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captive, and received gifts for men, baptizing the church with a Pentecostal effusion of the Holy Spirit, adorning his espoused bride with miraculous gifts, and promising to her, not the situation of a servant, but that she should share his throne, his glory, and all the blessings of his future inheritance. But the church thus set in the world, and exhorted to walk worthy of her high vocation, has failed and fallen away. Are we to look for her restoration to her first estate? The analogy of former dispensations answers, No! The more sure word of prophecy, to which we do well to take heed, answers, No ! But if all the statements in the New Testament lead us to anticipate declensions in faith and love, and final apostasy, the characteristics of the latter days, or last age in the Old Testament Scriptures, are directly the reverse ---speaking of universal blessing under the government of the Prince of Peace, of a Sabbath of rest to succeed the gloomy history of man's sin and sorrow.
How can these apparent contradictions be reconciled ? We answer, in no other way than by placing the latter days of the Old Testament beyond the latter times spoken of in the New, exactly as we find the Holy Ghost teaches in Acts iii. 19, 20, 21. “ The times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” The times of restitution of all things are, then, subsequent to the coming of Christ from heaven, which coming shuts up and closes the gospel dispensation. The fulness of the Gentiles (Tanpwua), a certain measure full, the accomplished number of the elect, the people taken out of the Gentiles and prepared for the Lord's name, being then brought in and gathered in one glorious church to reign with Christ. Then, indeed, and not till then, shall the prayer of Jesus be answered.
But we cannot pursue these themes; enough that it is evident that our lot is cast in evil times, that the church, as God's visible witness on earth, has left its high standing, and those who are faithful to the Lord are like the seven thousand hidden ones in Israel of old. The order of the House of God has been broken in upon, neither if it had continued perfect in external order merely, would it be a desirable resting-place, for it is that at which judgment must first begin. Like :“ Israel after the flesh” the church had been 66 planted a noble vine, wholly a right seed,” but has become « turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine;" and at length, when its grapes are fully ripe, the angel will gather " the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great wine-press of the wrath of God." The camp has become unholy, and the true position' of spiritual worshippers is to go forth without
the camp, bearing his reproach. Under these very circumstances of approaching declension, the Apostle Paul, by Divine guidance, commended the Ephesian elders to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified; and what does this word direct in reference to connection with those who have a form of godliness, but deny the power of it?—“FROM SUCH TURN AWAY.” “ Be 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 believeth with an infidel ? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple 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 be my people. Wherefore COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto
and shall be and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” We are not then to be beguiled by any show of Apostolic succession or Apostolic order into fellowship with churches which have become identified with the world, but we are to seek association with living christians, who, even as the two or the three meeting together in the name of Jesus, inherit that sure promise—“ Lo I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world !” The christian must know, that however evil and adverse external circumstances may be, he is “elect unto obedience," and should therefore seek such with whom he can obey the precept, “ Forsake not the assembling of YOURSELVES together, as the manner of some is.” He will earnestly desire to meet some assembly of the saints with whom he can unite in shewing forth the Lord's death until he come, sidering one another to provoke unto love and to good works,...and exhorting one another, and so much the more, as they see the day approaching."
But it is requisite, in order that such christian fellowship be according to the will of God, that the principles which the Lord has enjoined upon the church, by his Apostles, be diligently inquired into, and strictly maintained : otherwise, in attempting to obey one command, many others may be violated, and the service desired to be rendered may be more or less given to the house of the stranger.
1. The first and most essential requisite in an assembly, calling itself a Christian Church, is that it should have not only the form of godliness but the power—a congregation might otherwise be arranged as to externals, after the very model of the purest Apostolic Church, but not being builded together for an habitation of God, through the
Spirit, it might, in a spiritual sense, resemble the dry bones in the open valley.
2. Such a company should be found opposing no barrier to the purpose for which Christ gave himself, and for which he constituted his church—“ to gather together, in One, the children of God, which were scattered abroad.” The terms of communion should be identified with the terms of salvation, and with these alone. Is he a child of God? must be the previous question, apart from the sectarian fellowship resulting froin accordance of opinion on points non-essential to salvation.
3. Since the very existence of a church at all, on earth, is dependent on the
presence of the Spirit—"builded together for an habitation of God, through the Spirit,” being the tenure of its existence as a living body, every christian, as a temple of the Holy Ghost, and a member of Christ, has not only a right to admission, but should be received as that for which the Lord may have qualified him, whether to evangelise, to teach, to exhort, to minister to the saints, or to rule in love, his brethren being the judges of his calling and place in the body, but the principle being fully recognised and acted upon, that the Spirit dwelling in the church divides to every man severally as he will.
4. There should, therefore, be no artificial system of church government and ministry set up, which would grieve the Spirit by shewing dependence on an arm of flesh rather than on His presence, and by limiting his gifts and operations to some channel of man's devising. Such christians must meet as brethren having one master, even Christ, assembling together to break bread in remembrance of their dying Lord, and to exhort one another, and so much the more as they see the day approaching. Of course the distinction between clergy and laity would be entirely foreign to these views of scriptural communion, but the observance of the Baptism and the Supper--the exercise of christian discipline, the watching over each other in love, are not dependent on official appointment, which often creates rather than removes difficulties, and which cannot be derived from any scriptural
May our Gracious Shepherd lead his own sheep out of all those systems, which, instead of being green pastures for the flock, are rather inclosures to confine, and imprison and starve them, and increasingly unite them together in simple fellowship as brethren, having One master, and knowing that where two or three are gathered together in his name there is He in the midst of them!
ON THE AUTHORITY OF THE WORD OF GOD.
It is a principle that can never be lost sight of without damage to a believer's mind, nor without injury to the power and the deep meaning of the blessed truths of the revealed will of God, that, 'the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
It is from the want of a practical recognition of this principle, as presenting the only means of our right apprehension of the things of God, that so little knowledge of the Bible is ordinarily, in this day, the portion of his children, and so little establishment in the truth is experienced and enjoyed. Much is it to be feared that the minds of Christians generally have been withdrawn, by the eloquence of the pulpit and the arguments of the press, from habitual deference to the Scriptures, and therefore need to be called back to a knowledge of even the contents of the “ oracles of God,” rather than to be detained by innumerable treatises on the evidences of Christianity, or elaborate and constantly increasing arguments in support of the authenticity and inspiration of the Scriptures. If God speaks to us, will not his voice discover Himself? And if He who formed man, and “knoweth what is in the heart of man,” in infinite love, becomes his teacher, will not his own lessons, and his own language, and withal his own Spirit, as interpreter, best instruct and discipline the soul? The Bible may be made a book of science, as any other book, and may form the basis of many a splendid argument, or interesting theory, or sublime discourse; but its design is, simply to teach the knowledge of GOD, and to unfold the treasures of his redeeming love ; “that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”
The arguments and reasonings of men may indeed avail to silence the objections of Infidels, and to obtain from nominal professors a certain measure of respect for the word of God, and may also meet the unhealthy cavils of sincere, bnt unestablished, believers in Christ : but the full, blessed, practical power of God's word upon the soul, can never be realised by one who has not received it upon an evidence altogether different, and beyond that which may be furnished by the arguments, or the wisdom, or the authority of man.
It is not in the least disputed that powerful reasonings and elaborate proofs on these subjects (as the natural mind is accustomed to judge of things) may be sufficient, in many instances, to drive out the infidelity of the understanding; but they have no power to expel from its stronghold the infidelity of the heart. Hence, in this day of wide profession, is met at every point, a cold, heartless, inoperative, inconsequential acquiescence in the doctrines of Christianity and the claims of the inspired word; which is utterly opposed to the life and power of the “truth as it is in Jesus," when received into the heart under the blessed teaching of the Holy Ghost! Most earnestly do we desire that, amidst the strong trial of principles, and the rack and shaking of every thing earthly, that is now going on, the children of God may be brought to know and feel that the evidence and authority of all that the Bible reveals, and also their comfort, in its believing reception, as the truth of God, are entirely independent of the wisdom and the work of man. « The Bible is its own witness.” The highest, the most incontrovertible, evidence of its truth, is reserved for the soul (learned or ignorant) walking in “the OBEDIENCE OF FAITH. There is an evidence and a power of the truth, which ever arises from the simple obedient and recognition of the claims of the word, which is equally
beyond the limit of human wisdom and human reasonings, in the least degree, to establish or to destroy. Man's reasonings reach only the understanding, or at most affect the natural feelings; God's teaching, by his Spirit, at once reaches the heart, and sways the powers of the inmost mind.
This doctrine of “implicit faith” and unquestioning obedience we are well aware is not at all in unison with the argumentative and intellectual character of the theology, and much of the preaching, of the present day; which but too surely tells of its fellowship with the earthliness, and self-sufficiency, and selfcomplacency, that are pre-eminently distinctive of the character and doings of the world in the passing age; but most surely is it the only resting-place of the renewed soul, the only anchorage which can be maintained amidst the tempesttossed ocean,
which presently we may all find ourselves embarked. “Implicit faith” is indeed a startling doctrine, if it be required towards ought that bears not the stamp of the wisdom and the faithfulness of God; and unquestioning obedience is most perilous to the soul, if it be rendered to any but to Him whose authority is alone supreme.
But the Bible has, upon every part of its contents, the stamp and seal of His wisdom and faithfulness whose word it is; and the authority of the Bible is as the authority of the "one Lawgiver who is able to save and to destroy.”
These positions are not attempted here to be proved, but are at once assumed as acknowledged and settled truths, in the case of every one taught by the Spirit. Every portion of the Bible is the word of God, and claims as such to be received upon its own authority, and not on any extrinsic grounds of the argument or the reason of man. It is a principle which can never be maintained, that there are different degrees of inspiration attaching to different portions of Scripture; for all that man knows about the subject of inspiration is to be found in the words of Scripture : holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost;" and “God at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in times past unto the fathers, by the Prophets.” And the simple and direct testimony of the Holy Spirit, by the Apostle to Timothy, is (πάσα γραφή θεόπνευστος και ωφέλιμος κ. τ. λ.), “ All Scripture is inspired of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. There is not one degree of authority to be ascribed to the writings of Moses, and another to the words of Christ, and another to the Epistles of Peter and of Paul. All Scripture is equally the word of God. It
Spirit of Christ that spake in the Prophets;" and the things which are written by the Apostles are “.not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.”
Every part then of Scripture comes to us invested with the same authority, and is as much the word of God as the law of the Ten Commandments, which were written with the finger of God upon the two tables of stone. How much is this truth forgotten, even by many sincere believers in Christ! and how much is the word of God robbed of its due authority over the soul, by being read as the words of Moses or David, of Jeremiah, or Peter and Paul ! when, in truth, these are but the amanuenses of the Holy Spirit, and are but as the several pens by which he has been pleased to write.
“ Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost :” there is a different character and style impressed upon their utterances ; and there are different degrees of clearness in their communications; as also a
eat diversity in the subjects on which they are called to speak—though Jesus is the centre and substance of all: but there is no difference as to the one grand characteristic which sets every portion of the Scriptures infinitely above the the authority of any other book. All is the word of God.
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