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Reminiscences

The company of believers who publish this journal, "Needed Truth," are Christians who are found together in a Fellowship or Community which we believe answers to that referred to by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1.9 and Acts 2.41, 42; "the Fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." Their ground of hope is entirely based upon the Person and Work of Christ on their behalf. In this they rejoice with all others who "have obtained a like precious faith in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1.1).But as the divine revelation of one way of salvation for sinful men is made in the Holy Scriptures, just as surely do we see marked out therein "One Way," "One Place," "One Thing," in which children of God should be found; and as a sinner is saved by obeying God, in believing on the Lord Jesus Christ as the Saviour, so surely can Christians, by collective obedience to the Word of God, be found together in "the Way," "the Place" which God has chosen.

We have often called attention to the principle laid down in Deuteronomy 12 concerning "The place of the Name," the place of divine choice, where the will of man had no right to intrude. God bad chosen it in times past and no human being had any right to attempt to reverse that choice, or substitute another place. This was under the old Covenant, and we believe that the same principle is found under the new Covenant. This is one of the divine truths which has gripped and exercised the hearts and stirred the spirits of those who for the past 60-70 years have taken their stand in what we believe to be the New Testament counterpart of the Old Testament "place of the Name," apart from systems which, although many children of God are found therein, and much that is true is taught in the same, bear little or no resemblance to the "churches of God" and the "Fellowship of God's Son " of the New Testament scriptures.

According as it is written, " I believed and therefore did I speak," and it is left to those who hear and read to judge if we speak by the Word of the Lord, or according to that which appears to sway the minds of many Christians today-human sentiment.

Sometimes the personal exercise and spiritual struggles of individuals are matters of peculiar interest to others, because the difficulties encountered and the questions faced find an echo, to some degree, in every seeking soul. To this end, the writer recounts some of his struggles and difficulties, in days now many years past, when seeking to reach "The place of the Name."

Having been brought up under influences which taught not only the need of a personal Saviour, but the value of the Word of God to give light on all eternal matters, as well as on things of a temporal character, a deep sense of the reality of eternal things had been created: and when the question of eternal salvation, through faith in Christ, had been settled, the further question asked by Paul, "What shall I do, Lord? "(Acts 22.10) became one of outstanding importance, in view of the Lord's words recorded in John 14.15, "If ye love Me, ye will keep My commandments," combined with the solemn issues of the judgement-seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 3.12-15; 2 Corinthians

5.10).

I was associated from childhood with one of the large denominations and for a time no question entered the mind regarding the correctness, or otherwise, of remaining there. In that particular denomination were many dearly loved children of God; some of whom had worked and prayed for the salvation of others, including the writer. They rejoiced when they heard of the grace and mercy of God in the salvation of another soul. There were some, however, also

"church members", who were apparently strangers to this experience of personal salvation, yet all were joined together in" church membership "and work. One of my earliest impressions was of sadness at this condition of things, saved and unsaved, light and darkness, joined together. Before long the question of baptism arose; the propriety of the sprinkling of infants as "baptism" had never previously been questioned. Now, however, the scriptures were read and examples examined (Matthew 28.19; Acts 2.41, 42; 8.36, 87; 10.48, etc.), the meaning of the word pondered, and its typical teaching noted. (Romans 6. 1-6; Colossians 2.12).

The origin of" infant sprinkling " was examined and it was found to be practised entirely on human authority. The need for baptism, as the initial step in the pathway of the disciple, now became clear.

Objections were of course raised by well-meaning friends, such as "Baptism could not make anyone more sure of heaven than believers who were not baptized," and "many Christians who had never been baptized were much used of God in the spread of the Gospel and the salvation of souls." To the first objection the answer was clearly in the negative: but it seemed to indicate that some who asked such a question had no objective further than being sure of one day reaching heaven. This was clearly not the spirit of a disciple as expressed by Saul of Tarsus in Acts 22.10. The second objection was a more perplexing one, "Why should God recognize and honour their work and labours, if they were failing in obedience?" Though perplexed, yet the word of the Lord was clear, and the command one which must not be disobeyed (Matthew 28.19; Acts 10.48).

The second objection was repeatedly raised at later stages, but more had then been learned concerning the sovereignty and grace of God, to save and bless by whomsoever and through whomsoever He willed. The outstanding case of the rebellion of Moses against the commandment of the LORD, as recorded in Numbers 20, gave help. Even though on the part of Moses there was an act of disobedience, so serious and solemn that it debarred him from entering the land of Canaan, yet the need of the people of Israel was such that the sovereignty and mercy of God withheld not the needed water for their thirst. Help was also obtained from the fact that the apostle could speak of some who proclaimed Christ of envy and strife (Philippians 1.15, 16), and if he could rejoice that Christ was preached thus, how much more cause for rejoicing that Christ is preached today of sincerity, though by beloved brethren who have for some reason failed to respond to the commandments and claims of the Lord! Why then should we limit the sovereignty and grace of God to save and bless by this means?

As baptism could not be sought in the denomination referred to, it became needful to seek elsewhere. As a believer from one of these companies, known as open brethren, had been much used in unfolding the way of salvation, it seemed natural to seek baptism with them. A little later one bad the joy of going through the waters of baptism, the joy of knowing that, in the keeping of His commandments is great reward.

Still there was a continuance with the denomination previously referred to; but gradually longings for complete church fellowship with Christians only, combined with the realization of the fact that the ministry of one man is entirely foreign to the teaching of the Scriptures, drew me towards brethren in the "open" meetings, and eventually I was received amongst them. Here truths previously unheard of were learnt.

Before long perplexities began to arise in the mind as to the many bodies of Christians and professing Christians. It was evident that the New Testament Scriptures were written to Churches of God and to individuals in Churches of God, who, wherever found, all taught and practised the same things. The question arose, and demanded an answer, "Why were not the many organizations and companies, all claiming to be branches of the Christian Church, in contrast to what was seen in the New Testament Scriptures, Christians together in one Fellowship, all walking in one way?" It was true that all believers were "one in Christ Jesus," and many, recognizing this, spoke of forgetting their "denominational differences" and giving "liberty" for each to hold his own views; but it was evident that the differences had not been brought about by the Spirit or Word of God, but rather had been inherited from men who, in past years or centuries, had broken away from the darkness and doctrines of Rome or tradition, and yet had brought some of these traditions with them. As years advanced some saw a little further than their fellows, and groups had followed the teachings of gifted leaders, with insufficient thought given to the truth of divine revelation concerning one way, one place, one Fellowship.

It gradually emerged that in the "open" companies all were very far from being of one mind. Most were baptized, and placed baptism before Church fellowship - others were of a contrary mind. Some believed that any believer " sound in faith, and godly in walk" (even though" infant sprinkling " was held and " baptismal regeneration" and "clerisy" subscribed to) should be received to what was called "The Father's Table." Others again were of a contrary mind. It should be stated here that nowhere in the Scriptures is there any thought of" receiving to the Lord's Table." The only practice known in apostolic times, was that of being added to a church of God, where the Remembrance of the Lord Jesus was intended to be kept (Acts 2.41, 47; 5.14; 9.26; 1 Corinthians 11.28-26).

The multitude of opinions freely held in the "open" meetings compelled acceptance of the theory of the "independence of assemblies," as oneness in doctrine and practice was impossible: hence the ever increasing number of "open" meetings differing widely in doctrine and practice, and thus presenting no resemblance to that expressed desire of the Lord Jesus in John 17.11, 21, 22 : "That they may all be one."

In marked contrast to the confusion of thought and practice amongst denominations and companies of brethren, the example of New Testament churches of God presented a scene of unity, and that unity was brought about by collective obedience and submission to "the faith once for all delivered to the saints." The doctrines and practices of one church were the doctrines and practices of every church wherever found. The foundation structure of every church was that which we find in Acts 2.41, 42. If differences arose, these could be considered by representative leaders, apostles and/or overseers, men of spiritual maturity who had knowledge of the Word of the Lord. Guidance was thereby given, and subjection one to another manifested until oneness of mind was reached (see Acts 15).

Amongst the "open" companies the term "church of God" was held to be synonymous with "the Church which is His Body," and there was failure to recognize that while the former is applicable to local companies of Christians divinely gathered, and is used in the plural (1 Corinthians 11.16, etc.), the latter is always in the singular as in Ephesians 1.22.

It was also taught that the term "house of God" was applicable to" The Church which is His Body "embracing all believers in Christ, failing to recognize that in the house of God we see a divine unity, the aggregate of churches of God, the place of service, testimony and discipline (Ephesians 2.21, 22; 1 Timothy 3.15; Hebrews 3.6; 1 Peter 2.5; 4.17).

In Hebrews 3.6 it is clearly shown that continuance in the house of God is entirely conditional, depending on both a right position doctrinally, and a right condition on the part of those who are found there. That the New Testament house could be forsaken by God, thus causing the house to cease to be, is just as certain as the forsaking by God of His dwelling place under the old covenant.

Objections to this truth were of course advanced, frequently of a sentimental character: Christians of a past day whose godliness is undoubted would be referred to and the question asked, "Was Mr. ... not in the house of God? Unthinkable!

Others spoke of the impossibility of a small number of Christians "presuming" to be the house of God, forgetting principles and examples of a former day, when only a remnant of Israel returned from Babylon to build again the house of the LORD (Ezra 1 to 6 and Haggai).

One of the obstacles placed in the way of those who can see the truth of One Way, One Place, One Fellowship, is the consideration that to hold this truth inevitably means complete separation from every other way, from every other organization and meeting, however evangelical. This is the consideration which has held many back, but the divine principle is unchanging with regard to worship and service- unto the Place which the LORD your God shall choose even unto His habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come and thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes ... ye shall not do ... every man whatsoever is right in his own eye.... Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest. But in the Place which the LORD shall choose ... there thou shalt offer ... and there thou shalt do all that I command thee" (Deuteronomy 12.5-14).

These were the truths, questions and considerations which faced the writer, and in the light thereof a decision had to be made. There arises thanksgiving to God for "light and truth" sent out to lead to the Place and consequently to Him of whom the psalmist wrote in Psalm 43.8, 4, a place in the rebuilt house of God composed of the churches of God in these remnant days, One Thing, One Way, One Place, One Fellowship.

There are many beloved children of God who have been brought face to face with these things, yet remain undecided or reject them because they say, "The Spirit of God has not led me there." We do well to remember that the Spirit of God never leads contrary to the Word of God; and much that has 6f ten' passed for "His leading" has been purely human sentiment, without any foundation save the advice and opinions of fellow-Christians who do not see these things.

We rejoice that Christ is preached by many even though they have never seen, or if they have seen have never obeyed, the truth of the house of God. We pray for the proclamation of the Gospel whereever it goes forth. But for ourselves we have learned that it is the will of God that His Word should go forth from His house, and we seek to abide by that revealed will, leaving the final decisions to the righteous Judge, who in that day will uncover the secrets of the hearts and reveal why some have sought to serve Him according as they have found it written, while others have done according to the ways and opinions of men. (1 Corinthians 4.5).