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called to stand ready for action, when the frame-work of the church should be put together? No such thing; to the hundred and twenty Jews with the twelve Jewish apostles the blessing is first given, which blessing, though they knew it not, was to lead them entirely out of their Jewish order, and character, and position; for the energy of the Spirit of the living God was to be substituted in the place of outward Jewish order and form; and a heavenly portion, even sonship and heirship of God, in place of the earthly national enjoyments of Israel, and the throne of the Father as their place of rest instead of Jerusalem on earth.
The law was the trial of nature, fallen nature, and was therefore the ministration of condemnation; and, consistently with its being a trial of nature, every thing connected with it came out of the resources of nature; its mediator, its priest, its servants, its tabernacle were all of earthly substance, provided out of the pit of nature; and they had no intrinsic value or worth in them, but only a worth or value communicated to them as "appointed of God." But the gospel is the trial of God's grace; and is therefore the ministration of righteousness. Consistently with this, we find its Mediator, its Priest, its tabernacle all of God, and heavenly in their essential character; the "holy priesthood," appointed "to offer up spiritual sacrifices," are "called with an heavenly calling," -"begotten again to an inheritance reserved in heaven," their life is hid with Christ in God, and they are strangers and pilgrims here. To such there are no "sanctuaries," no "holy places” on earth now. "Neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem," is their place of worship; but the Father hath sought them out to worship Him in spirit and in truth; and their calling is in "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh."
If any one would examine more in detail the order of this "spiritual house," let them read 1 Cor. xii. xiii. xiv., and they will see plainly that the union of saints was not the recognition of agreement in opinions and notions, or even in knowledge, but unity in the "grace of life;" the grace of life was that which gathered believers together as members of one body—their power of concentration; and to have neglected union, visible union, was, among the early Christians, as with ourselves, sin, not only by reason of its want of accordance with the example of the apostles, and of its being a violation of the commands of God, given through them, but because it was contempt of the "divine nature,” and in it of the Father who gave it, of the Son who died to effect it, and of the Holy Ghost by whom it was brought. The same
seems to us to be true as to edification. On the resources of nature for edification, the saints were never meant to be dependent; neither education, nor natural gift, nor talent, were to be recognised by them as essential to edification. All their power of mutual help and profit springs from the "grace of life;" and to accredit any means apart from this, would be a contempt of "the divine nature," and have all the bitter fruits hereof. The same may be said as to discipline: and as to each of these three things, to turn to any thing but the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, is just judaizing, attempting, when we have begun in the Spirit, to be made perfect through the flesh—a turning, in short, from the resources of grace to the resources of nature-passing from under the ministration of righteousness, under the ministration of condemnation.
To enlarge upon this a little. It will hardly, we think, be questioned but that the kind of union, edification, and discipline which was established consequent upon the resurrection of Jesus, was proper and peculiar to the blessing given at Pentecost-this was "the power of sonship," the Spirit of the Son crying from within, "Abba, Father;" and this Spirit indwelling and witnessing of the person and works of the crucified, risen, and ascended Jesus, was the formative power of the dispensation. Now, if it had been given but to one person in the world, that one would have been made thereby God's witness upon earth; he would have had, in the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, as seen in the face of Jesus, both the testimony of his own forgiveness of all sin that was past (acceptance as a son), and the energy of the Spirit for service. He would have been a witness of the manifold grace and wisdom of God before men, and angels, and devils; and, as conscious of the character of his own flesh, and of the world and the devil, he would have had all that carefulness proper to life, the life of God, under such circumstances; humble in himself, but trustful in God. And if to such a one had been added a second, then these two would have been the Church of the living God, mutually dependant the one on the other; the energy and power of the life possessed by each of them separately, finding, in their union, new modes of displaying itself, new necessities created by their union, and supplied out of the fountain of the life given. Each one had the heart and the mind of Christ in their separate standing, and the full power of the life of their risen Head was theirs, not, however, to exercise according to their own caprice, but for the honour of their risen Lord. When apart the one from the other, his honour did not need the development of the power of that mutual care and subjection one to the other, which would have existed when
brought together, and therefore it was not manifested; but when brought together, the honour of their Head could not be answered without it, and with the new necessity the fresh display of power is given. With the tendencies and powers of “life” in the world of nature, we are not altogether unacquainted. From the character and aspect of many an organ which we never saw in exercise, we can judge, and judge correctly of the tendencies of that to which it belongs. The naturalist thus argues from fossil remains constantly. And how continually, in our intercourse as men, do we take the incipient traits of character as certain indices that those around us will, or will not, ultimately prove fit for the various duties of life. This, and much more that might be said, shows how we count upon the tendencies of "life," and how surely do we all count upon the power of life to adjust what ought never to have been deranged in all the little accidents of life. We count not that a scratch or a bruise must remain so for life, but know how the power of life will naturally remedy the evil. It is just the same in spiritual life. If we imagine the numbers to swell from two to many in the stage we are contemplating, new necessities are created; and, with the new necessities, the all-sufficient power of the life given is displayed. And, more than this,-for, with the multiplication of the necessities, the distinctness of the agency becomes more and more visible, and with it the mutual dependencies of the parts, the one on the other," He dealeth to every man severally as He will." In a large assembly, teachers, and evangelists, and pastors, and rulers, will be needed; and the Spirit supplies them: yet still it is in the same way,— from the inside. It is the grain unfolding from within itself its fruit : not the tapestried curtain of the tabernacle, wrought out according to the fancy of the artist working, it may be, at the leaves, and stem, and fruit, alternately, without regard to the order of life; the work exhibiting neither unity nor object, until the whole is finished. In such an
assembly, the discovery of the gift of teaching in any, or of the power of care and rule, will lead to the immediate recognition of such, as set by the Spirit for the office of teaching or ruling, &c.; and just so long (but no longer *) as the actual presence of such power in any one continues, are all the rest bound to recognise, not the man, but the Spirit, and such development of the mind and wisdom, and authority of Christ in the man. Do they recognise an ordinance? No; they recognise the Spirit, and the wisdom and authority of Jesus, in the ordinance.
* The Lord rarely, if ever, withdraws gifts conferred, save where there has been sin. So that, having once discovered a gift, we may count upon its continuance. Yet, let us use it in watchfulness, seeing where he that has it and we ourselves are.
And if for any reason the Spirit were pleased to remove the gift and wisdom from those in whom He had first wrought, with the removal of spiritual power would remove the recognition of the faithful. The same may be said as to edification. The power of life and the energy of the Spirit, in gift, are the only legitimate means of either edification or discipline: and so completely is this the case, that neither the one nor the other have any power or liberty, save in the Spirit; and where attempted, save in Him, they become the ground of grief to Him, and of judgment to us. To imagine that because I have life in Christ, and consequently membership with the church on earth, that therefore I am to take part in ruling or instructing those with whom I meet, is to neglect or despise the gifts of the Spirit. It is a less evil in itself, surely, than the looking to other resources than the Spirit for these things; yet will often, in practice, be found to be the same; for it will often issue in the substitution of something of nature in the place of that which should be altogether of the Spirit. Each and every direction concerning office in the church, as found in the epistles, partakes of this character: it assumes the grace of life manifested in gift to be present. Moral character and gifts are the results of the Spirit's work : they are needful for rule and service in the church, and are discernible to all that have the Spirit. We accordingly find the directions concerning elders and deacons just to rest hereon. See epistles to Timothy and Titus.
As the distinctive peculiarity of the present dispensation is, “they shall be all taught of God" (John vi. 45), we believe nothing is now allowed of God to come in between himself and us. For any one to attempt. to rule, or edify, or teach the saints, is a direct assertion of gift-direct gift hereunto in the Spirit; and it is sin for any one to refuse to hear and obey those that speak under the Spirit; or, on the other hand, to accredit the flesh as the Spirit, either in rule or teaching. It does seem to us, that as the mediatorship, and priesthood, and sacrifice, &c. of Jesus are intrinsically precious, deriving their value not from being types, but from being eternal realities; just in the same way all the services and offices of the Holy Ghost are intrinsically precious, having their sole sanction and value as the works of the Spirit. In Jesus there was no alloy. He was without sin; holy, harmless, undefiled. In us there is alloy; so that every act of one sent by the Spirit and used by the Spirit, will partake of sin. But this, so far from disproving the case, confirms it; for it keeps the party ministered unto in constant watchfulness against any of the old leaven of nature. Surely it was grace so to arrange that none might rest even on Paul or Cephas; but,
whilst ministered to of God by them, might still be kept in dependance upon God himself: and thus at once the very idea of abstract authority or power being in any man, irrespective of the present display of the grace and wisdom of God, is completely set aside. The apostle Paul seems never to have acted among saints upon abstract authority. Again, as confirmatory of this, we find the grace given to the church at Pentecost given to them in a position and under circumstances from out of which it had to lead them: for, in the opening of the Church's history, we find the whole form assumed altogether Jewish: the twelve apostles, seven deacons, and the Church, all inside Jerusalem; having all things in common among themselves, as converted Jews, and no testimony to the heathen. Afterwards, we have the one apostle of the Gentiles, a wanderer from place to place; the number of elders and deacons dependent upon the necessities of the place; and the grace given; and the weekly contribution, "as God had prospered every man," toward the needs of them that were in want.
By way of practical application, we would remark, that this was sadly forgotten at the time of the Reformation; and has been ever since, in all the attempts made to reform the churches. It was surely a strange oversight for men, living under so grievous a decline from pure religion, to assume that they could re-constitute from outside the form of the witness, when that form had been the result of the energy and working of the Spirit. But so it was. The mind was made to rest upon the abstract form of the Church, in the day of its perfection, instead of upon that which had then, because believed and acted upon, moulded that form, and would mould it again, if rested on. In the consciousness of their low estate, to cast themselves upon the grace and energy of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, is what they should have done, and what we must do. It is a blessed and a simple task: but it is the very opposite of endeavouring formally to assume the exact position, and to re-constitute all the officers, &c. of the Church, in the day of its perfection. God forbid that we should be supposed to say that there was any thing in the early Church which God could not or may not restore. May the reformation be more abundant in blessing to us than it was in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah! Yet this also would we desire,— that we may pretend to no competency not really given to us through the Spirit that we may not assume that we have received any thing which God's eye sees not really in us; and that we may learn and profit entirely from the Lord's address to the Church of Laodicea.