Noted biblical writers on dispensational lines - mostly of the persuasion known to the world as "Plymouth Brethren"



Dispensationally the Sin Against the Holy Ghost

It is necessary to give a brief account of the following tract, which is now published for the first time.
It was intended to be published at the time; but the printer and publisher shewed it privately to some of the influential Clergy before it was published, and I was surrounded and entreated not to publish it – I cannot really, at this distance of time, say by whom – and gave way. We can all understand – at least, any who have had deep convictions on points which affect the whole standing of the church of God – how – however deep internal convictions of any such truths may be – a serious and conscientious mind may hesitate as to putting forth what may shock the feelings of many godly persons, and violates established order; and in such matters all ought to be not only conscientious but serious, have the fear of God, and not merely an opinion on that which may work deeply in the minds of any, and affect so sacred a thing, the only sacred thing in the world, as the Church of God. It never therefore appeared. Nor do I, though it may appear to be weakness in myself, regret it at the hands of Him who makes all things work together for good to them that love Him.

I have a deep, abiding conviction that the building up of good can alone give lasting blessing, not the attacking evil. I would press it on every one who seeks good.

I had not the most distant feeling of enmity against any, nor against the Establishment [the Church of Ireland]; I loved it still, I looked at it as a barrier against Popery.

When I left it, I published the tract on "The Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ". [See Part One.] Every one knows, and for myself it is a matter of profound sorrow, and a sign of approaching judgment, that it has ceased to be such a barrier, and, for many, has been the road into it, and that infidel principles have been judicially pronounced to be fully admissible in it.

Christians are thrown – where Paul originally threw them when warning them of the perilous times of the last days – on the word of God, and knowing of whom they have learned anything; as to which we have this word of the Apostle John, "he that is of God hears us" – not tradition, not the fathers in numberless folios, but "us" – not development nor decrees of violent and clashing councils, but "that which was from the beginning", and, I add, the infallible faithfulness of an ascended Lord. But we are thus cast on great principles, I mean scriptural principles and truth. Of this the presence of the Holy Ghost is a cardinal one.

I may add as that which led to this – I mean as to the truth itself in my own soul, that – after I had been converted six or seven years, I learned by divine teaching what the Lord says in John 14, "In that day ye shall know … that ye [are] in me, and I in you" – that I was one with Christ before God, and I found peace, and I have never, with many shortcomings, lost it since. The same truth brought me out of the Establishment. I saw that the true Church was composed of those who were thus united to Christ; I may add, it led me to wait for God's Son from heaven; for if I was sitting in heavenly places in Him, what was I waiting for but that He should come and take me there?

The infinite love of God flowed early into my soul in this process which the Lord was carrying on. Previously I had had, from the first, the deepest possible convictions of sin, and had known and after some years taught that Christ alone could fill up that abyss, but not that He had.

I had passed in the deepest way, fasting – a thing which, I believe, if spiritually used, may be most useful – but then in a legal spirit, and in an elaborate system of devotedness, sacraments, and church-going, through what is now called Puseyism; but had found that Christ and not that could give peace, but had not found it; I sought it, looked for the proofs of regeneration in myself, which can never give peace, rested in hope in Christ's work, but not in faith, till I found it, as I have stated, when laid by for some time, by what is called accident, from outward labour. The presence of the Spirit of God, the promised Comforter, had then become a deep conviction of my soul from scripture. This soon after applied itself to ministry.

I said to myself, if Paul came here, he could not preach, he has no letters of orders; if the bitterest opponent of his doctrine came who had, he would, according to the system, be entitled.

It is not a wicked man slipping in – that may happen anywhere – it is the system itself. The system is wrong. It substitutes man for God. True ministry is the gift and the power of God's Spirit, not man's appointment. I state merely the great principle. This principle, with a process and with a delay the details of which I cannot recall, and which are immaterial, was under deep pressure of conscience, the source and origin, as a principle, of the following tract – printed, I suppose, now seven-and-thirty years ago. There will be found immaturity in it in expression. The sin against the Holy Ghost, though universally used, is not a scriptural expression.

Every sin a Christian commits is a sin against the Holy Ghost; for the Holy Ghost dwells in him, and he grieves that Holy One by whom he is sealed to the day of redemption.

But the principle is one of deep importance, one on which the status of the Church and the Christian depends – the security of the one, as well as that by which he is responsible and judged in his walk, and the ground of judgment of the other.I did not save myself in any way by not publishing it. It was soon bruited about, and of course held, that I charged each clergyman with the sin against the Holy Ghost, which the tract itself entirely disclaims.

It is a question of the dispensational standing of the Church in the world – a statement that that depends wholly on the power and presence of the Holy Ghost, and that the Notion of a Clergyman contradicts His title and power, on which the standing of the Church down here depends. It is the habitation of God through the Spirit. Scripture is clear, that if the Gentiles do not abide in God's goodness, they will be cut off like the Jews.

It equally predicts a falling away, which is not continuing in God's goodness. I believe these times are hasting greatly. I add, that there may be no mistake, that I have an absolute confidence in the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus, the great Head of the Church, that what He builds will endure and be translated to heaven, when God judges the corrupt and evil system – which He as certainly will do – which bears His name, and Christ Himself becomes in glory the blessed witness of His unchangeable faithfulness and love.The doctrine of the church as the house of God – Eph. 2, and 2 Tim. – became developed in my mind much later; and I add here, that I believe the confounding the Church, as man built it, as committed to his responsibility – 1 Cor. 3 – resulting in the great house, with Christ's building – though the former be God's building responsibly in the world – and attributing the privileges of the body to all that are in the house, is the origin of the corruption, which has defiled, and for which God will judge the guilty, professing body with His sorest judgment.

The tract is given as it was printed at first. As I have spoken of myself – always a hazardous thing – I add that at the same period in which I was brought to liberty and to believe, with divinely given faith, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, I passed through the deepest possible exercise as to the authority of the word: whether if the world and the Church – i.e., as an external thing, for it yet had certain traditional power over me as such – disappeared and were annihilated, and the word of God alone remained as an invisible thread over the abyss, my soul would trust in it. After deep exercise of soul I was brought by grace to feel I could entirely. I never found it fail me since. I have often failed; but I never found it failed me.

I have added this, not, I trust, to speak of myself – an unpleasant and unsatisfactory, a dangerous thing – nor do I speak of any vision, but because, having spoken of the presence of the Holy Ghost, if I had not brought in this as to the word, the statement would have been seriously incomplete.

In these days especially, when the authority of His written word is called in question on every side, it became important to state this part also of the history.

Dispensationally the Sin Against the Holy Ghost
In the statement which I make here, I make no rash or hasty expression of feeling, but what I believe the Lord would press upon the minds of Christians, and that which they must receive: the converse of it He might, winking at the ignorance, bear with in practice, while it did not interfere with and oppose the purposes of His grace, but He cannot when it does. The statement which I make is this, that I believe the "Notion of a Clergyman" to be the sin against the Holy Ghost in this dispensation.

I am not talking of individuals wilfully committing it, but that the thing itself is such as regards this dispensation, and must result in its destruction. The substitution of something else for the power and presence of that holy, blessed, and blessing Spirit, [is the sin] by which this dispensation is characterised, and by which the unrenewedness of man, and the authority of man, holds the place which alone that blessed Spirit has power and title to fill, as that other Comforter which should abide for ever. If the "Notion of a Clergyman" has had the effect of the substitution of anything which is of man, and therefore subject to Satan, in the place and prerogative of that blessed Spirit exercising the vicarship of Christ in the world, it is clear, that however the providence of God may have overruled it, in the ignorance which He could wink at, it does, when stood upon and rested in against the presence and work of the Spirit, become direct sin against Him – pure, dreadful, and destructive evil – the very cause of destruction to the church.I must be observed here to say nothing whatever against offices in the Church of Christ, and the exercise of authority in them, whether episcopal or evangelical in character.

It were a vain and unnecessary work here to prove the recognition of that on which scripture is so plain.

But they are spoken of in scripture as gifts derived from on high: "He gave some apostles", Eph. 4: 11; so in 1 Corinthians 12, they are known only as gifts.

My objection to the "Notion of a Clergyman" is, that it substitutes something in the place of all these, which cannot be said to be of God at all, and is not found in scripture.

Now, I believe the whole principle of this to be contained in this dispensation in the word clergyman, and that this is the necessary root of that denial of the Holy Ghost which must, from the nature of the dispensation, end in its dissolution. I am quite aware that people will say, that this is not the sin against the Holy Ghost, that it may amount to resisting the Holy Ghost, but sin against the Holy Ghost is quite another thing.

It is not so much another thing as people suppose. At any rate the cause of the destruction of the Jewish system was this very thing: "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye".

I am perfectly satisfied, that however this dispensation may be prolonged in order to the gathering of souls out of the world, of God's elect, it has sealed its destruction in the rejection and resistance of the Spirit of God. But I go a great deal farther, and I affirm, though that were sin enough, that the "Notion of a Clergyman" puts the dispensation specifically in the position of the sin against the Holy Ghost, and that every clergyman is contributing to this. The sin against the Holy Ghost was the ascribing to the power of evil that which came from the Holy Ghost: and such is the direct operation of the idea of a "Clergyman".

It charges the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, which the Spirit gives by the mouth of those whom He chooses, whom they are pleased to call laymen, and the righteousness of conduct which flows from the reception of that testimony, with disorder and schism.

I beg to say here, I do not allude to any modern assumption of the possession of extraordinary spiritual gifts.

Now, God is not the author of confusion or disorder, nor of schism, but the enemy of souls is; and to charge the plain testimony which the Holy Ghost gives concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, and the effects which it produces, with disorder and schism, is to charge the work of God with being evil, and from the evil one.

But if clergymen have the exclusive privilege of preaching, teaching, and ministering communion, which they claim, and which is the very sense and meaning of their distinctive title, then must it be all evil.

That is, the "Notion of a Clergyman" necessarily involves the charge of evil on the work of the Holy Ghost, and therefore, I say, that the "Notion of a Clergyman" involves the dispensation, where insisted upon, in the sin against the Holy Ghost. Sinners are converted to God, souls called out of darkness, the truth preached with energy and love to souls, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, in the constraint and constancy – in whatever weakness – of the Redeemer's love: men are gathered from evil and wickedness – for I will put the fullest case my adversaries could wish – into the communion of the Lord's love, to bear witness to their sole dependence on His dying love; and this is producing confusion and schism – of which God is not the author, but Satan – because they are not, nor are brought together by, clergymen! What is this but to charge the work of divine grace with proceeding from, and having the character of, the author of evil, which is blasphemy? and this is the immediate and direct effect, the necessary effect, of the notion – the exclusive "Notion of a Clergyman".And this is a thing of very common operation where a number of unconverted clergymen are; and how common this is, yea, how it is the case in a large majority of instances, is well known.

There all the operations of God's Spirit are charged with confusion and schism; and therefore I affirm, that the idea of a "Clergyman", that is, of a humanly appointed office, taking the place and assuming the authority of the Spirit of God, necessarily involves – in its condemnation of what the Holy Ghost does do – in the sin against the Holy Ghost: and I defy any one to shew how it can be otherwise … The "Notion of a Clergyman" consists in acknowledg-ing that, as the source of authority, which, they admit, is not appointed by God at all …Now, the deference and obedience to a spiritual pastor will be just in proportion to the right feeling – to the holiness of mind of the Christian; but in the same proportion will his idea of a clergyman be weakened, and will he judge according to what they are, if they assume any office circumstantially connected with the name.

The value attached to it is a purely worldly thing: a thing of this world, with the pretence of religion in its external character, which is just the destruction of the church – the essential characteristic of apostasy.Let us consider it in its actual operation. If we go to India, the difficulty to be got over, the persons to be soothed and won, so that the gospel should not be hindered, are the clergy; I speak of nominal Christianity in India, as on the Malabar Coast and their Catanars.

Go to Armenia; the difficulty would arise from precisely the same quarter.

Carry the gospel in its power, where would difficulty be anticipated? – from what quarter? From the clergy. At best, they must be conciliated. Go to Egypt amongst the Copts: the same thing just is true.

Go to the churches in Palestine, and wherever the Armenian Church is spread, the facts are the same.

I do not say, they may not in any case be conciliated; but that the opposition to the truth, when it exists, arises from them.
v Go to the Greek Church: it is precisely the same. Their Papas, or priests, the ministers and sustainers of all the corruption and evil of the church, are the great hindrance to all missionary and spiritual exertion.

Their churches are fallen; therefore they proportion-ately estimate the clergy, and they do not the gospel.

But the opposers and hinderers, the persons whose influence is dreaded, are the clergy. Let us look now at the great western body, which is called the church, the Christendom of the world – the vine of the christian profession. Whence is the difficulty in preaching the gospel? Where is the grand barrier of opposition to Christ in His gospel? It is at once known and felt. The word would be echoed by every one familiar with the subject.
v But surely we are not to identify the wilful resisters of the truth with those who preach and forward it.

In this point they are identified, they are both clergy, they have both precisely the same title; if a Protestant clergyman has title to this, or whatever title to respect he has, the Roman Catholic priest has the same. I am not talking of mine or any one's estimation of it, but of facts.

And this is so much the case that a priest joining the Established church, whatever his motive might be, acquaintance with or ignorance of the truth, would be at once a clergyman of the Establishment.

His clerical character existed before and his person merely was transferred from one to the other. Nothing could more clearly mark the identity of the two characters.

Their title the same confessedly, the same by the acknowledgment that the title which they insist on distinctively is the same as, and no other than as, it is derived from those whose apostasy and opposition to the truth is the ground of judgment on the vine of the earth, the nominal church of God.

If I am bound to acknowledge the one, I am bound to acknowledge the other in the same title and office.

They are their own witnesses that there is no difference between them in title as clergymen.

Whether the ministry of the priests come from God their "mission" they may determine. But, that we may let no part of the world escape our notice, turn to Protestant Germany.

Who are the hindrances, the bars to the gospel – to truth there finding its way among the people? The clergy. Consult any missionary reports, or continental reports, or Jewish reports, or a Home Mission Society: and the clergy will be universally found to be the hindrances to the propagation of the truth …One question may remain, Why press such a point now? I answer; first, because it is truth. God's truth is always profitable, and the testimony kept up by it in the world. But further, because these things have been brought to such a pass by the prevalency of this very notion that nothing remains but to rescue the saints out of its effects before the tide of Papal power which is founded on it, set in in its full and subduing strength.

Men must rest on the Lord or sink into it. If the notion of a clergyman be anything but evil, dissociation from it is but schism and evil.

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