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1883 Ecclesial Guide

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11. -- After Baptism (in Company).

If more than one obey the truth together, the weekly breaking of bread will be an enjoyable exercise, and the nucleus of an ecclesia will have been formed. A first necessity in such a case will be a room to meet in. It will probably be sufficient at first for a company of two or three, to meet in the house of one of them. But this ought not to be continued longer than necessary. It is better for brethren to have to leave their houses and repair to a neutral place, as regards the effect on themselves; and it certainly enables them more effectually to discharge their function as witnesses of the truth than when their meetings are in a private house.

 

12. -- Objects of Ecclesial Work.

The objects of ecclesial operations are two-fold: 1--the edification (or refreshment, encouragement, strengthening, or building up) of its individual constituents in the faith -- "the edifying of itself in love" (Eph. iv. 16); and 2--the exhibition of the light of truth to "those that are without." In this two-fold capacity, the ecclesia is "the pillar (that which upholds) and ground (that which gives standing room) of the truth" (1 Tim. iii. 15). These two objects will always be carefully pursued by enlightened and earnest men. Neither is to be lost sight of, and neither sacrificed to the other. Edification is the more agreeable: but the testimony of the truth is the more dutiful function. We must, therefore, resist the tendency to exalt the former over the latter; and, at the same time, be on our equal guard that we pursue not the latter to the sacrifice of the former. There is a tendency in young ecclesias to give the public testimony the more prominent place; and in older bodies, perhaps the tendency is to prefer that which is individually profitable to that which may seem to them a bootless exhibition of divine matters to a heedless public. A right condition of things gives both an equal place. Duty to Christ will sustain older ecclesias in a course from which their individual preferences would withdraw them: and the need of comfort, and the luxury and service and worship will help the younger bodies to give due place to breaking of bread and exhortation.

 

13. -- Rules and Modes.

In all communities, large or small, there must be order and mutual submission, in order to attain the objects of their existence.

In small bodies, few and simple rules will suffice. In large bodies, there will be more need for precise and definite regulations, having reference to what duties certain persons will attend to, how such are to be appointed, under what conditions their duties will be exercised, and so forth. Two things have to be secured in the conduct of an ecclesia, which are capable, in a wrong mode of working, of becoming inconsistent with one another, but which, with care, wisdom, and patience, can be so reconciled as to both have their full and effective place. The one is, ORDER, and the other, INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY. Both are essential to the healthy and harmonious life of an ecclesia. The danger is that one or other may be sacrificed, in the endeavour to secure either. Care should be taken that neither is secured at the expense of the other. Let not order quench individual liberty, and be sure that individual liberty is not allowed to destroy order. Both are to be secured by appropriate arrangements, such as are indicated in this Guide.

 

14. -- Absence of the Spirit's Appointments.

In the apostolic ecclesias, the Spirit of God, by the hand of the apostles, or other Spirit-endowed person, nominated and appointed such special brethren, in virtue of which appointments, the rest of the body were bound to yield a ready submission to the rule and authority so established. Such ruling brethren were appointed to permanent office. Under this institution, the brethren were saved the trouble of election, and the confusion more or less incident in our times to the absence of authority. In our day, until the Spirit speaks again, we can have no such privilege; and it is worse than useless to profess a possession we lack. Our wisdom lies in recognising the true nature of our case, and making the most of the unprivileged circumstances of a time succeeding to a long period of divine absence and eclesial chaos.

 

15. -- The Necessities of the Present Situation.

Much can be done by the loving co-operation of divinely enlightened intelligence. In fact, little or no government would be necessary were all who profess the nameof Christ animated by a controlling deference to the mind of Christ -- a mind swayed by both the love of God and the love of man. The simplest rules would be easy to carry out in a community so constituted. But such a state of things cannot be reached until Christ come, who will separate the unholy element everywhere, and organise that magnificent body, his completed ecclesia, whom he will "present to himself a glorious ecclesia,without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing," and with whom he will proceed to the glorious work of governing the world in righteousness and true beneficence.

In the mixed state of things prevailing at present, arrangement and order are necessary. Without them, there will inevitably come, sooner or later, misunderstanding, offence, disunion, strife, envy, and every evil work. Even with order, wisely maintained, it is difficult to keep these evil results at bay.

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