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A Remnant Shall Return

Things written aforetime are written for our learning. Isaiah had two sons. One was, by interpretation, The spoil speedeth, the prey hasteth." The other was, a remnant shall return." And as our minds run on to New Testament times we can already see in Paul's day both the speeding of the spoil and the hastening of the prey. He warned the elders of the church of God in Ephesus, "I know that after my departing grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Wherefore watch ye... "

But in those early churches it is evident that the elders did not watch. " Perverse" things were the fruit of thoughts which had turned away from the Truth. There were deflections. And just as in Israel of old, My people love to have it so," likewise in the new nation there was no lack of itching ears," and they turned away their ears from the truth. Years after Acts 20, the Lord Jesus Himself gave John a message for the same church of God in Ephesus, "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen ... or else I come to thee, and will move thy lampstand out of its place."

Earl Grey of Falloden spoke in 1914 of the lights going out over Europe." But within a century of the establishing of the early Christian churches the lights of the precious golden lampstands were going out. The churches of God in the New Testament were likened to golden lampstands; they were divine in their origin. They were patterned alike. They were not independent and autonomous as some teach today, but fitly framed together to form the dwelling-place of God in the Spirit. The churches of God formed the House of God.

The churches of God did not form "the Church which is His Body." These were, and still are, parallel, but quite distinctive, truths, both being mighty before God for this dispensation. Into the Church the Body all believers were baptized in the one Spirit, thereafter to be inseparably and eternally united to the Lord Jesus, their glorious Head. But into the churches of God came those obedient to the faith." Think of Jerusalem and the church there. They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers"(Acts 2.41, 42). Or think of the church of God in Corinth in its formative days. "And many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized " (Acts 18.8). Or consider how the Spirit described the church of God in Ephesus.

"Being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the Chief Corner Stone ; in whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2.20-22).

Or again, what was written to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father, "For ye, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus."

The churches of God expressed the believers in their corporate and visible testimony and witness. These churches were "one" in the unity of John 17.28. The world was to know the workings of divine love through the united life of believers, together in divine testimony. So believers were baptized in water and added to the Lord in the local assembly. These assemblies formed the spiritual house. The people of God were one. They were a holy nation. Oh the lustre of those early days! Men of God on fire with divine purpose; the Word spreading rapidly from land to land; the same teaching, the same customs "everywhere in every place"

But the fire died down and the teachers became diverse in their administration of the divine will for His people. Gradually the warning to the Hebrews took on a deepening challenge, "Whose house are we, if we hold fast our boldness and the glorying of our hope firm unto the end." One by one the churches came under the domination of the "false apostles, deceitful workers," already in evidence in Corinth in Paul's day. The persuasion came not from Him who called them and gradually a little leaven leavened the whole lump.

The lamps on the golden lampstands went out. And as the darkness came down and the divine acknowledgement was withdrawn one by one from the churches a great silence came over the dwelling place of God on earth until at last all was still and motionless in divine exercise. And He who had walked in their midst might well have said again as He had said in the days of His flesh, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." God withdrew from His own dwelling and the early glory of the simple God-chosen form of worship and service passed into the humanly administered confederacy, glittering with the rewards of Constantine.

So the centuries rolled on, but God was never without a witness, until in particular the great breaking light in the early brethren movement of 1825 onwards. Those were days of heaven on earth. Men of deep piety wiped away the dust of ages from precious stones of choice divine truth. There they were glittering in their own splendid light; the Church the Body, the coming of the Lord, the water baptism of believers, the weekly breaking of the bread, the diverse ministry of the gifts. Yes, great discovering days ! The voice that was heard in Dublin, in Plymouth, echoed and re-echoed until today the brethren movement has truly penetrated with joy into all lands.

"Let My exiles go free." Breaking light was exercising hearts. Then came the clear light shining on the separate truths of the churches of God which in the pattern years had expressed together the house of God, a place of rest for the soles of His feet who had been walking down the centuries with no evidence of a House among all His children.

Yes, these were the stirring days of 1890 onwards, when exercised hearts longed to build again a place for the Divine Name, a spiritual house for God. So they sounded the clarion call throughout the assemblies of the Open Fellowship of those days. Sounded it again and again and waited on their brethren till they could wait no longer. Then, history repeating itself, " all whose spirit God had stirred to go up to build the house of the LORD" separated from friends and spiritual acquaintances and were brought together as churches of God to form His house.

Like the remnant of Cyrus' day they had to leave many who preferred where they were to the smallness and the hard work connected with the breaking light and the inescapable exercise. But they went out and on in faith. They built again on the old foundations of the new Testament house and from that same house this magazine issues today. We write 70 years later. We say, "What hath God wrought! " We say not to our readers, examine our teachings, but examine His. Read the detailed design of Tabernacle and Temple and learn the meticulous ways of God. study the plan for the spiritual house for the dispensation of grace and consider whether in its detail you are found among a people capable of expressing it in the letter, and by His grace, in the spirit also.

Yes, a remnant has returned, a small movement within the comparatively small Brethren movement. But it has gone back to spiritual Zion to build up, and then to build in, a dwelling-place for Him.