<< previous (2:213) next (2:215) >>

p339 Dearest J Leslie, - I think the brethren are entering into a new phase of existence, which increases danger to them, and brings greater, or at any rate more manifest, responsibility. It is not merely the justifications or excessive praise of men like -, which good taste would let drop, though flattery be dangerous to any heart, but the now generally spread feeling (whatever effect it produces, for it is very diverse) that brethren have something which other Christians have not got. This is often refuted, hated, opposed, may be often a matter of curiosity, sometimes (and may it be increased!) of true inquiry; but it is felt. The world feels it, would use it to scorn the inconsistency of public profession. In many cases they would be sought and courted from their knowledge of scripture, their books read to have the truth without acting on it. Others, who still cling to the professing church with partial apprehensions of truth and much error, make their boast that it can be had without leaving the systems around us - nay, sometimes openly urging continuance in them: but it is felt they have, what others have not. I believe they have. But what is important is, not the brethren, but the truth they have. I could state it definitely, and have ere now done it; but it is not my object here. God could set them aside, and spread His truth by others - would, I believe, though full of gracious patience, if they be not faithful. Their place is to remain in obscurity and devotedness, not to think of brethren (it is always wrong to think of ourselves save to judge ourselves) but of souls, in Christ's name and love, and of His glory and truth only - not to press brethrenism so-called, but to deal with each soul according to its need for Christ's sake.

But if attention is drawn, and it is, to the truth they possess through grace, their responsibility is very greatly increased. If more general and persevering devotedness is not found in them, they would be a stumbling-block against the truth. Unworldliness, non-conformity to the world, self-denial, abnegation in love to others, is what is called for, for love is the end of the charge committed out of a pure heart. Let them walk in love, in the truth, humble, lowly, unworldly, and all for Christ, as little, and content to be little, as when they began, and God will bless them. If not, their candlestick may go (and oh, what sorrow and confusion of face it would be after such grace!) as that of others. Let there be no mixing with the church-world, what are they if they do? - but grace towards it, separating, that early beacon-light to me, the precious from the vile, and they will be as God's mouth. I repeat, let them in no wise mix with the mixture of church and world - the meaning of their existence is a testimony against that - with the earnest gospel energy to souls that Christ may have His own, but the fullest testimony of God's free love (for God would have and delights in that), or it would be as though faithfulness chilled that - doing the work of evangelists, making full proof of their ministry, humble, lowly and devoted, and simple, because lowly in heart, separated to Christ.

As regards all the activity outside them, it is one of the signs of the times, and they should rejoice in it - if Christ were preached of contention, they should, save where they have given occasion to it by failure in themselves, which is possible: but it does not give their testimony at all. God is sovereign, and can work in love where and as He pleases, and we should rejoice in it; but there is no separation from evil, but the contrary in general. It is, as to this, just the mixture, which God is bringing out of. For a year or two, at the beginning, I preached everywhere they let me, and others have done it, but it was, after all, another thing; though the trumpet gave an uncertain sound, it resulted in bringing out, even if the gospel only were fully preached. Now the question is fully raised, and the testimony has to be clear, yet the fullest preaching of the gospel and of the assurance of salvation.

I do not believe attacks on anything to be our path, but superior and fuller truth, in grace. Peter never attacked the chief priests, but went on his own way. It is a descent from the true high ground of the truth we have of the christian position. That, and a full gospel used in grace, should distinguish us: the testimony against evil should be in our own walk and ways. Be assured, when real, it is fully felt. Occasions may arise where truth is in question; self-defence is every way to be avoided: the Lord will answer for us if we do His will.

Union is sought now by indifference to truth, in this country avowedly so, as exchanging pulpits with infidels, and indeed openly everywhere: I say avowedly. Patiently waiting, where in present darkness it is only ignorance or error, is most necessary; but truth and holiness, love in the truth and for the truth's sake, characterise Christ's revelation of Himself, and His influence in the last days. God has no need of us, but He has need of a people who walk in the truth in love and holiness. I find in the Old Testament, "I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord"; and I find the same spirit in Jude, who speaks of the mixture that would bring on judgment: "But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." The gospel we may, and must, rejoice in, but it only makes the testimony of brethren, outside the camp, more necessary than ever; but it must be real. May they indeed be waiting for the Lord, and as men that wait for the Lord! His love is not wanting. May we, in earnest love to Him, be waiting for Him, because we do so love Him, and be found watching!

I thought of writing to you, dear brother, not having heard of you for a long while, and my thoughts flowed on, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Now I cannot doubt the work - at least, the testimony - is going on. The way it is telling, though only as a sowing-time, and what I hear and know of Europe, have partly led me to this train of thought, for it presses just now on my mind. May the beloved brethren be found of Him in peace, and watching; devotedness maintained and increased; their whole body, soul and spirit, be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ! I have just published another tract on perfectionism at Boston. Error, from Germany, is largely mixed up with active religious minds here: I have written on it, but I do not know what I shall do with it; but the subject calls for watchfulness. The brethren are getting on happily here, and with blessing, and I hope roused up and cheered, with some nice persons added in Boston. There has been some blessing outside too. . . . Let me hear of yourself.

Affectionately yours in the Lord.

If brethren fall in with the current Christianity inside the camp, they would be just another sect with certain truths.

New York, April 8th, 1875.

[52214E]