Five Letters on Worship and Ministry in the Spirit

Letters on Worship and Ministry in the Spirit.

W. Trotter.

(1818 - 1865)


"More higly spoken of by every one
who knew him than almost any

other Plymouth brother" -Neatby



BELOVED BRETHREN, — There are several points
connected with our position, as gathered together in the name of Jesus, as to
which I feel it on my heart to communicate with you. I take this mode of doing
so, as affording you better opportunity individually to examine, and maturely
to weigh, what is communicated, than you would be likely to have in a free
conversation where all were present. I should be very thankful for this latter,
should the Lord incline your hearts to it, when you have examined and weighed
in His presence the matters I have to put before you.


One word at the outset in acknowledgement of God's
mercy to us as gathered in the name of Jesus. I can but bow my head and worship
in remembrance of the many seasons of real refreshing and unfeigned joy He has
given us together in His presence. The recollection of these seasons, while it
bows the heart before God, renders each one with whom such mercies have been
enjoyed unspeakably dear. The bond of the Spirit is a real bond; and it is in
the confidence which He inspires in my brethren's love, that I would as your
brother, and as your servant for Christ's sake, express without reserve what
seems to me of deep importance to our continued happiness and associated
profit, as well as to what is of far greater moment, the glory of Him in whose
name we are gathered.


When in July last we were led of the Lord, as I
doubt not, to substitute open meetings for the Lord's day evening gospel
preachings, which had been sustained till then, I anticipated all which has
since ensued. I may say that the result has not disappointed me in the least.
There are lessons as to the practical guidance of the Holy Ghost which can only
be learned practically; and much that may now, by the Lord's blessing, commend
itself to your spiritual understanding, and to your consciences, would then
have been quite unintelligible, from your unacquaintance with the kind of
meetings to which such truth applies. It is often said that experience is the
best teacher. This may perhaps be questioned, and rightly so; but there can be
no question that experience makes us conscious of wants which divine teaching
alone supplies. You will believe me, that it is no joy to me in itself to find
my brethren mutually dissatisfied with the part taken by each other in the meetings.
But if this state of things should be overruled, as I trust it may be, to the
opening all our hearts to lessons from God's word, which we could not otherwise
so well have learned, this at least will be matter for thankfulness and joy.


The doctrine of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in
"the body, the church," and as the sure consequence His presence and
supremacy in the assemblies of the saints, has for a good many years now
appeared to my own soul, if not the great truth of the dispensation, yet surely
one of the most momentous truths by which the present period is distinguished.
The virtual or actual denial of it constitutes one of the most serious features
of the apostasy which has taken place. The sense of this does not abate with
me, but rather deepens as time rolls on.


I do freely confess to you, that with the full
acknowledgement that there are beloved in all the denominations
around, and with every desire to keep my heart open to them all, I could no
more have fellowship with any body of professing Christians who substitute
clerisy in any of its forms for the sovereign guidance of the Holy Ghost, than
as an Israelite I could have had fellowship with the setting up of a golden
calf in the place of the living God. That this has been done, and that
throughout Christendom, and that for this, along with other sins, judgment is
impending over Christendom, one can but sorrowfully own, and take the shame of
it before God, as having all had to do with it, and as being one body in Christ
with numbers who to this day glory in it. But the difficulties which attend a
place of separation from this evil, and which we are all beginning to feel (as
we ought surely to have anticipated), have no such effect with me, as to weaken
the sense of the evil from which God has in His mercy separated us; and they
awaken within me no desire to return to that kind of human, official place and
power, the assertion of which for a distinct class characterizes the professing
world, and is fast hastening on the judgment by which the professing world will
ere long be visited.


But, beloved brethren, while our conviction of the
truth and importance of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit's presence cannot be
too profound, let me beseech you to remember, that the presence of the Holy
Ghost in the assemblies of the saints is itself A FACT. It is simple faith in
this we need. We are prone to forget this. And forgetfulness of this, or
ignorance of it, is the main cause of our ever coming together without profit
to our souls. If we did but come together to meet God; if we did but believe
when we are assembled that He is really present, what an effect this must have
on our souls!


The fact is, that as really as Christ was present
with His disciples on the earth, so really is the Holy Ghost now present in the
assemblies of the saints. If in any way His presence could be manifested to our
senses — if we could see Him as the disciples did see Jesus — how would our
souls be solemnized and subdued. What deep stillness, what reverent attention,
what solemn waiting on Him, would be the result. How impossible that there
could be any haste, or rivalry, or restlessness, if the presence of the Holy
Ghost were to be thus revealed to sight and sense. And is the fact of His
presence to be less influential because it is a matter of faith instead of
sight? Is He any less really present because unseen? It is the poor world that
receives Him not, because it does not see Him; and shall we take its place and
forsake our own? "And I will pray the Father," says Jesus, "and
he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not,
neither knoweth him: but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in
you." (John 14: 16, 17.)


"But ye know him." Would that we did,
beloved! More and more am I persuaded that our great lack is that of faith in
His personal presence. Have there not been times when His presence has been
realized as a fact? and how blessed were such seasons! There might be, and
there were, intervals of silence; but how were they occupied? In solemn waiting
upon God. Not in restless anxiety as to who was next to speak or pray; not in
turning over the leaves of Bibles or hymn books to find something that we
thought suitable. No; nor in anxious thoughts about those who were lookers‑on,
wondering what they would think of the silence that existed. God was there.
Each heart was engaged with Him; and for any to have broken silence, for the
sake of doing so, would have been felt to be an interruption indeed.


When silence was broken, it was with a prayer that
embodied the desires, and expressed the breathings of all present; or a hymn in
which all could with fulness of heart unite; or a word which came home to our
hearts with power. And though several might be used in such hymns, and prayers,
and ministrations, it was as evidently one Spirit who guided and arranged the
whole, as though a plan of it had been made beforehand, and each one had had
his part assigned. No human wisdom could have made such a plan. The harmony was
divine. It was the Holy Ghost acting by the several members, in their several
places, to express the worship or to meet the need of all present.


And why should it not be always thus? I would
repeat it, beloved brethren, the presence of the Holy Ghost is a fact, not
merely a doctrine. And surely if in fact He be present when we are assembled
together, no fact can compare in importance with this. It is surely the grand,
the all-absorbing fact, from which everything besides in the meeting ought to
derive its character. It is not a mere negation. That the Holy Ghost is
present, means more than that the meeting is not to be ordered by human and
previous arrangement. He must order it if He be present. It means more than
that any one is at liberty to take part in it. Nay, it means the opposite of
this. True, there must be no human restrictions: but if He be present, no one
must take any part but that which He assigns, and for which He qualifies him.
Liberty of ministry is liberty for the Holy Ghost to act by whomsoever He will.
But we are not the Holy Ghost: and if the usurpation of His place by one person
be so intolerable, what shall be said to the usurpation of His place by a number
of persons acting because there is liberty to act, not because they know it to
be the present mind of the Spirit that they should act as they do?


Real faith in the personal presence of the Holy
Ghost would set these things right. It is not that one would desire silence for
its own sake, or that any should be restrained from taking part by the mere
presence of this or that brother. I would rather myself that there were all
sorts of disorder, so as for the real state of things to come out, than have this
repressed by the presence of an individual. What one does desire is, that the
presence of the Holy Ghost Himself should be so realized as that no one should
break silence except by His power, and under His direction; and that the sense
of His presence should thus restrain us from all that is unworthy of Him, and
of the name of Jesus in which we meet.


Under another dispensation we read such an
exhortation as the following: "Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house
of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for
they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not
thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God: for God is in heaven, and
thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few." (Ecc. 5: 1, 2.) Surely,
if the grace wherein we stand has given us greater freedom of access to God
than this, we are not to use such freedom as an excuse for irreverence and
haste. The actual presence among us of God the Holy Ghost should certainly be
as urgent a motive to reverence and godly fear, as the consideration that God
is in heaven, and we upon the earth. "Wherefore we receiving a kingdom
which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably
with reverence and godly fear; for our God is a consuming fire." (Heb. 12:
28, 29.)


Hoping to resume the subject, I am, dear brethren,

Your unworthy servant in Christ,





BELOVED BRETHREN, — In resuming the subject on
which I lately wrote to you, I would present you with the following extract
from a tract, written at least nine or ten years ago. The author, if I am
rightly informed, is one who has been greatly honoured of God amongst us, and
who is known personally to most of you. The tract is in the form of a dialogue.


E. I have heard that you assert that every brother
is competent to teach in the assembly of the saints.


W. If I did so, I should deny the Holy Ghost. No
one is competent to do this who has not received gift from God for this very


E. Well,
but you believe that every brother in the assembly of the saints has a right to
speak, if he is able.


W. Indeed I do not. I deny the right to any one,
save God the Holy Ghost. A man may in nature be very able to speak, and to
speak well, but if he cannot 'please his neighbour for good to edification,'
the Holy Ghost has not fitted him to speak, and he is dishonouring God his
Father, grieving the Spirit, and undervaluing Christ's church, if he does
speak; and is showing, moreover, his own self‑will.


E. Well, what is the peculiarity which you do hold?


W. You may think it peculiar to me, perhaps, to
believe, that as the church belongs to Christ, He has, in order that its
attention may not be wrongly directed and its time mis­spent in listening to
that which is not profitable (pretty as it may be), given gifts to it, by which
alone it is to be edified and ruled.


E. No. I
admit that, and only wish that there were a little more coveting of such gifts
from God, and more caution to put a stop to the use of every other means,
however accredited by human power or eloquence.


W. I hold also that the Holy Ghost gives gifts to
whom He pleases, and also what gifts He pleases. And that the saints ought so
to be united together, as that the gift of one brother should never make the
exercise of the real gift of another irregular, and that there should be an
open door for the little as well as the great gifts.


E. That
is a matter of course.


W. Not so; for neither in the Church of England,
nor in Dissent, do I find 1 Corinthians 14 acted upon. Moreover, I assert that
no gift from God has to wait for a sanction from the church ere it is used. If
it is of God, He will accredit it, and the saints recognize its value.


E. Do you
admit a regular ministry?


W. If by a regular ministry you mean a stated
ministry (that is, that in every assembly those who are gifted of God to speak
to edification will be both limited in number and known to the rest), I do
admit it: but if by a regular ministry you mean an exclusive ministry, I
dissent. By an exclusive ministry I mean the recognizing certain persons as so
exclusively holding the place of teachers, as that the use of a real gift by
any one else would be irregular, as, for instance, in the Church of England,
and in most dissenting chapels, a service would be felt to be irregular which
had been made up by two or three persons really gifted by the Holy Ghost.


E. On
what do you build this distinction?


W. From Acts 13: 1, I see that at Antioch there
were but five whom the Holy Ghost recognised as teachers: Barnabas, Simeon,
Lucius, Manaen, and Saul. Doubtless, at all the meetings it was only these
five, one or more of them, who were expected by the saints to speak. This was a
stated ministry. But it was not an exclusive ministry: for when Judas and Silas
came (Acts 15: 32), they were pleased to take their place among the others, and
then the recognized teachers were more numerous.


E. And
what connection would this have with the giving out of a Psalm, etc., or with
praying, or reading a portion of scripture?


W. These would fall like the rest entirely under
the Holy Ghost's direction. Alas for the man whose self‑will chose to
give out a hymn, or to pray, or read a scripture, without the guidance of the
Spirit! In doing these things in the assembly of the saints, he is professing
to be moved and guided by the Holy Ghost; and to profess this where it is not
true is very presumptuous. If the saints know what communion is, they will know
how very difficult it is to lead the congregation in prayer and singing. To
address God in the name of the assembly, or to suggest to it a hymn as the
vehicle for the expression of its real state to God, requires great
discernment, or else a most immediate guidance from God.


Such is the light in which this subject was viewed
by one known, as I believe, to most of you; one of the earliest labourers among
those who, for twenty years and upwards, have been seeking to meet in the name
of Jesus. In further confirmation of the main thought in the above extract,
namely, that God never designed all saints to take part in the public ministry
of the word, or in conducting the worship of the assembly, I would refer you,
first, to 1 Corinthians 12: 29, 30. "Are all apostles? are all prophets?
are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? have all the gifts of healing?
do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?" There would be no meaning in
these questions if the fact had not been self‑evident, that such places
in the body were filled by but a few. The apostle had just said, "And God
hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly
teachers, after that miracles," etc. And then he says, "Are all
apostles?" and so on. Thus we find in the very portion of scripture which
most largely treats of the sovereignty of the Holy Ghost, in the bestowal and
use of gifts in the body, the church — in the very portion which is always
referred to, and justly, in proof that liberty of ministry is what God has established
in His church — in this very portion we are told that all were not gifted
persons, but that God had set some in the body; enumerating the different
orders and kinds of gifts by which they were distinguished.


Will you turn now for a moment to Ephesians 4?
Questions have been raised as to 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, whether it be
possible to act on the principles there laid down, in the acknowledged absence
of so many of the gifts there enumerated. I have no such questions myself, and
as to any who have, I should only ask them, What other principles have we in
scripture whereon to act? And then, if there be no others, What authority have
we to act on principles which are not found in scripture at all? But there can
be no such question as to Ephesians 4: 8‑13. "Wherefore he saith,
When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men
. . . and he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists;
and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work
of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." And you will
observe too that they are given until the church is completed. As long as
Christ has a body on earth needing the service of such men, He bestows on them
the gifts of His love for the nourishing and cherishing of His body, His bride,
"Till we all come," etc.


It is thus by the ministry of living men, whose
place and calling it is to minister, that Christ cares for and feeds His flock
— that the Holy Ghost works in the body which He inhabits. These men, it is
true, may work at their trades. Paul was a tentmaker. And they may be very far
from any pretensions to clerical, official place and dignity: the further the
better. But still they are Christ's provision for the edification of His
saints; yea, and for the calling in of souls; and the true wisdom of the saints
is to discern such gifts of Christ where they have been bestowed, and to own
them in the place which He has assigned them in His body. To own them thus is
to own Him; to refuse to do so is both to wrong ourselves and to dishonour Him.


Be it remembered, too, that it is in the body, the
whole body, God has set these gifts: it is on the whole body Christ has
bestowed them; and we are not the whole body. Suppose the church had still been
manifestly one, as it was in the apostles' days; even then. it is quite
possible that the church in one place might be without an evangelist, and in
another without a pastor or teacher; while in some places there might be more
than one of each. But now that the church is so divided and scattered, how much
more true is this of the little companies here and there, who have been
gathered in the name of Jesus. Has the Lord Jesus ceased to care for His church
because of its torn, divided state? God forbid. Has He ceased then to manifest
His care by the bestowal of suitable and needed gifts? By no means. But then it
is in the unity of the whole body they are found. And we need to remember this.
All saints in  — form the church of God
in the place; and there may be evangelists, and pastors, and teachers among
those members of the body who are still in the Church of England, or among the
Methodists or the Dissenters. And what benefit do we derive from their
ministry? or what benefit do the saints with them derive from any of Christ's
gifts which are amongst us?


Why do I bring this forward? To press upon you this
point, beloved brethren, that if among the seventy or eighty who meet in the
Lord's name at — there be none who are His gifts according to Ephesians 4, or
if there be but two or three such, the circumstance of our meeting as we do
will not of itself increase their number. A brother who is not made a pastor or
evangelist by Christ Himself, does not become one by beginning to meet where
the presence of the Holy Ghost and liberty of ministry are recognised. And if,
because there is liberty from all human restrictions, those begin to assume the
place, or act in the character of teachers, pastors, or evangelists, who have
not been given as such by Christ to His church, will edification be the result?
No, but confusion; and "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace,
as in all churches of the saints." If we have not such gifts among us, let
us own our poverty: if we have two or three, let us be thankful, own them in
the place God has given them, and pray for more and better gifts and
ministries. But let us not suppose that the activities of any whom Christ the
Lord has not set in such a place will supply the lack of gifts like these. The
only effect of such activities is to grieve the Spirit, and hinder His actings
by those whom He would otherwise use in service to the saints.


One happy thought arises before me, in drawing this
second letter to a close. If we were not in a position answering to what we
find in scripture, such questions could hardly arise amongst us. Where all is
settled and arranged by some human system; where officers, appointed by a
bishop, a conference, or a congregation, attend to the routine of duties
prescribed for them by the rules under which they act, questions like these
have no existence. The very difficulties of our position prove by their
character that the position itself is of God. Yes, and God who has brought us
into it by His Spirit through the word is all‑sufficient, and will not
fail us in the difficulties, but guide us through them, to our profit and His
own praise. Only let us be simple, humble, and unassuming. Let us not pretend
to more than we have, or to do that for which God has not qualified us. Some points
of detail I reserve for another letter.


Meanwhile, I remain,

Affectionately yours in Christ Jesus,






BELOVED BRETHREN, — There are two points on which I
desire to make myself distinctly understood ere entering on the special subject
of my present letter. First, as to the difference between ministry and worship.
I here use the word worship in its largest sense, of every kind of address from
man to God, whether prayer, confession, or what is more properly speaking
worship, namely, adoration, thanksgiving, and praise. The essential difference
between worship and ministry is, that in the one man speaks to God; in the
other God speaks by His servants to men. Our only and all‑sufficient
title to worship is the all-abounding grace of God, which has brought us nigh
by the blood of Jesus; so nigh as to know and worship Him as our Father; so
nigh as to be kings and priests to God.


In this all saints are alike. The feeblest and the
strongest, the most experienced and the veriest babe are all alike in this. The
most gifted servant of Christ has no better title to draw near to God than the
weakest saint among those to whom he ministers. To suppose the contrary would be
to do what has been so largely done throughout Christendom, namely, to
institute an order of priests between the church and God. One great High Priest
we have. The only priesthood besides His which exists at present is that which
all saints share, and which all share alike. I could not suppose, therefore,
that in an assembly of Christians the giving out of hymns, and prayer,
thanksgiving, and praise (the expression of these I mean), should be confined,
to those who are qualified of God to teach, or to exhort, or to preach the
gospel. God the Holy Ghost may use others of the saints to give out a hymn
which really expresses the present worship of the hearts of those assembled; or
He may use them in prayers which really express the present need and desires of
those whose mouth they profess to be. And if God be pleased so to act, what are
we that we should say Him nay? Still, while these exercises cannot be confined
to gifted persons, they must surely be subject to the present guidance of the
Holy Ghost; and they all come within the range of those principles laid down in
1 Corinthians 14 such as that everything must be in order and to edification.


Ministry, that is, ministry of the word — ministry
in which God speaks by His servants to men — is the result of a special deposit
with the individual of a gift or gifts, for the use of which he is responsible
to Christ. Our title to worship is that in which we are all alike. The
responsibility to minister flows from that in which we differ. "Having
then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us." (Rom.
12: 6.) This of itself establishes the difference I refer to between ministry
and worship.


The other point is, as to liberty of ministry. The
true, scriptural idea of liberty of ministry not only includes liberty for the
exercise of gifts, but also for the development of them. It implies that we so
meet in the recognition of the Spirit's presence and supremacy, as to present
no hindrance to His acting by whomsoever He will; and it is quite clear that in
the first development of gift, it must be His acting by those who have not been
previously so used of Him at all. Any principle which would interfere with this
would, as it seems to me, be alike subversive of the church's privileges, and
of the Holy Spirit's rights.


But then it must at once be obvious, that if saints
meet together thus, on ground which leaves scope for the Holy Spirit to lead to
a hymn by one, prayer by another, or word of exhortation or doctrine by a
third; and if room must be left for the Spirit to develop, as well as to use,
gifts for the edifying of the body, this cannot be done without affording
opportunity for forwardness and self-sufficiency to act without any guidance of
the Spirit at all. Hence the importance of knowing how to distinguish between
that which is of the flesh, and that which is of the Spirit. I shrink greatly
from the hackneyed use of such terms as "ministry in the flesh," and
"ministry in the Spirit;" and yet there is all‑important truth
embodied in those expressions, soberly used. In each Christian there are two
fountains of thought, feeling, motive, word, and action, and these are
denominated in scripture flesh, and Spirit. The part we take in the assemblies
of the saints may flow from one of these sources, or from the other. It is most
important rightly to distinguish between them. It is most important for those
who take part in the meetings, whether statedly or occasionally, to judge
themselves as to this. It is important for all saints, seeing that we are exhorted
to "try the spirits;" and on the assembly must rest eventually the
responsibility of owning what is of God, and of discouraging and
discountenancing what proceeds from any other source.


It is to some of the broad and principal landmarks,
by which we may distinguish the guidance of the Spirit from fleshly
counterfeits and pretensions, that I would now solicit your attention. And
first, I would mention several things which are not a warrant for our taking
part in conducting the meetings of the saints.


The mere circumstance of there being liberty to act
is no warrant for acting. This is so self‑evident that nothing need be
said to prove it; and yet we need to be reminded of it. The fact that there is
no formal hindrance to any one taking part in the meeting, renders it possible
for those whose only qualification is that they can read, to take up a
principal part of the time in reading chapter after chapter, and hymn after
hymn. Of course, any child who has been taught to read can do this; and there are
few amongst us, indeed, who cannot conduct the meetings, if ability to read
hymns and chapters be all the qualification that is requisite. But while it is
easy enough to read a chapter, to know which is the right one to read, and
which is the right time to read it, is quite another matter. It is easy enough
to give out a hymn, but to give out the hymn which really embodies and
expresses the worship of the saints, is what only can be done by the guidance
of the Holy Spirit. I confess to you, my brethren, when some time ago (not
lately, thank God), we had five or six chapters read, and as many hymns sung,
around the Lord's table, and perhaps not more than one prayer or giving of
thanks, it did occur to me whether we had met to improve ourselves in reading
and singing, or to show forth the Lord's death. I do unfeignedly bless God that
there has been improvement in this respect for months back; still, it may be
well for us to bear in mind that while there is liberty to take a part in the
meetings, the existence of an opportunity to take part is no warrant for so


That no one else is doing anything at the time, is
not sufficient warrant for taking part in the meeting. Silence for its own sake
cannot be too much deprecated. It may become as complete a form as anything
else. But silence is better than what is said or done merely to break the
silence. I know well what it is to think of a good many persons present who are
not in communion, perhaps not believers, and to feel uneasy at the silence on
their account. Where this commonly or often occurs, it may be a call from God
for an entirely different kind of meeting; but it can never authorize any one
to speak, or pray, or give out a hymn, for the mere sake of something being


Again, one's individual state and experiences are
no certain guides as to any part we may take in meetings of the saints. A hymn
may have been very sweet to my own soul, or I may have been present where it
has been sung with great enjoyment of the Lord's presence. I am not to conclude
from this that it is my place to give out the hymn at the next meeting I
attend. There may be no suitability in it to the present state of the assembly.
It may not be the mind of the Spirit that a hymn should be sung at all.
"Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing
psalms." (James 5: 13.) The hymn must be expressive of what those
assembled feel, or there is no sincerity in their joining to sing it. And who
but He who knows the actual state of the assembly can guide to a hymn
expressive of that state?


Then as to prayer: when one prays in the assembly,
it is as the vehicle for the expression of its wants and its requests. I may
have burdens of my own to cast on the Lord in prayer, which it would be very
improper for me to name in the assembly. The only effect, probably, would be to
drag down all my brethren to a level with myself. On the other hand, my own
soul may be thoroughly happy with the Lord; if that be not the state of the
assembly as such, it is only by identifying myself with the actual state of the
assembly that I shall be enabled to present its requests before God. That is to
say, if I am led by the Spirit to pray in the assembly, it will not be as in my
closet, where none are present but the Lord and myself; and my own wants and my
own enjoyments form the proper subjects of prayer and thanksgiving; but I shall
be enabled to offer such prayers, and make such confessions, and present such
thanksgivings, as are suited to the actual state of those whose mouth I become,
in thus addressing God.


There cannot be a much greater mistake than to
suppose that self, and what relates to self, is to be our guide in conducting
the meetings of the saints. A portion of scripture may have interested my own
soul greatly, and I may have profited by it; it does not follow that I am to
read it at the Lord's table, or in other meetings of the saints. Some
particular subject may be occupying my own attention greatly; and it may be
well for my own soul that it should do so; but it may not be at all the subject
to which God would have the attention of the saints generally drawn.


You will observe, I am not denying that we may
ourselves have been especially occupied and exercised by subjects which God
would have us bring before the saints. Perhaps this is often, or even commonly,
the case with God's servants; but what I would affirm is, that this, of itself,
is no sufficient guidance. We ourselves may have necessities which the saints
generally have not; and they may need what would not meet our own case.


Suffer me to add, that the Spirit would never lead
me to give out hymns because they are expressive of my own peculiar views.
There may be points of interpretation on which saints meeting together do not
see eye to eye. If in such a case hymns be chosen by those of one opinion for
the purpose of expressing it — however good and true the hymns may be — it is
impossible that the others can join to sing them, and discord instead of
harmony is produced at once. The hymns to which the Spirit of God leads us in
joint worship, will be the expression of that in which all are agreed who unite
in the act. At all times, but in the assembly at all events, let us endeavour
"to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." And let us
remember that the way to do this is to walk "with all lowliness and
meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love."


Here let me recall to your minds that in singing,
prayer, or worship of any kind, it is the assembly, whoever may be its mouth or
organ, that speaks to God. It therefore can never be truly or sincerely beyond
the state of the assembly, but must be expressive of it. True indeed, blessed
be God, He may by the Spirit strike a higher note, with which immediately all
hearts chord, and so the tone of united worship be raised; and this He often
does. But if the assembly be not in a state to respond at once to such a key‑note
of praise, there can be nothing much more painful than for an individual to go
on with exalted strains of thanksgiving and adoration, when all other hearts
are sad and cold, wandering and distracted. The one who utters the worship of
the assembly must have the hearts of the assembly with him, or there is no
reality in what takes place.


On the other hand, ministry, being God's voice to
us, may be ever so much in advance of our state. It is an individual speaking
as God's mouth, and if it be really so, it will often be to minister truth we
have not as yet received, or to recall to us truths which have ceased to act in
present power on our souls. How evident that in either case, and in every case,
it must be the Spirit of God who guides.


As to what distinguishes the positive guidance of
the Spirit, I find I must leave it for still another letter. The negative part
alone has been presented in this.


Yours, beloved brethren,

Affectionately in Christ Jesus,






BELOVED BRETHREN, — The man who would attempt to
define the Spirit's operations in the quickening or conversion of a soul, would
but betray his own ignorance, and be denying, moreover, that sovereignty of the
Spirit which is declared in the well‑known words, "The wind bloweth
where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence
it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the
Spirit." And yet scripture abounds with marks whereby it may be discerned
who are born of the Spirit and who are not. So as to the subject of this
letter. I hope to be kept from so usurping the place of the Holy Spirit as to
presume in any way nicely to define the manner of His operations on the souls
of those whom He leads to take part in the worship of the assembly, or in
ministering to the saints. It may be in some cases much more direct and
sensible (to the individual I mean) than in others. But however vain and
presumptuous it might be to attempt nicely and accurately to define on such a
subject, scripture gives us ample instruction as to what are the marks of true
ministry. And it is to some of the plainer and more obvious marks that I wish
now to solicit your attention.


Some of them apply to the matter or substance of
what is ministered, and others to the motives which induce us to minister, or
to take any part in conducting the meetings of the saints. Some will afford a
test to those who do thus act, whereby they may judge themselves; others will
furnish to all saints criteria whereby to judge what is of the Spirit, and what
from other sources. Some will serve to show who are Christ's gifts to His
church for the ministry of the word; and others may aid those who really are
so, as to the important question when to speak and when to be silent. My soul
trembles to think of the responsibility of writing on such a subject. But my
comfort is that one's sufficiency is of God, and that "Scripture . . . is
profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all
good works." Let all I may write be tested by this all‑sufficient
standard; and if anything will not bear this test, God grant you, beloved
brethren, wisdom and grace to reject it.


The guidance of the Spirit is not by blind impulses
and unintelligent impressions, but by filling the spiritual understanding with
God's thoughts as revealed in the written word, and by acting on the renewed
affections. In early days there were indeed God's gifts which might be in their
use unconnected with spiritual intelligence. I refer to the gift of tongues,
where there was no interpreter. And it would appear that because this gift
seemed more marvellous in men's eyes than the others, the Corinthians were fond
of using and displaying it. For this the apostle rebukes them. "I thank my
God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: yet in the church I had rather
speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others
also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. Brethren, be not children in
understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be
men." (1 Cor. 14: 18‑20.)


The least, then, that can be looked for in those
who minister is acquaintance with the scripture, the understanding of God's
mind as revealed in the word. There may be this, observe, without any gift of
utterance, without any capacity to communicate it to others. But without this,
what have we to communicate? God's saints are surely not assembled from time to
time in the name of Jesus to have crude and undigested human thoughts presented
to them, or to have retailed to them what others have spoken or written.
Personal acquaintance with God's word, familiarity with scripture,
understanding of its contents, is surely essential to the ministry of the word.
"Jesus saith unto them, Have ye understood all these things? They say unto
him, Yea, Lord. Then said he unto them, Therefore every scribe instructed unto
the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth
forth out of his treasure things new and old." (Matt. 13: 51, 52.) When
our Lord was about to send out His disciples as His witnesses, it is said,
"Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the
scriptures." (Luke 24: 45.)


How often we read of Paul, when preaching to the
Jews, reasoning with them out of the scriptures. (Acts 18: 4, 19.) If the
apostle addresses the Romans as able to admonish one another, it is because he
can say of them, "And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that
ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish
one another." (Rom. 15: 14.) Where the action of the Spirit in the
assembly is most definitely treated of, as in 1 Corinthians 12, it is not to
the exclusion of the word. "For to one is given by the Spirit the word of
wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit." (1 Cor. 12:
8.) Where the apostle enumerates the marks by which he and others approve
themselves the ministers of God, we have mentioned in the wondrous catalogue,
by knowledge, by the word of truth, by the armour of righteousness on the right
hand and on the left. (2 Cor. 6: 7.) If you look at what that armour consisted
of, you will find truth as a girdle for the loins, and "the sword of the
Spirit, which is the word of God." (Eph. 6: 14‑17.) The apostle
speaks of what he had afore written to the Ephesians, "whereby, when ye
read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ." (Eph. 3:


Where the same apostle speaks of the admonishing
one another, see what he mentions first as an essential prerequisite. "Let
the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing
one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your
hearts to the Lord." (Col. 3: 16.) To Timothy he says, "If thou put
the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of
Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine,
whereunto thou hast attained." He exhorts him, "Till I come, give attendance
to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. . . . Meditate upon these things; give
thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed 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: 6, 13, 15, 16.) In
the second epistle Timothy is exhorted thus: "And the things that thou
hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men,
who shall be able to teach others also." (1 Tim. 2: 2.) As to himself we
have these words: "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that
needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (Ver. 15.)
Among other qualifications of the bishop, or overseer, as they are given in
Titus 1, we have this: "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been
taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince
the gainsayers."


From all this it is evident, my brethren, that it
is not merely by little scraps of truth, brought out whenever some impulse to
that end visits us, that the church is to be edified.* No; they by whom the
Holy Ghost acts to feed and nourish and guide the saints of God, are they whose
souls are exercised habitually in the word of God; they "who by reason of
use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." (Heb. 5:
14.) As has been said, the least that can be expected of those who minister in
the church is such acquaintance with the word of God as this.


*God forbid that any should be discouraged from
ministering the least word tending to real edification. But such as are used of
the Lord thus would be the very last to suppose that theirs was the only
ministry, or that by which the need of saints is principally supplied of God.


Knowledge of God's word, however, is not
sufficient. There must be its present application to the consciences of the
saints, so as to meet their present need. For this, as some one has in
substance observed, there must be either acquaintance by , etc.,
with their state (and this could never be very perfect or accurate), or else
direct guidance from God. This is true of those who are in the fullest sense,
and most manifestly, the gifts of Christ to His church, as evangelists, pastors
or teachers. It is God only who can guide them to those portions of truth which
will reach the conscience and meet the need of souls. It is He only who can
enable them to present the truth in such a way as to secure these ends. God the
Holy Ghost knows the need of each and all in the assembly; and He can guide
those who speak to speak the suited, needed truth, whether they have the
knowledge of the state of those addressed or not. How important, then, implicit
and unfeigned subjection to Him.


One thing which would always mark ministry in the
Spirit would be the promptings of personal affection for Christ. "Lovest
thou me?" was the thrice repeated question to Peter, connected with the
injunction, as oft repeated, to feed Christ's flock. "For the love of
Christ constraineth us,"  — Paul
says. How different this from the many motives which might influence us
naturally. How important that we should be able each time we minister to say
with a good conscience, "My motive for speaking was not a love of
prominence, or the force of habit, or the restlessness which could not be
content unless something were being done; but love to Christ and to His flock,
for His sake who purchased it with His own blood." Surely it was this
motive which was wanting in the wicked servant, who hid his Lord's talent in
the earth.


Then, further, ministry in the Spirit, or indeed
any action in the assembly to which He leads, would always be marked by a deep
sense of responsibility to Christ. Let me put it to you, my brethren, and to my
own soul as well. Suppose we were questioned at any time after the close of a
meeting, Why did you give out such a hymn, or read such a chapter, or offer
such a prayer, or speak such a word? Could we with a clear, good conscience
reply, My only reason for doing so was the solemn conviction that it was my
Master's will? Could we say, I gave out that hymn because I was fully persuaded
that it was the mind of the Spirit, that at that juncture in the meeting it
should be sung? I read that chapter, or spoke that word, because I felt clear
before God that it was the service my Lord and Master assigned me? I offered
that prayer because I knew that the Spirit of God led me as the mouth of the
assembly to ask those blessings which in it were implored. My brethren, could
we answer thus, or is there not often the taking this part or that, without any
such sense of responsibility to Christ?


"If any man speak, let him speak as the
oracles of God," says the Apostle Peter. This does not mean, let him speak
according to the scriptures, though this be of course true. It means, or rather
says, that they who speak, are to speak as oracles of God. If I cannot say in
speaking, "This is what I believe I have been taught of God, and what God
has given me to speak at this time," I ought to be silent. Of course a man
may be mistaken in saying this, and it is for the saints to judge by the word
of God all that is spoken. But less ought not to induce any one to speak, or
take any part in the meetings, than the solemn conviction before God, that God
has given him somewhat to say or do. If our consciences were exercised to act
under such responsibility as this, it would doubtless prevent a great deal
which does take place; but at the same time it would make way for God to
manifest His presence, as we are not wont to witness it.


How strikingly do we behold this sense of direct
responsibility to Christ in the Apostle Paul. "For though I preach the
gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is
unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly"
(that is, from choice, for any personal object), "I have a reward: but if
against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me." (1
Cor. 9: 16, 17.) How affecting his words to the same people! "I was with
you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling." (1 Cor. 2: 3.) What
a rebuke to the lightness of heart and self‑sufficiency with which, alas,
we all too often handle God's sacred word! "For we are not as many,"
he says again, "which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as
of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ." (2 Cor. 2: 17.)


One other point I would touch upon. "God hath
not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound
mind." (2 Tim. 1: 7.) "The spirit . . . of a sound mind." A man
may have little or no human learning, he may be unable to express himself in
any elegant diction, or even with grammatical propriety. All this he may lack,
and yet be a good minister of Jesus Christ. But the spirit of a sound mind he
must have.


And may I now, while on this topic, mention what in
other places, as well as among ourselves, has sometimes made me very sad? I
mean the confusion between the Persons in the Godhead, which is often made in
prayer. When a brother has commenced by addressing God the Father, and has gone
on to speak as though it were He that had died and risen again; or, addressing
Jesus, has given thanks to Him for sending His only-begotten Son into the
world, I confess to you I have said to myself, Can it be the Spirit of God who
leads to such prayers as these? Surely all who conduct the worship of the
saints need so much of the spirit of a sound mind as to avoid confusion like
this. No one believes that the Father died on Calvary, or that Christ sent His
Son into the world. Where, then, is the collectedness of spirit, the soundness
of mind, which should characterize those who take the place of being the
channels of the saints' worship, when they use language which really expresses
what they do not themselves believe — and what it would be shocking for any one
to believe!


Still reserving some other points for another

I am, yours affectionately in Christ









BELOVED BRETHREN, — My remarks in this will be of a
more desultory character than in the preceding letters, my object being to
gather up several points which could not be so well embraced in the subjects of
my former communications.


And first, may I remind you, that whatever takes
place in a meeting for mutual edification ought to be the fruit of communion.
That is, if I read a chapter of the word, it is not that I have to look through
my Bible to find a suitable chapter; but being more or less acquainted with the
word, the Spirit of God brings to my mind the portions He would have me read.
So if a hymn is to be sung, it is not that I feel the time is come for singing,
and so look through the hymn book for a nice hymn to sing. No; but out of the
measure of acquaintance with the hymn‑book that I have, the Spirit of God
reminds me of a hymn, and leads me to give it out. The idea of half a dozen
looking through their Bibles and hymn­books to find chapters and hymns suitable
to read or give out, is as subversive of the real character of a meeting for
mutual edification, in dependence on the Holy Ghost, as can well be conceived.
I may, indeed, have a given chapter laid on my heart, and may need, from
imperfect acquaintance with my Bible, to look for it; and so of a hymn; but
this is clearly the only object one can rightly have, in turning over the pages
of either when assembled on the ground of mutual dependence on the Holy Ghost
for mutual edification.


Then, secondly, if this were well understood, it
would follow, as a matter of course, that when any one was seen opening his
Bible or his hymn‑book, it would be known to be with the thought of
reading a portion of the word, or giving out a hymn. The word, "Wherefore,
my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another" (1 Cor.
11: 33), would then quite preclude the thought of anyone else taking part in
the meeting, till the brother who had evinced his thought of doing so had
either carried it into effect or laid it aside. — This brings me fairly to the
subject of mutual dependence, on which we may well and properly meditate for a
little while.


The question as to the Corinthians, in 1
Corinthians 11, was not as to ministry, but as to eating the Lord's supper. The
question of ministry comes on in 1 Corinthians 14. But the moral root of the
disorder in both cases was the same. They failed to discern the body of Christ,
and so each was occupied with his own individual self. "For in eating
every one taketh before other his own supper." (1 Cor. 11: 21.) The result
was, "And one is hungry, and another is drunken." The principle of
self was here permitted to produce fruits so glaring and so monstrous, as to
shock one's natural sensibilities. But if I come to the meetings, and sit in
the meetings, thinking only of the chapter I am to read, the hymn I am to give
out, the part I am to take, self is as entirely in spiritual things the hinge
on which my thoughts and solicitudes turn, as though, like the Corinthians in
natural things, I having a supper, brought it and ate it, while my poor brother
who could not afford this, went away without. It is in the fellowship of the
one body of Christ quickened, actuated, taught, and governed by the one Spirit,
that we meet together; and surely the thoughts of our hearts in thus assembling
should neither be the supper I myself have to eat, or the part I myself have to
take, but the wondrous bounty and grace of Him who has committed us to the
keeping of the Holy Ghost, who will not fail, if humbly waited on, to assign
each his proper place and part, without any restless anxiety in us to know what
it is.


In the body of Christ each one is but a member and
surely if the Corinthians had discerned and realized this, the one who had a
supper would have tarried for those who had none, to share it with them. In
like manner, if my soul realizes this precious unity of the body, and my own
humble place in it, as but one individual member of it I shall not be in such
haste to act in the assembly as to prevent others acting: and if I feel I have
a word from the Lord, or a call from Him for some service, I shall still
remember that others may have the same, and so leave room for them: and most of
all, if I see another with his book open to read a portion or give out a hymn,
I shall wait till he has done so, and not be in a hurry to get the opportunity
before him. "Tarry ye one for another," will surely apply to this as
well as to the breaking of bread. And in the fourteenth chapter we find that
when prophets were speaking in the meeting by immediate revelation, there was
to be so much deference of one to another, that in the very act of speaking, if
anything was revealed to another that sat by, the first was to hold his peace.
Besides, the general, moral bearing of such a word as "Let every man be
swift to hear, slow to speak" (James 1: 19) would teach us thus to tarry
one for the other.


Then, thirdly, the object of our assembly is
edification. This is the point pressed in 1 Corinthians 14. In 1 Corinthians 12
we have the body of Christ in subjection to Him as Lord, and the witness here
of His Lordship, by virtue of the indwelling and inworking of the Holy Ghost,
who divides to every man severally as He will; closing with the catalogue of
gifts, apostles, prophets, etc., set of God in the church in their several
places of use, or service, for the whole. To covet earnestly the best gifts is
enjoined, but a more excellent way referred to, namely, the charity, or love,
of 1 Corinthians 13, without which the most splendid gifts are nothing, and
which must regulate the exercise of all gifts if edification is to be the
result. This latter is the subject of 1 Corinthians 14. The gift of tongues was
what seemed to man the most wonderful, and the Corinthians delighted in
displaying it. Instead of love seeking the edification of all, it was vanity
seeking to display its gifts. They were real gifts — gifts of the Spirit. And
here, beloved brethren, is the solemn thing for us to weigh, that there may be
the power of the Spirit for service, without the living guidance of the Spirit
in its exercise. The latter there can only be where self is crucified, and
Christ everything to the soul. The object of the Holy Spirit is not to glorify
the poor earthen vessel which contains His gifts; but by the humble, gracious,
self-renouncing use of these gifts to glorify Christ from whom they flow; and
this is accomplished in the edification of the whole body.


How beautiful is this self‑renunciation
in Paul! Possessed of every gift, with what singleness of heart he sought not
to exhibit his gifts, but to exalt his Lord, and edify the saints. "I
thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: yet in the church I had
rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach
others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue." How forcible
from the pen of such an one, those words of the Holy Ghost, "Let all
things be done unto edifying." "Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are
zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the


Then again, every servant to be faithful must act
under his master's directions. Hence the importance of what was so much pressed
in my last, that if I act in the assembly of the saints, it must be on no lower
ground than that of a full and solemn persuasion in my own soul before God,
that it is my Master's present will I should so act. "For I say, through
the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of
himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as
God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." (Rom. 12: 3.) The
measure of what I do is to be the measure of faith God has given me; and God
will take care that His servants know thus what He would have them do. Nothing
less than a firm and solemn conviction that it is His will, can be a warrant
for my acting in the assembly, or indeed anywhere besides, as the servant of
God. In the assembly, however, there is a divine check or guard on the abuse of
this principle, namely, the provision made in such a word as "Let the
prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge." (1 Cor. 14: 29.) It
is for my own soul in the first place to judge, and know whether the Lord calls
me to speak or to act in the assembly; but when I have so spoken or acted, it
is for my brethren to judge, and in the vast majority of cases it must be by
their judgment that I abide. The case is a rare one indeed in which I should be
warranted in continuing to take a part in the meetings, if my doing so were
disapproved by the brethren.


It is quite evident, that if God has called me to
speak or pray in the meetings — if it be really from Him that my conviction of
being led to do so proceeds — it is as easy for Him to dispose and prepare the
hearts of the saints to receive my ministry, and unite in my prayers, as it is
to dispose my own heart for such service. If I am really led of the Spirit thus
to act, the same Spirit who leads me and acts by me dwells in the saints; and
in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, the Spirit in the saints, will respond
to ministry or worship in the Spirit on the part of any. Ordinarily, therefore,
if I found saints burdened and troubled by my taking part in the meetings,
instead of being edified thereby, I should be warranted in concluding that I
had mistaken my place, and that I was not called thus to act.


In the second place, suppose that what made the
ministry of any one for a time unacceptable was to be found in the state of the
assembly, not his own state: suppose that he is so much more spiritual than the
assembly, that they cannot enter into or appreciate what he ministers to them,
what of such a case as this? It is not a very common one, and when it does
arise, it may be for such a servant of Christ to enquire whether he has not to
learn to be like his Master, and to teach and "to speak the word unto
them, as they are able to hear;" whether he does not need a little more of
Paul's spirit, who could say, "we were gentle among you, even as a nurse
cherisheth her children;" who says, too, in another place, "I have
fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it,
neither yet now are ye able."


If, with such discriminating care and tenderness as
this, his ministry is still not received, it must indeed be trying to the faith
of such a servant of the Lord; but seeing that edification is the object of all
ministry, and that saints cannot be edified by a ministry that does not commend
itself to their consciences, there could be no good in forcing it upon the
saints, whether they can receive it or not. The general weakness and disease of
one's body may produce the dislocation of some particular joint. The body in
such a case will not be benefited by forcing the dislocated joint into action.
It may be deplorable that it cannot act; but the only way for its use to be
restored is to give it perfect rest for the time being, while the general
health of the body is sought to be restored by other means. So in the case
supposed, continued ministry where it is not received, even if the cause be the
low state of the assembly, only adds irritation to the generally bad condition
of things, and thus makes it worse. The servant of the Lord in such a case will
find that to be silent is his wisdom, or it may be to him the intimation of his
Master's will that he should serve elsewhere.


On the other hand, let me earnestly warn you,
beloved brethren, against what probably enough Satan may now seek to make a
snare to us, the spirit of criticism on what takes place in the meetings. His
effort is always to urge us from one extreme to another; and if we have erred
on the side of indifference, as though it made no matter what took place if
only the time was filled up, it is more than likely we shall now be in danger
on the other side. The good Lord in His mercy keep us. Nothing can be more
deplorable, as to the state of heart it indicates, and nothing can be a greater
hindrance to blessing, than a captious, criticizing spirit. We assemble to
worship God and edify one another, not to occupy ourselves in determining who
ministers in the flesh, and who prays in the Spirit. Where the flesh does
manifest itself, let it be judged. Sorrowful and humiliating work it is to
discern and judge it, in place of our own proper, happy privilege of mutually
enjoying the fulness of our blessed Saviour and Head. Do let us beware of a
spirit of fault‑finding. There are lesser gifts, as well as greater ones,
and we know who it is that has bestowed more abundant honour on the parts that
lacked. The actings of a brother in the assembly are not of necessity all
fleshly, because he acts in the flesh to some extent.


On this point, it would be well for us all to
ponder the words of one most highly honoured amongst us, "There is great
need of this, namely, that we attend first to the nature, and, secondly, to the
measure of our gift. While on this last, that is, the measure of the gift, let
me say that I do not doubt that many a brother's gift would be recognized, if
he did not go beyond his measure in it, 'If he prophesy, let him prophesy
according to the proportion of faith.' All beyond that is flesh, and putting
himself forward, and this is felt, and his whole gift rejected; and this
because he has not known how to confine himself to it; and therefore his flesh
acts, and his speaking is attributed to it — and no wonder. It is also true as
to the nature of a gift; if a man sets himself to teach, instead of confining
himself to exhorting (if he exhorts), he will not, and cannot, edify. I would
especially desire the attention of every brother who ministers in the word to
this remark, which, from lack of faithfulness in his hearers, may never reach
him in any other way."


It is to brethren who minister that these words are
addressed, but I quote them to you, beloved brethren, that we may learn not to
condemn everything that any one says or does, because something of the flesh is
discernible in it. Let us thankfully own what is of the Spirit, distinguishing
it from all else even in the ministry or actings of the same individual.


There are still two or three points of minuter
detail on which, in the confidence of brotherly love, I would add a word or
two. As to the distribution of the bread and wine at the Lord's table. It is,
on the one hand, most desirable that this should not be uniformly and
exclusively by one or two individuals, as though it were some clerical
distinction; while, on the other hand, I can see no warrant in scripture for
any one breaking the bread, or giving the cup, without giving thanks. In
Matthew 24: 26, 27; Mark 14: 22, 23; Luke 22: 19; and 1 Corinthians 11: 24, we
are told that the Lord Jesus gave thanks when He broke the bread and took the
cup; while in 1 Corinthians 10: 16, the cup is termed the cup of blessing or of
thanksgiving. If, then, scripture is to be our guide, how plain that any one
who breaks the bread or takes the cup should at the same time give thanks; and
if any of us do not feel power to do this, may we not rightly question whether
we are called to distribute the bread and the wine?


Then as to rule or oversight in the church, and
indeed as to the qualifications to be looked for in any who act in ostensible
service amongst saints, 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 ought to be prayerfully studied
by all of us. There is one particular in 1 Timothy 3: 6, which it may be well
to be reminded of. "Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall
into the condemnation of the devil." It is possible for the call of God
and the gift of Christ to be found with a young man like Timothy (or if we go
back to the Old Testament, with a Jeremiah); and "let no man despise thy
youth" would apply to any such in the present day, even as to Timothy of
old. But it is to Timothy the words quoted "not a novice," etc., were
addressed. His youthfulness was to be no encouragement to those to act who had
neither the gift nor the grace which had been bestowed on him. And there is
even a natural fitness and beauty in the young taking the place of subjection
instead of rule, which seems to me to be sadly overlooked sometimes.
"Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you
be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the
proud, and giveth grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5: 5.)


The Lord in His mercy, beloved brethren, grant us
to walk humbly with Himself, and thus may no hindrance be presented to the
working of His blessed Spirit amongst us.


Yours, in unfeigned affection,