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p201 [From the French.] * * * As to affairs in England, it would be difficult to give you a detailed history; but the principle is simple enough, and it is with this we must be occupied, so as to discern what is of God and what is of Satan, and be guided in our walk to the glory of God.

You know that the natural tendency, as numbers increase in the assemblies, is that the heart wearies a little of the truth, which at the outset had authority over us to cause us to walk in the truth in separation from human systems; and at the same time the mind gets more and more occupied with persons who compose the assembly, till at last the truth gives way to the persons in our hearts, the conscience to the intelligence, Christ to the man, and brethren become, in another way, a system of the worst description: this is Satan's aim, and it is in this way that he assails the brethren.

The first fruit from this bad root is, that brethren are occupied with themselves to the exclusion of other Christians who are equally members of the body of Christ: they think of themselves more than of the Lord. They do all they can to keep the gathering together, losing sight more or less of the great truths which have acted upon hearts individually, and which truths formed the gathering, not as a great work visible and recognised on the earth, but as a testimony from God and for the glory of Christ in the midst of Christianity. It is of the last importance that we should continually remember that brethren are a testimony and nothing else; that is to say, that it is the truth that has kept us for the glory of Christ, and not we ourselves. This is easily forgotten. I have particularly noticed proofs of this in Switzerland for the last six years at least. A late fruit from this root is, that christian conscience has become valueless from neglect of its promptings, and ceases to act. From this it results that brethren are feeble, and become guilty, even in matters of simple righteousness, in such a way that even the world would condemn them. The assemblies of God are little thought of as such, and the presence of the Lord Jesus in the assembly is forgotten and ignored. This is what has happened in England, but the Lord loves us too much to allow such a state of things without reminding us.

But the test is general; it touches closely each one: that is why so many assemblies, and brethren individually in each assembly, are affected by it. In some cases the assembly is of one mind; in others there are two parties, more or less equal, one holding on to the truth at any cost, the other thinking more of only what is on the surface; and there may be other reasons acting upon many, leading them to follow a course which seems to them more easy. It has always been thus. Lot walked a long time with Abraham without his faith being put to the test: when the time for the test came he must walk alone, and then is seen for the first time the measure of truth that he really possessed in his soul. This is what is happening at the present time, and no one can determine the precise moment when such and such a soul will be put to the test; and we should be wrong in forcing or hastening the test in any way whatever, and even when it is there, to suppose that every one will be tested in the same manner. All this is in God's hand: nevertheless when such a sifting does come, happy are they who profit by it, receiving the test as from God with searching of heart; or better, seeking to get into the presence of God that He may search it, so that all that interferes with the glory of Christ shall be judged and put away.

We must have patience, and help each other: a lack of patience has caused some to act too quickly, and though they acted with the best possible intentions, of separating themselves from evil, the result has been unsatisfactory. We are quick at seizing the reins when we see danger ahead; but the Lord knows better than we do what has to be done: in due season He will deliver all who look to Him. But this must be real, not trying to escape the test, or to delay the time of action when the evil is clearly manifest. Another valuable lesson the Lord would teach us is, I think, to occupy ourselves more before Him with the state of individual consciences. It is easy to neglect pastoral work. One is inclined to act by means of outward pressure, instead of waiting for the inward action of the Spirit, who would lead the assembly by the healthy and spontaneous action of all who form part of it. This ought always to be the aim, but alas! very often it is not possible on account of a corrupt influence which has been already too active, and for too long a time, so that morally, many have become incapable of a spiritual judgment; thus division is inevitable when the test comes to the door. But in any case we ought to wait until God sends the test. A man cannot be hung because he intends to kill me. We must wait until the act is accomplished before taking action, doing all we can, at the same time, to raise the spiritual standard by a healthy ministry of the word, as the Lord in His grace may give us. Then when the test does arrive, some, at least, will be able to act according to God.

The present struggle is between intelligence and the Spirit. It is a subtle thing which exercises the heart to its depths - must I be guided by my intelligence according to the things that I know, or must I walk in dependence on the Lord? Some pretend to be an expression of the assembly of God when their acts prove that they have no sense of the Lord's presence in their midst. To admit their pretension, would evidently be to deny the presence and action of the Spirit of God, for such walk by human intelligence, and override conscience. This is what happened at Ramsgate, and a division was the result. All was inquired into in London, and three meetings with a week's interval were held on the subject, and every facility was given to arrive at a correct knowledge of facts, in order to come to a conclusion according to God, and this not by any preconcerted measures, plans, or arrangements, but simply through God's intervention in rather a remarkable way. Many … wished to set aside the decision arrived at on that occasion, and to walk in their own way: hence the reason of the present trouble. The principles involved I have endeavoured to shew to a certain extent. It is scarcely necessary for me to inform you, that the above inquiry was forced upon the assembly in London through a letter of commendation from an assembly in Kent where the difficulty arose; it was necessary to come to a decision, because all means during several months had been used to induce the opposing ones to humble themselves, but without fruit.

November 26th, 1881.