MOST readers will know what the words in our title mean: centripetal, towards the Centre; centri¬fugal, away from the Centre. In matters spiritual and ecclesiastical Centripetalism is the divine order, while centrifugalism may be applied to the perpetual and too-successful attempts of Satan to scatter or drive or draw away from the Divine Centre.
Centripetal. Christ is the Centre of all God’s pur¬poses and actings, and to Him all must come who desire life and blessing. Ecclesiastically, the Assembly as it is seen in the New Testament is the corporate gathering of God’s people, Christ being of course the Centre there also.The N.T. knows no other mode of gathering, and as con¬verts were made through the preaching of the Word they were brought into the Assembly, which was, among other things, the public exhibition or manifestation of the work and power of God in its neighbourhood (1 Cor. 14. 23-25). The characteristic features of the Assembly in the N.T. are well known to readers ; Christ the Centre, to whom the saints gather ; the Holy Spirit the Controller and Director of all operations ; the Lord’s Table the “ hub “ from which all activities radiate. Thus the Assembly was the nursery of young believers, and the place where the saints were instructed in divine things, the obligation to teach being laid upon the men to whom that Gift had been entrusted by the Lord (1 Pet. 4 and 5, etc.). In those early days the true Elders were known, inter alia, by their possession and normal exercise of this gift in the Assembly, it being their most distinctive, though not their only qualification for Eldership (1 Tim. 3, etc.). Nothing has been revealed since those times to warrant any departure, however slight or seemingly unimportant, from these fundamental principles and practices.
Centrifugal. But “ the enemy said, ‘ I will divide …’ “, and too well has he succeeded ! Clerisy, superseding the control and free operations of the Holy Spirit, thus virtually dethroning Him in the gatherings of God’s people; “Bishopry," merging into “ Popery," superseding the Holy Spirit in the government of the churches (using this word here in the popular sense) ; Sectarianism, superseding Christ as the Centre, and sub¬stituting some practice, doctrine or man-devised method of church government as the “ rallying-point “ ; all these forces of disintegration have been at work for centuries, producing the deplorable effects that are seen all around us. “ Divide and conquer," and Centrifugalism has been Satan’s policy from the earliest days of the Church’s history, drawing or driving the sheep from the Centre. So general is this disease among the saints that there is grave cause to fear that its essentially evil character is being overlooked by many, even in the Assemblies. Which livings me to my final remarks.
Our attitude toward the people of God in the sectarian bodies should be the scriptural one, to encourage them to “Come out of her, my people …” (Rev. 18. 4), rather than support them in their position by any action, however well meant. It may seriously be doubted whether such actions have caused any of the believers in those bodies to come out on to scriptural ground, but there can I think be little doubt that they have resulted in loosening or weakening the loyalty of many to the Assembly, who are by them encouraged to desert the Centre, either on isolated or more or less frequent occations, or even, alas, permanently.
It is sometimes said that the sheep will go where the food is, and that has been advanced as an excuse for these “ extra-Assembly “ interests of some in the Assembly. The answer to that surely is, “ They need not depart; GIVE YE THEM TO EAT.” This is a solemn word to older brethren whom, in a general way, the Lord has made responsible to feed His sheep and lambs. But how few, comparatively speaking, are capable of doing this profit¬ably ? Is not this a grave weakness, and ought we not to seek an improvement along this line rather than encourage desertion of the Centre ? For that is what these practices are doing, there can be no doubt.
Let those especially who take the place of being leaders in the Assemblies consider whether their activities are centripetal or centrifugal in tendency. They cannot well be both. And let all of us think more of the honour that the Lord has conferred upon us in calling us to the Centre.