To the same.]
[From the French.
* * * I do not know, if in my “Etudes,” I have sufficiently pointed out the structure of the Epistle to the Romans. At any rate, this point has very much developed in my mind. In chapter 1 I reach the close of the introduction at verse 17. Verse 18 begins the reasoning which proves the necessity of the gospel, by the sins, whether of Jews or Gentiles. From chapter 3:21 we have the answer of grace in the blood of Christ, to the sins committed, the explanation of the patience of God with regard to past sins, and the foundation of righteousness revealed in this present time. Then, in chapter 4, resurrection, as an accomplished fact, is added. In chapter 5:1-11 he shews all the blessings which flow from that which precedes; peace, favour, glory hereafter, joy in tribulation, joy in God Himself. This brings out the sovereign grace and love of God—a love which He has shed abroad in our hearts by His Spirit which He has given us.
A leading division of the epistle is found at the end of verse 11, chapter 5. Up to the end of this verse the apostle has spoken of sins, then of grace. Now he begins to speak of sin. Before, it was our offences; now it is a disobedience of one only: it is Adam (each no doubt having added his part) and Christ. Consequently, it is no longer Christ dead for our sins, but we dead in Christ, which puts an end to the nature and standing which we had by Adam. This is also why the apostle speaks of our death, and hardly goes beyond it. If he had spoken of our resurrection with Christ, he would have encroached on the doctrine of Colossians and Ephesians, and would have had to go on to union with Christ, which is not his subject here. His subject is—How am I, an individual sinner, justified before God? The answer is, Christ has died for our offences; there the fruits of the old man are blotted out: then, you are dead with Christ; that is, your old man gone (for faith).
Besides, chapter 6 replies to the objection, “Shall we continue in sin?” &c. How, says the apostle, shall we live in sin, if we are dead? You have part in death; certainly that is not to live. Union does not in anywise enter into this argument; only, if we are dead, we must live in some way or other; now that is unto God, through Jesus Christ. That was enough to shew the practical bearing of this doctrine. Union relates to our privileges; we are perfect in Christ, members of His body. The fact that we are in Christ is supposed in chapter 8:1, and affirmed in a practical manner in verse 9 of the same chapter, but there it is connected with deliverance. But the aim of the apostle in his reasoning is to shew that we have done with the flesh, and consequently with sin, and that we derive our life from elsewhere; so that justification is a doctrine of deliverance from sin, and not of liberty to sin.
In chapter 7 death is applied to our relations with the law. The end of the chapter presents to us the experience of a renewed soul, but (as to conscious position) still in the flesh, of which the law is the just rule, the law which, when we are renewed, is understood in its spirituality. The consequence of all this is developed in chapter 8, which shews us our position with God, the effect of our being in Christ; just as chapter 5:1-11 shews what God has been for us, sinners, and what, consequently, we have learned that He is in Himself. The end of chapter 8 sums up in triumph the consequences of these truths.
As to your question on the Psalms, you must not believe what they tell you. According to Mr. N.’s avowal (never mine), his views were found in the Psalms and not in the Gospels. My doctrine is exactly the opposite of Mr. N.’s. He taught that Christ was born in a state of distance from God, and could only meet God on the cross; but that, by His piety, He escaped many of the consequences of His position by birth. On the contrary, I believe that He was born, and loved up to the cross in the perfect favour of God; and that in grace He entered in spirit, into the sorrows and troubles of His people, and particularly at the end, when His hour was come. On the cross He did indeed drink the cup. But I have no idea that His sufferings are in question only in the Psalms; on examination, I even think that a far less number of the Psalms apply directly to Christ than is generally thought. The Psalms, viewed in their prophetic sense, depict the circumstances and afflictions of the remnant of Israel. That Christ, in spirit, took part in these sorrows of His people, I doubt not; but I say that very few Psalms are direct prophecies of what came upon Him; that some are, need not be said. But I believe that the New Testament shews us very clearly the relations of Christ with this people. No doubt the New Testament is not occupied with the remnant, as the Psalms, nor with the future of Israel, as the prophecies, because it treats generally of truths that are deeper, more important, and of another kind; but it puts these things very clearly in their place historically, and quotes the prophecies which relate to them. We see Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, announcing what was to happen, whether to the disciples in the midst of the nation, or to the nation itself. The Old Testament gives us the details as to Israel, and speaks more of the result, because that is the subject of which it treats; but the New Testament shews us exactly the place of these things relatively to Christianity, which is its subject, and it takes up, as far as is necessary, the subject of the Old. As to the sufferings of Christ, it gives historically and by quoting the passages that of which the Old Testament spoke; often it presents to us the feelings of Christ more intimately than the Psalms, and at other times cites these latter as explaining what had taken place. For my part, I take what I find in the Old Testament as having the same authority as the New. If the Old Testament says, “In all their afflictions he was afflicted,” the New gives us to hear Jesus Himself saying with tears, “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.”
I can easily understand that many Christians do not rightly seize what concerns the remnant of Israel nor the interest which the Lord has in them; and that does not trouble me; but when one expounds the Psalms, one must expound them according to their true sense, and I judge, this gives a far deeper perception of the patient grace of Jesus. Still, I think it important it should remain a means of edification, and not a subject of dispute; otherwise, Christ loses His savour for the heart, or at least the heart loses the sweet fragrance of His grace. If it be said that these sufferings (which I do not admit) are not found in the New Testament, but in the Old, it is clear then that, in explaining the Old, we must speak of them. But the Lord speaks of His position such as Zechariah 13:depicts it, and consequently of the state of the remnant.
The New Testament has not in general the remnant for its subject, but Christ the Saviour, and Christianity; but it also treats of the first of these subjects in its place. Luke 1, 2 are almost entirely occupied with the remnant, historically and prophetically. Matthew 10 only applies to this subject, and comprehends the whole time up to the end, to the exclusion of the Gentiles and Samaritans. It is the same thing, under another form, in chapter 11.
It is said that Christ suffered only in expiation, or through sympathy. Do you think He suffered nothing when He denounced the scribes who hindered poor souls from receiving Him? Read Matthew 23: did not His heart suffer? “He suffered being tempted,” is a cardinal truth of the word. When He asked His disciples to watch with Him, He was not yet drinking the cup, but His sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood. That was not sympathy: He sought it, but found none. It is a very serious thing to deny the sufferings of the Son of man. There was sympathy at the tomb of Lazarus; but in approaching death, and always, more or less, He suffered —in love, in grace no doubt, but really; assuredly not on account of what was in Him, or of His own relationships with the Father, “but it became him for whom are all things and by whom are all things, to make the captain of our salvation perfect through sufferings.”
I earnestly entreat you not to make these things a subject of controversy; it is a subject, rather, for adoration: to contend about these points, mars and tends to destroy all holy affections. When I see Paul express himself as he has done at the commencement of Romans 9 shall I say that Christ, whose Spirit urged the apostle to these sentiments, remained Himself indifferent to the unbelief of the beloved people? He died for the nation; it is clear that that was expiatory, but it is a proof that He loved it as a nation. The sufferings of Christ are a subject of great importance, and the New Testament, as well as the Old, shews that Israel was, in a special way, the object of affections which caused Him to suffer. Now, His sympathy was with the sorrows of humanity, but He felt, as He expressed it, the iniquity which (but for the sovereign grace of God) put an end to all the hopes of Israel and to the enjoyment by the beloved people of all the promises. When He said, “It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem,” and calls it the city “which killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee;” did He say it with callous indifference? That was not expiatory; and He could not have sympathy with the iniquity which did it. These words only reproduce with a more touching affection, and a heart from which all selfishness and self-interest were absent, the expression of the Psalm [102:14]: “Thy servants take pleasure in her stones.”
No doubt, one may present these things badly. The affections of the Saviour are too delicate a subject to be handled roughly, without falsifying or, so to speak, wounding them; but that any should deny them, is to me distressing.
The Messiah was cut off, and all the hopes of the beloved people were lost with Him—to be recovered, no doubt; now I do not believe that Christ has not suffered on this account…
Boston, February 17th, 1867.
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[From the French.
Beloved Brother,—I have not seen the writings which are circulating in Switzerland, but here the immortality of the soul, that is to say, of the soul that has not received Christ, is denied by all who have adopted these ideas. Among them are found two classes: those who make the soul perish finally with the body, and those who say that, although death’ be the end of the soul as of the body, man will be raised again to be judged and then burned by degrees like a branch. The natural immortality of the soul, by the will of God in creation, is denied by both classes. They cite the passage, “God only has immortality,” forgetting that the angels do not die, and that the one who wrote it himself had immortality, according to their system. That God can destroy, I allow, as He could create. The question is to know what He says.
In their system, man is a “living soul,” and so is a beast. Now, it is very plain that if a beast were to receive eternal life, it could not be held guilty, in respect to what it had done as a beast; that is to say, that this system overturns the nature of man. We are the offspring (gevno") of God; Adam was, in this sense, son of God. Made to enjoy Him, we are perfectly miserable without Him. How true this is! Now, I say that in this system expiation is null, since it took place for things done by the flesh, which differs nothing from that of a beast.
I doubt whether one could find a single passage to shew that “destroy, destruction,” signify the absolute cessation of existence. They admit, it is true, that nothing is annihilated, but they say that the soul by means of the fire loses its personality and its individuality, and is dissolved into its elements. Just like a bit of charcoal—I have answered them.
In detail, the consequences of their doctrine are infinite. Judgment is after death… but, how judge what has ceased to exist? or else (when it is a question of the second class), how raise- what has ceased to exist?
Their tricks and dishonesty, besides, soon gave proof of the source of their doctrine. The soul of the child brought back to life by Elisha returned, and re-entered its body. As for their fine theories about the goodness of God—men who insist upon absolute destruction or restoration—we must understand that not only man, but Satan and his angels are in question; otherwise, these theories would be but man’s love for his own race, and it would be a fraud to speak of God, as though it were a question of His glory. I say this, not to reason about it, but to shew that it concerns the spirit and pretensions of those who maintain these doctrines. We always find, in them, the spirit of lying.
* * * * *
To the same.]
Very dear Brother,—I have had a great deal to do with the doctrine of poor B., both in New York and in Boston and in the West. I had four regular interviews on the question with persons who taught this doctrine, as well as other interviews during my present visit. Thanks be to God; the word, for it was it only, reduced them all to silence. Here, and at Boston, more than one soul has been delivered from the snare. I had no idea how entirely this doctrine was of the enemy, until I had discussed it. I had never received it, but I was not aware of all that it involved.
As to the passage of which you spoke to me (Matt. 13:42), the explanation shews that the thought is not extinction, which is but a conclusion drawn from the effect of fire upon weeds. The effect of the fire, as of the outer darkness, is weeping and gnashing of teeth. So that the effect indicated is not a cessation of existence, as they pretend, but suffering—suffering called everlasting (Matt. 25:46), in contrast with everlasting life. The fire is a figure, the habitual figure of judgment: we shall be all “salted with fire;” the day will be “revealed by fire,” &c. They shall be tormented “for ever and ever;” words employed for the duration of the existence of God.
As for the word aijwvnio", it is certain that the ordinary sense of the word, when it is employed in an absolute manner with regard to duration, is ‘eternal,’ ‘that which will never cease.’ Thus, “the eternal Spirit,” “eternal redemption,” “the eternal God,” “the eternal inheritance,” and that passage: “The things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” These last expressions determine the signification of the word in an incontrovertible manner. Aristotle derives it from ajeiV w\n, and Philo, of the apostles’ time, says that the word signifies, not a past nor a future, but ‘present perpetual subsistence.’ I have found other passages, but I have not my memoranda here to give them to you.
But what, to my mind, gives such seriousness to this doctrine, is that in it there is no immortality of the soul, no responsibility, really no expiation. Death, with them, is the cessation of existence; if not, all their system falls through. They make that which does not exist at all to rise again; and that has forced some among them (here, a great number) to deny all existence after death. But then, there is no sense in judgment after death (Heb. 9:27), and to raise that which does not exist, has no sense either. Now, if the human soul is like that of a beast, which, of itself, ceases to exist with the body, responsibility falls to the ground; Christ has died for that which is nothing.
Nevertheless, every believer knows very well that when he was converted he, as responsible, took account of all that he had done previously, and he believes that Christ died for that. Now, if one had only a living soul like a beast, it could not be so. They say that the wages of sin is death; but if I die before the Lord returns, I shall pay the wages myself. And indeed, I have never found among them one single person who had not lost the doctrine of the atonement. Those who had been Christians would not have denied it when they were questioned: but, they had lost it. Christ, they say, died to obtain eternal life for us, never for what we had done, not having an immortal soul. This would in fact be nonsense. A beast, receiving eternal life, could not hold itself responsible for its previous life. Hence, all appeals to man, what is said to Cain, all the reasonings, all the ways, all the invitations of God, as well as His law, become a great divine action which is more than to no purpose; it is a deception. Now, if the soul is immortal, the question is settled.
They cite this passage: “God only has immortality,” an evident proof that they are not straightforward, for they are forced to confess that the angels do not die, and, more than this, Paul himself, from their own point of view, had immortality when he wrote that. But “mortal” is applied only to the body: “In this mortal body,” “This mortal shall put on immortality,” &c. It is also said in Luke 20:38, “For all live unto him.” And “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.” (Luke 12:4.)
They do not accept annihilation; nothing, say they, perishes; but for them, the soul is dissolved, loses its individuality like a branch that is burned. Now God has breathed into our nostrils the breath of life. “We are the offspring of God;” sons of Adam, son of God. (Luke 3:38.) The threat of death addressed to Adam if he ate of the tree, was but a brutum fulmen if he was to die in any case.
They found much upon the Old Testament; thus, “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” (Ezek. 18:4-20.) But, when we examine these passages, we find that what is in question is always a judgment that is to come upon this earth. Death never signifies cessation of existence, never; not even the second death, for that is the lake of fire. Then, the picture of Lazarus and of the wicked rich man shews it, in an indisputable manner.
But that which, to me, renders the thing so important, what to the Christian is even a moral demonstration, is that all the ways of God towards sinners are but a He if we have not an immortal soul, and the atonement is no more true for us, than for those that perish. If I have nothing but the soul of a beast (the measure of intelligence matters little), Christ could not really have died for my sins, nor say that He was the propitiation for the whole world.
If you were to see the practical effect of this doctrine, it would be a striking confirmation to you of the truth. We had three interviews at Boston. My opponent was an honest man; he could not reply to the word; he owned it; but his wife (who, as it appears, rules him) would not hear of this, and at the third interview, he undertook to defend the doctrine; his prevarications and deception (which was not at all his character) did more, painful as it was, than the two first interviews. Thank God, those who were not in it with will have been delivered, for which I bless God with all my heart.
Only read the first and second chapters of Genesis. On the sixth day God created the mammals, then God saw that it was good. The creation, as such, was ended; then comes the solemn consultation, and man is created in the image of God. To say that man is but a superior species of mammal, is “to deny all the solemnity of these verses. Man is “the image and glory of God, it is said.” (1 Cor. 11:7.) How can that be, if he has nothing better than the soul of a beast, even though his faculties should surpass those of other animals, as the faculties of an elephant surpass those of a worm? He can hate God, alas! he can be in relationship with God: he is called to love Him; but the beast?
“Destruction” does not signify ceasing to exist, but ruin, as to the state in which one subsisted. We find the same word in such passages as these: “The lost sheep of the house of Israel.” “Master, we perish.” “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help.” “The world that then was… perished.” “Destroy not him with thy meat.” “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.” What is meant by “punished with everlasting destruction”? All destruction is everlasting, if the thing destroyed ceases to exist. And this case is the more striking that, according to them, this passage treating of the judgment at the commencement of the millennium, the destruction there mentioned is not eternal in the sense which they give to the word, for those who are punished subsist afterwards. I quote from memory, but a concordance will furnish you with many other passages. Here I only speak of some words which they misuse, and of the points that render this question a capital one for me.
These doctrines are very general here, but I think that God is raising a barrier against them. The persons who taught them believed in the coming of the Lord wrongly; but they believed in it, and had far more light than those who were orthodox. That attracted souls who were seeking light, and they drank in the poison at the same time with the truth. Now, those whom I have met have not been able to withstand the word, and that which had the vain glory of possessing the light, is rejected as an abominable heresy by those who are certainly more enlightened upon older truths than themselves.
Before God, when Satan is treated as Satan, half the work is done; and more, for then God acts, although He exercises faith…, The fact that judgment comes after death, shews the folly of the idea that death is the wages of sin, in the sense of a complete punishment.
* * * * *
Dear Brother,—I rejoice in the blessing the Lord has granted you. As to——and his plans, the Lord, as you say, may frustrate it; but I expect nothing from them; mixed up with the army and the world, the discipline of God’s house does not suit them. They like to have their will free, and call that liberty. I am sure the Lord will and does approve the path of patient consistency, and contentedness to be little and despised, and He will make wonderers know that He has loved them, who, though with little strength, have so walked. It has been one of the difficulties here.
I trust you may not get into controversy with these annihilationists. It has been a trial here and in the States, that those who hold the Lord’s coming on this Continent (though their views of it are quite false) are generally in these views. This very naturally raised prejudice against them. One of the services I and others have had to render, is to separate the two in people’s minds, and a testimony has been so raised up. The Evangelicals could not meet them, for they held to traditions which these false teachers refused from scripture. But a true testimony, thank God, has been raised up, though a small one. I need hardly say that I hold fast the immortality of the soul, and have insisted on it earnestly at New York, Boston, and Milwaukee, where I have met these false teachers, and a good many have been set free from the doctrine or connection with it. It has been a formal question as to union with many, and a main difficulty as to the work in New York and Boston.
I am quite aware of the passage—— refers to; and when first published in French (it was translated into English) from notes of lectures at Geneva, it is very possible it was not guarded against misinterpretation, as no one thought of denying the immortality of the soul or calling it in question. It is a statement that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul in contrast with resurrection was brought in by Platonism and philosophy in the third century; which is perfectly correct. Heretical teachers, and those orthodox, infected with what is called Neo-platonism, began to deny the Lord’s coming as a present expectation, and to teach simply the soul’s going to heaven. That it does so was fully stated in the lectures. It was the setting aside the Lord’s coming and resurrection, to bring in the mere doctrine of an immortal soul—man’s pride as to his importance, not God’s power when Christ came—which was objected to. But as no one dreamed then of questioning that immortality, it was expressed so that it might be laid hold of. Perhaps it is so in the first English edition. But they all know as well as I do, that not only the contrary was held but taught in the book; and that it was the substitution of the- immortality of the soul, instead of, and to the rejection of Christ’s coming and the resurrection, which was objected to; and it was in fact the ruin of the church. But, as I said, that immortality was questioned by no one then, and it never occurred to any one that any one did. I heard of this poor piece of dishonesty years and years ago, and in the subsequent editions took care to remove all occasion for it. It is a poor fraud, and nothing else. I have not the book here, or I would refer to it. I find it in “Collected Writings,” vol. ii. p. 463 (I have not the first edition), “It is hardly needful to say that I do not doubt the immortality of the soul. I only assert,” &c.—I suppose to be added to the first edition because this use was attempted to be made of it. But the object of the passage is plain enough, and perfectly put historically, and of all-importance as to the doctrine of the church; it was just the turning-point of its ruin. If you can get a sight of the book, you will see I have given a just account of the statement above.
As regards the main subject, it is a horrible system; it upsets the atonement and human responsibility. For if in my unconverted state I have no more soul than a beast, save as to mere mental capacity, how can I be answerable for my sins and grieve over them, and Christ have to bear them? If death be the wages of sin, if I die before Christ comes, I have paid the wages myself. The rest is all fiction; but Mr.——is wrong on every point. Death never means ceasing to exist, but ceasing to exist here, even as to a beast. The fact of death can tell us nothing beyond, though scripture does; while it clearly tells us that man can only kill the body, and that the soul is still there; “all live to him,” as the rich man and Lazarus clearly point out, and many passages. The second death is declared to be the lake of fire, not ceasing to exist. As to eternal torment, eternal punishment is found in Matthew 25, and the word there translated punishment is translated torment in 1 John 4:18, and justly: punishment or torment is its sense.
If death is a state of being as he says, then there is a being which is dead, his own statements are self-contradictory. Death is not the extinction of conscious being in man, as Luke 20:38, and Dives and Lazarus shew. Death in sin is not the offence; it is the state of the offender. In the Old Testament, life and incorruptibility were not brought to light, and they want to bring us back to the state of darkness even saints were lying in then. For note, these passages from the Old Testament apply to saints as much as sinners: though they have eternal .life, therefore, on their theory, they had ceased to exist, and what eternal life had they? Yet they are the words of saints and not sinners. They will nave it that we die, cease to exist, unless we get eternal life, which is only in Christ; but we die all the same if we have eternal life, so that it evidently has nothing to do with it: nay, Christ died—did He cease to exist? Some of them have told me He did. So scripture always in speaking of mortality, speaks of the body, and of the saints consequently as in 1 Corinthians xv., as much as sinners. These are not delivered from this condition by Christ; they are as mortal as before, only dead in theirs. The punishment is not death: “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment”; that is, all imposed by judgment to come is after death: so false are they in every statement they make.
I trust you may be kept from any discussions on these points. The doctrine is rife. Their coming of the Lord is quite secular and earthly too. ——, whom you refer to, refused to shut it out, and the unfaithfulness is common. The churches (so-called) are afraid to deal with it, are horribly alarmed about it, but through that, smoothing it all up. Some have gone on to deny all truth, atonement, the divinity of Christ, and the personality of the Holy Ghost, and though this has caused a split in great towns, they keep together as a party in smaller places. I have said all this surely not to engage you in the controversy, but in reply to your letter. The gracious Lord keep us in the simplicity that is in Christ. My kindest love to the saints; may they be kept in quiet simplicity, and content to be nothing. Worldly religion and religious worldliness is the pest of this day, and, though the patience of God be great, and most gracious, will never stand in the day which shall try all things. The church of Philadelphia is our model.
Your affectionate brother in Christ.
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Beloved Brother,—As regards your hard questions, 1 am not disposed to be wise above what is written. It was the old patristic doctrine, but with every imaginable notion tacked to it. It issued in the limbo patrum, or as now expressed, the opening of the kingdom of heaven to all believers, but I humbly think they (nor our friends who speak of it) know nothing about it—at any rate, I do not. People like to speak of mysterious things about which we know nothing: we can dogmatise ecclesiastically or hereticise conveniently. Where was Samuel, and Lazarus, may be settled by both, because God has said nothing. That Christ’s soul went to Sheol I believe from Psalm 16. The womb is called the lower parts of the earth in Psalm 139, which makes it more mysterious still; that Christ went to paradise and took the thief there as a place of blessedness with Himself is certain.
Sheol is too vague to say anything. In Numbers 16:31, they went alive, body as well as soul, into Sheol. In Isaiah (14) the poetical allusion is to the grave: they rise from their thrones to meet him. But there, and in Amos (9:2), it is from burying or swallowing up de facto looked at as on the earth. So in Psalm 49:14: they lie in Sheol like sheep: their beauty shall consume in Sheol. Yet Psalm 16: “Thou wilt not leave my soul in Sheol.” Here we have New Testament interpretation that His soul was not left in Sheol, nor His flesh saw corruption. But here, as far as it goes, His coming out was in resurrection. I say as far as it goes, for only the fact is mentioned. Still verse 31 (Acts 2) speaks pretty plain. So it is identified with roB, the pit, in Isaiah 38:18. In Luke 16. (Jewish forms of thought, I admit) the rich man is in aJdh and Abraham afar off, and there was a great gulf between. This as to state of fathers. All this the fathers made physical truth out of, as some would now, and had a kind of extension on the side of the earth, a cage of happy birds, and hence prayed for the saints to be soon out of it and in the beatific vision, which afterwards came to be praying to them, as to which the liturgy was formally changed. Epiphanius, I remember, says even the Virgin Mary was prayed for: Christ was the only exception. But then every one had his own ideas pretty much, till it settled into purgatory in the Roman—not the Grecian church. Jonah was in the belly of Sheol. It is evident the Old Testament saints were all in the dark as to it, with a lightning ray crossing in sometimes.
As to 1 Thessalonians 4, “them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him,” I have no doubt at all it is after resurrection when He comes again. Jesus died and rose again, and will come, so the saints with Him, and then in a parenthesis it describes how they get there, and in chapter 5 continues the bringing with Him for the day of the Lord. Life and incorruptibility were brought to light by the gospel. All was dark before. “The living, the living, he shall praise thee.” The present fruit of death was seen and outwardly they went into the grave, and all was dark beyond. Saul’s being with Samuel was merely being a dead man, I apprehend. There was also the general idea—“the spirit shall return to God who gave it.” The passage in Acts makes it difficult to separate, for Christ, hades and paradise if He was in Sheol till the resurrection, but I believe Sheol is purposely vague and dark, as hades merely means the invisible place. We know if we depart we are with Christ. But I do not profess to know much about it (nor do I think others do much more), nor pretend to know more than is said. I have not a concordance with me. I have quoted what occurred to my memory: there may be other passages which cast more light on it. Hoping ere long to see you, and with affectionate love to all the saints.
Ever affectionately yours.
Psalm 30 only gives the same; “Kept me alive” (ver. 3) shews it was a vague idea of what was past death.
As to Sheol, to see how vague it is in scripture, see Genesis 42:38; 44:29, 31. 1 Kings 2:6, 9. Job. 11:8 seq. Psalm 86:13; 141:7. Isaiah 14:11; 28:15, 18. It meets sight at the grave, and all is dark and silent beyond. Job 7:9, where nothing is seen beyond—chapter 14:12. Yet we have “the lowest hell,” where lowest is lowest part. So Deuteronomy 32:22, same as lower parts (of earth), only singular, Job 17:13. As to lower parts (of the earth), you have these of Sheol, and some of the earth: Psalm I13:9; 139:15; Isaiah 44:23. It is most common in Ezekiel (26:20; 31:14, 16, 18; 32:18, 24). There is also Psalm 88:6, lowest Sheol.
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To the same.]
* * * The question has been raised, for which 1 was not prepared at the time, how far the giving up of the kingdom involved the giving up of His lordship over all things—His personal superiority (I do not merely mean divinity—that is clear). I apprehend, not. I have looked a little into it in Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1, but am not at the end of inquiry so as to teach, even if called for. What say you?
Ever affectionately yours.
New York, April 4th, 186T.
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[From the French.
* * * Christ came from the Father to make Him known to us as He knew Him: we come from Christ to make Him known as we know Him; this is true ministry, a happy arid blessed thing, but serious in its character: “Peace be unto you,” said the Lord; “as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” What a mission! if even we are not apostles.
New York, April 23rd, 1867.
* * * My work here did not give much occasion to write. It was, as I told brethren, a sowing time, and people do not see much then. But the truth has spread after all considerably, and some fruits even now appear, not only in many souls who have found peace and see clear as to grace, of which there are many—I find some new one constantly, so that the truth is borne witness to and propagated by them, people seeing in them the effect—but the Lord’s coming is planted in many souls, and that they have seen, though not all, its connection with the church; and some have at once seen the state of things around them… There are others, less simple perhaps, but in heart seeing what is right. Strong as is the influence of belonging to a church here, for position and everything depend on it, with most, at least, in their estimation, the evil state of things is beginning to be felt—what it is, that is, for its effect was felt by upright souls often before; and through mercy I hear daily of souls that the word has reached for conversion, or finding peace, or getting clear as to the position of themselves or the church; though public meetings, I may say I have none, but I meet with people. People interested come in small numbers: I have reading meetings, and so on. I am now about leaving for Boston. It has been a work of faith and patience here, but I am beginning, through grace, to see the fruits. Brethren do not much know what it is to begin a work in the midst of Babylon, not mere preaching to crowds, nor with links out on every side through those that are in, but dependent on God alone for the work, and every link to be formed. Still He leads, and if you can trust and pray to Him for a place, the way will open.
The truth is evidently penetrating in this country, silently in many respects, but to a considerable extent, and we are on good footing. It is beginning to be felt there is reality in it, not mere notions; and here the sad state of things around helps their consciences on. The cloud is not bigger than a man’s hand, but I believe there is unequivocal blessing. It is very likely I may be detained till next spring. I had thought to be back in July, but the work is opening; I trust the Lord’s instruments are preparing, but at any rate, the labourers are few. The Lord willing, we shall have our meeting at Guelph, I suppose in June. I shall be very glad to see the brethren again in England: but the Lord’s work is my life down here as to service. If then near sixty-eight I may be less active, but shall do the work, through grace, which He has for me to do.
New York, April.
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Dearest -----,—As regards N.’s circulated letter, I cannot regret it. The Rainbow, as I learnt from the middle of Kentucky, in a review of the recent tracts, says Newtonianism is coming in like a flood. He has given the answer. The Lord’s hand is in that: there is nothing like trusting Him. N. knows, as you say, very well who are really opposed to him. At least, the Lord has made him, poor fellow, declare it. He quotes, as all have done, H.’s and P.’s statements as mine, but what I have never said at all. I do pity these poor brethren who have thus committed themselves to the enemy; and it seems to me poor N. and his friends must be sunk very low to have to profit by weapons so furnished by others.
As to what he says, it is important in another point of view. It is a practical admission that he is now where he always was as to doctrine. It is quite true that he did not teach that Christ was a moral distance from God. Nor did any one but Irving, and not even Irving on his own view of the case; he said Christ had a fallen nature, but it was not sin where not yielded to, and Christ never did, and so was in God’s favour, and thus won the Spirit for us. But further in this paper Mr. N. states, that this absence of moral distance was true on the cross when Christ was forsaken of God, and hence the negation of moral distance does not hinder Christ’s having been forsaken of God all His life, and that was really the question with Mr. N. He had, he said, to make His way to a point where God could meet Him, and that point was death—death on the cross. He was extricating Himself out of the relative position He was in by piety, prayer, &c. But Mr, N. did state that He suffered not expiatorily, if words have any meaning, and enlarged upon it, for he stated that He suffered not vicariously. However, he relinquished this afterwards, and it is not now material. It was as born a Jew, that He was in this relative position (and He was farther from God than Israel when they had made the golden calf), and as born of Adam. He did not state that He was in the personal condition of a sinner: I do not know who ever did, that called himself a Christian.
As to experiences, his statement was, that Christ had the experiences which an unconverted elect man ought to have—I do not know whether he calls an unconverted elect man a sinner —and the wrath of Sinai was pressed upon Him by God’s heavy hand.
His statements as to those he calls Darbyites are mere claptrap to catch people. I never heard any such language nor thoughts as “the excellency attached to His own personal condition being cancelled.” For my own part, as far as any difference can be predicated of His personal excellency (which strictly it cannot), there was no time it shone so brightly as at the cross, for there His obedience was consummated in the highest way, “Now is the Son of man glorified”; “Therefore doth my Father love me because I lay down my life.” As to the word obedience including all His obedience, I have no objection, looked at as a moral whole. It is not the act or acts as such, but the obedience in contrast with disobedience which is looked at. When it is said, that to say any of His sufferings were not necessary to the completion of His work in making atonement is to say that He did not suffer as a Redeemer, which would be a heresy —it is again mere clap-trap. His sufferings of course were all necessary to redemption, so was His birth, so was His sinlessness. It is another question what atonement and redemption were wrought by. “We have redemption through his blood,” and “without shedding of blood there is no remission.” That the character and results of redemption were the same for Christians or saints before Christ or in the millennium, is perfectly true, nor did I ever hear of any one who doubted it. But if scripture be true, redemption was not the sole end of His sufferings. In the first place, the great end was not our redemption at all, but the divine glory. In the next place, as to application, He was receiving the tongue of the learned that He might know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. He suffered, that we might not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities. “For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” Another object was to annul the power of him that had the power of death. In every respect, therefore, the statement is false. First the ultimate end is the divine glory, and in application other objects are positively stated as scripture objects, dear to the heart of every saint.
What is important in this paper is that it witnesses that Mr. N. still justifies what he always maintained. The same want of plain honest statement which characterises heresy is found, characterising the paper in the strongest way. It denies what nobody accuses him of, and conceals what he really maintained. It is false in doctrine as to the sufferings of Christ, and, whatever value that has from such a quarter, it is a declaration that those who are accused by Messrs. H. and D. as falling in with his views, he considers as his most ardent adversaries.
As to the expression that Christ was in a certain sense connected with sin, I never heard of its being used. I do not think it is a desirable one; but “in a certain sense” a man is connected with the burden he bears—Christ was then made sin for us, to express which the expression, though an ill-chosen one, may be used in so vague a form as “in a certain sense.” He was there for sin; I do not like the expression, nor am I aware of its being used, but I should understand it in a legitimate sense in one sound in the faith, if used in contrast with appearing the second time cwriV" aJmartiva"—apart from sin—having nothing to say to it as to those who look for Him. I think the expression awkward, but when in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, though He knew no sin, so vague an expression as “in a certain sense” connected with this can be understood, if I have no reason to suspect it is meant to convey there was any sort of sin or sinfulness in Him. I confess I do not admire it. But it is a convenient way of dealing with charges of error, to deny stoutly what no one accuses the person of in terms which may be mistaken for the same, to keep entirely out of sight what one is accused of, to accuse and condemn loudly in others what they have, never said, and make a number of true statements which nobody calls in question, which both accredit the writer and imply that others deny them. Such are the real contents of this paper, but it does contain really utterly unsound doctrine as to the sufferings of Christ—the same held by Messrs. H. and others—the denial of any sufferings besides atoning ones. If this is not meant, the statement is a shuffle on the most sacred subject possible. But it has its importance in many respects, and the Lord’s hand is in it.
Affectionately yours in the Lord.
I know that dear —— does not admit the eij" and ejpiv [Rom. 3:22.] I regret it, but it is a mere question of clear interpretation. The end of chapter 5, particularly verse 18, confirms in the strongest way what I have myself no doubt is the true sense; movement towards is included in eij", though elliptically, as all Hellenists admit; it may be used in the way of rest, but always implies motion; though it may speak of what motion has brought us to, and so be used when there is none. Indeed, it is a found expression to connect touV" pioteuvonta" with the first eij" pavnta". But it is as much interpretation as Greek, though I think it decidedly forcing the Greek to connect t. p. with eij" pavnta". But instead of man’s righteousness by law, which would be exclusively Jewish, as the chapter shews, it is God’s righteousness, and so to all. It is on all those only who believe, but that includes Gentiles also if they believe. But it is not a point I should contest, but leave it to spiritual discernment.
Cambridge, Mass., April, 1867.
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Dear——,— … As to the tracts, it is a thing I commit to God. I have not read brethren’s publications; I have to study generally when I have any time to read, but it has exercised my spirit. I have seen truths taken by themselves and pushed to an extreme. I see God allowing it, as in revival preaching, but the preaching is more healthful where it is—not weakened through fear, but right, and conscience dealt with. The desire to carry grace fully out sometimes weakens this: godly discipline counteracts the mischief, but Satan uses it within and without. Many who preached in Ireland, not among brethren, carried it the furthest of any, and though counteracted by godliness in the preachers and writers, it carries its seed with it. My mind is a guarded mind, but I find very few who see what I am guarding statements about; and most minds take in statements crudely, unless guarded by right apprehensions from God in themselves. Experience met by Christ, and divine righteousness and being in Him, and then His help too in experiences, is different from feeding on experience, or jumping into glory and peace without an experience at all. Knowing ourselves is not justification, and never will be; but pardon known at once is not knowing ourselves, and this too there must be. It may come after pardon, and in these free gospel days often does. Romans 7 comes after 3 but before 8. We may get 3 and 8 after 7, as was my own case, but 8 never comes before 7. There is no solid peace when experience is fed on; there is no crop by ploughing, but no good crop without it.
I have long dreaded brethren overwriting themselves; as I said, and individuals have their tracts. As it is, perhaps so much the better, but as a testimony of what brethren’s witness is there is that which makes me often think. Very few minds modulate and co-ordinate truth, and it is apt therefore to lose its energy, I mean by modulating it—unless in the unhindered power of the Holy Ghost dealing with souls. The Lord lay His good hand to what is wanting. The mind of man is generally einseitig (one-sided).
The work is going on, but there is nothing special that I know of to report. It is the going on of feeble beginnings, but the truth spreading, and wants discovered by it. There is not as yet here that energy of labour there was at first, getting into degraded parts to win souls, unless perhaps in Toronto. There is not the same opportunity quite in a new country.
Circumstances have led me over the ground of the “Sufferings of Christ,” correcting “Synopsis” vol. 2, and translating the Psalms compared with Hebrew. I confess I am astonished at the ground D. and H. have taken, and all objectors—not that I have read their pamphlets, but I mean the substance of the question. I would not for ten thousand worlds give up what I apprehend of the Lord’s sufferings, and which they deny. Unless graciously recovered, I cannot help feeling they must sink lower and deeper, so serious do I feel it. The Lord forbid it, I heartily say, but I do say it is very serious. Of the two, I fear, though I attach no importance to expressions in the matter, that my explanations may have weakened the expression of the truth, and of the reality of Christ’s sufferings, quite admitting imperfectness in any of them. The connection with the Jewish remnant, though instructively true, is of comparatively little moment as to the evil, I feel. It is the denial of sufferings other than atonement or sympathy. This takes away what possesses the soul in thinking of Christ down here, and meant of God to do so. Hebrews 2:and the like become unintelligible statements to be explained away: so chapter 5:And when I read Psalm 40:it is unintelligible to me how any one can miss seeing sorrows connected with what wrought atonement, but which was not atonement. A Saviour lying in Gethsemane was neither atonement nor sympathy. Every God-taught soul feels, if it cannot explain, the truth I insist on. It is known in piety and grace, if not in doctrine.
I am yet uncertain when I shall get back. The work here has for many reasons been a penance to me, and I am growing old, but the ground of testimony had to be laid, and I trust that has been done, but I watch its birth, and I have the feeling that once I cross the Atlantic back I shall mainly stay quiet, so that I may wait to see it on some solid footing here, if there should be much inquiry. I think I can trust the Lord to leave it, if I see His will, but at New York especially it has, humanly speaking, lain on me as yet. Thank God the brethren go on very nicely, but it is only a handful; but the Lord does not despise the day of small things.
I have a tract on “How to Get Peace,” and on words used by deniers of immortality out here,32 and two others prepared, not printed yet.
Boston, May, 1867.
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Dearest Brother,—I should have been very glad indeed to have been with the saints around you in July. My spirit looks to some human rest in Europe a little, though I trust to serve on to the end; but it will be hardly possible for me to be there at the epoch. We have our meeting at Guelph on June 27th, which will itself run on into July, and then I have some unfinished work at present and the voyage, to boot. May the gracious Lord be with you.
I am glad you have found edification in studying the sufferings of the blessed Lord. I have found the very greatest. And for me it is wholly a matter of edification. I am not aware of any particular doctrine at all in what I have said, nor have I any intention of making it a matter of controversy, but feed on the truth as I hope brethren may—not contending about words to no profit. Give my kindest love to the brethren. I shall be glad to see them when the Lord brings me to Europe again.
It is a great thing to have thorough separateness of walk in the narrow path, and a large heart for Christ’s saints and poor sinners too. I do look for devotedness and seeking the souls of the poor. “The poor have the gospel preached unto them”; they should be sought out and cared for too. There is a largeness, not of heart, but of way, which is disliking the narrow way for one’s conscience—for one’s feet: Christ does not suffice us, and we want something to fill up a void. I admit the danger in defending one’s walking in the narrow way—to be occupied with the evil we cannot walk in, and so judge, and get shut up. But a deep sense of the evil is very important; but then that is always felt with Christ, which makes the heart tender and large for those dear to Him, even if going wrong. The eager condemnation of others in what is wrong may be connected with vexation at their not going with us. So perhaps they ought —surely if they have light; but the heart will grieve over the persons as dear to Christ if walking with Him, and not merely judge the path as unfaithfulness, or their unfaithfulness in walking in it.
Peace be with you, dear brother. At T. they seem diligent in service and helped.
Affectionately yours in the Lord.
Boston, May 23rd., 1867.
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Beloved Brother,—You will have heard of the meeting; the date is June 27th. You can tell dear——, as he expressed his anxiety about it, of which I am very glad, that the seed sown with opportunities given of the Lord, I can say at least with patience and perseverance, is beginning to shew pretty abundant fruits; and I think the Lord’s hand has been so marked in it that I trust it will be stable. I resisted every compromise with evil or latitudinarianism—one even when there would have been with some from peculiar circumstances a disposition to waive it in such a case. I add no more. I am only just able to write. I have been at once (not really, for it was I believe an overwrought brain) totally prostrated, as totally I suppose as a human being can in the internal sense of it. I trusted the Lord, bowed to it in rest, and I am better—thought to take rest if I could for a week before the meeting, and the Lord has given me four; He has met me too with all this blessing in New York. I am so much the more happy (in it) as having thus sprung up when I was not in the place. It is more plainly of the Lord, and that is a great comfort. Oh, what a comfort it is to see Him at work! But I do not go into any more. My business is rest at present.
Ever affectionately yours.
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Dear——,— … We are at our Guelph meeting. I am a great deal better, though weak. Our meeting, somewhat of a new character, has been very happy—new, because we had many from the States in different degrees of progress, of getting into liberty (indeed they had got that, but) to see the church, and other truths we are accustomed to rejoice in, the Lord’s coming and others. They all broke bread, though some had been close Baptists. How far they will break loose, or be among brethren, I cannot tell. Some—one Baptist minister in particular—have left their systems, are just out, and have taken no further step. The Spirit of God has been working in them, and is, and the meeting has been a help to them, but there are many adverse influences, and one waits to see the result of His work. Such a scene was all new to them: as to the truths, they had been gradually growing into them when I was at New York, but I greatly trust that the meeting will have been a real blessing. It has been less simply among brethren, but a quiet, diligent study of the scripture, and the brethren happy. We need labourers to promote the work; otherwise they are going on nicely. I have rallied, and it is very possible I may go to the West Indies before I return—finish, as to places, my course there, but this is in the Lord’s hands. The Lord be with you, and keep you.
Affectionately yours in Christ.
Guelph, June, 1867.
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Dearest Brother,—I am almost surprised that after so many years’ service you should be afraid of knocks. There is a difference of natural character in this besides grace, but if I have a decided judgment and course I trouble myself very little about what people say. If it is for Christ’s sake it is our glory. It is not insensibility I look for, but that with Christ all that should be taken for granted. Faithfulness will always bring it. I will not say it is faithfulness, for sometimes God sees good to exercise us thus, but I have had knocks enough to be used to them. I used years ago to think of poor Jeremiah, who felt these things very much. “I have neither lent on usury, nor men have lent to me on usury; yet every one of them doth curse me” [Jer. 15:10]; but I think little of it now one way or another, and do not hear a tenth part of it, so much the better, so do not be uneasy for me. If there be anything to learn from it, and judge in self, it is all a great gain. I have been very ill, first worn out, then a sharp attack on it. This made it uncertain whether I should not have to go to England as unable to work. Thank God I am better, and have through His goodness recovered much strength, and have again returned to the thought of returning if spared by the West Indies—if so, I suppose straight to Kingston; however, that is in the Lord’s hand, if He allows me, for I feel that my health got a pretty rude shake. If I do go it would be in winter to spring. My thought would be a visit; a prolonged stay for work I should hardly feel up to…
Our meeting, for we are at our annual Guelph meeting, has had something of a new character, as many from the States who were getting into truth were there; it was a serious, quiet and close study of the word, with a happy spirit of communion among brethren… .
We have only to labour on, dear brother, and commit the work to Him who alone does it and carries it on in His own wisdom. Our work has a definite character in New York separate from evil, false doctrine, and the world. May the gracious Lord keep it so. This is a great point in that country. I feel devoted-ness to the Lord as belonging to Him a capital point in these days: we are His, bought with a price, and to manifest the life of Jesus in all our ways… I have looked on my visit to the West Indies as a kind of finishing of my course as to outward activity, and have feared my own will in it, for I desired to see you all, and leave it in the Lord’s hands as seems to Him good, but if He will, I will see you again. Kind love to all.
Your affectionate brother in Christ.
Guelph, Jul, 1867.
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Dear Brother,—I was comforted by ——’s account of Quebec, for I had in vain sought some news of you, and I thought all had gone but——. I had no doubt Mr. —— had entirely abandoned the path he was in before he left Quebec… He had been frightened into neutral ground. Mr. D.’s attack was a mere occasion of and excuse for taking the step. If it had been a serious inquiry as to that doctrine33 for its own sake, he would have written to me for an answer or explanation. But he never did anything of the kind, nor did Mr. D. nor Mr. H., till I wrote to them. … As far as I learn,——takes a different ground from what he did before leaving; then Mr. D. had proved his point that I was wrong. Now I am not wrong, but it has given occasion to the unlearned to say what is wrong. If this were all, St. Paul’s writings, St. Peter tells us, did as much. I say this not to discuss the doctrine. The truth is the subject has been blessed more than any recently to brethren in England. I hear so from all quarters…
But the truth is it was never the doctrine which was really in question here or in England, though some might be troubled by those who pressed it. It was an excuse for loose principles and the world; nobody who weighed it in England doubted it, because Mr. D. professedly broke with me because my doctrine approached Mr. N.’s, to pass over to associate with those who were more or less in them, or linked up with Mr. N.’s doctrines themselves. This would not stand investigation a moment… The real question was, the unwillingness to abide by principles which are (I am fully persuaded, as of the truth of God) essential to the existence of the Church—that false doctrine and evil practice should be excluded—that we should “purify ourselves from these.” The Church should be the pillar and ground of the truth. No argument, no pamphlet of any of them was ever directed to any other end than that evil should be allowed in the church. We should allow of evil. This went so far in England that one gathering published a signed paper, that if fornication was allowed in the meeting we ought still to own it, and a multitude were published to insist that no meeting could be leavened by any evil in it, but only those individuals who personally imbibed the evil.
In the meeting at E., on loose principles, Mr. N. himself was invited, and annihilationism and the non-immortality of the soul openly preached, and the walls placarded about it by persons belonging to that meeting, so that some not with us left it. 1 Corinthians 5:7 says, “Purge out therefore the old leaven that ye may be a new lump.” They ceased to be a new lump at all if they did not; and therefore in the Second Epistle it says, “Ye have proved yourselves clear in this matter.” If they had sanctioned it, they were all involved in it though they had not done it. Just as if a person brought false doctrine, he who received him into his house and bid him God speed, partook of his evil deeds. If I can own as a gathering according to God a meeting which refuses to break with evil doctrine, how can the church be the pillar and ground of the truth? I know well they make all sorts of excuses, and speak of A infecting B, and B C, &c. This adds the evil of denying the unity of the body and making independent churches, which they have all driven at. We are all one, and if I accept a gathering which receives blasphemers, I identify myself with the gathering in principle. If you receive a person because he is in communion at Toronto, you accept the communion of Toronto, and are one with them; if you reject all owning of another gathering, you are independents; you put your seal on the body as such, not merely on the person who comes.
The secret of all is the world, and avoiding the holy discipline of the church of God, and to this end denying the unity of the body and making independent churches. As I said, in every case it is pleading for the allowance of evil in the church of God—that false doctrine is no matter. Thus, in America, all the neutrals have gone freely in communion with those who deny the immortality of soul; whereas scripture says, applying to the very times we have to deal with, “If a man purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, fit for the master’s use.” I never knew the case it did not bring in worldliness or insincerity: perhaps it has been often the effect of worldliness as much as its cause. Having seen so much of all this matter, though I have never published anything on it, I could not help feeling for you and writing these few lines. I believe your part is to remain quite quiet and firm, continuing peacefully on the ground on which you have walked. There is a restless activity in those who are on false ground, which to a spiritual mind betrays where they are. Quiet firmness in a right path I believe God will bless, though faith may be tried for a while… My object in writing was more that you might feel you were not forgotten in your trial than anything else— not to raise or discuss questions; but as far as I am concerned to say—walk on peacefully on the ground on which you are, and the Lord will be with you and give you peace.
Our Guelph meeting is just over. Many felt it was the happiest we had ever had. We had a good number from the States, who have been getting on lately in the truth, some uncommonly nice brethren, who had drunk it in in the most interesting way, and enjoyed the reading here especially. It was very quiet, steady reading of scripture, and communion and fellowship in spirit. My christian love to the saints with you.
Your affectionate brother in Christ.
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* * * There is a point in your letter I would just touch upon, and that is respecting the exercise of gifts. When the object in going to the Lord’s table, and to meetings for worship, or for prayer, is to “exercise gift,” it is plain that the true character of such meetings is not understood. I do not go to exercise gift, but to break bread, to worship, to meet Him who has said, “Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them;” and “Do this in remembrance of me.” The very expression shews a wrong thought in the mind, giving one the idea of a performance, which it too frequently resembles. This was the case with the Corinthians. “They came behind in no gift;” but instead of using them in subjection to the Holy Ghost, to the glory of God and the edification of His children, they were exercising them—that is, glorifying themselves by them. I do not know anything more sorrowful or dishonouring to the Lord, or that has brought more sorrow amongst gathered saints than this. Real subjection to the Holy Ghost, with a sense of the Lord’s presence, would at once put a stop to the thought of “exercising gifts.” A sense of His presence at once displaces all thought of self. It is indeed most grievous, when we go to wait upon the Lord and to enjoy His presence, to find some forward self-sufficient one making himself the centre of the meeting, occupying the time, filling the minds of his brethren with painful thoughts about himself, instead of happy thoughts about Christ, thus marring communion, interrupting worship, and hindering blessing in every way. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty”—a liberty in which the Spirit leads, and not the energy which is of the flesh; then the Lord alone will be exalted, for no flesh shall glory in His presence. Then God is everything and man nothing. May the one object of all our hearts be, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever! Amen.
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* * * I trust there may be no questioning of what was once so plain to many as a path of duty. I am a little afraid of some being unsettled by looking too much to the present condition of gatherings, instead of the fact of God’s having a further work of chastening to accomplish, which we have deserved and must bow to. If there is disappointment because God does not use us more than He does, may it not be that we are thinking more of our faithfulness than of our guilt as to the evils we have separated from? If we look at our present low condition and murmur in our tents, shall we not be likely soon to question our position? If Satan can unsettle, he will. There are some who talk much about the want of power in the gatherings, having a standard of their own as to what power is, forgetting that God’s presence is power, whether it be to break down or to build up.
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My dear Brother,—As regards truth of position, I have never hesitated a moment. I or others may have been unwise or misled in particular acts. Had I thought of people alleging it to be a kind of threat, I might never have put in in my original letter of warning (long since withdrawn—the only thing I ever wrote on Bethesda) the declaration that I could not go where they were knowingly received. I might have acted on it and not said so. But the foundation and principle of action I have never doubted on it. I had expressed my conviction years before in the case of Newman.
America has largely confirmed me in the principle. Here the neutrals and those connected with B. prop up and are in connection with the worst form of heretical infidelity—the denial of the immortality of the soul—some, with an open denial that truth can be known so as to be acted on as such, and it withers everywhere uprightness and christian integrity. We have had to fight the battle of it at New York, etc., and the Lord has blessed and sustained us, and wrought clear blessing by it. In Boston and N. Y. it was directly connected with what are called neutrals; in Milwaukee simply the evil in itself. Here we have it merely casually through emigrants, which occasionally brings it up as to individuals. Even so they have never heartily broken with the world.
But in these days the unity of the body, and separation from evil, are vital points of testimony for Christians. One is the original and abiding principle of the Church’s existence; the other, faithfulness to its nature, and characterising that faithfulness in a special manner in the last days. To me it is that (both) or nothing. One is the special purpose of God as to us connected with Christ, the other His nature. The notion that one can be wittingly associated with evil, and be undefiled, is an unholy notion—a denial of the nature of holiness. And in the world the church is the pillar and ground of the truth. The character of Christ with Philadelphia is, He that is holy, He that is true; the keeping His word and the word of His patience, what is commended in the saints; an open door and only a little strength, but special association with Christ the holy One, and the truth in the midst of a degenerate people. And things are going on so rapidly in these last days that Christians will be cast on their own ground, and we shall need the word to be our authority, and it is a divine one.
I have been struck in the Acts lately with the evidence of antagonistic powers. We know it, but it came out distinctly. Apostolic power of the Spirit might overcome and be greater than what was in the world—so it was, and it delivered; but the power was there, and even when seemingly masses seemed anxious for the word of grace, rose up and drove the truth away, and remained in possession of the world—of all that did not overcome by personal faith. When this ceased to be the case, the church itself became corrupt. Satan would cast some into prison; Antipas, a faithful witness, being slain where Satan dwelt, and there the witness was; soon it became Thyatira, and Jezebel the mother of children, and then had to abide the Lord’s coming and being replaced by the kingdom, and the morning, star ours.
Here we have blessing, gathering in, souls getting peace, and the truth spreading, so that I have stayed longer than I thought. Nothing externally striking, but still, weekly, souls brought in in different states. But it is always exercise and conflict, a service where the flesh, Satan, and the world are ready to mar, if we are not vigilant. Still we have to thank God at present here. Our Guelph meeting was more than usually blessed, and has borne its fruits.
I have been let into increased apprehension of the perfect-ness of Christ and His true humanity, by seeing in Luke more distress in Gethsemane, and in the same gospel no suffering on the cross. It is precious to have Him daily more unfolded before our eyes. Give my affectionate love to all the brethren; the older ones I have seen, but they are all His. Peace and grace be with you, dear brother.
Very affectionately yours in the Lord.
Toronto, September 18th, 1867.
My dear Brother,—There is nothing new to me in the subject you wrote about. I had to discuss it twenty-five years ago in Switzerland. It was the ground the dissenters took against me then, that it was a thing to be formed. In Switzerland the comparison of an army was presented, that when one corps was passing men said the army was passing, but nothing was really the army but the whole. I took up the simile, and said it was like recruiting and passing out into the reserve, or freedom from service and new recruits coming in, but it was always the army. I see now you have used a similar one; but the question is not here. This is plain: the Holy Ghost being down here, the body as recognised of God is down here too. The deceased saints do not enter into account as of the body at present, but I said of course they were finally of the body—of it now in the mind and purpose of God, though not actually, as having passed out of the scene where the body was formed by the Holy Ghost come down from heaven. My expression I remember was that those who have passed away n’entrent pas en ligne de compte as regards the church actually. Thus the substance of the tract34 is an old settled truth for me.
I do not know that I should have used the word “perfect” body, though I believe the intention of it is sound. The danger is to deny that anything is ever the body but the present thing on earth; that is, that there will be no body of Christ when He is Head over all things de facto, so that the body is a temporary thing. I should at present shrink from this. It is quite clear to me that the body recognised now is on earth, united to the Head by the Holy Ghost come down here, but does union with Christ by the. Holy Ghost cease when the saints all go up to meet the Lord? When they die they are individually with the Lord, but are lost, so to speak, not being raised to their actual connection with the body which is here, where as to personal place the Holy Ghost now is. I have often said the Holy Ghost does not teach by my negatives. But supposing a living saint changed when Christ comes, does he lose his union with the Head, lose the Holy Ghost as making him one with Him, and cease to be a member of the body? This I cannot think. Negatives are always dangerous things. The church is His body, and He is to be glorified in the church throughout all ages world without end. It would be a sad thought to me to cease to be a member of Christ or that that should cease. “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” I insisted on the present actuality of the body from 1 Corinthians 12 largely. “He hath set in the church,” &c. There are no healings in heaven. That the body is a present thing by the Holy Ghost come down from heaven is as clear in scripture as possible, and to give it up at any time is to give up Christ’s care of His members as a man of his own flesh.
But further, Ephesians 1:22, 23 is an abstract statement for me. Now He has put all things under His feet. This we know is not accomplished. So it is as to the calling and inheritance (vers. 4, 5, 11); it is what is in the mind of God, with a statement of what is already accomplished, as verses 13, M, 20, 21, but both parts look at the mind and purpose of God—the hope of His calling, and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints; and then the Spirit gives the complete thing of the mind of God in verses 22 and 23, not merely what is now fulfilled. Is it not natural to hold fast that the thought of the body may not lose its importance by being only a temporary thing? As to the tract itself, I think it clear, and calculated to be very useful. I should not perhaps have used the word “perfect.” It is not in scripture.
In chapter 3:6 of a joint-body; the “of” is questionable— suvsswma a joint-body (with the Jews). As to chapter 4:13, you can hardly say a[nqrwpon tevleion, because a[nqrwpo" is the genus, tevleio" is simply full-grown: a full-grown man at once gives the idea of an individual, and a man—not a woman. The a[nqrwpon is the nature and face necessarily in verse 24. But you have assumed that a[ndra tevleion refers to the whole, which, to say the least, I very much doubt, and have put a great deal more into both than I believe is there. The a[ndra tevleion is the state of the soul at any rate, as verses 14, 15 clearly shew. The apostle looked for all to be brought together in this full knowledge of Christ. We must remember that the apostle never looked for a long continuance of the church, but for the Lord’s coming, and all was viewed as contemplating this, though prophetically ruin might be predicted and felt as it came in. The Puseyites have this doctrine of the body, but connect it of course with the sacraments, not merely in the figure of the Lord’s ‘supper,, but as forming it. I have been a little occupied with them lately, and have been writing on their points, but do not know yet what I shall do with it.
I expect to leave here this week for Ottawa and Montreal on my way to New York.
May the Lord abundantly bless you, dear brother, in all your service.
Ever affectionately yours.
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[From the German.
Beloved Brother,—The sisters were quite right in saying I dearly love the German brethren; God’s work has taken me elsewhere, but not separated my heart from those beloved ones. Heaven is my fatherland; I feel it daily more and more. But I found myself so soon at home in Germany. I am, so to speak, “in the house” in Switzerland. In France God has richly blessed me; many of the labouring brethren have studied the word with me, and with many I am most closely united. They have always had and shewn me kindness of every sort. My intercourse with them has always been, thank God. full of confidence and open-hearted. I love them dearly. But nowhere do I feel more affinity than with the German brethren. We know that we are all one in Christ. Daily one feels in these last times that the Christian must be a Christian and nothing else but a Christian. The simplicity and goodwill of the German brethren won my heart from the beginning. I share your joy and your sorrows as if they were my own. I always remember your love with a heart full of gratitude. Indeed, I can say I have everywhere experienced the love of the brethren and discovered the truth of this precious privilege. I often wonder at my being the object of so much love and kindness, unworthy as I am. At any rate, this seed is sown from above in no unthankful heart.
It is good, dear brother, that we should be tested. I can say that for more than forty years I have had no other object than Christ; but I have learnt that one can be careless in respect of one’s own soul, even when with all faithfulness one labours for the Lord according to His will—the same power perhaps is not developed in the labour. In Thessalonians we read: “Work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope;” the springs were open, the three principles of Christianity. In Revelation: “I know thy works and labour and patience,” but “thou … hast left thy first love.” Oh, how often this is the case! not that at the bottom of the heart the love is grown cold, but the links between the labour and the love are weakened; a man works because the work lies before him. He loves the work, he would glorify the Saviour, but his work does not flow in the same way from the fulness of the love of Christ’s own heart. The soul is injured thereby. God in His love chastises us, and renews the flow of love in the heart. He sets us in His presence and speaks with us in our conscience. How full of love and patience is He! how tender with us! If He were not so, what should we do? Besides, the “I” of the heart is so deceitful. It takes account of the advantage of the work of benefiting the brethren. But in so far as it operates in us, it separates the heart from the realised presence of God. We are ever so ignorantly confident when not guided by the word of God. If I think of the Lord, and of His perfection, how He always had the right word ready, the right feeling of heart, how He always was as man before God, the wisdom of the love that was evinced in Him, I feel how poor I am in my best endeavours to serve Him. Thank God, the work is His own—by us according to His great love.
We have here in fellowship with us a brother who is a converted Indian, who knew ——. He was then entirely under law, but a godly person, the brother says. He is active among the Germans, so far as he has time. The work goes on in America but slowly. The Americans do not like to receive the truth from strangers, but little by little some unite with us. The condition of the communities (churches so called) is shocking. In one of them when the supper is celebrated, people take a novel to pass the time, because the members are numerous. The choir often sing worldly songs and love songs, when the congregation supposes that sacred hymns are being sung. The Christians go to the theatre, dance like the world. There is activity, liberality; but the world is immoral, the Christians worldly. Money is the god of all. It is difficult to plant God’s testimony; but God is faithful and almighty to do it. I think of turning towards Europe as soon as possible when the winter is over.
Hearty greetings to the brethren. It would give me great joy to see you: I know not if it shall be permitted me. I begin to be old, and I have before me a visit to the Antilles (West Indies) if possible, but I shall see you yet again. God give you peace and joy in His precious communion, and richly bless all the brethren.
Your attached brother.
I take my share sincerely in this difficulty in D. For my part I prefer to accept no designation. If persecution arise the Lord is there.
New York, 1867.
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We began to meet in Dublin, Ireland, 1827-28.35 It was not dissatisfaction with the apostolic succession of the English national episcopal body. I had found peace to my own soul by finding my oneness with Christ, that it was no longer myself as in the flesh before God, but that I was in Christ, accepted in the Beloved, and sitting in heavenly places in Him. This led me directly to the apprehension of what the true church of God was, those that were united to Christ in heaven: I at once felt that all the parish was not that. The tract I then published was no attack upon anybody, but upon the unity of the church of Christ. When I looked around to find this unity I found it nowhere: if I joined one set of Christians I did not belong to another. The church, God’s church, was broken up, and the members scattered among various self-formed bodies. I found membership in scripture was not membership of a voluntary association on earth, but membership of Christ, a hand, a foot, &c. And as the Holy Ghost had formed one body on descending on the day of Pentecost (1 Cor. 12), so ministry was those whom He qualified for such or such a service. So in Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4:10. At the same time Acts 2 and 4 made me feel how dreadfully far we had all got from the true effect of His presence. I found, however, that Wherever two or three were met in Christ’s name He would be in our midst, and acted on the promise with three other brethren and the wife of one of them; and never thought to go beyond thus meeting the need of our consciences and hearts according to the word. God was doing a work I had no idea of myself, and it spread over the world. It did not begin at Plymouth till 1832, where I went at Mr. Newton’s request, then a fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. There were never more than seven hundred there. It began in London about the same time, through one I had met in Oxford. It was in no way any particular opposition that led me to Switzerland in 1837, but a report of a brother who had been there, and stated that there were meetings like ours. They were like in form in some respects, but were really regularly formed dissenting churches, so-called in Europe, with members. After that I began to work there, then in France; then in Germany, where the work had already begun by another person; then in Holland. In these last countries the work is far more extended than the article supposes: latterly the blessing has been very great in Northern Germany.
The coming of the Lord was the other truth which was brought to my mind from the word, as that which, if sitting in heavenly places in Christ, was alone to be waited for, that I might sit in heavenly places with Him. Isaiah 32:brought me to the earthly consequences of the same truth, though other passages might seem perhaps more striking to me now; but I saw an evident change of dispensation in that chapter, when the Spirit would be poured out on the Jewish nation, and a king reign in righteousness.
I have merely stated the facts and dates as they occurred. Mr. Newton remained Fellow of Exeter for some time after we began to meet at Plymouth. He has a chapel of his own in London, and has nothing to do with brethren. He was amongst them, but for years set aside their principles, and since 1845 had had no connection with them. In 1846 teaching as to relationship of the Lord Jesus to God became a ground of total separation.
Mr. Müller’s was a close Baptist church: when the brethren began to make progress in Bristol, he gave this up, and took in a measure the form of the brethren. These were transferred, I think unadvisedly, though with the best intention, to his meeting. Since 1848 he has returned to, not close Baptist principles, but open Baptist principles, and his is a regular dissenting church with slightly modified forms. Mrs. G.’s account is in no way accurate, and had a special object. She was not born when the work took place.
There never was any seminary for training missionaries. I had a dozen young men staying with me at Lausanne for a year. I was there at their own request reading scripture with them, and a few others on another occasion. Most of them are now working as evangelists in France, one or two in Switzerland, and have been, and with much blessing, for years…
I am not aware of any other material fact, to state or correct which is the only object I have now.
What I judge to be essential to brethren is the possession of the Holy Ghost on earth, as come down on the day of Pentecost, and His forming the saints into one body. We do also wait for God’s Son from heaven, according to the word.
It is already stated in the article that we insist on the great fundamental doctrines of Christianity, so I do not speak of them; only the full assurance of faith I judge to be the only normal christian state, the spirit of adoption.
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[From the French.
* * * The truth spreads; but it is another thing to take up one’s cross. And I observe that, when one does not act according to the truth, there is no solidity: religious views are trifled with. When we follow the truth, difficulties are there, and the opposition of the world; that renders us serious. We must know how to give an account of our convictions; then this does not suit the flesh, and the truth must reign in the heart, in order for the victory to be won. Grace does not lend itself to levity and licence in the doctrine itself. It is not bursts of steam: the engine must move onwards, and move on with a good deal to be drawn. There is responsibility with respect to oneself, to the Lord’s name and His work. We must take into account this tendency in the present day. We find not a few who like to hear new truth, but who have no idea of walking in the truth in a practical way. We must have patience, we must have a large heart, but a heart which acknowledges nothing but Christ for its end, and follows Him, or, at least, seeks to do so. We lose our time with amateurs. There is real dignity in the truth, which demands from one to respect it in a practical way. But you know it.
In these last days we need firmness, and a large heart which knows how to “take forth the precious from the vile.” Obedience is firm and humble; grace, meekness, love ought to be there. But the truth needs not man: man needs the truth. Love feels the need of seeking souls; but souls should submit to Christ and acknowledge His grace.
How strikingly the Lord, in John, always places Himself in a position where He receives everything from the Father— &EautoVn ejkevnwse. We see Deity piercing through the veil, so to speak, in every word. We see that He and the Father are one; but He who is one with the Father now received everything from His hands. It is the voice of One who can speak with the Father as a divine person; but He does not say, I will glorify myself; but, on the contrary, “Glorify thou me.” “In three days I will raise it up;” but it is as separating, so to speak, His body from Himself, and speaking of it as of a temple in which He dwelt. His Person has come before me of late in a very living way in reading that gospel. Moreover, the gospels have afforded me much food in these times. But how puny we are in comparison with all His grace, and all that will reveal itself to us when we shall be with Him in glory!
May God teach us to take up our cross and follow Him who alone is worthy of it. Some would let go the truth, because it is difficult to reconcile it with charity. Hold it fast: we are sanctified by the truth. Christ Himself is the truth. I admit the difficulty, but grace is sufficient for us. Cordial love to all the brethren; may God keep them and bless them.
New York, 1868.
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Dearest ——, — I write just a line to thank you and acknowledge your letter. I daily feel more that I am growing old for beginning a work as I once did: I count my days and time more. Still the Lord helps one here; and as to American work, more in the west, still there is testimony, many are getting fully to understand their position and dependence on the Lord. —— is in the west in Illinois, very happy, and blessing God for the light and grace he has got, and a comfort to the saints there, who enjoy his visit, and he is preaching around as doors open. One or two new meetings have been formed there, and the largest, which was getting on badly (a fresh one) because many have come over to get on in the world, is raised up spiritually a good deal. God has shewn His gracious hand veryclearly there. At —— there have been conversions, so they are encouraged. One, a Roman Catholic man and his wife, has drawn much attention. He resisted all the efforts of his own to get him back; then the Protestants went, and could not understand his peace, and then the Episcopal prelate, to ask him how he got so happy. “And sure,” he said, “the blessed Son of God had come down and died for him, and risen, and gone up on high, and was seated on the right hand of God in glory; that he was in Him, washed in His precious blood, without a spot or stain;” and he opened his eyes in astonishment and told him to repeat it, which he did. This drew attention I urged them to go on quietly, and not let the enemy get any advantage by making a fuss, yet surely I heartily rejoiced in their blessing…
On the whole, there are marks that our God is working though it be the day of small things… We have only to wait on the Lord and go on and serve. It has been a work in every way of patience for me in this country, but I never felt to have more wholly sought the Lord and not myself in holding to it. And I still think it will bear its fruit. Next week I think to move to Montreal. Kindest love to the saints. I shall be most glad to see them, if the Lord prospers my way.
Affectionately yours in Him.
I have translated the Psalms and almost all Job since I have been here; but there is nothing particular in it, only it has improved my Hebrew, and I have been a good deal struck with such a breaking up the crust of man’s heart as Job shews, and many modem questions touched. How remarkably He is one in the midst of enemies in the Psalms.
New York, February, 1868.
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My dear Brother,—I have in no way relinquished my visit to the West Indies, far from it: I fully hope in the course of this present year to get out there. I cannot exactly say the moment, but will write, please God. Of course, at my time of life such a journey must be (even humanly speaking) a little uncertain. But since the time of Dr. McK.’s visit I have always hoped to get there. I was going there, and since then America has largely occupied me. And though it be but a commencement, still the testimony’ has been planted, the truth disseminated, and in the west making progress, and not without some in the east too…
The power that drink has over people is astonishing. That was never my temptation, so that I am no judge of the snare, yet I believe that grace can give the victory over that as over every sin, positive deliverance. Clearness of mind as to the truth is not the question here, but real deliverance. Nor is anxiety to get owned again always a good sign, but anxiety with God for deliverance. I say deliverance, for in besetting sins power comes in, and it ceases then to be present to the mind as a temptation: it is the real intervention of God; and this is what a man must look for in such cases. It is well that this person clings to brethren, a good sign, so far, but the true point is concern of conscience, and seeking above all that God should free him from the temptation. When the Holy Ghost works in a man who has fallen, it makes him serious and lowly. It is not the kindliness of man, pleasant as that is, but restoration with God for which we are anxious. The Lord will guide you, dear brother, in this case. Firmness for Christ’s glory, the holiness of the Table, and for the good of the man himself accompanied by the grace which thinks of him as a member and sheep of Christ, and charges oneself with the burden of his state, these are what will guide aright in these cases; I am not at all fit for cases of discipline, I have not the firmness called for. As to the manner of acting, the great point is to have the conscience of the brethren with God: “Ye have proved yourselves clear in this matter,” says the apostle. When we look at it thus, it alters everything, otherwise cases of discipline are apt to engage the feelings, and make a party for or against. This is what the apostle alludes to when he says, “We are not ignorant of his devices.”
Another point is, that if in earnest, a man will avoid the occasion of temptation where he feels he cannot overcome. I agree that we are not called upon to abstain as a law, and I object to vows or pledges, but if this brother found it a means of avoiding sin he would gladly act on the principle of total abstinence, that he might not enter into temptation; we are to cut off a right hand or pluck out a right eye if it is a stumbling-block to us. The Lord make him feel the evil, for knowledge without godliness is just the way of dishonouring God, and making those who hate true knowledge find a handle against it. May the Lord give him lowliness and decision… Be of good courage, dear brother, be strong, and He shall establish your heart. Read the first chapter of Joshua, and look to Christ. He is faithful and full of love. All we have to do is to go on peacefully, doing His will and ever looking to Him for help. Kind love to the saints. I fully hope to get to see them if spared.
Your affectionate brother in Christ.
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My dear Brother,—I deferred answering your kind letter with the thought of saying when I should turn my steps to Toronto, but the hope of doing so grows feeble. I have felt that it was more gratifying myself, in seeing you all before I left, than work that was taking me to Toronto, Hamilton, or Guelph, and work, while it is called to-day is my part. Grace, which has taken such an one as me up, has given that to me for this world. Attached as I am to the brethren in Canada, I naturally should have liked to have seen them again before I left, but work is there… It would have been a delight to me to see you all, but I feel at this moment I shall not. How thankful I am to the brethren in Canada for abounding kindness I cannot in a letter say. It may be, if I get, as I hope, to the West Indies next winter, I may take America as my way back. After all, we are on a pilgrimage, and I count it a great privilege to have been permitted to come and know you all—a privilege I never thought of being mine. But we shall meet elsewhere, thank God, where partings will have no place, and I do thank God for that.
May the Lord abundantly bless you all; my kindest love to all the brethren, for whose blessing I earnestly pray. I trust I shall hear of you all.
For the present,
Affectionately yours in the Lord.
Montreal, March, 1868.
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[From the French.
Beloved Brother,—I reply to your questions on the prophet Daniel. The “desolator” is not named in chapter 9, but I do not believe that the desolator is Antichrist, nor he who takes away the daily sacrifice. The wickedness that is at work within is not the desolation which comes from without; it is the cause of it. First, I would have you remark certain points in the translation, which considerably alter the meaning of the sentences. In chapter 8:11 the gender is different. It is no more as in verse 10, “It” (the little horn) “waxed great,” but, “And he waxed great.” This verse 11 does not refer then any longer directly to the little horn. Then, in this same verse, it is not said that “By him the daily sacrifice was taken away;” but, “From him” (the Prince of the host, Christ Jehovah) “the daily sacrifice was taken away.” This alters the character of him who is mentioned in verse 4, or rather, this takes away from him that character.
I believe that what refers to the horn in verse 10, and that which follows, up to verse 12, has been fulfilled in the times of the Seleucidae (Antiochus Epiphanes), and I translate verse 12: “And a time of distress” (a word that one meets in Job with the same meaning) “was ordained for the daily sacrifice.” All this refers to the horn, as well as the two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings of verse 14, to the oppression of Antiochus, and not to the last days. At the end of the chapter this period is distinguished from the vision of the evening and the morning. (Ver. 26.) The crafty king, at the end, shall stand up against the Lord of lords, that is to say, that he will be upon the scene when Christ shall be there. He rises up from the east, and not from the west. So, at all events, we find here the description of a desolator.
In chapter 9:27, instead of “By means of the abominable wings which shall cause desolation,” I read, “Because of the protection of idols, there shall be a desolator;” it is not said who. The daily sacrifice will be taken away by him who had made the covenant for one week. In the same verse the “consumption determined” means “the determined accomplishment of the judgment;” it is a technical term, signifying the last judgments on Jerusalem and the Jews. I believe that the last word of this verse signifies desolate, and not desolator.
It appears clear to me from Isaiah 10:22, 23, and following, that the determined consumption falls upon Judah and Jerusalem by means of the Assyrian, who is the rod of the indignation of God. Now the Assyrian is geographically of the territory of the Seleucidae. This is so much the more clear since the same prophet (Isa. 28:22) shews us this consumption overtaking the land of Israel, when the leaders of the people at Jerusalem have made a covenant with hell, sheol (Isa. 28:14, 15), and have taken refuge in lies. In Daniel 9:27 this same consumption comes upon Jerusalem. The head of the beast makes a covenant with them for one week; idols are there, they put their trust in them, and God sends a desolator. The Assyrian will be the great desolator; others will ally themselves with him. (Psa. 83) Gog will be the last form of the Assyrian. That explains, it appears to me, what is said in Ezekiel 38:17: “Art thou he of whom I have spoken in old time by my servants the prophets of Israel?” Jerusalem is taken a first time: the second time the enemy finds the Lord there. Zechariah 14:is general: the city shall be taken, and the Lord shall go forth against the nations.
It is “the leader who shall come” that will take away the sacrifice in breaking the covenant; and the people giving themselves up at the same time to idols, there shall be a desolator until the chastisement upon Jerusalem is complete, and that the presence of the Lord puts an end to the power of evil and of the evil one.
The Roman emperor is the head of the beast, and Antichrist is only the head of the second beast in Revelation 13:He causes the first beast to be worshipped, and exercises his power, being the false Christ, or king and prophet, for the Jews in Judea. But it is the “leader” who will take away the sacrifice in the beginning of the last half-week; the royalty of the second beast seems to disappear through the power of this leader in the east.
The king of the north is always he who rules over the territory occupied by Antiochus; but in the end Russia will possess this territory, or will rule over it, so as to be the Assyrian. Rttssia is Gog, unquestionably.
Montreal, April 3rd, 1868.
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Dearest Brother,— … I am not surprised at the clergy being violent against the truth. It can hardly be otherwise, because their system is against the truth, and the truth offends them. Wherever there is a human system it goes before conscience unless it be given up. I fear sometimes I take it too easily—I so fully expect it. Nor can I say I am sorry for it, save for their sakes. The tendency with me is to drop into kindly ways with those who are going wrong from an easy nature—the dread of giving pain, which after all is often giving pain to oneself. But in these days especially a clear, plain path is of all importance, and though I make all possible difference between Popery and Protestantism, believing the former to be especially the Beat of Satan, and because the word of God is not allowed, which the latter profess—and as to the principle, if not to the application, honestly do—yet as to taught truth and ecclesiastical system, the whole scene is at best only reformed, and does not go back to the divine source. This conviction is growing upon me. The result will be in the main, Popery, infidelity, and the separated church of God, till judgment comes. I am surprised often how God makes good principles I maintained and gave out full forty years ago, because it was scriptural truth, without seeing all the consequences—yet the state of the church treated as it is now manifested to us. It has strengthened my hands by the conviction that God was in it, for it was not my wisdom, but the word of the Lord abides for ever… The Lord be with you, and keep you near Himself.
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Beloved Brother,—Your letter found me at Montreal, but I suppose leaving it ere long. Time runs on, and I owe something to them in England, and still I think of the West Indies for next winter if God leave me health and strength enough for it. I find that people will not get on as fast as my wishes make them—perhaps as more grace and devotedness would— and so I crowd too much work into one time. But all is well. If we work the work of Him who has sent us while it is called to-day, it is all right, only I should like to work it better. Still, the Lord has graciously blessed me here…
I know I am a poor workman, but I know the hour will come when the only thing worth remembering—save eternal grace and Him who is the source and effectuator of it — if memory it can then be called, will be service and labour for Him who has loved us. But, as I have often said, it is not the quantity but the quality of my labour which ever troubles me. I do nothing else, and labour as you know without stint, but it is inward power, abstraction of heart to Christ, so as to come from the fulness of power in Him, and have nothing there which hinders absolute association of mind with His thoughts and purposes—Himself. We, says the apostle, have the mind of Christ. It is a different thing coming in the consciousness that we come from Him, as in His confidence, and having His message. Yet, thank God, I am happy. I am cdnscious of having no object but Him, but this is still different from the kind of power I speak of, and this will be found again in that day. I am content to be nothing, but I want to have Christ everything in me too. However, we have our pilgrimage only here. He is able to keep that we have committed unto Him unto that day. Farewell, beloved brother, we must wait till then. Kindest remembrances to your dear host—I rejoice heartily in the blessing of all there, and in their unity of heart.
Affectionately yours in the Lord.
* * * * *
* * * In these last days I look for His leading on His people unfailingly to their place of testimony, to their place of rest; we know that He surely will. I am very thankful that your mind has got so clear, though the difficulties for faith in the path I well know. They are those which attach to Christianity itself, and always have. It is a strait gate, and narrow way; that is nothing new. As to the path being the path of faith, and the word, I have not had for these forty years the smallest cloud. One must wait, of course, to see it. Our difficulty, at any rate in the old country, is that multitudes are breaking loose from all the various systems without the simplicity of purpose which subjects them to the Lord’s discipline.
Everything established is breaking up on the one hand; and on the other, scripture being much more studied, the various dissenting systems are not found in it. To gather according to the word, that becomes the needed service, and this requires both grace and power: it requires the Lord, and I feel all the importance of this, and one’s utter powerlessness, save as He works. Yet there is duty, and it is, in a good measure, what is taking me back to the old country. If God give me sufficient strength, I hope to get to the West Indies in winter, and, if all be well, return perhaps by America, but at sixty-eight one cannot count on much strength. But God is working in the west, and, with God’s grace, younger hands will carry on the work, till He comes who will perfect all.
I cannot regret, that in getting clear, all has been called in question. The church of God, the Christian, has to rest on the word now, and that must be personal faith, faith resting on the power of God. This is the teaching of 2 Timothy 3. It is trying to a humble soul to be forced to judge for itself, where the church and clergy claim deference, but in the perilous times of the last days this is exactly the point of faith—the word contrasted with the church. Faith is always really individual, and of course the word of God its warrant, but as against pin and heathenism the matter is simple; when the church and religious authority come in it is apparently less so. But this is specifically the point of faith in- the last days, the perilous times, the form of godliness without the power: then the scriptures, and hearing the apostles, become the only sure ground of walk. What bears the name of the church has to be judged, and we are to hear, if we have an ear, what is said to them, and not by them.
As regards settled peace, the great secret is the full and abiding consciousness that in us there is no good, and looking ever at Christ as our only, and our perfect righteousness before God. But there is another kind of peace which we must not confound with this, the peacefulness of heart which flows from conscious relationship with God. When this is in simple exercise, we rest in the sense of His perfect goodness and enjoy it, and this is very sweet to the soul. If we are not walking in heart or way in consistency with this relationship, then we have to think of ourselves, and at any rate, by God’s own discipline, we do not enjoy the light of His countenance in the same way. We must not confound this with righteousness. This is ignorance of divine righteousness, and tends to put us back under law, and make us doubt. This is not of the Spirit. The Holy Ghost dwelling in us cannot make us doubtful of our relationship with God; He is the Spirit of adoption “crying, Abba, Father:” but He does make us sensitive of the approbation of God and what suits His presence. Abel had testimony by his gifts (that is, Christ, the Lamb) that “he was righteous,” but Enoch, before his translation, had this testimony, “that he pleased God.” You may find the two kinds of rest in Matthew 11:28, 29. Our present relationship is a constant source of joy, and to be carefully cherished; our righteousness, on which it is founded, is unchangeable in the presence of God. The gracious Lord keep us walking diligently.
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My dear Brother,—In the first place, I am afraid of human accuracy in the things of God: they are too great and we are too little to have it, and we know only in part. Then, the Holy Ghost does not teach by negatives but by positive revelations, so that we get on human ground. It may be right. When we state negatives we must know all absolutely on a subject to use a negative. If I say a thing is in scripture, one text proves it: if I say it is not, I must know the whole Bible perfectly. The Holy Ghost is said to dwell in the body; the earnest of the Spirit is said to be given in our hearts. Surely it acts in the heart, and, I may add, in the mind and conscience. The Holy Ghost dwells in us individually, and unites us to Christ. Hence we know also that we are in Christ (John 14); but this is individual, and if only one believer were on earth he would be in Christ—could not be an assembly, but he would be united to Christ. The Holy Ghost does not dwell in the assembly as the body (though, through want of accuracy, I have said so in old time) but in it as the house.
Ephesians 1:20, I judge, clearly shews the whole of the body as in glory, because then Christ is over all things—”we see not yet all things put under him.” The Holy Ghost has personally come down here and formed the body on earth, and there only it is at present known. The departed saints do not in this respect count, but the Holy Ghost is a divine Person, and, I have no doubt, holds their spirits in divine power for the time of glory, and even their dust for resurrection. We are fold nothing of departed spirits but that they are with Christ, but they lose no privilege save what is down here. They surely are not separated from Christ and re-united to Him afterwards; that, as a matter of faith and first principle, cannot be; but the body being de facto down here they do not personally in its present condition make part of it. I suppose that is what dear——means.36 … As sometimes anything resting on the mind corrodes there, I write at once as to what seems to me the truth. Our union with Christ I hold to be surely indissoluble, and consequently to subsist essentially in the separated state— the how I do not speak of, as I am not aware the word of God does. The positive responsible body as such is down here consequent on the baptism of the day of Pentecost. It will not cease to be such when the whole is complete and united to the Head, and I have not a moment’s doubt that the departed spirits and their union are divinely maintained by the Holy Ghost. You will remark that anything to the contrary is only an inference. We are justified in using consequences to prove error, but not in attributing them to another; he may be shocked at them when he sees them. Clearly the Holy Ghost is in heaven, though in the economy of grace as they say, He is come down; just as the Son came down, yet was in the bosom of the Father.
Your affectionate brother in Christ.
Dublin, July, 1868.
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My dear Brother,—The unity of the body, and the saints acting on it, I feel to be most important. In the early church they sent the elements to the sick in token of this unity. But the assembling in one place I do not think to be of any force, because they broke bread from house to house, or in their houses generally, in contrast with the temple, yet surely in the unity of the body. Were it done contrary to this it would be the spirit of schism. There are cases of illness which are temporary discipline. In such I believe it is better to bow to the Lord’s hand and wait recovery. But when it is not so, but a hindrance which is permanent, and, so to speak, providential, I do not think such an one should be deprived of the privilege; and it has been in fact habitual to minister this comfort to such.
I am growing old, dear brother, for such journeys as the West Indies, but I long owe them a visit. If it is His will I should go, He will give me needed strength. I do not think of going before November, nor of staying long, unless I return by America. I wait for guidance. Naturally I should dread the West Indies, but duty settles everything.
Affectionately yours in the Lord.
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Dearest Brother,—As to receiving those weak in the faith (Rom. 14:1): it is simply not to reject them in heart and spirit because they were feeble as to Jewish prejudices and the like. One man ate herbs, another meat. One man kept Good Friday—so to say. They were to be cordially owned as others, only not to be puzzled by mere questions when they could not bear it. The receiving to the glory of God (Rom. 15:7), which must apply to the second clause, applies in sense to both. There lie underneath, Jewish and Gentile jealousies—both received to the glory of God, rose above all this; and they were so to receive one another—suggested by verse 6, and suggesting what follows, putting Jews and Gentiles in this place with a common Christ.
The passage in Jude (ver. 7) I take to be a present figure of the abidingness of judgment. They were not burnt down and built up again, as other cities may be: they were lying under the abiding effect of the fiery judgment that fell upon them. The cities continued in the state the judgment of God had reduced them to—a vivid figure of those who follow in their wake.
As regards the priesthood of the Old Testament saints, priests were not properly anointed. The high priest was—the others only with their garments, &c, sprinkled with oil along with the blood, they, their garments, &c, with the high priest. Israel was a royal priesthood. I am not aware, that the Holy Ghost as we have it—uniting us to Christ, which is what makes th6 difference—is essential to priesthood; namely, the sealing or anointing, the Comforter. Known sonship and union flow from it. He has made us kings and priests. Nor have the priests in Revelation 5 any incense (as) the High priest in chapter 8. They offer the odours which are prayers: He adds efficacy to the prayers. However, though I do not doubt they are perfect in glory in the kingdom, yet I do not know that the Old Testament saints are particularly contemplated in Revelation 4, 5. I know of no passage which makes priesthood especially resulting from our anointing.
I trust the gracious Lord will spare your little one to you. The Lord makes us feel we are in a world where evil is not yet removed.
Ever affectionately yours.
London, August 24th, 1868.
* * * * *
To the same.]
I apprehend that the two passages in Matthew (20:16, 22:14) shew the contrast of the external effect and internal power. Chapter 22:14 is pretty plain. The gospel message as men speak had brought in a crowd, and where the true wedding garment was not, he who had it not was cast into outer darkness. The application of chapter 20:16 is less immediate, it is more the general principle; it connects with Matthew 19. There, reward is declared to be the fruit of sacrifice, and to guard against enfeebling grace this parable is added, where—though there was an appointed reward for labour—we are shewn to be no judges of it: for there are (the converse) last, if God calls them to it, who will be first. For there may be a great appearance of labour, and yet God not own it. It is still the contrast of the outward appearance and those whom God has chosen, the fruits of His own grace, and not of following apparent principles by man, while only self is there. Only here it is labour and rewards bring it in: in chapter 22, external calling and grace.
My translation is not yet gone to press.
Affectionately yours in haste.
London, October 16th, 1868.
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Beloved Brother,—The meeting at —— seems to get on solid ground. I mean as to those who are out being clear in their convictions, and that is a great advantage. The numbers have so very greatly multiplied in England, I hardly know whether it could be said of all. But they are going on, thank God, happily. In Ireland and Scotland it is spreading, and the number of labourers is very considerably increased. I have had a tour from London to York in the north, and then down to Taunton, south-west, and had through mercy a good time, the precious Lord with me, and scripture opened. In central England we had a very nice general meeting for two days, and the other two, York and Taunton, were very useful. As to doors for work, there is no lack of them. In Germany, too, the work has greatly spread, and they claim a visit.
I feel, dear brother, more than ever that all is vanity, but what is for ever. We all know it, but how foolish all else will seem when we meet the blessed Lord! Yet you have no idea how poor a workman I feel myself to be. It is not false modesty. I have no doubt of the truths I hold, and feel the word of God daily clearer. But I see so little courage to deal with the mass around me, which yet heart and head in a measure goes out after—so little dealing with men, so much with truth, precious truth, Christ’s truth I know, and what the church wants; but I feel those who go evangelising so much my superiors, and yet I see so much, when I see the work, that is hardly like Paul’s. Yet God overlooks want of completeness in it where there is earnestness. However, I am His servant, but when I see the courage and zeal of such as are as Paul, I am ashamed of myself. I do not think of authority, but the courage that animated him, and the single-eyedness to Christ; teaching is constantly claimed from me too, and often when my heart would be at work with souls, with souls that have not Christ. I am happy enough in the sense of His love, but I am not serving as I ought. Yet the church needs building up, and truth, getting back to “that which was from the beginning”; and I am drawn between His people and their state who know Him, and those who do not. They are all His. Sometimes I think I do not draw myself enough from claims on me, to serve directly from Him as He may send. However, we are His servants, and can count upon His love ever gracious. The having died with Him occupies a large place in the mind of faith to me just now. It is dying for our sins so as to be forgiven and justified; but then our dying with Him and alive through Him was not to be forgiven, but delivered, and then also in Him before God. Romans 5:11, 12 being the great division of the two former points—chapter 5:1-11 the blessedness of one, chapter 8:the blessedness of the other. Then I add Colossians as risen with, then Ephesians, sitting above in; but enough.
I have had such attention, and earnest hearers (as I think) now, and in great numbers. That work I am happy at, anything for Christ’s people. I have been unspeakably happy lately, yet as making me nothing in the thought of being the object of God’s love: I had been seeking right affections towards Him—all right—but the thought that He loved me flowed in on me in joy and peace; and peace is a very deep thing, like a river. Yet I have a sadly cold and dull heart.
Give my kindest love to all around you. My absence from America has only made me feel how much I am attached to and interested in it and the beloved ones there. Peace be with you, beloved brother, and may He bless you in your family too.
Your affectionate brother
In our blessed Lord.
My dear Brother,—I was very glad to hear you were better, for we were getting uneasy about you, though sure the Lord is right, and to have account of the beloved brethren and work in Canada, to whom I am greatly attached. God knows if I shall ever see them again.
As to your questions: as to the manna, the colour is nothing; it was a yellowish white, which bdellium is said to be. It had an oily taste, but was sweetish.
Matthew 18:16, &c, offers no difficulty at all. Call it assembly, which is what the word is, and all question disappears. The Koman Catholic does not hear the church; he is part of the church: all the faithful go to make up the church. He hears the clergy, but they are not the church. As to the passage itself, nothing can be more simple; if I am wronged, I seek to make my brother feel it; if that fails, I take two or three more, so that it may not rest on my word merely. If that fail, I tell it to the whole assembly; if that be refused, I disown the offender. What has the clergy teaching a doctrine to do with my telling something to the assembly? They pick out three words from the passage garbled; and even so, it is not the church they hear.
“The times of the Gentiles” is the time during which, from the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar till the beast is destroyed, Jerusalem, and the throne of God in it, has been set aside and the Gentiles have been in power. The “fulness of time” in Galatians is when the responsibility of man having been fully tried the due time has arrived for Christ to come and accomplish redemption. The “dispensation of the fulness of times,” is when all ages having rolled round, and all being ready, all things in heaven and in earth are put under the authority of the second Man as Head.
“The kingdom of God” is general, and embraces all the rest. “The kingdom of heaven” is God’s kingdom when the rule is in heaven—when the king is there. This results in a special division, the full heavenly part which is the kingdom of the Father, and the subject earthly part the kingdom of the Son of man.
There was no gift by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, but by the laying on of Paul’s; it was an apostolic prerogative. The Holy Ghost was given by the laying on of the apostles’ hands; it is “with” as to the presbyters: they were associated, as approving witnesses of Timothy. Hence in modern imitations, or traditions, they are ordained by the bishop, but two or three presbyters join in laying on hands as a sanction, but cannot ordain. The presbytery were the company of elders who doubtless knew Timothy, and thus testified of it. (Compare Acts 16:2.) These are all your questions.
The Lord willing, we start for the West Indies November 17th. The desire to hear is very great here; constantly people cannot get in, and a majority of men, and I trust the brethren are getting on, as to numbers, rapidly. Scotland is greatly opened, and meetings formed, indeed in Ireland too. But all things are loosening up in every way, and there is a good deal of religious action, very independent, but godly souls getting dissatisfied with looseness. We have just closed our labourers’ conference here, I hope with blessing. Peace be with you. My kindest love to the brethren both at Quebec and Montreal. The Lord graciously lead them on and bless them, and gather many into the paths of peace.
London, November 2nd, 1868.
* * * As regards the first question:37 washing naturally applies to something that is cleansing. Our state may shew that now nothing but death to sin can cleanse us from sin, but the water signifies cleansing: as “ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.”
“Regeneration” is passing from one state to another, used only in Matthew 19, and in Titus. “Born of the Spirit” is the actual communication of divine life—“that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” This is life: the other (regeneration) is de facto death, though this can only be by life. But it supposes an entrance into a new state, when fully brought to light, of which resurrection is the expression—life out of death—hence leaving sin and an evil nature behind. So we are baptised to His death, that we walk in newness of life. It is not merely that I have got” life from or through—but I am quickened with. But that supposes death, the putting away, but judgment pf the old man.
“Sanctified,” though it includes this, yet contains something more: we are sanctified to something, not merely washed from. No doubt this does cleanse, but it gives also an object to which I am attached and so sanctified. A creature is practically and morally always what his object is. “That he might sanctify and cleanse it” (Eph. 5:26) is not quite correct—kaqarivsa". They go together, but the cleansing, though a positive thing from evil, is connected with consecrating the affections to God. There are holy affections in sanctification: these clearly exclude evil ones; but there are the two things, though they cannot be separated. The word is in every respect the instrument. The washing of regeneration is typified, as Peter says, by the flood. It cleared away the old, but it began a new world.
As regards Acts 15, there is not the semblance of a church court, a representative collection of ministers and elders from all parts of the circle of jurisdiction. There are the apostles with universal authority given by Christ and a local church, whose elders all of them come together, the whole church giving its adhesion. God’s wisdom did not allow this matter to be settled at Antioch, where a now Gentile church had begun; or you would have had a Gentile free church, and a Jerusalem circumcised church under the law. Hence the original apostles and the Jewish elders and church decide the point, and declare the Gentiles are free. Moses had his own teachers everywhere. But it was the authoritative deciding of the freedom of the Gentiles from the law—a vital matter for the whole church of God, and it is called the decree of the apostles and elders. But there is not the most distant appearance of a representative church court. To say nothing of the absence of the apostles, could the elders of the Presbyterians of Edinburgh, tacking on all the members there, decree for all Presbyterians even over the whole world? But in the original constitution I do not think it is pretended to be anything but a human arrangement.
I have completed my work in the New Translation. I have had it read over too by another, and corrected several slips or verbal omissions, and made uniformity of words as far as possible. I have added a good many notes, and here and there made it clearer, but there is little to alter.
Affectionately yours in the Lord.
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Beloved Brother,—I did begin a letter to you, which remained half finished, and journeyings, “Guelph” meetings, and study-labour when in London for a new edition of my Translation, left it half a letter. The old edition renewed several times in parts was exhausted, and I wanted to get the new ready before I left England, to say nothing of lecturing pretty much every evening. My work has been somewhat unusual, but I have felt the Lord renewedly with me, and this accompanied, as I doubt not you will have heard with a renewed desire to hear, a majority of men, people unable to get in at our largest rooms, I trust blessing, an increased feeling of everything’s closing in—that is certain, as things are going at a rapid pace in England in the sense of revolution— nothing new to myself; I think a great deal less about it, occupied with a kingdom that cannot be moved.
What I think characterised the teaching, though of course various, was our being dead with Christ, besides putting away the sins of the old man, so as to belong to a wholly new scene. The division of Romans is at chapter 5:11—before that sins, after it sin, and dying with Christ for deliverance, not pardon. I have been interested in seeing that in Romans we do not (though recognised de facto as in Christ—chap. 8:1) get beyond death with, and life through. In Colossians we have death with and resurrection with, man being seen as also dead in sin, and then we risen with Christ who had come down to death, bearing our sins and putting them away. Here the saint is seen on earth, his hope laid up in heaven, his affections to be there—the Holy Ghost is not the subject. In Ephesians he is not seen alive in sin and dying with Christ, but dead in sin, risen with Christ, and sitting in heavenly places in Christ, completing the instruction for our place in this world. Here the Holy Ghost is fully developed—in Colossians, life. This series has interested me.
Philippians gives fully the life of the Christian down here in the power of the Spirit of God—he is on his journey. In Colossians we have the display of the new man, Christ indeed being the pattern. In Ephesians God Himself (manifested in Christ) the model of our walk. Other points in the Hebrews are now before my mind, but not sufficiently ascertained to write about. I have been struck too how what are called Catholic Epistles contemplate, all, the last days as a present thing. You have prophecies in others.
God has raised up several labourers in England and Ireland, and Scotland is opened in a way it never was before. It is striking to see these young officers, as many of them were termed. On the whole, we have much to be thankful for: a certain number too of Bethesda wanderers have returned. There is union and affection among the brethren—here and there in detail, a need of worldliness being corrected, and there have been some afflicting cases of immorality (for I would give you a true picture) as to which discipline has been exercised, but which are humbling and painful. France and Germany complain of my not having gone there. When I went to America I thought I had pretty much finished there, but they would yet see me, and I owe them much. I do not know whether I shall be able to be in Canada this year. But I am rather stronger than heretofore, though I grow old—now in my sixty-ninth year—and I am greatly attached to America now, and the work there; if I have strength shall rejoice to visit them again. But who knows what the morrow will bring forth? The blessed Lord may come (how longed-for He only knows), Or my course be finished, and the work left to younger ones here— to Him to whom it belongs. I am happy in going to the West Indies: anything but pleasant to the flesh, but due to the brethren there, and the Lord’s will, so that I am very happy in doing it. It is not a field of labour exactly. Still there are those who have laboured faithfully there, and we must gather up the fragments that nothing may be lost. And then I wait His will further.
In Germany and Holland there is much progress, and Spain is now open. We get happy accounts of New York. The Lord is working certainly, and I bless Him for it,—something discouraged at Boston, but what is there is very solid. Did I return that way, I should wish to devote a little time to it: I have not hitherto, though occasionally there. There is inquiry, but in detail, and few have patience to work that, yet it often begins so and solidly. Activity on the general mass in such cases comes after. Such work as Ottawa and Quebec is quite as difficult to go on with afterwards, though if the Lord be there all is well, and will go on. I dread narrowness, but I love distinctness of position.
Little I admit is done, but surely we have much to be thankful for, such as we are. My heart is with you, beloved brother, in the work. May He keep your own soul very near Himself. That is life and strength. We have a plain path; may we know how to walk in it with His strength. What is eternal alone is; but our path here connects with it. It is a strange connection, yet, when Christ is in it, simple and all one.
My kindest affection to all the beloved saints. My writing always bad enough—now with a pretty heavy swell, but, with one rough night, all well.
Ever affectionately yours,
With many prayers.
Dated Douro, November 20th, 1868.
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Beloved Brother,—You must not get discouraged because it does not go on as fast at Boston as you would wish. What is is solid: it has never been much worked, and God has His own time. I should be glad if you had some one who could take the tract shop, and set you free when you wished to visit anywhere; but though it has not show, it is very useful, and the truth is considerably disseminated by it. I should have been glad myself to have worked more at B., but the Lord, who is wise, ordered it otherwise. I believe perseverance is your path of faith now; and be assured we are not weary of anything we can do to help, if you are not. You have a full place in our hearts. I feel that I in particular am your debtor for a great deal of kindness. You may say I never expect a tract depot to pay amongst us. Indeed, it hardly ever does without adjuncts, and readers of our books are not many in the States yet. I should think twice before I made a shop of it too: as it stands at present it is service. Selling Bibles, if practicable, is another thing…
Hitherto in infirmity and weakness the brethren have been a testimony, and are more and more publicly so. I do not expect this to be popular, especially in these last days; conversions may accompany it, and have, thank God, in many cases, as lately in Canada. But when it was not from the testimony and with it, the preaching left them in the world and in system. The Lord is over all: our part is to be faithful. Blessing is going on in these parts… There is in the west too a movement from the feeling of the state of so-called churches, but they do not break bread for fear of meeting the difficulties of doctrine and discipline; but it does not, I hear, work, though there are devoted ones. They would avoid evident evil, and have work; but they shrink from believing the Lord sufficient to maintain a testimony.
Here I do think the Lord has been most gracious to brethren: I admit the difficulty, but I hold the Lord sufficient; and, if we hold fast the truth and good in the real bonds of Christ, He will use it for what is dear to His heart—little strength, but holding fast His word, and His name, content with His approbation. That is what I look to: then surely all the activity to win poor souls one can have; and He sets an open door.
It is striking, generally crossing the Atlantic I have been led out, and had many occasions. This time not so: I have just confessed Christ, and spoken to one or two, but have not felt led out at all, yet very happy. Perhaps from excessive work in London, &c, the Lord meant me to have a retreat and be quiet. I sit, read, write and say nothing to anybody, instead of getting amongst most. Around me at table they are Spaniards, and I do not know Spanish, but that is not all. In London, England, &c, I felt the Lord greatly with me; and there is an evident work going on, a great desire, and in men particularly, to hear, and many young men, and not novelty, as of course I have been often there; and it is, I hear, general. Just arrived at Demerara safe, through mercy.
I found more opportunity than when I wrote this of speaking to some, and it was understood that I was to be taken on that ground if talked with, which makes it always easy; and I was encouraged with some, but I had less intercourse than often with all around, but read a good deal in spite of heat, which was a hindrance to any application.
Affectionately yours ever.
* * * * *
[From the French.
* * * I have been greatly struck with the difference of the instruction in that which precedes and follows verse 12 of Romans 5. To the end of verse 11 it is a question of sins and of our justification, of pardon by the blood and by the resurrection of our precious Saviour. From verse 12 it is a question of sin, of our condition, common to all before God and not of pardon, but of deliverance; and therefore it is not a question of Christ dying for our sins, but of our death with Him, and of the fact that we live by Him. The blessedness of the first of these mercies is portrayed in chapter 5:1-11, that of the second in chapter 8. The first is specially that which God is Himself, that which He is for the sinner; the second our position before Him and what He is for His own. In the Epistle to the Romans the sinner is looked at as living in sin, then dead with Christ (he is not yet risen with Him, but living by Him). In the Epistle to the Colossians the apostle goes further, we are dead in sin and raised with Him. It is a change of position as well as the communication of a new life.
In the Epistle to the Ephesians we are only viewed as dead in sins (even as walking in them) then quickened, raised with Christ, and seated in Him in heavenly places. In the Epistle to the Colossians the Christian, though raised, is on the earth; his life is hid with Christ in God, he ought to have his affections on high, his inheritance is there preserved for him. You can examine these things in the word. What I have said of Romans is very useful for the deliverance of souls. It is deliverance.
I bless God, dear brother, that He has spared you your dear little girl, after having taken away your son. His good hand is upon us, even (and very particularly) in things that are painful. It was not worth while to give a long history of the prosperity of Job, but the Holy Spirit of God has given us details of all that took place in his difficulties. It was worth while; and it is for the profit of His own to the end of the age. It is there that the work of our God is found. May He give us to have entire confidence in Him. It was the first thing that Satan destroyed before—and in order that lust might enter into Eve. Now the entire life of Jesus was the manifestation of love to regain the confidence of the heart of man. Without doubt he needed grace; but it is what He was, God shewing Himself to man that he might trust in Him. His death does not diminish the proof of His love.
Demerara, December, 1868.
[End of Vol. 1]
32 [See “Collected Writings,” vol. x. p. 492 and vol. xxxi. p. 188.]
33 [“The Sufferings of Christ.”]
34 [“The church, which is His body, and some collateral truths.”]
35 [Memorandum on the article in Appleton’s American Encyclopaedia on the “Plymouth Brethren.”]
36 “It is quite true that all the saints between those two great events are of the body of Christ—of it in the mind and counsel of God. But those who hare died have lost their present actual connection with the body, having passed away from the sphere where, as to personal place, the Holy Ghost is. They have ceased to be in its unity… Their bodies not being yet raised, they do not now enter into account of the body as recognised of God.”
37 [John 3, 1 Corinthians 6, Ephesians 5 and Titus 3—What is the meaning of “washing” or “washed” in some of these scriptures? Is the new birth the same as regeneration? if not, wherein do they differ, and how is “cleansed” or “washed” to be distinguished from being “sanctified”?]