In Reply To A Tract Entitled, “Three Considerations; Proving Unscriptural The Supposition Of The Personal Reign Of Christ On Earth During The Millennium.”20
Dear Brother in the Lord,—I have received the little tract you sent me; many occupations have delayed me, but I reply to it at length.
To one well acquainted with the gathering together in one all things “both which are in heaven, and which are on earth,” in Christ, this short paper will not present any difficulty. Indeed, it proves little more than most tracts or books written by others with the same view; and that is, the unacquaintedness of the writer with the subject; but as many scriptures are referred to, it may be well, as regards those who are not so acquainted, to refer to them. As to the zeal for the offices of Christ, I have only to say, that acknowledging and blessing Him for all His offices, we simply seek to see what Scripture teaches us of the exercise of them, and we think from Scripture that our brethren have made mistakes concerning them.
The first two propositions—though the first might mislead— I should have no difficulty in admitting: so little is the writer aware of the point between us. The third is direct misstatement of the fact as to Scripture, which we shall see at once when we examine the texts.
Christ, we own, is King. We own Him as our Priest; but the place of the exercise of His priesthood is in the presence of God in heaven; so that, while the Jewish system was permitted to continue, He could not be a priest there. “If he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law.” Did Paul deny the priesthood of Christ in saying this? He was proving it, and shewing the place and manner of its exercise. Again, Christ, the anointed Man, is King; but the world and the Jews are the kingdom given to Him. But while we admit His title from the beginning, He was born King of the Jews, and to Him were the Gentiles to come. We read, at a given time, “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ.” Mr. Stronach surely will not say that this time is come yet. If any enquirer will turn to Daniel 7, he will see “one like the Son of man” brought before the “Ancient of days,” and a kingdom “given to him”: the Ancient of days having judged and consumed the beast. We believe, when the Son of man takes the kingdom, He will suffer no evil at all; that until He does so, He works by His Spirit in the hearts of His people, teaching and strengthening them to shew the life and patience of Christ in the midst of the evil, and forming them for a better and a happier world: as to this world, they are in the kingdom and patience, not the kingdom and power, of Jesus Christ. A time is coming when they will have to say, “We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come,” Rev. 11:17. Does any one suppose that God then first had great power? The mention of it shews the folly of such a thought; but He took it, and reigned, and wrath came. He had, for a long time, held His peace; now He arose. Christ is Lord, Head, Bridegroom of the church; but the scripture speaks of Him as King of the world (as before, and also in futurity, of the Jewish nation). As God, every real Christian owns Him, as Jehovah, King of eternity. But the writer must know that this is not the question, but of office, of a kingdom taken as Son of man—a given kingdom, a kingdom to be delivered up.
And now as to the texts, Psalm 2:1-7, it is said, has received its accomplishment. Acts 4:25-28; ch. 13:32, 33. As to the former passage, the Psalm is quoted for nothing but the raging of the kings and rulers against Christ; as to the latter, simply that the promise made to the fathers was fulfilled in raising up Jesus,21 to which he applies the passage in the Psalm, “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.” The setting Him King in Zion is, in neither case, at all referred to. Does Mr. S. mean to say that the quotation of one part of a passage proves the accomplishment of the whole? If so, he must say, that the “uttermost parts of the earth “are now the possession of Christ, that He has broken them “with a rod of iron, and dashed them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” He knows that this is not the case. If he says, He has it in title and He will yet accomplish it, I answer, precisely so; and when He is King in Zion, He will then by His power take possession of all the earth, and break down, even as with a rod of iron, all the power and wickedness that is opposed to Him. This reference, therefore, proves nothing to the purpose.
The next is Acts 2:30-36. In this, again, there is not one word about Christ’s being made King; so that the writer is obliged to add to, or rather change, the passage to make it answer. The point proved is first the resurrection;22 secondly, the exaltation of Christ to the right hand of God, and the house of Israel were to know that He was made Lord and Christ. The question of the kingdom, though this proved His title, was left in total abeyance. As to Israel’s being typical of the Israel of God (though I think it no type, and a very imperfect analogy, and do not believe the Israel of God to mean the church, but the believing portion among Israel in the days of the Apostle), it is sufficient to say, that there is not a word in one of the passages about the kingship of Christ over the church at all.
Matthew 28:18. The only answer is, nobody (i.e. no believer) can question it. The only question is, is He exercising it in every way? Clearly not: for example, judgment. This, we know, is reserved to an appointed day, yet it is the very witness of Christ’s power; so, that though He has confessedly “all power,” the manifestation of it is not yet made in every way. “The apostle Paul,” we are told, “declares, that Jesus is crowned king”; where? Hebrews 2:9—not a word about it. It so happens that the words here, “glory” and “honour,” are the words used in the Septuagint about the garments of priesthood; at any rate, there is nothing about being king. In Ephesians 1:20-23, nothing still about king; and further, it shews the mistake of the writer as to the position in which Christ is here shewn to stand. He is Head, the church is His body—Head thus to the church, not over it, but over all things. It describes here, not His lordship over, but His union with, the church, and over all things with it, as His body. That Christ died, and rose, and revived, that He might be the Lord of the dead and living, is quite true; but what about His being King, or how King of the dead? He will shew Himself their Lord in calling them before Him, raising them; but while the resurrection shewed Him Lord of the dead and living, it has surely nothing to do with the present character of the exercise of the power to which He is entitled. As we have said, this will be shewn as to the dead in resurrection; but this is not shewn yet, though we know He has it, nor in the same manner His just royal power; 1 Corinthians 15:25. That Christ, as sitting upon the Father’s throne, exercises all power, no one denies; but the exercise of His dominion as Son of man in given title over the world, is the very thing here proved—this must be subjected also. These are all the passages quoted.
The conclusion is in no way the scriptural mind of God. Who told the writer that there would be succeeding ages of this world’s history? We have not so learned to say, “Come, Lord Jesus; come quickly!” “Our Lord shall exercise undisputedly.” This is exactly what He does not do now in the church; for we wrestle with principalities and powers, “against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,” Eph. 6:12. If the exercise be far more extensive than at present, it is clear, in some sort, there is a power which He has not taken. This is the thing we assert from Scripture: the question is, what is the manner of it? The writer, if he says anything, must say, Christ can exercise His power in no other way than He does now. We think He can, and we think the Scriptures say He will; for example, “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel,” Psalm 2:9. We do not think that this is the gentle influence of His Spirit in the hearts of His people, by which, according to the notion of the writer, He is King in Zion. These nations are not Zion at all, and the exercise of the power is quite a different thing yet to come. When Mr. S. says, “Christ will still continue seated where He now is”—if he mean that the Man, Christ Jesus, shall never leave His place in heaven, it is clean contrary to Scripture, and a denial of the faith; for we read, “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven,” Acts 1:11. And again, “Times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus… whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began,” Acts 3:19-21. When the times of refreshing come, then Jesus is sent, the heavens receiving Him till then. Not so those who deny His return, and look for the times of refreshing to come, without Jesus being sent at all. This, though the universal testimony of Scripture by all the holy prophets, the unbelieving church now rejects and denies. We believe that the heavens will receive Him till a time, which time is a time of refreshing—not the final judgment of the dead and sending them to the lake of eternal fire.
With the second head, I have only to say, I entirely agree. On the proofs of it, I remark the times of refreshing which were to come (Acts 3:21) on the repentance of the Jews, clearly are not the judgment of the dead, which yet, Mr. S. acknowledges, comes on the entire close of the dispensation, “when we all … are come.” And, further, the mediatorship of blessing does not cease when the mediatorship of intercession does. Aaron, in the holy place, is the type of one—Melchisedec, coming forth to bless Abraham, of the other.
Now, as to the quotations under the third head, that the resurrection of all the dead is invariably represented in Scripture as taking place at the same time, I have only to say, it is an entire mis-statement; John 5:28, 29. Here I see, on the contrary, there is a resurrection to life spoken of, and a resurrection to judgment, shewing they are distinct things; if the word “hour” be spoken of, reference to verse 25 will shew that the same word can be applied to the time of Christ’s work in the flesh, and also, the time of His work when exalted, which last part has already lasted eighteen hundred years. This text proves, not that there is one resurrection, but two— a resurrection to life and a resurrection to judgment.
In Daniel 12:2, it is written, “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.” This is a strange text to prove that all rise at once. But I do not believe that it applies to the literal resurrection of the dead at all, but to the gathering of the scattered Jews from their hiding places, some of whom will, after all, be unbelieving: at any rate, there is no word of all being raised.
Acts 24:15. That there will be a resurrection both of the just and the unjust, all admit; the question is, will they take place together? Of this the passage says nothing. John 6 and 1 Corinthians 15 speak solely of the resurrection of the righteous, and prove, of course, nothing of the simultaneous resurrection spoken of the wicked: they rather shew, that the resurrection of the godly, believers, is a distinctive privilege. If the verses (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54) be referred to, it will be plainly seen to be the believer’s privilege: how so, if it be a common resurrection of all? It is clear, however, that none but believers are spoken of, and that it is their privilege as such. If the verses of 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 be read, or indeed the whole passage, it will be plain that none but blessed saints are spoken of at all, as is distinctly expressed in verse 23, “Christ the first fruits; afterwards they that are Christ’s at his coming; then cometh the end.” Surely this does not represent all rising at the same time. As to Rev. 20:11 to end, I do not see how those of whom we have previously read— “they lived and reigned” —could be called the dead, specially when it is said, “The rest of the dead lived not again until die thousand years were finished.”
The passage in 1 Corinthians 15:23, 24, is very plain. There are three steps: first, Christ; then (with a lapse of, we know, at least eighteen hundred years) “they that are Christ’s at his coming”; then (with—how long interval is not said more than before, from other places we read of—one thousand years and a little space more) cometh the end. So that there is Christ; and then Christ appearing, and they that are Christ’s raised; then the end, and the kingdom delivered up. This is very simple and clear.
Matthew 25:31 to the end. How is this shewn to apply to resurrection at all? I do not see that it does. Where is anything spoken of resurrection in it? The chapters seem to run in this order: chapter 24 commences with the judgment on Jerusalem and the Jewish people; then at the end, the disciples or church looked at immediately, their actual calling in particular responsibility to meet the Bridegroom, and the actual gifts—a solemn truth, for which they were responsible in the use, ‘occupying till he come’; then the Gentiles (all the nations) called before Him for the manner in which they had received the messengers of His mercy. This, so far from being a general judgment of the dead, takes in no Jews at all, but is contrasted with them— does not include the previous judgment of the church—does not include any dying before Christ came (for the terms of the judgment preclude this), nor any to whom the message of truth did not come—in a word, very, very far the greatest portion of the subjects of a general judgment. It is, in a word, the judgment of all the Gentiles in that day, as He had before judged Jerusalem and the Jews. It may involve many principles, as the whole passage does, but this is its simple statement; nor is there a word about resurrection in the whole passage, but of judgment on all the Gentiles, when the Son of man sits upon the throne of His glory.
Philippians 3:20, 21. It is hard to see how a sensible person could quote this and similar passages to prove such a proposition. Are the wicked “looking for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body, and fashion it like unto his glorious body”? Or, is their “conversion in heaven”? It is the contrast of this hope, as belonging only to the heavenly-minded. The whole chapter treats of a resurrection, or emphatically, “The Resurrection,” as the special and blessed hope of those who, by the power of Christ, are conformed to His death. How could the wicked be said to “attain to the resurrection”? This point is distinctly proved from Luke 20:35: “They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.” Thus there is, declaredly, a resurrection, which the children of God, as such, are alone accounted worthy to obtain, and on the obtaining of which they are equal to the angels.
Colossians 3:4. “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.” What this has to do with the wicked being raised, too, with the saints, is beyond me.
1 John 3:2. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” What has this to do with any but saints like Him at His appearing? What is there of the wicked being in the resurrection with the saints? They seem to treat continually of a blessing confined to the righteous, to those who suffer with Christ. These are the only passages quoted directly.
Ezekiel 37:1-14 (which is mixed up with Rom. 11:15; Eph. 2:5, 6; and Rev. 20—all passages treating of widely different subjects), I agree, is a figurative description, fully explained in the chapter itself to mean the restoration of the two houses of Israel, long buried among the heathen, made one again under David their King—a truth, generally, as much denied by those who reject the first resurrection of the saints, as the latter revelation itself. As to Romans 11:15, I do not think it necessary to make any comment. And Ephesians 2:5,6, is the statement of the association of the church with the power of that which was wrought in Christ, and though spiritual, is not figurative. It is a sad thing to call such a testimony figurative; it is the blessed identity of the church with the power of what was wrought in Christ really.
Lastly, Revelation 20 (to disprove the application of which the other passages have been quoted). The statement is simple, and the language plain. We read of God and Christ, of the devil and Satan, the first resurrection and the second death. This is not symbolical, but plain; and (what is very important to remark) it is not a state of things described, but a reward of persons. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him,” said the apostle; and so, in another place, “If so be we suffer with him that we may be glorified together.” “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” We do not (though figures may be used to express them) believe that the things here spoken of are figures; we do not believe, that, when the Lord said that people who suffered with Him should also reign with Him, He meant that the principles which they suffered for should prevail in persons who were reigned over, however happy they might therefore be. His suffering church is one with Himself, His body; and when He appears, we shall appear with Him. When He reigns, He will make us reign with Him. The saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom. He must do it in the necessity of His own love; His word has declared it for the comfort of His people. We cannot let go His grace out of our hands; we shall be priests of God and of Christ, reigning a thousand years with Him, a Priest upon His throne, reigning upon, or rather over, the earth.
Isaiah 65 and Ezekiel 37, compared with Luke 20 and Revelation 20, will shew the difference of the earth blessed under the saints’ reign with Christ, and their reigning with Him—the instruments of the blessing. In a word, He is to gather together in one, both things in heaven and things on earth. Luke and Revelation shew the former, being written to the church; Isaiah and Ezekiel, being written to the Jews, the heirs of the latter, shew the earthly glory and blessing which shall result from Satan being cast down (see Eph. 6:12, margin, and Rev. 12); and the Lord and His saints taking the place they held, and all blessing coming in consequence, as described in Hosea 2:21, 22. We admit, from Isaiah, that there may be death among those on earth during the millennium (not, of course, among the risen saints); but it is only spoken of as being judicial. It does not appear, that I see, that the godly will die even on earth during the millennium: “as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.” It would in fact be only a little prolongation in blessing, of that which was shewn to be originally more natural to man in sorrow even on the departure of creation from God—blessing now restored, as when his days were not as the evening shadow, till well nigh the verge of as long a day as that which yet shall be but short from its blessedness in favour under the securing reign of the Lord from heaven, the second Adam.
As to the concluding paragraph generally, I never saw more terrible confusion and error resulting from confounding the kingdom taken as Son of man, and the divine majesty, which can never pass away. The kingdom spoken of in 1 Corinthians 15 is a kingdom “given up,” a kingdom exercised during, as well as till, the last day, but at the end given up. Therefore, says the writer, we conclude, “that the King, the Lord of Hosts, shall fill His throne in the highest heavens till the last day.” He will, surely, for ever and ever. “Till the solemn hour.” Does the writer believe that the King, the Lord of Hosts, will ever give up His kingdom? This is a strange way of securing the Saviour’s Person, and offices. It just shews the awful error persons are brought into, when they resist the plain testimony of Scripture—an error which, in his thoughts concerning our blessed Master, I gladly own, I believe, the writer to be quite free from, but which his denial of the given, and afterwards surrendered kingdom, taken by the Son, and confounding it with the divine and unchangeable royalty of His Person (a conclusion also made by C.G.T., in referring to 1 Timothy 6:13), completely involves them both in; for this connection of 1 Corinthians 15:25, etc., with His glory as the King, the Lord of Hosts, is a direct statement that He gives the latter up, holds it only till a given time; which I believe and am sure both the writers would hold to be a blasphemy against the divine glory of the Lord Jesus, Jehovah, “God over all, blessed for evermore.” If the kingly power of the Lord Jesus is simply as the King, the Lord of Hosts, and, using 1 Corinthians 15 for this, “we conclude” that He “so” fills His throne till the last day; then is it most certain that this He gives up to God, even the Father; and I trust that such a statement will awaken the writer’s eyes to the truth, that there is a time when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of His glory, when He distinctly, and before the world, shall be upon His throne, as now the church knows Him to be set down on His Father’s, in the rightful and glorious title of Son of God, a place where He, one with the Father, alone of all that ever were in the form of man, can, or has title to, sit in the glory which He had with Him before the world was. But there is a throne, His throne, on which, in the blessed love of His grace, they that overcome shall sit with Him according to the truth of His word. If he examine the passage in 1 Corinthians 15 a little closer, he will see that it refers to the subjecting of all things to man in resurrection (not the King, the Lord of Hosts, in title unvarying, in glory never changing—the same, yesterday, and to-day, and for ever, who was and is to come, the Almighty, Jesus, our Lord).
There is only one other passage I need refer to—John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Does C.G.T. mean to say, that this world will not be made the kingdom of Christ? He knows this would be entirely contrary to Christian hope and faith. Then the question is its character, the source of its power. “It is not from hence “: that I indeed believe. Would that other Christians would own the truth! As to how it is to be brought under His power, we must refer to other scriptures where this power, and in what way used, is sufficiently spoken of. I use, as an example, C.G.T.’s reference, Psalm 2:6-12.
There is one subject more remains to be noticed—the rejection of Christian ministry—to which the short reply is, that we reject nothing but un-Christian ministry. I do not believe that persons appointed by the king or chosen by the people, are therefore ministers. This is the point in question. I disclaim the title of either to choose or appoint them, or of any but God. But I believe Christian ministry to be as essential to this dispensation, as the fact of Christ’s coming. So far am I from setting it aside, I believe it to be essentially from God, and object to the perversion of it, or the mere will of king or people—though both are to be respected in their place—interfering with so holy a thing. I read that when Christ ascended up on high, “He gave some apostles, and some prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers.” This is the only source of ministry, not the appointment of a king, nor the choice of a people. I see it, on the one side asserted, that authorities have a right to appoint, and, on the other, that the people have a right to choose: I do not believe either. Christ gives when and how He pleases—woe be to them who do not own it! In a little tract called “The Protestant Dissenter’s Manual,” it is stated, that a man has as much right to choose his own minister as his own lawyer, or physician. This seems to shut out God altogether, just as much as what is objected to. If Christ has given a gift, the saint is bound to own its use, and Christ’s word by it. Where is the proof of an evangelist’s gift? In the converted souls which bless God through his means. The church may own and recognise them in it, but they must do so if they are spiritual, if the gift and therefore appointment, of God be there: they sin against Christ who has sent him, if they do not. The consequence of these human appointments, or choosings, has been the fixing a person who pleased the people, fit, or unfit, as the one only person in whom every gift must be concentrated, or the Church lose part of its inheritance and portion: and the whole service has been turned habitually into a preacher.
We do not object to ministry, but to the assumption of the whole of it by one individual, who may or may not be sent, and, if sent, may have one qualification, and not all. A man may be eminently qualified for an evangelist, and he is made a pastor, for which he is in no way fitted; he is qualified to teach, perhaps, but not to rule, and he is put to guide the flock. It is the substitution of a minister, good or bad, for the whole work of the ministry, of which we complain, and the dislocation of the frame of Christ’s body, which is the consequence. What is the Home Mission, and the Presbyterian mission, and the like, but the effort to correct this plainly seen nuisance in the frame-work of these bodies which call themselves churches? The reason I say that ministry is essential to this dispensation, is the declaration in 2 Corinthians 5. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation”; more correctly, “and committing unto us.” That is, God in Christ was doing these three things: reconciling the world, not imputing trespasses, and committing ministry. This was essentially part of the work of God manifest in the flesh, the manner in which He was revealed. Amongst the Jews it was not so. They were a people formed by birth, and a certain code of laws was prescribed to them as such. But when God was in Christ, being a reconciling God, a ministry was necessarily the way of fulfilling this very purpose; it was the distinctive character of the dispensation, essentially characteristic of it. The grace of this may be amazingly concentrated, as it was in the apostle: it is habitually distributed in various competencies of service. These are for use, and the church is bound to own them, or it denies Christ’s title in committing them, which is as real and essential to Him as the power in which He was reconciling,23 and could forgive, and not impute trespasses: any one who is reconciled is competent to state, and bound, as far as able, to state Christ’s glory as the Reconciler to them who are ignorant. There are those who may have the special gift of evangelising; the church, of course, is not the place for this, ordinarily speaking, for they are the church, because they have received it; no one has the smallest right to speak in the church to whom God has not given a competency to edify it; nature has no right there; we, as to it, are dead in Christ—out of Him, dead in trespasses and sins—our right in flesh is only everlasting destruction. I know no right that a rebellious sinner has but to go there; a saint has none—he is bought with a price—Christ has all, and power too; neither has grace any right to speak, unless for the edification of the brethren. If they are edified they will soon find it out; if not, it proves the incompetency of the speaker, let him be as wise as the Prince of Tyre: for the Spirit always speaks to profit to them to whom He speaks.
It is true there may be so evil a state, as that men will not endure sound doctrine; but for this there is no remedy but the direct intervention of prerogative mercy, in sending some one able to bring them back. The church, then, has a right to the profit of all the ministry, with which God has endowed any of the brethren, for its edification; those who cannot do so, must, of course, be silent, for it is God who alone can provide, and He will shew His prerogative by giving it by whom He pleases. If any one be exceedingly gifted of the Lord in knowledge and wisdom—in that affectionate and watchful discernment of the state of souls, and ability to minister the right remedy in Christ—to control the unruly in the manifested power and energy of the Spirit of God—to detect the devices of Satan—his value in feeding the flock of God will soon be felt; the godly part of the church would soon be apt to cling too much, rather than too little, to such an one for guidance, comfort, and support; and he is bound to exercise his ministry according to the measure given to him, whether locally or more extendedly. If any one be able, with much gift from God, rightly to divide the word of truth, though he may not have such qualifications as previously spoken of, he may teach with as much, or more even, of profit than the other, yet not hold the same place of service among the brethren; he may have a word of wisdom, though not of knowledge, or the converse; the church is entitled to all. Whatever He gave, He gave to the church to profit withal; how shall we get it, if it be not exercised? That Christ will demand the account of the talent is certain; but there is much more gained than merely the exercise of whatever gifts God may give: for, the Spirit of God being owned, the power of communion is there, and, the Spirit of God being honoured, blessing accompanies all in the power of grace and communion otherwise unknown. We quite acknowledge, then, Christian ministry, but not to be altogether in the hands of those who would thus confine it to a single individual, whatever his extent of qualification. There may be persons who have a constant gift of a given character, and it is their duty to exercise it; a word of profit might be given to any at any time. If there are those who are experienced, through divine grace, in the guidance and governance of the church, the saints will, guided of God’s Spirit, be in subjection for their own profit; yea, all will be subject one to another. Where the Spirit of grace and love is, all will be well; where not, it will be surely ill, unless the Lord in mercy interfere, by sending someone able to control the unruly, and convince the gainsayers. The Lord will surely afford for His church all that is needful for its good, though He may, for our profit, keep us waiting very closely upon Him for them, and thus teach us dependence upon Him. If He were more looked to, we should have fewer difficulties, for He would act more— perhaps I should say, more manifestly to us. Further, I add, that while every office or gift is a blessing to the church, and to be fully recognised, it is the clear privilege of any two or three Christians, where not done in the spirit of schism, to meet and break bread together, should they not have any ministry at all, nor any office whatever. It is their privilege as Christians—the rest is their profit, of course, as saints, and to be gladly welcomed and ministering to the other, but, indeed, no way to be compared with their actual abiding privilege of communion together, their privilege and duty and substantially the everlasting part of the whole matter. The necessity of a priest for this, for such it in fact comes to, is a mere remnant of the principle of apostasy in the church, though where there are many, whoever may preside, one who is an elder would be the natural person to fulfil such an office, as someone manifestly must;24 public sanction before, and by the world, is not at all necessary for any office. This is what is called being a clergyman, and is one of the seals and marks of apostasy; the union of the world and the church, whether in the Establishment or Dissent. If this is what is meant by being a minister, I would utterly disdain and abhor it in such a sense: nature, I am sure, likes it: the authority to minister comes from the competency given of Christ; its recognition by the church is therefore a responsibility which solemnly rests on them; if the Spirit of the Lord be amongst them, He has ever, and will ever, order all things needful for this and for the expulsion of error. When I speak of authority to minister, it is, indeed, a deep responsibility, to be exercised according to the word, of which Christ will take sure account, and judge our neglect. Any recognition by the church may be all well for itself as to order; it is not what confers competency to minister—woe be to the church, if it owns not what Christ has given—separation to any special service the Lord may make, if He pleases; if He does, He will provide the way for Himself, in His wisdom, and it will be proved and made good, and, I will add, justified of wisdom’s children. It is not necessary for the church’s continuous blessing, as is manifest from the history of the church of Antioch; God works, I trust, though we are feeble and foolish—is working much more deeply and powerfully than the devised order of human arrangements may be able, perhaps, to see. May He give us to wait on His time and way for every gift and guidance of His Holy Spirit; His Spirit is sovereign, and will prove Himself so, however men may carve channels to carry its waters safe. Perhaps when it may seem to overflow and break their banks, it is rich nourishment and unction that it may leave behind and deposit—while the channel they are so curious about may be found to have but sand and stones at bottom, making its course troubled—its profit and value only when it breaks through the dikes human wisdom has raised. The Lord, I am persuaded, will order much more blessing than we have yet seen, if we are patient and devoted. With the fullest liberty, then, to those whom the Lord has enabled to profit the church, exercised, as in Spirit it alone can be, subject to the authority of God in the church, “decently and in order”—we do recognise, in the fullest sense, a ministry in the use of, and waiting upon, every gift in the service of God, which He has given for the profit arid edification of His church. When God calls any individual, and appropriates any gift to him, as such, of course, he will be a minister, and is bound to wait upon it. We do not count ourselves perfect in wisdom, but these things we see in Scripture, and believe God is honoured most in His own way.
Another book has been put into my hands, containing remarks on a letter by Mr. Newton, by a clergyman. I have read it through, but I cannot think that in point of argument, scholarship, or good manners, whatever its pretensions, it claims any answer. If those amongst whom it is circulated feel any difficulties from its contents, there will not be much difficulty in replying to it separately.
20 Dublin, 1835.
21 Raising up, however, does not apply to the resurrection, but to raising Him up as a deliverer. What follows in the passage goes on to speak of the resurrection.
22 See preceding note.
23 The difference of Christ as on earth, and a ministry founded on His death and resurrection, is not entered on here, but it does not affect the argument, so I leave it as it is. 2 Corinthians 5 does enter on it.
24 That is, in the act of giving thanks and breaking bread.