Dearest——,—Legality does stick to us dreadfully, because it takes the form of conscientiousness, which is an excellent thing. But a full sense of infinite grace changes all. In Romans, Christians are always looked at as living men as you and I are on the earth, who have walked as men in their sins on the earth, living in them; but who having received Christ have received life, and are justified from all their sins, but have been introduced by baptism unto His death, and, in that He died unto sin once, and lives to God in that He liveth, reckon themselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ, not in Adam; hence are free in spirit to yield themselves to God as those that are alive from the dead—the nearest approach to being arisen, but it is as such, the whole state being reckoned such by a living man. Hence, taking the old man as crucified with Christ, the Christian is to walk in newness of life. So we shall live with Him. The whole is a moral change in a man viewed as alive here de facto, but having Christ his life, instead of the old man and living in sins. If we be dead with Christ, we shall live (6:8) is a moral conclusion. All this is the case, because man is looked at as the responsible man in this world, and finding sin in the flesh as the power of evil, is taught how to have done with its power, namely, by reckoning himself dead and alive in Christ—not in flesh. Chapter 8:3, 4 gives the great basis, adding the Holy Ghost and its effects in what follows.
The Ephesians views man in his state towards God, and no possibility of movement being awakened. Christ Himself is looked at only as raised from the dead—when dead—by God’s power. So we are quickened together with Christ—brought out of this state of death. Here Jew and Gentile have necessarily disappeared, children of wrath one as another, but are raised together and made to sit together; associated in a wholly new standing, not individually victorious in the old. In Romans the man reckons himself dead to sin; in Ephesians he was dead in sins, but is quickened with Christ who had died, and raised up and sitting—no Jew nor Gentile—in Christ. This takes me wholly out of the place I was in (not giving me a new life in it) as it took Christ out of the grave and set Him at the right hand of God, far above all principality and power, taking me out of death in sins and putting me into Him. It is not a living responsible man on earth counting himself dead that he may have power over sin—not let it reign—the old man being crucified; but a new creation, in which the dead in sins are taken out of their state and place by God’s power and placed in Christ. There is no responsibility in Ephesians till after this. In Romans there is all through: in Romans nothing of counsels, save at the end of chapter 8.—that is, of the Epistle doctrinally. God creates us in Christ according to His counsels before the world: He has met our responsibility both as to guilt and power. Both are all-important. One living in sins is dead toward God. I may take him up in grace, meeting his responsibility as a creature of God, or I may see him created in Christ, God’s workmanship in his new estate, but then it is a wholly new thing, risen out of the state in which he was; and this involves the disappearance of the difference of Jew and Gentile. We get no—to the Jew first, and also to the Greek, in Ephesians. And yet it must be a new life in Christ by which I have the power looked for in Romans. I do not think of flesh in Ephesians. It is not an actual state, but one of faith. Now, reckoning myself dead is thinking of the old man, that it may not reign by reckoning it dead. In Ephesians the truth in Christ is the having put it off and put on the new. Hence Ephesians is strikingly contrast all through. He gives himself up as a living sacrifice to God in Romans. [In Ephesians] he walks in love, and gives himself as Christ gave Himself, being free and coming out from God, an imitator of God. And all this difference is extremely instructive and beautiful. In Colossians you have both, only no sitting in heavenly places, but our hope there, and the actual life far more fully displayed and developed…
I trust I may have made myself clear, if not, write again; and, dear brother, the Lord give us both understanding in all things, for that is the real point.
* * * * *
* * * You ask. Are the two last verses of 1 Corinthians 5 practically applicable now to those gathered together separate from evil according to 2 Timothy 2:19-22? And, Is it correct to refuse obedience until power come in? To the first I reply that the word of the Lord abides for ever. Its authority never ceases, and obedience is always due to it. Power has nothing to do with this. Grace is needed to induce the heart to obey, but obedience is always due. The direction as to tongues has not lost its authority. Were there tongues it would apply. There are not, and there is nothing to apply it to. But its authority remains. This clears up at once the question as to 1 Corinthians 5 “Put away from among yourselves that wicked person” has its own simple authority that nothing can take away. It applies to an assembly, including all saints professing to own the Lord everywhere (see address of the Epistle); and wherever a wicked person is found in an assembly, the case it applies to is there, and it is a simple matter of obedience. There are acts of power, as “I have judged to deliver to Satan.” He does not say, Do you do it. He does it in all the solemnity of the assembled saints, but there is no command, but a personal act of power, as Paul says elsewhere, “Whom I have delivered unto Satan.”
The declaration or exercise of a personal act of power has nothing to do with the abiding authority of a command. The power may not subsist; the command does. That it requires the help and grace of the Lord to act upon it, is no more than is true of every command in scripture. To apply the ruin of the visible assembly to sanction disobedience is a principle wholly unallowable. I cannot appoint elders. It is not a question of obedience but authority, and I have not the authority. The assembly had it not when Paul was there, nor can they assume it now. They had not power as an assembly to deliver to Satan then, they have not now; but they were bound to obey the command then, they are so now. Wherever two or three are really gathered together in Christ’s name Christ is, and there is the within and the without. It is a clearing of the conscience of the assembly: “Ye have proved yourselves clear in this matter.” Otherwise, the assembly would be the positive sanction, and by Christ’s presence, of the association of Christ and sin; and it would be far better there should be no assembly at all than that. 2 Timothy 2 gives us the general principle of every one who calls himself a Christian, separating from iniquity, purging himself from false teachers, and walking with those who call upon the name of the Lord out of a pure heart. It is individual duty when evil has come in.
As to the second question, it is practically answered already. In bestowing power God is sovereign. When the word has spoken I am bound to obey. To refuse obedience to it is to disobey, to assume on my own will authority not to act till God chooses to do that which rests on His will.
Affectionately yours, dear brother.
Georgetown, British Guiana, December 8th, 1868.
My dear Brother,—We cannot have too clear a view of Paul’s teaching union with an ascended Christ, putting us in a wholly new position. The more I go on, the more I see that the loss of this by the Church is the secret of their state; and it is mainly that which brethren have recovered, which God has brought out in these last days. But it is just that that makes it so important that the truth should not be discredited, by denying or in any way discrediting any other part of scripture. It is curious that this was just the ruin of the Paulicians. They had nothing else but Paul’s epistles and the gospels, and their adversary took up this very point against them, a certain Peter,1 if I remember. But it is a mistake to think Paul only speaks of this new place; John does too. But that is not all: the other parts of scripture are the word of God, and if any have not attained to Paul’s doctrine, we are to walk by the same rule. Besides, the other aspects of the truth are as important in their place as that. Where that truth is held alone, there is a hardness, a want of daily dependence which leaves the best christian affections dormant. Besides, the whole system is false. Those other parts of the New Testament were certainly available for Christians then, and if so, for Christians now. “Holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling,” is clearly christian ground; and wilderness life is a part of christian life, as Canaan and conflict are.
Further, the person who makes light of John’s writings, makes light of the manifestation of God and of the Father, and makes his own acceptance before God the only thing of importance now. This is a very bad state of soul, and such are clearly on low ground. We have to maintain redemption against the Puseyite heresy of making incarnation the saving work. But if we hold redemption tenaciously fast, the Bread come down from heaven to give life must not be lost. And as to Peter, if. I lose his writings I lose the government of God and the connection of this in christian times with Old Testament times. Now the glory of God is concerned in these things, and it is a poor boast of knowledge to leave that aside and think only of what exalts us. So of Jude, where it directly concerns the professing church. In no place is Christ’s personal glory, as Christ, brought out more fully than in Hebrews. Is that nothing for the Christian, because the unity of the body is not brought out? Even Paul’s epistles give different aspects of truth. The Epistle to the Romans does not hint at our resurrection with Christ, nor allude to Christ’s ascension, save once in chapter viii., to lay the ground for intercession, which is really dropped out of their scheme. Ephesians never goes on Romans ground at all: Colossians takes up in substance both. Their vaunted clearness is not sound knowledge, but rejection of many important parts of truth, and uniformly produces self-sufficiency and hardness, not personal dependence on grace and on Christ.
Many have had difficulty in going with poor ——, whose teaching could not go down in London, and they did not break bread with him: he is personally a lovable man, but I confess I should have myself, though I know not to what extent he has given ground for any active dealing with it. I know his views (as they were some few years ago) well, and reject them as alike false and mischievous. It may be the case of warning brethren not to go there, when the occasion calls for it, and presenting a clear determined front of utter condemnation and rejection when any come across it as you have, and as I heard of it in the north, and dealing with it as intolerable, and watching any sign of its spreading. People may be easily misled by it, because there are important truths, often dropped, winch their system brings forward. And some may err without being heretical. But I should resist at any rate, and take up immediately any teaching of the, error. It is gross and mischievous ignorance, not light, to say nothing of disposing cavalierly of the word of God. To whom was the Epistle to the Hebrews addressed—unbelieving, blaspheming Jews, or believing ones who had taken joyfully the spoiling of their goods? It is really wonderful how people can be so bamboozled; only, will is at work, and that must be kept in mind, and taken notice of.2
No great news from this. The brethren have been encouraged, and needed it, and souls have been added, and I trust several others blessed. They have taken the visit cordially. At Barbadoes there is more inquiry than here. Still the testimony has reached souls… The brethren are going on well, though they have had cases of discipline and needed rousing and setting on solid ground—the most about 350 in the colony. Here, Georgetown, the work is comparatively recent. W. is arrived, and I (D.V.) leave for Barbadoes by next mail. All well through mercy. The heat is not so very bad, only always grapes ripening fast, etc.
Georgetown, February, 1869.
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My dear Brother,—I am anxious about a rumour I heard, of your becoming a doctor, and I am sure you will forgive my anxiety for the Lord’s sake and yours. … I look to the principle. Christ has ordained that they that preach the gospel should live of the gospel, and it is the clear duty of the church of God to aid those who are given up to the work. If a man can give himself wholly up to the work, and as an extra support himself by a trade he has already—all well. I have known a brother, an evangelist much blessed, who so lived, when at a certain period of the year the people (from work) could not get on weekdays to meetings—and he being a good watchmaker, mended all the watches in the country—the rest of the year was helped by brethren. This is all well… . But when I set about to learn a profession or trade, it is not merely the time, but Christ, and Christ’s work, is put in a second place, and faith is set aside as to that, and the church encouraged in want of devotedness. All this seems to me evil. If you were not working for the Lord, your setting to do something would be perfectly right; but you are at the work, and it is saying, I fear—not in your heart perhaps, but as testimony —“I have put my hand to the plough,” etc. I have never known but one case where a brother actually wanted: it was not known to brethren: a devoted pioneer, who pushed into unbroken ground in France. He fed on nettle tops, which they use much as spinach, not to give up an open door. The same man has been three times in prison. That was a bright testimony. I doubt you are quite there yet, and have been pinched, but so was Paul, and the Lord has very soon come in to help them. It may seem easy for me who want for nothing to press this on others, but I honestly began by giving up everything, though in point of fact my faith was never tried in that way, as an uncle left me something before I was run out, or very soon after.
But I dread settling the principle, when a man is a labourer, that the church is not to take care that those who labour shall be honoured by being temporally cared for: no salary. A man is a servant, but free under Christ in his ministry, and the privilege of the church, as those at Philippi, to be partakers in the grace by helping him who labours in it. It blocks up the path of simple, humble faith. A poor man has no difficulty: and it seems as if an educated person could take this blessed and honoured place of service to Christ: working when we can, and are not occupied in the work—all well, as I said. But taking up a profession is really saying I have laid down that of working for the Lord, trusting to Him who knows that we have need of these things.
I have not seen the Lord leave those who have given themselves up to work, trusting Him: and I have seen distress of spirit and greatly hindered usefulness [in those] who, through their wives or own hearts, have turned to other things to help wife or family here. The most beloved and able witness was saved from great injury to his own spirit and usefulness, by its making Mm thoroughly miserable, and it did hinder him. There it was a wife’s doing; but no matter what, the difficulties are what faith has to overcome. I am a very poor one for faith, but I am sure the Lord is sufficient, and that He will never fail us. He may try our faith, but He will meet it and rejoice our hearts.
Here, a small place, there has been really considerable blessing. No doubt many curious ones will drop off, but a goodly number of souls have come under the power of the Spirit and truth of God. We leave (D.V.) this week for Jamaica… The gracious Lord guide and teach you.
Affectionately yours in Him.
Barbadoes, March 9th, 1869.
Beloved Brother,—Most glad I was to get your letter, and doubly so from its contents. The Lord has been indeed blessing you, nor have we been without some droppings of the shower. Barbadoes was very interesting; numbers came, earnest, attentive, and many declared they had never heard the real gospel before; and considerable numbers found peace. Some were added every Lord’s day we were there, and a good many have now to decide between taking up their cross and following Christ, or accommodating themselves to the world, and religious error and false doctrine, which they know to be wrong. The Lord give them grace to be faithful.
However, we had to come on to Jamaica, where there is scarce one to labour, and not much spiritual life, but some nice brethren, as far as we have seen, glad to profit by what we are enabled to afford them. How far the door may open is in the Lord’s hands; at Barbadoes there was no mistake as to this. It helped, too, dear ——, who had been labouring under reproach, a lowly man, distrustful of himself, but whom the Lord has blessed there much; treated as a bringer of strange doctrine and folly, but many say now, “they charged him with wrong doctrine, but now we see it was we who were wrong,” and the rumour of it spread through the place. The brethren are in much union and harmony. Here, there are a good many scattered small gatherings in rather inaccessible places—no roads or means of communication. I suppose I shall have, as people do, to buy a carriage and horses, and sell them again on leaving, riding when a road ceases, lodging where one can.
We want labourers. Oh! that the Lord would raise up single-eyed, devoted workmen, coming direct from Christ to those around, enduring hardness too betimes, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. He has raised up some, His name be praised, but we need many more. We have to pray the Lord of the harvest, and may He grant them. I suppose I shall have to go back to Europe from this; France and Germany claim a visit. I thought I had done with them: and I have some London work. But I am so used to the Atlantic and so well on it, if God preserves my strength, I may yet see the States, and so, the Lord willing, Canada. What effect has the new work in western Canada? But it is the Lord’s work, and He only wakens and arouses.
W. has suffered a little, otherwise we are all well. No doubt it tends to destroy exertion, but people are needlessly frightened about the West Indies. This land is magnificent, full of misery, and like all the West Indies, degraded in morals, but temporally has seen its worst.
The full mind of God has opened itself to me more largely than ever in these latter times, but I am not satisfied with myself as to my love to souls. I bow to filling up the little niche I may have been allotted, but still envy (not with an ill feeling) more active evangelists, and sometimes ask myself whether cowardice and want of zeal does not hinder one. Fully occupied and labouring, the question is whether a simpler love to souls would not put me in another place. I am content with —thankful for—any the Lord will allow me to have, unworthy as I am of any. I ask if the exposition of scripture is the task allotted me. I see the Church’s need as to it, and am content with anything, but I have ever loved evangelisation. I have gone out on that work. The Church is at my heart perhaps more than souls: yet I trust I love them. But Christ’s glory must connect itself with evangelising for me. Some much prized, though I heartily rejoice in it, falls cold on my heart for this reason. But all is in His hands, only I would not avoid any responsibility. Well, enough of myself!
We are in a delicious spot by the harbour, a mile from town, quiet itself, with woods and noble mountains before us, behind one of which there is a gathering. At present we are occupied with Kingston. Next week (D.V.) we, or I with a brother, go a hundred miles west, partly by roads, partly without.
Give my kindest love to the brethren: may they be kept very near the Lord, and truly waiting for His Son from heaven. My heart is with them in their blessing. May they know how, through grace, to keep it. Kind remembrances to Mrs.——
and your boys too: the Lord graciously keep them from the world, and by His own gracious power.
* * * * *
Dear Brethren,—I write for both, because I hardly know who is in——, indeed for all, as to my heart’s desire; and you will not be astonished at my being interested in the assembly there. I have heard from Mr. ——, and also through another, only one side of course of the circumstances, and consequently I say little of them; N., indeed, alluded to the question raised, but not to circumstances. I shall refer chiefly to principles, for you will feel that we are all, as of one body, interested in the position taken, and still more in the glory of Christ and our brethren’s welfare.
The question is, as to reception of saints to partake of the table of the Lord with us, whether any can be admitted who are not formally and regularly amongst us. It is not whether we exclude persons unsound in faith or ungodly in practice; nor whether we, deliberately walking with those who are unsound and ungodly, are not in the same guilt—not clear in the matter. The first is unquestioned; the last, brethren have insisted on, and I among them, at very painful cost to ourselves. This is, to me, all clear and plain from scripture. There may be subtle pleas to get evil allowed, but we have always been firm, and God, I believe, has fully owned it. The question is not there; but suppose a person known to be godly and sound in faith, who has not left some ecclesiastical system—nay, thinks scripture favours an ordained ministry, but is glad when the occasion occurs—suppose we alone are in the place, or he is not in connection with any other body in the place, staying with a brother, or the like—is he to be excluded because he is of some system as to which his conscience is not enlightened— nay, which he may think more right? He is a godly member of the body, known such. Is he to be shut out? If so the degree of light is title to communion, and the unity of the body is denied by the assembly which refuses him. The principle of meeting as members of Christ walking in godliness is given up, agreement with us is made the rule, and the assembly becomes a sect with its members like any other. They meet on their principles, Baptist or other—you on yours, and if they do not belong to you formally as such, you do not let them in. The principle of brethren’s meetings is gone, and another sect is made, say with more light, and that is all. It may give more trouble, require more care to treat every case on its merits on the principle of the unity of all Christ’s members, than say “you do not belong to us, you cannot come”; but the whole principle of meeting is gone. The path is not of God.
I have heard, and I partly believe it, for I have heard some rash and violent people say it elsewhere, that the various sectarian celebrations of the supper are tables of devils. But this proves only the unbrokenness and ignorance of him, who says it. The heathen altars are called tables of devils because, and expressly because, what they offered they offered (according to Deut. 32:17) to devils, and not to God. But to call christian assemblies by profession, ignorant it may be of ecclesiastical truth, and hence meeting wrongly, tables of devils is monstrous nonsense, and shews the bad state of him who so talks. No sober man, no honest man, can deny that scripture means something totally different.
I have heard—I do not know whether it be true—that it has been said that the brethren in England act on this ground. If this has been said, it is simply and totally false. There have been new gatherings formed during my absence in America which I have never visited; but the older ones, long walking as brethren, I have known from the beginning have always received known Christians, and everywhere, I have no doubt, the newer ones too, and so in every country. I have known individuals take up the thought, one at any rate at Toronto, but the assembly always received true Christians: three broke bread in this way the last Lord’s day I was in London. There cannot be too much care as to holiness and truth: the Spirit is the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit of truth. But ignorance of ecclesiastical truth is not a ground of excommunication, where the conscience and the walk is undefiled. If a person came and made it a condition to be allowed to go to both, he would not come in simplicity in the unity of the body; I know it to be evil, and cannot allow it, and he has no right to impose any conditions on the church of God. It must exercise discipline as cases arise according to the Word. Nor, indeed, do I think a person regularly going from one to another systematically can be honest in going to either; he is setting up to be superior to both, and condescending to each. That is not, in that act, “a pure heart.”
May the Lord guide you. Remember, you are acting as representing the whole church of God, and if you depart from a right path as to the principle of meeting, separating yourselves from it is to be a local sect on your own principles. In all that concerns faithfulness, God is my witness, I seek no looseness; but Satan is busy to lead us one side or the other, to destroy the largeness of the unity of the body, or to make it mere looseness in practice and doctrine; we must not fall into one in avoiding the other. Reception of all true saints is what gives its force to the exclusion of those walking loosely. If I exclude all who walk godlily as well, who do not follow with us, it loses its force, for those who are godly are shut out too.
There is no membership of brethren. Membership of an assembly is unknown to scripture. It is members of Christ’s body. If people must be all of you, it is practically membership of your body. The Lord keep us from it; that is simply dissenting ground.
Ever, beloved brother,
I should, if I came to——, require clear evidence what ground you are meeting upon.
Kingston, April 19th, 1869.
* * * * *
My dear Brother,—I was very glad to get your account of the brethren: I need not say my interest is only increased by absence. As to——, I am not aware I said anything that shewed I could break bread there. I do make a difference between the meeting and him; if the meeting was sound, I might go and get it to deal with him. Why is it to be judged for his doctrine unless it has intelligently accepted it? I attach great importance to the body. I might avoid the place, if there was no way of dealing with it, as Paul did at Corinth—not going to the evil, but looking first to its correction. Have brethren informed themselves, and dealt with the conscience of the gathering? I do not know that I could go, but I should riot judge the gathering till the gathering had been dealt with. Brethren may have done this, but has any one competent to meet him, “to convince gainsayers,” dealt with the gathering itself? I gave six weeks to Plymouth, going to Guernsey before I left it, nor did till W. H. wrote to H. that I had tried to turn them into a dissenting meeting, and get the body itself to judge evil, and that they could not judge elders. Then I left, because avowedly as a body they refused to do it. We owe it to these poor saints to deliver all, or any possible, if we can. But it should not be merely rejection of——’s notions, the extent of which I am ignorant of (though I hear he has gone forward in error), but care for the poor saints there and the gathering he is corrupting…
The brethren in London cannot judge the gathering as such, but they can seek to deliver the poor of the flock, and deal individually with him as with any saint anywhere. We have dealt with loose assemblies when the case arose, and quite right—it was keeping clear ourselves—cannot be too decided. What brethren have to do now is to seek the deliverance of these souls if the Lord may help them to it, and with——to deal individually for his good, in discipline, if the question arises by his presence anywhere, so that it is called for. Individuals of course can deal with them according to what is given them. But—— should understand that discipline arises for an assembly when its purity is in question. Public teachers of error may always be dealt with individually as such; when I say always, I mean of course under God’s guidance.
Barbadoes is really interesting. There was a great desire to hear, and many declared they had never heard the real gospel before; some were added every Lord’s day. They are very united and happy together… I trust there was blessing at Demerara, but it was not manifested as at Barbadoes. Moravians, Wesleyans, Establishment came in considerable numbers, and there were some strange cases. Some have been brought to the point where they own the truth, and it is a question of taking up the cross, losing a school, etc. There is some gift in the assembly when matured and developed. I believe dear——will have a work of filling up, as we, at least I, could only give great outlines of truth, though seeking to bring it practically to the hearers. The attention is always great.
We are now at Jamaica, in a pleasant country house, outside the town at the sea (or harbour) side, with cocoa nuts, great cactus hedges, mocking birds, etc., and a magnificent country all around, mountain and wood, but a wretched population, but things looking up a little—more confidence. I must close for the present, as I have many letters for this boat
The work in Canada is remarkable.
Ever, dear——, affectionately yours.
Kingston, April, 1869.
* * * * *
At last, dear——, I take up my pen to write a line to you in reply, to your letter. As to your Brahmapootras, I feel it must have been a great chagrin to you, but as you had to reproach yourself—though this does not always soften our misfortunes—it has left you nothing to say. I feel with you in it. But even in these little things we have to see the Lord’s hand, for nothing is little to Him which affects the souls of His children. How did you feel when you found it out in the morning—vexed, irritated, angry with those who did it or wishing vengeance against them? All this, you see, shews the state of your mind, and this is the real importance of the matter. I feared these Brahmapootras for you, not that there was anything wrong in keeping or taking care of them, but from the effect on your own spirit. The poor fowls were very innocent, and so is taking care of them. But I feared your heart had got engaged in them in a way that was doing you mischief, and now the Lord has taken them away. How good He is, to think even of the effect of fowl-keeping on your soul that lives for ever!
With regard to Lacrosse, healthy exercise for boys of your age is quite to be desired, but here too, I feared, and you have learned a lesson by this too. How many we have to learn in a way humbling to ourselves! And I am so thankful to see the Lord teaching you, and even in your letter I think I see the effect of it, and bless the Lord. I was very glad to get it. I could not have advised you to stay away, but I am not sorry you did; it is always well conscience should work, and the doubt you were brought into as to salvation will quicken your conscience and make you more watchful, and not only so, but make you feel your dependence on grace every moment, and help you to discern why such or such a thing is to be avoided; for you are now growing a great boy, and have to be exercised for yourself before God; and walking with a conscience exercised before Him, you will find yourself happy and strengthened too. I am glad you are in correspondence with ——. At your age you need companions, and our hearts get knit with some, and it is a great point it should be with those who help and do not hinder us.
At Barbadoes we had a good deal of blessing. Here, though the brethren are walking well enough as to walk, things are pretty dead around, they need more spirituality themselves. I have been a hundred miles through the island, which is a magnificent one, and beginning after much misery to revive a little. After all, the coloured people and houses are not nearly as wretched as in Demerara, which is very prosperous.
In many parts here inns are not to be had, but I got on very well, only it is very expensive. Commonly, if people go a tour, they buy a carriage and horses, and sell them when it is over; conveyances there are none, I only found one. Kindest love to all. I remember all the kindness I received, dear——, with the same affection to you all as ever… The Lord be with you and keep you.
Ever affectionately yours in the Lord.
Jamaica, May 26th.
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[From the French.
* * * I believe that the bread remains simply and absolute bread, and the wine, wine—that, physically, there is no change whatever in the elements. To seek for material and physical things in such a precious institution of the Lord is, to my mind, a poor and miserable manner of regarding it. I have a charming portrait of my mother, which reminds me of her just as she was. If I am told of the canvas or the colouring. I should feel that those who spoke thus knew nothing about it. That would not be my mother. That which is precious in it to me is my mother herself; and they turn my attention from her to the means employed to recall her to me; and the reason is, that they have no idea of what my mother is to me. The portrait has no value except as far as it is a good representation of her who is not there. I say, It is my mother. I could not throw it aside as a mere piece of canvas; I discern my mother in it. I cherish this portrait; I carry it with me; but if I stop at the perfection of the painting as a work of art, the link with my heart is lost.
There is more than this in the Supper of our Lord, because the Lord is really present with us in it spiritually according to the intention of the institution; and this is very precious. But it has pleased Him to give us a physical means by which we may be reminded of Him, so that I am authorised to speak of a portrait by way of comparison. I have still further authority to repel the idea of any physical change in the bread and wine, in that the Lord has said, in John 6, which you have quoted, “The Spirit quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing.” The verses of this chapter, however, which speak of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, do not speak at all of the Lord’s supper, but of Christ: I am, I do not say persuaded, but sure of this. The supper speaks of that of which the chapter speaks; but the chapter does not speak of the supper—the symbol—but of the thing symbolised. This is perfectly evident; one has only to read the chapter to see it. If the application that has been made of it to the supper be correct, then not one of those who have partaken of it would be lost, and he who had not partaken of it would be lost, whatever he might be; and those who participate of it would not only be blessed, but they would be eternally saved. (See vers. 53, 54.) further, the Saviour says that it is of Himself, come down from heaven, that He speaks (not of the supper)—of the same Person who will ascend up where He was before in heaven. (Vers. 35-41, 48, 51, 58-62.)
The Supper presents Christ in only one of these conditions, but in that which is, so to speak, central: it presents to us a dead Christ; but this foundation of all, this precious truth, which could be a motive even for the Father Himself to love Christ—this fact that it is a dead Christ which is presented to us, is the proof that we could not have a living Christ presented to us in the elements. This would be to deny the state of death, and to destroy the object and intention of the institution. This institution presents to us the death of Christ —a dead Christ—His body broken and His blood shed; but there exists no dead Christ. He desires that we should remember Him: “Do this in remembrance of me;” but I do not speak of the remembrance of Christ living in heaven. I live by Him; He is my life; I enjoy communion with Him; I dwell in Him; He dwells in me: there is no separation. If, through my folly, communion is interrupted, it is no question of remembering Him, but of being with Him anew—with a Saviour who manifests Himself to us as He does not to the world.
And see where these poor Roman Catholics (and I love them much) have been brought by their material explanation of this precious institution. They wish it should be taken according to the letter (“the letter killeth”); so they take away, in the literal sense, the blood; they do not drink the cup: and this is very important, because the fact that the blood is out of the body is the sign of death—of the efficacious work of Christ; we are reconciled, justified by the blood. In order to compensate for this loss, they teach that the body, soul, blood, and divinity of Jesus Christ are in [each of] the two kinds. Now, if the blood is in the body, there is no redemption; without their knowing it, their sacrament is a sacrament of the non-accomplishment of redemption. This is the effect of materialising this institution. There is no greater proof of the manner in which Satan makes sport of men, when they leave the Spirit for the flesh, than this fact, which is the centre of the Roman Catholic system. I affirm positively that their Eucharist is a sacrament, not of redemption, but of non-redemption. If you tell me that many among them think of the Saviour, of the efficacy of His death, I rejoice to believe it; but for this they must quit the materialism of their system for the thoughts of faith. They think, then, of the blood shed, and they drink it; they think of a Saviour dead, and a body broken, and they really eat His flesh. Satan has not in this case—blessed be God!—been able to hide from their faith that which is denied in the form to which they attach so much value.
It is the same thing in John 6 as in chapter 3, where we are said to be born of water. If that is applied to baptism, then we are born of God by the water. It is the same system everywhere—a system which the enemy has introduced into the church to destroy the necessity and the power of a real work in the heart, and to reduce Christianity to the level of Judaism; that is to say, to a religion of forms, adding to these forms a pretension, which is not found even in Judaism, to confer on man that which Christianity alone gives him. Baptism [they say] procures for us that of which John 3 speaks, whereas it is said (John 15) we are cleansed by the word; “the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26), which reveals the Word living, dead and raised again for us.
Now, do we by this diminish the importance or the sweetness of this institution? Quite the contrary; we hinder the materialising of it, and we insist that the spiritual realisation, or that which it represents, be in the heart, instead of that which is called an opus operatum, which is purely material. We are united to a Christ glorified; this is the point of departure: there is no longer a dead Christ; death has no more dominion over Him. I enjoy communion with a glorified Christ; I am one with Him; I shall be like Him. I rejoice; my heart is full of love at the thought of seeing Him, at the hope of the glory of waking up in His likeness. Shall I, therefore, forget His death and His sufferings? God forbid! It is precisely this which binds us to Christ by the most tender affections. There where He had to suffer and to do everything, He was alone; my heart at least will be with Him. He does not ask me to be one with Him there; I could not have been. There He was willing to be alone—blessed be His name!—and He has accomplished all. But the heart which would give itself for me there is the same which thinks of me now, and which loves me. In remembering His death, His love, His sufferings, what shall I say?—divine though human! I am united in heart with Him there, where He is, on high; it is not another person, another love. Whether in the supper, where We remember Him in such a peculiar and touching way, or whether at other moments, when I think of His death, when I eat Him as dying for me, I am in communion with Him living, and I realise the love of Him who lives—that same love, that same heart of the Saviour; I dwell in Him, and He in me. It is not said exactly, “Do this in remembrance” of my death, but “of me.” Still we remember Him on the earth, in His incarnation, in His life of humiliation, and finally and specially as dead on the cross. I remember Him!—not Him in the heavens, but Him who lives in heaven as once humbled and dead for me: there is also a certain action of the heart—we eat. In John 5, the Son of God quickens whom He will: here (chap, 6) we eat the bread come down from heaven; we eat His body, and we drink His blood.
It is most important to understand that it is a dead Christ, who in this state exists no longer, because we cannot have any relationship with a Christ living on the earth. If even as Jews we had had this relationship, we should have been obliged to say with Paul, “Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” Death has put an end to all the relations of Christ with the world, according to the flesh, and He lives now as Head of a new race—the second Man. Thus then, in John 6:53, the Lord lays down, as a necessary condition of life, the eating of His flesh, and the drinking of His blood—receiving Him in His death. Hence we remember Him before His resurrection; we are united to Him, as living, after His resurrection; as He has said, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Thus our union is with a Christ glorified; we do not know Him otherwise f but the most powerful spring of affection for the heart is a Christ, man in the world, and a dead Christ. I am nourished by this; I eat it, and I live by this; but if we wish to bring back, so to speak, a Christ such as He has been in this world, as present, we overthrow entirely the intention of this institution, and even Christianity itself. Every time that we eat this bread and drink this cup, we shew the Lord’s death till He come; but if we will introduce a living Christ to animate this dead one, so to speak, we destroy Him. Why then is it said, “They discern not the Lord’s body?” What body? His dead body. A perfect love, His accomplished work, an obedience which was arrested by no difficulty, present themselves to our eyes! Is there anything else there but a dead body? … If so, I know not where I am, nor what the supper means. Do not animate it with the life that Christ had before death: His obedience was not yet-finished, nor His work accomplished, nor His love perfectly demonstrated. Do not animate it with the life of a Christ now risen: you take Him from me as dead; death is no more there —death which is the basis of salvation, the proof of obedience, the glorification of God. Take not from me this death, this body broken, this blood for ever shed, which tells me that all is accomplished, and—through the love of my Saviour—that sin is put away for ever. If you can lead me to grasp yet more firmly what is precious in this dead Saviour, in the death of Him who is the eternal Son of God; if you can make me eat Him with more faith, more spiritually, with more divine intelligence, more heart—ah! I shall be very grateful to you; but let it be my dead Saviour that is left to me! When one is in communion with Him living, there is nothing so precious as His Death; yes, precious even to God. “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.” For my spiritual intelligence it is the end of, or rather the proof and the consciousness that I have done with, the first Adam; that the first creation no longer exists—blessed be God!—for faith: for the heart it is the tender and perfect love of the Saviour. I am no more either Jew or Gentile, or a man living on the earth, I am a Christian. The death of Christ, Head of all, has put an end to the first creation. He has introduced us into a new creation as firstfruits united to Him.
I discern then the body of the Lord, but the body of the Lord broken—His blood shed—His death. It is not an ordinary repast, a simple remembrance, if you will, but an institution that Christ has given to His own; not that they may find in the elements anything else than the bread and the fruit of the vine, but that their faith may, in the sweetest way, by the power of the Holy Spirit, nourish itself by Jesus, by that which He has been for them when He died upon the cross—a work of which the efficacy remains eternally, even to the Father’s eye, but of which the love is all for us. If I treat this memorial with lightness, I am guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, for it is that body and blood which are presented to me in it.
I doubt if there is any one in the world who enjoys the Lord’s supper more than I do (though I doubt not that there is with many more piety); but that which makes me enjoy it is that it presents to me the body and blood of my Saviour dead, and consequently a perfect love and a perfect work. But He cannot be in His dead body, which I discern there by faith. He is in me, that I may enjoy Him; if He is introduced living, that which I ought to discern no longer exists. All this is in .connection with the fact of the entirely new position of the living Christ—a doctrine which Paul presents to us with such divine energy, and which the enemy has always sought to hide, even under the form of piety, and for the preservation of which Paul so contended. What anguish he suffered from the efforts of the enemy to draw souls back to Judaism, as if they were still living in the world! “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”
May God give us to discern yet more the body of Jesus— to eat His flesh and to realise His death more! Yes: this death is precious. It meets us in our need just as we are, and it delivers us from it by introducing us there, where He is, in the power of a new life which by His death knows not the old.
I have written you at much length. I could willingly enlaige on this subject, for instead of thinking lightly of the supper of the Lord, it is of all institutions the most precious to me; only to be so it must be a dead Saviour that is presented to me in it. I am living with Him now in heaven.
There is another aspect—the unity of the body—which I have not touched on, though it be a precious side of the truth of this institution of the Lord: but it is outside your question. I hope you may, at least, apprehend the ground of my thought, though I write in great haste.
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Dear Brethren,—All exclusive points are out of place at the Lord’s fable. It is clear Christ’s death is before us; but eij" thVn ejmhVn ajnavmnhsin, or eij" thVn ajnavmnhsivn mou does not affect the question as to whether it is a remembrance of Himself or only of His death. One way or the other, ejmhvn is “of me;” and whether it be ejmhvn or mou, the only difference is that putting ejmhvn before makes it somewhat more emphatic and contrasted. It was not to be done in remembrance of deliverance from Egypt, as the passover was, but in remembrance of Him, “in my memory.” But the simple answer to this link breaking out of the sentence is, that there is nothing about it in it. The Greek does net mean breaking every link with the creation, and says nothing about it: that is a simple fact. Should any one press it as a consequence, if led by the Spirit of God, all well—and shew that Christ death involved it; if it be so is another matter, but it is no; in that sentence. I am not quite sure that I understand it, and though I am quite disposed to see a right intention in those who taught it, for it was breaking with the world, I doubt a little that they do any more. My impression is that their intention is right, and that they aim at an important truth; but I cannot go quite so fast as some.
When He comes again and takes this earth, and governs it and blesses it, it is as Himself risen: that is true; but you can hardly call this world then the new creation. ‘The link of life in Him with this world was broken’: but then I should be a little shy of speaking of His being linked with it at any time, though coming into it as a true man, born of a woman, for the suffering of death, and partaking (paraplhsivw") of flesh and blood. But He says, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” And again, “Ye are of this world, I am not of this world.” “Ye are from beneath, I am from above.” Yet, I repeat, I believe the object to be right; that is, that we are crucified to the world, and the world to us: at least, I am quite ready to suppose so. But I affirm positively it is not in eij" thvn ejmhvn ajnavmnhsin; though it be in death He is symbolised before us, it is Him we remember, and I doubt that the form in which it is put could be made good from scripture; and scripture is wiser than we are. But, as an effect, it does imply our having died to this world; for we shew forth the Lord’s death till He come.
But I cannot admit with this absoluteness, that every Christian is, according to scripture, dead to the old creation, because his body is of the old creation. We are waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body. I see it held up as desirable that a man should live absolutely in the power of the Spirit and know nothing else. Still “he that marrieth does well.” Of what creation is that? And he that forbids to marry does very ill. I see two things: God’s part in the old creation as yet fully recognised; marriage as “at the beginning”; children; amiable nature (the Lord loved the young man, when He looked on him); but, a power brought in wholly above and out of it. If one lives according to this—all well; it is to be desired; but to condemn the former is to condemn God. Sin has come in and spoiled it; and there is thus hindrance, care, sorrow in the flesh, that is true; but God ordered it in the beginning, and God owns what He ordered, till He brings in something Hew. Dead to sin, to the world, to the law—this I find in scripture; but not to the old creation. And this is the place of every Christian, and he is to hold himself so. But dead to the old creation, God does not say; for it is God’s creation, and every creature of God is good. Live above it; in its present state, all well, and better, if it be given to us: but death to the first creation, and breaking every link with it, is not true, whilst we are in the body. Scripture does not say so, and scripture, I say again, is much wiser than we are. There is a new creation, and, as in Christ, we are of it— I think we may say, the firstfruits of it—“of his creatures,” at any rate. KainhV ktivsi": it is a very singular expression. (2 Cor. 5:17.) It is not “he is,” as in English, but merely affirms its existence and character for one in Christ: but then when it goes on to say He died, it is not to the old creation; but “he who knew no sin was made sin”; and elsewhere, “In that he died, he died unto sin once.”
It is wise and safe not to go beyond scripture. Fresh truths and mighty powers fill our sails, and it is well; but they may, if we trust them and the consequences we draw, carry our minds on to rocks hidden underneath the surface. The word of God checks, or keeps us rather, in the right and safe course. The first intentions may be right; but when not so kept, when one’s mind is trusted, it may run into open ungodliness—the common result of the human mind being trusted with mighty truths, or rather trusting itself with them; and in these days this has to be watched…
It is a very humbling thing to think how always at the first what God has set up was spoiled. We have only the power of good in the midst of evil, till the Lord comes, when power is not, rest is. But Philadelphia marks our state; and as we find truth spreading, decision in walk and waiting for Christ (not the doctrine merely of His coming) will be the test. Devotedness, heavenly-mindedness—these are what we must look for. The foolish virgins were awake with the wise, but not ready. I have no doubt the doctrines we hold are penetrating widely. It is another thing to have the heart in heaven and to depart front evil on earth.
* * * * *
* * * Baptism and the Lord’s supper (1 Cor. 10) are for the wilderness. One introduces into the wilderness, but it is Christ’s death, not mine only. I thereon reckon myself dead as a consequence, planted in baptism in the likeness of His. But we have not in Romans resurrection with Him; and, even where we have, as I think we must say in Colossians 2, no ascension, no Canaan.
As the one brings into, the other sustains in, the wilderness. So we shew forth Christ’s death till He come. I am on the earth, but in the consciousness of being a member of the one body, which implies union with Christ; but it is on earth I celebrate it, not in heaven; that is, not as being there myself. I look at the humiliation as over with Him, but remember Him in it. Our service in it is simply owning the preciousness of His death, till He come. Our state is in resurrection; but we are occupied and celebrate His having been once down here and shew forth His death. The question is, Where are we when we celebrate it? In the wilderness.
* * * * *
Beloved Brother,—As regards all the excitement, it will pass away. I said to brethren, Do not oppose, it will find its level, and we may try and deepen the work where superficial. Two of the most ardent in it are thoroughly cured. Evangelising is blessed work, and God bears with many errors and extravagancies in it, though they are to be regretted. One evil is that people so brought in, if real, require excitement and preaching always. But all finds its level. The excitement will die away, but God’s work will remain. We have only to pursue an even way, and evangelise better if we can. I distrust myself a little as to it, I so dislike excitement. Still my judgment clearly disapproves. I must not forget that the action of the Spirit and drunkenness are twice compared in scripture. Yet I am sure the scriptural way of preaching was far different from all this.
I have spoken of admission to communion. Everywhere some are too large, some too narrow. In waiting on the Lord we shall be guided. 2 Timothy 2 greatly helps us, and recollecting that we do not “receive” properly, but own God’s receiving, and maintain godliness —adequate testimony to this is what I want, judging all evil.
The doors are largely opened in these kingdoms. I only arrived in London yesterday, have twenty letters to read and answer. I still hope I may see Canada and America yet again. I am greatly attached to the first, and ought to be so from the kindness I received. I am in my sixty-ninth year, but better if anything than heretofore, and if still well and strong, next year may see me out. again. But who can speak, save under God’s will, of next year: if in heaven, how far better. I have through grace been getting more and more light on scripture, but my heart is more in work, than always teaching in such things as reading meetings: I am more nothing, and alone with God in the former.
May He graciously lead us in all things. The Lord be very near you, beloved brother.
Ever affectionately yours.
London, June 5th, 1869.
* * * The Lord will take care of Toronto as of everything else, and He does not mistake in discipline. It felt the contre-coup of what there was of excitement in the work that went on, and tested its particular state by that means. We can pray and look to the Head for it, and then are sure to find grace and help. You must look, dear brother, more directly to Christ. See Paul in the Galatians, whom he could not even salute nor say good of—first he says, “I stand in doubt of you,” then, “I have confidence in you through the Lord.” The Lord has a present government which is often very humbling for us: but He has a long look out, and it is grace and faith looks out after it. “Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord.” We must take courage: you have not even to say with Paul, “I have no man like-minded.” The world had a great deal too much influence, as it was at——.
But to return: just look at Israel in the plains of Moab. What murmurings and complainings, stiff-necked and rebellious since the day Moses knew them. On high “how goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! … as the trees of lign aloes which Jehovah hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters.” “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither… perverseness in Israel.” This does not excuse us; our judgment of ourselves is in the plain; but it encourages us in being with God for the people. We get the vision of the Almighty. I have been struck often, how individual souls grow in adverse circumstances, and that is the first point with God, though we ought as a whole to have the order and beauty of God upon us…
I do not wish you to rest on your oars; God forbid. But see after all what was there a few years back, to say nothing of the States. What I dread for all of us is the world, loss of earliest undividedness, not exactly in spirit, but in way and habit and testimony. I know no word more settling to the soul than “Be careful for nothing.” How often have I found it so, when I have said, How possibly for Church sorrows?— “For nothing.” And it is not, if you can find His will, ask; but present your requests to God, and His peace shall keep your hearts.
* * * * *
[From the French.
Beloved Brother,—I was glad of the news you give me from Italy. I greatly hope to be able to go there, but God only knows whether it may be, and when. I was much afraid that I might have to go back to America: I counted upon God, however, and He has put His good hand where the enemy had sought to bring in, and, for a time, had brought in ruin. I intend to go to France, but I have Germany also in view, where they are rather complaining of my prolonged absence. Just now I am busy about the new edition of my New Testament: they are waiting for me for this, and it will detain me for the present. Correcting for the press others can undertake, but the verifying of all my fresh notes, and of the little corrections which I have been obliged to make, requires my own attention. Very possibly next year, if God keeps me strong, I shall go again to Canada and the United States. There has been some blessing in the West Indies, and they were encouraged by our visit…
There have been very humbling cases of discipline in Switzerland; but that is better than to have sin covered up; still it is sad, and ought to humble those who are not humble. Nevertheless, God is always good and faithful, and very patient with us—when we think of His holiness, He must be indeed, since we are such a poor expression of the life of Jesus.
There are two principles of christian life; Philippians and Ephesians; according to the point of view from which the Christian is looked at. He passes through the wilderness, looks towards the glory, and follows it; desires rather to win Christ. He is seated in heavenly places: he must manifest the character of God as he knows Him—“Be ye imitators of God, as dear children.” What a position! This requires that we should do as Paul did, that we should always bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus. Christ is the perfect expression of it, God manifest in flesh. The first gives motives which deliver us from the world and the flesh; the second, communion with the springs of those ways of God in which we are to walk —communion with God Himself. Truly, when we see what we are, in comparison with our privileges, we are very small. But, while judging ourselves when needful, we must look at Jesus, not at self.
Your affectionate brother.
London, July 7th, 1869.
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Beloved Brother,—I know well what you mean by what you wrote me of grace and legality in your letter, having passed through it, and so much the more painfully, as it was a dreadful cross to me to address myself to a stranger, and still more in public, so to speak. There was often legality; that is, conscience not grace drove me. But I found if I was near Christ in my soul, I found many opportunities and open doors, that I did not find when I was not. And this made my conscience work when I had difficulties. On the other hand, when conscious that I was with Christ and Christ with me, and at home in the service of His love, I felt more free to use opportunities (the true sense of redeeming the time in Eph. 5), freer and happier, at liberty so to use them, and not forced by conscience to do it when it was only bringing out evil—I do not quite say casting pearls before swine, but at any rate, approaching it, which we are directed not to do. But I am too great a coward to be satisfied with myself in the matter, and have, alas, often had to act from conscience, yet felt happier afterwards; at least, confessing Christ, if not seeking souls in love.
There may be cases where it would be amiss, and it would rather be “but rather rebuke them.” But there is a taking opportunities—but the hearty soul for Christ finds them. I do not say Satan drives, but conscience may, and we may then often do it in an ill way, because there is neither the wisdom nor the love. But I say all this, conscious that I am too great a coward in addressing myself to strangers in public to say a great deal. But I have found by the Lord’s gracious mercy I get the ear of most who were willing to hear when a little time with them. When people see that you will speak of Christ, and use common kindness and courtesy, those who will not draw off, and those at all inclined give occasion to do it. We are according to our gift to preach the gospel to every creature, but there is a guidance; and if whole hearted in that, I may leave Mysia and Bithynia and Asia, and go to Macedonia, without my conscience upbraiding me, whereas, if I am not, my conscience may upbraid me for Mysia and Bithynia, though I ought not really to have gone there. “If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”
In these last days it seems as if God allowed much pressure on spirits to go to all, but regularly there is the thought of the claim of God, not merely the claim of souls, and then one is guided of Him who has the claim. When that is there, it is, “Woe is me if I preach not the gospel”; but we do it guided of Him who has the claim over us. At any rate, our gracious God will accept a service poorly rendered by conscience, but we ought to serve Him well.
In public service another check is away. There was, and is in many places, the world against, and no civil rights, religious liberty, to plead. This is often a great snare, though not so great as cowardice through want of faith. Englishmen often do mischief through this; they force the world to leave the gospel free, and the work is hindered. The Lord uses this for testimony, and even to send the testimony elsewhere. Christianity has no rights but God’s in the world, and that is in a rejected Saviour, who indeed has all power, but has left the cross behind Him in the earth. With the consciousness of this, and love for souls, we can go on with faith, but for Him. And where He has no place we have none. We must submit as He did. And He opens, and no man shuts, and shuts, and no man opens. Where little strength is, yet boldness with great mistakes, God has owned, and I am far enough from it to honour it greatly. They hinder themselves sometimes, but they do a great deal more of God’s work. Some of it does not sometimes last so well. I do not doubt our hearts can be puffed up in doing feats.
1 have seen this. We are called to serve more than to do, and in serving to follow. I look for patience (it was the first mark of apostolic service) and guidance, but I see such a thing as great boldness in Christ Jesus. Of course, when the flesh comes in, Satan can use it, if grace preserve not. But the difficulty I have found is conscience driving when there was not peaceful love enough, enough of Christ to do it wisely. But there is a light boasting of preaching adventures in the world sometimes, which is painful.
As to Matthew 25, I cannot doubt a moment that it is the separation of the wicked and righteous—in a word, goats and sheep. “Them” (ver. 32) is merely those who compose them: indeed in Greek it does not agree with nations. We have the same form in other cases. As to the knowledge of Christ, it was very imperfect. Still He was looked for, but connected with judgment. The gospel preached was the everlasting gospel —Revelation 14—answering to the judgment on the serpent in paradise: (Psa. 96 and Matt, 24)—“this gospel of the kingdom.” It was now too late to have the other gospel, so to call it. They had not to do with Antichrist, at least, only in a distant way. He was in Palestine, and subservient to the beast out of the bottomless pit, and these were judged by Christ coming from heaven, the rest1 by Christ sitting on His throne when come.
Everlasting life is always life in Christ for ever, but we get it in heaven. Two words are translated “world to come” in N.T. In Luke 18:30 it is the age to come, Messiah’s time, which may be in heaven. “The world to come, whereof we speak” (Heb. 2), is the habitable world to come, which is of course down here. Life in Christ (He is eternal life—1 John 1, John 1) may be on earth, as Matthew 25, or in heaven, as “the end everlasting life,” and elsewhere. It is only twice spoken of in O.T., Psalm 133 and Daniel 12, both referring to the millennium, namely, on earth…
I find the person of the Lord more and more everything in the word. It is unspeakably blessed to see Him, and God revealed in Him, in this world. How wondrous to have God revealed in a man amongst us. The whole Trinity was first fully revealed when He took His place in the first right step of His poor returning people in grace, and became the model of our standing here—Son, owned of the Father, anointed and sealed of the Holy Ghost: all heaven open, only no object above for Him as for Stephen, but Himself the great object of heaven down here. Then in that place, He takes another part—conflict with the enemy. What a testimony to the word too, that one verse is sufficient for the Lord, as authority as the obedient man, for Satan, to leave him not a word.
Peace be with you, dear brother, and mercy and grace. Kindest love to all the saints.
Ever yours affectionately in the Lord.
* * * * *
* * * In 2 Corinthians 4:1 diakoniva is the apostle’s ministry, but the ministry of, and characterised by, what he speaks of. This is a common ambiguity in English. Hope is what passes in my mind—faith, hope, etc.—but my hope is laid up in heaven. ‘Thought a good thought’ is thought objectively; ‘a man of much thought,’ is the habit of thinking in the man, and so of others. In chapter 3 the subject matter, law or gospel, is the ministration, diakoniva, that is, the thing ministered, but it was ministered by Paul, and therefore his ministry. A candle was lit up in a lantern: it was itself the light—the candle’s light—but his light because he carried it. God had shone in his heart to give forth the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. His ministry was this knowledge, still he ministered it, and so it was his ministry.
The bringing the stones from Gilgal was merely a provision of material—what was brought out of death: we are quickened together with Christ, but it was only the essential character of the stones provided; but the action with them was as much Joshua’s as the other. (Josh. 4:20.) It was Christ’s work in the power of the Spirit in both cases—namely, the memorial was: only one, having been in death (only dry and an entrance into the new and heavenly thing for us), the other, turning back to know whence we were drawn. The second twelve are Ephesians; the first, Romans.
As to Philistines, I suppose it is from phalas to migrate. They came up from Caphtor in the direction of Egypt—called Philistines because they were strangers. The Canaanites represent Satan’s power over which the people of God are victorious, as God’s army fighting for God—taken as enemies, treated as such—Satan simply in power. The Philistines are the thorns of Satan’s power where he has not been overcome—left and not treated as an enemy. They become an abiding source of distress and perplexity, having more power than Israel, though when God interferes they may be beaten as by Samuel, or put down when Christ comes as by David. They are the allowed evil of Satan’s power, not the power of Satan banished or overcome by spiritual energy.
There are no specific scriptures that I know that state that the Holy Ghost will abide in us for ever. But its action in spiritual power is essential to our power in life. The Spirit is life, and it surely is not to be taken away as power of enjoyment in heaven. The law of the Spirit of life has made me free. The passage that made me see it was Acts 1:2, where Christ gave commandments by the Holy Ghost after His resurrection; and we are to be fully conformed to Him. We do get it in the Ephesians: the truth as in Jesus is putting off the old man and putting on the new. Only it comes in more, by the bye, because we are looked at as in heaven, and circumcision is the application of that to our place on earth or tendency of flesh to it. In Ephesians we come out as manifesting God’s character, the Holy Ghost dwelling in us. You have not the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in Colossians, but life. He is pressing their completeness there in Christ upon them, and so speaks of it; they had circumcision as viewed in Christ…
1 Timothy 3:15. The Son of the living God is what the church was built upon. It is the power which has brought it above dying man, and withal is abiding. It is a term of power and dignity above idols, above death in man. We trust in the living God. We are converted to serve the living and true God. Well, this is His assembly on earth. See Acts 14:15, or take a concordance and see living God.
As to John 1, 2, and 20, 21: the first is wholly earthly and with Israel, John’s testimony and Christ’s and the witnesses, and then His connection with Jews and temple on His return. John 20, 21—rather the contrary—gathers His disciples after His resurrection, and is in their midst, and blessed are they that have not seen but have believed—Thomas only representing the Jewish remnant, and fish already on shore when the Lord comes. It is not the Church formed—that never in John—but an intimation of resurrection work, not a simply earthly one. There are no days in John 20, 21, but three consecutive scenes pointing to a Christ known as having left them as walking here, though walking as yet with them in resurrection, not uniting by the Holy Ghost.
Daniel 7, “Most High.” The words are different in Hebrew, that is, plural and singular; verse 18 plural—heavenly, high, places. Verse 22 plural. Verse 25, first time singular, second plural, that is, with saints it is so. Verse 27 plural: the only difiiculty, because it is elyonin not elyon—that is, singular, His kingdom, not plural.
I was very glad to hear of the work in ——. Though accompanied by what craved excitement and was likely to sink down to its own real proportions, I did not doubt there was a real work in the Revival, but no Church to receive them. I trust in a measure that is the case in Canada. ——is gone out, whose gift and heart is to care for saints.
Affectionately yours in haste.
London, July 23rd, 1869.
* * * * *
* * * I rejoice with all my heart in the grace shewn to you and to her, in the case of your dear child. I feel, too, deeply, the anxiety attending the young being brought into a path in which they have to follow Christ, before they have tried and broken with this vain and empty world, which a young imagination, and a heart as yet unwearied by it, suppose may give some real joy. If Christ have taken a strong hold the path is simple, and the young may be saved many a pang. If Christ’s, they will surely learn the world is nothing, and its friendship enmity with God; but it is better, and happier, to learn it in the blessed company of Christ than in regrets on a dying bed, or a heart repentant at loss and unfaithfulness. I do not expect young Christians to have learned everything, but the Lord expects them to be faithful to the light they have got. “And to him that hath shall more be given.”
As to going through the world as a trial and exercise of faith, we have all to do it. It is like the ordinary, sinfulness of our hearts, and ministering to it, a process through which we have all to go, to have our senses exercised to discern good and evil, and Christ become everything to us, and we more like Him. Oh, how surely we shall feel it that day, that all that was not a heart given to Him was loss and wretchedness. I trust your child sees that in Christ our acceptance is perfect and full, as our sins are wholly put away, but with that we are His; and in feeding on Him, looking forward to His glory to give energy on our road, and feeding on Him as the patient and crucified One to abide in Him, we find in a lowly, gracious, and for that very reason, firm life, the bright hope of transforming glory.
As to judging of those around (worldly Christians), their state is judged in the scripture. But if we get near to the Lord, if we are in communion with God within in the holy place, we see all saints with His eyes, as dear to Him, washed in Christ’s blood, and His in the power of the Holy Ghost, and they are clothed by faith and desire with what belongs to Him, objects of Christ’s delight and the fruit of the travail of His soul; then intercession for them is easy, and faithfulness to them becomes easy and gracious too. But we Cannot judge aright if we are not there: our judgment of certain things may be right, and our rejection of them in our ways, but we judge them without, as forbidden things, and that so far is all right; but within, while this judgment is only deeply strengthened, other thoughts and feelings come in with it which can be had only there. The evil and loss for the saints of the wretched path of worldliness— the dishonour done to the Saviour, the ruin of their testimony —is far more deeply felt, but because they are seen in Christ, not merely because they are wrong. We may fear for them, but the heart will carry them to God, to Christ, because they are His. Moses would not have the people cut off on the top of the mount; he called the faithful to cut them off when below, and both for the same reason. He connected the glory of God with the people—an extreme case no doubt, but which shews us that divinely given love for God’s people on high is the spring of severity even, if needed, below. God’s glory was the plea for and against the people…
Tell —— how unfeignedly rejoiced I am that the gracious Lord has given her the immense privilege of belonging to Him. May He keep her close to Himself, and give her grace to keep herself in the love of God. My kindest love to all the saints. May the Lord consolidate them in the faith, and in one heart, and keep you all very near Himself till He come to receive us to Himself.
* * * * *
Beloved Brother,—I have long purposed to write to you, but if you knew how I have been occupied, you would not be surprised at my having delayed in doing it, and now I can only say a word; but I was anxious to write to you, if it were only to keep up the communication of christian love, in which you have a large place in my heart, which flows out to those around you. Indeed, my heart is greatly knit to the States and God’s people there. It is somewhat a charge on my spirit to be called to the continent of Europe just now, but we are servants, and like soldiers to go where we are bid. The door is opening happily in Italy for work I can take part in, though I am a bad hand at the language; and I owe to the love of brethren in Germany a short visit, which I shall soon (D.V.) pay them. My heart is greatly in America: my comfort is, One can bless according to His heart, and from whom no place can be far. What a comfort that is! His blessing makes rich, and adds no sorrow thereto. I was anxious too about dear ——. He got led away sadly, I fear, in every way, but my heart was not turned away from him but to him. I heard he made a full confession, for there was actual evil besides all the high pretensions of ——’s, which he joined in. I know not if he confessed as to both, but is his soul restored? that is what I am anxious to know.
I find a great difference, both as to the application of the word and as to prayer for ourselves and others, between being in the sanctuary or without. I can apply the word honestly to my ways and comfort as being here, and pray for my wants and the wants of others, as here, and it is all quite right; but I may be within. The word comes down from above, reveals God, and in grace; it does give me light down here in fact, but it can also take me up there, and form my heart, and desires, and spirit, and joys too, with what is there, and so my prayers. If in there, what a place and kind of place, they have in my heart; they are clothed with Christ’s love, with His character, as what they ought to be, as for His glory, and theirs too indeed; and my prayers flow from seeing them in that, that they may be brought into it: the spirit, and character, and love of the place I am in, will be in my prayers. Oh! it is a great privilege, a great blessing. I do not write as if I could do it much, for it is the very thing I have to judge myself in —how little real power of intercession I find in myself, but I see the difference. It is anything but carelessness as to walk, called charity, but charity, about the walk. Though I admit the difference of dispensations, yet I see the identification of the people with God’s glory alone, was the spring of Moses’s prayer; and the same thing made him call the faithful to cut off his neighbour and brother down here. Ours is the one in grace and dependence; be it so, but there is a principle which shews it is not taking evil lightly. New York surely I prayed about in earnest, I was in the West Indies, and could not get there. One thing I can say, if I have worked in a place it is always on my heart. I am old, my brother, but if I am spared my strength yet longer, I should like to see you all at Boston again. The Lord be with you, that is what is good.
The work is proceeding; as to numbers and gatherings, they increase much. Our anxiety is more, a true and consistent testimony. Attacks rather more than ever, but that does not do much harm; they are left unanswered save by God. In Germany too the work has largely increased. You know of Canada better probably than I do. Thank God, the brethren are in general walking well, many young men, and a great and serious desire to hear; but with such a multitude as we have now, it needs great looking to God to keep the world out. The more things go on, the more I feel the need of the testimony of brethren—the one body—God in grace towards all—but a peculiar people also belong to Christ and to a heavenly country; but the more I feel it must be an unworldly testimony, if it is anything at all—a holy people to the Lord, a people who have Christ dwelling in their hearts by faith. But I must close. Kindest remembrances to your circle, dear brother, and to all the saints cordial remembrance in Christ. May the Lord keep and bless them.
Yours affectionately in Him.
* * * * *
[From the French.
* * * I doubt your having ever been stripped of self, in such a way as to rest with holy humility on a righteousness other than your own, the righteousness of God, but which is yours by faith.
This stripping of self is a deep work wrought by God, and by the revelation of what He is. The personal conviction of sin, and the discovery of our misery in the struggle against it, are but the means of reaching it. When I have found that the result of my efforts to attain to holiness—efforts that could not be wanting in a quickened soul—is but the discovery that I do not attain to it, I am compelled (having come in my rags into the presence of God, who desires nothing in us, in His house, but perfect conformity to Christ) to submit that God should be on my neck, and I still in my rags, and that God should clothe me (because that is His good pleasure in His grace) with the “best robe,” with Christ Himself, which did not belong to me either before my sin, or since—no more the robe of Adam innocent than of Adam a sinner, but which was and which is in the treasures of God for those who are called by grace. Then I am called to walk as a son of the house, that is to say, as Christ walked. If we fail, we reproach ourselves for it a thousand times more than when we were outside, hoping to enter the house; but the question of knowing whether I belong to the house is not raised; it is because I do, that sin has so horrible a character in my eyes, so unsuitable to what I am, a child of God thus clothed—so horrible, when I think of what Christ has suffered on account of that sin.
God speaks to you now by the circumstances through which He is making you pass. Be assured it is in love that He leads you thus, and because He loves you. Remember that Christ is your righteousness from God, but the righteousness of a soul convinced of two things, first that it has no righteousness, and then that it has need of righteousness, need of being at peace with God—a need produced by the consciousness of its sin, without the hint of a desire that God should be less holy than He is.
This is why I said it is a deep work: it makes the soul simple, but it does not find it so. I do not look that you should be able to give an account of it intellectually, but that the thing itself should be done, and that you should find yourself stripped of self by the discovery of sin, leaning upon the righteousness of God which He has made ours, in giving us Christ, our precious Saviour. Peace be to you then in the name of [Him who shed] that precious blood which cleanses from all sin. Be watchful and look to God, opening all your heart to Him in thorough confidence. This is what puts truth into the soul, and He is worthy of it, through His perfect goodness to us.
* * * * *
To the same.]
[From the French.
* * * I need not tell you what real joy it has been to me to learn that you have received peace; so I will not send my answer to your letter. When God has stripped us of ourselves, He has (in His goodness) only to give us peace. It is what we see throughout in the word. Once the soul is in its true state before God, there is always “grace” for it, and nothing but grace.
But now that you are there, without doubting the love of God, there are some precautions to be taken, seeing the way in which you have been shaken. I am glad that you should tremble at the thought that you could lose your happiness. It is a serious thing, whatever be the goodness of God, to find peace with a God of holiness. Christ has made peace; but He would have us feel what it is to have need of it, in order that we may know it. Our hearts are so subtle and wicked, that following on peace comes negligence. We feared sin before, and now that we are freed from this heavy burden, we go forward not only more easily, but alas, often carelessly. Rejoice before God, and not without God, for the peace which He has given you; rejoice in trembling. It is the means of preserving peace, by grace. Moreover, pay great attention, never to say anything that goes beyond your experience; nothing is of more importance for our own souls.
Neither let the work lead you on to be occupied with other people, in such a way as to neglect yourself. It is before God that you have found peace; it is before God, also, that we keep peace, in the sense of the enjoyment of the true assurance of His favour. “Take heed,” said the apostle, “unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Tim. 4:16.) If you do so, it will be a lesson for the brethren, and a lesson more real than much preaching. Yes, dear brother, above all, keep your soul before God. Do not think that the work depends on you; see how it has been done without you. This does not mean that it would not be a great blessing to work in the Lord’s work, but when we do so, we do so saying that we are servants, and feeling that it is God who does the entire work. Work then; edify others; but do not work beyond your communion. Nothing would be more calculated to make you lose peace. Seek to walk “in the fear of the Lord”; it is the beginning of wisdom: it is that which accompanies “the comfort of the Holy Spirit” in the Acts.
On the other hand, do not be surprised or discouraged if you do not always feel all the joy that you experienced at the beginning. There are deeper things in joy than this first satisfaction, because they belong more directly to communion with God Himself; but inasmuch as it is in us, it is of human nature, that the first impression becomes enfeebled. Do not be contented with that. Seek that it may be replaced by a deeper communion, and a fuller revelation of God, but do not be discouraged. Rest on what Christ is, and not on what you feel about it; it is there that you have found peace, it is there that it is kept…
* * * * *
Beloved Brother,—I was very glad to get your letter. The date of mine will explain that my being at Guelph in September is hardly likely, but my heart will be anxiously with you: but I do not know whether anxious is the right word, for one ought to trust the Lord, so faithful, so full of love, and patient goodness with us. But affections will in one sense be anxious, and how unfeigned my affection is for Canada I trust you know; and surely I never became more attached to any place, my heart more linked up with those in it.
It is a time of encouragement—even here it is. For a time there had been a relaxation of energy, not an uncommon thing in individual or Christian communities after the first impulse of grace. But there is considerable re-animation, and our conference (“Guelph” meeting) is largely attended by brethren interested in the truth: many a new generation of saints springing up, and the coming of the blessed Lord has a more actual and practical place. I thought I had done with France, Switzerland, Germany, etc., when I went to America, but I believe the Lord has led me here, and there is a renewal of strength and christian affection. I am to be at a like meeting in France, September 15th, and you may all remember us. Then I have Italy, where the Lord is gathering and raising up more labourers, and Germany. There is a wish to have something like a satisfactory Old Testament in German, and in French. I hardly know how it will be effectually carried out, but it is one object of my visit to Germany. You see my absence from Canada is not idleness. I was very glad to have been in the West Indies. It is, oh! how great a measure of thankfulness to be led of the Lord. The power of evil is in astonishing progress. The boldest denial of all truth alarming Christians; and the world even, anxious and uneasy, and now often considering and inquiring of brethren why they are so quiet and peaceful. Not that we have not many things to deplore, but in sum we are at peace, feeling the evil more in a divine way, but having a kingdom that cannot be moved, a peace which nothing can take away. The brethren have come with cordiality and readiness from all sides to the meeting, which has cheered and encouraged. There are two Englishmen who have thrown themselves in some measure into the work here. Some are going to America.
It is possible I may, now I am growing old, become set apart to sedentary work (though still preaching and teaching), but I do not quite give up seeing you all again. For I am very well, and though I begin to feel the difference of age as to physical exertion, I am for work, thank God, able to go through more than most. This would not as yet hinder me. My difficulty is the rapid progress of the last days, which requires the faithful testimony of those who feel where we are, more perhaps in Europe than elsewhere. Men of the world as well as Christians, feel all things shaking, an irresistible torrent rising, professing Christians at their wits’ ends. The peaceful testimony from a position which God secures is of moment to souls, and however weak it may be individually as such, it tells on people’s hearts. My comfort is, for Canada as for England, that the blessed Lord Himself cares for His people: a poor, feeble folk, but their home is in the rock. God is raising up many active witnesses, and the Lord is more waited for. He Himself fills the heart sufficiently to enable us to forget ourselves; still the present link with Him, I feel, is not sufficiently felt, so as to bring Him out as fresh and full as He is given to us. That is what we have to seek here, and for that it is death working in us—”always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” That we are dead, and in Him, is a simple and blessed truth, but always to bear it about that only He may appear—this is what we have to seek.
I write at intervals in the midst of our conference, so you must not be astonished at my letter bearing the impress of this interruption… I have been thinking of one of the joys of heaven, after Christ—and it will be His joy, seeing of the fruit of the travail of His soul and being satisfied—seeing all the saints perfect according to the heart and mind of God Himself, and His who has sought and saved them. What satisfaction and joy that will be! Truly it is what one’s heart desires now. Then it will be perfectly satisfied, and Christ glorified in it; and this, thank God, will surely be. I have been distinguishing latterly a good deal, the responsibility of man fully met by Christ for us on the cross, and the counsels of God before the foundations of the world (see Prov. 8; Titus 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:9); the cross laying the foundation for their accomplishment—in the incarnation, the ground laid for fulfilling Proverbs 8 What a thought—His delight being in the sons of men, and how fulfilled in the incarnation, and then the cross giving us a part in it; man in glory, and the Father’s house shewing us what it is! Along with perfectly glorifying God, it makes the cross a wonderful place, and grace a wonderful thing; and the old man put off, and the new man put on.
But I must close, as you see. Peace and much blessing, dear brother, be on you and yours: much love to them and to all the saints. May they, and all the Lord’s dear workmen, be abundantly blessed.
Ever yours affectionately in Him.
Geneva, August 25th, 1869.
Dear ——,—I am over-fatigued, though not as two days ago, but take a moment to write. This quiet even is a rest. We had a very good meeting at Geneva. In Switzerland a fresh generation is rising up, and fresh blessing. I had large meetings in the Casino, as the Locale would not contain the numbers, and much attention. We had an improvised meeting at Valence on the way, of a good deal of interest, for two days, and largely attended from the neighbourhood. Those present have demanded to go over the same ground more fully here, so that it met wants. Nothing very new, but great fines of practical truth from Romans, Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Corinthians, etc. Here we began with the end of Isaiah, and now study Romans. An excellent spirit has reigned throughout. I have lectured and preached at many places, between fourteen and fifteen in Switzerland, and Lyons, St. Etienne, Annonay, Montpellier in France, but I was overworked. As to poor——, some minds are apt to be occupied with evil from natural character. It is injurious, but a disposition, like another…
I am very glad that ‘James’3 is coming out. I have had the R. C. controversy at heart; I think not without the Lord. May He use and bless it. There is a desire to hear everywhere. What my desire is, is that the Lord would raise up labourers; He has a claim on us for this after so much grace. Who goes to Jamaica? But He alone can give. I hope a little He is raising up some new ones here, a hope He has encouraged, but it is as yet only a hope. We are growing old. From Valence I am from hand to mouth, but He sustains me, but my brain is overwrought… Our meeting is, I trust, telling on souls as to the truth in a certain reviving power.
Au Vigan, September 16th, 1869.
* * * * *
My dear——,—I have delayed answering your letter, partly because I have been excessively occupied, more even than usual, and partly because I was minded to visit my fresh sphere of labour before doing so. I rejoiced in getting your letter. I had heard of the blessing in different places through the gospel, but rejoiced to find that it had roused you up also. Most thankful indeed was I to hear of——’s conversion too. I trust it is a permanent work; with her character and habit of mind, she must well know whether it is real. I have always hoped for her, though in many things so opposed.
But dear——, the energy of the first impulsion always calms down, and the real value of Christ to the soul appears. It is not that the first impulses are insincere, but there is the impulse given by the first powerful impression, and that dies down. Then two things appear, which after all are really one, how far the soul has been fully reached and its state and affections filled with Christ, and how far diligence of heart in cleaving to Him has been produced. The apostle says not only “I have suffered the loss of all things,” but “I count them but dung.” The excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus gave permanency to his estimate of what was in the world around him, and [what it] gave to him as a natural man. That third chapter of Philippians gives us the principle of walk which stamps its energy and character on the christian course, a positive active energy with an object in view. Chapter 2 gives us the graciousness of the christian life; chapter 3 its principle of energy: the former Christ descending, the latter Christ in glory, whom the soul runs after as its sole object. This it is gives energy. “The double-minded man is unstable in all his ways”; even in natural things the man who has one object is energetic and full of force. It is this continuance in the judgment of the worthlessness of all things that marks the place Christ has in our hearts, gives true joy and liberty, and makes us a bright witness for Christ in the world. Only remember that he that seeks finds, that we need force every moment, and that the manna of to-day will not do for to-morrow. The world solicits always; we need the constant grace of Christ, the whole armour of God, having done all to stand. It is a blessed place, blessed now, but requires singleness of eye—not merely avoiding actual evil, but the heart positively set upon an object pursued with lowly, cheerful, but constant energy. The last days are hastening on, and we have to be as men that wait for their Lord, when He shall return from the wedding, that when He cometh and knocketh they may open to Him immediately. Fix your mind calmly but steadily on His coming.
I have been half round England, and had a local meeting like Guelph, besides working very hard in London—then visited fourteen places in Switzerland, and had a Swiss ‘Guelph’ meeting, and now the same in France, having visited some twelve meetings there. So that I have not been idle, and now leave for Germany to work a little there, and help in having a more correct Old Testament. I have more on my hands in this respect than I know how to do, but I labour on. If possible I shall go to Italy, but not just yet: there the door seems opening… May the Lord’s blessing rest on you all.
Ever affectionately yours.
Le Vigan, September 25th, 1869.
* * * * *
To the same later.]
* * * This is a world of passage, and you have been living like a plant in a greenhouse all your life, and know little of being shaken from vessel to vessel, as is said of Moab. I do not regret it is so, and in your petty troubles you ought to be very thankful. But your turn may come, in one sense must come, and in this there is the government of God. We may have—the most patient and godly—sore troubles for our good, like Job, but as a general rule and order, the quiet, gentle, submissive spirit, that walks in obedience and order (not in self-will in whatever shape its restlessness may shew itself) has a quiet and peaceful life. “Honour thy father and thy mother” has a general application in its consequences even now.
It is quite true that sin has brought disorder into everything, and that we are not under the manifested government of God as Israel was, and, as I have said, sorrow may come for spiritual good. Still, not a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father, and the government of God goes on. The epistles of Peter open out this—the first in our favour, the second as against the wicked; and this is true of you, dear——. If you walk quietly, submissively and obediently, with a will not seeking itself, no matter in what direction, not indulging itself or its thoughts, you will find happiness even here. Our own will and making ourselves the centre is the spring of all our wretchedness; for outward circumstances may be trying, as we know—may give sorrow, but not wretchedness. Where this is it is the fruit of will, restless and discontented. Be it in little things or great, let patience, submission and self-government characterise you. You know, thank God, that there are better things than what will seeks here; and here there must be a diligence and earnestness to know their enjoyableness, and be free—and at your age, the world and evil begin to solicit us and distract the heart—communion too; and if there be not diligence (which indeed is always true) it gets a hold on the heart, and if not judged in the will, it shuts out the beauty and desirableness of Christ, so that there is no counter-power in our hearts, even though our conscience may condemn us. I am sure you know this to be true already. But in seeking earnestly the Lord and His grace, it is not only that we are not occupied with these things so as to get the mind engaged with them, but positive power comes in to deliver and free us and make us find in Christ delight which shuts out evil and the world. Seek this, and do not be lazy in divine things, for this can produce its fruit even in those who are sincere, as I do not doubt you are…
* * * * *
To the same.]
My very dear——,—I was very glad indeed to get a letter from you. I should have surely answered it sooner, but its arrival was a good deal delayed. I have only just got it. It was a matter of joy to me that you have got on happily at ——’s. Tell him that I had the kindest letter from Mr. ——, but that he has not long ago lost his wife, rather unexpectedly, humanly speaking, though she had been ill, and that though bowing to the Lord, he was dreadfully overwhelmed by it. We are in a world of sorrow, dear——, though you are too young to have felt much of it. Only yesterday again I received an account of another tie broken, and one, a daughter, left alone desolate; but all this is good for us, it makes us feel our rest is not here, and young as you are you can learn this. Your very leaving home has begun the tale for you; it did once for me. I remember yet my desolation once on leaving it. ‘Stranger’ is a word sin has brought in. In Latin and in more learned languages it means an enemy; such is man. In heaven none can or will be a stranger there, nor any stranger to Him; and it is a blessed thought, for the love of God makes all one, and such ought the Church to be. But I do not at all blame your feeling as to home, however kind——may be, and you happy amongst them, for in this world, for our human feelings, home is that which is the centre of all true feelings. I trust it will ever be so to you, only we have to learn that in this world all that breaks up, because sin and death have entered in, and we have gradually to learn to be pilgrims and strangers in it, and will find a home which will never break up. Blessed be God, that He gives us this rest, and has made His dwelling-place our home, as our Father, where we shall be with Christ our beloved One and our Saviour for ever. I am very glad that you are thus searching and enjoying scripture. I can tell you, dear——, that though, as you know, I have been searching it for years, I ever find through grace, what fresh treasures are in it, and that learning some truth and grace is but the means of being able to learn others, and these are not only truths, but the unsearchable riches of Christ: we know His riches in grace, in learning them. “For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they may be sanctified by the truth.” What we learn in this is infinitely precious, because it is in Him, and the fruit of the Father’s love. May the Lord keep your affections fresh in these things. Think little of yourself: the true effect of real joy in the things of God is to empty us of ourselves, and to make us think little of ourselves, because first our affections are drawn to another (Christ), and because we see all their divine excellences, not in ourselves, for we have to learn, but in another, and One who made Himself of no reputation, and humbled Himself for us, who “when he was rich for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might become rich.” What a terrible thing it would be if by this we began to fancy ourselves rich, though in Him we really are. I trust you may profit much by these studies of scripture, and, as I have said, your heart and affections find its joy in them. Be diligent in all you have to do; duty is an excellent thing— conscience—and even in your play, hearty and free, though sober and yielding to others, and the Lord be with you and bless you abundantly… I shall be very glad to hear from you. I can often fill up my moments when I turn from heavier work, with a word to you or others. With my prayers that you may be kept and blessed,
Ever affectionately yours.
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1 [Of Sicily.]
2 [See “Collected Writings,” vol. xv. p. 308.]
3 [“Familiar Conversations on Romanism.’]