Himself up. As man, He had overcome the enemy before, so as to be able to introduce blessing here below; but man was not fit for it. He had to establish this blessing by death in another sphere. Satan throws himself in His way to obstruct His path, but he could not succeed in preventing Him from finding God; being in the agony of the conflict, He prayed more earnestly. For Him the cup came from the hand of His Father. Once entirely out of all that, He offers Himself up. When it actually comes, He can speak of it, being no longer in it: “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.” Then He passes on to undergo another thing—the direct wrath of God. He drank this terrible cup for us, dear brother; but He also came out of it completely, and Himself committed His soul in peace to God His Father, in the consciousness that all was accomplished. Death now but sets us free to go to Him in that new sphere, where He has for ever left behind the power of the enemy, and where there is nothing but blessing, far from the power of him who used it against Christ.
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Dearest ——,— … As a general principle, I should have been glad that the whole matter had been more left to work in consciences… I encouraged in one letter ——, to individual courtesy as to those sincere at bottom, though going wrong… As to the main question, I have never doubted for a moment that it was a fundamental one, for the existence of the testimony of God, and a special work of the enemy on the other hand sifting this testimony, with God’s permission, and hence too I was at peace. I am more and more convinced of it. It is no longer any question save of how to serve in it. Begin afresh if there was no other means, rather than yield an iota; and practically, and in the happiest sense it is that—a new state of faith from God. But no compliance, resistance with the face as a flint to the principles in which the others are acting, no matter who, as the worst possible work of the enemy.
I love —— dearly, but his idea of union, comeliness, worldly politeness, and so on, and I think an idea of a class of society, has dimmed his judgment; he is morally amphibious as to his springs of action; he loves the church, and knows there is one, and looks too for the Lord’s coming as a present desire, but then he had muddled his judgment with journals, and Elliott, and such like, and he has set before himself an idea of something attainable here below for the church and for the individual, which must falsify the judgment. I always knew it acted on his imagination, but find it is a kind of settled principle or doctrine. But his idea of grace to individuals has made him inconsistent… It is time to go on without thinking of people, in setting up the importance of the Lord Himself. If any have been personally hurt, amends may be personally made for that. What I felt unhappy about was that the matter had taken the character of a personal attack. Satan tried to give that character to my opposition in the affair of N.’s doctrine, but there was really no ground for it… I am so convinced that it is morally beginning afresh, that I am not anxious about such or such a person, save in affection for them, or such and such a detail—and further, that the sifting of God is a sifting of God for it.
The need of union is felt. Of this there are two kinds, respectable courteous union among men, and the unity of the church of God. That is the true question… There is the same question here, but it is everywhere tainted with the world. It is not of the Spirit of God, but a miserable effort of the enemy, to discredit the truth and faithfulness. While he could hold up the world in the shape of Nationalism, he did, and called us schism and separation. That no longer goes down with any; the truth has too much hold, and fears on the other side. Now then he sets up union as his cry—namely, sacrifice Christ and the church, all true principle, to worldly civility, to let us go on our way without following Christ. But then there are many dear children of God in, and attracted by, the fair appearance of the snare of the enemy, and the personal part of the question tends to throw them into it. There is the whole matter as I see it, save personal questions.
Here we, or at least I, am going through the fire of the strongest opposition; however, individual souls have received blessing, and I hold good for the present, though I am not sure how far it may issue in judgment for Nismes. In general there is some blessing on a small scale; the field of work vastly extended, but some little languor in working. The progress of the work however everywhere, has raised up every effort possible to work against and to do something, or that all will be carried away—which is not. so, for many love the world too much, and faith is not of all men…
We ought to have more faith and prayer, believing the Lord to be nigh, that a people may be called out to meet Him. I feel sometimes that we allow ourselves to be too surcharged with details—that is, want of faith hinders rising above them to larger testimony.
Ever yours affectionately in the Lord.
Nismes, November 21st, 1849.
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To the same.]
My dear ——,— … I send you my apprehension of Daniel 8, to see if it is admissible. “And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and trod them under foot; and he became great, even to the prince of the host, and the daily [sacrifice] was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down, and the daily [sacrifice] was given up to a period of distress, because of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground, and it practised, and prospered. Then I heard a certain saint speaking, and a certain saint said to that one who was speaking, How long this vision of the daily [sacrifice] and the transgression [of the desolate] which desolates, to give the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said to me, Until evening and morning two thousand three hundred, then the sanctuary shall be cleansed [justified]… And in the end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have filled up their measure, a king shall arise of bold countenance, and understanding riddles, and his force shall be strong, but not by his force; and he shall ruin [corrupt] wonderfully, and prosper, and act, and shall ruin the strong ones and the people of the saints, and because of his understanding he shall make deceit prosper in his hand, and shall wax great in his heart, and through neglect of God (careless ease) shall ruin (corrupt?) many, and shall stand (arise?) up against the prince of princes, and shall be broken without hand.”
Is it not a power in Palestine, connected in his workings with the Jews, and ruining them religiously as much as by force? Then the question arises, Is he the full expression, historically, of the second beast; by whose force is he strong, west or north?
Here we are the object of the most elaborate opposition, but individually I come continually across fresh souls; my only doubt is usefulness elsewhere at Montpellier. I have much time; at present there is blessing there, and the meetings increase considerably… In general the saints that are out walk well and are happy, but the sleep in which other Christians are, has been broken by the little that has been done in the plain (for in the mountains the work goes on widely, and for some time back), and every art is used to turn away and excite, sufficiently to destroy any real need of better or true knowledge of Christ in the soul. But for the claims of other places, I am very happy and peaceful in it. The thought of them sometimes makes me hesitate as to my stay here. Kind love to all the brethren.
Your affectionate brother in Christ.
Nismes. December 4th, 1849.
To the same.]
My dear——,— … I am a little discontented at working by book instead of-personally, still I hope there may be blessing. If the beloved bride of Christ is blessed and He more honoured, I am content. Here we are in a very healthful position of conflict, spoken against on all sides, but I think still in salutary testimony, and by the Lord’s great mercy recovering what had been much damaged by hasty movements and carelessness of walk. Our difficulty for some time now, besides the ordinary ones, and the excessive want of independence of conduct, is that the light and principles introduced have spread in a measure wide outside any gathering formed by them, and union without any real unity by the presence of the Holy Ghost in Christ is sought, cried up, and faithfulness sought to be presented as an obstacle, but I think the Lord is in a measure judging it. We must go through this for a time, its hollowness will be apparent, but want of power becomes very sensible when there is imitation.
One thing is evident, God is working in the last days. Dissolution is on all sides, not only going on, but felt to be going on. ‘If the brethren are faithful, and there is sufficient power to be large hearted with faithfulness, they will be the first of blessings as to the state of things, otherwise—useless but for a certain individual blessing and faithfulness, which is always something. But we ought to love the church, and seek its good, surely more than a David or godly Israelite or Jew could Jerusalem, and seek its good for Christ’s sake. The brethren ought not to be our occupation as they have been for some time, but the seat of the affections for the whole church, as the heart for the body through grace by unity of heart with Christ; this is what I look for: for this there must be devotedness, practical devotedness as belonging entirely to Him. This is what I earnestly desire and pray for. We are bought with a price, and are not our own—happy and blessed to be so in a world stranger to life and God. To maintain such a position Christ must be everything. I long to see the beloved brethren in England, and to minister even a little among them, but I feel I should desert my post did I leave here at this moment, and I owe them a visit in Switzerland, and though I feel I lost time at Montpellier, the Lord’s time is the best.
I shall be glad to know what came of ——, I love him dearly, and there is real love to Christ, which is the ground of confidence, though too much sentimentality. But I judge that at —— they have an immense sense of their own superiority. There has been much really delightful there, but I fear it has been a snare to them; and with all its kindness, his letter was a real defiance of corporate discipline on the ground of personal superiority of judgment. Such a case may arise in the present state of the church, but as I judge their position false at ——, and that on very distinct grounds on their own shewing, I cannot admit that it is such a case here. But we are not quite at the end of the matter, and with faithfulness and humility many may be recovered. Yet if the brethren get into such a position, that the blessing of God is there because He disposes of hearts, I have myself much confidence of blessing, but of such as is a company held in the hollow of His hand in the latter days. Be assured that we shall have to do with realities, and no evil, though kept from the hour of temptation, and the door open with a little strength. But being of Christ in the world will be a reality. How long God will hold the rein on evil, I know not. He is wise, we know that His long-suffering is salvation, and our earnest desire that Jesus come.
I have had two or three days’ unexpected rest from not finding some one expected at Montpellier—rest from the moral strain, though suffering from an excessively violent attack of rheumatism in the back, which is pretty much past. I have been able to write on Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. Bellett has some very nice thoughts on the latter, but as interpretation it will not do, being too much turned to the church. But practically it is not the less useful as teaching. I have found the study of the book always profitable lately, I believe my thoughts on it sober; and the exercise and forming of the affections toward Christ, and the study of His towards us, is of the deepest importance; but how narrow our hearts are to embrace all His thoughts towards us. What a thought that He should delight to tell out how perfect He thinks the church (I say church, not as interpretation, but application by analogy), and to press it on her that He may assure her heart and awake the affections, which in one so feeble, must have confidence to be able to be in exercise. This is very gracious, but to be expected from Him. What is there that cannot be? But I must close. Having arrived at the Prophets, I am come to a large and difficult field, but more cultivated already, and perhaps in some sense more open, that is, less dependent on our own moral seising of the force and bearing of the facts the Spirit recounts, as in the historical books.
The New [Testament] will be difficult, from the immense development it may receive, and who is sufficient for these things? Peace be with you… The Lord Jesus, bless and keep His people.
Your affectionate brother.
Nismes, December 9th, 1849.