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To A Follower Of The Rejected Christ.
Beloved In The Lord, — It seems to me needful sometimes to justify the simple but lovely salutation "Beloved," as addressed to All who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Well—the completion of the title, "in the Lord," as written above, proves its absolute fitness as applied to every true Christian.
A brother or a sister in the Lord may often find in this little paper words of severe rebuke respecting unfaithfulness, in reference to associations based on traditions of men. Yet there is not one real christian, however he may feel offended by such plain speaking, to whom I cannot say,—I truly love you in the Lord.
And thus it comes to pass, that there is true joy in being able to pen a few words, monthly, of exhortation and encouragement to you, dear christian reader, merely regarding you as in Christ, and therefore "Beloved."
I have open before me the 13th and 14th chapters of John's gospel. The hour had come—Jesus was to depart out of this world unto the Father. Having loved his own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end. What a joy to know of the constancy of the love of Jesus! His disciples fail in many ways —all of us do so, more or less—but his love changes never. He took us up when we loved Him not, and He knew all that was in us, and how far we should deny Him or forsake Him. But having loved us, He loved us unto the end! How excellent is the love of Christ! Indeed, it passeth knowledge. Dear brother, dear sister,—that precious love is yours and mine. It is not only for us, but it is ours. Oh, how it rejoices our poor weak hearts, if we repose in that love. We want faith so to lay hold of the love of Christ, as to be able to abide in it. Let us not be satisfied with a passing experience of that wondrous love-- far less with a mere belief in its existence. We want to know it abidingly.
How does the Lord show his love in the Scripture before us? He washes the disciples' feet. It was the feast of the passover. In the purposes of God, the followers of Jesus were already under the shelter of his blood. Now He washes their feet. Amazing truth! Who can say he has fully estimated that wondrous stoop of grace in the Son of God? A voluntary manifestation of humility, only exceeded by his own sublime act in humbling himself in obedience unto death, even the death of the Cross.
There was Judas yet with the other disciples;—not only Peter who would deny his Master with oaths
and curses, but the Traitor also, who would sell his gracious Lord for thirty pieces of silver. But Jesus washes their feet notwithstanding. There was no cessation of grace and love on his part, though He knew all, and who should betray Him. Oh, blessed Lord, who would not be servant of thine? Well may we adore thee, and long to behold thee, thou who lovest us thus. After Jesus had washed their feet, Judas went out, his wretched heart unsoftened by that last and touching act ofgrace he had experienced with the rest. The Lord had endured his traitorous presence, and had dealt with him as with the others. But now the testing time was come; Satan, who had long been working by covetousness in the heartof Judas now took possession of the one he had made his own. "Satan entered into him!" Oh, what an awful sentence! And then at a word from Josus the betrayer went out; and it was night! Well may we wonder how the deceiver could have prevailed over Judas to leave the light of truth and love, that he might give himself up to treachery and darkness! But he had worshipped the idol Covetousness till nothing could stay his lust for money! Satan had thus got entire possession of him. He went out, "and it was night."
What a relief when the traitor was gone! Jesus immediately began his last loving exhortations, full of heavenly wisdom and light. He is going away for a little while. They are to love one another— "By this," said He, "shall all know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." •
Beloved,—Is not this a precious characteristic of discipleship ?" We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren." Oh, may you and I respond more thoroughly to the new commandment so oft repeated by our blessed Lord whilo yet upon earth. The next incident in the narrative is Simon Peter's declaration of readiness to lay down his life for the sake of Christ—this is met by the Master's warning—
"Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow till thou has denied me thrice "!
Who can doubt the sincerity of Peter? He meant all he said, but he did not know himself. Oh, may we ever mistrust self, and watch and pray lest we enter into temptation. Peter's boasting and selfconfidence must be cured by his being suffered to come under the power of Satan for awhile. Alas! how many disciples of Jesus have to suffer a like experience, because they will not walk in humility, and mistrustfulness of self!
Simon Peter heard the warning and would have to undergo all the Lord's words implied. But does this affect the Ioto of Jesus towards him? Not at all. He changes not. He knew all that was in them, those eleven feeble followers who heard his words. He knew they would all forsake Him in the hour of trial. Did He reprove them for such weakness and want of love? No ; the theme of his discourse is, the manifestation of His own love, not the absence of love on their part. His next words, after speaking of Peter's denial, are—" Lot not your heart be troubled "! He was going to the Father. There was the path of faith before them down here. There was coming failure on their part too ;—but his reassuring words are—" Let not your heart be troubled." Reason would say, how could they be otherwise than troubled under such circumstances ? Where were they to find consolation? They were to trust in Him—they were to find in Jesus not only a Saviour from wrath, but a deliverer in every time of trouble. Nor was this all; He would have them by faith look on to the end, and know beforehand that He was going to prepare eternal mansions for them, and then He would come again and take them to Himself, that they might never more lose the joy of his presence. So He says, "Ye believe in God; believe also in Me." They should trust Him as God. Shall we say, it was difficult for them: they had known Him as "the man of sorrows;" they were yet to witness his unspeakable acquaintance with "grief." But for all that, He was the living God, and they were to believe in Him as such. Only thus would they be able to take up the power of his assuring words— "Let not your heart be troubled." So He presses upon their poor weak faith (addressing Himself specially to Philip), the truth of his wondrous union with the Father.
"Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me ? the words I speak unto you I speak not of myself, but the Father that dwolleth in mo Ho doeth the works."
I cannot here dwell upon the remarkable assimilation of these two things, words and works, in the above sentence, but it is worthy of deepest thought. What I am looking at, is the tale of the Lord's unchangeable love to his disciples, not only to those to whom He was speaking, but to all who should believe on Him through their word, as the 17th chapter shows.
They would lose his bodily presence, but He would be with the Father, and his abiding in heaven would bring them untold blessings. In short, He would do whatsoever they shouldask in his name. Moreover, he would send them the Holy Ghost the Comforter to abide with them for ever. Nor should his own presence be wanting, though unseen, to those who really loved him; and such loving ones should also know fellowship with the Father.
"He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him."
"If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."
Amazing truth! Amazing love! Alas! how few
experience it! Why is that so? Because the promise is conditional.
"If yo love me, keep my commandments." "He that hath my commandments and kecpeth them, he it is that loveth mo."
"If a man love me, he will keep my Bayings.''
Professions of love will not do. There must be living reality in our love, if we would know abiding "fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." Our love must be proved by doing. Not by doing things taught through the traditions of men. But by doing the things that Jesus has said—holding to his words and keeping his commandments.
After these special promises of personal manifestation to any who shall Actively respond to his love, our blessed Lord resumes his unconditional assurances of grace to all his followers.
"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
Here is a present portion, beloved, for you and for me. The Lord addresses us as One,—you, and me, and all believers. He does not say Hearts, but He speaks in the singular number, and twice in this chapter He does this!
Oh 1 may you and I, and all who believe in Him, realize the force and deep meaning conveyed in that word. We are of one heart, though practically we cease to realize the blessed fact whenever we suffer the flesh, the world, or Satan, to work in us. May we, too, know more fully than ever that perfect peace which Jesus has left for us,—the peace which was his while a stranger on earth. And from this, may we go on to know those Personal manifestations of his love which He has promised to any one who, really loving Him, gives proof of the fact by doing His will, according to His Word.
In mysterious, but eternal union with you,
And with the risen and glorified Jesus,—
How should we deal with those in Error?
We have received the following letter from a dear brother, belonging (denominationally), it seems, to the exclusive section of " the Brethren," respecting the unscriptural Ban put upon certain "Brethren" who have taught erroneous doctrine. This letter we publish at full length, with our reply, praying the Lord that the consideration thereof may bo blessed to many souls.
[To the Editor of Precious Truth.]
"Kentish Town, June 18, 1S66. "Dear Brother,—
"I have been charged with, and nearly excommunicated for giving the right hand of fellowship, or rather bidding Godspeed, to one who (it is said) has departed from the doctrine of Christ, (2 John 9,) the one in question being a most loving soul, who preaches Jesus fully, but also teaches the 'noneternity of punishment.' "Now, it seems to me, that as 'Brethren' we aro all on fire as to judging, but most deplorably cold as to loving one another. I do not say we should not judgo; neither do I say I am decided as to this very solemn subject, for I confess my soul has been greatly troubled about it for years. When I look into the word, (I speak honestly) I am confounded ; on the other hand, when I see the abhorrence in which it [doctrinal error] is held by so vast a majority of God's children, I urn again at a loss to know how to judge. I respect both sides, and thereforo hold my peace. Should J thereforo be troubled and dealt with in judgment, simply because I sit with, talk with, and perhaps sympathise with Brother B.f I know he loves Jesus, however he might err in judgment.
"I certainly think, as long as I preach and teach without giving offence, I should be left alone. As to all interference with our inmost difficulties, it is only likely to cause moro trouble to the almost broken-hearted church. I have been severely dealt with upon the ground that I am seen in company with one whom they say ' tramples under foot the Son of God,' &c. (!) Now, what have we to do with one who walks, talks, and acts consistently, and deals in love with all who confess that Jesus is the Christ? We read in the word, 2 John 9, " Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ hath not God;" now what is the doctrine of Christ? I take it to be the Atoning work of Christ; therefore the Unitarian is the man with whom I am to deal, for he denies the Lord that bought him.
Can I class brother B with this one? It is very different to
have to deal with a sinful walk, that is plain; but not so with defective judgment. There was one who was living in fornication ; one who was not working for his living; these are, no doubt, to be dealt with; but to make them, and dear Mullcr, of Bristol, one, is our fault--and a most serious one it is.
"There is, however, one passage in Bom.xvi.17, which speaks of those who cause divisions, and they are to be marked and avoided j nevertheless, even this seems to require great discriminating power.
"I leave this with the Lord; do what seems to you to be most to his glory j give this communication a place, or destroy it. But believe me
"Yours Sincerely, in the Coming Jesus,
"G. R. G."
Answer.—Those who have ventured to censure you, and have come nigh to passing sentence of excommunication, are entirely without Scripture warrantry.
As you rightly apprehend, an assembly of Christians must deal judicially with any in their midst who commit gross sin. But as to errors of judgment and doctrinal heresies, a Church has no power. On the contrary, the word written to one of the most disorderly Churches of the early days is—
"I hear that there be divisions among you, and I partly believe it: for there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you." (1 Cor. xi. 18, 19.)
Thus we are not left in ignorance as to what the mind of the Lord is in this matter. God had not only foreseen the evil, but declares by his servant that he sees a needs be for its permission. Not that heresy, or schism, is other than evil; not that it is to be glossed over; but the Lord permits it to come in that "approved ones may be made manifest."
Now comes the question what are we to do with those who bring in unscriptural doctrine? The answer is very obvious. As the Lord has not given us power to act judicially with such, we must pray Him to do so ibr us. We may be assured he is not Head of the Church in vain. Those denominationally known as the "Brethren" have experienced much blessing in consequence of owning practioally the Headship of Christ when they meet for worship. How ia it
they forget the aspect in which the Lord presents himself in the first three chapters of "the Revelation" as the One who exercises judgment in the midst of the churches? Herein is the whole secret. We have to learn by experience, as well as doctrinally, that we are really dependent upon the Head of the Church in in all cases where He has not given us power to act upon our own judgment.
For our part, we are quite convinced that where a few christians, "approved ones," wait upon the Lord in prayer faithfully, respecting doctrinal evil, they will ever find He is mighty to deliver. But while there is an assumption of power maintained, while "brethren" will arrogate judicial authority, which the Master in infinite wisdom has withheld from them— grief and scandal must inevitably result.
On the supposition that the Brother you speak of were still among "the brethren" denominationally, there would be no power among you to excommunicate him for teaching the error of the non-eternity of punishment. If, then, he could not be dealt with judicially by "Brethren," those must be very ignorant of the will of the Lord, who venture to chide you for being in the accused one's company. Of course we do not mean to infer that your censors are generally ignorant of the Lord's will. Quite the contrary ; no doubt they are deeply taught in the word. But on this particular point the leaders of "exclusive brethrenism," and all who co-operate with them, are quite dark.
We say this believing that they act with unsoiled consciences. For to sit in judgment without scripture warrantry, manifests of necessity, either ignorance of the truth, or unfaithfulness. We are conscious of the gravity of the charge we thus make against many dear brethren in the Lord who are mighty in the Scriptures, and who, as the Lord's servants, are widely owned and blessed.
Let us candidly look at the Scriptures on which they rely, in support of their proceedings, as disciplinarians. We take the passages in the order in which you quote them.
First, 2 John 9. This is considered the stronghold of your leaders.
"Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son."
Now, the "doctrine of Christ" is clearly set forth in the context. It is, that "Jesus Christ is come in the flesh." If a man denies this, he is an antichrist. The Apostle says—
"Many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist."
It is to warn against such that this brief epistle is chiefly directed.
We should think that even the severest judges among you will not venture to affirm that where they have exercised the assumed power of excommunication for erroneous doctrine, any one of tho acoused parties have denied that" Jesus Christ is come in the flesh I"
The warning of the Apostle John to the elect lady and her children, in his second epistle, is confined to the above characteristic of the spirit of antichrist. This will be manifest to the true-hearted enquirer on reference to the 4th chapter of the first epistle of John. There he warns believers generally in the same language. He says—
"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God : because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the spirit of God: Eveiy spirit that confesseth that Jesua Christ is oome in the flesh, is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is oome in the flesh, is not of God."
Here you have precisely the same teaching as that quoted from the second epistle. There is nothing about error in doctrine, or heresy. That which is furnished is a plain direction as to how the spirit of antichrist is to be detected. This is the case in both Scriptures—and the uninitiated might well wonder why learned "brethren" should prefer to cite the Apostle's words to a woman respecting the conduct of her household, rather than take up the same doctrine from the epistle general. But the preference is easily understood by those who know what »»'mse is made of it. The "Exclusives" lay hold of the words—
"If there come any man unto you, and bring not this doctrine [i.e. the doctrine previously sot forth, namely that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh], receive him not into youx house, neither bid him God speed: for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." (2 John 10,11.)
They assume that herein is given authority to excommunicate heretical teachers!
In effect, the Apostle writes to the elect lady thus— "Keep antichrist out of your house, neither receive him, nor bid him God speed."
While the violent construction the "brethren judges" put upon his words, is this—"If any christian shall teach in an assembly of believers, doctrine which the leading brethren consider erroneous, let him be excommunicated without mercy, and with him, all who show christian pity or love."
In short, while Scripture tells us to shut out antichrist, exclusives tell us to turn out mistaken believers!
Has ever the word of truth been more tortured than in this misapplication of it by "Brethren "?
Let the prayerful christian again look at the General epistle of John for confirmation of what we havo set forth. What is the characteristic teaching of the chapter from which we have quoted? After warning against the spirit of antichrist, what do we find ? The most poworful exhortations to christian love!
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Bon, to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another."
And so all through. If a brother has wandered from the truth,—will a display of vindictiveness, or even uncharitableness, bring him back again ? Should not that be our object, the restoration of every mistaken or betrayed believer? How is this to be accomplished, if a faithful one is not to be permitted to speak to his erring brother? Of course, there is danger—error may spread by intercourse. But then the Lord knows the danger, and he permits it, that
faith may be tried. All the rules and severity devised by christians, cannot prevent heresy. Nay, all such devices have the direct tendency to increase it. It would be easy to prove this from the experience of the brethren themselves.
Let us now examine the other scripture relied upon for absolute exclusion.
"Now I beseech you brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such, serve not our Lord Jesus, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience is come abroad unto all. 1 am glad, therefore, on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly." (Rom. xvi. 17—20.)
We have quoted here too much for "exclusives," but only enough for vindicating the truth. There is nothing here about excommunication. If we see Christians causing offences and divisions, contrary to Scripture, by good words and fair speeches deceiving the hearts of the simple, for their own selfish purposes, serving their own belly and not the Lord Jesus Christ—we are to avoid such, that is, as to companionship; a faithful follower of Christ must avoid those who evidence such characteristics. We are to follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart." (2 Tim. ii. 22.)
Here our course is made plain. But we are neither to anathematise nor cast out the selfish and unfaithful ones. "We are simply to avoid them. Then we must notice, too, that the mind of the Lord, revealed to us in the word of God, on such themes, leaves us to act individually in the exercise of a conscience taught in the Sc-riptures. This is the only safeguard. Those pointed out to be avoided by obedient Christians, are such as "cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned." Here is responsibility to know the truth, that we may act it out, as in the sight of our Lord. A mere bigoted adhesion to the dictum of leading brethren, however greatly gifted or deeply taught, is a sorry evasion of the responsibility laid upon us to know the truth, as it has been imparted by the Holy Ghost.
Indeed, the onus which thus rests on each member of the body of Christ cannot thus be got rid of. We ought to blow the truth and live it out, fearing neither the frowns of the world nor the hard speeches of our brethren. It is the lack of this stedfastness Christward, which operates to make "exclusive brethren" a compact body, and elicits a spirit of bigotry instead of love. One sad result of this has been to bring the very highest range of truth, with which they have been pre-eminently blessed, into disrepute. The failures of the party are laid upon the truth. We say it with sorrow; but the fact is so. Tho spirit of tyranny manifested by " exclusive brethren," in defiance of Scripture, has made the very name of "Brethren" a byeword. Oh, that all would ponder the concluding words of our quotation from Bom. xvi., "Be simple concerning evil, and the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly."
Oh, may we judge self constantly and closely; may we judge gross sin when discovered in a brother, by solemnly excluding him from Christian fellowship, until, guided by the word of truth, we can see the way to his restoration. And for the rest—Let us be "wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil." We may mourn over every failure; but, oh, let us not despise, much less persecute, an erring brother. On the contrary, may we take the Lord's example, and seek to wash a disciple's feet. Finally, let us really trust our Master to deliver us from all evil.
There is surely deep meaning in that declaration— "The God of peace shall bruise Satan under our feet shortly."
It is our purpose, if the Lord permit, to address a few words in love to "the Brethren'' in our next, pointing out, as the Holy Spirit may give us light on the Scriptures, the manifest way in which the Lord overrules, in cases of doctrinal difficulty, if He be trusted. [We have no sympathy with the error referred to by our correspondent.]
EVE, AND THE BRIDE OF CHRIST.
On the first day of Adam's life, he was, for a time, alone. "And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help, meet for him." Eve being created, and brought to Adam, God contemplated his work at the sunset of that sixth day, "and, behold, it was very good." After her creation, the command was given, "Be fruitful, and multiply," &c. Eve's creation, therefore, primarily illustrated the grace, or goodness, of God; and, secondarily, as the future " mother of all living," she was the expression of his purpose,— namely that the earth should be peopled. It is in the first of these aspects we desire to contemplate the creation of Eve; and as a special type of that crowning development of Grace—the Church, the Bride of Christ.
The Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, having "loved the Church, and given Himself for it," is, at present, as the exalted God-Man, Christ Jesus, alone; patiently waiting for His Beloved, preparing a place for Her; and God—(Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,)—are engaged in the wondrous work of calling out from a fallen world, baptizing into One Body, and gathering to the Lord Jesus, His Elect Bride. Shortly, she will be called into manifestation in the heavens, and, seated with Him upon His throne, be for ever the object and the display of His unchanging love.
This amazingly glorious manifestation of Sovereign grace is fully revealed to faith in the Epistle to the Ephesians.—
"Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; that tho God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the" Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and V'i .1 is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who
believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ,—(when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His Body, the Fulness of Him who filleth all in all,)—and You who were dead in trespasses and Mint."
In Ephesians iii. the glorification together of Christ and the Church is called "the mystery," and is stated to have been, "from the beginning of the world, hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ, to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." This "mystery," specially committed to Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, to be made known by him, seems to have been revealed, generally, to the "holy apostles and prophets [of the Church] by the Spirit," (ver. 5); and is also presented in the Revelation. In Eph. v. it is still further brought out:—
"Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church: and He is the Saviour of the Body. Therefore as the Church is subject unto Christ, so let tho wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it: that Ho might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that He might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing': but that it should bo holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives, as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church: for we are members of Sis Body, of His flesh, and
of His bones This is a great mystery: I speak concerning
Christ and the Church."
Not only was this wonderful "mystery" unrevealed to the prophets of Israel, but the Lord Jesus Himself did not unfold it before His death. He took, indeed, as a minister unto Israel, a high range of gracious speech—
'* Behold, my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother." (Mark iii. 34,66.)
But the revelation of the mystery of "the Bride of the Lamb," "the Lamb's Wife," was reserved— reserved for the Church Herself, being a truth which primarily concerned Her. Oh, what glory, what blessedness must be put upon and possessed by the Church, in order that She may be a worthy Consort of the Most Worthy One, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, "without whom was not anything made that was made!" "Fair as the moon," will She be, "and terrible as an army with banners!" And oh, the solemnities and universal rejoicings on the nuptial day!—
"And a voice came out of the throne, saying,—Praise our God, all ye His servants, and ye that fear Him, both small and great. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitudo, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying,—Alleluia: for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to Him, for the Marriage of the Lamb is come, and His Wife hath