What is the Church, as it was at the beginning?

and what is its present state?

J. N. Darby.

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We may consider the Church in two points of view. First, it is the formation of the children of God into one body united to Christ Jesus ascended to heaven, the glorified man; and that by the power of the Holy Ghost. In the second place, it is the house or habitation of God by the Spirit. The Saviour gave Himself, not only to save perfectly all those who believe in Him, but also to gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Christ has perfectly accomplished the work of redemption; having offered one sacrifice for sins, He is seated at the right hand of God. For by one offering He has for ever and perfectly purified those who are sanctified: whereof also the Holy Ghost witnesses to us, "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." The love of God has given us Jesus; the righteousness of God is fully satisfied by His sacrifice; and He is seated at God's right hand as a continual testimony to the accomplishment of the work of redemption, to our acceptance in Him, and to the possession of the glory unto which we are called. From heaven, according to His promise, Jesus has sent the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, who dwells in us who believe in Jesus, and who has sealed us for the day of redemption, that is to say, of the glorification of our bodies. The same Spirit is, besides, the earnest of our inheritance.

But all this would be always true, even if there were not a Church upon earth. That is, it is one thing that there are individuals saved, children of God, heirs of glory in heaven; quite another is their union with Christ, so as to be members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones; and yet another it is to be the habitation of God through the Spirit. We will speak of these latter points.

There is nothing clearer in the holy scripture of truth than that the Church is the body of Christ. Not only have we salvation by Christ, but we are in Christ and Christ in us. The true Christian who enjoys His privileges knows that, by means of the Holy Ghost, he is in Christ and Christ in him. "In that day," says the Lord, "ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in me, and I in you." In that day, that is to say, in the day when we should have received the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit. Accordingly we are in Christ and members of His body. This doctrine is largely unfolded in Ephesians 1-3. What is there clearer than this word, "He gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body"? Observe, that this marvellous fact began, or was found existing, at soonest when Christ was glorified in the heavens, even though all that is found contained in these verses is not yet accomplished. God, says the apostle, has raised us up with Him, and has seated us together in Him in the heavenly places - not yet with Him, but "in him." And in chapter 3, "Which [mystery] was not in other ages made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel … that now unto the principalities and powers in the heavenly places might be known, by the church, the manifold wisdom of God."

77 Here, then, is the Church formed on earth by the Holy Ghost descended from heaven, after the glorification of Christ. It is united to Christ, its heavenly Head; and all true believers are His members by means of the same Spirit. This precious truth is confirmed in other passages; for example, in Romans 12, "As in one body we have many members, and all the members have not the same office; so we who are many are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."

It will not be necessary to cite other passages: we will only call the attention of the reader to 1 Corinthians 12. It is clear as daylight, that here the apostle speaks of the Church on the earth, not of a future Church which shall be made good in heaven, and not even of churches scattered over the world, but of the Church as a whole, represented however by the Church at Corinth. Therefore it is said, at the beginning of the epistle, "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." The totality of the Church is clearly seen in the words, "And God hath set in the church: first, apostles; secondarily, prophets; thirdly, teachers; after that, miracles; then gifts of healing," etc. It is evident that apostles were not in a particular church, and that the gifts of healing could not be exercised in heaven. It is the Church universal on earth. This Church is the body of Christ, and the true believers are its members. It is one by the baptism of the Holy Ghost. "For as the body is one and hath many members, and all the members of this one body, though many, are one body; so also is Christ," v. 12. Then, after having said that all these many members work, each in its own function, in the body, he adds (v. 27), "Now ye are the body of Christ, and members each in particular." Bear in mind that this is come to pass by the baptism of the Holy Ghost come down from heaven. Consequently this body exists on earth, and embraces all Christians wherever they may be; they have received the Holy Spirit whereby they are members of Christ and members one of another. Oh, how beautiful is the unity! If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; and if one member is honoured, all the members rejoice with it together.

78 Here the word teaches us besides that the gifts are members of all the body, and that they belong to the body as a whole. The apostles, the prophets, the teachers are in the Church, and not in a particular church. Consequently these gifts, given by the Holy Ghost, are exercised in all the Church where the member is found, because he is a member of the body. If Apollos taught at Ephesus, he teaches also when he is at Corinth, and in whatever locality he may be.

The Church is, then, the body of Christ, united to Him, its Head, in heaven, and one is a member by the Spirit who dwells in us, and all Christians are members one of another. This Church, which will be by and by made good in heaven, is at present formed on earth by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, who abides with us, and by whom all true believers are baptized into one body. The gifts, in the next place, are exercised as members of this one body in the entire Church.

There is, as we have said, another character of the Church on earth; that is to say, it is the habitation of God on earth. It is interesting to see, by examination, that this had no place before redemption. God did not dwell with Adam even while innocent; nor with Abraham, though He visited with much condescension both the first man in paradise and the father of the faithful. Nevertheless He never dwelt with them. But no sooner was Israel redeemed out of Egypt than God comes to dwell in the midst of His people. As soon as the building of the tabernacle was revealed and regulated, God says, "I will dwell in the midst of Israel and I will be their God; and they shall know that I am Jehovah their God, who hath taken them out of the land of Egypt to dwell in their midst," Exod. 29:45-46. Thus the dwelling of God in the midst of the people was the end of the deliverance: the presence of God in the midst of the people is their greatest privilege.

79 The presence of the Holy Ghost is what characterizes true believers in Christ. "Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost," 1 Cor. 6:19. "If any man hath not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his." Christians taken together are also the temple of God; and the Spirit of God dwells in them; 1 Cor. 3:16.

Not to speak more of the individual Christian, I will say then that the Church is God's habitation on earth by the Spirit. Most precious privilege! The presence of God Himself, the source of joy, strength, and wisdom for His people! But at the same time there is very great responsibility as to the way in which we treat such a guest. I will cite some passages to prove this truth. In Ephesians 2, "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and pilgrims, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are built together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." Here we see that, though this building is already begun on the earth, the intention of God is to have a temple formed, made up of all that believe after that God had broken down the partition-wall that shut out the Gentiles; and that this building grows till all Christians are united in glory. But meanwhile the believers on earth form a tabernacle of God, His habitation through the Spirit who abides in the midst of the Church.

In 1 Timothy 3 the apostle says, "These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly; but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." By these words we see that the Church on earth is the house of the living God; that this epistle teaches Timothy how to behave himself in this house. We see also that the Christian is responsible to maintain the truth in the world. The Church does not teach, but the apostles taught. Teachers instruct, but the Christian maintains the truth by being faithful to it. It is the witness of the truth in the world. Those who seek the truth do not seek it among Pagans or Jews or Mahometans, but in the Christian Church. It is not authority for the truth, but the word is its authority. The Church is the vessel that contains the truth; and where the truth is not, there is no Church. Such is the Church, the body of Christ, who is its heavenly Head.* Such is the house of God by the Spirit on earth. When the Church is complete, it will join Christ in heaven, clothed with the same glory as its Bridegroom.

{*This is an incontestable proof that the pope cannot be the head of the Church, because if Christ is the Head, one body cannot have two heads.}

80 Now it is necessary, before speaking of the state of the Church as it was at the beginning, to notice a difference which is found in the word of God as to the house. The Lord said, "Upon this rock I will build my church." It is Christ Himself who builds His Church; and consequently the gates of hades shall not prevail against it.* Here it is not man who builds, but Christ. Wherefore the apostle Peter, speaking of the spiritual house, says nothing of the workmen, "To whom coming as unto a living stone … ye also as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood," 1 Peter 2. This is the work of grace in the heart of the individual by which man approaches Christ. Accordingly, once more, in the Acts it is said that "the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved." This work could not fail, being the work of God, efficacious for eternity, and manifested in its time. We read, moreover, in Ephesians 2, "Built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord." This building which grows may be manifested before the eyes of men; but if the effect of this work of efficacious grace is not manifested in its exterior unity before men, God will not for that fail to do His work, gathering His children for eternal life. Souls come to Christ and are built upon Him.

{*Be it observed that there are no keys for the Church. One does not build with keys. The keys are for the kingdom.}

81 The apostles John and Paul, and more particularly the latter, speak of a unity manifested before men in testimony to men of the power of the Holy Ghost. In John 17 we read, "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word, that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." Here the unity of the children of God is a testimony borne to the world, that God has sent Jesus in order that the world may believe. Now this truth is, consequently, the evident duty of God's children. All know how the state opposed to this truth is a weapon in the hands of the enemies of this truth.

The character of the house and the doctrine of the responsibility of men are still more clearly taught in the word of God. Paul says, "Ye are God's building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master-builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every one take heed how he buildeth thereupon." Here it is men who build. The house of God is manifested on earth. The Church is the building of God; but we find there not only God's work (that is, those who come to God moved by the Holy Ghost), but also the effect of the work of men, who have often built with wood, hay, and stubble. Men have confused together the exterior house built by men and the work of Christ, which may indeed be identical with the work of men, but it may also differ widely. False teachers attributed all the privileges of the body of Christ to the great house composed of every sort of iniquity and of corrupt men. But this fatal error does not destroy the responsibility of men as regards the house of God, His habitation through the Spirit; any more than it is destroyed in respect of the manifestation of the unity of the Spirit in one body on earth.

I considered it important to notice this difference, because it throws much light on questions of the day. Let us now pursue our subject. What was the state of the Church at the commencement when it began at Jerusalem? We find that the power of the Spirit of God was wonderfully manifested. "And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved," Acts 2. And in chapter 4, "And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart, and of one soul: neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked, for as many as were possessors of lands, or houses, sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles' feet; and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need," Acts 4:32-35. What a beautiful picture of the effect of the power of the Spirit in their hearts! an effect which was too soon to disappear for ever; but Christians ought to seek to realize it as much as possible.

82 The evil of the heart of man soon appeared; and Ananias and Sapphira, as also the murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration, manifested that the sin of man's heart joined to the devil's work was still working in the bosom of the Church. But at the same time the Holy Spirit was in the Church and acted there, and was sufficient for putting out evil and changing it into good. The Church however was one, known by the world; and one could say that the apostles, having been let go, went to their own company. One only Church, filled with the Holy Ghost, bore testimony to the salvation of God and to His presence on earth; and to this Church God added all those who were to be saved. This Church was all scattered abroad because of the persecution, save the apostles who abode at Jerusalem. Then God raised up Paul to be His messenger unto the Gentiles. He begins to build the Church among the Gentiles, and teaches that in it there is neither Gentile nor Jew, but that all are one and the same body in Christ. Not only the existence of the Church among the Jews, but still more the doctrine of the Church, of its unity, of the union of Jews with Gentiles in one body, is proclaimed and put in execution. It was the object of the counsels of God already before the foundation of the world, but hidden in God; a mystery which had been hid from the ages in God, to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God: which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets* by the Spirit. So also in Colossians 1:26, "Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints."

{*Be it observed that the apostle speaks only of the prophets of the New Testament.}

83 All Christians were known, all admitted publicly into the Church, Gentiles as well as Jews. The unity was manifested. All the saints were members of one body, of Christ's body; the unity of the body was owned; and it was a fundamental truth of Christianity. In each locality there was the manifestation of this unity of the Church of God on the earth; so that an epistle of Paul addressed to the Church of God at Corinth arrived at a single assembly; and the apostle could farther add to it "with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." Nevertheless, if we speak specially of those at Corinth, he says, "Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." If a Christian member of Christ's body went from Ephesus to Corinth, he would have been equally and necessarily also member of Christ's body in this latter assembly. Christians are not members of a church, but of Christ. The eye, the ear, the foot, or any other member which was at Corinth, was equally such at Ephesus. In the word we do not find the idea of members of a church, but of Christ.

Ministry, as it is presented in the word, is likewise a proof of this same truth. The gifts, source of ministry, given by the Holy Spirit, were in the Church (1 Cor. 12:8-12, 28). Those who possessed them were members of the body. If Apollos was a teacher at Corinth, he was also a teacher at Ephesus. If he was the eye, ear, or any other member whatever of Christ's body at Ephesus, he was also such at Corinth. For this subject there is nothing clearer than 1 Corinthians 12: one body, many members; the Church one, in which were found the gifts that the Holy Spirit had given - gifts which were exercised in any locality whatsoever where he might be who possessed them. In Ephesians 4 the same truth is set forth. When Christ ascended on high, He "gave gifts unto men … and he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive: but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in love."

84 This unity and the free activity of the members are found realized in the time of the apostles. Each gift was fully owned as efficacious to accomplish the work of the Lord, and was freely exercised. The apostles laboured as apostles, and likewise those who had been scattered on the occasion of the first persecution laboured in the work according to the measure of their gifts. It is thus that the apostles taught ( 1 Peter 4:10-11; 1 Cor. 14:26-29). And it is thus that the Christians did. The devil sought to destroy this unity; but he was not able to succeed as long as the apostles lived. He employed Judaism for this work; but the Holy Spirit preserved the unity, as we read in Acts 15. He sought to create sects in it by means of philosophy (1 Cor. 2), and of both together (Col. 2). But all these efforts were vain. The Holy Spirit acted in the midst of the Church, and the wisdom given to the apostles to maintain the unity and the truth of the Church against the power of the enemy. The more one reads the Acts of the Apostles, the more one reads the Epistles, the more one sees this unity and this truth. The union of these two things can only take effect by the action of the Holy Ghost. Individual liberty is not union; and the union of men does not leave the individual his full liberty. But the Holy Spirit, when He governs, necessarily unites brethren together and acts in each according to the aim which He has proposed to Himself in uniting them, that is to say, according to His own aim. Thus the presence of the Holy Ghost gathers together all the saints in one body, and works in each according to His will, guiding them in the Lord's service for the glory of God and the edification of the body.

Such was the Church: how is it now and where does it exist? It will be perfected in heaven. Granted: but where is it found now on earth? The members of Christ's body are now dispersed; many hidden in the world, others in the midst of religious corruption; some in one sect, some in another, in rivalry one with another to gain over the saved. Many, thanks be to God, do seek unity; but who is it that has found it? It suffices not to say that by the same Spirit we love each other; for by one Spirit we have been baptized into one body. "That they all may be one …" says the Lord, "that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." But we are not one; the unity of the body is not manifested. At the beginning it was clearly manifested, and in every city this unity was evident to all the world. All Christians walked everywhere as one Church. He who was a member of Christ in one locality was so also in another, and he who had a letter of recommendation was received everywhere, because there existed but one society.

85 The Supper was the outward sign of this unity. "We being many are one bread and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread," 1 Cor. 10:17. The testimony the Church gives now is rather that of proclaiming that the Holy Ghost with His power and grace is unable to surmount the causes of the divisions. The greatest part of what is called the Church is the seat of the grossest corruption, and the majority of those who boast of its light are unbelievers. Greeks, Romanists, Lutherans, Reformers cannot take the Supper together; they condemn each other. The light of God's children who are found in the sects is hid under a bushel; and those who are separated from such bodies, because they cannot endure the corruption, are divided into hundreds of parties who will not take the Supper together. Neither the one nor the other pretends to be the Church of God, and they say that it is become invisible; but what is the value of an invisible light? Nevertheless there is no humiliation or confession in seeing the light become invisible. Unity with respect to its manifestation is destroyed. The Church - once beautiful, united, heavenly - has lost its character, is hidden in the world; and the Christians themselves - worldly, covetous, eager for riches, honour, power - like the children of the age. It is an epistle in which one cannot read a single word of Christ.* The greatest part of what bears the name of Christian is the seat of the enemy or infidel; and the true Christians are lost in the midst of the multitude. Where can we find one loaf, the sign of one body? Where is the power of the Spirit who unites Christians in a single body? Who can deny that the Christians were thus? and are they not guilty for being no longer what they were? or shall we call it well to be in a state totally different from that in which the Church was at the beginning and from that which the word demands from us? We ought to be profoundly grieved at such a state of the Church in the world, because it no way answers to the heart and love of Christ. Men rest satisfied in being assured of their eternal salvation.

{*It is not said that we ought to be the epistle of Christ, but "ye are the epistle of Christ."}

86 Do we seek what the word says on this point? Here is what we read there, in a general way, for what concerns every economy or dispensation, and the ways of God with the Jews and towards the branches from among the Gentiles who were substituted for the Jews (Rom. 11). "On them which fell, severity; but towards thee goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." Is it not a serious thing, when the people of God on the earth are cut off? Certainly the faithful are and will be kept; for God has no thought of failing in His faithfulness; but all the systems in which God glorifies Himself on the earth may be judged and cut off. The glory of God, His real visible presence, was once at Jerusalem, His throne was over the cherubim; but ever since the Babylonish captivity His presence abandoned Jerusalem, and His glory as well as His presence were no more in the temple in the midst of the people. And though His great patience endured long, until Christ was rejected, yet God cut them off as regards that covenant. The remnant became Christians, but all the system was terminated by judgment. Such will be the issue of the Christian system, if it continue not in the goodness of God. But it has not continued in God's goodness.

Therefore, though I believe firmly that all true Christians will be preserved and caught up to heaven, yet for what concerns the testimony of the Church on earth, the house of God through the Spirit, it will exist no more. Peter had said already, the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God. And in Paul's time the mystery of iniquity was already working and was to be continued till the man of sin appeared; already in the apostle's time all sought their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's. The apostle tells us farther that after his departure there should enter among the Christians in the Church grievous wolves, not sparing the flock; and that in the last days perilous times should come, men having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof; that evil men and seducers should wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived; and that finally the apostasy should come. Now is all this continuing in God's goodness?

87 And this unfaithfulness, is it a thing unknown in the history of man? God has always begun by putting His creature in a good position; but the creature invariably abandons the position in which God set it, becoming unfaithful therein. And God, after long forbearance, never re-establishes it in the position it fell from. It is not according to His ways to patch up a thing which has been spoilt; but He cuts it off, to introduce afterwards something entirely new and far better than what went before. Adam fell; and God will have the last Adam, the Lord from heaven. God gave the law to Israel, who made the calf of gold before Moses came down from the mountain; and God will write the law in the hearts of His people. God ordained the priesthood of Aaron, but his sons from the very first offered strange fire; and from that moment Aaron could no more enter the holiest with his garments of glory and beauty. God made the son of David to sit on the throne of Jehovah; but, idolatry having been introduced by him, the kingdom was divided, and the throne of the world was given of God to Nebuchadnezzar, who made a great image of gold and cast the faithful into a burning fiery furnace. In every case man was faithless; and God, having long borne with him, interposes in judgment and substitutes a better system.

It is interesting to observe how all the things in which man has broken down are established in a more excellent way in the second Man. Man shall be exalted in Christ, the law written in the heart of the Jews, priesthood be exercised by Jesus Christ. He is the Son of David who is to reign over the house of Israel; He is to govern the nations. Likewise as regards the Church, it has been unfaithful; it has not maintained the glory of God which had been confided to it. Therefore shall it be cut off as a system on the earth, the order of things established of God shall be closed by judgment, the faithful shall go up to heaven into a state much better to be conformed to the image of the Son of God, and the kingdom of the Saviour shall be established on the earth. All this will be an admirable testimony to the faithfulness of God, who will accomplish all His counsels spite of the unfaithfulness of man But does this take away the responsibility of man? How then; as the apostle says, could God judge the world? Ought not our hearts to feel that we have cast the glory of the Lord into the dust? The mischief began in the times of the apostles: each added to it his own; and the iniquity of ages is heaped upon us; and soon the house of God will be judged. The blood of all the righteous has been required of the Jewish nation by Jesus, as also Babylon will be found guilty of the blood of all the righteous.

88 It is true that we shall be caught up to heaven; but, along with that, ought we not to mourn over the ruin of the house of God? Yes: formerly one, a beautiful testimony to the glory of its Head by the power of the Holy Ghost; united, heavenly, so that the world could recognize the effect of the power of the Holy Spirit who put men above all human motives, and, causing distinctions and diversities among them to disappear, made believers in all countries and of all classes to be one family, one body, one Church, a mighty testimony to the presence of God on earth in the midst of men.

But it is objected that we are not responsible for the sins of those who have gone before us. Are we not responsible for the state in which we are found? Did the Nehemiahs, the Daniels, excuse themselves for the sins of the people? Or rather, did they not mourn over the misery of the people of God as belonging to them? If we were not responsible, why then should God put them aside, why judge and destroy all the system? Why should He say, "I will come unto thee quickly and will remove thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent"? Why does He judge Thyatira, replacing it by the kingdom? Why does He say, "I will spue thee out of my mouth"? I believe that the seven churches furnish us with the history of the Church from the beginning to the end; in all cases we have there the responsibility of Christians as to the state of the Church. It will be said perhaps that there are none but local churches which are responsible, and not the Church universal. What is certain is that God will cut off the Church as a system established on earth.

Still more to demonstrate responsibility continually from the beginning to the end, let us read in Jude, "There are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation." They had already slipt in. "And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints to execute judgment upon all." Thus those who in the time of Jude had already crept in would bring the judgments on the profane professors of Christianity. In this epistle we have the three classes of iniquity and their progress. In Cain there is purely human iniquity; in Balaam ecclesiastical iniquity; and in Korah rebellion, and then they perish. In the field where the Lord had sown the good seed, while men slept the enemy sowed tares. It is very true that the good seed is gathered into the garner, but the negligence of the servants has left the enemy the opportunity of spoiling the Master's work. Shall we be indifferent to the state of the Church, beloved of the Lord, indifferent to the divisions that the Lord has forbidden? No;* let us humble ourselves, dear brethren, let us own our fault and have done with it. Let us walk faithfully, each for his part, and endeavour to find once more the unity of the Church and the testimony of God. Let us cleanse ourselves from all evil and all iniquity. If it is possible for us to gather together in the name of the Lord, it is a great blessing; but it is essential that this be done in the unity of the Church of God and in the true liberty of the Spirit.

{*In 1 Timothy we have the order of the Church, the house of God; in 2 Timothy we have the rule to follow when the Church is in disorder. For our God has provided for all difficulties. that we should be faithful and depart from all iniquity.}

89 If the house of God is still on the earth and the Holy Spirit abides in it, is He not grieved at the state of the Church? And if He abides in us, should not our hearts be afflicted and humbled at the dishonour done to Christ and the destruction of the testimony that the Holy Ghost is come down from heaven to bear in the unity of the Church of God? He who will confront the state of the Church, as it is described to us in the New Testament with its present state, will feel his heart profoundly saddened by seeing the Church's glory dragged into the dust and the enemy triumphing in the confusion of the people of God.

Finally, Christ has confided His glory on earth to the Church. It was the depositary of that glory. There the world ought to have seen it displayed by the power of the Holy Ghost, a testimony to the victory of Christ over Satan, death, and all the enemies that He has led captive, triumphing over them in the cross. Has the Church preserved this deposit and maintained the glory of Christ on the earth? If this has not been done, tell me, Christian, is the Church responsible for it? Was the servant, to whom the Lord entrusted the care of His house (Matt. 24), responsible or not for the state of his Master's house? It will be said, perhaps, that the wicked servant is the outward church, which is corrupted and is not really the Church: as for me, I am not a member of it at all. But I reply that, in the parable, the servant is alone; and the question is whether this sole servant is faithful or unfaithful? It may be true that you are separate from the iniquity which fills the house of God, and you have done well; but is not your heart bowed down because of the state of that house? The Lord shed tears of grief over Jerusalem; and shall we shed none over that which is still dearer to His heart? Here the glory of the Lord has been trampled under foot: shall we say that we are not responsible for it? His only servant is held accountable. Even though, individually guided by the word, I may be apart from all the iniquity which corrupts the house of God, nevertheless, as Christ's servant, I ought to identify myself with the glory of Christ, and with its manifestations to the world. It is in this that faith is shewn: not merely in believing that God and Christ possess the glory, but in identifying this glory with His people (Exod. 32:11-12; Num. 14:13-19; 2 Cor. 1:20). First, God entrusts His glory to man, who is responsible to maintain himself in his position, and to be faithful in it, without leaving his first estate; by and by God will establish His own glory according to His counsels. But, first of all, man is responsible where God has set him. We have been set in the Church of God, in His house, in the habitation of His glory on the earth: where is it?