Section 8

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Beloved Brother,— … The work of God amongst the brethren is one which has occupied me much lately, not merely as a general testimony of God which He raised up, and which I am persuaded He loves, but His ways with it. He has in every way since 1845 sifted it, in appearance diminished its body and position before men. It has been tried in every way, apparent success given to those who slighted and opposed it, and apparently weakened by many causes within as far as it depended on men. But it has subsisted. It has gone through the fire—we may be sure from the goodness of God—a needed fire. I have no doubt principles contradictory to the purpose of God in it had come in through our weakness from the first: I was indeed soon assured of it. And, on the other hand, I am sure we failed in walking up to the advanced position in testimony in which God had placed us. Our gracious God took us in hand, dealt with us, and made us little.

There were two immense principles in question in this testimony. The church, its own proper standing; and the manifestation of the power of the Holy Ghost, in an actual unity in the present state of things. To this, great fundamental truth was needed as a basis. This was touched, and weakness was shewn, but it was reserved for Bethesda to be the deliberate supporter of this evil. Here, through the weak state of brethren for the time, the outward witness to unity was lost, God intending to sift, and division characterised what had willed and set out to be a witness for unity—at least, felt its need. But Christ’s truth was held as foundation, and the standing of the church had its weight. Thus the Lord has set about sifting the instruments according to the position they are in. How right and just this: all is—nothing could be brought down more, as to all that could be counted on in man. It is this that gives me confidence. All that is purifying is of God. Man attempts it; God deals with those who do so. I cannot but see God at work, and in the measure in which living power has been or is at work, it prevails and is blessed, and God is working; but He will keep us humble.

The question or exercise has been raised in a corner of Switzerland. Hitherto God has helped us. Now He is actively at work in Canada for good, where the evil was, and men slept in it. This is a step yet forward in His ways. I have entire confidence in His goodness in this respect, and for myself only feel more established than ever in the truth of what He has given us. But if blessing in —— took us out of humbleness and dependence, it would bring us conflict (needed conflict) elsewhere. It is a remarkable feature how all that held fast the truth have been humbled, the others, not that I know of—I mean in respect of this. Dear R. E. is a new feature in the case. The Lord give him wisdom and humbleness of heart, and simplicity of faith in God—this is all-important—and hence to be humble and dependent. That it is a question of faith is to me evident, and a putting the heart to the test what place Christ has in it. Where He is not sufficient for the heart there will not be endurance in the conflict, and where He has not His importance. That is the whole question. The church’s place links on to it, and has its free place where Christ has His right one.

The Lord, I have no doubt, is working, but as I have said, He will keep us humble. As to ——, I enter into your sorrow. Have you a prayer-meeting? The great remedy for such a state of things is spiritual life, not complaints: one great means is common prayer, and the individual prayer of faith.

Here I have felt the Lord graciously with me, and some new doors have been opened to me; also in Holland the Lord has been very gracious to me. But here I have been very much occupied translating the Psalms into German. The brethren much needed it. They needed something of deepening and exercise of heart; but I have been happy, both in prayer and in other meetings.

Salute the brethren affectionately for me. Love to all, and peace from God be with you.

Elberfeld, October, 1857.

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To the same.]

Beloved Brother,—Thank you much for your kind sympathy. My eye, is I may say, well, only I have to be a little on my guard against what might affect it. I am at present at a conference where we have near a foot of snow and a hard frost.

We have found thus far very much blessing, and I see I think sensible progress and considerable increase of depth in the brethren at work in Switzerland. In Switzerland there are about ten, and twenty-six in France. But in Switzerland they are more absorbed by gatherings than at the first, when all was evangelisation, or nearly so. As regards England, many felt in London anxiety and difficulty at the urgency and excitement as to conversion, while others saw the life of the brethren in it. I apprehend if there had been more spiritual power within, there would have been more enlargement as to a work of conversion, and a remedy for the evils which attended it through the flesh. I saw two dangers; conversions often real without sufficient conviction of sin, and an urgency for reception in order to shelter them to which the want of depth gave rise, and (as) to which a just dread of superficial work, but some mixture of routine and ancient habits as to the reception of persons to the Table. Evil has resulted from the excitement which was mixed with the work. Perhaps more positive energy of action in those who were not excited might have guarded against this; still there was evil to be guarded against. The only part I took was to seek to deepen the work by the word when occasion offered. There is another point which has a more serious character, without casting a shade on the interest which the labours of the evangelising brethren inspire, and which rejoice my heart and spirit, or, I trust at least, undervaluing the blessing, greater in that respect than my own at present. There is this difference between their labours and the early ones of brethren where large success accompanied evangelisation; at that time, those who laboured with energy watched over the fruit of their work gathered by them. There was, too, I think, more of Christ, and of the value of the church to Christ in their work, as distinguished from the love of souls. It is now consequently more easily associated with mere evangelicism, which, pretending to convert the world, mixes with the world it pretends to convert. Besides bodies of saints being already formed, the judgment about souls, and the work that brings them, are in distinct hands. I do not doubt there are healthful counteracting principles in many. But I have thought I have seen this, besides excitement.

The supposition you speak of, that an awakening revived for the time, shews the soul to be in a young state, and to have judged itself but little; because nothing but the daily exercise of faith in Christ, a constant sense of dependence and active seeking from and intercourse with Christ, can keep the soul in a good state—humble, dependent, in the sense of God’s presence, and the joy of His love, and in an atmosphere into which sin does not come. “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood dwelleth in me and I in him,” and “He that eateth me even he shall live by me.” With, I should trust, as deep an interest in the work as any, I cannot say I felt any excitement. But I apprehend our work through grace is not to blame or hinder, but to seek to help in prayer, and, according to the gift given to us, to care for these souls, to deepen and complete the work, to work for Christ in it—to look for deeper conviction, but specially to connect Christ with the state of their souls. But here exactly is the difficulty of the case; because the fact that the conscience has not been deeply affected, leaves the heart more to its own feelings and occupied with them, and makes Christ less precious and important to it when the feelings wane. The soul has a sickly life thus. But then we depend on grace, on grace in Christ, and in ministering patiently Christ, the soul perhaps passing through a crisis of doubt or a fall, finds His value, and is settled in Him.

Though I have had no details, nor desire to have them, I am aware of the efforts and attacks directed against me. There is a kind of instinct which shews you them. I have no wish to be insensible to them, but I am through grace in blessed peace about them and everything. One can by faith carry everything to God, and all is peace. First, as to outward things, I have never had such good meetings, both in France and Switzerland, and the Lord so sensibly with His poor servant in speaking. And if it were God’s will that men should cover me with infamy—if it be His will, I should be unspeakably happy in it, because it was His will. Perhaps many would not understand me, but when one is more with God, joy becomes boundless. It is not, of course, that I should seek it, I need not say, nor that the thing is not disagreeable; but, in the measure in which it is, one’s joy is more entirely with God; and His will is always right, so that one has not to reason about it, but to leave it to Him. As to those who act in it, I have only as to myself to wait and seek to act rightly if they cross my path. Thus I leave it, in all peace.

Our place is to meet everything in service, in the patience and power of Christ. I speak of you and——. Many brethren feel the danger of the influx of persons to, the Table, and I trust that with all largeness of heart they may carry all this to Christ. In London it occupies the thoughts of some. The Lord raise up true carers for souls.

Our week’s conference has been very happy, and a true and cordial spirit among the brethren—confidence—and I have renewed acquaintance with many beloved brethren.

Peace be with you, dear brother. My letter has been written by morsels during the conference.

Your affectionate brother.

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To the same.]

Beloved Brother,—I received your letter on my arrival here, and thank you much for it. The Lord’s gracious hand is most evident with our beloved brother. He has been most gracious also in Switzerland. He alone knows whether all effort is closed on the part of the enemy, but He has wrought so graciously hitherto, that one ought not to doubt a moment His goodness.

As regards your own path, beloved brother, I think I can enter into it, but there is a God above all adverse circumstances and undesirable influences. And our path for power is in letting patience have its perfect work. Our casting things on God has a wonderful retroactive power on our own souls, in breaking. down will and what in us cannot link itself with the divine nature. The signs of an apostle were wrought in all patience. We are subjects in many and even in all cases, where we think ourselves agents; and where hindered evidently so. Besides that, there is a positive bearing on God’s part wonderful in comparison with what (alas!) is often the measure of our faith. Trust Him. He has power to work where we least expect it. In those Swiss affairs I was only ashamed for not having asked more, so wonderfully did He grant all I asked Him for. But it is according to His will. Our will must not be at work. Hence let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and complete in all the will of God. It is important that we should feel, that faith may be in exercise—or rather that is faith— that not only God is great and glorious, and able to help and love, but that He has linked His glory in love with His saints. This is a most precious truth; when I can say, He (Christ) is glorified in them, I can ask confidently. See Moses, “Thou hast brought them out of Egypt.” This makes, no doubt, evil intolerable in the saints for the same reason; brother, friend, neighbour, become intolerable in the degree of their nearness when God is dishonoured in them, viewed as wilful in the evil. But the bright side is, that with God we can use all that they ought to be in Him and that His love can make them, as pleas with Him; but then we must be separated from self in it—and when not, and for that, patience comes in as between ourselves and God in self-judgment. Besides, the saints, however foolish, are very dear to God. But I must close. Peace be with you, dear brother.

Ever affectionately yours.

London, January 21st, 1858.

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[Beloved Brother,— … It is so true that we have all grace in our living Head, and I do pray that we may be enabled in holding fast the Head, to draw continually thence, and to be preserved from what would hinder the life of that blessed One in our mortal bodies. When we think what it is to have such a life and such a fulness to draw from, and that really we are to enjoy all that that supplies in God’s own presence, in the light in heaven, it gives a thanksgiving and a steadiness of joy, that the Holy Ghost alone can give or make us understand. But we have to seek that there be an exercised spirit, that our living and habitual state may be according to this. Christ was not always in the glory of the transfiguration. He met and felt an unbelieving world; but He was always consistent with the glory which that revealed, and indeed with what was only dimly shadowed there, and that in every spring of action and manifestation in life; and in us this must be sought to be realised in them. It is not an effort to copy (though we do copy) but to be, or rather so to draw from the Head, that what we are in Him be not hindered in its manifestation by evil. To overcome, we need power as well as the desires of a new nature; hence constant dependence, not uncertainty as to the nature and life which desires, but dependence for force or power on Another for the accomplishment (I mean here below) of those desires. It is the difference of Romans 7 and 8.

There is another point I will mention, as I have been led to this, that all proper and happy affections suppose the relationship to which they belong, not merely the nature capable of them. An orphan has the capacity of loving a father and mother, and it makes it unhappy. A child who has its parents has the affections which belong to this relationship. So the existence of the divine nature involves the desires natural to it; spiritual affections have their place in known relationship with the Father and with Christ; and this is founded on redemption and grace, which must be known as an assured thing, accomplished, and indeed the relationships into which we have been brought by it, in order that these blessed affections which flow from a known God exist in our souls. But then what a sure and immutable source of happiness we have—divine and immediate nearness to God! He has adopted us to Himself as children (see Eph. 1.), and given a nature capable of enjoying it, and the Holy Ghost as power (unlimited in itself), and that based on a redemption which places us fully in unclouded favour and fully known love, exercised and accomplished towards us in it, in a position as assured as the value of the redemption itself—eternal redemption. The Lord keep us in His peace, and walking before Him in all holy conversation and godliness, that we may meet in unfeigned joy. Adieu, dear brother. The Lord our gracious Master be with you and near you, and all His beloved people, and deign to keep me also. I have been these latter times in general very happy with Him, but it has been with a look into the blessedness before me in His presence, which has made me feel how little one sees into it as one ought, though at the same time how great it is; but it is a wonderful light into which one is permitted to look; I speak of the happiness of His presence in light.

Lausanne, November 23rd, 1850.13]

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[From the French.

* * * Personally, I am glad to hear that our dear friend D. has found, I trust, a refuge. I hope that our gracious God and Father will grant him quietness of spirit. He has some very fine qualities, if he knew how to use them in that spirit. But how much, with us all, the “myself” at the bottom, finds its way through certain points of our character. If it is of a disagreeable or tiresome stamp, we are such to others; if it is of an amiable stamp, we are amiable to others; but there is no difference really; and we find difficulty in judging this “I,” when it presents itself with certain characteristics, under certain features. By looking at Christ all is right, because the bottom is reached.

How beautiful is Christianity—beautiful in itself, beautiful in its perfect adaptation to all that we are, and in a Christ who has participated in all, except the sin which would have spoiled all. What a sight for angels, to behold God, an infant in a manger, and no room for Him in the inn! I admire that inextricable confusion, those exercises of man’s heart in the midst of good and evil, knowing not what is good and what is bad; the good corrupted, or corrupting; evil, the means of good; the world in the heart, to know what there is of good under the sun, what is the truth, the end of these researches; an ardour which would fathom everything, let loose in infinitude without ability to comprehend it; a being, the more miserable from knowing more of good; his best affections the source of his griefs; his heart swelling against God and against man, selfish, condemning himself, and, however hating himself, no possibility of getting out of it nor of continuing in it; a will which would mount up even to God, and which is a slave of the devil and sin.

Perfect good appears; it appears on the scene, in the circumstances, in the nature (but without sin), where this struggle takes place—where all the moral elements of a creature who knows good and evil, without being God, and far from God, are engaged in battle, without head or centre. Immediately all is light. Evil is manifested as evil, because good is there. The will? It is discovered, laid bare, it is wilful evil. Is it a question of misery, of conflict? Perfect answer to all: good in this misery, and all the more good that it is there; good in itself, but the perfect answer to every need, to every misery, that which takes us out of it by giving us perfect good, and by binding our hearts to God.

Yes; the more absolute and infinite the confusion, the more Christ is Christ. What infinite power is that which, in a moment, sets everything in its place, because it is good in itself, and perfect. He is the truth: He declares all about everything. Everything is known, and finds its place according to the truth of what He is. God be praised! it is grace: without that, even though God be love, there could not be truth. But I allow myself to run on.

Poor ——; there are times when everything must find its level. They are times, in my judgment painful and necessary, but not seasons of power. The power and energy of the Spirit raise us to a point where we are not found really in personal faith. A moment comes when each walks in his own faith, when the Lots (I do not mean that this dear brother is such) will go away to the well-watered plain, to those scenes where the outward appearance of blessing, as far as flesh can judge of it, hides the elements which are preparing for judgment. The power of grace had brought out Lot with Abraham. The plain of Jordan receives him who had not, for himself, laid hold of the call of Abraham. He .was a righteous soul. I doubt that our dear brother——can now be happy where he is gone. He will vex his soul. God grant that he may return by his own faith.

Look at the leading seceders around you: where is there a single one remaining? But it is not a proof of power, of power that gathers, and which in the abundance of water hides the shallows where the current of the river of God has not its proper course. But God is full of grace. Is it fresh light which has detached them from brethren? Is there more energy, more personal grace? What has caused this?

March 15th, 1858.

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To the same.]


From the French.

* * * The entirely new life of the Christian (1 John), communion founded upon known relationships in which we find ourselves with God, the absolute superiority of the Christian over all that he encounters (the experience of the Epistle to the Philippians), all these things have occupied me much of late. What a position is ours! What known relationships with God, in which we walk according to the new life in which we are accepted in Christ; a life which enjoys Christ, the measure of our acceptance and of our relationships—Himself also the life: happy everywhere (according to the will of God) because we are everywhere in Him, and, in this sense, always ourselves. Still, the tranquillity in which we can enjoy Him is very sweet.

What a scene that is of Stephen before the Sanhedrim! Perfect calm; heaven opened; the history of man, who always resists the Holy Ghost, and trusts in a temple deserted of God; man filled with the Holy Ghost—himself the temple—bearing testimony which they resist. See him, while they are killing him, quietly kneeling down to pray for them, a perfect reflection down here of Jesus, while beholding Him on high. The whole judgment of man turns upon the testimony of this chapter; and his whole position in Christ is there depicted.


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[From the French.

* * * I was very much struck, during the last conference, with the character of the Epistle to the Philippians. It does not suppose the existence of the flesh in the practical sense, namely, that of conflict with it; to live is Christ—nothing else. Paul can do all things through Christ, who strengthens him. He has never been ashamed, never will be, of himself as a Christian; but Christ will be always, as in the past, glorified in him. This is the normal life of the Christian; the flesh is held as dead, does not encumber him—as he says elsewhere: “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”

The superiority of the christian life, as being untouched by evil or by the enemy, is very striking; this truth has produced a very deep impression upon me, and has rejoiced me. I knew well that a Christian ought thus to walk; but here is one who has done it, and who knows what this life is. This is encouraging; whatever may be the means by which it is produced, be it a messenger of Satan, if necessary, or any other thing, such is the result. We are associated, through it all, with Christ, who can do and does all, and He is in us; so that it is more intimate than any circumstance whatever. What strength, what blessedness of life that gives! in oneself, for we enjoy Christ; in difficulties, for we trust in Him, and rejoice under all circumstances; in cares, for this life, which has Christ for its object, delivers us from them; in real trials, for the peace of God keeps the heart.

August 14th, 1858.

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[From the French.

* * * I have had much joy in the thought that our names are written in heaven. What repose! God makes no mistake; He knows whom He wishes to place there, a*ad it will be suitable; we shall not be unfit for such a place. What joy! and if we have to wait, we have what heaven will not give: to work for the Lord where He is rejected, to serve Him well. “His servants shall serve him,” it is said, but that service will be either a service of joy and goodness in which we shall be superior to those who profit by it, or a service in which we shall glorify God directly. But it will not be bearing the reproach of Christ, in the place where we have the glory of participating in His sufferings, even in a very feeble measure. May He give us to be faithful until He comes!


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[From the French.

Very dear Brother,—I have received your letter: I have been deeply thankful to God for what you tell me of ——; although we must still watch, and watch in praying, against the wiles of the enemy, for it is a pure work of the enemy…

I am at Bristol at present, but inactive on account of my knee, otherwise pretty well, still uncertain whether God will restore to me my bodily strength for active work, but extremely happy, never, I think, so happy, in the consciousness of His love, and in peace… . Peace be with you, dear brother; keep near the Lord, and follow His word. You will be surprised at such counsel, but when this fleeting life shall be over, that only shall abide which has been produced by the word. Man lives by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. “The word of God abideth for ever.” May Christ be our object; if we should go, the rest is with God.

I greet all the brethren affectionately.

Yours affectionately.

Bristol, October, 1858.

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[From the French.

* * * The value of revelation, of the word, increases for me daily, in a manner that I know not how to express. What a precious thing to have God revealed in Christ! How the Person of Christ stands out alone against the background of the scene of this world, to attract our gaze, and associate us in heart with God. In this respect, the commencement of the Gospel of John has been of much blessing to me of late. Christ is unfolded there in so complete a manner! He gathers around Himself; He must be God, otherwise He would be turning us away from Him. He says, “Follow me.” He is the Man who makes the way, the only way across the desert; for, for man there is none, since he is separated from God. On the Man Christ, heaven is open; He is, as Man, the object of heaven and of the service of the angels of God.

John (a beautiful example of the absence of all selfishness and of all self-regard) receives a testimony from above, but he speaks of that which is earthly. Now that is but a testimony; but He who came from above bears witness of what He has seen, and in Himself He reveals heaven. He gives—He is— the eternal life, in order that we may enjoy it. What a thing to say, that heaven, its nature, its joys, what it is, should be revealed to us by the word and by the presence of Him who dwells there, who is its centre and glory! Now, without doubt, man has entered into heaven, but it is none the less precious that God should have come down to earth. Man admitted into heaven, is the subject of Paul; God, and the life manifested upon earth, that of John. The one is heavenly, as to man, the other divine. This is why John has such attraction for the heart. There is nothing like Him.

…There are two classes of religious movement at this time. The first takes the word, sees man, the child of Adam, dead through sin, and will have nothing but Christ, His death, His resurreotion, a heavenly state. The second class holds with the world, maintains worldly connections as an accepted system, and does not consider the world as a system to be passed through by motives outside of that system. People wish to have part in the movement: there is zeal, but they wish to remain self, not to become Christ.


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[From the French.

* * * As to the Epistle to the Philippians (in reading you may judge of this), the christian life recognises nothing but the fruit of resurrection, because we ought to walk according to the Spirit, and never according to the flesh. God is faithful, not to suffer us to be tempted beyond our strength. The Christian is considered as walking always according to the Spirit, and reckoning himself dead to sin, but alive to God. Then there is, “My grace is sufficient for thee; my strength is made perfect in weakness.” If we pretend to the absence of the flesh, or that we have not to take any notice of it, or if we pretend that we have not to judge ourselves inwardly, we are mistaken; and, even if we are sincere, there remains a mass of subtle things unjudged, and the general state of the soul is below the true effect of the light of God. But the strength of God is with us, to make us walk in communion with Himself.

As to the passage in John 21:18, I do not think that the Lord points out in Peter an evil will. He had desired, that is to say, of his own will, to follow the Lord. He had to learn his powerlessness, because there was will in him, human strength; but at the end of his life it would not be so; another would gird him, and he should go where he would not. There is no question here of an evil will, but it would not be his will which would gird him, or cause him to die. He could, without doubt, bless God for it; but he did not seek to suffer. I am the more convinced that this is the sense, because the Lord adds, “This he said, signifying by what death he should glorify God.” What Peter had to learn at that time, and what the Lord taught, was that the will of man could effect nothing in the pathway of life through death, and that is the only way of life.

November 10th, 1858.

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[From the French.

Dearest Brother,—I was glad to have even a few lines from you, the more so because you tell me a little about the beloved brethren in Switzerland. I am beginning rather to want to see them, but I am waiting for the guidance of God. I had so long neglected England that I was somewhat their debtor; and our God, in His great goodness, has not left His blessing to be waited for. Our conferences have been singularly happy, and blessing is not wanting to the work in general. The number of brethren is increasing, and the meetings, on the whole, are in peace; where there is anything unpleasant it is rather that God is delivering them from a condition of feebleness in which evil was hiding itself, in which the water was stagnating to some degree. Here in London conversions are frequent, and many souls attracted. What I fear is that too external a work may be doing; still the consciences and hearts of brethren are well exercised, which is a very good sign, and there is a good spirit. I hope that God will cause those most recently converted to reach this exercise of soul, so that they may gain in depth, as they have rapidly gained the assurance of salvation. As to the rest, the work is a work of God, and His Spirit must accomplish it, a work of life in the soul which is settled in real —and thus, blessed be God for it—eternal relationships with God.

May God in His goodness keep the dear brethren in Switzerland; if they are not spiritual, and if God does not keep them in a very real way by His grace, it would be only too natural to fall into this snare of Bethesda, if God permits it to come near them…, When people love the world they go to Bethesda; when they are in a bad state of soul they are inclined to throw themselves into it: when the conscience is upright they leave it. Christ having been placed after their own interests (ecclesiastical) everything is false: they have been obliged to follow a false system in order to hide this, and this spirit is imprinted on everything and everywhere. It has been remarked everywhere. Many souls have been delivered lately… But souls must be kept by the Lord; this is my confidence for the dear brethren in Switzerland, and for the meetings. Without the protection of God the simplest things become insurmountable, the most excellent, at least the most amiable motives become snares. I trust in Him: He has kept them until now, and I reckon on His goodness to keep them still until the end…

As to your children, dear brother, may God guide you, and may He not allow you to subordinate Christ to anything whatever. If Christ calls you more or less to leave His work in order to take care of your children, He will bless you in caring for them. Our only rule of duty is Christ Himself, We have to do many things in all kinds of relationships. If you follow His will, He will take care of your children: outside His path all your care would come to nothing. I must stop, I have too much to do even; I can hardly hold out longer, but the Lord is sufficient for everything. Greet the brethren very affectionately.

Your very affectionate brother.

London, November 13th, 1858.

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Dearest——,—I read——’s letter before yours, and I was going to say to you that I could not judge it honest. I looked at one paragraph (the first is quite right) and it seemed to me at first sight somewhat obscure, but I will examine it carefully when I have a moment. As to the doctrine, I need not hardly say that I abhor it. and judge that he who wittingly holds it has a false Christ—but one has to be careful even as to words. I have no doubt as to the doctrine I desire to teach. A question came from Manchester, and the answer to holding Mr. Newton’s doctrine will appear, written before I received yours. ——is the more evidently on false ground, as Mr. Craik wrote the other day (I read the letter) that he was not aware of a single person at Bethesda who would consider Mr. N. a heretic in the ordinary sense of the word.

Affectionately yours.

My letter having been delayed, I have been able to read through the articles. The doctrine is quite right, and the very opposite of Mr. N.’s, but not perhaps clearly brought out. It is carefully stated that He always says “Father,” in contrast with the atoning work, in which He speaks of being forsaken. He was enjoying the relationship of a Son with the Father. In the passage itself it is clearly said that Christ entered into it for them at the close, afflicted in all their afflictions. The essence of Mr. N.’s doctrine was that He was born under it Himself, and escaped much of it. Here Christ is entering in grace into it at a given time, when God’s time was come. I have no doubt that on the approach of the cross, when His ministry was ended, He entered into a new character of suffering in which the power of Satan was to be all exercised against Him in view of death and judgment, which was not before— he had departed from Him for a season; that He viewed this death, though not yet actually in it, as the judgment of God against sin, and thus entered into Israel’s sorrow of the last day; that what He saw in it was the hand of God stretched out on Israel; that this was connected in His mind with the rod of God upon them, and that this closely connected itself with His coming death and their sins, but He was not then bearing them.

The fact is rightly stated: what is not unfolded is the way He entered into them; but I have distinctly stated—though of course, in the case of Christ, they were not His own personally, and that Ho entered into the sufferings for them, afflicted in their afflictions, but—that title relationship of a Son with a Father who was always heard, He was always in the enjoyment of, till the cross. The way the cross is connected in this Psalm with sufferings, not atoning, is of the deepest interest, though it was the time as a whole that atonement was going on; in which the judgment of God, the hostility of man, and the power of Satan—all were against Him. Though the act of atonement was only His drinking the cup on the cross, yet who can doubt that in Gethsemane He was looking at God’s hand in judgment, and took the whole of what He was then delivered up to in all its details as coming from His hand, whoever was allowed to do it. God had now shewed Him that He must suffer: He walks as the smitten One in thought, does not answer, recognises it as the hour of the power of evil (which it was not before). He is to be reckoned according to God’s counsels with the malefactors, delivered up to the Gentiles, and His perfection is that He takes up this from God’s hand, and will from none else. “Thou hast lifted me up and cast me down.” (Psa. 102.) Man, then seeing Him thus given up to it, adds every insult and wrong to His sorrow. They are the things done in the green tree, the true vine— what in the dry? Christ’s entering graciously, voluntarily, and yet obediently into this place of sorrows, and subjection to the power of evil, when the time of God’s will was come, is exactly the opposite of His being born under it, and escaping it by piety. But it is not the atoning work, nor was it the serving in active love to reveal the Father’s name. He was going through conflict of a new character before He actually drank the atoning cup.

Note, too, that under the government of God is not distance from Him—a most important and essential difference. My mind is so totally on another ground from Mr. N.’s, that all the terms which are connected with it are not before me. So far from its being distance, that it is said in this passage that even in Gethsemane He does not say “My God;” it would have been out of place, because it was not the expression of the unclouded relationship and conscious blessedness of sonship in which the blessed Lord always stood. On the cross God was dealing with Him about sin. Now all this, which is part of the passage, is in direct antagonism with all Mr. N.’s doctrine. The only thing I see is that it is not fully explained how He entered into it, though the alleged way—Mr. N.’s—is positively denied in the passage.

London, November 15th, 1858.

* * * * *

Dear ——,—The Observations on the Psalms14 are not so precise as the Synopsis, but there is more freshness in them (this at least), so that I enjoyed it more when I read it. The essential difference is that many more Psalms are applied to Christ in the Observations than in the Synopsis, as is habitually the case. In the Synopsis the remnant is much more prominently brought into view, and I think rightly.

As to Psalm 101, the remark15 that “it is not expressed in the historical order,” is the key to what is said. His whole life is viewed as to position, but the close is seen first, as stamping its character upon His sorrows (not atonement). He was isolated, hated, &c, but His mind, as being perfect, saw not merely the fruit of faithfulness, which is not the subject of this Psalm, though He were faithful in everything, but that the Israel whom He had taken up in grace had to come into judgment. Prophetically the shadow of the cross was cast upon His life, as I doubt not He often in fact anticipated it. His communion with God was perfect with respect to these very things. We have an example in “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father glorify thy name.” Only I doubt not He often felt what the place of Israel was according to God; but as long as He lived, that is, till the last entry into Jerusalem, it was still open to the people to repent. It is closed by “Now are they hid from thine eyes.” Still I doubt not He often, nay always, saw where all was going as to Israel, and felt it in perfect communion with God. This breach was sealed on the cross besides the atoning work. There He took His place under it for the purpose of atonement, but He saw it as the full rejection of Israel too. His rejection, which He felt all through, was really Israel’s rejection. And He could say, “If thou hadst known, at least in this thy day, but…”

Now the comment on the Psalm supposes that the full result is prophetically here seen, and the circumstances leading to the crisis there gone into taking their colour from the crisis, but their colour to His spirit in full communion with God. So that words of deep comfort flow from this depth of communion, and perfect thoughts in the trial for those who have to go through the experience of it, in a measure at least, hereafter. Verse 22 shews the full agony of Gethsemane (compare Ps. 103) casting its shadow on the whole; but the circumstances are from without, which are felt, as in verses 4, 9, 10, 11, &c. I think it is more critically exact to begin from the remnant, but the deepest profit, at any rate, is seeing the blessed Lord entering into it.

Let no one fear that is N.’s doctrine: not only is it not, but he says he does not mean this, and puts his views in contrast with it; and so it is, he wholly excludes this. If his be true, this would have been impossible. He holds Christ was by faith associated wfth the ungodly Jews. I teach how He was the blessed Son of God, in perfect communion, and entering as a faithful One into the sorrows of the godly remnant. Only seeing that for them and to deliver them, there must be a rejection of the nation, and of Messiah as connected with it in flesh, to have it on a new ground—the sure mercies of David, thus proving resurrection. I do not expect many at once to enter into this. The sympathies of Christ they will feel, His atonement they see with thankfulness for themselves, His own sorrows they but little enter into, but that does not make them the less precious, if we can. “If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said I go unto the Father.” But to me, this sorrow of Christ is very clear in scripture.

As to Psalm 61, there is no ground for the question: none purely ever felt our sins as Jesus did, their horribleness in God’s sight, how they separated from God, our ruin by them. That is not the same thing as bearing them. He groaned deeply in spirit, He groaned in Himself at seeing the power of death at the tomb of Lazarus. That was not bearing them, or meeting wrath for them. This surely is very simple. I dread extremely the sense of Christ’s sufferings, the sorrows of the blessed Lord being weakened by the deadly doctrine which the devil has raised up to make them not such at all, but a relationship with God that made Him feel them for Himself.

I hope I have made it clear: if not, you can let me know. The thirty-first a man must be spiritual to understand: what is said as to Psalm 61, it seems to me any one might who knows what Christ’s sympathy means.

Affectionately yours.

Date uncertain.]

* * * * *

[From the French.

Dearest Brother,—I have learned indirectly that your meetings have been closed, at least for the time. I need not tell you that my heart is with the brethren, and how much I desire that they may in every way be guided by God in these circumstances.

We have already prayed for them here, and God, who is above everything, and who never withdraws His eyes from His own, will take care of you—I am sure of this—and will display His grace, and thus His glory, in your behalf. I entreat you to keep very near to Him, that you may know what there is to be done in His name, that you may be encouraged, and that the light of His countenance may sustain your faith. His support is worth all else. These things do not happen by chance, and nothing escapes Him.

“Affliction,” it is said (Job 5:6), “cometh not forth of the dust;” and whatever the instruments may be, those who dwell in this world do not direct the course of it, nor does even the enemy of our souls, in the first place. It was God who said to Satan, “Hast thou considered my servant Job?” God saw that Job had need of the sifting; the enemy himself was but an instrument in it.

The circumstances in which the brethren are placed will surely be a trial, but, where grace works in hearts—O that it may be so in all!—for blessing. One feels that one is not of this world. The heart is compelled to ask itself, Am I following Christ for the love of Christ, because He has the words of eternal life, because as He said to follow Him is to serve Him? Am I not inclined to accept the course of the world that I may have rest in the world? Serious questions for the heart! … I need not say that, except in the case of matters in which the word is binding upon the conscience, one submits to the authorities; but we do not make terms with the world in the things of God, to make our path apparently easier. I say apparently, for one step leads to another, and it is found increasingly difficult to stop.

May God give the brethren a quiet, patient spirit; may they wait upon God and count upon Him, in the assurance that He never withdraws His eyes from the righteous, and that He will come in when the fit time has come. May they have all gentleness, but also all firmness, while waiting upon God, and let them give themselves to prayer. It is impossible that God should forsake His own, although He may try them. O that God may cause this trial to turn to blessing! May it drive the brethren to God, and bring them closer to Him; may it deepen their spiritual life, and bring them into more intercourse with Him. I count upon Him for you; I have never found Him fail His own, never.

Greet all the brethren affectionately. Let them be much in prayer to God, that will give them gentleness and courage at the same time. It is no new thing for Christians to suffer for Him who has so loved them. God has taken care of His dear children in France up to the present time. He changes not, and if the brethren are firm and patient this will turn to positive blessing. May God keep them. He is working in France and elsewhere; L do not think that He will remove His testimony from them. He may discipline us, that we may give a clearer, brighter, more heavenly testimony, but He will not leave nor forsake His own who put their trust in Him.

February, 1859.

* * * * *

[From the French.

Beloved Brother,— … My stay in Switzerland was a time of trial; I felt on arriving that it was God’s will that I should take the journey, and that I had done well to come, but it was nevertheless a time of trial; but God is above everything, and in His goodness He makes all contribute to the blessing of those who love Him. My spirit is replenished in His goodness, for whilst having entire confidence in His goodness by faith, or as to my faith, in my mind I felt at Lausanne that it was a time of obedience, not of the activity of the Holy Spirit in my heart; but there is a time for everything, and God is good in everything. I had been so abundantly blessed in former times that perhaps God thought fit to put me into winter a little, and to make me feel my dependence on Him, which, however, I did not question. I was rather afraid that my translation might not be the best thing to do. I did not know exactly why God kept me thus. The enemy sought to discourage me; faith in the unfailing goodness of God sustained me, but it was -only faith. Now I am happy; though still a prisoner, I am not suffering, but I have not yet regained strength for work. I believe that the sight of my right eye has improved; I work at home, through the goodness of God. My journey was particularly happy, thank God: I felt it was a serious thing in the midst of work evidently blessed to be stopped, perhaps for ever. Greet the brethren warmly. May God bless yours.

Your affectionate brother.

London, May 3rd, 1859.

* * * * *

[From the French.

* * * The Epistle to the Philippians has somewhat occupied me of late. What has struck me particularly in this epistle is, that the apostle so places himself in the life of Christ, that he expresses no consciousness of the existence of the flesh. He had a thorn in the flesh, so that it is not a question of doctrine only, it is a state in which the flesh does not act, and cannot lead the thoughts astray; that which appears to be a success for Satan will turn to salvation for Paul. Christ will be glorified in his body, whether by life or by death, as He had always been. To live is Christ, nothing else; to die, gain, for he will enjoy Christ without hindrance. He decides his own trial, without regard to himself, for he knows not what to choose; but for the church it is well that he should remain, so he will remain. He is careful for nothing. He knows that peace of God which passes all understanding—he, who was going to stand on his trial before Nero. He knows how to be abased, and how to abound. He can do all things through Christ, who strengthens him. He is, by that which belongs to the life of Christ, above it all. He has not, without doubt, attained to the end, namely, resurrection from among the dead, but he does only one thing—the activity of the life of Christ leaves no room for anything else. The more you examine the epistle, the more you find that, during the life in which he has not attained to the end, he knows no other thing than “to live is Christ.”

June 23rd, 1859.

* * * * *

* * * Some news of the work going on in the north, and now at Coleraine, has reached me. You will not be surprised if I write a line, not surely as wiser than any, but having the matter at heart. It is a great thing to see by most holy watchfulness that Satan does not get in, and the flesh under him imitating the working of God; this I had upon my mind as wishing to write. Such a work (it is really always so) is out of our hands where it is real, but one watches responsibly through it, though of the last importance to serve God and His work, and leave the manner in which He pleases to work to Himself; but to own Him thus, it just gives us the title to watch all that in it is of Him. If I doubt His title to work as He sees fit, I am not of His mind, I thwart His Spirit and lose the power. Where I own and bless Him as above me and above all, I can for Him be jealous that nothing dishonours Him, and watch all fleshly excitement and discredit it because it is not God.

I .remember in Wesley’s time they used to be seized with a kind of convulsion in the meetings, and fall down. Some caught this, perhaps some imitated or let themselves go to it. He said, the first person who fell down he would have turned out, and no more did so. It was well meant, doubtless, but I doubt the rightness. It were better to judge the false thing, if we could, and leave all divine action free. I admit the difficulty of this; we shall not always be right, but in owning God and doing it for Him He will help us through. Let godliness be a great test, sober judgment of self be a fruit; the authority of the word meets the conscience when the flesh begins to appear, generally under pretence of being above and without it—yet not at first expecting intelligence. When the first action by power on the conscience takes place, you must expect feelings to have the upper hand at the moment, and after forgiveness to have the [exercises] in the heart over the means of being forgiven.

But if there be genuine conviction of sin, the work and Person of Christ will have their value when presented, and feelings will give up to this when more reflection and sober action comes in. Jesus Himself will attract, and His promises of forgiveness—His work will gradually acquire due proportion in the soul as it gets on. Yet we have to follow rather than lead where God is working, and only watch the progress, and minister the word as wants arise.

Above all (I need hardly say), dear brother, pray much that God may help you, and hold in grace fully the upper hand, for you must expect excitement. But through grace and nearness to God, do not let yourself be excited. Peter’s sermon was very sober on the day of Pentecost, being after a time of much prayer. Sober and earnest truth from God to them under the work, deep truth for the conscience—I do not speak of knowledge, but deep in the weight of God’s presence, for it is a solemn thing that He should be so near to us, and a good thing. But He should be nearer to us in secret than even this wonderful action, and then all will be well. My prayers mount up for you and all those wrought on, that God will keep the work; it is His own and in His own hands. Seek nothing—I am sure you do not—for a party in any sense. It is not that I doubt the truth of a divine path, but God works now, and the true path is to make Christ everything. God is working much in many places in these last days. Satan is also working. Our path is holding forth the word of truth, the immediate presence of God, which will be a light through it all. We know who will have the upper hand; also flesh will be sifted, and in the activities of God will be brought to light and judged. Peace be with you, dear brother, and grace and wisdom from God.

July, 1859.

* * * * *

Beloved Brother,— … It is a time for plain and earnest service, and to remember that the word of God alone abides. My associations with the work of the revival have only made me feel more deeply than ever the need and state of things which pressed on my spirit thirty years ago—the state of the church of God—how prayer and an earnest testimony of truths that may lift it up, and they are the simplest, is needed. I rejoice in the blessed work that has been done; but in what hands it is found, and in what hands the fruits of it are cast! Happily it is in hands out of which none can take it. But while avoiding controversy—to bring, in earnestness of love, what may raise the whole tone of Christianity before souls, the Christianity that takes us by redemption into association with Christ.

I recall, with true pleasure dear brother, the days I spent under your kind roof. Peace be with you, dear brother. The Lord give you to keep up His testimony clearly, affectionately, and fully. The poor church, besides sinners, has need of it.

Ever affectionately yours,
In our blessed Master.

Dublin October 16th, 1859.

* * * * *

Dearest ——,—My own earnest hope is that brethren will walk on in peace, and take no notice whatever of attacks. I am sure it is the most morally dignified, and the path of grace. If the Lord should break down Mr.——, they will not have perpetuated his dishonour.

As regards Apocalypse 7, I have for years considered it the most difficult portion of the Apocalypse. But the great tribulation is not my difficulty. Chapter 3:10 I think explains that. The great tribulation of Matthew 24, Jeremiah, and Daniel 12, is confined to Jacob and Judæa. The great difficulty for me is “before the throne.” (Vers. 9, 15.) Were it not for one passage, I might freely take it morally, not actually. The English translation increases the difficulty; “dwell among them,” is not in the passage (ver. 15), but “tabernacle over them,” as the cloud did Israel. But the temple in no way sets them in heaven. In the holy city there is no temple. It is not the character of heavenly worship to worship in the temple. You will remark, they are not round about the throne, but before it. If in chapter 14:3 a[dousin be applied to the 144,000, “before the throne” applies to those on earth; but in chapter 4:5, 6 we have it applied to part of the furniture of the temple above. That they are not the church is to me clear. They are contrasted in their whole condition with the elders; they are saved by Him that sits on the throne and the Lamb, which connects them with the time of introductory government —though not of the millennium; they give no motive for their praise—a mark of the saints who are properly heavenly; their blessings are relief from sufferings, or being led by shepherd’s care to food and refreshment; their relationship with God as before the throne takes them out of association with it—the true character of the strictly heavenly saints. Even the angels are round about the throne—not so these.

I certainly think they are separated pre-millennially—are in relationship with God on the ground of the place He takes as introducing the only-begotten into the world—of His throne above, but before He has introduced Him. Hence they pass through the time of temptation which shall come upon all the world. I do not see that the object is to state earth or heaven, but the character of relationship, and that as the elect perfect number of Israel would be saved, so there would be a multitude of Gentiles spared in the time the throne of God held its place on high, and the Lamb was yet there.

But that those who are thus spared have eternal life as supposed by your inquirer, says absolutely nothing of the multitudes that come into existence during the millennium. So that the difficulty as to the rebels at the close does not exist. The great tribulation here spoken of is in no way confined to the Roman earth. I know of none which is particularly applied to that. But there are persons spared— those associated with idolatrous Jews, whom the Lord judges at His coming. The sun not smiting them would tend to prove they are on the earth. Unless the army of the beast (Rev. 19), I know of no objects of judgment of which a remnant is not spared. The wine-press may distinctively mark this, and Edom involved in it. To those who have not received the love of the truth who have it, strong delusion will be sent to believe a lie, that they all might be condemned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. I can hardly think the dragon, beast, and false prophet do not assemble their subjects to Armageddon—but I suppose rather that it is a general assembly of all.

I was thinking the day your letter came of “Reflections on the Psalms.”

Ever affectionately yours in the Lord.

* * * * *

[From the French.

Dear Sister,—The questions you ask me, make me feel deeply how sorrowful are subtle questions upon the Person of Jesus; they tend to dry up and confuse the soul, to cause the spirit of worship and of love to be lost, and in its place to put intricate questions, as if the mind of man could resolve the way in which the humanity and divinity of Jesus are united.

It is in this sense that it is said, “No man knoweth the Son save the Father.” (I need not say that I do not pretend to do so.) The humanity of Jesus is incomparable. His was a true and real humanity; body and soul, flesh and blood, like mine as far as humanity is concerned, sin excepted; but He appeared in circumstances quite different from those in which Adam was found. He came for the express purpose of bearing our sorrows and infirmities. Adam had none to bear: not that his nature was not in itself susceptible of them, but he was not in the circumstances which entail them: God had placed him in a position which could not be reached by physical evil until he had fallen under moral evil.

Again, God was not in Adam; God was in Christ amid all kinds of misery and suffering, weariness and trial. Christ passed through them according to the power of God, and with sentiments of which the Spirit of God was always the source, although they were human in their sympathies. Adam, before his fall, had no suffering; God was not in him, nor was the Holy Spirit the source of his sentiments; after his fall, sin was the source of his sentiments; it was never so in Jesus.

On the other hand, Jesus is Son of man, Adam was not; but, at the same time, Jesus was born by divine power, so that that holy thing which was born of Mary is called Son of God: this is true of none other. He is Christ born of man, but even as man born of God, so that the condition of humanity in Him is not that which Adam was, either before his fall or after his fall. Now humanity for Adam was not changed by his fall, but the condition of humanity; he was as much a man before as after, after as before. Sin came in, and humanity became alienated from God: it is without God in the world. Now it was not thus with Christ. He was always perfectly with God, save in suffering on the cross in His spirit the forsaking.

Also, the Word was made flesh; God has been manifested in flesh. Acting thus in that veritable humanity, His presence in the unity of the same Person was incompatible with sin.

We are mistaken if we imagine that Adam had immortality in himself; no creature possesses that; they are all maintained by God, who alone has immortality essentially. When it was no longer God’s will to maintain it in the world, man became mortal, and his strength in fact wears out, according to the ways and the will of God; when such is God’s will, he has a life of more than a thousand years—only three score and ten when He thinks fit. It is God’s will that life should come to a close, that we should die, sooner or later; except those who shall be alive at the coming of Jesus, who shall be changed, because the Lord has vanquished death.

Now God was in Christ, which changed everything; but not with respect to the reality of His humanity, with all its affections, its sentiments, its natural needs of soul and body, which were all in Jesus, who underwent consequently the effect of all that surrounded Him, only according to the Spirit, and without sin. No man takes His life from Him, He lays it down, but He does this when the moment appointed by God was come. In fact, He gives Himself up to the effect of the iniquity of man, because it was the will of God that He came to accomplish. He allows Himself to be crucified and put to death, only He is master of the moment in which He yields up His spirit. He works no miracle to hinder the effect of the cruel means of death which man was using, or to screen His humanity. He leaves it to the consequence of those means. His divinity is not used to screen Him from it, to screen Him from death, but to add all its moral value, all its perfection to His obedience. He works no miracle that He may not die, but He works a miracle by dying. He acts according to His divine prerogative in dying, but not in screening Himself from death, for He commends His spirit to His Father as soon as all is finished.

The difference then of His humanity is not that it was not really and fully that of Mary (surely it was), but in that it was that by an act of divine power, so as to be such without sin; and further, in that instead of being separated from God in His soul, as every sinful man is, God was in Him, and He was of God. He could say, “I thirst;” “now is my soul troubled;” “it is melted like wax in the midst of my bowels;” but He could say, “The Son of man who is in heaven;” and “Before Abraham was, I am.”

The innocence of Adam was not God manifest in flesh; it was not man subjected, as to the circumstances in which his humanity was placed, to all the consequences of sin. On the other hand, the humanity of fallen man had fallen under the power of sin, of a will opposed to God, of desires hostile to Him. Christ came to do the will of God, and in Him was no sin. That was humanity in Christ, where God was; not humanity in itself separated from God. It was not humanity in the circumstances in which God placed man when He created him, but in the circumstances in which sin had placed Him, yet in those circumstances without sin; not such as sin made him in them, but such as divine power made Him in all His ways, such that the Holy Spirit was expressed in humanity in the midst of those circumstances. It was not man where there was no evil, like Adam, innocent, but Man in the midst of evil; yet it was not sinful man in the midst of evil like Adam fallen, but Man perfect, and perfect according to God, in the midst of evil—God manifest in flesh; a real, true humanity; but His spirit having always the sentiments which God produces in man, and in absolute communion with God, except when He suffered upon the cross, when it was necessary, as far as the sufferings of His soul were concerned, that He should be forsaken of God—more perfect then, with regard to the extent of the perfection and the reach of obedience than at any other time, because He was doing the will of God in the face of His wrath, instead of accomplishing it in the enjoyment of communion with Him. This is why there, and only there, He asked that that cup might pass from Him. His sustenance could not be found in the wrath of God.

Our precious Saviour was Man, as truly as I am, as regards the simple abstract idea of humanity, but without sin, miraculously born by divine power; and more than this, He was God manifest in flesh.

Now, having said so much, I entreat you with all my heart not to try to define and to discuss the Person of our precious Saviour; you will lose the savour of Christ in your thoughts, and you will get in its place only the barrenness of the human mind in the things of Christ, and in the affections which belong to them. I have begged the brethren to refrain from this, and they are all the better for it. It is a labyrinth for man, because he works from his own resources. It is as if one were to dissect the body of one’s friend, instead of delighting in his affections and his character. In the church, it is one of the worst signs I have met with. It is very sad to get into this way, very sad that this should be shewn in such a light before the church of God, and before the world. I would add, that so deep is my conviction of man’s incapacity in this matter, and that it is outside the teaching of the Spirit to wish to define the manner of the union of divinity and humanity in Jesus, that I am quite ready to suppose that even while desiring to avoid it, I may have fallen into it, and thus may have spoken in a mistaken way in something which I have said to you.

That He was truly Man, Son of man, dependent on God as such, and without sin in that condition of dependence—truly God in all His ineffable perfection: this I hold, I trust, dearer than life. To define everything is what I do not presume to do. “No man knoweth the Son but the Father.” If I find anything which weakens one or the other of these truths, or which dishonours Him who is their subject, I shall oppose it with all my might, as God may call me to do so.

May God grant you to believe all which the word ‘teaches with regard to Him—Jesus. It is our food and sustenance to understand all which the Spirit has given us to understand, and not to seek to define that which God does not call upon us to define, but to adore on the one hand and to feed upon on the other, and to love in every way according to the grace of the Holy Spirit.


* * * * *

Dear Brother,—If such a measure should come before you, I beg to call your attention and the attention of the saints to what follows. I have felt pressed in spirit before the Lord to do it since I heard of it; I have no object but that the saints should be free from taking any step till they take it by the guidance of the Spirit, knowing what it is they are doing.

Beloved Brethren,—I have learned by a providential circumstance that it is the purpose of our dear brother——to propose a common day of fasting and humiliation as to the state of the saints. I feel deeply, indeed, I have in my little manner acted on it when I could, that the very thing that is called for, and urgently called for, is fasting and humiliation, and deep, deep humiliation before God, as I know the beloved saints have already done so in several places. Hence on the mere point of so fasting I say nothing, believing that it must be left to the Holy Ghost to guide the saints, as He sees good, to such a service. But what I feel bound to lay before them is this. When a common fast is proposed, it supposes of course a common object. All I think the saints would be wise to learn before undertaking to join in such a thing, is, what the common thing they join in is. Further, when we join in a common thing, we more or less identify ourselves with those with whom we join. In the present state of things, I would only suggest to the brethren not to commit themselves to anything they are unacquainted with. My own judgment is that some of the fasts at Plymouth (and I was at one of them myself, so that it is not to blame individuals) were by very far the worst things which have been done there before God—very, very far. This judgment of course I do not press on the brethren; I only suggest to them that, if a common fast is proposed, they should at least learn what the common thing is. I have no doubt what is done truly before the Lord, even in ignorance, will be blessed to those who do it in the end; but we act with power when we act with the knowledge of His mind.

Ever, in true affection in the Lord,
Your brother in Christ.

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My dear Brother,—Being ignorant of the circumstances which have passed, you cannot of course tell to what tests charity may have been put. Still, love is of God, and God is love; hence I trust that it will surmount, in virtue of its divine nature, and through divine power, everything; and indeed so, thank God, I have found it. Still, the love of God, though rising over and covering everything because of its own fulness, and that it owns Christ in the saints, and our own nothingness, is not, dear brother, a blind and unintelligent feeling. I do earnestly desire the church’s, rather the saint’s humiliation for the divisions and state it is in generally. And I earnestly desire the Lord may be with the beloved ones at ——. In uniting in a matter of the kind, what I feel we have to do is to see the mind of the Holy Ghost, and how far Christ is leading in it. J earnestly desire the common fellowship of the saints in humiliation. Still, as to this particular case, I apprehend I am not wrong in connecting it with the circumstances of the present time, and a certain spiritual judgment of the state of things here (or what may be connected with it).

Now to look really and unfeignedly for a common supplication, if unity in judgment of the remedy be not demanded, at least, the sense of the evil which we have to present to God must be the same, or we shall not be presenting the same spiritual groan to God at all. The common act would be hypocrisy, though each might be unfeignedly sincere for himself. Now I may tell you, dear brother, that it was the judgment of several spiritual and intelligent saints (not of us of Plymouth) that the ground you took would aid greatly, or at any rate would aid, in increasing the spiritual delusion and blindness under which many beloved saints were labouring here. Such, I do not doubt, was the fact, though individual grace will always be overruled for blessing; and hence I fully trusted the Lord about it, assured that He would overrule it for blessing. This will probably little affect the certainty you have that you are right, but this will hardly govern other people. It is a question merely whose spiritual judgment is the soundest: both may be partial, and both used by supreme divine wisdom for the bringing about His own purposes; though, while God uses both, they cannot actually go together. Hence, while I am sure all the love which shall be in exercise in your meeting will be most surely blest to those who are there (and I trust to others), and indeed all there is of right spiritual judgment, and my heart would go unfeignedly along with it; still, it could not formally, while ignorant of the mind in which it was done, join in what it did not even know—could not, in the sense of possibility.

If there were the recognition of certain things, and state of things—of this of course I cannot speak—then I could not in good conscience before the Lord have anything at all to say to it. It would be both hypocrisy and a positive disobedience and departure from God. My judgment is definite and assured, I believe; and I have no doubt that I have it from the Lord. I dare not, nor would I, of course, depart from it. Any charge of want of charity to which I may render myself liable, would not turn me away, because there is a day coming when every one will receive praise of God. I am content to wait for that, though indeed I have not had to wait for it, through abounding and undeserved grace which thinks of our weakness.

As to our course, dear brother, I have no doubt at all (though admitting many imperfections in the way) that it has been of God. We (that is, those who have come out and met faithfully in our weakness) have found so distinct and unequivocal a testimony to His favour and approbation, and such an evident and sensible blessing, that we have been confirmed in the strongest possible way in that which we have done in faithfulness to God. Ye are content with His portion, whatever men may judge pf us. For my own part, now twenty years that I have been converted, I never experienced so distinct a deliverance of God, nor so sensible a consciousness of the blessing and joy of spirit by the Holy Ghost which accompanies walking in His will. I had no thought or idea of the difference, the total difference resulting from the step in which I have obeyed by faith. I do not think I could express too strongly the transition. I have no doubt at all that there is a delusion of the enemy over their minds.

In many other ways, and in the working in individual souls, the hand of God has been most marked. Your fast meeting would, I apprehend, identify me more or less with that which I have left, as acknowledging it more or less. This in the very smallest degree I would not do for all the world, and I am conscious that I am led of God in this. You cannot be surprised therefore that I am decided.

Ever, dear brother,
Yours in unfeigned affection.

For example, if I believe we are suffering for failure, and, as is stated by many here, others believe they are suffering as martyrs for the truth, how could there be common humiliation?16]

Plymouth [1845].

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* * * I should not admit the cross to be the principle of union, because I cannot admit the work of Christ to be the bond, exclusive of His Person. The cross may gather all, both Jew and Gentile, but they are gathered to Christ, not to the cross; and the difference is a most important and essential one, because it is of all-importance that the Person of the Son of God have His place. Christ Himself, not the cross of Christ, is the centre of union. The two or three are gathered to His name, not the cross. The scripture is uniform in its testimony as to this.

But further, where saints are gathered in unity, without any questionings, they have the truth and holiness to guard. It never was, and I trust never will be, the notion of brethren, that the truth of Christ’s Person or godliness of walk was to be sacrificed to outward unity. It is making brethren of more importance than Christ; and even so, love to the brethren is false, for if true it is, John assures us, “love in the truth and for the truth’s sake.” Supposing a person denied the divinity of Christ, or the resurrection of His body, still declaring his belief in the cross—supposing he declared his belief in the cross and resurrection, but declared it was only a testimony of God’s love, and no substitution or expiatory value in it, as many clergymen of high reputation in the Establishment now do— is all this to be immaterial? I shall be told that no true believer could do this. In the first place, a true believer may be seduced into error; and further, the test offered becomes thus the opinion formed that a man is a true believer, and not the plain fundamental truth of God and His holiness.

Indeed, the letter betrays its own inconsistency, for it says, “brethren gathered round the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ?” Quite true; but what person? Would it be equal if He were owned to be God, or if it were denied? Or if He were the Son of God, the object of His Father’s delight at all times—or if He were a man—or if He were really risen from the dead? I can hardly doubt the writer would say no. I am supposing all this. I answer then, your letter is all a fallacy, a delusion, and denies itself and its principles in the same page. For that is what I insist on, that I must have a true Christ, and that I am bound to maintain the truth of Christ in my communion. I am aware that the letter states we can deal with conduct (with morality) but not with these questions. But this is just what appears to me so excessively evil. Decency of conduct is necessary for communion; but a man may blaspheme Christ— that is no matter; it is a matter, not of conduct, but of. conscience! It is hinted, that perhaps if it be a teacher, he may be dealt with. In truth, the apostle desires even a woman not to let such a person into her house. It is not therefore so difficult to deal with. Just think of a system which makes blasphemous views of the Person of Christ—what may amount to a denial of Him—to be a matter of private conscience, having nothing to do with communion! And here is the very root of the question. I raise one before all their reasoning. I affirm that that is not a communion of believers at all, which is not founded on the acknowledgment of a true Christ. Where the truth as to this is commonly held and taught, I may have no need for particular inquiry. But that is not the case here. If I find a person even in such a case, denying the truth as to Christ, communion is impossible, because we have not a common Christ to have communion in. But here all faithfulness is thrown overboard. No call to confess a true Christ is admitted: it is a new test or term of communion! Mr. N. himself, and others holding his doctrines, have been invited or admitted. It is said we are to meet as Christians. But a man is not a Christian who professes a false Christ. The letter would have me judge the state of a person’s heart. I cannot, while his profession is false: I may hope he is only misled, but cannot accept his profession.

I am quite aware that it will be said, But these individuals do not hold these views. If wholly and not wilfully ignorant it is another matter; but we have to do with another case where, the views being held, they are declared to be a matter of private conscience; that a false Christ is as good as a true one, if a person’s conduct is good—we can judge only of the last! Now this principle is worse than the false doctrine, because it knows the falseness and blasphemy of it, and then says it is no matter. I do not own—— meetings as meetings of believers, for fundamental error as to Christ is immaterial for communion —a matter, the letter tells me, not of conduct but of conscience. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead.” Be it so. Suppose a person held He was a mere man, and quoted the passage to prove that God raised Him, and made Him Lord and Christ, would he be received? If not, you do try whether a man has the faith of God’s elect. If not a Socinian is admissible as a believer; or you make your opinion of his being a believer the test, entirely independent of the faith of Christ. I go further. It is said you can only require a person to say he receives all in scripture as true. The supposed Socinian would accept such a test at once. They do so. Why should you ask even that? A man may be a believer and a rationalist in theory (sad as such a thought is) and not accept all as the word of God, and say, I am a believer in the cross—you have no right to make a difficulty. If after this you object to any doctrine or insist on any truth, you have not even scripture to lean on against his denial of it. Scripture says, “Whom I love in the truth and for the truth’s sake;” the other says it is no matter. You think the person a “spiritual believer;” the truth of Christ is no matter, a false one is just as good.

I add no human doctrine to a divine one. I make no term of communion besides Christ. I require that those who have blasphemed Him should not be admitted. I am told that it is a matter of conscience, &c„ and that people cannot read doctrines to know whether He is blasphemed or not. These blasphemers have been received deliberately, received avowedly, received upon the ground that no inquiry is to be made; and therefore the plea of additional bonds or terms of communion is all dust thrown in the eyes. Is it a new term of communion to affirm that faith in a true Christ, not a false one, is called for for communion, and that blasphemers of Christ are not to be received? That is the true question. If a person thinks they are not safe in reading the publications, how are they safe in fellowship and intimacy with those who have written or refuse to disown them? I confess I do not admire this argument. Simple believers do not hesitate much, reasoning minds do. Ask a simple believer if Christ had the experience of an unconverted man. He would soon say, I will have nothing to say to any one who says so. A reasoning mind might make it a mere matter of personal conscience. Is the truth of Christ’s Person and His relationship to God a variety of judgment on a particular doctrine? Here is the whole question—value for Christ and the truth as to Himself.

The question of 1 John 2:19 is a formal avowal that if a person was professedly an antichrist, denying the Father and the Son, he is to be received. It is a matter of doctrines [underlined in the letter]. Purging out the old leaven, according to this paragraph, is keeping it in till it goes out of itself. The real manifested enemies of Christ are to be kept in communion —the deniers of His Person and of all faith: they will withdraw! It is well to have met an avowal of the principles of the——gathering. It is, I confess, a little difficult to understand how a real believer can say so… I do not require definitions; what I require is, that when blasphemous definitions have been made, the blasphemers should be rejected. I do not see anything so very deep in saying that Christ had the experience of an unconverted man, and that He was relatively further from God than men when they had made the golden calf, and [that He] heard with an attentive heart the gospel of John the Baptist, and so passed as from law under grace. Is it the shibboleth of a party to reject with horror such doctrines? Or is it faithfulness to Christ to attenuate them by saying that in such deep doctrines we shall not express ourselves alike: only disquisitions on the force of the Greek word ai{resi" . Heresy in scripture language is not a division—but that is no matter.

The reference to the Ethiopian (Acts 8:37) is unhappy, because it is recognised to be no part of scripture, and probably was added when they applied some test. The assertion about Romans 16:17 is a very poor evasion of the text. There is not the smallest pretext for saying that it refers to the unity of the body; which is not at all the subject of the epistle, being only briefly alluded to in chapter 12 in reference to practice. “Cause divisions” is referred to; but there is nothing to divide; if there be not a true Christ as the basis of the meeting, there is no true unity at all. The reference to the Galatian church is an unhappy one. That epistle was not written about discipline, nor could it be, but to bring back the whole body of the saints in many churches to sound doctrine. But it shews that false doctrine was more terrible in the apostle’s mind than the worst false conduct: not a wish of kindness, not a salutation, not a gracious word—he breaks in at once with rebuke and reproach, and closes with resentful coldness—while in Corinthians, where the most horrible wickedness was committed and gloried in by all, he says all the good of them he can.

It is not practical love to love them, not for the truth’s sake, but to comfort them in blaspheming Christ—saying it is a matter of conscience. It is not real love to the members, nor love for Christ’s sake, to despise Christ so as to bear blasphemers against Him. I have certainly not left the Establishment to accept blasphemers. I do repudiate the creed of a Socinian, or a Mormonite, or an Arian. If the writer does not, I am sorry for it. It is all nonsense talking about anything in a tract being a test. The truth of the Person and glory of Christ in a tract or out of a tract, is a test for those who are faithful to Him. I cannot talk of liberty of conscience to blaspheme Christ, if by liberty of conscience is meant, as it is here, communion.

January 14th, 1860.

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13 See page 182.

14 [See “Observations on a Tract entitled ‘Remarks on the Sufferings of the Lord Jesus.’” 1847. “Collected Writings,” vol. 15 p. 103.]

15 [See “Present Testimony,” vol. 4:p. 218. In the “Synopsis of the Books of the Bible,” afterwards published separately, the paper in “Present Testimony,” vol. 13:1-165, was substituted for this.]

16 [This, and the letter preceding, refer to the same meeting as that which drew out the letter given on page 97, and go with it.]