The Plain Path.

What then is the personal responsibility and part of each ndividual Christian in respect of such a heterogeneous condition of things? Has the Lord whilst admonishing and laying bare the evil, been wholly silent as to what course, amid such circumstances, the believer should pursue? Is there no plain path marked out for the true people of God to tread? Has all been left haphazard or to natural predilection or choice? Oh, no! Most distinctly and repeatedly has He in His Word made known His holy will to him who hath “ears to hear,” as to the path in view of the ruin of the professing Church. The successive stages of the decline of the professing church have been clearly indicated by the Lord Himself in Rev., chaps, 2 and 3, the final issue being its utter rejection by the Lord, while in each a few are found true to Him, and cleaving to His Word. As the corruption increases, the Lord’s true people will be drawn closer to Himself and to one another, while they are by this very act drawn further and further away from all connection with the apostate mass, while nominal Christians are found resting, some in one phase of ecclesiasticism, and some in another, the professing church as a whole boasting in the proud language of security and prosperity, at the very moment that the Lord is about to cast her from Him with loathing.

The second Epistle traces the progress of the evil within, and points out its agents. How different, for instance, is the tone of the Second Epistle to Timothy to that of the First Epistle! In First Timothy we mark the Church regarded as the house of God with its various offices and servants with their responsibilities in due order. But in Second Timothy all this is changed. So much so that it appears as if designed by the Lord for His chart who would truly and humbly “honour God”—as the name Timothy implies—in the last and perilous days. Hence in chapter 1 we read of “unfeigned faith,” and of a “pure conscience”; in chapter 2, of the errors of certain, and the causes of these errors; while in chapter 3 we are directed to the sure foundation; and in chapter 4 to the Holy Scriptures given, as we are informed, that the man of God may be perfect and furnished unto all good works.

On the other hand, the Church is no longer considered in rule but in ruin, and so the individual conscience of each Christian is addressed. Thus, conjoined with the announcement that “the Lord knoweth them that are His,” is the command that “every one that nameth” the Lord’s Name “depart from iniquity,” and while it is not so generally observed, yet when the full scope and drift of the Epistle as a whole are duly considered, it becomes clear that it is ecclesiastical iniquity which is at least comprehended, even if not specially referred to, in the passage. In chapter 4 we are told that men will not endure sound doctrine, but they will “heap to themselves” teachers who will for the gratification of their own lusts, turn away their ears from the truth unto fables. Surely these prophetic allusions describe the Christendom of the present day so exactly as if it had sat for the picture. In view of all this, which the Lord foresaw would come to pass, His constant and unvarying admonition to those to whom He vouchsafe the hearing ear, and who desire to walk holily in these perilous or difficult times, is to separate themselves from all this awful though specious ungodliness. Yet this warning of His, or rather His peremptory command, is ofttimes sought to be neutralised, and its point blunted by the ugly word, “schism.” And for those who refuse to look below the surface of things, this fear may have some weight. But if it has been shewn that Christendom is in fall apostacy, and that it has arrived at that state when it may at any moment be utterly rejected by the Lord, then it is no schism to refuse participation in the guilt of this Church-world, but obedience to the call of Him whose claims it has long denied, and whose words of warning it has continuously spurned. So long as the Church stood in the place to which the Lord had called it as His witness in the world, though individuals in it were corrupt, separation from the church was not required. The way of the Lord was to call the consciences of His people into exercise regarding the evil-doer, and to give commandment regarding his exercise (1 Cor. 5:7-11). But these conditions no longer exist. Now the professing Church is itself corrupt, though some of its individual members may be good; this makes all the difference in the world regarding the relation of God’s true children to it. To urge by the same arguments for continuation in association with a system full of error, as with the Church prescribed in the Word as composed of believers only, constituted and ordered according to the Divine pattern, and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, is to appropriate what would be applicable to a body in a state of health, and apply it to a body in rapid process of decay and mortification. Surely this is to confound things that widely differ. To come out of Babylon schism! Separation from the world in its deadliest, because its religious form—schism!! “Be not conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2) is a Divine command, and applies not only to its many and strange shams, but most of all to its affectation of religion and callous hypocrisy.

Are the “perilous times” of the last days, in which men professing godliness shall be pleasure lovers, upon us? What then is the path of safety for the man of God? “From such turn thou away” (2 Tim 3:5, Greek). Has the Church become as “a great house” with vessels to honour and dishonour in it (2 Tim. 2:20)—a condition of things formerly predicted by the apostle, and which he had before been inspired to forbid (see 1 Cor. 3:12). What is the individual Christian’s part with reference to this state of things? “If a man purge HIMSELF from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the Master’s use” (2 Tim. 2:20). In other words, by this obedience and separation, his ability to serve God shall not, as some argue, be diminished thereby but increased. There may be, peradventure, less of éclat, but certainly more of the Divine approbation. But some will ask—“How about the many good and righteous men that have been and are connected with this world-Church of Christendom? The answer is, that in the very same Scriptures in which the evils of Christendom are depicted and the call to separation given, it is more than hinted by the Lord, that some of His own would be found in association with this corrupt and adulterous system until the end. Can the reference to Lot in this connection be without design? This “righteous man dwelling among” them, was daily vexed with their unlawful deeds, yet continued to sit in the gate, the place of authority (as some good men even now do in the world-Church, having place and power therein), and was only saved so as by fire from its judgment at last. And that, too, in answer to the prayer of his separated kinsman, Abram the pilgrim (Gen. 19:29) who had the secret of the Lord concerning the guilty city and its doom entrusted to him, and acted as intercessor on its behalf. Thus do we learn that some will remain in close association with corruption until the end, to be saved as by fire, some indulging the vain hope that by earnest and perseverant effort they may remedy it, while others obedient to the Lord’s call to “come out from among them” and be separate, go forth unto a rejected Christ “without the camp,” cleaving to Him, His Name and His Word, while they share His reproach and wait for His coming, whose is the crown, the kingdom and the glory.