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p359 My Dear Miss Cottrell, - I know of no books which give an account of the brethren. I looked at the account in the - and I should desire to add, at any rate, my own way of looking at it, so as to express what has governed myself. One or two expressions might lead I think, though I understand them, to misapprehension.

The great principles which govern me are two, though both flow from one great truth, namely, that the Holy Ghost has been sent down from heaven consequent on the exaltation of the Lord Jesus to the right hand of the Father, witness of His infinite love in redemption and uniting the saints into one body. This mission, therefore, develops itself in two branches just alluded to: the presence of the Holy Ghost in the church, which He has formed in unity, and in union with its Head, Christ; and His testimony in the midst of the world - the gospel, in a word, and the church. This presence of the Holy Ghost down here, as truly sent from above as the Son was (though in a different manner, and consequent on the accomplishment and establishment before God of divine righteousness by Jesus Christ), is the key and centre of all that belongs to the christian state. Righteousness has been established before God in heaven, and perfect love shewn to the sinner on earth. Christ has made good both perfect love on God's part towards man in his sins (for God so loved that He spared not His Son), and perfect righteousness for faith before God (for Christ is our righteousness before God). Of this the Holy Ghost is witness in the gospel (being sent down because Jesus is on high) in the whole creation under heaven. See 2 Cor. 5:19-20; Col. 1:23, where Paul declares what his ministry in the gospel is.

But this gospel gathers the heavenly joint-heirs of Christ, and having gathered them from Jew and Gentile, unites them by the power of His presence into one body, and that as members of Christ in union with the Head. God had made Him "to be Head over all things to the church which is his body, the fulness of him that fills all in all." "By one Spirit we have all been baptised into one body." "We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." Hence the saint is the temple of the Holy Ghost individually (1 Cor. 6:19); and the whole body collectively. (1 Cor. 3:16.) Hence on earth they are "builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." (Eph. 2:20.) "Ye are the body of Christ and members in particular." Hence Paul is also a minister of the church "to complete the word of God." The unity of the whole body is to be kept in the bond of peace: and if men and the influence of corruptions have scattered the members of Christ, or substituted another unity or organisation for the unity of the body, the duty is not set aside by that, whatever power we may lack to accomplish it; meanwhile the promise remains sure, wherever two or three are gathered together in Christ's name, He is in the midst of them. They enjoy His presence as really, if not as completely, as if all the church were gathered together.

Ministry, though coming directly from God by the power of the Holy Ghost, and making him that possesses the gift of it thereby the servant of Christ (1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12, 1 Peter 4), yet is exercised by each as a member of the body, while his responsibility is to the Head - saving needed discipline exercised by the church in Christ's name - each member filling up the service which belongs to it according to the will of Christ, and the power of the Holy Ghost working in it. It is exercised in the world by the evangelist - to say nothing here of the original work of the apostles - and in the body by pastors, teachers, and the like. The gifts which were signs to the world have disappeared, but not those by which Christ gathers and nourishes His church. He cannot cease to call and bless it. All Christians are members of the body. Sinners, by evangelists' work or other means, may become Christians. It is the working of God's love, founded on accomplished righteousness, in virtue of which that love can flow effectually forth to the chief of sinners, and is addressed to the whole world; and scattered saints, wherever placed, may be brought into unity by the power of the Holy Ghost working to this end by light and love. Nothing but what constitutes a person member of the body of Christ, can be the ground of union; but in union the whole will and truth of God is to be maintained in truth, holiness, and grace, according to the word and by the power of the Spirit. If through ignorance anything not constituting a person a known and recognised member of Christ cannot be settled, saints must forbear, and God will reveal it, while such is the ground of communion.

I believe it is of the last importance that the church should have a right hope. That hope is, the coming of the Lord to take the saints, already called, into glory with Himself, the church taking her place as the bride, the Lamb's wife. Consequent upon this He will set aside the power of evil and establish the kingdom in power, blessing and glory. The nominal church, not members of Christ, will be spued out of His mouth: Babylon judged, as well as all power of evil set aside: full communion and glory for the church with Christ, and the judgment and then blessing of the world as that which we ought to look for.

As to life: that eternal life which was with the Father has been manifested to us in Christ, and He is become our life. His precepts, walk and words, in which it was expressed in Him, become the rule and direction of that life in us. This is the rule, the Spirit is the power. God has given to us eternal life, and that life is in the Son; and "He that has the Son has life, and he that has not the Son of God has not life." Hence, through the Spirit, since it is in the Son, we have fellowship with the Son, and therefore with the Father. Inasmuch as this life is in Christ in the power of resurrection, we shall never fully have our place and glory till we are risen, though to depart and be with Him be far better.

The presence of the Holy Ghost, and the coming of the Lord, are the practical hinge of the true character and position of the church. The great orthodox truths I do not touch upon as I receive them as all true Christians do. I only speak here of what has distinctively governed my course in the professing christian world. I would add, that the death and resurrection of Christ is the witness of the world being in itself wholly lost "All were dead" - and of the founding of the working of God's love towards the lost on the ground of the righteousness established before God in Christ, the Second Adam, so that it is to a new creation we belong as Christians. But the presence of the Holy Ghost forming the unity of the body, I feel to be the centre and keystone of the whole doctrine of Christ, now exalted on high, till He comes again in glory. I have seen as to the manifestation of that unity, all ruined and scattered and even an immense system established under its name which is not it. Hence the difficulty of obtaining the realisation of the blessings connected with it. But this difficulty has not altered the duty of the saint, nor is the love or power of the Head, nor His interest in the blessing of His saints diminished or enfeebled. And the Christian is bound, according to the grace given to him, to seek souls in the world in the testimony of God's love and righteousness, and the unity of the body, in all patience, and the edification of all its members for the building of it up, in dependence on the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Such are the great principles of scripture on these points as I understand them. The account in the - might lead to suppose, that the work known under the name of brethren was a mere abstraction of persons, already believers, from other bodies; whereas, in England, the greater number are converted to God from a state of worldliness, and abroad nearly all have been so.

Ever your affectionate brother,

A Servant in Christ

[Date uncertain.]