« PreviousContinue »
especially standing in the communion of His mind, is connected with all His power; in the day of their greatest weakness they stand as a connecting link with all His mighty purposes, which are soon to be manifested: God could not, so to speak, do without that link: He could not in His grace do without a remnant according to the election of grace. And they have only to know His mind in faithfulness, in order to stand connected with that power soon to be revealed. It may be said, perhaps, that all this dispensation has been a connecting link, a final dispensation as to the consummation of all things“Upon us the ends of the ages have come" (Tà Téan Tv aiávov, 1 Cor. x. 11). How much more upon us who stand even in the end of such an age; upon us, to whom more especially the cry has gone forth, “Behold the Bridegroom cometh; go ye forth to meet him."
May we indeed, dear brethren, stand “having our loins girded about, and our lamps burning.” The much entering into that truth, will indeed, under the Lord's blessing, give power to our souls: it will connect us with all the power and blessing of that day (Malachi iii. 10, etc.), will tell us, whether the Lord, even in the last closing days of a dispensation, when failure, and nothing but failure, has been proved to the uttermost, will be deficient, or less than ever He was (compare verse 6) in real blessing to His people: “I will give you a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” The next verse (23) of this chapter of Haggai, tells us, I think, of blessed nearness to the faithful -nearness in that day. “I will make thee as a signet” (Cant. viii. 6); even as Rev. iii. 20, tells us of the same even in Laodicea.
Can apostasy, then, rob us of nearness to Christ, that chiefest of all things ? Oh no; it should only drive us nearer. The Lord give us hearts to value such blessings: grace, and faithfulness to seek them in His appointed way (Mal. ij. 7).
2 Cor. xii. 9.—“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”-Ed.
GIFT INALIENABLE FROM THE CHURCH.
In the controversy that arose respecting the abiding of gift, properly so called, in the Church now, I do not know that I saw the Scripture truth put in the same naked, singularly simple light, in which it appears to me to stand in the Word. Scripturally speaking, we may say that the existence of gift in the Church rests on the basis of another truth, which can never be altered ; viz., “ that there is one body, and many members.” If you can shake the one, you may shake the other; but with it it will stand.
The scriptural evidence of this we shall find, I think, remarkably distinct. In Romans xii
. 4, etc., we first find it. " For, as in one body we have many members, and all the members have not the same office, so, we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having, THEN, gifts (xaplouata) differing according to the grace that is given us whether, etc. Here, I think, we might say with truth, speaking in a general way (though strictly it would not, I judge, admit of being carried out), that gift was the mpašis, the action of the different members of the body. In 1 Cor.
have it just on the same footing, equally plain : “But all these worketh that one, and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will." (That is, dividing gifts (xaplouara), see verse 9, gifts of healing:"). "FOR, as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. FOR by one Spirit have we all been baptised into one body; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. In Ephes. iv. we get just the same teaching in spirit. First, we get the one body-one in its common privileges, 4 to 6; then the different gifts as necessary for the welfare of that one
body: “But unto every one of us (perhaps the nearest English translation would be, "to us individually,” évi de ÉKAOTO huw) is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ." And the word prophets, ver.11, would clearly identify the thought here as the same with 1 Cor. xii., where, verse 10,"prophecy;" in one case it being spoken of as the gift (doua) of Christ, in the other the xaploua of the Spirit; both for the same object, in part, " the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. iv. 12, 16). And I might ask here, if we see “ pastors and teachers" (verse 11) now, to take the lowest view, which unquestionably we do in different bodies of Christians, where does it come from? I say, from the gift of Christ now as much as ever, though that gift be much dishonoured by human additions.
“ Till we all come (the passage proceeds in Eph.) unto the unity of the faith, .... unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ," which I would say is clearly not the mere filling up of revelation, or the written word, no more than 1 Cor. xiii. 10, which is degraded thus (see verse 12); but rather, I judge, the Church formed even here on earth, in principle, into fitness for Christ (Philip iii. 14, 15, 13; Ephes. v. 26, the that at the commencement of verse_27 showing the connexion of the two) (John xv. 15; Rev. xix. 7).
1 Peter iv. 10, I think, conveys the same thought: “ Stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Xaploua is there used. These are, I think, quite the leading passages of the Word.
And from these passages it is quite clear to my own mind, that gift abiding in the Church stands on a most sure footing, which can never be shaken; it is connected with the very nature of the Church.
It might perhaps appear to some, “Why revert to a past thing? the thing is pretty clear to us. But I would remark, that the question of gift is a vital one to the Church; a vital one. And why? It is, in other words, the question of the SPIRIT acting in the Church. And strongly am I persuaded, that, where it is not maintained, the question really acted on of the Spirit in the Church, in the Assembly, it will bring in weakness, and may end in death. Nothing can compensate for it—no ministry. The Assembly is not the place where man should be honoured, but God. Observe, I am not speaking of mere fleshly liberty, but of the true acknowledgement of the Spirit. There is enough to sober the flesh in 1 Cor. iii. 12 to end.
Experience may have warned us of this, that in every failure of faith or truth, there will be also a break-down of this.
It is, I apprehend, a chosen jewel of God, if rightly, graciously used. The “manifold grace, manifold wisdom of God,” exhibited on earth; God Himself manifested (1 Cor. xii. 6, 28).
In answer to the objection-"I do not see it. I do not see gift in the Church now." One might remark, That is scarcely the ground of faith. It is better to question our own perception, than the faithfulness of God. There is, however, a blessed faculty imparted to the saint, which would enable him to discern it, I believe, though it might be mixed up and obscured. “Ye have an unction, ” says John, “ from the Holy One, and know all things. The anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you." And let me ask, What is the object, the subject of gift, the best gift? Is it not the knowledge of God, and of Christ? And is there less fulness now in God, or in Christ, for the Church? Is there less of spiritual blessing (Greek) in heavenly places in Christ? less treasures of wisdom and knowledge? Has, or can apostasy change our relations to Christ (John xv. 15); or the boundless store which the Spirit has to unfold?' (xvi. 14, 15). Therefore, I suppose, I might fairly ask, why gift, the best gift (1 Cor. xiv. 2, 3, 5), should not be the same now, though modified by circumstances? If God is the same, and the Agent of instruction, the Spirit (1 Cor. ii. 10) the same, why should gift be changed? O no! it is ever God's word to His own: “I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of Egypt; open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it."
With regard to the external gifts, miracles, etc., we might perhaps make this observation, that whilst God's principle abides the same, it remains with Him to apply that principle. He cannot, perhaps, own us in apostasy in testimony by power before the world; but He must always own Himself in love to the Church in Christ Jesus (Eph. iv. 12, 13). For himself, the writer can record, that, in his own experience, every attempt at outward power has, to his apprehension, been decidedly counter-met by God; and this, I judge, according to His own principle in wisdom: for why should we exalt ourselves out of the ruin which we have made, and thus, perhaps, forget the very God from whom we have received it, instead of sinking low before Him in the consciousness of the entire ruin we have made; and there, in that position, receive from Him every blessing that a loving hand can give? (John xiii. 8, 5).
And let me say here, that there is perhaps no more advantageous game that Satan can start, than to set saints looking out for external power and gifts. The fleshly mind is excited, the enthusiasm wrought up in looking out for the outward power; whilst Satan, unperceived, brings in any desperate delusion he may. There is something very solemn, I think, in the teaching of Ex. xxx. 38, respecting the holy perfume, the “sweet incense,” as I suppose, for the altar of incense, etc.: “ Whosoever shall make like unto that, to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people.” It is very possible to get intoxicated with God's incense. Yea, I think these last times have shewn us awful specimens of it, using the praises and excitement connected with God's truth and service for ourselves, until the law, the truth of God, is rejected: and what wisdom is in them? Compare Ezek. xxviii. 14, 15.
Especially I would say, there would be the danger of being diverted thereby from that which is our immediate and special hope, the return of the blessed Bridegroom Himself. We know the tendency there has been in the Church to rest in the Spirit, if I may so speak, instead of in Christ; and great danger would there be now for the Church, sunken, but not sufficiently humbled, to rest