I deny absolutely development in divine things. In the human mind there is development; in the present truth there cannot be, for God has been revealed. There is no revelation more, nor meant to be any. Individuals may learn more and more, but it is there to be learned. The Scriptures give two positive grounds for this—that I am to continue in what I have learned as the only true ground of safety, and that I know of whom I have learned them. There is a negative ground of proof—the apostles committing us, when they should be gone, to that which would be a security for us. If the Person of Christ be the foundation-truth of Christianity, as Scripture declares it is, as the Son revealing the Father, it is clear there can be no development. His Person cannot be developed.
I quite understand it will be said, Of course not; but the revelation of it can. Equally impossible. He Himself is wholly fully revealed, and reveals the Father. The Holy Ghost has revealed, and is, the truth. Hence John, who treats this subject, declares that was to continue (abide in them) which they had learned, and they would so abide in the Father and in the Son. They could not have more. If any doctrine “other than (para, beyond, or on one side, besides) that which we have preached,” says Paul, was preached, neither the doctrine nor the preacher was to be received. If the church did not possess fully the revelation of the Father in the glorified Son by the Holy Ghost, it did not possess Christ at all as there revealed. If it did, it could not be added to nor developed. If it did add to it, it falsified Christ. That men speculated about it, and their foolish and irreverent speculations had to be rebuked, repressed, corrected, this is true; but whatever was more than returning to the simplicity of the first revelation, or went beyond its fulness, was pure mischief. Either the apostles and first church had a full revelation of Christ, or the church never was founded on it. If they had, there was no development of it. So of His work. It is complete, or the church is not saved; it was completely revealed, or the church had not its ground of justification and peace. If it had, there was no development. That much was lost, I believe. The greatest stickler for church authority does not pretend the church receives a fresh revelation. He merely says that the church pronounces on truth as having been revealed. But then there can be no development. Till revelation was complete, there were further truths unfolded, but it was by revelation. Once that is complete, all is closed; and Christianity completes it. The word of God is fulfilled, completed, says Paul to the Colossians. We are to walk in the light, as God is in the light. It was an unction of the Holy One, by which we know all things. “The Spirit,” says the apostle, “searcheth all things, even the deep things of God.” And then the apostle tells us he spoke by the Holy Spirit, in words which He taught. The true light now shines. We have the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost may guard the saints against error, and shew it is error; but the apostles were guided into all truth. Thus John, in a passage quoted, “Let that therefore abide in you which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning abide in you, ye also shall continue in the Son and in the Father.” We have “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” So Paul: “Continue thou in the things that thou hast learned, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” Paul, in going, commends them to God, and the word of His grace, as sufficient. Peter writes that they should have, after his decease, these things always in remembrance. As Tertullian justly says, “What is first is the truth.” If Eutyches introduces error, Eutyches may be condemned, and truth stated; yet this is not development, but maintenance of the truth as it had been revealed.
It is plain, then, that the church does not teach; the teacher teaches. The church abides in and professes the truth she has learned. She is, or ought to be, the pillar and ground of the truth; but she does not teach it. The mystery of iniquity began in the apostles’ days: the last days were already come. The Truth was there; but men, like Satan, abode not in it. But abiding in it, walking in it, in the truth perfectly revealed in Christ, this was the duty of the saint, even if the professing church would not, and the time should come when they would turn away from the truth, as Paul declared they would.