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THE PILLAR AND GROUND OF THE TRUTH.
BY THE REV. CHARLES STANFORD.
“That thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh.”—1 Tim. iii. 15, 16.
From the measured periods and mu- as in arithmetic, which the mind in its sical flow observable in the procession widest reaches and most rapid action, of sentences commencing with the words, cannot really imagine or comprehend."* “God was manifest in the flesh,” the There are breadths and lengths, depths whole paragraph appears likely to have and heights, which pass knowledge; been quoted from one of those hymns and themes which we can only touch in which, as Pliny relates, the ancient with the religion of wonder. So solemn Christians sang praises to Christ as God. and so crowded with meaning are the Perhaps we hear in these words the words on which we now venture to simple and definite confession of faith think. They give in a direct and inonce uttered before the tribunal, and ferential way a summary of instruction whispered in "deserts and mountains, respecting three things: the Christian in caves and dens of the earth ;" by Church; Christian Truth; and the heroes who could say, like the Man of Christian Deportment. Sorrows, the foxes have holes, and the The Christian church is called “the birds of the air have nests, but we have house of God, the church of the living not a place where we can lay our heads. God.” We have met with many, even It is not romantic to imagine that these in the present educated state of society, lines were once set to solemn music in addressing whom it would be needful sometimes heard at midnight from the to make such a motto as the present prisoners' cell, and which sometimes the occasion for showing that a dislived on the lips of martyrs when they tinction should be made between the met the flash of the spear, the spring of church and the building in which the the lion, or the sight of the cross. church assembles ; that masonry, how
If, however, we could prove this pas- ever magically hung, however charmed sage to be a clause of another compo- | into leaf, and flower, and fretwork, sition and the writing of an uninspired however lighted up with a shower of man, now it is woven by an apostle into beauty from "storied windows richly the sacred text it comes to us with the dight,” and however consecrated by the highest possible authority. When Paul presence of ceremony and the devotion announced along with the messages of of ages, could never make a church ; God the sentiment of a heathen poet, that mere material things, as they Menander, “Evil communications cor- cannot sin, nor love, nor pray, nor be rupt good manners," he gave it currency holy, can never make a church; and henceforth as a divine saying; and so that it could not be with reference to this fragment of an old confession not such a structure that our Lord said, “If only stirs our reverence and asks our thy brother will not hear thee, tell it to faith, as solemn with the rime of anti-the church.” It would on this occasion quity, but with the stamp of inspira- be needless to elaborate an argument to tion.
“There are totals in theology as well * Mr. Sheppard's Essay on Conversation.
show that the writer speaks of a spiri- | the truth.” A “pillar” is an architectual building. Of old, God “dwelt” in tural contrivance, at once strong and a peculiar way in the 'temple, and he beautiful, to keep on high and set in who dwelt between the cherubim, light the statue or the sign ;-what the
shone forth.” That presence in a pillar is to the statue the church is to locality shadowed his presence in sanc- the truth. The “ground” is the fountified thought and affection ; and that dation of an edifice, its unseen strength, “shining forth” visioned the more bril- the secret of its durability; what the
; liant and beautiful fire, by which his ground is to a building the church is to Spirit shines in holy lives; that Temple the truth. Not the church of England of temples was the emblem of his nor the church of Scotland, nor the church. “Know ye not that ye are the churches to which we belong,-not the temples of the Holy Ghost, and that the churches but the church, all who love Spirit of God dwelleth in you ?” “Ye the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and also as lively stones are built up into a truth, in every age and every clime, and spiritual house." “Christ dwells in every minor diversity of profession and your hearts by faith.” The light of observance, considered in their collecthis truth seemed at times to tremble tive life, are to be the pillar and ground and dawn over the spirits of ancient of the truth; not through procuring saints, ,—we hear, for instance, one say, acts of parliament in its favour, for the “Oh, Thou that inhabitest the praises of power of God needs no support from Israel:"—the privilege, however, of see- the power of man ; not by persecution, ing it in its perfect brightness was for “the wrath of man worketh not the reserved for us. We know that the righteousness of God;” but “by purechurch of Jesus which appears to hu- ness, by knowledge, by love unfeigned,” man eye as “a chaos of disconnected by the natural action of their principles, units,” shows to the eye of omniscient those principles which make the dislove the oneness and indivisibility of a covery and defence of whatsoever building,-a temple built of holy lives, things are true and beautiful,” the inof which He has said, “This is my rest cessant action and out force of the life. for ever : here will I dwell.”
Christ is the support of the church ; The church is also called “ the pillar the church is the support of the truth. and ground of the truth." This de- In the “righteousness and strength" of scription is generally considered to apply the Redeemer, the church has a foundato the “mystery of godliness," and not tion equal to its extent and pressure. to the church. Chrysostom says, “The “ The rains may descend, the floods church is not the pillar and ground of come, the winds may blow, and beat the truth, but the truth is the pillar and upon that house," but it cannot fall, for ground of the church.” With all respect it is founded upon a rock. Firm itself, for this venerable name, it may be ques- it is the firm support of the truth. The tioned whether this interpretation ac- truth is not the flower that withers, nor cords with the course of the argument, the grass that fades, “but the word of or the order of the sentence. The apos- the Lord that abideth for ever.” tle appears to be urging upon the
We have also in this sentence of inminister the importance of care in the spiration a summary of Christian truth. appointment of servants to the church, What is the truth of which the church and of correct deportment in associa is the pillar and ground? We are told tion with it, for this solemn reason,- of manifestation and mystery. “God the church is the “pillar and ground of I was manifest in the flesh.” Socinians
“ He was
read in preference, "who was manifest,” , Hear the disciple whom Jesus lovedor “which was manifest.” The Greek “The life was manifested, and we have word for God, is in its contraction, so seen it and bear witness." like the Greek word for who, or which,* manifested to take away our sins.” That in the dim old manuscript that has been “Life which was the light of man” was chiefly consulted as the authority, that manifested through the clear and soft a microscope has been employed to as transparencies of sinless human nature, sist the inspection of the letter, the that we might see religion moving, power of which would decide the ques- breathing, and going about to do good. tion.
We will not believe that the God was manifested through the form evidence for any important truth in of a servant, as thought is manifested religion was ever allowed to depend on through a word. “The word was made the stroke of a pen, or the turn of a flesh, and dwelt among men, and we letter, or the light of a solitary word. beheld his glory." Believing as we do that the word origi- This fact, says the sacred teacher, is nally written was “God,” let us for a beyond all dispute, “ The great mystery moment surrender that reading, and of godliness.” The word mystery is adopting the translation proposed as a used in allusion to the heathen mysteries, substitute for it, ask what it implies. and here, simply means, a secret of Try for instance the word “which," religion, which when broken to the meaning a thing: the only thing in initiated is to him a secret no longer. question is the mystery ; but when you The great doctrine of salvation, “kept read that the mystery was manifested in secret since the world began,” but whose the flesh and justified in the Spirit, that “sound is now gone through all the the mystery was seen of angels, that the earth,” is revealed in this sayingmystery was believed on in the world “God was manifested in the flesh.” But and received up into glory," the reasons though mystery in the popular sense in favour of such a change, at a single is not here intended, it is also true touch of thought, waver and mix and and calls for passing notice. Directly melt away. Try next the word “who," the glorious idea of God in Christ meaning a personal agent: he must comes before the mind, we feel in the either be human or divine; if human, presence of mystery. Many attempts how can we account for such a notice of are made to convict us of absurdity his appearance? Is it at all a remarkable in the reception of mysterious doctrine. thing that a man should be manifested It would be said by some, “You have in the flesh ? or need we the solemn just told us that the appearance of assurance of inspiration that a man was God in the nature of humanity, though a man? We are “shut up to the faith,” hidden from ages, is now open and therefore, that the Being manifested was plain ; how then can it be at the divine, and the inference of our judg- same time a mystery ?” We answer, a ment is supported by the structure of thing may be plain in one sense, yet the language, for on looking for an ante- incomprehensible in another. It is dent to the word "who,” the nearest plain that you live, yet life is a mystery. personal reference is "the Living God." It is plain that you think, yet the
thinking power is a mystery. It is
plain that you sin, yet the entrance of Deos, contracted and in uncials, appears thus
sin into God's fresh and pure creation OC; os, who, is written OC; the English reader will see how small a mark constitutes the differ.
is a mystery. It is plainly revealed that we shall rise from the dead, but
VOL. XV.FOU'RTIT SERIES,
how the dead are raised up is a mys- , is holy ground,” speaks to us and says tery; with reference to this, as with “Put off levity, put off pride, put off reference to that doctrine, the Revealer prejudice, put off exasperated opinion, of secrets might say,
“ Behold I show and listen with eager and suspended you, -yes I show you a mystery !” soul to the teachings of God alone reOthers would say, “ where mystery specting the mystery of God.” Like begins religion ends." But what is the child in the temple, we should religion ? “Love for, trust in, likeness answer, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant to God." What is God? A mystery! heareth.” Like the awful solitary in
Instruction is hinted in the third in- the awful solitude, we should cry, "I stance respecting Christian deportment. beseech thee show me thy glory." “These things write I unto thee,” said What should be the conduct of our the aged teacher, “that thou mayest spirits with reference to that part of know how thou oughtest to behave thy- the great doctrine which is plain? It self in the house of God; referring to is plain that God was manifested to the deportment suitable to one thus save. It was appointed that the nature associated, and charged with such a which had incurred the guilt should truth. It will be instructive to take this suffer the penalty. “God," the only hint, and ask first what our behaviour being who had the right to interpose, should be with reference to what is was manifested in the “flesh," the only incomprehensible in the great central nature which had the power to suffer, truth of Christianity. The voices of die, and expiate. What was done by the bible all tell us that we should ap- this wonderful enshrinement of divinity proach what is “dark with excess of in humanity affords a ground and supbrightness,” in a modest and lowly plies an agency by which God can be spirit. When we speculate on the na- just and the justifier of them that beture of God, as a naturalist would on lieve. A finished salvation has been an interesting question in science, we prepared, and all required on our part are subjecting our spirits to a process is to accept it,-to accept“the righteouswhich unfits us for the reception of the ness which is of God by faith,” and be light we seek. “The meek shall he forgiven,—to accept the free Spirit, the guide in judgment, the meek shall he living law of the Lord which is perfect teach his way.” “The secret of the converting the soul, and be holy; all this Lord is with them that fear him, and is lain. The deportment which behe will show them his covenant." We comes us to maintain towards the truth, must turn with humility the leaves of considered on its lighted side, and in the divine book, saying, “Open thou mine its saving aspect is that of continually eyes that I may behold wondrous things accepting it. Faith is often spoken of out of thy law," and remember that as a past rather than a continued exerwhile man may manifest man, God cise, introduction to Christ rather than alone can manifest God. There is a fellowship with him; but the building ground in the spaces of thought which must be always on its foundation ; daily "angels fear to tread," and on which life must be sustained by daily bread; surely our spirits should light with faith must not be so much an act as a softest fall and fondest reverence. Such habit. Not to him who believed, but holy ground we approach now. The to him who believeth—not to him who great Unseen, who said to the pale pro- came, but to him who cometh—are the phet, “ Put thy sandals from off thy promises addressed, and the victories of feet, for the place whereon thou standest faith assured.
“Ye are my
What deportment should we observe What deportment should we show towards the church? The part of con- towards the world? One end of our duct to which the connection refers, and daily life is stated in the law that to which it supplies a minute directory, Christians are to be the pillar and is that which relates to ministers. In ground of the truth. tones which seem solemn as the trumpet witnesses, saith the Lord.” We are to of God, the Spirit speaking to them, “hold forth the word of life.” Great and to those who have a voice in their power for usefulness is no merit, little election, gives “line upon line and pre-power no sin, but it is demanded cept upon precept,” as to what they imperatively that what power we have, should be and how they should act, whether little or great, should be conuntil we feel almost as if conscious of secrated to Him who died for us; that nothing but responsibility. Let each we should lift up and show forth the Christian spirit shiver at the thought precious revelations of the gospel, and of contributing to lure into the public that there should be the greatest ministry the young disciple whose call expenditure of thoughtful and affectionfrom God to serve him thus is a doubt- ate life, in pressing the truth on the ful thing, and whose after-life may be attention of the most sinful and the spent in sighing for courage to retrace most forlorn. Say not, “ O Lord, I that first false step, or for power to pro- not speak, I am a child.” He can make ceed without fear and hesitation. Let “the weak things of the world confound each one feel bound to contribute his the things that are mighty.” The first part towards the education of the announcement of the great mystery was ministry. Let each one pray for and made to, and then preached by, a strive with those who hold official company of shepherds. In the dead of position in that community which is night they were startled by a sudden “the pillar and ground of the truth.” glory. It was not a shoot of the white
The suitable deportment of Christians magical moonlight over the glistening to each other is further hinted in the grass, but it was “the glory of the Lord very term employed to describe their that shone round them, and they were concentrated fraternity. We are the sore afraid.” And the angel said, “ Fear "house of God." Christians, though not: for behold, I bring you good distinct as the stones, are one as the tidings of great joy, which shall be to all temple. “If one member suffer, all the people. For unto you is born a Saviour, members suffer with it.” If you touch which is Christ the Lord.” These the leaf you touch the tree. This should simple rustics were the first preachers stir a watchful and sensitive care over of the gospel. They were not fitted by whatever is conducive to purity and education to set in light the higher peace, and should lead to a quick and doctrines of theology, but they could lightsome recognition of a Christian tell “ good tidings:” they could speed wherever you may find him. To the away to their village friends, and tell " Israelites indeed” of every tribe, to the men who handled the hammer, the the “strangers scattered aboard,” will plane, or the plough, their most amazing we shout, “ Elect according to the fore- story. Shepherds can tell the news of knowledge of God the Father, through a Saviour to shepherds, servants to sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedi- servants, children to children, if they ence and sprinkling of the blood of are unable to “speak of his testimonies Jesus Christ: grace unto you, and peace before kings.” In the homes of affection be multiplied!”
and by the waysides of life ; in the