<< previous (1:65) next (1:67) >>

p131 [Major Lancey] MY DEAR BROTHER, - I most gladly answer your letter as far as the Lord enables me: perhaps we shall see each other, the Lord willing, in Dublin soon. I distinguish entirely between the church and prophecy. I do not believe the church is the subject, though it is the recipient and depositary of prophecy, as Abraham was of what should happen to Lot. The church has its own proper present relationship to Christ, out of which the scripture does not know it, but it (having received the Holy Ghost) has the mind of Christ. You may except the description of the heavenly Jerusalem, but which is really description, not prophecy of events, though connected with, and closing, and crowning them, when the heavenly government is brought into full connection with the earth.

Prophecy gives the career of earthly events, the wickedness of man, or the dealings of God. But the church is not earthly; its life is hid with Christ in God; it has its place with Christ while He is hidden; when He appears it will appear; we await the manifestation of the sons of God. Hence it was hid in God from the foundation of the world (Eph. 3), and the prophets do not speak of it. Only it is true that it maintains (or ought to have maintained) the testimony to the kingdom, during the interval of the rejection of the Jewish witness. As inheriting the promises as being in Christ the seed of Abraham, it comes in and maintains by divine wisdom their constancy and unfailingness. But the age is the same age as that in which Christ was upon earth - "the harvest is the end of the age." Hence the church cannot be the subject of prophecy. It was not - as being a kind of wisdom hid in God and now made known to principalities and powers, and now it is not - the subject, but the depositary of prophecy, not earthly but heavenly, though on earth in testimony of what is heavenly, and of a hidden Christ with whom it is as one. Hence what relates to it is, as I have said, only seen when it comes down out of heaven having the glory of God. Hence it has no place in prophecy.

We are properly nowhere, save in the extraordinary suspension of prophetic testimony, or period, which comes in between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week of Daniel, or at the end of that age which was running on when Christ was here, the close of which was suspended by His crucifixion; His return to establish it then, according to Acts 3, being precluded by the rejection of the testimony of the Holy Ghost, which followed - finally declared at Stephen's death. Whereupon the doctrine of the church in union with a heavenly Head, without distinction of Jew or Gentile, was fully revealed, and entrusted to Paul, who had joined in that rejection, in a ministry, beginning not at Jerusalem but Antioch. In the Revelation therefore, until the heavenly Jerusalem is revealed, the church is never, properly speaking, seen at all. The living creatures or twenty-four elders may be taken, as to which I do not decide, as a symbolical representation in part of those who compose it, viewed in certain positions, but I certainly apprehend that the period spoken of in the Revelation (or from chap. 4) is the interval between the removal of the church from the place of testimony, and the manifestation of it in a glorious testimony, as already stated, in chapters 21, 22. Whether this has had a partial fulfilment since the church failed in giving a testimony on earth at the beginning, and there were but a few imperfect witnesses, I will not say. I daresay it has, but whatever general principle of a year-day system may be admitted, there is no proper literal fulfilment of it, I apprehend, but in that which is to come, in which on earth as such the church will not be witness at all.

The great point for us is, to get distinctly the church's place, and the church's faith, and the church's own distinctive relationship as bride of Christ, to be revealed with Him, and to be faithful during his absence. What knowledge is given us of others, and of God's ways towards them, and of their witness when the church is not there, is dependent on the sovereignty of God in gift, and our faithfulness in our walk in our place.

The present course of events is not revealed signs to me, but the church ought to discern these times. It is the rapid, but, as I judge, for the present arrested, development of the spirit of the latter day, which will issue in apostasy and delusion on one hand, and in the forming of the Roman Empire on the other, and the preventing collision between northern and western Europe till the great catastrophe takes place in Palestine. Signs, I judge, are for those who have not been faithful enough to keep or find the bride's position (we are "children of the day"), a mercy to those in the latter-day circumstances, but which would not have been needed had they apprehended the church's place, and been separated from the world to be in it, and taken the properly heavenly place wherein we await only the marriage with the heavenly Bridegroom, who comes to receive us and takes us there where He is.

Such, dear brother, is the grand answer to your inquiry. If this, in connection with your own thoughts, suggests any difficulties, I shall be most glad for myself to hear them from you - it is thus we learn - and, if the Lord afford time, to answer them.

I write from the midst of much occupation. I have sixteen long letters to answer besides yours, so I say adieu. Peace and grace be with you. Salute the beloved brethren with you, though I know them not by sight. In Jesus we shall know each other.

Very affectionately yours in Him.

Plymouth, May 1st, 1848.