Edinburgh – 13th December 1865
To Mr B
I have duly received your letter, but I waited to read your article before replying to you, and I was in the course of holding meetings morning and evening, and sometimes meeting brethren in the neighbourhood, sometimes in Ireland where there is a remarkable movement. Although over-loaded with work, I have read your article. I have only one remark to make: you give to the churches a formal importance greater than I would think. I do not accuse you of error, for you recognise the church, the body of Christ, but only of an impression that your writing has left on me. I do not recognise that there are members of a church, and I do not know that you say so; I only speak of an impression. But in the end, your expressions could perhaps say this to those who are used to this idea. Do not think, dear brother, that I say this to criticise your writing, for I have found it very good, and I remark to you the only thing that presents itself to my mind as possibly under question. This will, I hope, be a very useful summary for your compatriots. I thought I would write to you again after having re-read the majority of your writing, for I have a little more quietness here in Edinburgh, but here I received a little word from L F with the letter that you have sent him, and of which the contents are quite important. Union is always good in itself but faithfulness to Christ goes before union itself. I would enjoin you to enquire exactly about the subject of the meeting of which you speak, before you compromise in this respect. It is not a matter – God keep us from it – of making difficulties, but it is necessary for us to know if the holiness of the Lord’s table is really kept. I can rejoice in a work when, in summary, souls are delivered, even when I could not walk there myself.
As to Bethesda, before I mixed with them, I would have to be quite clear about the fact that they had been freely delivered. I would never have thought of bringing in these questions in Italy, but they are already there. This is what has hindered me from coming there or getting involved with it. It would have been cruel to occupy these brethren, newly out of Popery, with these difficulties. It would have been impossible to walk with the Newtonians, for those who were active in Italy were even nearer than Bethesda. I have therefore put the thing, with many prayers, with God, and I am waiting on Him, for the work really interests me. Dear brother, Bethesda with the fruits of the spirit which reigns there, manifest themselves more every day. I speak of the worldliness and the destruction of all true integrity, of all conscience with those who dabble in these things. One finds this in Switzerland, in France, in Germany – everywhere – where it could not be said that there was a party spirit. Most probably are ignorant of all this, so that they are, as a result, not personally defiled, but once the two brothers of whom you speak and who know these things have taken their side, they are necessarily plagued. It is important therefore that these two should be quite decided: do not hurry. What is necessary is that the Lord’s table should be safeguarded from this known corruption, and that discipline should be sufficient. For me, I should bear many weaknesses and infirmities in the state in which they are found, as long as the basis is good. I understand, it goes without saying, that the principle of gathering should be the unity of the body of Christ, otherwise you deny the substance even of your writing. You must understand, dear brother, that if, after you have become mixed up in it, others should be obliged to leave the assembly, you would be under the weight of an accusation of division. I doubt for my part whether, if the truth, as you hold it, gets in there, all support it; you have to weigh all this and not precipitate yourself, while welcoming from the heart these dear brethren, and in enlightening them according to your power. Be brotherly with all, unless they personally support the evil; then the faithfulness and even brotherly love that you are obliged to show, while you cannot walk with evil. Do not abandon faithfulness to Christ and to the truth to avoid smallness, and patience; our normal state is to have only a little power and not to deny His Name and His word. The Lord, after three and half years of work, had gathered only one hundred and twenty (Acts 1: 15), and the servant is not above his Master.
A meeting in Geneva is spoken of, although it has been postponed. I am sure that it would be very happy to see them there. If they renounce the wages that produce infinite evil, they must confide in God and not in their brethren. However, I fully recognise the need of brethren to come in aid of those who devote themselves to the Lord. The walk is a walk of faith, because the riches of the established system fail when one is free of their ties, and their fortune does not influence as before the walk of the church. But it is precisely what is necessary that the Spirit of God should take again His place and His rights in it. May God do this, and give enough faith to these brethren and to all those who are at the work, so that the Holy Spirit may act freely.
God is good always to act in spite of infirmities, failures and sins which are found among His own. Be cordial, therefore, dear brother; do nothing precipitately; look to what may be completely purified from the defilement of Bethesda, and that in principle, even though it may be in weakness, the holiness of the Lord’s table may be safeguarded. I do not desire anything else than what you state as truth in your writing; hold firm to it with a heart as large as possible.
I would be very happy to have your news and that of your activity. There are indeed important details, but it is impossible to enter on these now.
Greet indeed Mrs B and the brethren who are with you, although I do not know them.
Many souls have broken recently with the system of Bethesda, and also some workmen in Ireland who did not know until now what it was. I believe that God acts in this way; if I may say so, they will all be needed to keep pure the meetings which are formed today in quite a large number in Ireland. Brethren go on well, their number increased very much. We have lost for down here our dear brother Trotter; another very well known evangelist can no longer work; but God has raised up several new [ones] – and the meetings multiply greatly.
Peace be with you, and may our God, always faithful and full of grace, direct you and sustain you. Never be discouraged; be careful about nothing …let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, … shall guard your hearts. Remember that Christ is always faithful and will never fail His own. Greet these two evangelist brothers affectionately; I desire ardently that, whatever it be, God will bless their work.
Yours affectionately in Christ
Letter originally written in French, translated by Sosthenes, 2013
Click here for original – If you have any comments on the translation, feel free to let me know.
 the original letter uses Italian here: ‘allo stipendio che produce infinite mal’
 Phil 4: 6-7