Excerpt About the Truth of the Church's
God sees the believer as dead with Christ, and He also sees the Church as raised
with and seated in Christ; but it is the province of faith to lead the soul
into the reality of both. "Reckon yourselves to be" what God tells you you are.
The believer's power to subdue indwelling corruption consists in his reckoning
himself to be dead to it; and his power of separation from the world consists
in his reckoning himself to be raised with Christ and seated in Him. The Church,
according to God's estimation, has as little to do with sin and the world as
Christ has; but God's thoughts and our apprehensions are very different things.
We must never forget that every tendency of the human mind not only falls short
of but stands actually opposed to all this divine truth about the Church. We
have seen how long it was ere man could take hold of it-how it was forced out,
as it were, and pressed upon him; and we have only to glance at the history
of the Church for the last eighteen centuries to see how feebly it was held
and how speedily it was let go. The heart naturally clings to earth, and the
thought of an earthly corporation is attractive to it.
Hence we may expect that the truth of the Church's heavenly character will only
be apprehended and carried out by a very small and feeble minority.
It is not to be supposed that the Protestant reformers exercised their thoughts
on this momentous subject. They were made instrumental in bringing out the precious
doctrine of justification by faith from amid the rubbish of Romish superstition,
and also in letting in upon the human conscience the light of inspiration in
opposition to the false and ensnaring dogmas of human tradition.
This was doing not a little: yet it must be admitted the position and hopes
of the Church engaged not their attention. It would have been a bold step from
the church of Rome to the Church of God; and yet it will be found in the end
that there is not distinct neutral ground between the two; for every church,
or, to speak more accurately, every religious corporation, reared up and carried
on by the wisdom and resources of man, be its principle ever so pure and ever
so hostile to Catholicism, will be found, when judged by the Spirit, and in
the light of Heaven, to partake more or less of the element of the Romish system.
The heart clings to earth, and will with difficulty be led to believe that the
only time wherein God ceases to be manifestly occupied about earth- that the
only unnoticed interval in the history of time-is just the period wherein He,
by the Holy Ghost, is gathering out the Church to form the body of Christ; and
moreover, that when God was dealing publicly with earth, the Church, properly
so called, was not contemplated; and that when He shall resume His public dealings
with the earth and with Israel, the Church will be out of the scene.
To understand all this requires a larger measure of spirituality than is to
be found with many Christians.* The question naturally
arises in the mind of the inquirer after truth, "What is the most scriptural
form of Church government?" To what body of Christians should I attach myself?"
The answer to such questions is, "Attach yourself to those who are `endeavouring
to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.'
* The reader
will, I trust, understand the distinction between God's public actings and His
secret operations by His providence. The former ceased when Israel was set aside,
and will be resumed when Israel comes again into notice; the latter are going
on now. God controls the wheels of government and the counsels of kings to bring
about His own great designs.