Thoughts on the history of professing Christianity, Part 6

We continue with extracts from Benjamin Wills Newton’s book, Prospects of the Ten Kingdoms, the chapter 6 — THOUGHTS ON THE HISTORY OF PROFESSING CHRISTIANITY, AS GIVEN IN THE PARABLES OF MATTHEW XIII.

I would commend a close reading of these extracts for they deal with the very issue of ‘decay within Christendom’ that we see all around.

Here is Part 6, which covers pages 169-174.

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In recognising this, they recognised the principle on which Christ had ever acted. The parable speaks of  “treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.” The outward professing body was not “the treasure” for which Christ resigned all in order to buy both it and the spot in which it was hidden-that is, this earth. “The treasure” which He valued were His elect — His own believing people to whom alone the holy name and standing of the Church properly pertained. This was the principle of Christ; and the real strength of the Protestant Reformation was in cleaving to this principle, and practically giving it effect. It was the true power of its earlier testimony; and whenever in later times the distinction between the elect Church and the corrupt professing body has been faithfully recognised, there has seldom been wanting a measure of the Divine blessing.*

* No one who valued or understood the Gospel of grace could interpret the parables of “the treasure,” or of “the pearl,” of believers, for what is there that they purchase! Christ, however, purchased the earth for the sake of His Church that was hidden in it, and purchased the Church, and in purchasing it, purchased “a pearl;” for like “a pearl” it will one day be.

These two parables are placed late in the series because they apply to the periods when, in consequence of some of the servants of Christ recognising the principles taught by “the treasure” and “the pearl,” two fresh eras are marked in the history of Christianity,

It should be observed that when either of the seven parables have once commenced, they continue on to the end of the dispensation.

High and honourable is the service to which Protestantism has been called. Like Moses, when he returned to the idolatrous camp of Israel, it has had to gather without the gate those who were on the Lord’s side; to fold them as the sheep of Christ and to teach them,-but only from the word of God. Such is its calling. It has to remember that the nations governmentally, even if not controlled by the woman, are represented both in Daniel, and in the Revelation, by the horns of fierce monsters that know not Christ: and likewise, that the individuals of whom those nations are composed, are, for the most part, men who have showed by their doctrines, and by their lives, that they are enemies to the Gospel of Christ, unfit therefore to be recognised as His, however loudly they may protest against ecclesiastical corruptions. It was the place of Protestantism to distinguish between “the treasure,” and that which was discerned not to be “treasure.” But in this Protestantism has failed.

It is most painful, after witnessing the clearness and power with which many of the Reformers wrote on the privileges and everlasting separateness of God’s believing people, to observe how entirely they seem to have forgotten these things when called upon to act. They might almost be suspected of holding these truths as abstract principles, incapable of being followed on earth, for they practically denied them in their arrangements for the corporate order of the Churches. Not only worldly and wicked individuals, but whole provinces and nations have been welcomed into the Protestant fold, so that even Popery has been scandalised by the facility with which the Governors of the nations were made, in virtue of their office, governors also in the Church of God.

It is painful thus to write of that which we would desire not to censure, but to praise. Yet we dare not close our eyes to the fact that Protestantism early compromised its fundamental principle. As a necessary result it became nominal Protestantism: and it now teems with worldliness and infidelity. It protested against the corruptions of the body to which it found itself attached ; but it used its light and its advantages, in forming another body which has also proved itself to be “of the world.” It fled from the woman, but it purchased for itself a refuge by placing itself under the power of that ten-horned monster, whose character, and whose doom, Daniel and the Prophets had foretold. But the testimonies of the Prophets were either slighted or perverted. Popery had concealed the real character of that beast, and pretended to have made it the servant of the truth of Christ. Protestantism, equally concealing its real character, was in not a few instances content to receive that ten-horned monster for its master.

When we consider how deliberately Protestantism has secularised itself in all its corporate arrangements, it is wonderful that any thing like vitality should have remained. Yet it is a fact, that tens of thousands, quickened by the spirit of God, have been found among Protestants, whilst Popery has been sleeping the sleep of death. This is mainly attributable under God to its recognition and diffusion of Holy Scripture. Until of late years, Protestantism has not consented to mutilate them, or to hide them from the people.*

* I refer to the educational system adopted by the legislature in Ireland. The Educational Board mutilates: Popery hides, and substitutes its traditions.

By means of the Scripture, myriads who, if they had been left to the human systems around them would have fallen uninstructed into the grave, have been enabled to learn immediately from God, and have become wise unto salvation. Nevertheless, the effects of the errors of Protestantism are becoming every day more manifest. Even in England, where Protestantism has had such favourable opportunity to develop itself, and in such various forms, multitudes, partly scandalised by its corruptions, partly hating its truth, are becoming its avowed enemies; deny that any distinction should be made between the professing, or, (as they call it) apostolic body, and the real Church, and are rushing back to Popery again. Others are wandering into the mazes of German Philosophy and Pantheism, and are industriously disseminating principles, which, if they be true, the Scriptures must be a lie. In their case it is a simple question whether or not the mind of man shall succeed in defying the revelation of God.*

* Since the above was written, Neology by means of the judgment pronounced by the judicial committee of the Privy Council in the case of the “Essays and Reviews,” has attained a legalised immunity in the Anglican Establishment for some of its most extreme statements — statements which might well satisfy the desires of the most advanced infidel. A similar standing has now been accorded to the Romanist party by the judgment in the Bennett case. Adoration of the elements, that is to say idolatry, may now be taught by a minister of the Anglican Establishment, and his lips be unsilenced. The great Evangelical party have, for the most part, submitted to the decision; and not a few avow that they see in it a triumph for Truth, because, say they, many right principles were enunciated by the judges, although by their judgment they not only abstained from giving practical effect to those principles, but by their refusal to condemn have established a precedent which will, for the future, secure immunity to those who trample these vaunted principles under foot.

What should we think of a nation that boasted of the exceeding excellency of its laws, but when asked whether those laws were enforced, was obliged to answer, no-that there would be danger in enforcing them, and that consequently systematic disobedience was allowed, and immunity granted to crime?

To know what is good, and to know what is evil, and yet to shelter the evil, what is this in the sight of God? If the triumph of that accursed latitudinarianism which is fast leading on to matured Antichristianism and Antichrist be the triumph of Truth, then the Evangelical leaders do well in saying, that Truth has triumphed. But if it be the triumph of the principles by which Satan is bringing on the last great hour of darkness and apostasy, what must be the position of those who speak respecting it, “smooth things”? Let the history of the relation of the prophets of Israel to Jeremiah be read before that question is answered.

Would to God that the leaders of evangelical Christendom could have their eyes opened to discern the signs of this present hour. Nothing can be more certain than that God is presenting to them a roll in which is written “lamentation, and mourning, and woe.” They may refuse to read it. They may seek to hide it, but they cannot destroy it. Jehoiachim succeeded for a time in burning the roll which God sent to him through Jeremiah. But it was written again; “and there were added besides many like words.” Jer. xxxvi. 32.