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p48 [Mr Finch] MY DEAR BROTHER, - I do not think you see the bearing of Cronin's act. It was not that he broke bread with you or any other isolated Christian. That, and I said so and was reproached with it, might pass. One might desire confidence and fellowship in such actings, but if done in the unity of the Spirit there was no wrong in it. But at Ryde there was a meeting, owned right or wrong by the other gatherings in the island and elsewhere, and he went down, while saying in London that it was only to follow what he considered a movement of God, declaring to others that he went also to give a testimony against the gathering that was there - in fact, setting up something apart from it. This entirely altered the character of the act. As to the unity of the body, I feel no difficulty as to scripture or the position of brethren. As to the danger of slipping into sectarianism, that is, making ourselves a body apart, I recognise it fully; but it has through mercy received a rude shock. The printed list of meetings tended to it, for evil slips in unintentionally, and for this reason I never would have anything to say to it, though very convenient, and done with this view. Miller's book,* which I never heard of till three days ago, strange to say, had from what I hear of it (I have never seen it) the same tendency; but human nature is always disposed to say 'we' if it cannot say 'I': "He follows not with us": while in separation from the camp, I am as decided as possible. But I never in my life asked any one to come among brethren.
{*'The Brethren: their Origin, etc.'}

But the principle of scripture is as plain as possible. There was one body on earth, of which all are members. They do not heal in heaven, nor preach, nor use any of the gifts spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12. "If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it:" that is not in heaven. The body will be perfected in heaven (Eph. 1:23), but is practically always considered as on earth, and formed there: "by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body." And this was clearly down here. (Acts 2) The Lord's supper is the external sign of this unity: "one body for we are all partakers of that one loaf." It was this, more than fifty years ago, brought me out of the establishment: nor have I any other principle now. This obliged me to own every one baptised with the Holy Ghost as a member of the body. Only in the last days we are called on to distinguish those who "call on the name of the Lord out of a pure heart," which at the first was not called for: "the Lord added daily." This makes the brethren (so-called) not the church of God, but those who alone meet on the principle of its unity. The line between narrowness and fidelity is a very narrow one. But the Spirit of Christ can guide and keep us on it. The unity of the body cannot be touched, for the Holy Ghost unites to Christ: all those who have been baptised by the Holy Ghost (that is, received Him) are members of the body. It is "the unity of the Spirit" we have to keep; that is, to walk in that power of the Spirit which keeps us in unity on the earth, and that needs endeavouring. I dread a gathering in any place being called the church of God. They are the only assembly that meets on scriptural principles: did I not think so I should not go there, but it tends to narrow and sectarianise them.

All this seems to me very simple, but it is not so easy to keep the spirits of all here to it, both in fidelity and love, for we are poor creatures. I know those who tend too much to looseness, others too much to narrowness. The Spirit of God alone can lead us in both, and that requires us to walk near Christ. But as to principles I have no difficulty; but without holiness and Christ being all, being emptied of self, we shall not practically succeed. God is light and love, but He alone can unite both and thus give a true and right unity.

November, 1879.