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shortly after the church was set up. To many a mind, on first reading of the establishment of this new community, all fear of its failure in any respect, might seem impossible. Wearied with tracing the history of man's failure, throughout the history of the Old Testament and the Gospels, when we first read the Acts, the mind is ready to say, “ Now, no more failure; for now the portion given is the risen and ascended Jesus; now the tenure by which he is received and held is the power and blessed energy of the Holy Ghost.” But, alas! nothing given to man, as man, can prove effectual blessing.* The grace to Israel had failed, not because it was insufficient, that God had taken care to show all along in a remnant; yea, and even in the moment of the completion of its failure, a remnant remained upheld, through grace, by faith in the promises. Why had it failed then ? Just because nothing can mend man, or repair the fallen system in which he is. To Israel, God had proposed this blessing; that he himself should come out of His own abode and place of glory, and take up his abode with the posterity of Abraham : and some honoured him when thus present, and were blessed; howbeit, as to the mass, it was found that he had only thus been exposing himself to insult and contempt. The resurrection of the Lord brought to light a yet more gracious proposal; that man should have a representative in the midst of the glory of the dwelling of God, even the man Christ Jesus, sitting upon the Father's throne; and that, through him, the Holy Ghost should take up his abode among men, making their bodies temples unto God (1 Cor. vi. 19), and building them together for an habitation of God (Eph. ii. 22). Sufficient as the blessing is, and the grace thus displayed, when received by faith, to overcome all hindrances;-yet, through unbelief in those to whom it came, we soon find failure. Instances of this, we find partially in the apostles themselves, as in Acts vi. in their neglect of fore-thought, through which the murmuring arose among the Grecians; see also Peter's refusing to believe the mercy toward the Gentiles, Acts xi.; and the teachers of the necessity of circumcision, Acts xv. 1.; the contention between Paul and Barnabas, ver. 39; and Peter's dissimulation, Gal. ii. 13. While, on the other hand, Ananias and Sapphira, Simon Magus, Demas, &c., afford sad proofs of entire failure, through unbelief. And what more touching tale, and indeed, sad proof of this can we find, than in Paul's interview with the elders at Ephesus:-“I know this, that, after my departing, shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” Again, in writing to the Romans, chap. xi., we have the same truth presented, though in a different way; for in the address to the Ephesian elders, it came forth mingled with all the affections of the apostle's heart, which was sorrowful, as seeing that which would be their loss about to appear among those whom he personally loved and had watched over; whilst, in the letter to the Romans, the matter is considered rather in its connection with dispensation as such, that is, with the over-ruling purposes of God. Now, observe the tone of warning: “Boast not” (ye Romans, said he,) “ against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt
* The reader will observe that the word “man” in this sentence is to be taken in a generic, and not in an individual sense.
say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith, Be not high-minded, but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise, thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not in unbelief, shall be graffed in : for God is able to graff them in again. ...For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits: that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. ... For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they may also obtain mercy.” Surely, there is a fearful import in such words as these—“thou standest by faith, be not high-minded, but fear”; “take heed lest God spare not thee”; “goodness toward thee, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise, thou shalt be cut off,” &c.—And still more impressive is the word, when we consider the 31st. verse, as in the Greek, where it is thus, Oűtw i oŮtol vūv ňttelθησαν τω υμετέρω ελέει, ίνα και αυτοι ελεηθώσι---So have these also now disbelieved in your mercy, that they also may obtain mercy.*
In the 10th chapter of the first of Paul's letters to the Corinthians, we have another very full expression upon the subject. After speaking of the overthrow of many of the children of Israel in the wilderness, he writes (ver. 6.) “ Now these things were our examples”. (TÚTOL nuwv types of us); and again, after describing their fearful failures in detail, he adds again (ver. 11, 12), “ Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples (Túto types or figures): and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." But it may be said, These are all but words of caution and warning, after all, intended to guard the Church against dangers which surrounded it, and not distinct predictions of the fact of the evil feared getting its place. Be it so: such direct predictions there are in abundance; and from them we will now select a few of the most pointed, clear and incontrovertible:
Paul, in 2 Thess. ii. 3, writing of the return of the Lord, says, “ That
• We notice this at length, because our English translation is too evidently a mis-translation, for any one with the Greek before bim to insist upon so rendering it. It seems to give a pretext for supposing that mercy to the Gentiles is to be the means of mercy to the Jews. In one sense, this is true, if it be meant that the foundation of the Church was a step onward in the unfolding of God's way of mercy to the Jewish nation : but it is entirely false, if made the plea for supposing that the return of mercy to the Jews will be by the instrumentality of the present church, as was lately stated in a letter from Jerusalem, by a Missionary to the Jews, addressed to Mr. Bickersteth, and published in the Record Newspaper
day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”
The word rendered “ falling away” is arooracía, our English word apostasy; and doubtless it is from this very passage, that many, who have settled the pope to be the man of sin, have derived the expression now so cominon, “ the apostasy of the church of Rome.” As it is not our purpose, at present, to consider our connection with the subject before us, our own judgment upon the justice or injustice of such language, would be haud ad rem. We would remark, however, that if “apostasy” and “falling away” are, as this passage would suffice to prove them to be, synonymous; then, the meaning of the term apostasy cannot be understood, unless the thing from which apostasy is predicated is known. Just as “a falling away" cannot be understood, until that from which the falling away takes place is known; for the whole train of ideas will vary accordingly. We may say " there is a falling away” of an individual, as to health, or beauty, or strength; of body-of mind; or we may use it of a country, as to its power or its allegiance to a sovereign : and, when the subject and circumstances of that, concerning which we speak are known, no misunderstanding would arise. If, for instance, Ireland were at this time in rebellion and revolt, and we were to be there endeavouring, in the queen's name, to restore order; we might say to the troops under us “ This is a sad falling away” without danger of their being offended, as though we had accused them individually of being in revolt: though Irishmen and though the whole of Ireland, as a whole, were in rebellion, their hearts would be faithful. and, in the consciousness of integrity, they would not pay themselves the bad compliment to suppose we could mean them. We would desire attention to this, because we rather think that if any one who, rightly or wrongly, believed that this falling away had taken place, and that it was universal as to the church as a whole ; if such, we say, were in an assembly of religious persons (say from a platform or pulpit) to say,
The church is apostate," many would feel alarmed and grieved, as though they themselves individually were charged with being apostates. Whether it is the want of the consciousness of individual integrity which would lead them to vindicate themselves and arraign the accuser, we cannot say, though we feel clear as to the probability of their being grieved.
We find similar and express testimony, 2 Timothy iii. “This know also, that in the last day 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, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness
, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led
away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth .. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”
And what, in truth, is the burden of the apostles' heart through the whole of his letter to the Hebrews, but just, “ Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest,'any of you
should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” Who, again, can read the two last chapters of James's epistle, without seeing, even a more heavy burden pressing upon him, of sorrow and grief by reason of the failure of that which he addressed. So the second chapter of Peter's second epistle is, to say the least, full of warning upon this subject, and in the third we have plain prophecy.
“Knowing.... that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming ? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that, by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” Jude's epistle is much’in substance what the second chapter of Peter is. John also, in the first epistle, second chapter, confirms this, “ Ye have heard that antichrist shall come," while the whole tenor of the revelation given, through him, tells the same tale of wandering and departure, closing in, in judgment and rejection.
We have purposely avoided any recondite argument and adhered “to the word and to the testimony,” even in the most literal sense of the phrase, refusing, as they arose, all proofs by inference, arguments from analogy, or reasonings, even of spiritual suggestion of the mind of God; and have, accordingly, quoted only the warnings and positive assertions of God concerning such a falling away, and we have quoted but a few, out of the many contained in the acts and epistles : sad confirmation of the word of Jesus, “ Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”
We would ask our readers to lay aside all prejudice, and just to read these passages with simplicity of mind; and then to say whether they do not plainly foretell that a falling away and that of a very fearful character, and to a very grievous extent, was distinctly foreseen by the Apostles as the experience of the church on which they expended all their labours. Leaving for the present, then, this question, as one settled beyond all contradiction, by the Scriptures adduced, that a falling away was predicted; and passing by the question of time, character, extent, &c., we would remark that many scriptures prove that when our Lord so comes in like manner as he went, there will be some waiting for him; as for instance, 1 Cor. xv. 51, “ Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." 1 Thess. iv. 14, “ If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord,” &c. &c. As to what will be the numbers, peculiar trials, duties, &c. of such, we shall not now speak. After the falling away, there is a people, be they few or be they many, be they strong or be they weak, left to wait for the Lord from heaven. Perhaps no name will better suit such than “THE REMNANT,” for it is a remnant in every sense of the word, and this is the name given by our God himself on similar occasions to the residue which obeyed him when the mass, called to stand in his fear and service, had gone away backward. This we find was the word put into the mouth of the prophet Esaias, when, in his day, he cried “ though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, A REMNANT shall be saved :” which word and name Paul adopts in writing to the Romans, chap. ix. as applicable in his day. . When we consider the conduct of our God, as reported by Malachi
, and that of Jesus to the remnants which lived in the days of that prophet and of Messiah, we might almost desire to have our lot cast in the days of THE REMNANT, found waiting for Jesus after the falling away connected with the church's earthly career. Throughout the whole of our Lord's course we may trace, as in Malachi, the actings of prerogative grace which, when the channels dug for its course were broken down, only flowed more widely, more copiously and freely. In the day of haughty pride, and self-sufficiency (Malachi iii), “they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him,” &c. These were blessed words, and, like the words and conduct of Jesus in his days, presenting a fulness of grace and mercy, far beyond the expectations warranted by the position in which God was standing to the people : moreover the result of the sovereign exercise of grace. And this is just the way ever with our God; he shows his mercy, man, and when he rejects and hinders, so far as in him lies, the righteous communications of the blessings set forth, he does but force the overflowing heart of God to bethink himself of some new channel, through which he may pour forth the rivers of blessing upon man; and generally too, in his grace, it will be found, we think, that the new channel is first opened to the remnant remaining faithful, when that of which they are the remnant, is fallen away. May we learn these his