Separation unto God.
by Henry Varley
TO MR. HURDITCH, EDITOR OF "WORD AND WORK."
SIR,----Not in any spirit of unkind criticism do I ask for space in order to caII attention to the subject of Separation to God. Certainly no theme is more important. To see thousands of the Lord's people assembled, to confer together on so vital a question, is a real joy. Better still, to observe with what deep interest the statements made at Mildmay (1886) were received. The meetings which I was privileged to attend were not uniform in quality or importance of statement, and I cannot but express the fear that some of the testimony given was calculated to induce unhealthy introspection.
If I understand separation to God as taught in His Holy Word, and the subjective result which should be found on the human side, we need great care concerning the teaching. I confess that I would like to have heard more clearly defined, the solemn fact that separation to God necessarily implies the acceptance of the work of Christ. We need to be constantly reminded that repentance means our acquiescence in the will of God concerning the forfeiture and yielding up unto death (the death of the Cross) of a life which is in its nature essentially corrupt. The Word is very solemn, but it is very true, "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is infinitely holy. Communion with Him on the part of the soul that has not consented to the truth of the Gospel is impossible. There can be no fellowship between light and darkness.
The Holy Child Jesus cannot be united with the sinner. This would be to join together life and death, heaIth and disease, sin and holiness. Both reason and the Word of God forbid such an association. But at this point, the missing link is by Divine grace supplied. We read, concerning our Lord, "In that He died, He died unto sin once; but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God." Here, to all who believe the Gospel, death unto sin is really known. The body of the sins of the flesh, the totaI of the corrupt nature, has been put off by the circumcision of Christ. Hence, these glorious words follow: "Likewise" (evidently the same mode of reasoning and application) ''reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus" (R.V., Rom. vi. 10, 11). Now this is not experience. Experience, however exalted, never yet furnished any child of God with such a testimony or such a condition. This is faith's utterance, because it is God's argument. It is altogether the consequence of the work of Christ, and must not be confounded with experience. There can be no question that, on the human side, our wisdom is rigidly and fully in intellect and heart to say, "I reckon myself to be dead indeed unto sin." Not that we affirm this as an experience, but the truth held fast in faith.
After the experience of Adam we are prepared to find the Divine life placed by God where that life would not be liable to risk, misuse, or loss. The same sure Word, therefore, instructs us, "Ye have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God; when Christ our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory." Here also, experience has no place, save as the apprehension of the truth produces in us that which is pleasing to the Lord. But surely separation unto God on our part, in our daily walk, was never designed to occupy the place of "the life of faith upon the Son of God." The Word of God knows but One Who was truly separated to God. Hence the separated One, the true Nazarite, is seen in Christ Jesus only.
Separation to God is impossible off the lines of the life of faith upon the Son of God. The Words of our Lord place this great question of separation in the true light when He says, "For their sakes, I sanctify (separate) Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth." Separation unto God arising, on the human side, from a supposed experience attained, and not on the ground of real union with Christ in death and resurrection, is fraught with great danger. The elements of self-satisfaction and pride are certainly at work, and the expression, "Stand by, for I am holier than thou," is in the heart's utterance. The truth of God is the power for separation unto Him.
As believers, we need constantly to remind one another of the apostle'e words, "I have been crucified with Christ, yet I Iive; and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me; and that life which I now live in the flesh, I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself up for me." Here, indeed, is the crux of the whole position, and that life which I now live, I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God. Here is true experience, an experience which produces and ensures. We live in Christ; He is life and our life. We have no other. I believe that the devil has obtained a real advantage over us when he has succeeded in getting the eye of our mind off the Lord. Yea, a terrible advantage, when that eye is occupied with self, in any form. Practically, to change Christ for a superfine experience. This also is confusion.
I trust my words will not be read as though I made light of practical separation to God. Not so; only let us be careful to walk according to truth, remembering that it is written that in "Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation, and as many as walk according to this rule (this straight line) peace be on them and mercy, and upon the Israel of God."