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WHERE TO WORSHIP
By Ethelbert W.
II. Holiness: God’s Way Better Than Man’s. 1999, Invictus for "Truth For Today Bible Fellowship. Lafayette, IN.”
Several inquirers have asked us,
from time to time, as to where and with whom
they ought to worship.
We have hitherto refrained from
answering such questions, because we are not
directors of the conscience, but ministers of the Word. However, we have
lately read Two letters, written by
Mr. A. N. Groves in 1834 and 1836, which have been
so helpful to ourselves, that we feel we ought to pass them on to
others. They are too long for reproduction here, so that we shall have to be
content with a few extracts, and must condense the rest in our own words,
omitting what is purely ephemeral and personal. We ought, however, to state, to
make the words more intelligible, that Mr. Groves was associated with Mr. J. G.
Bellett and T. N. Darby in 1827, in Dublin and Plymouth; and that one of the
letters is addressed to the latter; while Mr. Bellett and others always spoke
of Mr. Groves as "the father of these principles,” which united them in
The subject is entitled: Catholic Christianity; and Party Communion,
and they deal with "the principles of union and communion in the
Church of God.” [Now at the John
Rylands University Library of Manchester, Christian Brethren Archive Catalogue – G: GROVES (Anthony Norris) Catholic
Christianity; and party communion, delineated in two letters, etc. London, Morgan & Chase, [n.d.] 16p. 7".
(G59736) 21. (Listed at:
"Let us then for a moment dwell
on the principles that ought to regulate our intercourse as Christians, of
whatever sect or name, and examine to what extent we
and to what extent bound; or rather what are the
limits within which our communion with an individual as a Christian, or a body
of individuals in public worship is to be confined.” The principles of communion of the church on earth must be
those which shall prevail in Heaven; and the more nearly they assimilate now,
the more perfect they will be.
What are those principles? Loving all whom Christ loves, because they bear His
impress. If it be asked how are these
to be distinguished? We may look for the Holy Ghost to help us. If it be
asked what is to be done with their errors? These are no bar to communion, unless they bar Christ from
the erring brother’s heart. While we hope
Christ lingers, let us linger; and rather be behind than before, to quit; in
pitiful remembrance of our own iniquities and unnumbered errors. So long as we
judge Christ to be dwelling with a man, that is our warrant for receiving him;
and for the charity of that judgment that declares Him not there, we are
responsible. But we must stay on the ground
given by Peter, seeing God has given him the like gift He has given unto us.
Who are we that we should withstand God? And as to his errors, we must bear
them, and seeing they cannot be removed from us, (till, with sorrow,
they are removed from him) we must bear this burden for
the Lord’s sake, for our brother’s sake and for our own sake; remembering that,
perhaps while we are bearing his burdens, he is bearing ours, and thus we are
mutually fulfilling the law of Christ in bearing them for each other. We are to
love and bear with him, because Christ does, be other things as they may.
to communion with congregations, we must consider ourselves in the double
position (1) of individuals who have duties to ourselves, and (2) of members of
the Body of Christ, and immense brotherhood, embracing the universal church
throughout the world, in all the congregations of the saints, where Christ
still walks amidst the golden candlesticks, notwithstanding unnumbered
weaknesses and errors.
Our first duty in selecting the congregation
with whom we should statedly worship should be to consider where the form is
most Scriptural; where the ministrations are most spiritual; where there is the
sweetest savour of Christ; where our own souls are most instructed in the Word;
and where the Holy Spirit is most manifestly present with those who minister
and those who hear.
our liberty in Christ, to worship with any congregation under heaven where God
manifests Himself to save and to bless, can there be in any Christian mind, a
doubt? If my Lord should say to me in any of the many congregations of
the church: "What doest thou here?” I would reply: "seeing Thou wert here to
save and sanctify, I felt it would be safe to be with Thee.” If He again said
(as indeed He may among most of us): "Dids’t thou not see abominations here, an
admixture of that which was un-Scriptural, and the absence of that which was
Scriptural, and in some points error, at least in your judgment?” My answer
would be: "Yea, Lord; but I dared not call that
place unholy, where Thou wert present to bless; nor by refusing communion in
worship, reject those as unholy whom Thou hadst by Thy saving power evidently
sanctified and set apart for Thine own.”
Our reason for rejecting corporate bodies is
that God doth not manifest Himself among them, though He may pluck some
individuals as brands from the burning. To these we cry, standing on the
outside: "Come out of her, my people; come out of her.”
the others, we stand with Christ in the midst. We would linger, with
the Lord, in testimony rather than cry like Edom
in the day of Judah’s
sorrow – "Down with her, down with her, even to the ground.”
To the question, are we not
countenancing error by this plan? Our answer is, that, if
we must appear to countenance error, or to discountenance brotherly love, we
prefer the former, hoping that our lives and our tongues may be allowed by the
Lord, so intelligibly to speak, that at last our righteousness shall be allowed
to appear. But, if not, we may feel we have chosen the better part, since we
tarried only for our Lord’s departure.
long as Christ dwells in an individual, or the Holy Spirit works in the midst
of a congregation, blessing the ministrations to the conversion and edification
of souls, we dare not denounce, or formally withdraw from either, for fear of
the awful sin of schism, of sin against Christ and His Mystical Body.
depart from these fundamental principles, we shall, instead of standing forth
as witnesses for the truth, be standing forth as
witnesses against error, and have lowered ourselves from heaven to earth
in our position as witnesses.
our aim be to manifest forth that life we have received from Christ by
seeking to find that life in others; so that, as Christ had received them,
should we also to the glory of God the Father. Let us share with them in part,
though we cannot in all, their services. In fact, as we have received them for
their life, we cannot reject them for their systems.
The moment the witnessing for the common
life as our bond gives place to a
witnessing against errors, by
separation of persons, that moment the narrowest and most bigoted mind amongst
us will rule, and the enlarged heart will yield before the narrowest
conscience; while light, and not life, will be the measure of communion.
surely better to bear with their evils, than to separate from their good.
useless to force others to act in uniformity further than they feel
uniformity. Otherwise we merely afford a ready outlet to the propensities of
the flesh under the appearance of spiritual authority and zeal for the truth.
the end of it all will be that, though only brethren in a Father’s house, many
will exercise more than a Father’s power, without a Father’s heart of mercy.
Some of Mr. Groves’s words are almost prophetic. He
says that where all this is the case; where others
up in this system, without being led into it through suffering
and sorrow, there will be felt, overwhelmingly, the authority of men; who will
be known more by what they witness against that what they witness
for; and that, practically, this will, in the end, prove that they
witness against all except themselves, having a Shibboleth, which, though it
may be different from all others, will be just as real.