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xiv. 1-7, expresses our habitual intercourse towards others of the family of God, the way in which we should ever receive and deal with each other. It shows the line of conduct towards all within the heavenly family.
As difficulties frequently occur in these days about receiving children of God, would the reception of Paul at Jerusalem, as given in Acts ix. 26-28, be a pattern for us to follow ?
May not the manner of his reception be regarded rather as an example of God's condescension to the weakness of His children ? When Ananias was instructed by the Lord to go to a certain house to find a praying Paul he hesitated, and limited the power of God by his unbelief. Had he remembered the grace that had been shown to himself he would have rejoiced that Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor, had become a member of Christ. The same unbelieving spirit was manifested by the church at Jerusalem, as the course which they took shows. Saul
assayed to join himself to the disciples,” which was the natural course for him to take, but “they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.” Their fear arose from unbelief, and this led Barnabas to bring him before the apostles.
The reception of Paul in Acts ix. was altogether exceptional, and therefore is not to be taken as a rule. Let us not, in the exercise of needful care, resort to an extreme course that will show our lack of faith in God, and let us not allow the difficulties around us to lead to the adoption of rules unauthorized by Scripture.
An example from Scripture ought never to be enforced as if it had the authority of a precept. An example is given for our instruction, and we have to weigh surrounding circumstances carefully before we can scripturally follow it. A precept is given by infinite wisdom, and, wher
rightly applied, lays us under divine obligation to obey it under all circumstances. An example calls for the exercise of wisdom, and may have elements that might not recur again.
What are the scriptural rules as to receiving believers ? It would be difficult to find any, and we are cast
God for wisdom. In the apostles' days the Spirit of God wrought first in the church, and then by the church, and those who were converted joined themselves “to their own company," their own family. We do not read of their being proposed for fellowship; they were in fellowship, and recognised by those already in it. Knowing little of the truth of the Head and members, they held it instinctively; they were in the body, of the household of faith, and were dealt with according to the rules of the house.
In early days he who confessed Christ carried his own commendation with him. Letters of commendation are in Scripture chiefly connected with those who minister in the church as servants. If anyone coming from one place to another now requires a letter of commendation, it is because of the times we live in rather than according to the strict pattern of Scripture; it is a thought strange to Acts ix. that Saul ought to have had a letter of come mendation. If one dead in sins was quickened by the Spirit, it would be the natural outflow of the love of the Spirit to join himself to the disciples, and they would discern and receive him on his own testimony. In those days sheep were sheep, and wolves were wolves, but “false brethren "soon found their way into the church. Now the world is called “Christian," and therefore we have to be much on our guard. But then our tendency is to make a fence, instead of looking to God. For lack of selfjudgment, holiness, and power, we seek to compensate by stringent church enactments. But when life and power go out, only the tomb remains. Let us beware of a lifeless formalism.
If there were “great grace" there would be the same revealed power as when it was said, “and of the rest durst no man join himself to them ;” and our obligation is to
' have that power. Were we filled with the Spirit we should burn out those who are not of God, as the warmth of the fire drove out the viper in the island of Melita, and it did Paul no harm though it fastened on his hand.
The spirituality of the church would be an effective security against the continuance of evil in its midst even if it entered. It would become natural for the church to appeal to Him who is the Lord of the house, to take a matter in hand that was too hard for them, and He would deal with it, while they exercised self-judgment. Lacking this, our rules are a poor security.
An ancient Greek offered to build a philosopher a house which thieves could not rob. He replied, “ You need not; my house is free from thieves already, because I have nothing in it to be stolen.” When Judas had nothing to gain he went out.
In judging those who are within, we have safe rules as touching corrupt doctrine and corrupt deeds. In 1 Tim. i. 18-20, it is corrupt doctrine that severs a good conscience from the faith. Paul's exercise as to maintaining a good and tender conscience is constantly manifested. It is not difficult for self-judged persons to judge others; and no church judgment is effectual that does not lead to selfjudgment. When the flesh in Christians is unjudged, the carrying out of the judgment of Christ is almost impossible. Those who know least of self-judgment are generally the harshest in their judgment of others. Peter, failing to judge himself for sleeping in Gethsemane, was quick to grasp the sword to cut off the high priest's ser
vant's ear, and was the first to deny his Lord. The selfjudged person is at the mercy seat, and he leads the person he desires to rebuke to that judgment seat for selfjudgment and self-correction.
In our judgments as to discipline, and in everything else, we are bound to be of one mind; and wherein we are not so, it becomes us to confess it, and not to turn our backs upon any difficulty, but to wait on God with the certainty that He will give oneness of mind.
If at the command of Christ, and with the mind and bowels of Christ, we put away any from fellowship, we must reckon upon 2 Cor. ii. being made good to us in their restoration. We only begin the matter of restoration by putting away, and should not rest till restoration gives joy to God and to our fellow-saints.
NOTES AND REPLIES. Who are the “just men in Heb. xii. 23, and what is meant by their
being “made perfect”? THE “ general assembly” of which the apostle writes in this verse points to the aggregate of the redeemed as forming one united whole. The “spirits of the just” would refer to those who have finished their earthly course, and “made perfect ” looks onward to resurrection. The death and resurrection of Christ reveal to us what could only have been dimly apprehended by Old Testament saints, God having provided some better thing for us. Verses 22-24 in their actual accomplishment await the resurrection of the body, but that which lies before us as an object of hope is presented to us in Scripture for faith's present grasp. Faith is the substance, the ground of confidence, of things hoped for, and the evidence, or demonstration, of things not yet seen. That which is before us should, by faith, be made a help to our present life and walk.
Is the “ day of atonement” (Lev. xvi.) prospective or retrospective ? The confession of Israel's sins, iniquities and transgressions, by the high priest on the day of atonement could, we think, only have been in retrospect of the past year. On that day the standing of the nation, as regards the flesh, might be expressed in the memorable words of Balaam : “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither seen perverseness in Israel” (Num. xxiii. 21), and they could begin another year in the consciousness of God's favour and presence.
THE PARABLE OF THE POUNDS,
THE truth of the Lord's advent is intended to have a practical bearing on our whole Christian life. In our worship we are told by the apostle to commemorate the Lord's death in the breaking of bread“ till He come;" and from the lips of our blessed Lord Himself, in the parable of the pounds in Luke xix., the same event is brought before us in all our service by the command,“ Occupy till I come.”
The circumstances under which this parable was spoken are peculiarly interesting. On the day preceding the tenth of the month Abib, the passover lamb was selected, and on the same day our Lord made His public entry into Jerusalem, presenting Himself under the double aspect of the spotless Lamb of God, and Zion's holy King, thus uniting in His own blessed person the salvation that was to be at the cost of His own blood, and the righteousness of that kingdom which was to be founded on His cross.
There seems to have been a strange awakening consciousness of some important issue, which probably none understood; arising, it may be, from something in the very appearance of our Lord, as He thus stood before them on His way to consummate the mighty work for which He had come into the world. He was, so to speak, already treading the path of victory, and the glory of the coming kingdom was irradiating His countenance, and carrying the conviction to those who followed Him, that “the kingdom of God should immediately appear.” As our Lord draws nearer to the cross, the visions of