Stance and State
It is a great trial for a child of God to take up a position he has seen from the Word of God to be Scriptural, and then to be rudely awakened to the realization that the people already in that position are not what he had expected them to be. Indeed, they may be less spiritual, less devoted and less zealous for God than some in the unscriptural religious systems he has left behind. Such a one needs to be firmly held by the truth, or he is likely to be completely disheartened. Many, when so tested, have gone back in despair to the unscriptural positions they had abandoned, and given a bad report of their experience, so hindering others from following where Scripture would lead them. Others, with too much conscience to build again the things they had destroyed, become what one might call spiritual freelances—going everywhere and belonging nowhere. Some, alas, turn into spiritual Ishmaelites, their hand against every man, and every man’s hand against them (see Gen. 16: 12). Bewailing the unfaithfulness of anybody and everybody but themselves, they become occupied with evil and fault–finding, and so fall into a spirit of Pharisaism that is helpful to no one, and a hindrance to all they come into contact with.
Now all this results from occupation with persons instead of with Christ. It is supposed that because people occupy a position of peculiar favour, and have been blessed with special light from God, then they must needs be personally more to be relied on than the generality of Christians, and that the flesh is less likely to act in them than in others. It is distressing to hear people talk of coming out from the ‘systems of men’ and ‘joining’ this or that company of saints. This is bound to result in disaster. It is to Christ alone we are called to go forth, without the camp, bearing His reproach (see Heb. 13: 13). He, blessed be God, never disappoints! If the eye be fixed on Him, if the heart be occupied with Him, if He be recognised as the one and only centre, then—let saints be what they may as to their spiritual state— there can be no lasting disappointment.
If I see it to be according to Scripture to gather with fellow believers to the name of the Lord Jesus, then the behaviour of those already so gathered cannot alter the truth for one moment. Instead it calls for exercise of soul on my part that I may be a help to them, stirring them up to fresh devotedness and renewed zeal. There will be less trouble, less perplexity and less concern, if one simply turns away and leaves the rest to go on as they will, but God is not thereby glorified nor are failing saints recovered. The position of gathering to the name of the Lord in simplicity as members of the one body, is not one in which there is no trouble—far from it! But it is a place where all trouble can be set right and every difficulty met by the Word of God alone, and this is what cannot be said of any sect in Christendom. There human ingenuity and man–made regulations are relied on to keep things in order and to settle disputes. But those who turn, in faith, from all this to Christ alone as the centre will find His Word sufficient for every eventuality, so long as there be but obedience to its principles.