A WARNING and AN APPEAL*
[* With selected notes included.]
To all those who
Love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.
By C. A. COATES:
We are living in days of religious activity. In the past century Christianity, if measured by its outward signs, greatly improved the position of this country. During the last few years too, there have been efforts, not only to erect buildings for religious purposes, but also to get the people into them. Outwardly Christianity is still recognised, even by many who are boasting loudly of the progress that men are making.
I recognise thankfully the efforts made by many real christians towards evangelisation, and that sinners have been converted to God. There was in the early years of the nineteenth century a remarkable movement of the Spirit of God amongst God’s people, and long-lost truths pregnant with blessing and sanctifying power have been, through grace, restored to the intelligence and faith of many hearts. But there is now a widespread movement which is entirely opposed to the word of God, and which must lead eventually to the complete subversion of every truth vital to spiritual Christianity. It is against this latter movement that I raise a warning voice. What is the worth of progress and popularity if these are gained at the expense of truth, and by the surrender of everything that gives Christianity its divine character?
The history of the fourth century appears to be repeating itself, in a modified form, in the twentieth. From infamy and persecution the church arose in a very short time to greatness and supremacy. She laid aside the gory crown of martyrdom, assumed the glittering tiara, and forthwith began to walk, as Bunyan quaintly puts it, “in the sunshine with her silver slippers on.” But at what a cost was this place of popularity and power purchased! By the surrender of all spiritual blessings, by being shorn of everything heavenly, by substituting earthly and carnal ritual for worship in spirit and in truth, by wholesale conformity to the usages and customs of the heathen world, and by the suppressing of the word of God and the introduction of teachings of morality and philosophy in place of the gospel. In short, by giving up the truth and by playing a traitor’s part to the Lord Jesus, the church became great on earth where He had but a cross and a grave.
[* NOTE. Keep in mind: “The immeasurable value of the “prize” may be computed by the immense sacrifices necessary to obtain it. Its cost is a crucified world. ‘Blessed is the man to whom the world, with all her rags of honour, is crucified, and who holds her to be worth no more than a thief on the gallows.’ Nothing makes the other world more real, or more blessed, than the renunciation of this. Luke 14: 33.” (D. M. Panton.)]
The church secured the masses; she got the people to fill her sanctuaries, and to pour their money into her coffers, but at what a cost! We search the writings of the Fathers in vain to find any clear knowledge of the simplest elements of Christian blessing.
The forgiveness of sins, Justification by faith, peace with God, the knowledge and assurance of salvation, the eternal security of the believer, his acceptance in Christ, his title to enter the holiest with boldness by the blood of Jesus, his being indwelt by the Holy Spirit as the seal of sonship and the earnest of glory, his identification with Christ’s present place of rejection on earth, are all subjects on which the apostles dwelt with happy familiarity in writing even to babes in Christ.
In the worldly church of the Fathers - both episcopal and papal - all these, and other more exalted truths, were either quickly ignored, grossly perverted, or flatly denied. The church gained the people, but she lost the truth; she attracted the world by stripping herself of everything that marked her as “a chaste virgin espoused unto Christ.” Was not success of this kind a terrible calamity? Was not honour gained on such terms an immeasurable degradation?
I raise a warning voice because I see so plainly the same principles at work to-day. The attractiveness of Ritualism, the plausibility of Rationalism, and the charms of worldly pleasure are being introduced on every hand as valuable accessories to the great work of reaching the masses. I do not write for the mere moralist, the Sunday religionist, or the worldly professor, but for those of God’s people who are associated with this development of evil without perhaps being sensible of its real nature in the sight of God. I call upon you to test your position, your surroundings, the practices you sanction by your presence, and the teaching you listen to, by the word of God.
It seems to be Satan’s object at the present time to obliterate the fact that CHRIST IS REJECTED, or at any rate to rob that fact of all its deep and awful significance. There has been a full declaration of God in the Person of His Son, but how was He received? With what honours did the world invest Him? With what manner of reverence did the husbandmen treat the Son of the Lord of the vineyard? The very fact that God made Himself fully known only served to bring out the truth that men hated Him, and that the world knew Him not. The path that began at the manger ended upon the cross. The world’s answer to God’s Son was, “Away with him! Crucify him!” Nor has this verdict ever been reversed; Satan is still the god and prince of this world; and the PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT is the abiding demonstration that Christ has been rejected, and of the real condition of the world. “When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged,” John 16: 8-11.
The One who has been rejected was “FULL OF GRACE AND TRUTH,” and His rejection proved that there was nothing in the natural man that would respond to “GRACE” or be attracted by “TRUTH.” Grace was despised and truth was hated. Such is the world; such is man; and such were we until the Spirit of God wrought in us. It is plainly proved that the natural man has not one thought in common with God. It is not until God works in divine power by His word and Spirit and effects THE NEW BIRTH that there is anything in man in which He can take pleasure. The more moral and religious a man is without being born again, the more ignorant he is of God, and the more opposed to God’s truth and grace.
If the rejection of Christ has proved the real condition of fallen man, it has also become the starting-point of all the wondrous grace and blessings which have come out in the gospel; and which, having their foundation in His death, are connected with Christ risen and glorified. Redemption has been accomplished at the very moment when it was most clearly seen that the world would not have the Christ of God; and now the earth-rejected One is seated at the right hand of God as the One who has died for all, and who has purged the sins of those who believe on Him. It is in Him - the risen and glorified One - that we have life and acceptance; it is in Him that we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places; and it is He who is now set at God’s right hand as “head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all,” Ephesians 1: 22. The church is the body of Christ, and each member thereof is united to the Head in heaven by the Holy Spirit. Thus the very constitution of the church proves the rejection of Christ by the world. He would not be glorified as Man at God’s right hand if He had not first been rejected here; and, as we have already seen, the presence of the Holy Spirit is the abiding demonstration of the condition of the world which has rejected Him.
Christian, keep it ever before your heart that this world has rejected Christ, and we can never gain popularity with the world except at the expense of loyalty to Christ. Just in proportion as we step out of the path of reproach and contempt, we forsake our true position. Hence you will find that as buildings become larger and finer, and services more attractive, the inward spiritual power declines. Why should the followers of a despised and rejected MAN be ambitious to make a fine appearance in the world where He died? Yet to gain this object all kinds of worldly expedients are adopted, and the help of unconverted people not only accepted but solicited, and of course the world is only too glad to further an object which is so entirely in consonance with its own tastes.
Then as to the doctrines preached. Vague and rationalistic ideas as to the inspiration of the word of God are becoming more widespread every day; and as a consequence all the truths which stand or fall by the authority of Scripture are weakened or denied. The fall of man - the utterly lost condition by nature of every child of Adam - has not a very prominent place in present-day preaching. The absolute necessity of the new birth is consequently kept in the background or ignored altogether. Along with this, vague and misty theories of atonement are substituted for the solemn yet divinely precious statements of Scripture as to the eternal efficacy of the death and blood-shedding of Christ.
Unitarians are boasting in the spread of their anti-christian views as to the Person and work of the Lord Jesus. The plain declarations of the word of God as to eternal punishment are being challenged or explained away on every hand. It is asserted that religious teachers should not speak so much about divine and eternal things as about things connected with this life - science, morality, politics, etc. - and it is said that if we want to attract people we must speak on subjects in which they are interested.
That is, the church must come down to the level of the world before she can win the world’s approval. That is true enough, but what is the spiritual condition of the Christian who proposes such a thing?
Sober-minded Christians will not deny that the old paths are being forsaken both as to doctrines and practice. Many are protesting with indignation only to find themselves in a minority, or obliged to compromise matters by a partial surrender to preserve peace. Thousands of others are groaning in secret over the declension and departure, but have not the courage to lift up their voices against it. Others, again, in spite of misgivings and fears, are hoping for the best, and trying to feel satisfied that the movement is in the right direction. And, lastly - it must be said with sadness – some true children of God have so fallen under the power of this flowing tide of worldliness and apostasy that they are carried along by it, and give it their sanction and support. May God in His great mercy arouse the sleeping consciences of such, and deliver them from the snare in which they are taken!
Let us now turn to the word of God and see if such a state of things has been anticipated. Does the inspired volume lead us to expect failure and departure from the truth? If so we need not be surprised as we see the evidence of it all around us. Read the following scriptures.
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves,
and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost
hath made you overseers, to feed the
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils,” 1 Timothy 4: 1.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof - from such turn away,” 2 Timothy 3: 1-5.
“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse, and worse, deceiving and being deceived,” 2 Timothy 3: 12, 13.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables,” 2 Timothy 4: 3, 4. See also 2 Timothy 1: 15, 2; 16; 2 Peter 2: 1; 3: 17; 1 John 2: 18-26; Jude 16-18.
It is manifest from the above scriptures, and others which might be cited, that even in the apostles’ days declension had set in, and no prospect of recovery is held out. The prophetic intimations as to the church’s future on earth become increasingly dark and gloomy until its “last days” are described in words almost identical with those which the Holy Spirit employs in speaking of the heathen world before Christianity came into it, compare 2 Timothy 3 with Romans 1. The church as a public profession in the world has failed in all the different forms which she has taken. At every phase of her history she has failed, and if Scripture is to be our guide, we may expect that failure to become deeper and deeper until it ends in open apostasy.
Many earnest Christians will be ready to ask, “What can I do to remedy this state of things? or how can I act so as to please the Lord in the present circumstances of the church? In short, what is the path of faith for to-day?”
In seeking to furnish a scriptural answer to these questions we must bear in mind that there is no hope held out in the word of God of a general recovery of the church. As a public profession on earth its career is to end, as we have seen, in apostasy. No doubt where hearts are loyal to Christ, and the departure and declension of the church are seen, there will he efforts to bring back what is according to God’s mind, but such efforts will have but small success. The tide of evil will be found too strong, and the conviction will be forced upon those who feel it that the path of faith must be in setting themselves right. In proportion as we walk with God, and have a spiritual judgment of things, we shall be sorrowful to see the worldliness and corruption that are coming in like a flood. We shall “sigh and cry for all the abominations that be done.” We shall humble ourselves before God as being involved in the common shame of the great dishonour done to the Lord’s name. We shall be ready, like Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel in their day, to confess the sin of our people, and to judge ourselves as having contributed to the weakness and worldliness of the church by our want of devotedness and fidelity. I do not believe that any Christian will be found in the path of faith at the present day if he is not humbled and sorrowful as he sees the departure from the truth which is so manifest to every spiritual eye.
HUMILIATION, SELF-JUDGMENT, AND CONFESSION will surely characterise each one who is truly learning the will of God in these evil days. Such a one will be of a contrite spirit, and will tremble at the word of God, Isaiah 66: 2. He will be of like character to those of whom it is said: “I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord,” Zephaniah 3 :11, 12. While the great religious bodies are boasting of their position and progress with Laodicean self-complacency, spiritually minded believers are humbled and distressed by seeing that the advances are being made at the expense of fidelity to Christ and the truth.
If you cleave to the word of God and reject as error what is opposed to its teaching, you may be called a narrow-minded bigot. If you are uncompromisingly loyal to Christ you may he spoken of as peculiar and fanatical. If you begin to judge things by the word of God you are accused of thinking nobody is right but yourself, and all this may be said by those who take the place of being Christians, and are foremost in what are considered to be Christian activities. Every faithful Christian finds himself in a position of isolation which is in proportion to the measure of his fidelity to Christ. He is shunned by the carnal and the worldly, and his absence from their society is hailed as a relief. The more faithful a man is to Christ, the more isolated will he be from his surroundings in the professing church to-day.
There is however a direct word in Scripture for the guidance of every true Christian in such days as these; a word which I trust the Holy Spirit will lay upon the consciences of many who read this pamphlet. Here it is. “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart,” 2 Timothy 2: 19-22.
Blessed he God! there is a foundation the security and stability of which nothing can impair. The professing church may drift into open apostasy, error may be rampant, worldliness may come in like a flood, but in spite of all, and in the midst of all, a sure foundation remains. What a relief for a Christian’s heart to apprehend this! What a resting-place for the soul amid the sea of unrest which rolls around us to-day! It may seem as if all the old landmarks were being rapidly removed, yet an immovable foundation may be found, and happy will be my reader’s portion if he is led to that foundation and takes his stand upon it.
Two things characterise the “FOUNDATION OF GOD.” one of which is brought before us in the words. “The Lord knoweth them that are his.” SOVEREIGN GRACE has secured its objects, and will secure them to the end, in spite of all the evil and departure from truth. They may be - and, alas! often are - hidden to human eyes, but the Lord knows them. Though He can no longer own as His the great profession which bears His name only to dishonour it, in the midst of it all He knows the chosen, called, and justified ones. We may not he able to discriminate between the wheat and the tares, or between the wise and foolish virgins. We may be deceived by the empty and Christless professor, or we may misjudge the truly converted soul, but the Lord makes no mistake. GRACE has chosen her objects, and secured them, and keeps them in spite of men or devils, and “the Lord knoweth them that are his.” I earnestly hope that my reader has the divine assurance on the authority of the word of God, that his sins are forgiven, that he is justified by faith, has peace with God, and has received the Holy Spirit.
But the “FOUNDATION OF GOD” has another seal - sometimes overlooked by those who rejoice in the first. “Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” It cannot be said that anyone is on the “foundation of God” unless he is acting upon this solemn injunction. No one can calmly and steadfastly stand for God in an evil day like this except as he acts on this principle. To remain in association with iniquity is to nullify all our power to testify against it, and those who do so in hope that they may be able to do something to stem the current of evil, only vex themselves and prove their own weakness; and in the end they either become soured in spirit by continual contentions or for peace sake they tolerate and acquiesce in the evil. In a day like this the only divine path is one of unhesitating obedience to the word of God.* Human reason and natural feeling may suggest innumerable arguments to defer obedience to a word like this. Another course may seem better calculated to attain the end in view. But human expediency and policy are unknown things in the region of faith. Faith’s inquiry is. What saith the Scripture? What saith the Lord? Faith hears His voice only to obey it. Now, can my reader look this scripture honestly in the face: “Let every one that nameth the Lord depart from iniquity”?
[* NOTE. “To-day’s toil,” says D. M. Panton, “is the measure of to-morrow’s glory: 1 Cor. 3: 8; Matt. 5: 11, 12: and the running-tracts for the ‘prize’ God has laid through these channels of holy service.”]
I do not wish to lead anyone to take a single step beyond the measure of light and faith which the Lord has given him, but I ask, Are you going on with anything which in your faith and conscience you know to be contrary to the mind of the Lord? If God has given you light by His word and Spirit, it is a serious thing to trifle with it. Every ray of divine light which we receive is given to us that it may, first of all, be applied in self-judgment so that we ourselves are delivered by the truth and by the Spirit’s power from motives and principles which are not according to God; and, secondly, to enable us to judge of our associations and surroundings from a divine standpoint.
Many Christians are sick at heart as they see the spread of ritualism, the encroachments of worldliness, and the bold advance of infidelity under a religious guise. The “iniquity” is clearly seen; its character is known; it is sorrowed over; but it is gone on with. The sharp edge of the scripture we are considering is not allowed to sever the link of association with that which is evil. Is it any wonder that the Spirit is grieved, that piety declines, and souls make no spiritual progress? It is impossible for one to expect increase of light or blessing from the Lord so long as this plain word is disregarded. Many have said to me, “I do not know what to do.” Well, here is a plain word of direction. You cannot say that it is obscure or unintelligible. It does not require much learning, wisdom, or research to understand it. It only requires the obedience of a heart subject to the Lord. “Let EVERY ONE that nameth the name of the Lord DEPART FROM INIQUITY.”
Further, the Holy Spirit uses the figure of “a great house” to represent the condition of the professing church in the evil days of which He speaks and in the midst of which we are now living, and He says that some vessels therein are “to honour and some to dishonour.” Then follows another solemn and searching word for the conscience of everyone who seeks to be faithful unto the Lord. “If a man therefore purge himself from these” - vessels to dishonour – “he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.”
It has often been remarked that the word here translated “purge” only occurs twice n the New Testament
- in 1 Corinthians 5: 7, and in the scripture
before us. At
A man who holds, teaches, and maintains what is contrary to the word of God is a “vessel to dishonour.” Charity and liberality have no place when the truth of God is in question. We must not excuse error on the ground of the sincerity of the one who holds it. Truth is of God, and whatever is contrary to it is of the father of lies. If you remain in association with those who pervert or deny the truth, you lend your sanction to what they teach or hold, and you fail to be a witness to the truth. You cannot do this without an immeasurable loss to your own soul, as well as dishonour to the Lord. Moreover, your continued association with vessels to dishonour indicates that the Lord’s claims and the truth of God have but little hold upon your conscience and heart.
You may say that if this were acted upon it would lead to many professedly Christian congregations being forsaken by all true Christians. I believe it would, and such testimony would have its own solemn and weighty effect. Whereas if Christians remain and countenance by their presence, worldliness, ritualism, infidelity, or Unitarianism, they are helping to deceive the unsaved around them by leading them to suppose that such things are all right. That which is contrary to the truth, whether it be in practice or in doctrine, must he dishonouring to the Lord, and those who maintain such things are without doubt “vessels to dishonour.” The scripture leaves no doubt as to the course which a faithful one should pursue in reference to such persons. “If a man purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use.” Do you not covet the honour from God of which these words speak?
“Flee also youthful lusts” is the next solemn injunction of the Holy Spirit in this connection, and never was the word more seasonable than it is to-day. Does it not seem in some quarters as if the gratification of these lusts was a part of Christianity, or at least might be made subservient to spiritual ends? What is the object of all the concerts, entertainments, and worldly amusements - which are so often organised in connection with professedly Christian bodies - but the direct gratification of “youthful lusts”? What is ritualism with its imposing ceremonial but an appeal to the lust of the eye? and everybody knows how attractive it has proved, especially to the young. The thirst for something new is another lust which generally burns ardently in youthful bosoms, and to gratify this longing for novelty the old anchorages of faith and conscience are left, and all kinds of speculations and theories are substituted for the solid verities of the word of God. I believe that all such things are included under the head of “youthful lusts,” as well as those darker passions which have so often played havoc with spiritual life.
Thus far we have been occupied with the negative side of the path of faith; the faithful one must “depart from iniquity,” he must “purge himself” from vessels to dishonour, and he must “flee youthful lusts.” But there is positive occupation of heart for him likewise, and that, too, in association with those whom the Lord approves.
“Follow righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” RIGHTEOUSNESS is to do the will of God and to seek His glory. FAITH is that divine principle by which we are able to walk with God and to please Him, even if we have no human support whatever. LOVE in God is the sovereign source of all blessing - an eternal spring which never fails whatever state the church may be reduced to; and LOVE in us is the divine nature in virtue of which we can, by the Spirit, walk in love as imitators of God whatever may be the state of things around us. PEACE is that holy calm which can only be known when our own wills are judged and displaced, and our hearts seek only the will of God. What precious objects of pursuit for the Christian! Righteousness, giving God His right place in everything; Faith, maintaining us as dependent ones in the paths of righteousness; Love, the spring of everything, so that obedience flows out of divine affections, and is not a mere cold sense of duty; and Peace keeping our hearts and ruling there in spite of every storm around! Take courage, then, beloved Christians! These are the things which the Lord sets before you and which He would have your heart to pursue. No amount of evil, and no development of the ripening apostasy, can hinder you from following “righteousness, faith, love, peace,” if your heart desires to go after them. The Lord would not have you to dwell upon the evil, but to judge it and forsake it that you may follow and cleave to that which is good and of Himself. This must be your individual path whatever others say or do. If you could not find another to walk with you or to approve of your course, it would still be your privilege and your responsibility to “follow righteousness, faith, love, peace.”
The scripture we are looking at does not lead us to suppose that we shall he isolated from all Christians, for it tells us to “follow ... with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Does not this indicate that in the darkest days and in the most perilous times there will still be not only faithful individuals, but a company with whom we may be associated in a bond of divine fellowship? It is a pledge to us from the Lord that if we are, through His grace, exercised in heart and seeking to do His will, we shall find others in whom the same grace is working. We may not know them - they may not be very prominent - but it should become our business to seek them out. If the Holy Spirit has led you into the knowledge of the truth in any measure, you will be able to recognise His leading and teaching in others. There are some trying to find the right company of Christians with whom to be associated who need, in the first place, to get into the presence of God about their own spiritual condition, and if they got personally right with the Lord three-fourths of their difficulties would be solved at once.
It is often urged, even by those who admit the excellence of divine principles, that it is a practical impossibility to carry them out in these days; but this is a solemn thing to say. If this be admitted as true, the Christian is no longer to be under the authority of the Lord, or to obey the word of God. On the contrary, when he reads plain words such as we have been looking at in 2 Timothy, he is, after all, to use his own judgment as to whether he will obey them or not. If obedience does not suit his inclination, or the spirit of the times, he may disobey, and excuse himself on the ground that it is a practical impossibility to act upon the will of the Lord! To state such an argument in plain words is sufficient to refute it for every heart that loves to hear and obey the voice of the Lord. Imprisonment, torture, and death were not sufficient to turn aside the noble army of martyrs from the path of subjection and obedience. They might often have saved their lives by the surrender of fidelity in what might be called things of minor importance. Alas! in our easy times the displeasure of relatives or friends, the loss of business or occupation, the reluctance to break away from old associations, often have a power to hinder fidelity to Christ greater than that of the dungeon or the stake in their days.
I am also aware that it will be said that those who have attempted to act upon divine principles have failed quite as much as others. What does the failure prove? Nothing but the simple fact that divine principles can only be carried out in divine power,* and if God’s people are not really walking by faith and in the Spirit, the more scriptural the principles on which they profess to act, the more inconsistent will they be in carrying them out.* But a devoted heart would never make the failure of others an excuse for disobedience. If we really loved the Lord, the more we saw others fail to carry out His mind, the more we should seek, through grace, to carry it out ourselves. The one all-important consideration is that “the grace which is in Christ Jesus” is a sufficient resource for the most difficult days. Let us not forget that we are commended to “GOD and the word of his grace,” Acts 20: 32. Surely no Christian would venture to say that GOD is not able to maintain us in the path of obedience to His word! It is well, on the other hand, to remember that we can only walk in this path as we are maintained by divine grace and power.
[*NOTE. See Acts 5: 32.
“It were impossible, inconceivable” - writes Mr. G. H. Lang in ‘The Personal Indwelling of the Holy Spirit’ - “that the Philistines could have destroyed the tabernacle or Chaldeans the temple so long as the God of glory was in residence. It is equally inconceivable that Satan could have destroyed the body of the incestuous brother at Corinth, or other carnal Christians there, so long as the Spirit of God was in residence in them (1 Cor. 5: 5; 11: 30). Types and histories agree to teach a withdrawal of the Spirit followed by a destruction deserved. Twice it is affirmed in the Epistles that covetousness is idolatry, (Eph. 5: 5; Col. 3: 5). …
Nor can it be questioned that upon many a once Spirit-energized life there stands the dread notice ‘Ichabod,’ the glory is departed (1 Sam. 4: 21). As with an individual Christian so with a church. To the Laodiceans the Lord speaks as from outside the house knocking for admission (Rev. 3: 20). The Ephesians were warned of impending destruction as a church: ‘I came unto thee’ (so that He was not then dwelling among them), ‘and will move thy lampstand out of its place, except thou repent’ (Rev. 2: 5).”
See also the same truth taught in D. M. Panton’s ‘Power lost and Recovered.’
“Unshorn locks falling down picture the descent of the Spirit, drenching him as the sacred Oil did Aaron; seven locks (Judges 16: 19), the plenitude of power; and locks untouchable, as the God-given symbol of his Nazarite consecration and the sole secret of his strength. The Nazarite who put a razor to his head knew that he had lost his consecration. ‘Nazarite’ means ‘separated,’ separated to God, a man whose power dwells solely in his separation; and the power remains so long as (contact with a corpse being forbidden) he is ‘out of touch’ with a dead world…”]
‘Samson wist not THAT THE LORD HAD DEPARTED FROM HIM.’ Faculties that get numbed by sin, get numbed also ‘sensing’ the Spirit. No outward event announced it; no great convulsion, no ringing alarum: while he was asleep the power departed. A Christian worker can flatter himself, in the midst of his lusts, that his power is as it was in his consecration; but in the agony of the supreme need of the power, with everything at stake, in full view of a lifework’s ruin, on the edge of a scandal to the world of the first magnitude, Samson shakes himself - and the power is gone.”]
The sectarian divisions of the church are often excused or justified on the ground that all Christians can never be made to see alike, and divisions amongst those who have professed to take an un-sectarian position are pointed to as proof positive of the assertion. But the important question is, not how we or our brethren see things, but how does the Lord see them? If there are a thousand different judgments amongst His saints, and they are divided in a thousand different companies, it is still true that the Lord has not two different judgments about the same thing, and those who are near enough to Him to have His mind will undoubtedly be “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment,” 1 Corinthians 1: 10. Everything thus becomes a test of our spiritual condition, for if we are not going on with the Lord in humility and self-judgment how can we expect to know His mind? It was said to the Corinthians, “There must be also sects among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you,” 1 Corinthians 11: 19. A division amongst saints is the proof that some of them, at least, have failed to discern the mind of the Lord as to the matter in question. Outwardly the one company may retain as correct a form as the other, but their whole position is founded upon the fact that in certain things they have not known the mind of the Lord; that is, they have acted upon their own mind and judgment instead of His. Who would say that in a company professing to “call on the Lord out of a pure heart,” it was a matter of no consequence whether they had His mind or not on any subject that caused difficulty or division? It is impossible for any spiritual person to suppose that a company is gathered to the Lord’s name, if that company owes its existence to the fact that the individuals who compose it have failed to discern His mind and judgment on a matter serious enough to cause division amongst His saints. Such a company owes its existence to the fact that man’s mind and judgment have been allowed to determine the question, and this is the very thing that has given rise to the countless sects of Christendom. Such a company is essentially sectarian - however much it may profess the contrary - and will necessarily be found defective in the knowledge and maintenance of the truth according to God.
No question should be of greater interest and importance for those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity than whether it is possible for us in these last days to be found in a divine position. Something far removed from the endless diversity of human opinion. Can you believe that the Lord has so forsaken His own that it is not possible to be found to-day in a position according to His mind? Through His grace, it is possible to be found in such a position, and I trust that there may be kindled in christian hearts an intense desire to be thus found.
Thank God! He will not fail nor forsake those who in loyalty of heart to Christ desire to be found in the path of faith. Whatever be the difficulties and complications, they are not too great for divine power and wisdom; and if they serve to cast us upon God, they are blessings in disguise. “To the upright there ariseth light in darkness.” “The meek will he guide in judgment; the meek will he teach his way.”
In conclusion, I appeal to the Christian reader not to think lightly of the privilege which, through the grace of God, lies within his reach. Be not content to have the knowledge and assurance of salvation and Christian blessings, but covet earnestly to be found in the true path of faith. The Lord’s return is very nigh. May we be found with our loins girded, our lights burning, and we ourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord! “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown,” Revelation 3: 11.