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p244 Dearest Alex Ord, - It is to know where the marks are not, not where they are, which is difficult. Compare Acts 2 and 4 and see; though I admit that did not last long. The great yet simple secret is the presence of the Holy Ghost in the body being lost as to power (for He is there), disowned. The ruin then shews itself in various ways, leaning on human wisdom; leaning on clerical importance to give decency and credit to the world; so that it can join the church without suffering or the cross; leaning on particulars, "I am of Paul," etc., for schisms in the early church were not separations. I suspect the first separation to have been a godly, though an ill-formed thing, that of Novatus; corruption drove him to it, but he had enough of corrupt principles, or habits rather, in his mind, to go wrong in the formal ground of separation; the incapacity to discern the working of the enemy; the having ceased to expect the Lord; not merely divisions but the scattering of the sheep, so that they are not in any division at all, but in the world (Satan's place) alone. Scattering I think much stronger than division: "he catches the sheep and scatters them." Nay worse, the building up of immense worldly systems with perhaps some sheep in them, hidden, and starved often too, and calling these immense systems the church; setting up Satan in it as in popery, or selling what they pretend to be the bride of Christ, and where many of Christ's sheep are, to kings and princes for money; yea seeking them, as Jeremiah reproaches Judah, instead of their seeking it. Is not this ruin? Say a few of us have escaped and fled out. Why so? Because it was all ruin. The denial of the Spirit would be found in the denial of gifts, or in gifts denying the body, no matter which, for the Holy Ghost is in both. But ruin is found in this that the church, such as God formed and fashioned it, does not exist at all save as He sanctions two or three meeting in the name of Jesus. When this is done, if it be in the spirit of the unity of the whole body (woe to them if it is not) the Lord will be there. I am not uneasy about a hundred meetings; they broke bread from house to house. If it were separating in heart from brethren, or a fleshly spirit of self-will or self-importance, or excluded any saints really walking as such, then of course it would be evil; and a spiritual person would find it out the first day; but, if in unity and love, twenty meetings in a town are all one to me. I like small gatherings provided they are really in the unity of the Spirit. The brethren may come to need them yet. Great power, I believe, would bring them; little power needs them. It is clear self-importance or chagrin may set them up without God; but that which has brought in the ruin I believe to be moral. "All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's"; "All men forsook me." "All they which are in Asia are turned away from me" - not from Christ absolutely, but they would not go the whole path of faith with the apostle; they feared the cross, the rough and unseemly road the Spirit of God led them. The world had come in in the shape of ease and respectability; it is the first form which the devil puts on, for it is order and comeliness for the flesh; but it is the world and Satan, hence power is wanting for the purpose of resisting the other forms, heresy (in opinion) and clericalism; and the vessel of power becomes obnoxious because his standard troubles the conscience, instead of his spiritual power acting on the heart as well (for when the former is reached in a Christian, and not the latter, he kicks against it) and the church goes its own way into the hands of Satan in a worldly clerical road. Wise was God indeed to choose not many mighty, not many noble, not many rich; they find it hard to submit their comforts and comeliness to God's. A rich body of Christians will become practically poor and simple, or practically worldly. Such is my thought said in haste.

The ruin I see how none can deny; our feelings in it are a further question because they depend on our sympathies with Christ, and that is spiritual power. Every one would not [have] wept over Jerusalem even though not going with its guilt. I judge that dwelling on divisions marks a very feeble estimate of the state of ruin the church is in, but if it be not a name for acquiescence in evil, which is an abomination, I hail every apprehension of the truth. Whatever the door of approach, once in the truth by divine teaching, it will be perceived on every side as men grow in the conscience of what the church is. For where is the bride of Christ, His beautiful flock which He gave us? But, I judge, divisions are rather falsely apprehended, for what are called such in scripture were not separations, but divisions in spirit, etc., among those united; separation there was none but of abandoners of Christianity. I remember the text alarming me on quitting the Establishment, "They went out from us because they were not of us," till I said, To be sure, because I was not of them; that is just the truth, and I would not be.

St. Hippolyte, April 14th, 1847.