Thoughts on the history of professing Christianity, Part 7

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 7, which covers pages 174-179.

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It is plain from every sign around us, that we are living at a period of crisis, not only in the world’s but in the Church’s history. What then is to be done by those who fear God? Shall we forsake those blessed principles of Truth which Protestantism, under God’s own power, restored: or shall we rather cleave to them with ten-fold tenacity? Only, we must separate the precious from the vile. “If,” as was said to Jeremiah, who himself lived at a period when all things were out of course, “if thou wilt take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth.” If Protestantism at the Reformation failed to judge the primeval corruptions of Christianity — if, thinking only of the Woman and her evil, it forgot the sin of the Church in forsaking her lowliness, and becoming like the fair-spreading Tree — if it neglected to search into the prophetic word, and consequently remained in ignorance of all that Israel is to be, and of all that the nations are, then have we to avoid these quicksands. We have to carry our thoughts back over the long train of corruptions, until we reach the Apostles of our Lord and Saviour. We have to remember that the kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship, but not we-that neither the condition of Israel under the Law, nor of Israel in millennial rest, is to be the condition of Christianity now; and that the nations, symbolised by evil monsters, are in God’s sight, contrasted in. every possible sense with her who is the Bride of Christ, and who once occupied in the earth a position worthy of being represented by “candlesticks of gold.” Attention to those things would not only materially affect our practical position, but would lead us also to a right ” division” of the Scriptures, without which they can neither be interpreted nor applied aright.

We feel shocked when we read the description of Christianity in the days of Constantine. We see the fearfulness of the error into which they fell who mistook the hour of the Church’s ratified evil for the hour of Christ’s millennial kingdom, and who applied to the season of the Church’s deadly sin, Scriptures which belong to the season of the Truth’s final triumph. Yet from that hour to the present, the self-same principle has been followed in the interpretation of Scripture. Parts of the Word of God which belong only to a time when Christ shall have stopped the present dominance of evil, and established His own righteous and peaceful reign, are interpreted of a period when the secular power of earth is advancing to its final doom ; and when Christianity refusing to suffer, has desired to unite itself with the very nations who are hastening into the final Apostasy.

If through the mercy of God His servants should be led to see that the Epistles, and not millennial Scriptures prescribe the condition of the Church’s present calling; if the secular — prospects of the nations should be judged of by the prophecies of Daniel and of the Revelation; if the contrast between the present position of believers and that of Israel in the millennium, and that of the nations now, were acknowledged; and if the spiritual and other blessings of Israel when at last brought into the Church, were duly recognised as they are revealed in Scripture, then not only would our minds be freed from many dangerous and delusive thoughts, but the Scripture would be understood because rightly divided, and would become available for our united guidance. If it should please God, in pity to our present circumstances, to grant to His people an insight into the general bearing of His Holy Word as clear as that which many do possess as to the doctrines of salvation, then new and momentous subjects would instantly be before us, which, under His blessing would give to our hearts common interests, and to our mouths common testimonies. We should begin to think and speak alike, because we should be drawing from the same source, and be directed by the same rule. If, believers, instructed immediately from the Scripture, were to think and speak of their own prospects, and of the nations’ prospects as they are written there, they would soon acquire a character of practical unity in their own and in the world’s estimate, such as they have never had since they first departed from the guidance of those holy oracles.

The Church has for ages lost all right apprehension of its relation to the nations, and thus been led into circumstances which have despoiled it of its purity, and its testimonies of their value. In the days of Constantine it welcomed union with the nations, a union which it must long before have desired, otherwise it would not have so rejoiced in it when it ‘came. During the days of Popery, the effort of Christianity was to rule the nations. The desire of national Protestant Churches is to be ruled by them. Other forms of Protestant Christianity have adopted a middle course. They teach that the Church in its corporate character should not rule, but that Christian individuals may rule the nations. But surely that cannot be individually right which is corporately wrong; nor can the Christian sustain a double character, so as in the Church to adopt the Scripture as his guide, and out of the Church to adopt some other rule. It is not too strong to say that modern Christianity has not read the history of the nations in the Book of God. If the light of God’s word, so long neglected, should again be sought unto and followed, a position of separateness and of purity would, in principle at least, be attained, such as the Church has never held since it first entered on its path of declension. It would be a position in some degree answering to that emblem which appears to be given in the parables we are considering as the fit measure of our condition. The last parable had compared the elect Church to a “treasure;” the next parable likens it to “a pearl” — one pearl, pure and precious.

The Lord Jesus when He died for His Church regarded it as hidden “treasure,” but not as “a treasure” merely: He viewed it as a treasure, the preciousness of which should be displayed and recognised. No one doubts that a pearl is pure, or that it is precious. The unity, the purity, and the preciousness of the Church, will alike be manifest in the day of its glory; and if the principles which will determine its relations then should be made through the Scripture influential now ; if true Protestant Christianity should adopt and openly avow principles which separate from the systems of the world as distinctly as the principles they have hitherto avowed unite them to the world, then we might expect to see a position unitedly assumed, which, although perhaps feebly held, would as regards the principles maintained, be pure, precious, and therefore pearl-like, and so estimated by the graciousness of Christ.