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There he became great, and had a seat with the | rulers in the gate of the city. But, |
"That righteous man dwelling among them, [the wicked of Sodom) in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds." (2 Pet. ii. S.)
Thus it was with Lot. He had abandoned strangership—and accepted unholy citizenship; and though (doubtless, because he came out originally by faith, with Abraham) he was accounted righteous, yet because he would not abstain from fleshly or natural desires, he found them at war against his soul—" He vexed his righteous soul from day to day."
Alas, how many thero aro who do so now !—But this was not all; for when God visited Sodom in judgment, Lot had to flee for his lifo, leaving some of of his relatives behind him in that doomed city, who, through his unfaithful example, were too entangled with the sin of the place to listen to his words of warning when he urged them to flee "from the wrath to come."
Has not all this a voice for christians in these days?
Then think of our Lord's words—"Romombor Lot's wife"!—How was it with her? She came away with her husband and daughters; but her heart was not free from the sinful city; she looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt. And there are many pillars of salt now. Christians who have been delivered out of Sodom, but who in heart look back.
Beloved, —Have you taken up the pilgrim calling? It is the only one in which you can know permanent happiness with God, down here.
It is not only as to the world's amusements, conversation, politics, and its ordinary ways as apart from all thought of God, which, as a christian pilgrim, you are to have your heart estranged from— but from its religion also. It was the false religion of the Jews—(i. e. surface-work without heart) which kept the scribes and pharisees of old at a distance from the Lord Jesus. They hated Ihm, because he was pure and simple Truth. But they loved long robes, and parade of words in prayer, and self-display, to be seen of men. And how did the " Searcher of hearts" wither it all up?
"Jesus said unto them, Ye nro they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoieeth your hearts : for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." (Luke xvi, 1<5.)
Surface-work is not only vain, but abominable in the sight of Him with whom we have to do. Beloved— For us, then, be the path of faith, the walk oistrangership in tho world. The whole scene is under judgment, as Sodom was. Lot, who was in tho city, did not know of impending doom till the last moment. But, Abraham, the faithful pilgrim, knon-beforo, and in calm security (because in the way of God's choosing) was engaged in communion with God, and pleading not for himself, but for others!
In conclusion,—The power to keep us in pilgrim ways, is to be found in. spiritual, prayerful study of
the word of God—and especially in the revelation of tho promise—
"Behold, I come quickly, and my reward with me, to give every man according as his work shall be ... .
"lie which testified their thincrs saith, Surely I come quickly."
May we with gladdened heart reply—
"Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Rev. xxii. 12 k 2".)
Yours in christian love, and inpatient waiting.
TO ME. J. N. DARBY,
(or THE "EXCLVSIVK HIIETHUEV.")
"Rebuke not an elder, but introat him as a fathor." (1 Tim. v. 1.)
Dear Brother In Christ, —I am anxious to hear the above passage of scripture in mind while addressing you. I do regard you as a father in "the household of Faith," one who has been much used of our Lord, and I "esteem you very highly in love for your work's sake," to the full extent that your labours can be recognised as of the Lord. But, dear brother, you have made grievous mistakes, and these have produced bitterness and strife among dear christians to such an extent, that I cannot refrain from in treating you to review and change your judgment on the points hereinafter submitted.
My attention has been specially directed to a paper "On Ecclesiastical Independency," published in the August number of "The Bible Treasury"; and though it bears no signature, your style is too well known to admit of any difficulty in fixing upon the name of the author. Of course there is a bare possibility of being mistaken in attributing said encyclical to you; but as you are unmistakably identified as the leading promulgator of the doctrines therein set forth, there needs no apology from me for addressing you personally on the subject.
Let me say, at the outset, that if by your expression, "ecclesiastical independency," you intended only to rebuke those who invent ecclesiastical systems, in independent of the New Testament scriptures, I should have nothing to say against its use in reprobation of all who expose themselves to its implied censure. But the object of your writing is to maintain a doctrine even more opposed to revealed truth than that of "ecclesiastical independency."
You assert that the judicial action of one assembly of christians is binding upon all other christian assemblies. Nor is this only a theory with you, for you have, as far as you possibly could, unhappily enforced it. Yet any true-hearted enquirer ought to have no difficulty in detecting that you have not a vestige of the "inspired word" to support you. In. your paper, which I have before me, consisting of nearly six long columns of type, you are free to apply parental authority, magisterial power, and "Freemasonry," to help out your argument; but you make only one appeal to scripture, and that in an incidental way.
Now let us look at a few facts.
The only passage in the word of God upon which you and those who co-operate with you have based your claim to, and exercise of, judicial power, is that of the 5th chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians. It is this passage which you passingly allude to, as I have said. Lot us see what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians.
"It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that ono should have his father's wife. And ye aro puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that ho that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit have judged already, as though I were present, him that hath so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
"Your glorifying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leavenoth the whole lump? Purge out, therefore, tho old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us ; therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with tho leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened of sincerity and truth.
"I wrote unto you in an epistle not to keep company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with tho covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must yo needs go out of the world. But now I havo written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judgo them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within P But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person."
Here, dear brother, we have an instance of positive crime, such as would not be tolerated among the unconverted—" such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles."
Now, what is the course pointed out to the church at Corinth as that which they ought at once to have adopted? They ought to have manifested a godly sorrow, "that he that had done this deed might have been taken away from them." But in this the assembly had failed, and therefore they received a positive command to put away the wicked person.
But do we not see in the opening comments of the chapter the true resource of any assembly when evil becomes manifest among them? It is not excommunication which is commended, but such a sorrowing before the Lord, as that He may take the offender out of the way, if unrepentant.
I do not say that in cases of manifest sin an assembly is not to act upon the command given in 1 Cor. v. If we have failed to apply the first remedy, I suppose we must have recourse to the second. "Well, what in this case is laid down for us? Tho local assembly when gathered together in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the spirit of the apostle to the Gentiles, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, (not in any power inherent in the church,) are to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord, Jesus.
Now we can test the way in which you and those
who think with you, have endeavoured to carry this out.
Yourself and some of those who meet with you, have assembled in London, on certain occasions, to judge occurrences at Plymouth, Bristol, Guernsey, &c.—and without anything of tho spirit of the apostle, and in your own strength, not in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ—have adjudicated on points of doctrine!
There is no parallel between sin, in the ordinary sense of the term, and doctrinal error. Neither does the command given to Corinth to deliver to Satan a a wicked fornicator in their midst, afford a basis upon which a few christians in London are to deal with whatever they may consider evil, in distant cities.
The course you have followed is as unreasonable and unscriptural, as it would have been for the church at Corinth to take upon themselves to pass judgment and execute sentence upon tho judaising teachers of the Church at Galatia!
If scripture were entirely silent respecting doctrinal error, there would perhaps be some excuse for your having made the mistake of dealing with it in the same way that sin in the person is to bo dealt with — though even then it would be inexcusable for an assembly in London to assume power with respect to evil developed in the church at Plymouth. But the word of Ood affords amplo guidance in all cases. As has been already pointed out in this publication, with respect to the evil working among the Galatians, the apostle uses the very same expression as in 1 Cor. v. 6 :—
"A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." (Gal. v. 9.)
The false doctrine in the church at Galatia, and the sin in that at Corinth, are both called leaven—but they are leaven of different character, and are to bo differently dealt with. You talk about sophistry— Can there be a worse sophism than to attempt to deal with all kinds of evil under one sentence, because all evil is called leaven? The sabbath-breaker was to bo stoned, under the law of Moses; yet a covetous man was not sentenced to death, though condemned as a transgressor. They had both brought leaven into God's assembly, but only one of the two kinds of leaven involved sentence of death. And the distinction (in the scriptures which apply to tho present dispensation), between evil doctrine and sin in the person, are as marked as the different degrees of transgression in the Old Testament.
If a wicked person, a wilful sinner, be found in an assembly of believers, no true-hearted christian would oppose the carrying out of the sentence of dolivery to Satan, in the solemn manner recorded in 1 Cor. v. But if in the same assembly there be one who has fallen into error of doctrine—say, if you will, a false teacher—you have no sanction from the Word of God for dealing with him in the same way.
I have already referred to (Gal. v. in connection with the expression "a little leaven leavens the whole lump." There is no exhortation in that instanco to put away that wicked person, but there come an ejaculation from the apostle—"I would they were even cut off which trouble you"!—showing that the church had no power to put away in such a case.
In fact, your assertion "There is judicial authority I in the Church of God," needs very much qualification. Whatever is done in a christian assembly authoritatively, must be "with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ," and it is simply impossible for you to have that power when acting otherwise than according to the plain teaching of His word.
There are two ways of deliverance from doctrinal evil. Either you must entreat Him, who only has the power to come in as a Saviour. Or, if the lump become leavened, you may withdraw yourself.
"Now we command you brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of ut." (2 Thoss. iii. 6.)
To argue, as some of your disciples do, that excommunicating another is the same thing as withdrawing yourself, is, you will admit, sheer nonsense.
If 2 Thess. iii. 6, is thought to be not sufficiently conclusive as to the individual withdrawing from an unfaithful assembly, the well-known passage in 2 Tim. ii. is decisive.
You, dear brother, I doubt not, acted scripturally, in withdrawing yourself from the assembly at Plymouth, when you had judged it to be irremediably leavened with false doctrine. (I offer no opinion here as to how far you yourself were clear of participation in that evil.) But when you set up a judgment seat in London, and carry out a course of coercive measures, not only with respect to the individual teacher complained of, but extending to those who heard him, and those who received those who had heard him, or any who had intercourse with receivers of those who heard him, and so on, ad infinitum, it needs no great discernment to detect the unscriptural labyrinth into which you have been snared.
With respect to power in the assembly—you say "The question is one of competence, not of infallibility "! But the two really go together. Whore there is true exercise of power, there is infallibility, because it is the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ. You consider that because of the assured presence of our Lord Jesus Christ where two or three are gathered together in his name, there is of necessity sanction given to the exercise of judicial power. But Scripture nowhere says this, nor anything like it. What has the Master put in connection with his declared presence, in the oft-quoted passage, from Matt, xviii.? Is it competence to act with judicial authority? Nay; it is added to certify the power of unity in prayer?
"Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
There is nothing here about competency for executive judgment. We see a solitary instance of availing of the Lord's
power in tho excision of the wicked person at Corinth; but that was a cloarly-definod case of sin, and there was the spirit of the Apostle to guide the judgment of the assembly.
To endeavour to put the halo of the Lord's presence upon whatever two or three, gathered in his name, may do, is either grievous error or awful wickedness. A thousand things have been done in his sacred name, which have not the sanction of His word, and therefore not of his presence. The day will soon declare all such doings to bo wood, hay, and stubble. I will just notice the concluding words of 1 Cor. v., because you seem to consider they convey a recognition of what you call, "the judicial authority of the Church of God." Competence to judge evil does not imply power to execute sentence upon it. There is a competency in a christian assembly to judge every kind of evil, but as to how they are to deal with it, they must be guided by the Scriptures. In the instance of gross sin—God's Word is, "put away from among yourselves that wicked person;" but with respect to tho leaven of false doctrine you have no such word, nor anything approaching to it.
Among men, a jury is competent to judge crime; but it has no power either to pass sentence or to execute it. Only in the case of murder, does a jury know beforehand what the sentence will be. If the prisoner be found guilty, judgment of death must follow. But in all cases, the sentence is pronounced, not by the jury, but by the Judge.
A christian assembly is in similar position to that of a jury. It is competent to judge, as to fact; but the Lord alone has power to pass sentence.
Thus, then, I am compelled to adjudge, that the confederacy of which you, dear Brother, are the recognised leader, is unmistakably an "Ecclesiastical Independency." For it assumes a power which belongs to the Lord alone, and acts in independency of His word. Moreover, it discards, and almost anathematises, thousands of God's dear children who refuse to bow to its unscriptural decisions. This, too, notwithstanding its pretension to be the upholder, par excellence, of the doctrine of the Oneness of the Body!
A word as to how far one assombly is to recognise the judicial action of another. This is very simple, after the appeals already made to scripture. The assembly at Bristol should not, and would not, receive the fornicator put out at Islington. But the same assembly might, and most likely ought to receive one whom Islington had, acting under a false assumption of power, excluded for error of doctrine.
Hero, for the present, I leave this subject—only assuring you that any reply of yours, if based upon an unsophisticated dealing with the word of God, shall have full recognition in this paper, if the Lord delay his coming.
I hope to address you again on several other topics; but in the meantime subscribe myself— A member (through grace) of the
One Body of Christ,
Youb Fellow Sjeevakt.
a PREFIGURATION OF GOSPEL TIMES. Perceived in John vi. 1—21. [communicated.] In the above passage we are presented with the Lord Jesus Christ Feeding the Five Thousand and Walking on the Sea. While these events were of special interest to those primarily engaged in them, I am convinced that one of the objects of their being recorded, was to show us, in miniature, what the Lord Himself would again do, on a grander scale, in subsequent times. Thus, a true analogy is a pictorial prophecy, and though not possessing the importance of a doctrine, it must not be undervalued. In the interpretation of analogies may we have grace to restrain the workings of the imagination, and seek to be led of the Spirit into all truth. "He shall take of mine, and shall show unto you."
In the Feeding the FivoThousand, I consider, is preshadowed Gospel times among the Gentiles, and the desire that would be evinced by the Gentiles of putting worldly honours upon Christ, by allying Church and State. The people, in the narrative before us, being fed by our Lord, sought to take Him by force, and make Him a king. And so worldly professing Christendom, perceiving that temporal advantages might be wrought out of Christianity, willingly tendered outward allegiance to those who assumed to be the representatives of the Lord on earth, which they, unlike the Lord Jesus, were very ready to receive. This scene, with its lessons, I now desire to present, leaving the second part (the Lord Jesus walking on the sea, or the Church's path and the Church's hope) till a future occasion, if the Lord permit.
In John v. the Lord Jesus Christ is presented to us in Judea, where the Jews seek to stone Him, because He has healed a helpless sick man on the sabbath day. This same spirit developed itself afterwards in their opposition to Stephen; they stoned him, accusing him of speaking of the customs being changed which Moses had delivered.
This (like all persecution of the members) was regarded by the Lord as persecution of Himself—" Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" Immediately after Stephen's rejection, we have the calling of the Gentiles. Answering to this, the Lord in the chapter before us has left Judea, and proceeded to Galilee. Not only so, but He has crossed the Sea of Galilee, and entered the country of a swine-feeding people— a mixed and low caste race.
"After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias."
Here, then, I see "the Word" going forth to the Gentiles. It is generally admitted that the sea in Scripture is often symbolical of peoples, and nations, and tongues. It is noteworthy, too, that the Gentile name of the Lake is used in this passage, and in this alone in all the New Testament!—"Tiberias."
"And a great multitude followed him, because they saw his miracles which he did on them that were diseased."
How true this was of the early history of the Gospel! What "great multitudes," far and near,
professed the faith ("followed Him") during and immediately after the miracle age! The spread of the profession of Christianity, as we all know, was astonishing, and this, too, while Judaism still existed. This is shown in the 4th verse—
"And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh."
The phrase used by the Holy Ghost in this verse shows, I think, that Judaism would cease to have the divine sanction at the period contemplated in the analogy, that is, the times of the Gentiles—it is "a feast of the Jews," not a feast of the Lord.
While the Jews, who have rejected the Lord Jesus, are deeply interested in their feast, "a groat company" have resorted to Him, though a despised and rejected one. This indicates, as I have said, the development of Christendom, as the third verse further proves—
"And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples."
Here the Lord Jesus is foreshadowed as risen and ascended, and sat down in the place of power, and, virtually, believers seated with Him. Christendom of the Gentiles readily admitted the resurrection, and professedly gathered to Christ. And they were, and still are, fed,—i.e. the truth is preached, his own truth, Himself as the True Bread which came down from heaven.
But the truth as it is in Jesus is only received by the multitudes in a fleshly way (like loaves and fishes). Gospel truth heard by the ear, is received with a passing pleasure only, and excites a desire to outwardly patronise the giver! They sought (ver. 15) to "take Him by force and make Him a king." How wonderfully all this has come to pass in the history of the preaching of the Gospel! Great multitudes in the world have given an assent to the truth, and their assent has been strengthened by the experience of temporal advantages in a hundred ways, which they see has resulted from it. They say, "Christianity is a good thing. Under it, nations grow wealthy and peaceful; they enact just laws and form benevolent institutions. We like to rest in its presence; unlike the morally arid regions of heathendom, 'there is much grass in the place.'" It is but meet, men consider, that they should return favours with honours, dimly anticipating a continuance of favours in the future, as a result of such allegiance in the present.
Oh, what shame the Church has brought upon her- self in having countenanced such false expectations in worldly men by receiving emoluments and temporal honours at their hands! In the scene before us, the Lord Jesus " straightway constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side." (Mark vi. 45.) Dear believing reader, if you are still going on with some established system of arrangements in which the world's partisanship, and money, and respect, are proffered and accepted—nay, it may be, even courted !—see in this, that the Lord Jesus would have you get away from such a state of things, though it be to take to an untried sea. He bids you, Go; He is your Lord; you are not your own, you are His.
May He at His Coming find you, dear brother, dear sister, out there upon the waters, in company with other faithful ones, (if it be the Lord's will,) watchful, by His grace, in the darkness, and as the wind will be contrary unto you—" toiling in rowing." (Mark vi.)
"Bo ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for ■what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that bolieveth with an infidel [unbeliever]? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols ? for ye are the tomplo of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall bo my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not tho unclean; and I will receive vou, and will be a Father unto you, and yo shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
DARKNESS AND LIGHT.
(Fragment of a Dialogue between Christian Worldltwise and
Christian Avorldlywise.—I do not agree ruth you as to your anticipations of evil to come for this world, and that soon. Everything is tending in the contrary direction. Christianity is being spread everywhero, and wo see tho result of it in advancing civilisation and universal progress.
Christian Allfaith.—Dear brother, the essential difference betweon us is this: you judge things by the superficial guage of sight, while I tost them by the unerring standard of faith.
C. AV.—But I appeal to Facts.
C. A.—And I appeal to Scripture.
C.AV.—I do not see what the one has to do with the other. I affirm that the world is advancing in art, science, learning, civilisation, and Christianity.
C. A.—And I affirm nothing but what I find in the Word of God, which is this—'• Lovo not the world, "neither tho things in the world. If any man love "the world, the love of tho Father is not in him. "For all that is in the world, the lust of tho flesh, "and the lust of tho eyes, and the pride of life, is not "of tho Father but of tho world. And the world "passeth away and the lust thereof: but he that docth the "will of God abideth for ever." (1 John ii. 15—17.)
C. AV.—Yes, that is very figurative language, and I dare say any clever Bible student would give us the true interpretation of it.
C. A.—My dear Brother, it needs no interpretation. A christian is to receive it just as it is written. Faith is tho only thing wanted when dealing with the true sayings of God.
0. AV.—Yet you must admit there are many things written in the Scriptures which cannot be understood literally.
C. A.—There are some things described in visions and revelations by figures, and there are dark sayings by parables and prophecy, which the unenlightened cannot comprehend; but the declarations and precepts of the Word of God are direct and unmistakable, if only we are willing to hear what the Lord God has made known by inspiration of His Holy Spirit.
C. W.—Well I can't see with you. I revert to my
former proposition—that tho world is making great progress, and my wisdom is to make the best of it while I am here.
C. A.—And I revert to Scripture, and declare to you that " the wholo world lieth in wickedness." Or as others translate tho Greek, "tho wholo world lieth in the AVicked One." (I John v. 19.) And again, in moro solemn language, if possible,—" Tho "friendship of the world is enmity with God. AVho"soever therefore will bo a friend of the world is "tlw enemy of God." (James iv. 4.)
C. AV.—But, for all that, I suppose we are to do our best; and if the world will improve itself, that cannot bo very wrong; nor can I shut my eyes to facts. I look at things as they are.
C. A.—That is to say, you look at them with tho natural eye. Now, the Pharisees of old appeared externally very devout and righteous men, even zealous for God, in their own way. But what was our Lord's estimate of them? "Ye are like unto "whitcd sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful "outwardly, but are within full of dead men's bones "and all uncleanness." (Matt, xxiii. 27.) Thus it is with the so-called Christianised world. It may to some extent have put on a whited surface. But it is a sepulchre for all that—and the Word of God pierces beneath the coating of white, and shows that that which is within is not only unsightly, but positively loathsome.
C. W.—Well, I cannot seo the object of taking such gloomy views.
C. A.—AVithout those gloomy views, as you call them, it is impossible to walk in separation from the world, according to the will of God. There may be many dear Christians who do not fully understand the extent of tho condemnation which God has pronounced upon the world. But every true child of faith says Amen to tho declarations of God's Word. Meanwhile, until those divine declarations aro not only comprehended, but acted upon, there will be defective Christian walk, and the Holy Spirit will be grieved.
C. AV.—As far as I understand the condemnation of the world by God, I am ready to say amen too. But I think all such condemnation is future, and that in the meantime we are all to do our best to improve it. I suppose you do not, on principle, object to improvements altogether?
C. A.—No. What I object to is, that you, as a believer in the Son of God, should persist ib. estimating things according to tho appearance they present to tho dim perception of unaided reason; whereas the Lord would havo you to prove all by tho unerring test of His word.
C. W.—I cannot understand you.
C. A.—That is because you have not implicit confidence in the word of God.
C. W.—Indeed you misjudge me. I qui to believe in tho inspiration of the Scriptures, and endeavour to regulato my life principally by them. I have been always taught to look upon the Book of Proverbs, for instance, as affording practical instruction, specially suited for our present condition on earth.