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"MERCY AND NOT SACRIFICE;"
CHRIST'S WAYS OUR PATTERN
A LETTER TO BRETHREN IN THE LORD,
William Yapp, 4, Old Cavendish St.,
Beloved in the Lord,
May grace and peace be multiplied unto you, through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.
While praying for you, and thanking our God for His truth and love in Christ Jesus, which change not; praying for you that you may know His will and your own state, and humbling myself before Him, for our many failings and mistakes, which He knoweth; I have thought I might serve you by writing to you, to remind you and myself where and what we are. A written word may be read over more than once. I therefore now attempt to write to you, my dearly beloved, hoping thus to help you, through the grace and spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now the great thing for us, as sinners or as saints, is to be brought, first to know our true place, and then to take it. For rich and gracious as God is, He is also true; and because He is true, He can only help us when we stand towards Him as we really are. We have learnt this, I trust, as sinners, that our efforts to mend our state are all in vain, nay more, that they may only put us further from God's salvation, by making us self-righteous and self-deceived hypocrites, until we own our real state, and submit to take our true place before Him. But have we, as members of a fallen church, learnt it? Are we not slow to learn it? Are we not forced at last to learn it by repeated failures? Are we not, when we first see the church's state, ready to be up, to take its original position and circumstances as our pattern; just as an awakened sinner, first discovering what he is, sets before him the law—what man was, and what he should be? And do we not try, first to find out what the early church was, and then in this thing or in that to imitate it; forgetting that if we are fallen, whether fallen as sinners, or fallen as a church, power is needed as much as direction; forgetting too that the power is God's, not ours, and that it only comes when we take, and just in proportion as we take, our true place?
What then is the Church's place to-day? If it be one of fall and ruin, are we to pretend to step out of it, and take "the right ground," as some dear brethren say; or are we, as parts of the fallen body, to confess our state, and look upwards for opened heavens?
He that saith he abideth in Christ, ought himself also so to walk even as He walked. How did He walk in a time just like our own, at the end of a fallen dispensation, and among a ruined people? Look on Jesus—see how He walked—"Behold the Lamb of God." If we can but see His place, we shall learn what is the place of those who are His members.
Israel then was ruined, when He came. Ten, of the twelve tribes, long since carried captive into Babylon, still remained there. The "land of Zebulon and Naphtali," the goodly land of those who had been "satisfied with favour, and full of the blessing of the Lord," had become "Galilee of the Gentiles;" for "with the remnant that remained there had been mixed Cuthites, Avites, and Babylonians;" so that where once "Zebulon and Naphtali were a people that hazarded their lives in the high places of the field," fighting the good fight of faith, there now a poor mixed seed "sat in darkness," without even the pretence of having anything like that form of rule, once divinely given; and where once the precious things of earth and heaven had been held by the thousands of Ephraim, and the ten thousands of Manasseh; there a bastard seed of Samaritans now dwelt, with whom "the Jews," that is the children of the two tribes, who came up out of Babylon, "would have no dealings;" and such was the degradation that "one in whom was no guile" said, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" for, to crown the sorrow, they were under Roman sway, ruled by that fourth great form of Gentile power, which, through Israel's sin, had succeeded the theocracy originally set up by God Himself.
He that readeth, let him understand. For Israel shadows forth the Church; and those four kingdoms, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman, which successively held sway after the failure of the pure theocracy in Israel,—the first distinguished by reverence for divine and prescriptive right,—the second, by strict adherence to "laws which changed not,"—the third, by the personal power of its captains and warriors,—the fourth, by the will of the people, being a republic,—answer exactly to those great forms of rule, which have succeeded each other in this dispensation, since the failure of that theocratic government, which was divinely instituted at the beginning. And just as, when Christ came, one part of Israel, namely, those who dwelt in Galilee and Samaria, were without even the semblance of the right and ancient rule, and, though free from Babylon, had sunk under Rome; so now too is it in the Church, where the greater part of those, who are no longer under that power, which St. John calls Babylon, are swayed instead by that popular voice and democratic influence, of which the fourth monarchy of Rome was the appointed figure; without even a pretence of possessing the form of church government which God at first set up.
But there were some then, and there are some now, the children of Judah and Benjamin, who dwelt at Jerusalem, who not only had escaped from Babylon, but possessed the form at least of much that God had instituted. Even the Truth Himself could say of these, "Salvation is of the Jews." These were "Hebrews of the Hebrews," a purer seed, who boasted that their line, unlike that of the Galileans, was uncontaminated. These had the temple, with its holy forms, and the true succession of priests and levites; their offerings and worship, too, were those ordained by God; nor were they without a king on David's throne. Their king was indeed a son of Edom, and he had got the throne by Roman influence; but since then he had shewn his zeal for God by greatly enlarging and beautifying the temple; so that there seemed on the whole much that was good. The ordinances there, were they not all of divine appointment? Could any one blame the temple or its priests? Were they not what God had appointed? And then, though an Edomite had indeed built up the temple, what of that? Was it not what God had sanctioned? Was it not on the right ground? Had it not His ordinances? And, after all, were not Edomites sons of Abraham? What could be wrong in such a state of things? So they "made long prayers," and "compassed sea and land to make one proselyte;" they drew distinctions between "the temple and its gold;" they "built the tombs of the prophets;" and, not content with this, they said, "If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in shedding blood." Oh no,—they saw the folly of persecution; and, to crown all, they confessed that it was only grace which made them what they were; for they "thanked God that they were not as others:" it was not their merit, but His grace, which made them differ. But they did differ; they were "not as other men." And in all this, some, as Paul, "lived toward God, with good conscience," thinking thus to please Him; not heeding ten tribes gone; thinking nothing of God's fatherly heart yearning over His many lost ones; forgetting the beggars at their gate full of sores, to whom the very dogs shewed more love than they did; thinking only that they at least were right, and if others were wrong, thank God they were not like other men.
And of these there were more sects than one. For, just as now, of those who yet congratulate themselves that they are on "the right ground," there are many sects differing from each other, each with some different plan by which to help Israel; so was it then: for while some boasted of the temple, and of their zeal in compassing sea and land to make proselytes, others saw even in that temple things which made them feel, that spite of their boastings, much was out of course. They thought not indeed of the ten tribes lost. What was it to them that so many were yet captive—this did not touch them. But they did see and feel, because it touched themselves, that for Roman soldiers to be guarding the temple was not the right thing; and for Roman power to uphold an Edomite on David's throne was something very different from that rule which God had instituted. Just as at this day, some groan for the same cause, that Edomites, that is the carnal seed, are ruling in the Church, upheld by Roman might, that democratic power, which is rising everywhere, at last to crush everything. So some in one way, and some in another, separated themselves. They felt that many things were wrong among them where they were; and they tried to mend their state; some, like Theudas and Judas, by going out into the wilderness, to take, as they thought, the original ground of the dispensation; expecting that as God had said, "My Spirit remaineth among you, according to the word which I covenanted when I brought you out of Egypt," so now they would again find Him drying up Jordan, and giving them bread from heaven in the wilderness. But they were, as Gamaliel tells us, all scattered. What was their mistake?—for that it was a mistake we may be sure, from the fact that Christ did not so act, and that God did not meet their expectations. It was this,—that their course did not own the true state of things. It blinked the fact of the ruin of Israel. It acted on a pretence. Besides, it shewed no sympathy: it was selfish. As if God, who loved Israel, even in their bondage, would accept this little sect out of it, instead of the thousands of His true and groaning people. Thus some went out, and were all scattered. Others tried by their boldness to overthrow the evil rule, by fighting against it; of which number was Barabbas, who rebelled against the Romans, hoping thereby to free Israel. Just as now, some go out into separation from their brethren, and look for the original form of the dispensation; while others, by bitter controversy, fight with the sharp sword of the letter of scripture against this or that wrong form of church government. The majority however contented themselves with trying to keep the law, while yet they bowed to Herod's government, saying of their less-instructed brethren, (and let it be remembered that the law was to that dispensation what the gospel is to this,) "This people which knoweth not the law are cursed." But they thought they knew it; and they tried to keep it; and some did keep it very strictly. And if evil in Israel was not judged, they would judge it, binding themselves to kill one like Paul, who had given up what they thought the truth, and was no more a separatist; thus by their very zeal blinding themselves to their own state, and sanctioning a pretence, as though Israel were not ruined; and thus, unconsciously, making themselves and others hypocrites, even while they most religiously thanked God they were not as other men.
Into such a scene came our Example; and what a contrast were His ways to Israel's ways. For He boasted not of the temple, or its gold; or that the succession of priests and levites was unbroken; nor on the other hand did He leave the lost ones to themselves, nor thank God that He was not as other men. If any one could have said this, He could have said it. For indeed He was not as other men. Yet He said it not; but took the place of other men, showing out God's heart by preaching and by living; saying, "I will have mercy and not sacrifice;" so that the self-made saints of the day, who agreed in little else, agreed in judging Him; because instead of judging He pitied and sympathized with the ruined ones.
Look at His walk. There lies poor Israel; some boasting; some mourning; some separating: yet not without a witness from the Lord, for John, one of the priestly family, had been sent to them. And he had come "in the way of righteousness;" and so deeply was his spirit moved by what he saw around, that he cannot live in it, but dwells in the wilderness, a rough man, despising the conventionalities of the day, but preaching in the wilderness, that Israel, high and low, spite of their covenants, and their compassings of sea and land, in which they trusted, are yet fallen, though they are Abraham's seed, and must confess it, and repent. And far out as he was, he yet was heard; and many came, at least for a season, to his preaching. And the sinners of the day, who had never tried to restore Israel, felt that his testimony was true, and became his disciples; but the religious separatists, who would put all Israel right, or at least be right themselves,—could they listen to him? Could they "repent?" Who are to repent? Sinners surely. And were they sinners? Were they not separating themselves on purpose to be obedient? Were they not living according to that law, which God had given them? How could they listen to such preaching, which made nothing, and less than nothing, of all their separation, and included all, whether religious Pharisees, or irreligious publicans, in one general condemnation.
But if righteous Pharisees would not receive John's words, that Israel should own their state as dead, and look for resurrection; One heard, and obeyed, who Himself might have been exempt, had He claimed to stand apart in His own separateness. Yet, as of Israel, He would not stand alone, but would take His place among the lost ones. And He took it, though the religious people judged Him for it. He took it, though they thought, that to confess Israel ruined was as much as saying that God was unfaithful to His covenant; not like Theudas and Judas looking for Jordan to dry up, but Himself going down into its waters, and being buried under them; not fighting to re-establish the kingdom upon earth, but trusting God to lift Him out of it into a higher, even a heavenly one. And so it was; for when He took that place, "heaven opened," and God said, "I am well pleased." Men might be displeased, but God was "well pleased." Then, having been a brief season in the wilderness,—just as opened heavens yet drive men thither for a season,—He returns in the power of the world to come, to tell others how near that same heaven is to them also. "From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
And to this day the same thing takes place in every heir of the kingdom who has reached this stage. For all have not reached it. For we may be, like Christ, heirs of the kingdom, and yet in Egypt. We may be heirs, and yet like Him, be arguing with doctors at Jerusalem. He did so when He was twelve years old; and when He is twelve years old in us, we may do so. But if we grow with Him till with Him we see Israel's state, and then so yield to Him, that He lives and walks in us, that "to us to live is Christ," then, inasmuch as He cannot change, but is "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever," what He did of old, He will do again in us,—go down again amongst publicans,—then have heaven opened,—and then, having overcome the devil, come forth to tell to others how near that kingdom is; and that the way to enter it, is, not by this or that outward separation, much less by boastings as to Israel's works or temple, but by repentance, by owning our state, and by taking the place which befits a fallen people; expecting there to find our God and His grace amply sufficient for us.
Thus did He preach, and thus He preaches now. Some, I know, in His name are preaching that the kingdom of Babylon is very strong and very near us. Popery is going, they say, to overrun the true Church, the two tribes which have escaped. Others are preaching the kingdom of Judah against Israel, the original form of rule against that which, like Jeroboam, makes priests of the lowest of the people. These have been true words; but is this God's message now? Is it not rather,—Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is very near you. My message is,—Heaven is very near you; and it is a true kingdom. A man, in all points like you, standing here, has seen it open, inviting us to enter thither. I do not therefore preach,—as true men have preached, before the dispensation had reached this stage of ruin,—that High Church or Low Church, or this or that sect, is near; though some say these are nearest to us. But heaven is near; as the spirit in the flesh, so is the unseen close in the seen world. Oh! how near you. One step will reach it; and that is, out of self, by the death of self. How far is it to God? How far is it to peace, and righteousness, and joy, in the Holy Ghost? How far is it to Christ, in whom the kingdom stands? Say not, Who shall ascend into heaven, to bring Christ down; or, Who shall descend to bring Christ up again. For the word is very nigh thee, and the kingdom is as nigh thee, and this is the kingdom which thou must enter, if thou wouldst be fully blest.
This then I say and testify in the Lord:—Heaven is near; strive to enter in. Seek poverty of spirit, and mourning, and meekness, and hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and mercy towards brethren, and purify of heart towards God, and to be indeed peacemakers; and then, though ye be reviled, blessed are ye: rejoice therefore and be exceeding glad. Seek ye the kingdom and ye shall find it. But ye must seek it; for, near as it is, a struggle with self is needed, if we would enter it. And many, oh! how many, of the children of the kingdom, have mistaken the entrance, and the kingdom, and so have not entered. "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and there is no new thing under the sun." For at first perhaps we think, like some of old, that outward separation from this or that; or some great sacrifice; some coming down, or giving up of much, as rank and goods, in this world; or a change of church or form, from one which is corrupt, to one which is more scriptural; or fasting, or prayers, or self-denial, or giving, or meditation;—that these or like things are themselves the kingdom. Many have so deceived themselves. Yet these are not the kingdom. They may be means to it, or fruits of it; but like the circumcision of Israel, when they crossed Jordan, these things, though steps to what we want, are not the kingdom; and put into its place, they will but hinder. For Satan our adversary, seeing you thus far out of the road already, regarding means as ends, is quite content to let you alone, or even to help you; for he knows how some, intent on these acts, either of outward separation, or in pursuit of some better form or doctrine, or even in fastings and prayers, have made these very acts of self-sacrifice a more certain occasion of ruin than many open sins; because intent on such good acts, they have left their hearts unguarded, at the mercy of their own imaginations, and of the devil's wiles. So that they look at their works or views, in which they are not as others, and imagine themselves lifted up above the world and creatures, almost into heaven, while yet the kingdom is far from them, and they are only in the devil's wiles.For that this alone is not the kingdom, may be seen at once, by the life and conversation of those who are thus occupied. For such will yet desire to be preferred to others, and think highly of themselves and of their own wisdom; following their own will, blind to their own defects, not believing there is any one who can set them right in any thing; judging harshly of others, even looking down on brethren, and angry if you touch them ever so gently upon those points on which they pride themselves, namely those points of doctrine or practice in which they think they are more perfect than their brethren; thinking far more of that peculiarity in which they differ from their brethren, than of that common salvation and that common ruin, in which they yet are one. And then if God sends some experience, to show them their error, they are impatient; unwilling to confess that they have been mistaken; not abasing themselves before others, nor counting the means of their correction as instruments in His hands, but striving yet afresh to wrap themselves up in their fancied superiority; so that even open sinners are more easily reached than these, whose good acts do but help to blind conscience.
This is not the kingdom, nor is this the entrance. How then shall we enter? "Repent," yea, "mourn;" be "poor in Spirit;" be "meek;" "hunger and thirst for righteousness;" be "merciful" and "pure in heart." So shall ye enter, from the forms of the kingdom, which have blessed you hitherto, into the reality, which is indeed "righteousness, and joy, and peace, in the Holy Ghost." Thus shall heaven be opened to you, and you by grace shall gain the key to open it to others also.
But why, say some, urge true Christians to "repent," and to take the place of humiliation with those brethren who are clearly wrong and sinners? Why not say rather to the Church, "Be obedient?" Should we not obey the church-rules which God has given, to the very end of the dispensation, even as at the beginning? Must we not now, as much as ever, be separate from evil? I have already answered this. But I may say again, Obey by all means, and separate from evil by all means, if you can. You will find in time that the Church is really fallen. And for a fallen Church the path is like that for a fallen man, not to pretend to do what as fallen we cannot, but to own the fall, and in it to look even for higher blessings. If you find a fallen man, and you know God's way to help him, you will not say to him,—"Such and such was the rule God gave; now keep it, and so you shall find blessing;"—for you know as a fallen creature he cannot keep it, and you have a better message to tell him, namely, that if he will take his true place as a fallen creature, God will take His own place as a Saviour. And you would never throw a man on keeping the law for life, just and holy and true as it is, unless you saw that the man was self-righteous, and needed the law, to be broken by it, and shewn his own helplessness. Just so, when you find a fallen Church, you will not, if you know God's mind, unless it is to shew the Church that it is fallen, throw it upon the rules which were given to it when unfallen. But if the fall is, as now it is, open, you will urge confession, believing that God is sufficient to meet this even, if we take our true place. For there is help in God for a fallen Church as for fallen men; not in being blind to our true state, or in calling darkness light, or flesh spirit; not in imitating, or trying to imitate, what was done when the Church was young; not in trying to make an old man into a child again;—for the power which brought us out of the womb, will not do so twice,—not in such or in like things is our help, nor in our energies, but in His abounding grace, which, as it brought out of the ruin of the fleshly Israel mercy to the Gentiles, will yet bring out of the ruin of the spiritual Israel mercy to the whole wide world. Oh the depth of His wisdom, power and love. Of Him, and to Him, and by Him, are all things.
To such then as say, "We must be faithful to God, and judge evil," I only reply, "Behold the Lamb of God." Behold how He walked. Was He not faithful? Did He doubt God's word, when yet He saw that, spite of God's promises and covenant, Israel was indeed fallen? Was He not separate, when He came down into Jordan, amidst publicans and sinners? Did He not, by such acts, shew out both God and man; that God was love even to the ruined, and that man was ruined? And is not this the very thing each of us is to shew, just in measure as we have God's Spirit? Are you, if you stand in sectarian zeal, having no dealings with Samaritans, saying, "Thank God we are not as others," in such a course shewing out what God is? And are you shewing what man is, if you endeavour to take the original ground of the dispensation, and to imitate its original form of theocratic rule? Was this the way or mind of Christ? Was His faithfulness of this sort, or something very different?Draw near, beloved in Him, and mark His walk. Draw near, and hear His preaching. For "He became a Jew, to gain the Jews, and under the law, to gain those under the law;" not to build up the old thing, yet coming down to it, out of it to lift some heaven-ward; not to call darkness light, or to shut His eyes to what was there; but by His humiliation to reach some whom He could not reach in separation; and, by His holy contact to communicate of His grace, while sharing their shame and burden with them: using Jewish waterpots, set after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, not to make His disciples Jews, or to keep Jews in Judaism, but to give them out of their own cold stony forms what they never could have drawn thence, even the wine of the kingdom. For He came not down to fallen Israel to call the evil good, but to lift some out of it, into that heaven which He witnessed was so near. So do thou, brother in Christ, who art His member. The path is narrow indeed. For a man may "become a Jew," and only end a Jew, instead of "becoming a Jew to gain the Jews." But a large heart will keep thee right in the narrow path, and will make thee like unto the angels, a child of God and of resurrection, in unthanked and unvalued service, coming down oft to minister to men, as well as rising to give adoring praise to Him, whose are all things. Carnal imitations will not avail to keep thee here. Be without Christ's Spirit, and thou canst not walk here. But let that mind rule thee, which was in Him; and His path will be thy path.
Let this mind, therefore, be in you, which was in Christ. Humble yourself, like Him, to gain others. Stay not in your own joy, but come down for others, drawn to them by that love, which beareth all things. Oft we say one to another, "The grace of our Lord Jesus, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with you." But what was that grace, and what was that love, and what is that communion? The "grace" was this,—that He who was in the form of God, humbled Himself to take the form and the place of the lost, to lift them out of it. The "love" was this,—not that we loved Him, but that He loved us, and dimmed His brightness to make us dark ones bright. And the "communion of the Holy Ghost" is this,—not staying apart from our poor vile bodies, but coming in to dwell there, to dwellings which to Him must be full of foulness and rottenness; not proving His presence by vain words, but by deeds; by love proving He is the Holy Ghost. Such is our God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and such must be those who live in His life. Have they Christ's grace? It cannot change. Have they God's love? It gives all for sinners. Have they the Holy Ghost, and His communion? Then like that Holy Ghost, not standing apart from fallen sin-stained men, but even dwelling in them, ofttimes grieved, sometimes quenched, they will yet by that Spirit subdue those around them. Such love is our need this day,—true love to the church and world, growing out of communion with the heart of God and Christ; such love as brings down earthly parents to childish games; love that bears all, believes all, hopes all; love that will not be blest alone; rather dying with its loved ones. So Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it; saving others, not Himself; and saying to His disciples, "Love one another as I have loved you." So let us love. Shall we thus lose ourselves? Then let us lose ourselves. We shall not lose love; and love is its own reward, and cannot lose its joy, even though men and devils rage against it. He that seeks himself, shall also find himself; but he that seeks others shall be satisfied.
Seek then this mind which was in Christ, even though it makes you "lambs of God," that is sacrifices. Ask to be filled yet more with His Spirit. Without His Spirit you are none of His. Judge what spirit is in you, not by words, but by its likeness or unlikeness to His ways. Nothing but His Spirit can keep you in His way. May that Spirit rest upon you.
And now, brethren, consider what I say, and the Lord give you understanding in all things.
I am your servant and brother in Christ,
——————— J. B. Bateman, Printer, 1 Ivy Lane, Paternoster Row
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