Editor's Note 24
Preface To The First Edition
The numbers of the “Bible Treasury” containing the papers on “The Sufferings of Christ,” having been widely sought after, are out of print, and not to be had. Recently, an attack has been made on the doctrine contained in them, and in other articles to which I will just now refer.
The real character of that attack is such that I do not feel it possible to take the smallest notice of it. It seemed to me the best reply to it was to publish the articles incriminated in it. The reader will find them here exactly as they were originally published, with the exception of the correction of errors of the press. I might, I dare say, have made some passages clearer; but it is evident that, under the circumstances in which their publication comes before the reader, my only path was to publish all exactly as it had already appeared. It seems to me that, as it stands, it is quite sufficiently clear to any upright mind. I am not so foolish as to think that all the expressions in it are the best, or absolutely exact or just, as if I were inspired; but what is taught (taught I think sufficiently clearly for any one willing to learn) I believe to be the truth, and hold and maintain as the truth now. To the humblest and weakest of God’s saints I should gladly explain my meaning, and should be bound to do so. Here it would be out of place. I have only to beg them to take my doctrine from my own papers.
Two main subjects are involved in the attacks made: the sufferings of Christ in Gethsemane; and Christ’s laying down His life. In both I maintain fully the doctrine I have taught in these papers, and I think what is opposed to it is ignorance or fatal error. The first—the connection of Christ’s sufferings with the state of the remnant of Israel in the last days—I do not expect those not versed in scripture to enter into; and I would add, that (though this is enlarged upon in an addition to the original article, because enquiries were made as to it) I have no wish to turn aside any one’s mind from the deep intrinsic preciousness of the sufferings of Gethsemane to their application to that particular subject, as I think the original article may shew. It was enlarged on because enquiry was made as to it. I think, however, the Psalms will never be clearly understood till this is.
As regards the second point, I not only think that the doctrine taught in the “Girdle of Truth” is sound, but I think it one of the most important truths possible at the present time (one which in the present confused state of Christendom lies at the root of blessing), and am thankful that the present attack will spread it more and more. I republish, therefore, from the “Girdle of Truth” the article which has given occasion to the attack.
I have not republished the paper from “The Present Testimony,” because only one sentence, which I reproduce here, was quoted from it. The paper in question is that part of the Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, translated from the French, which refers to 1 Peter. In a developed view of the whole epistle, these words occur in explaining at considerable length chapter 3:18, and following verses, “Put to death as to his life in the flesh, but quickened according to the power of the divine Spirit.” I have no remark really to make on it. I think it very just. As to what was He put to death if not as to His life in the flesh? I think it is exactly what the text says. For this sentence I did not think it worth while to print the whole article with the other papers. My worst enemies (I am sorry for their sakes that I have any) are at liberty to make anything out of it they can.
I have to add, though of course I may be mistaken in such a point, that I maintain the translation of the passage in Acts 20, “The church of God which he purchased with the blood of his own.” The more I weigh it, the more I am satisfied it is right.
I do not know that I have anything to add, as my object here is not to discuss any point. I have hitherto in my answers on questions of doctrine (though judging some statements severely, because I thought Christ concerned in them) dealt quietly and courteously with my adversaries. But I do see another hand and mind behind what is going on, of which this pamphlet is a clear sign to me. As an attack on myself, I am glad not to answer it. If I have to take my adversaries up because they still carry on their warfare, and Satan is using them for mischief, I here declare I will not spare them, nor fail, with God’s help, to make plain the tenets and doctrines which are at the bottom of all this. As regards myself, if I have one desire in my heart, it is that the blessed Lord may be glorified. It is my one joy now when He is. It may be my everlasting blessedness. If there be anything in these papers which dishonours Him—what I say is this: no explanation to defend myself. God forbid. Let them be torn to atoms. It will be easy to gather up anything that is good in them from the only source of it. I will be the first to begin the work of destruction. They are days in which His glory and the truth must be kept clear at all cost: I will put the match to burn all if there be anything which is against it. I have already said, of course there may be expressions less perfect than they might be.25 It would be folly in an uninspired teacher or writer to suppose otherwise. Whatever they are, you have them here, my reader, just as they were. If, on the other hand, what engages us is an attack of enemies on them, and of the enemy because it is the truth as I believe, I will deal with the attack as such. I will take another opportunity to correct expressions if needed. The truth that is in question can be dealt with from the papers as they are. The reader has them before him. They were written for edification, not for controversy, though, in part, on controverted points, and not with the watchfulness against misinterpretation which controversy might awaken. But I am not aware of anything in them which, when taken as it is stated, requires much remark. I am not afraid of the conflict, if conflict I must have.
Note.—Since the publication of the tract containing the papers of the “Sufferings of Christ,” and that from the “Girdle of Truth,” I have been accused of suppressing the paper on Hebrews 5. My attention having been drawn to the articles in the “Bible Treasury” in 1858, and that in the “Girdle of Truth,” which the tract which gave occasion to their publication expressly notices (page 15 of the first edition), I directed the printer and publisher of the two journals to reprint the whole together. I had not remarked that one quotation came from another article in the “Girdle of Truth,” forming no part of the series on Christ’s sufferings, but on an entirely different subject—Hebrews 5. I therefore did not write to the publisher to publish that. The truth is, I did not write that article at all, nor consequently send it to the “Bible Treasury.” It may have been given to me to look over for the press—I cannot say; but I have no recollection of having ever read it, certainly not since it was printed. It contains notes of a lecture delivered at Bridgewater, taken down by a person present. The reader will find nothing new on the present question; nor is there more than is already given in the accusing tract, the paper (which I could only know to be mine by its style and contents) being on a different subject: nothing at all, therefore, is suppressed. The truth attacked is in some respects more clearly stated here than elsewhere. I trust the tract may itself be useful on its own subject; so I publish it, though the reader will find nothing new on the point attacked. One or two expressions I think questionable, though the doctrine be right. But they are not on this point: so I do not notice them. I only see additional reason in the statement now brought under my notice, not to pay attention, in any other way, to what has given occasion to the separate publication of these papers. But I take away occasion from those who seek occasion.
I would add that a closer and fuller examination of Acts 20:28 has more than ever convinced me that my translation is the right and only right one. I reject entirely the ordinary one.
The paper on Hebrews 5 (“The Word of God and the Priesthood of Christ”) is published separately and can be had of the publisher, price id.
A new edition of the tract on “The Sufferings of Christ” being requisite, I take the occasion of making the observations that circumstances have called for. If I have suffered in my poor and feeble measure a trial which my blessed Master went through (and I have) I am not now going to speak of it or of those who have been the instruments of it, and for two reasons. First, if the glory of Christ be in question, it is better to sink oneself: He alone is to be considered. Secondly, I fear falling into any expression which, if God gives repentance to my accusers, might stand in their way on their return. This only I have to beg of my reader, as I had to do when attacked eight years ago on the same papers, that he will take my account of my doctrine from myself. Statements have been made as to it, giving exactly the opposite of what is expressly stated by myself; sentences, with marks of quotation, professing to be my teaching, which are not found in the article cited from, and my accuser’s interpretation of the doctrine given in some subsequent passage as my statement. I owe it to brethren who seek the truth to state on what ground I stand in this matter. Admitting the imperfections of poor human nature in my expressions, and immaturity too (of course, I had not scanned and weighed it all as I have since these attacks);26 I hold completely and fully the doctrine which it was my object to teach in these papers. If they had been studied with a willing mind, I believe true edification and profit would have been found—I have found the deepest and sweetest in what they seek imperfectly to expound. I am not terrified by my adversaries, nor do I shrink from the consequences of what I teach. I know many brethren have been profited greatly by this unfolding of Christ’s sufferings. I can say of my brethren, they are in my heart, if it may be, to live with them, if I can hold the truth here taught. I rejoice unfeignedly in communion with brethren who can receive me, avowing it and holding it. But this truth I hold, avow; and do not, and with God’s grace, shall not, give up. I do not press their holding it. It may be truth they have not got hold of. It is not the truth on which fellowship and the testimony of brethren as witnesses for God rest, but instruction and profit for those who are in communion. Hence I in no way require its acceptance. I make it no term of communion at all. The testimony of the Church of God is to be maintained independent of it. I reject no one for rejecting it. The truest saint may be ignorant of what is edifying. I would not disturb the peace of any, but I shall hold to what I believe to be the truth, and the blessed Lord will decide the consequences. I should not think of making it a term or question of communion. I do not believe one fundamental truth is in question in it, though I believe deep and profitable instruction as to the sufferings of Christ will be found in it. I should not for a moment, consequently, have raised the question. I should be grieved if any one who thought me right should for a moment make it, or mix it up with, a question of communion. My earnest desire is that saints may quietly seek profit by it, not contend. Contention on such a subject does mischief.
But the question has been notoriously raised, and my part as a violently accused person is to be open and clear. I hold substantially, whatever imperfection of statement there may be, what I have taught in the tract I publish, gladly correcting any ambiguous expressions, but maintaining the teaching itself. I have been in no hurry to publish on it. I have refused, and do refuse, to defend myself personally. I had rather cast my own part on the Lord than do so. Besides, with those I should have to say to, it would have been too painful. I desired to weigh the matter, my own papers on it, the scriptures, and my adversaries’ objections. I desired that others should search the scriptures and have their time, for I was aware it was a subject which required spiritual discernment and the examination of scripture: many without this would be unable to judge of parts of it. I was in no hurry and could trust the Lord. I was both taunted and urged to action, but I was resolved to pursue my own course, though the urgency of friends distressed me: the taunts and attacks affected me little—they are common things. Meanwhile I answered every one who honestly enquired of me and demanded explanation. This I was bound to do. I had a correspondence, which I commenced, with Mr. Hall and Mr. Dorman; but since the Portsmouth meeting I never received a hint of objection from any one, nor an intimation on the subject, till I wrote myself. The favourers of Bethesda inundated the country with all sorts of publications to prove my doctrine was the same as Mr. Newton’s (following T.R.), the ground on which my present accusers have openly placed themselves. But these efforts I never paid the slightest attention to. I am perfectly satisfied all, from beginning to end, is an effort of the enemy; and when this consists of attacks on oneself, the best way, if one has the conscience of being right, is to leave it to the Lord, and be as a deaf man that hears not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs. So I have been. So I am as regards those who have now taken up this ground— have avowedly taken it up. On this last point too, therefore, I shall speak out. I reject Bethesda as wickedness, as I ever did; and on the same ground I reject the principle, far more widely spread than that chapel, on which it stands. My experience of that principle in America, in connection with other doctrines, but which those called Neutrals have freely fallen in with and accepted communion with, has confirmed me in the conviction, that acceptance of fellowship with those holding any deadly doctrine is infidelity to Christ, and evil and unfaithful, and a work of the enemy. The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth. That which is not in principle this, is not the Church at all even in its principle—does not gather with Christ, but scatters.
When the blasphemous doctrine of Mr. Newton (one for whom personally I have nothing but kindly feeling, and whom my heart, if pained, only yearns over) came out, Bethesda deliberately sheltered and accredited it. I broke with Bethesda, and I reject it still. It is all one to me if it be a Baptist Church or anything else, it has been untrue to Christ, and no persuasion, with the help of God, will ever lead me a step nearer to it. I reject Mr. Newton’s doctrine as blasphemy as I always did. The attempt to connect my doctrine with his is folly or worse— an effort of the enemy to palliate and cover his work. I do not quarrel with those who reject me when they think I hold like doctrine: what can I think of those who reject me to palliate what is associated with his? I must leave them at present to their own consciences.
I add, I reject entirely the principle on which Mr. Hall goes. It is, as I told him, the root and principle of Mr. Newton’s system, namely, that a person must be in the state or relationship which brings sorrows on any one, in order to enter into the sorrows the transgressor himself is in. I have been furnished with a passage which fully brings out his view, though it does not meet the whole question. In the case of the mother going into prison with a son (or if she never went at all, that would put the case more clearly), he says, “Now she could not share nor enter into either”—that is “first the penalty,” “and secondly the inward miserable feeling of having sinned and deserved it.” Now I affirm she could enter into it:27 it is a fatal denial of Christ’s suffering to deny His doing so. The more spiritually minded she was, the more (and that in connection with love to her son) she would feel in her own soul the dreadfulness of it, and learn what evil, that she was never in, was. Christ was not penally there (save vicariously on the cross); but He did enter into it. That is one important part of the question. I hold the doctrine, that Christ could not enter into our sufferings, to be mischievously false and falsifying Christ’s true place of sorrow.
But to pursue this point further still, that we may better enter into that sorrow, is it meant to be alleged that Christ did not taste death—death in itself, not in sympathy28 nor in atonement, but death—when He said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death?” Mr. Hall admits two causes of suffering in Christ, atonement and sympathy. If suffering be not from one of these, it must, he tells us, be His own relationship to God. I reject this as fatal teaching. It is a denial of the truth of Christ’s suffering, and is but human reasoning in the teeth of scripture. I cannot conceive anything more destructive of Christian affections. He did work atonement, He did and does blessedly sympathize; but to exclude His own true sufferings as a man, as for instance, “Reproach hath broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness,” desertion, betrayal, and a thousand sorrows of Christ, is utterly ruinous and repulsive to the Christian heart; yet these were not atonement nor sympathy. He suffered Himself that He might be able to sympathize. And this view is the whole ground of his system; and hence he makes anything else a putting of Christ necessarily into the state or relation which brought the sorrow on, which is exactly what Mr. Newton did. There are the true sufferings of a human heart, and such as never were anywhere else, which are neither atonement nor sympathy.
I reject then wholly, and with my whole heart as a Christian, the system Mr. Hall presented to me. I do not charge him with the statements of Mr. Newton nor with the consequences of his doctrine. I believe he is wholly unaware that he is on that ground. But he is on it, though unknown to himself. My object here is only clearly to state the ground I am upon, without entering into any formal discussion. The great principle is that which is important. It seems to me that every Christian (and that as led by the very instinct of Christian life, as taught by the word) must utterly refuse that propounded by Mr. Hall. Christ did enter into the sufferings of others without being in the state they were in, and He had deep sufferings of His own which were not atonement and were not mere sympathy.
I go on to state further my own views on these points. I hold as to expiation or atonement fully and simply what every sound Christian does: The blessed Lord’s offering Himself without spot to God and being obedient to death, being made sin for us, and bearing our sins in His own body on the tree; His glorifying God in the sacrifice of Himself; and His substitution for us; and His drinking the cup of wrath. I believe, though none can fathom it, that what I hold, and have taught, and teach, makes this atonement clearer. I mean the not confounding the sufferings of Christ short of divine wrath with that one only drinking of the cup when He was forsaken of God. I see this carefully brought out in Psalm 22. In the midst of cruel sufferings, of which the Lord in Spirit speaks prophetically there, He says, “But be not thou far from me, O Lord,” twice over. Yet (and that is the great fathomless depth of the psalm) He was, as to the sorrow of His soul, forsaken of God. With that no other suffering, deep and real as it was, can be compared. But the Holy Ghost makes here the distinction in order to bring out that wondrous cup, which stands alone in the midst of all things, the more clearly. And this makes other suffering more true and real to the heart, and the drinking of the cup (that on which the new heavens and the new earth subsist in immutable righteousness before God, and through which we are accepted in the Beloved) has a truth and a reality which nothing else gives it. The mixing up accompanying suffering with this, in their character, weakens and destroys the nature of both. We come to the atonement with the need of our sins; once reconciled to God, we see the whole glory of God made good for ever in it. I add, as regards Christ’s relationship with God, I have no view but what I suppose to be the common faith of all Christians, of His being His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased, that, as a living man here below, divine delight rested upon Him. Though never so acceptable in obedience as on the cross, there He was as, for God’s glory, bearing the forsaking of God. That of course was a special case.
But two objections have been raised here to what I have taught, and to these I turn. One is, a certain change which took place in our Lord’s position then, His being given up of God and giving up Himself into the hands of men to accomplish the purposes and glory of God and make propitiation for our sins. On this the New Testament is as clear as possible. We read, “No man laid hands on him, for his hour was not yet come.” From His own lips, “Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.” He tells them that the Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes … the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of men. Till His hour was come, hostile as they might be, this could not be.
Hence He tells His disciples, “When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now he that hath a purse, let him take it … for I say unto you that this that is written must be accomplished in me. And he was reckoned with the transgressors; for the things concerning me have an end.” And again, “When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hand against me, but this is your hour and the power of darkness.” Now, though for the purpose of bringing about the work of atonement, delivering the Son of man into the hands of men was not atonement. The hour of the priests and scribes was that of the power of darkness. Before that, if the crowd would throw Him down from the brow of the hill, He passed through the midst of them and went His way. No doubt He gave up Himself. This side of the wondrous picture John gives, when he shews the band of men going backward and falling to the ground, and records the unspeakably precious words of the blessed Lord— “If ye seek me, let these go their way.”
But up to this, in the accomplishment of the counsels of God, there was a hand that restrained the will or the force of the people. Now the Son of man was to be delivered into the hands of men. It was not the actual moment of atonement, though the path to it; but the hour of evil men and the power of darkness. Was it sympathy? With whom? To deny a change in the position of the Lord and God’s ways with Him as a man on earth (I do not say or think in His relationship with God) is flying in the face of scripture. It was not atonement, it was not sympathy, but the suffering of the blessed Son of God, now going to be delivered into the hands of men, whose hour as instruments of the power of darkness it now was, which it was not before.
But there was complicated sorrow. He was meeting indignation and wrath. He was not yet drinking the cup, He was not yet smitten, but He was going on to it, given up to that which was the instrument of it, pressed that it should be done quickly, was in the hour, which meant all that and meant all that to His soul. It had its own sorrow, but His soul was troubled— first prayed that He might be saved from the impending hour, but bowed to it as the hour He was come in,to the world for; then urged that it should be done quickly; then was sorrowful even unto death, because, now, just delivered up into the hands of men, He was meeting indignation and wrath. The very thing that made His sufferings then so deep was that He knew that He was meeting indignation and wrath. The wickedness of men was heartless and without conscience, but it led on step by step to the cross, to the cup which He had to drink. He was now as Son of man delivered, or just about to be delivered, into the hands of men, rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, the leaders of Israel. The shadow of death from the cross was not merely foreseen in the sunshine of divine service and favour, but passing over His soul, though not yet drinking the cup. He tells us so Himself. He was in this not sympathizing with others. He looked for sympathy from others, and prayed His disciples to watch with Him. He was not actually drinking the cup, but He was meeting indignation and wrath, I repeat. This gave to His delivering up to man its force and sorrow of death. He learned obedience by the things which He suffered, and in the days of His flesh made supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death.
There are two collateral points which have been insisted .upon: the Lord’s connection with Israel, and His full meeting and resolving the question of good and evil, so that deliverance might be absolute and eternal. I am not sure but that in the tract these two points are intermingled so as to produce possible confusion in the mind. The latter is far deeper and requires more spiritual apprehension than the former, which connects itself (not,with what is absolute and essential, eternal and perfect good, and putting away evil, fully judged and completely estimated in the ways and work of Christ, but) with God’s government in the earth; of which Israel is the centre. God has made Israel that centre, as Deuteronomy 32 clearly states, and (while He has called the Church to be the witness of sovereign grace which associates her with Christ in heavenly glory) yet He has, from the moment He took Israel to be His people, never changed His counsel nor purpose in that people. Enemies as touching the gospel, they are still beloved for the fathers’ sake; for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. But God has always put men first under responsibility, and when they failed, accomplished, or rather will accomplish, His counsels in grace.
But as regards Israel, the trial was twofold, as indeed in a certain sense with all, their faithfulness to Jehovah, and their reception of Messiah, of Him who comes in the name of Jehovah and who is Jehovah Himself, but Jehovah come in grace. The one was the controversy with idols, brought out in Isaiah 40 to 48, where their comforting and Christ Himself withal are promised, but where the question is idolatry, Babylon, and Cyrus, but looking on to final deliverance for the righteous. On that I do not insist further. The other was the coming of Messiah, of Jehovah Himself in grace, as a test. This is treated from chapter 49 to 57 going on to final deliverance of the righteous, but turning on the rejection of Christ, introducing atonement, here especially for the nation, but embracing every believer. This question, I need not say, was brought to an issue in the history of Christ, the future result for Israel being still matter of hope and prophecy, yea, of Christ’s own prophecy in Matthew 23 and 24. Christ died for that nation, or it could not have had the future blessing. Now we must remark that what is promised to Israel is fulfilled only to the remnant. The hopes are the hopes of Israel. It is Israel’s blessing; but if God had not left a very small remnant, they would be like Sodom. This remnant, a third part, will pass through the fire, through the terrible tribulation such as never was, though in a large degree sheltered and hidden of God. Still they will pass through the fire (Zech. 13:9; Mal. 3:2, 3; Is. 26:20, 21 with what precedes). Abundant scriptures might be quoted to the same purpose. The prophetic part of the New Testament confirms this, in the Revelation and in the Lord’s prophecy in Matthew; and it is diligently expounded in Romans 9-11 to reconcile the certainty of these promises with the no-difference doctrine of the apostle.
What part did Christ take in these sorrows in spirit? That their rejecting Him was the immediate cause of their own rejection is evident (Is. 50; Zech. 13, 14, and the Lord’s own prophecy in Matthew 23; Luke 19:42, 44); that He died for the nation John tells us, as does Isaiah 53; that He wept over Jerusalem, the true Jehovah who would often have gathered her children. (Luke 13:32-34; ch. 19:42.) That it is in Israel God is to be glorified in the earth, Isaiah 49 makes perfectly clear. Equally so that His rejection was consequently felt by Christ as having laboured in vain and spent His strength for nought and in vain, though the answer brings out necessarily, a far fuller glory as the result of the work which He knew to be perfect.
This leads us at once to the truth that the Lord was deeply sensible of the effect of His rejection as regards the nation. The law had been broken, but idolatry given up, and Jehovah was come into the midst of His people with deliverance and blessing in His heart and in His hand—come surely to give Himself for them as an atonement, but first presenting Himself to them, the true Heir and vessel of promise, the minister and crown of all blessing, the minister of the circumcision for the truth of God. But He was the outcast of the people, and laboured as regards that in vain, nor (though the remnant got far better things, as Christ’s own glory was largely enhanced by it) could the remnant then have the blessings and glory promised in and with the Messiah—they were to take up their cross and follow Him. Jehovah sent, anticipating the great final deliverance, that Elias in spirit, who was to come before Him and the great and notable day of the Lord. They did to him whatever they listed, and the Son of man was to suffer. The New Testament, as the Old, brings, as to Israel, Christ’s presence and the last days together: “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of man be come” (Matt. 10). And “Ye shall not see me henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord,” quoting Psalm 118, as He did for the rejected stone. At the same time the body of the nation was now apostate, crying, “We have no king but Caesar,” rejecting formally their Messiah, and, in Him, Jehovah come in grace to speak a word in season to him that was weary.
Was the Lord indifferent to all this? Was He, because He was going to accomplish a greater work in atonement, indifferent to the setting aside of God’s beloved people, to the present merging all the promises as regards them in judgment and long rejection (wrath coming upon them to the uttermost), to the entire setting aside of the promises looked at as resting on the reception of Messiah come in the flesh, His own labouring for nought and in vain, and being cut off as Messiah and having nothing, and the people apostatizing and joining the Gentiles against the Lord and His anointed so that wrath and judgment came upon them—was He indifferent, I say, to all this? or did He feel it? Sympathy with His disciples we can understand. But was all this no source of suffering to the Lord? He could not sympathize with apostasy. He was in no such case, but faithful to the very end, perfect in it with God; but was it nothing to Himself, no sorrow, that God’s people were thus cut off, cut off Himself instrumentally by that very apostasy, so that the then hope of Israel closed with Him, for that Isaiah 50 positively declares? He could not separate His own cutting off from theirs as the consequence of it. This Daniel 9:26, as well as Isaiah, plainly testifies.
Let us see how His Spirit works in His servants. The Lamentations of Jeremiah are the deep and wondrous expression of this; not only that what had been so beautiful under God’s eye, how Nazarites whiter than milk had been set aside, but God had cast down His altar, profaned His sanctuary. So Isaiah would have Jehovah rend the heavens and come down (see Isa. 63, 64.) So Daniel in the beautiful pleading of chapter 9. Has Christianity removed and destroyed this feeling? There was one who had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart for his kinsmen according to the flesh, Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises, of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, God over all blessed for evermore. That was the way Paul would know Christ no more; he knew Him in the glorious and heavenly results of atonement, but his heart groaned over Israel as God’s people to whom the promises and Christ in the flesh belonged. He could wish himself accursed from Christ for them, as Moses had wished to be blotted out of Jehovah’s book for their sakes—Israel according to the flesh, but God’s people according to the flesh, and to whom according to the flesh Christ belonged. Israel was responsible for receiving Him. He came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Did Christ’s Spirit produce these feelings in His witnesses before and after His coming and rejection, and He Himself remain indifferent, careless, as to His people whom He had foreknown? It was not so. Indignation and wrath were coming upon them, and He felt it. It had well nigh been executed in Paul’s time, and by Christ’s Spirit he felt it, though his heart had known Christ in glory, and would only now so know Him.
This is the language of scripture: “And his soul was grieved,” we read in Judges 10, “for the misery of Israel.” “In all their afflictions he was afflicted,” I read in Isaiah 63. That same Jehovah came as man. Did His humanity dry up His concern for Israel and His lost sheep? The same Jehovah then could weep over the beloved and chosen city, and say, “Oh that thou hadst known, even thou, in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” He was not merely Jehovah, but as Messiah He took Messiah’s place in Israel (not in its apostasy surely, but with the godly remnant who, as to earthly promises, could then as well as Messiah Himself take nothing). The Shepherd was smitten and the sheep scattered. He was the Head and bringer in of the promises. His cutting off was the setting aside, as then presented, all the hopes and promises of Israel; and as Messiah He was to be cut off, and, as the consequence of that, judgment, indignation, and wrath, were to come upon Israel.
Indignation is, I may say, the technical word used for the time of trouble in the last days. And Paul says wrath was come upon them. I believe Christ entered into this, felt it all in connection with His own cutting off. No doubt He went infinitely farther. He made atonement for them, but He felt fully the rejection of the people, bore it on His heart, told them not to weep for Him but for themselves, for judgment was coming on them. He was the green tree, and this came upon Him. What would be done in the dry, dead, and lifeless Israel?
But this leads me to cutting off and smiting. Not only is the judgment of Israel Connected with the cutting off and smiting of Christ, as we have seen, but the condition of the remnant in Israel in the last days, and of the just as the remnant of Israel from Messiah’s days, is deduced from this. It is so in Daniel 9. The weeks are not yet run out for the ceasing of Jerusalem’s desolations and wars. The last terrible half-week is to come, of which the Lord tells us in Matthew 24, referring to Daniel 12. And why all this? Messiah was to be cut off and have nothing.29 It is not glory gained by atonement which is spoken of here, but Messiah’s cutting off so that He had nothing of the glory and kingdom of Israel; but Israel on the contrary came under judgment and a desolator.
Zechariah teaches us the same thing. The blessed One who had been man’s possession (servant) from His youth had been wounded in the house of His friends. His own were guilty of it. But there is more than this in His death; the sword is to awake against Jehovah’s Shepherd— “the man that is my fellow,” says Jehovah of hosts. “Smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered.” His sheep as connected with Him in Israel were scattered, and then the prophet goes on to the portion of Israel and the remnant in the last days; two thirds will be cut off and the remnant go through the fire. We have already seen that in Matthew 10 and 23, the Lord connects the same periods, and in the latter case with His rejection. They stumbled on the stone and were broken; when it fell on them, it would grind them to powder. If I find the details and feelings30 more entered into in the Psalms, I find the teaching and history in the gospels of what brought it all about.
Now I fully recognize that the smiting was on the cross; that is distinctly stated in the papers I am republishing. But I affirm that Christ entered into all these sorrows and sufferings on His way to the cross, and that in a special manner as looking to be cut off, when His hour was come and He was to be no longer absolutely safe from the machinations of the people become His enemies, but delivered by them to men. Further: the charges and accusations made have led me to search scripture on the subject, and I do not find that smiting is ever used for atonement (though atonement also was wrought when He was smitten), but for the cutting off of Messiah in connection with the Jews. Forsaking of His God is that which in scripture expresses the work which stands wholly alone. Some passages may have escaped me, but I have searched. It does not trouble me that it should be so taken, because it is certain that, when He was smitten, atonement was wrought. But I prefer scripture to the sayings of men, and until they produce some scripture which disproves it, I shall believe that the act of cutting off the Messiah is spoken of in smiting, and not the work of atonement, to which nothing can be compared. The smiting or cutting off the Messiah is used in connection with another subject in scripture, though He was there wounded for the people’s transgressions, and with His stripes they will be healed. But the cutting off and smiting is referred to the setting aside of previous hopes in the flesh, not to securing future ones in promise, though that work (blessed be God!) was done then. It is not that there was wrath inflicted on Christ for any state or relationship He was in besides atonement. I believe Christ never was in the state or relation which brought it, but that He entered into all the sufferings of Israel in spirit, passed through them in His own soul, felt what would be done in the dry tree, though He was the green one.
But what I have said leads me to another difficulty which has been raised: that governmental wrath would, but for atonement, be necessary condemnation. I hold so fully. Israel was the scene of God’s righteous government, and indignation and wrath were coming on them in that way. Such is the positive testimony of scripture, these words being used, as they are both together, in the Lamentations of Jeremiah (indignation, as I have said, technically in Isaiah and Daniel for the great time of trial in Israel, and wrath by Paul, and more than one equivalent to them in the Lamentations). But if Christ had not wrought atonement, there could not have been indignation and wrath as chastening and teaching for good. It must have been condemnation. It could not be said, By this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged, referring to the last days; nor could Jerusalem be told that she had received at the hand of the Lord double of all her sins, nor by the Lord that she should not come out till she had paid the very last farthing, if atonement had not been made. God could exercise judgment as government because of the atonement. He could shew Himself righteous in forbearance as to the Old Testament sins by the blood-shedding of Jesus. He was long-suffering in that government, abundant in goodness and mercy and truth, yet would by no means clear the guilty. But the cross laid the foundation for that. It laid the foundation for heavenly glory, but it laid the foundation for that, too.
Christ, therefore, while He saw and felt, entered into, all the sorrow and indignation on Israel in the fullest way—went on farther that it might not be condemnation, and made atonement. Indignation and wrath in His case was not merely governmental, but the full dealing of God with sin—which is atonement. I find both plainly revealed to me in scripture, for I have shewn that Christ in spirit did enter into the sorrows of Israel connected with His own cutting off. To smite, in Hebrew and patasso in Greek, is used for the cutting off of the Shepherd of Israel; but when smitten, He was forsaken of God, and made atonement for sin—was bruised for Israel’s and our iniquities.
I have now to turn to another objection which was presented to me in my correspondence—Christ’s resolving the whole question of good and evil. It is the one sole and whole foundation of blessing. The same gross mistake was made as to it as to all the rest. He must have known, it was alleged, evil in His heart to have gone through it. It is difficult to deal with such entire darkness of apprehension. Why, God knows good and evil perfectly: has He (the Lord pardon even the question) any evil in His heart? But there was more as to Christ: He had to learn it by going through every temptation by it—its bitterness in its pressure on His own soul. He had none of it. He was the Prince of life: did He not know what death was? He was Love in its expression: did He not know what hatred was? And just because, and in the manner in which, He was Love, was the horribleness of hatred known to Him, even in detail. The love in which He sought the poor of the flock, made Him feel what was the spirit which sought to hinder their coming in. When He denounced the scribes and lawyers, did He not feel the evil they were guilty of?
The truth is, a holy soul knows what evil really is: only He went through it all as trial. Was not His horror of corruption and hypocrisy measured by His holiness and truth? Was not His perfect, absolute confidence tried and pained by the distrust and unbelief He met with, even in His disciples? Was not His delight in His Father’s love (I cannot say the measure, for it could not be measured, but) the gauge of His sense of wrath? Was not the horribleness of Satan’s asking Him to worship him known in the fulness of His own devotedness to His God? Was He not tested and tried by everything, save sin within, that could try a soul, and, had it been possible, turn Him away from God? Was not sin known to Him by the assailment of temptation and the holiness of His own soul? Did He not learn obedience by its costing everything that was possible from man, and Satan, and God? He knew evil, to reject it absolutely; to feel it absolutely by the tested perfection of good, which alone could perfectly feel what evil was; and die and give up self rather than fail in devotedness to His Father’s will and holy obedience; and then be made sin for us, so as to put it away by the sacrifice of Himself. He died for sin, “but in that he died, he died unto sin once; in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.” He has no more to do with sin, save to judge the sinner hereafter. The whole of God’s glory, as compromised by sin in the universe, was made good, glorified, exalted, in the fullest trial—everything that could try holiness and love. Hence the time will come when in heaven and earth righteousness will be established for ever, sin unknown, and God be perfectly glorified.
I am not aware I have any other point to treat which may cause a difficulty to any soul who seeks the truth and edification. I have only again to beg every righteous person not to take any statement but my own for my views. In Mr. Hall’s letters to me almost everything, if not everything, was mis-stated through his own want of apprehension of the truth and preconceived notions. Christ did then fully enter into the difference between good and evil, and with God’s judgment of sin before His eyes; partly in all His fife in the evil He met with every day, and specially at the end, when all evil was accumulated against Him, and the judgment of God against sin was immediately before Him; for, I repeat, this meeting indignation and wrath, then gave all its force to what His soul went through.
I had almost forgotten a statement made to me by letter, that I had stated, in answering Mr. Newton, that there could be no other suffering whatever than the first two mentioned in the tract. I answered that at the time. I merely repeat that answer in substance now. It is a very good plea for mere hostility, but has no true ground at all. In answer to Mr. Newton, what I have now spoken of as the third kind of suffering is fully gone into as a truth collateral to the two others, though not formally called a third kind of suffering. If my memory serves (I have not the tract by me), a third or half the tract is occupied with unfolding it. It was orthodox enough then.
A statement shewn to me is that I have said Christ was cut off under indignation and wrath not expiatory. I am not aware of any such statement. It is contrary to my whole manner of apprehending the matter. He was cut off as Messiah and He entered in heart into the indignation and wrath that lay on Israel; but that is a different matter. I find in Psalm 102 in the “Synopsis” (which I am referred to) “Nor is it [the subject of the psalm] His expiatory work, though that which wrought it is here—the indignation and wrath,” which is a very different thing. It states these to be expiatory work. But I have already explained my own thoughts on this point, and I prefer this to any discussion or taking up controversy with my accusers, and it would be endless to meet all the misrepresentations of what I have said. I can only repeat my request not to believe any statement of my doctrine but my own.
I do not see how it is possible for any fair mind to make Christ’s passing through the three kinds of suffering mean that He was in any sense in the condition referred to. One of them speaks of a condemned sinner; the next, a saint by grace; the third is specially guarded because more obscure. Do my accusers believe that passing through the suffering, such as a saint by grace does, meant that He was a saint by grace? If not, why should the third kind suppose Him to be in the state referred to, where the supposition was more carefully guarded against, where in fact it was said it was not so? I am perfectly free now to change the expressions in the tract; but as so much has been made of it by my enemies, I suppose many might desire to see it as it originally was, so that I have only corrected mistakes and made a sentence or two clearer, and left the accused places as they were, and in the margin noted any desirable changes as far as they are material to clear the sense. The first edition, reprinted from the “Bible Treasury,” I left as it was, because I gave it as such. Now I change what I think right. There are only a few passages of any consequence.
I will here add what may make plain how, from surrounding circumstances, Christ could enter into the remnant’s sufferings, and, in a certain analogy, ours when converted but dreading wrath still; and why I have said He entered into the sufferings, and passed through the sufferings, without its having anything to do with His relationship or state. In the last days the upright remnant will be oppressed by the Gentiles (the same Roman beast), rejected and persecuted by the apostate Jews, who own Caesar, and will, though looking in true faith to God, be fearing wrath before them. Now every word of this was true of Christ; and He felt it as come to bring blessing to Israel, which they rejected, not knowing the time of their visitation. He was persecuted by apostate Jews joining with Gentiles; He was oppressed cruelly by the Roman power. The remnant will feel it as the ruin and sin of beloved Israel; and so did He. They are fearing wrath; and the Lord was doing so too, with the difference that He really drank the cup. It is not that He had brought it on Himself as the nation had; but He passed through the suffering of it so as to be able to succour those that are tempted, to know how to speak a word in season to them that are weary. The analogy of an upright soul fearing judgment is that he is upright, and yet the fear of judgment is on his soul, and perhaps persecution his portion too. Christ can enter into the sorrows of that soul. But in Israel’s case the character of suffering perfectly corresponds. “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him,” is put by the Spirit into their mouth. But these sufferings of Christ are distinct from atonement. It is not that Christ’s feelings were not much more perfect; but He passed through, in His own case, the suffering which enables Him to enter into theirs. I would solemnly ask my reader, if He thinks Psalm 69:27, 28, is the fruit of atonement, and if atonement is contemplated there?
I may add a general remark which has suggested itself to me, which may help every willing mind. It is objected, smiting is spoken of before the cross, meeting indignation and wrath and the like. The error is that of my accusers and not mine. Had they been living in the mind of scripture, and its habits of thinking, they would have found it simply its way of speaking. And when it is stated that there are contradictory statements on my part, which produce confusion, it is also their unacquainted-ness with scripture. I dare say I may have followed the scripture mode of speaking without always accounting for it to myself. When called in question, the matter is specifically accounted for. But it is not my intention to give up a scriptural way of speaking and thinking because they think it wrong. I believe scripture more right than they.
Scripture speaks of the whole of the last hours of Christ’s life up to and including His death as one period, and it is characterized as one event. It has His rejection and smiting stamped upon it, and to speak of it so is right. Yet to speak of atonement distinctly as wrought in the hour of His forsaking of God is right too. Smiting, indignation, and wrath, the whole of His rejection, and what was involved in it, attaches itself to the whole period in scripture language. Yet He was not actually drinking the cup—not actually smitten. In John, who takes the divine side of these truths, even the time of His ascension is included, and so even in Luke as the blessed effect. And just the same contradiction may be alleged against scripture. Thus in Luke 9, His last journey up to Jerusalem, “when the hour was come that he should be received up.” So in the expression, His hour, “my hour is not yet come.” Again, “Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” Now this is unequivocally applied to what preceded the cross by the Holy Ghost; yet the smiting was not fulfilled till the cross, but its effect and the whole scene characterized by it was come. Again, “When Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, and… knowing that the Father had committed all things into his hand” —was it come or not come? It could not be till after atonement, yet for scriptural language it was come. Again as to His work on the cross: “Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified and God is glorified in him [that is on the cross morally]; and if God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself.” Now here, was the Son of man glorified yet in the work of the cross? So “now is the judgment of this world, now is the prince of this world cast out.” It is treated as one whole time now come. That is the scriptural way of treating it, as a now in contrast with the previous state of things. And so one imbued with the scriptural way of speaking and thinking will treat it.
But scripture goes farther and contradicts itself, as my adversaries speak of contradiction, on this very point. In John 17 the Lord says, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” Had He finished it? He contemplated the whole scene as present. On the cross He says afterwards, when He had drunk the vinegar, “It is finished, and gave up his spirit.” The treating the smiting as come, and the Saviour as meeting indignation and wrath, then, is perfectly scriptural and the scriptural way of speaking, and so is it to hold that the true atoning work and the fulfilment of the smiting too was on the cross. There, and there only, was the forsaking of God. The cavils of my adversaries, while I admit of course human imperfection in my words, are cavils against scripture. It speaks as I have spoken, and any alleged contradiction and confusion is that of scripture. A rationalist would accuse scripture as I have been accused.
But I feel pressed to add as regards Mr. Hall’s doctrine, on reflecting on it, my earnest declaration (without an atom of unkindly feeling) of rejecting it as fatal as doctrine and destructive of Christian affection. There may be better thoughts in his mind—I dare say there are; but what he has insisted on against me is a fatal denial of the true sufferings of Christ. For him it is atonement, sympathy, or Christ’s own relationship with God. Now sympathy is not a man’s own sufferings; hence Christ, according to Mr. Hall, never suffered but in atonement. I read, “It became him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering.” He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He began that course in the manger and went on to the cross through a course which was not atonement, which was not merely sympathy, though it made Him able to exercise it, able to succour them that are tempted. I do not doubt that Mr. Hall has better thoughts, but all his accusations against my teaching are founded on this fatal and ruinous error. It is a singular circumstance that when a person very hostile to me abroad sought to profit by Mr. Ryan’s tract against me, he fell into the same ruinous view as Mr. Hall. Saints cannot be too earnestly warned against it.
Finally, I do not think it possible that an unprejudiced mind would have found in my tract what has been put into it as its meaning. Jealousy awakened by previous blasphemies I can understand and not even regret. But those that have been active in accusing me have taken the other direction, a phenomenon which has its voice. Ignorance of the scriptural teaching on the Jewish remnant I am neither surprised nor troubled at. As I have already said, I have, save errors of the press and a word here and there for clearness, left the tract as it was, noting as far as I am aware the obnoxious passages. The general question and the objections drawn from other books of mine are sufficiently dealt with in the introduction. I feel that as it is, I have been (though seeking only to expound the truth) as a fool in saying so much of what others will take as self-defence. I have, of course, taken up the points pressed upon me by others in correspondence; and the Lord gave occasion to me just before writing this to go through the psalms and scriptures in question with brethren who had had all the difficulties my accusers’ tracts could awaken in their mind furnished to them by their reading these tracts. My object, however, while taking notice of all the objections, is to treat of the subject for those who inquire. I have not entered into controversy by any answer to the papers of my accusers. I trust I may never be called on to do it. Their own correspondence with me and other letters gave me substantially all the objections; and if scripture be made clear, accusations and reproach affect me with pain only for themselves. On that I do not enter.
I have no views as to the relationship of Christ, but the common faith of the saints. That by which false views on that point have been attempted to be proved as a consequence of my doctrine is founded on a fatal error in the teaching of him who seeks to prove it.
It has been stated currently and in print that I attribute to the blessed Lord the. exercises of the soul of a sinner or the experiences of an erring saint. Now I have not been able to find any passage speaking of the experience of Christ. The word is quite strange to my mind and heart. The passage I find referred to by one, I suppose by all, is in page 189, the third kind of suffering. Now that does not speak of the experiences of Christ, and it states the opposite to what is alleged. Alan is said to learn when a sinner, Christ to pass through the suffering as a perfect being learning it for others. Passing through suffering as a perfect being is the contradiction of learning when a sinner. I have noticed the passage in the notes to the tract. Perhaps the simpler way of clearing the expression would be to add ‘of it,’ and read, ‘Christ passed through the suffering of it in the last case as a perfect being’ :at any rate, my statement is exactly the opposite of what is alleged.
I have sought to explain, as many have wished it; but I have not after all expressed my own feelings, which I must now be permitted to do, as the fruit of the enquiry I have pursued—feelings, I mean, solely as to the doctrine in question. I look with unmingled horror on the denial of the truth of Christ’s sufferings contained in what is opposed to the paper on “the sufferings of Christ.” It is alleged, there are no sufferings of Christ but suffering in atonement and sympathy; or suffering in atonement for sin from God, and for righteousness from man. There is a vast deep of sufferings of Christ, inward sufferings, which are neither one nor the other. When it is said, ‘Who in the days of his flesh with strong crying and tears offered up prayers and supplications unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared,’ it was not atonement; for if it referred to the atoning sufferings on the cross (though, perhaps, it cannot be said to do so exclusively), yet He was not then undergoing it, but praying, before it was come, to be delivered from death. It was not persecution from man merely, as is evident in the words of the passage. See Gethsemane, where above all it had its accomplishment. This is confessedly not atonement. Persecuting man was not there. He was alone and begged His disciples to watch with Him.31 He sweat as it were great drops of blood. Was it persecution or atonement?
But I hear the chuckle of triumph, Why they are your own words that Christ suffered only from God for sin in atonement, and from man for righteousness! No doubt; and when the question was as to sufferings directly inflicted on Christ in respect of the state or relationship in which Christ stood, which was the question with Mr. Newton, that was quite true. He suffered from God in atonement for sin, and from man for righteousness. Leaving aside now this last, which all admit, Mr. Newton held the heavy hand of God was upon Him as being a Jew and a child of Adam, His relative position, and that He had to extricate Himself from it. That I denied and deny as ever. Inflicted sufferings for the state or relationship in which He was, were only for sin from God and for righteousness from man.
But there was a vast scene of agony for Christ’s soul neither inflicted by God for what He was made, nor by man for what He was; but the agonies of His holy soul in this world, His own sufferings, in which He ever looked up to God, and referred to God’s will, and which in part were connected with the ruin of Israel and His own cutting off as Messiah, as I have already explained. That cutting off, in the ways of God, must come, but was in no sense suffering inflicted on Him because of the relationship in which He was, or as if He Himself had the sense of failure; but the effect of Israel’s sins. Yet He could say He had laboured in vain and spent His strength for nought and in vain. Yet this was by no means the deeper part of His agony. I cannot help feeling that had my accusers been thinking not of me but of Christ, they would not have fallen into this awful chasm, for such it really is. I am inclined to suspect that, not being in communion with Christ in the matter, Satan has deceived them by the ambiguity of the word “suffering,” which means both actually inflicted pain, and inward sorrow of heart where nothing is done to the person at all. But if they had been seeking the truth and edification simply, they would not have been thus deceived. It is very possible, writing not for critical controversy but for instruction and edification, this double meaning of the word may not be distinguished in my papers. For grace, if so, it would not have been a snare.
But this I say:—if utter and total rejection of the views opposed to me, and belief in the sufferings of Christ besides atonement and persecution, exclude me from communion with my brethren in England and every other Christian in the world—I would not for a thousand worlds make a party on such a subject—I hold to my belief of these sufferings. I shall find them all again in His blessed face and in His glory when I see Him. I will dwell alone with Him, and mourn that Satan has succeeded in deceiving those I love, comforted with the thought that Christ will not give them up.
To The Editor of the “Bible Treasury”
A good deal that is current on the sufferings of Christ leads me to desire to draw the attention of your readers to this point, and to some simple yet important distinctions which it behoves us to make, as to their character and nature. The sympathies of Christ are so precious to the soul, His entering into our sorrows in this world of moral woe, so comforting, so softening, and yet so elevating, that we cannot treasure too highly the realization of them in our hearts, nor guard too carefully against anything that is spurious. That is the more important, because the character of His sufferings more or less connects itself with His Person and nature. I shall endeavour to be as simple as possible.
In the first place, we have to distinguish His sufferings from man and His sufferings from God. Their cause, and the result of them, are equally contrasted. Christ did, we know, surfer from men. He was despised and rejected of men,« man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. The world hated Him before it hated His disciples; it hated Him because He bore witness of it that its works were evil. He was “light,” and he that doeth evil hateth the light, nor comes to the light, because his works are evil. In a word, Christ suffered for righteousness’ sake; even as it was from the beginning, in that which was a type of Jesus’ history in this respect, Cain slew Abel, because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous. We may add, that the love which caused the Lord to minister to men in the world, and testify of their evil, brought only more sorrow upon Him. For His love He had hatred. This hatred of man against Him never slackened till His death, when, in the folly of human exultation, they could shout, Aha! aha! so would we have it. Righteousness and love, and what was indeed the manifestation of the divine nature and ways on the earth, brought out the relentless hatred of the human mind and will. Christ suffered from man for righteousness’ sake.
But He suffered also from the hand of God upon the cross. It pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief; when He shall make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed. He was made sin for us who knew no sin, and then He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him. There He suffered the just for the unjust; that is, He suffered, not because He was righteous, but because we were sinners, and He was bearing our sins in His own body on the tree. As regards God’s forsaking Him, He could say, Why hast Thou forsaken Me? for in Him there was no cause. We can give the solemn answer. In grace He suffered the just for the unjust; He had been made sin for us. Thus He suffered for righteousness, as a living man, from men; as a dying Saviour, He suffered from the hand of God for sin. It is most interesting to notice the result of these two characters of suffering as expressed in the Psalms.
In Psalms 20 and 21 we see the Messiah prophetically viewed as suffering on the earth from men. It was the day of trouble. They imagined a device against Him which they were not able to perform. But He asks life, and has length of days for ever. Glory and great majesty are put upon Him. What is the effect of His being thus glorified by Jehovah, in answer to the scorn and violence of ungodly men? Judgment: His hand finds out all His enemies. He makes them as a fiery oven in the day of His anger; as He said, “Those mine enemies that would not that I should reign over them, bring them hither, and slay them before me.” The same thing may be seen in Psalm 69:1-24. The effect of His suffering from the hand of wicked men is judgment on themselves.
In Psalm 22 we have, besides all these sufferings from the hand of men, and when they had reached their height (see the whole psalm up to verse 21), His suffering from the hand of God. When under the pressure of the others, God, His only resource, forsakes Him. This is the great theme of the psalm. But what is the result of this? This was the bearing of sin—at least the consequence of His bearing it. It was the judgment, so to speak; it was the wrath due to us. But He came to put sin away by the sacrifice of Himself. Hence the result is unmingled and full of grace—nothing else. Who was to be punished for His having drunk the cup at His Father’s hand? He is heard. God takes the new character of one who has raised Him up and given Him glory, because He had perfectly glorified Him about sin. He is raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. This name of His God and Father He immediately declares to His brethren, “I will declare thy name unto my brethren.” So in fact He did, when He said to Mary Magdalene, “Touch me not [He was not now coming to be corporally present in the kingdom], for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren and say unto them, I go to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.” The testimony was now grace, and Jesus leads the praises of His redeemed. Next, all Israel, the great congregation, is found in the praise also; then all the ends of the world. The fat eat and worship; all that go down into the dust; and the generation that shall be born, when that time of peace is come, shall also hear the wondrous story of that which the angels now desire to look into—that He hath done this. It is an unmingled stream of grace and blessing, widening to the ends of the earth, and flowing down the course of time to the generation which shall be born.
Such is the effect of the cross. No word of judgment follows the tale it has to tell. The suffering there was the judgment on sin, but it was the putting of it away. The judgment was borne, but passed away with its execution on the victim, who had in grace substituted Himself; and if, indeed, we shall be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christ, He before whom we shall appear has Himself put away our sins; yea, we arrive there, because He has Himself come to fetch us, that where He is, there we may be also. In a word, it was suffering from God; and suffering from God is suffering for sin,32 not for righteousness; and the effect, un-mingled grace, now freely flowing forth. Christ had been baptized with the baptism He had to be baptized with. He was no longer straitened in the exercise and proclamation of love. When He suffered from man through the whole of His witness among them up to death itself, He was suffering for righteousness. Sin He had not, in His Person, to suffer for. He was no substituted victim in the eyes of men. The result of these sufferings from the power of men is judgment, accomplished on His return—in a providential way already in the destruction of Jerusalem, but fully when He shall return.
But there is another point of contrast, consequently, very important for us. Christ suffered for sin that we never might. We are healed by, not partakers of, His stripes. What Christ has suffered from the forsaking of God as wrath, He has suffered alone and exactly, as to us, with the object that we never should taste one drop of that dreadful, bitter, to us insupportable cup. Did we drink it, it were as condemned sinners. But in the sufferings of Christ for righteousness, and in those which were caused to Him through His work of love, we are, poor and feeble as our faith is, to have a part. To us it is given, not only to believe on, but also to suffer for, His name. If we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him. If we suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are we, and yet more blessed if we suffer for His name. The Spirit of glory and of God rests upon us. We can rejoice that we are partakers of His sufferings, that when His glory shall be revealed, we may be glad with exceeding joy. The suffering for righteousness and for Christ, I may remark in passing, are distinguished by the Lord Himself (Matthew 5:10, 11); and by Peter (1 Peter 2:20; ch. 3:17; ch. 4:14).
The principle of these two kinds of suffering, however, as contrasted with suffering for sin or evil, is the same. The difference of suffering for good and for evil is touchingly contrasted in Peter’s epistle, while both are attributed to Christ; and we are warned against the latter. Christ is presented as suffering as an example, chapter 2:19-23, where we see, in verse 23, he refers to the revilings and violence of men; in verse 24, he adds His bearing our sins, shewing that it is in order that we may be dead to it, not suffer for that. But this is brought out, as I said, touchingly, chapter 3:17, 18, the force of which I take to be this: the apostle had been speaking of suffering for righteousness, and adds, It is better, if it be God’s will, that you surfer for well doing than for evil doing; for, he adds, Christ has suffered once for sins. That is, this is not your part in suffering; He has done this once for all. Suffering for righteousness may be your happy portion; suffering for sin is, as regards the Christian, Christ’s part alone.
I would notice two other characters of suffering in our blessed Lord. In the first place, His heart of love must have suffered greatly from the unbelief of unhappy man, and from His rejection by the people. We read of His sighing in opening the deaf ears and loosing the tied tongue (Mark 7:34); and on the Pharisees asking a sign (chap. 8:12), of His sighing deeply in spirit. So, indeed, in John 11 at the tomb of Lazarus, He wept and groaned within Himself at seeing the power of death over the spirits of men, and their incapacity to deliver themselves; and as He wept also over Jerusalem, when He saw the beloved city just going to reject Him in the day of its visitation. All this was the suffering of perfect love, moving through a scene of ruin, in which self-will and heartlessness shut every avenue against this love which was so earnestly working in its midst. It must have been—with bright and blessed moments where its exercise proved sweetness to itself, and led His heart out by times to fields white for harvest—a constant source of sorrow. This sorrow (blessed be God) and the joy that brightens it, we are allowed, in our little measure, to partake of. It is the sorrow of love itself.
A weight of another character pressed upon the Lord, I doubt not, often through His life; and must and ought to have done so, though only shewing perfectness (that is, in blessed submission to the divine will). I mean the anticipation, when the time was there for Him to look at it (how often are we distracted by our little anticipated sorrows!), of His sufferings on the cross and their true and pressing character. On His path of life death lay. He could not, as we see, take His part with the excellent of the earth, and bring them into the purposed, or indeed, any real and permanent blessing, without going through death, and death as the wages of sin, for they were sinners. If the corn of wheat did not fall into the ground and die, it abode alone. There none could follow—not indeed the disciples, as He tells them, more than the Jews. And for Him death was death. Man’s utter weakness, Satan’s extreme power, and God’s just vengeance, and alone, without one sympathy, forsaken of those whom He had cherished, the rest His enemies, Messiah delivered to Gentiles and cast down, the judge washing his hands of condemning innocence, the priests interceding against the guiltless instead of for the guilty—all dark, without one ray of light even from God. Here perfect obedience was needed, and (blessed be God!) was found. But we can understand, and just in the measure of Christ’s divine, while human, sensibilities, what such sorrow must have been in prospect for a soul who looked at it with the feelings of a man made perfect in thought and apprehension by the divine light which was in Him.
We have examples of these sorrows of the Lord’s heart in two remarkable cases, which, of course, though none were like the last, do not at all exclude the thought that others may have been, nor give full light on what He may have felt when in perfect calmness He spoke of His future sufferings to His disciples. The cases I refer to are those of John 12 and Gethsemane. In the former we read, “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour.” The coming up of the Gentiles had opened out before Him the scene of the rejected Christ passing into the wider glory of the Son of man; but then the corn of wheat must fall into the ground and die. This brings before His soul the true and necessary path of His glory—death, and all it meant, to His soul, and He looks for deliverance. He could not wish for, nor fail to fear, the forsaking of God and the cup of death He had to drink. He was heard in that He feared. That was truth, and true piety, in presence of such a passage for His soul.
So in Gethsemane, when it was yet nearer, and the prince of this world came, and His soul was exceeding sorrowful unto death; when the cup was just as it were being brought to Him, though He had not yet taken it (for He would take it from none -but from His Father’s hand), when His will was that He should drink it, because it was not possible it could be otherwise, if the purpose and word of God was to be accomplished—there this character of sorrow and trial, or temptation, reached its fulness. The tempter (who on His entrance on His public service, and to hinder His doing so, had tempted Him with what was agreeable to the flesh in the wilderness and on the pinnacle of the temple, and had been baffled and bound, and during the Lord’s life had his goods spoiled) now returns to try Him with all that was dreadful for the soul of man, and, above all, for the Lord, if He persevered in His obedience and work unto the end. Power had been displayed capable of delivering living man from all the dominion of the enemy. Another awful, dreadful truth had now come out: man would not have the Deliverer. If the Lord was to persevere in interesting Himself in the wretched race, He must be, not a mighty living Deliverer by power, but a dying Redeemer. It was the path of obedience and the path of love. “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me; but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as my Father has given me commandment so I do.”
But in both the cases we are now considering, we find Him still with His Father, though occupied with Him about the cup He had to drink, and His obedience only shining out in its perfection. There was no forsaking of God yet, though there was dealing with His Father about that cup which was characterized by His being forsaken of God. “Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name.” Here He gets the answer, to obedience to death in judgment, of real and complete victory, and the widespread opening out of the revelation of love, though the world was judged therein. But in Gethsemane all was closing in. It was the power of darkness and the deeper agony of the Lord told itself out in few (yet how mighty) words, and sweat as it were drops of blood. But the obedience was perfect. The tempter utterly foiled, the name of Jesus suffices to make all his agents go backward and fall to the ground. He, as far as they were concerned and Satan’s power went, was free. But the Father had given Him the cup to drink. He freely offers Himself to drink it, shewing the same unweakened power as ever, that of those given to Him He might lose none. Wondrous scene of obedience and love! But whatever the suffering may be (and who can tell it?) it was the. free moving of a man in grace, but of a man perfect in obedience to God. The cup His Father has given Him to drink, shall He not drink it? How utterly, though indeed there, do the unhappy instruments of this power of evil disappear before the offering up of Christ by Himself in obedience and love! The power of death, as that of the enemy, gone through with His Father, and gone, and He in blessed, willing obedience now taking the awful cup itself from His Father’s hand! Never can we meditate too much upon the path of Christ here. We may linger around the spot and learn what no other place nor scene can tell—a perfectness which is learnt from Him and from Him alone. But I must turn now to other parts of Christ’s sorrow, for I can only touch on its causes and character.
Sin itself must have been a continual source of sorrow to the Lord’s mind. If Lot vexed his righteous soul with seeing and hearing when so practically far from God, what must the Lord have suffered in passing through the world? I doubt not that, being perfectly in the place God would have Him, He was, not only in degree, but in the very nature of His feelings, calmer than the righteous man in Sodom. Still He was distressed by sin. He looked about upon them with anger, being grieved at the hardness of their hearts. His perfect love was relief here, but did not hinder the sorrow it relieved. “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?” was met by, “bring thy son hither.” But the unbelief was not the less felt. This was at the close, doubtless, and had special respect to their unbelief, which His own love instantly rises over. Still He was in a dry and thirsty land, where no water was, and felt it, even if His soul was also filled as with marrow and fatness. The holier and more loving He was, the more dreadful was the sin to Him (where His people wandered too, as sheep without a shepherd).
The sorrows, too, of men were His in heart. He bore their sicknesses, and carried their infirmities. Not a sorrow nor an affliction He met that He did not bear on His heart as His own. In all their afflictions He was afflicted. It was no light-hearted remedy that, even as a living man, the Lord applied. He bore in His spirit what He took away in His power (for all was the fruit of sin in man): only it was in gracious love. The sin itself He bore too, but that, as we have seen, was on the cross—obedience, not sympathy. God made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin. All the rest was the sympathy of love, though it was sorrow. This is a blessed character of the Lord’s sorrow. Love brought Him to the cross, we well know; but His sorrow there had not the present joy of a ministration of love. He was not dealing with man, but suffering in his place, in’ obedience, from God, and for man. Hence it was unmingled, unmitigated suffering; the scene, not of active goodness, but of God forsaking: but all His sorrow in His ways with men was the direct fruit of love, sensibly acting on Him—He felt for others, about others. That feeling was (oh! how constantly) sorrow in a world of sin; but that feeling was love. This is sweet to our thought. For His love He might have hatred, but the present exercise of love has a sweetness and character of its own which no form of sorrow it may impart ever takes away; and in Him it was perfect. I do not indeed deny that righteous anger filled His soul when occasion called it forth—we know it did—yea, brought out such denouncement of woes, as I believe nothing but perfect love could produce; for what must He have felt of those who took away the key of knowledge, and entered not in themselves, and hindered those that were entering? Righteous indignation is not sorrow, but the love that gives birth to it, where it is righteous, stamps its own peculiar character upon it.
Another source of sorrow (for what has Christ not drunk at?) was, perhaps, more human, but not less true—I mean the violation of every delicacy which a perfectly attuned mind could feel. They stand staring and looking upon me. Insult, scorn, deceit, efforts to catch Him in His words, brutality and cruel mocking, fell upon no insensible, though a divinely patient, spirit. I say nothing of desertion, betrayal, and denial—He looked for some to have pity on Him, and there was no one, and for comforters, but found none—but of what broke in upon every delicate feeling of His nature as a man. Reproach broke His heart. He was the song of the drunkards. Doubtless, Jehovah knew His shame, His reproach, and His dishonour; all His adversaries were before Him; but He passed through it all. No divine perfection saved Him from sorrow. He passed through it with divine perfection, and by it. But I do not believe there was a single human feeling (and every most delicate feeling of a perfect soul was there) that was not violated and trodden on in Christ. Doubtless, it was nothing to divine wrath. Men and their ways were forgotten there; but the suffering was not the less real when it was there; and even when, at least, anticipating that cup of wrath, He would have His too confident disciples watch by Him, He only found them asleep at His return. All was sorrow but the exercise of love, and that must, at last, make way for obedience in death, where the wrath of God closed over and obliterated the hatred and wickedness of man. Such was Christ. All sorrow concentrated in His death, where the comfort of active love, and the communion with His Father, could put no alleviating sweetness, or be for a moment mingled with that dreadful cup of wrath. There, promises, royal glory in title, all was given up, to have them infallibly anew, received in glory, from the Father’s hand, with a better and higher glory, which He had ever had, indeed, but now would enter into as man.
The sufferings of our blessed Lord are too solemn, too holy, a subject to dispose one who feels he owes his all to them, to make them a subject of dispute or controversy. It is my desire to avoid this, yet not so as to let disastrous and fatal error overcome my heart.
I judge, too, that it is much to be desired that the “Bible Treasury” should not be a journal of controversy, but occupy itself with the positive putting forth of truths such as the Church of God requires, and which edify and enlighten it. I am satisfied that in the unwonted movement of mind, the intellectual craving, and that which always accompanies such a movement, the unsettling of the minds of thousands, upon all manner of important questions which exist at present, the most useful and necessary task for a servant of Christ in connection with such a publication is to furnish food to meet the requirements of men’s minds with truth, which, by solidly satisfying their awakened desire, may peacefully guard them against being blown about by every wind of doctrine; while holding fast fundamental truth, to give from the divine mind revealed to us in the word what can carry the soul, while steadying it at the same time, really beyond the most venturesome and dangerous flights of human intellectualism. The Christian, through grace, can hope to do this, because he draws not from his own resources, but from the word of God, from divine sources of truth. Such, I am satisfied, ought the “Bible Treasury “to be in order to be useful.
I am not unapprized, though happily living out of the reach of most of the religious warfare that is abroad in England, that an attack has been made, without naming them, on persons alleged to hold certain views as to the sufferings of Christ, and that they are declared to be semi-Socinians. I do not think that such an attack deserves an answer—at any rate it does not burden me much; and I do not feel disposed to mix up questions that relate to the sufferings of Christ with so small a matter as personal attacks of the kind. The Wesleyans (whatever the correctness of their views on other points may be) would be surprised to find themselves to be semi-Socinians for such a phrase as this in Bunting’s sermon on justification by faith, which I happen to have lying before me: “It is only as a Lamb slain that He takes away our sins.” Indeed, the errors, which are said to be renewed and declared to be evil in the passage quoted by the accuser, are blamed because they divide the orthodox. Do they count semi-Socinianism orthodox? But enough and too much.
Multitudes of saints, with perhaps undefined apprehensions of the manner of the application of the sufferings of the blessed Lord to their profit, look at all the sufferings of Christ with an adoring feeling of their infinite value, and believe that all are for themselves, undergone, in love to them, and the means of their blessing. I can only pray God that this feeling may be deepened in them and in myself too. I do not believe one sorrow was wanting to Christ, nor one sigh of His which had not infinite value, nor which is not precious for me, and (blessed be God!) a part of my blessing. He has given Himself for us, and this was a part of that giving, or the fruit of it. We cannot feel it too deeply. The true question lies beyond all this, and is not touched on in the attack I have referred to, which is an additional reason for my not replying to it as such.
What I object to and judge to be evil in what is afloat among Christians is not even the doctrine that the sufferings of Christ during His lifetime were vicarious. Even where this is incorrectly stated, I might seek in such a case to make the apprehensions of the mind clearer, where it was needed; but in no case, that I am aware of, should I have an idea of treating it as heretical. On the contrary, the doctrine which I denounce as evil, where it has been carefully developed and justified (and the author of these views is in the good esteem of the writer of the article I refer to) teaches very specifically that the sufferings of the blessed Lord, during His lifetime, were not vicarious; that it is a mistake and an error to hold them so. It teaches that they were the consequence of His association by birth with man and with Israel, and that Christ had all the experiences which an unconverted man ought to have. It teaches that Christ was dried up and withered by Jehovah’s anger, not vicariously, but by reason of the place He was in. This is what I abhor. I do not find the persons so jealous of semi-Socinianism moved to this jealousy by these and the like doctrines, nor others almost equally mischievous, in those they applaud and quote. And this abominable doctrine as to Christ has gone very far. Tracts are published, in which the darkness of unbelief in us, and an inability to pray, are declared to be the partaking of the sufferings of Christ; and that when a Christian doubts of his salvation, this too is the fellowship of Christ’s sorrow.
“There were moments,” I read, “when Jesus had fears for His ultimate deliverance and safety… He entreated, at least, that a way of escape might be left Him, that He might not be shut in in hopeless despair! Oh, what deep depths we may be led into through our own prayer to know the ‘fellowship of his sufferings’; yet who that remembers what joint heirship with Him involves, can expect, or even desire, entire exemption from them? … “That is, in desiring to have part in Christ’s sufferings, we may get into despair, or all but. Was this doubting His own deliverance vicarious in Christ? What is it in those who come into it after He has wrought a perfect redemption? Nor is this all. I read, “Jesus knew what it was to be apparently set fast in His onward course, as is strikingly expressed under the figure of miry clay. ‘I sink in deep mire [margin, mire of the depth], where there is no standing.’ ‘Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink.’ ‘He brought me up also out of the miry clay, out of an horrible pit.’ It was no light thing that made Jesus express Himself thus. He knew what it was, by painful experience, to be in such a position. Thus He says in Psalm 38:16, 17, ‘When my foot slipped (who but knows the difficulty of walking in miry clay without slipping?) they magnify themselves against me, for I am ready to halt.’ He would have shrunk back if He could consistently with His Father’s will. ‘If it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.’ What comfort is this for believers when they are ready to halt (set fast)!”
What shall I say to such language? I know not with any certainty whose it is. I have understood that they are the statements of a deceased female, whose life and correspondence I have never seen. Wisdom might have corrected and set them right, if this be so, when she was living; but they have been published as tracts for edification by those who have approved of them, and I am entitled to treat them as theirs. Is suffering vicarious when it is our privilege to pass through the same, and doubt of our ultimate deliverance, as Jesus appears to have had fear for His? Did the Lord slip vicariously? No, reader, you have the fruit, and that published by teachers as piety, of the system I denounce. It is largely afloat. It may be more guarded by the theologians, more nakedly stated when a female’s feelings are possessed by it; but the doctrine, the root and principle of it, belongs to a whole school of doctrine.33 You have some of the ripe fruits here. Christ slipped, “and who but knows the difficulty of walking in miry clay without slipping?”
I do not charge the whole school with accepting such fruits as these, but I do charge their principles and their doctrine with being the root which bears them. Some who published the tracts and the biography (if what I am informed be correct) must have been brought, by being habituated to this doctrine and the ignorant apphcation of Psalms and other parts of scripture to Christ, to see what was edifying in saying that Christ’s foot slipped—He not having succeeded in overcoming the difficulty of not doing so; and that this is a great comfort for believers when they are set fast in the mire—it is to be supposed when they slip too; and this is the fellowship of His sufferings! Seasons of spiritual darkness are an answer to a prayer to know Him, and the fellowship of His sufferings! “and in no case, perhaps, can Christian experience be more fully or minutely traced out, as a real participation in the sufferings of Jesus Christ, the Head of His body.”
A justification of the darkness of unbelief—not the travailing sorrows of love for others, which, however, are here confounded with them, but of darkness and almost despair for oneself, viewed as the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings—is beyond all, I avow, that I could ever have imagined the perversion of a misguided mind could have led to. If it was vicarious in Christ, I suppose these doctors must make it so in the Christian now, for it is the fruit of his prayers for fellowship in Christ’s sufferings. It is not, they tell us, unbelief, but privilege; not a needed exercise of heart, but a conferred one; not one whose blessing is a needed one for the soul who goes through it—its own humiliation or its discipline. For whom is it undergone? Indeed, in the same tract it is said that Christ is to see of the travail of His soul, and Gethsemane and the cross are specifically referred to. So, it is said, ministers travail in birth for their little children, till Christ be formed within them. And this is circulated as beautiful piety. I do not trust myself to express what I feel. It was said by the leader of this school, referring to Christ, that we need not be surprised if a person going up an ice mountain with a heavy load on his back should slip. This ripens under female feeling into the declaration that He did—a conclusion necessarily drawn from this abuse of the Psalms fairly followed out. And these public teachers go a step farther now, and comfort believers with the thought that Christ actually slipped, His path was so difficult.
But I repeat, it is the just and natural fruit of a school of doctrine admired by very many really Christian people. The tree is known by its fruits.
That Christ suffered every possible sorrow which can come upon man through sin (I do not speak, I need hardly say, of final condemnation); and that all His sorrows were, in one way or other (for they were various), the consequence and fruit of sin, though of His own love too, is most preciously true. That in all my sorrows and temptations and trials, even those which come through my faults and infirmities, I may know that He feels either with or for me, is of infinite value. But to make the infirmities of my faith, my hours of darkness, and unbelieving fears of final failure, the fellowship of His sufferings, and His slipping, a comfort to my soul, is the last excess of spiritual pride and folly.
But the principle which has borne this fruit connects itself on one side with the question of the vicariousness of Christ’s life, at least by the view taken of it by the school I have in view, because the true character of wrath against sin and atonement is lost sight of. It is this last point which I would desire now to give its just place to, and leave all controversy connected with it pretty much aside, though I shall refer to the opinion of old writers.
We cannot have too deep a sense of the depth of the Lord’s suffering in His atoning work, of that which no human word is competent to express (for in human language we express but our own feelings)—what the Lord’s drinking the cup of divine wrath was to Him. With this nothing can be mingled and mixed up. Divine wrath against sin, really felt and truly felt in the soul of One who, by His perfect holiness and love to God and sense of God’s love in its infinite value, could know what divine wrath was, and what it was to be made sin before God, of One too who was by virtue of His Person, able to sustain it, stands wholly apart and alone. Dreadful as the anticipation of it must have been, as it surely was, it was not that which was anticipated. No simple fact of death, dreadful as it was to the Prince of life, still less any human suffering, real and absolute as His were (and without one eye to pity, one heart to feel with the sufferer), could be put on a level with divine wrath.
Hence, in Psalm 22, the Lord expresses it Himself alone; He refers to the violence and wickedness of man in that Psalm; He refers to His own sense of weakness; and, in the midst of all that, contrasts with it God’s being far from Him, as the distinct point of conflict in it, but openly declares that in all sorrow where others had help, God had forsaken Him. Hence, as has been said elsewhere, the fruit of this is unmingled grace, and grace and blessing alone, because it was wrath and suffering from God for sin. Sorrows from man’s hand might and will bring judgment, if viewed as the fruit of enmity of will; the forsaking of God when Christ is made sin—who is to be judged for that? No, this stands absolutely and wholly alone, and Christ wholly alone in it. It works atonement, expiation. Can anyone else suffer what works this? Hence Christ puts Himself wholly alone in this Psalm 22—contrasts Himself with others who are believers. They trusted God and were delivered. He was forsaken. Suffering can go on of the deepest and most poignant kind, distress and anxiety even in respect of sin: sufferings can go on even to death with its terrible power as such over the heart of man—can culminate to the very point where wrath is also found; but all close and reach their limit here; all stop totally and wholly in their nature short of the wrath and forsaking of God. They have their place and character as elements of human sorrow, however extreme; but all give way when this is there. Who could feel sorrow though sorrow was there, when wrath, God’s wrath against sin, is there? Not merely bitter consequences on the sinner, even to death, for all that is true—and Christ has trodden that path—but divine wrath as such against sin—this stands alone: woe be to him who does not know it.
Hence even in Psalm 69, far, very far, as it goes in the sorrows and sufferings of Christ, and that in connection even with sins known to God, long as may be His cry, and to sense and feeling long unheard; yet the Spirit can introduce others into the same place. I do not say they suffer as much or as deeply—surely not; but they could suffer in the same way, because of the position their own sins have brought them into.34 “For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded” (v. 26). Hence judgment is looked for on them. It is not atonement. These sufferings from man bring judicial visitation on man. In Psalm 22 not a trace of associating others, or others being associated, with the Lord in His sorrow. All suffering saints are, as we have seen, contrasted with Him. When the redemption is accomplished by it, when He has been heard from the horns of the unicorn, then indeed He associates His brethren with Him; but it is in deliverance, joy, and peace. Who could make atonement, or bear wrath for its accomplishment, but one? In every other sorrow we can bear a part.
And this difference between Psalm 22 and Psalm 69 is so marked that in Psalm 69, while dwelling on the sufferings which came upon Christ on His drawing near to death, and giving the cry of deep distress as to state and circumstances as its thesis, instead of presenting to us His being forsaken of God while crying to Him, says, “But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O Jehovah, in an acceptable time; O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, and in the truth of thy salvation” (v. 13). Hence, even in the expression of His anguish and sorrow, deep as it was, we have no word like Psalm 22; “but thou hearest not.” Now it is impossible that a spiritual mind, one who knows something of the value of divine favour and being able to look to Him, however deep and inward the distress, be it even through sins and failures, can fail to understand the immense and absolute difference of these two states: equally impossible, it is true, yea, blessedly so, to fathom the depth of that which Psalm 22 expresses.
Now it is the sense of the true bearing of wrath—direct wrath from God—when made sin and suffering it, the being, as to the state of His soul, really forsaken of God, and because of sin, so that it was necessary and deserved, though through others, but really undergone—that it is of the very last importance, fundamentally important, to keep quite clear and fast hold of and maintain, and to hold as a clear foundation of everlasting truth. As regards the truth itself, I repeat, no divinely-taught mind, however obscure it may be as to the doctrine of the proper nature and character of Christ’s living sufferings— however it may (through feelings) run up the depths of Christ’s sorrow into mixing with those sorrows His atoning work—no divinely-taught mind will, as to the positive truth, fail to distinguish from all else the reality of Christ’s own soul bearing the direct inflicted wrath of God, and the forsaking of God, which in grace He underwent—will fail to distinguish this from all other sorrow and suffering, however deep, in which He could say, for example, “But as for me, my prayer is unto thee in an acceptable time,” in which He did not say, “But thou hearest not.” He may find many passages difficult to explain—may be confused by the reasonings of others. He may, as to his feelings, confuse anticipating the cup of wrath and drinking it. We have all, more or less, done this; but when the real bearing of wrath from God, the wrath of God for sin, is before his soul and conscience, he will bow his soul before that solemn work, he will know that Christ stood alone in it: nor will he ever mix it up, for one instant, with sorrow, however deep, in which others could bear a part. In all sorrows of active love, in all brought upon us by the government of God for sin, we—at any rate man—(as for example the Jewish remnant, and, in principle, sinners under the law) can bear a thankful part, or have to bow under it. Reproach may break man’s heart; he may stand alone and be forsaken of men; he may cry out of the depths, because of sin; but bear the weight of wrath he knows he could not. He adores when he finds another has done it. But this demands a more orderly exposition.
There is a double character of suffering besides atoning work, which Christ has entered into and which others can feel: the sufferings arising from active love in the world; and the sorrow arising from the sense of chastenings in respect of sin, and these mixed with the pressure of Satan’s power on the soul, and the terror of foreseen wrath. In the former we suffer with Christ as privilege; in the latter we suffer for our folly and under God’s hand, but Christ has entered into it.35 He sympathizes with us. But all this is distinct from suffering instead of us, so as to save us from the suffering, undergoing God’s wrath that we might not. In atonement He suffers for us, in service we suffer with Him: in our distresses about sin and agony of mind He felt with us.
We shall see that the Lord Himself and the teachings of the gospels clearly distinguish the sufferings of Christ during His ministry here, and His closing sufferings, and these last (even though taking place at the same time) from His atoning work. As soon as the Lord was baptized of John, the Holy Ghost came upon Him and He entered on His public ministry; but as a first and introductory step to it, He was led of tie Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. He overcame, the strong man was bound, and He proceeded to spoil his goods; He went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with Him. Let it be possession, sickness, death: all and every fruit of the power of the enemy disappeared before His word. He went through sorrow—reproach from man, He took their burdens upon Himself. I have no doubt that Christ never healed a sick man without bearing in His spirit and heart the burden of it, as the fruit and power of evil: but all this was the activity of His love. “Himself bare our infirmities and carried our sicknesses.” This is said, remark, when He healed them. Bearing our griefs and sorrows, and delivering us from them by power, is not bearing our sin itself under the wrath of God.
But further, Satan was not with Him in the way of direct temptation during the course of His ministry. We read in Luke, “And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.” “But at the close of His life He could say, “Henceforth I will not talk much with you, for the prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in me,” etc. Here a distinct change takes place again as to the position of the Lord in respect of the presence of Satan. Hence He could say to those who came from the chief priests afterwards, “But this is your hour and the power of darkness.” Previously He had sat daily with them in the temple, and they had laid no hands on Him; but this (terrible word for these unhappy men!) was their hour and the power of darkness. He that had the power of death was busy there with the Lord, nor did He withdraw Himself from the trial. His soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death, and he who had the power of darkness brought it all to bear upon His soul; but even here He could look for His disciples to watch with Him. They could be sifted as wheat, though their only resource (as that hour came on with real power) was to flee, or they entered into the temptation; at least when they knew not the power of the Holy Ghost working in them, for they should follow Christ afterwards, as He told Peter at least. This difference of His own position the Lord marks to them very clearly: “When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now he that hath a purse let him take it, and likewise his scrip, and he that hath no sword let him sell his garment and buy one; for I say unto you that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors, for the things concerning me have an end.”
Now all was changed. Before, He had protected them by His divine power, by which He wrought in the world. Now, while His divine Person was ever the same, and His power in itself unchangeable, He was to be rejected and suffer. The glory would come, but first He must suffer many things, and be rejected of that generation. This He taught specially to His disciples from the time of Peter’s confession of Him as Son of the living God, from the transfiguration onward, and in His last journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. Not that He was suffering these things then—His hour, we read in John, was not yet come—but He taught them that He must. (See Matt. 16:21; ch. 17:12: “shall suffer,”—mellei paschein—and chap. 17:22. Mark 8:13; Luke 9:22.) And it is the more remarkable because it is then He charges His disciples to tell no man He was the Christ, saying, “the Son of man must suffer.” He was giving up, practically, His ministry of the circumcision for the truth of God, the witness of Jehovah Messiah,36 and about to enter on another, the sufferings of the Son of man. It will be remarked that it is on the suggestion of this title also to His spirit by the coming up of the Greeks, in John 12, that His cross and death rise up at once before His soul. (Compare Psalm 2 and the use made of Psalm 8 by the apostle in Hebrews 2.)
But to return to our immediate point. He tells them that He was about to suffer. We have seen that the prince of this world was to come. Satan entered into Judas, and it was the hour of His enemies and the power of darkness. This He spoke at the time He met the band from the chief priests, at the close of Gethsemane. Here there was a distinctly announced and openly declared change that took place in the character of the Lord’s service and suffering—His position. It was not His service as Prince of life, though He ever was this and proved it, spoiling the goods of His vanquished enemy; “the prince of this world cometh.” It is the power of darkness, and His undergoing it in agony for our sakes—His soul sorrowful, even unto death—the whole power on His own soul of the enemy, as having the power of death: still this was yet in communion and supplication with His Father about it, and heard of Him. And here we have the most distinct and definite revelation from His own Ups, that He was not yet drinking the cup which His Father gave Him to drink. He prays that He might not drink it, that if it were possible the cup might pass from Him, but that if not unless He drank it, His submission to His Father’s will was perfect. Here, doubtless, His soul enters in the deepest way into what it was that He had to drink—it was sorrowful, even unto death; but being in an agony (conflict) He prayed more earnestly. He was heard. He did not take the cup from man’s hand, nor from Satan’s hand, though both were there to press Him down, and all His weakness felt as man; but He goes through the thought of that, and death itself, in heard supplication with Him who was able to save Him from it, and takes the cup in perfect peace, as to man and Satan’s power of darkness, from His Father’s hand, and offers Himself freely, that none that the Father had given Him might be lost. (See John 18:4-11.) The Father had given Him the cup to drink. He does not draw back from it, but freely offers Himself for us. Had He not done so in blessed obedience, He had only to walk away before His prostrate pursuers, or have demanded legions of angels to free Him from their power. But how should the scriptures have been fulfilled? But on the cross all is finished. God forsakes Him, and all the wrath of God is poured out on Him who knew no sin, but was made sin for us—on One who in His fully-tried life knew no sin. If any there had been, or any had been possible, the time for consciousness of it had been then. Every trial which could have drawn it out, if it had been there to be conscious of, had reached its full height; but the spotless offering on which no yoke had been, He who offered Himself without spot to God, was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. He made His soul an offering for sin, as it is said too in the passage of Isaiah, referred to by the Lord Himself (Luke 22:37) as that which was yet to come, “and he poured out his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors, and bare the sins of many.”
And now, before I go farther, I ask, Is not His death presented in scripture as that by which redemption was wrought —His precious blood as its efficacious means? Have we not redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins? Is it not by the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot? Is it not declared that without shedding of blood there is no remission? Let the reader take Hebrews 9, which I shall allow myself to quote here in full. It is well worth all human authority, be they of what age they may. “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption [for us]. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator; for a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first [testament] was dedicated without blood. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book and all the people, saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Moreover, he sprinkled likewise with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was, therefore, necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment; so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation” (v. 11-28).
Let the reader remark that “without shedding of blood is no remission”—the declaration that He must often have suffered if He was to offer Himself often, as the high priest with the blood of others, but that it was once, in the end of the world, He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.” Let him turn to chapter 10, where, in contrast with standing for daily ministrations, “this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down.” Was the way into the holiest to be opened? It was through the rent veil, that is to say, His flesh. Indeed, if we examine the value of the death of Christ, what do we find attached to it in scripture?
Do I need redemption? We have redemption through His blood, an eternal redemption, for “neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption.”
Do I need forgiveness? That redemption which I have through His blood is the forgiveness of sins—yea, without shedding of blood is no remission.
Do I need peace? He has made peace through the blood of His cross.
Do I need reconciliation with God? Though we were sinners, yet now hath He reconciled us by the body of His flesh through death, to present us holy and unblamable, and unreprovable in God’s sight. When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.
Do I desire to be dead to sin and have the flesh crucified with its affections and lusts? I am crucified with Christ. “Knowing this that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed; for in that he died, he died unto sin once, and in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.” This is my deliverance also from the charge and burden of the law which has dominion over a man as long as he lives.
Do I feel the need of propitiation? Christ is set forth as a propitiation through faith in His blood. The need of justification? I am justified by His blood.
Would I have a part with Christ? He must die; for except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone; if it die, it brings forth much fruit.
Hence, unto what am I baptized as the public expression of my faith? As many of us as have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death; for what indeed has broken down the middle wall of partition and let in the Gentiles, slaying the enmity and reconciling Jew and Gentile in one body to God? The cross. How have we boldness to enter into the holiest? By the blood of Jesus, by that new and living way which He has consecrated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh; for till that was rent, the Holy Ghost signified by it that the way into the holiest was not yet made manifest.
Hence it was a lifted up Christ that was the attractive point for all. “If I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me.”
In the power of what was the great Shepherd of the sheep brought again from the dead? Through the blood of the everlasting covenant.
How was the curse of the law taken away from those who were under it? By Christ’s being made a curse for them; as it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.
How are we washed from our sins? He has loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, for His blood cleanseth from all sin.
If I would be delivered from the world, it is by the cross, by which the world is crucified to me, and I unto the world.
If the love of Christ constrains me towards men in the thought of the terror of the Lord, how is it so? Because I thus judge, if One died for all, then were all dead; and they that live should live not to themselves, but to Him who died for them and rose again. Hence the apostle knew no man after the flesh—no, not even Christ. All was a new creation. If I would live in divine power, it is always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus may be manifested in my mortal body. If He would institute a special remembrance to call Him to mind, it was a broken body and shed blood. It is not less a Lamb as it were slain that is found in the throne.
All was love, no doubt; but do I want to learn it? Hereby we know it that He laid down His life for us, and that even of God in that He loved us and gave His Son as a propitiation for our sins. It is to the sprinkling of that precious blood of Christ that we are sanctified, and to obedience; and through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once (contrasted with the many Jewish sacrifices) sanctified and perfected for ever, so that there is no more offering for sin; for, having offered one sacrifice for sins, He is set down for ever at the right hand of God.37 For He should not offer Himself often, as the high priest entered into the holy place once every year with the blood of others; for then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once in the end of the world He hath appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself: for as it is appointed unto men once to die and after this the judgment, so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and to them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
Do I desire, therefore, my conscience purged? It is through the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God.38 For it is by means of death that there is the redemption of the transgressions which were under the first covenant, and in that view He became Mediator. Indeed, a testament could have no force while the testator lived.
Do I seek the destruction of the power of Satan? It is through death that He destroyed (the power of) him that had the power of death.
What do I find to be the central object of Christ’s coming— the groundwork of His glory as man? We see Him made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour, that He by the grace of God might taste death for every man. And even the purifying and reconciling all things in heaven and earth depends on this (Heb. 9:23; Col. 1:20).
Would He sanctify even the Jewish people to Himself? It must be by His blood, suffering, rejected, without the gate. No remission for us, no privileges of the new covenant for us, nor establishing of it with them, without this blood: redemption is not without it. The living sinner as such cannot be presented to God, nor a living Christ offer that by which the sinner must draw nigh. The veil remains unrent, the conscience unpurged, the propitiation unaccomplished. God forbore with the Old Testament saints, and has shewn His righteousness in doing so now—a righteousness now declared in that propitiatory set forth through faith in Christ’s blood. It is alleged, indeed, that He came to do God’s will in taking the place of the sacrifices, and that His obedience during life is available in expiation; but we read, “by the which will we are sanctified, through tie offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
It is alleged that His living obedience had the same legal character as His death. Is it the same thing, then, to obey the law with unfeigned heart, so as to be perfectly acceptable to God personally, and to bear its curse for others under the wrath and judgment of God? Is it possible that Christians, who know what the need of their own souls as sinners is, can use such reasoning?
Having thus proposed the blessed value of Christ’s death from scripture, and leaving it to its own force without comment, allow me to go yet a little farther into the elements and character of His sufferings as available for us, so that we may the more fully appreciate His grace. Man may be looked at morally in three conditions: first, as a sinner under condemnation; secondly, as a saint through grace, partaker of the divine nature, and of the Holy Ghost as his force; and, thirdly, as suffering, though awakened, quickened, and upright in desire, under the exercises of a soul learning, when a sinner, the difference of good and evil under divine government in the presence of God, not fully known in grace and redemption, whose judgment of sin is before his eyes, exposed to all the advantage that Satan can take of him in such a state—such suffering, for example, as is seen in the case of Job. Christ has passed through all these kinds of suffering—only the last, of course, as Himself a perfect being, to learn it for others;39 I need not say that He was perfect in all. But what met the first condition, that of a sinner under condemnation, He went through as actually bearing sin, and so enduring wrath vicariously for others, that they never might have it to endure. The second He was truly in Himself, nay, our leader in that path.
To the first of these conditions, our being under judgment and condemnation for sin, Christ’s death upon the cross is the divine answer in expiation. All that God was in His nature, He was necessarily against sin; for, though He was love, love has no place in wrath against sin, and the withdrawal of the sense of it, consciousness in the soul of the privation of God, is the most dreadful of all sufferings—the most terrible horror to him who knows it: but Christ knew it infinitely. But God’s divine majesty, His holiness, His righteousness, His truth, all in their very nature bore against Christ as made sin for us. All that God was, was against sin, and Christ was made sin. No comfort of love enfeebled wrath there. Never was the obedient Christ so precious; but His soul was to be made an offering for sin, and to bear it judicially before God. At the end of the three hours of darkness, this is expressed by the Lord in the words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The result, and that to the end of time, and indeed for an endless eternity of unmingled grace for us, has been already touched on, and I will advert to it again in connection with remarkable facts as to the expressions of the Lord Himself. Here the Lord suffered that not one drop of what He took might remain for us. It had been everlasting misery and ruin for us; His own divine perfection in love went through it without one ray of comfort from God or man. All other sorrows pressed Him onward with accumulating power to this, and merged in it, in that darkness which hid all but the wrath He was enduring from God. Judges had been heartlessly unrighteous, and washed their hands of such a One and His matters; the chief priests, who should intercede for the infirm, cry for cruel death upon the guiltless; the friends on whom His heart ought to have been able to count (and He looked for comforters, and would have had the most favoured of them watch with Him) actually forsake and deny Him: and the unfaithfulness of a friend is bitterer than the assault of an enemy. But all this was the proof of the power of one who exercised unlimited dominion (save so far as grace delivered) over, and had his rights through sin and the power of death over, him whom the Lord came to deliver; and it was his hour and the power of darkness. All he can do he does; but it only led the Lord through conflict, of which I will speak just now, in willing offering of Himself, letting His own go their way, to the last scene, when, deprived of all human comfort, He was to accomplish the work of propitiation, alone with God judging sin—that scene which stands alone, which no eye can fathom (though, blessed be God, we truly know its meaning) but His who knows divine wrath against sin as God alone knows it. Bulls~of Bashan were there, dogs with no shame of heart, but only to drive the Sufferer to seek for succour where He was to learn in all its utter depth for us what it was to be forsaken of God—an hour passed for ever with divine and eternal glory for fruit. He even could say, so great was the infinite and truly divine value of that hour and work, “therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.”
But, willingly as I expatiate on this blessed yet most solemn subject, I must leave it, and turn to another and brighter, yet to us humbling character of the Lord’s sufferings—those which He endured as the Holy One glorifying God, when the reproaches of those that reproached God fell on Him. This went on up to His death. They flowed from His declaring righteousness in the great congregation; from His perfectly manifesting God amongst men, who had no relish for the light, so that for His love He had hatred. I do not enlarge upon this simply because I apprehend it can offer no difficulty to my reader. In our little and imperfect measure we have our share in this kind of suffering. It is our privilege as saints. “To you it is given … not only to believe on him, but to suffer for his sake.” “If we suffer with him, we shall reign with him.” “To do well, suffer for it, and take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.” Quotations could be multiplied to shew how we are thus called to suffer as He suffered, as Paul speaks of his filling up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ, for His body’s sake, the Church. In the measure in which we manifest Christ as He manifested His Father, in our walk and testimony, we shall suffer for it as He suffered, and His consolations will abound—a meat to eat which the flesh knows not of. He could thank His Father when He had most sorrowfully and justly to reproach the world.
But I now come to the third character of trial in which man stands, which requires a little more attention—that which is not the fruit of holy witness in the world (though it may in a certain way accompany it), nor the enduring the wrath of God in condemnation, which for us would be everlasting misery, but the fruit of sin under the government of God in this world and connected with the power of Satan in it—that which, as used of God, is the means of our learning the difference between good and evil, whether in terror before the knowledge of redemption, or even by various exercises, though in an altogether different state of soul after we know it (for God continues even then His instructive government, founded on His immutable judgment of good and evil); that which in the way of terror brings righteousness, though not without hope, before us, or, when redemption is known and divine righteousness is our state, ministers to practical holiness of life and judgment, according to the divine nature of which we are made partakers.40
If we take the case of the remnant of the Jews in the latter day, we shall more readily understand this, though it is in principle the case of thousands of upright souls under the law, and a principle on which God has acted from the beginning of man’s failure. The sentence of death, of sorrow on the woman, were judgments pronounced upon sin, as part of the display of God’s government in this world, not in themselves everlasting condemnation and separation from God because of the holiness of His nature. That power of death and its terrors over the mind Satan wields (Heb. 2:14). Here it is that the thought of God’s righteous judgment against sin, and the pains of death, and the power of Satan, unite in their pressure upon the soul. So when a soul is convinced of sin, and practically under the law (that is, the requirements of God’s righteousness on living man), the judgment of God is feared, the terrors of the Almighty can drink up the spirit. God thus teaches a man what he is, what he is worth in this solemn question between Satan and God—the power of evil and of good. See the case of Job. God sustains man in grace and the sense of integrity, so that he clings to dependence on God, come what will; yet judgment is feared, God’s holiness and righteousness pressed on the spirit weighed down with the sense of sin, the power of death as ending nature’s hope and leading to judgment is there, and Satan uses it to drive to despair, to destroy faith, and break the spirit of man away from depending on God and believing in His love.
Without the atonement, there could be no answer in grace to this state, because we have deserved condemnation; and if new life be there which clings to God, yet this very life gives the sense of God’s holiness, which brings judgment on the soul conscious of sin. When the full work of grace in redemption is learnt, the soul obtains a peace only the more solid, and indeed only thereby really solid, that it has passed through these exercises by which sin is known, by which God’s judgment of it is before the soul by His own convincing work, and Satan’s effort spent and resulting only in bringing us to the answer which atonement gives, and thus his power over us destroyed and gone for ever.
But though the answer to, and deliverance from, this state is the full and perfect redemption wrought by Christ, by which we are wholly taken out of the state in which we stood accused and liable to judgment, and transferred into the position of the Second Adam before God, of Him who is now gone to His Father and our Father, His God and our God, there is positive and direct grace in the exercise itself. For, beside this deliverance and salvation by which our miserable case is met, there is a real learning of the difference of good and evil before God— learned, I admit, more blessedly when redemption is known, and we are in possession of perfect good in grace, so that evil is thus judged, and we are delivered from its deceits; but still, profitably learned in the knowledge of our wretchedness, guilt, sin, powerlessness against evil even when we would what is good, and the solemnity of the question involved in the salvation of the soul, where the claims and power of Satan through sin in which we have listened to and subjected ourselves to him, and the righteous nature and title of God are brought to issue in a soul, subject to sin on one side, and quickened to own God’s title and delight in His nature and so judge its own evil on the other, and that in the presence of the righteous judgment of God.
Now, before obtaining the peace acquired by the knowledge of redemption, Christ sustains, encourages, relieves by times, the soul in this state, but not so as to hinder its learning this deep and solemn lesson which has its fruit in eternity; nor so as to prevent its finding its only resource in the redemption He has accomplished.
But in the case of the remnant of Israel in the latter days, we find these exercises of heart and spirit gone through in circumstances where the government of God is historically developed as to a people sinful under law, yet renewed and quickened of God, so that the desires and consciousness of uprightness are there. The circumstances are, with more complete development, the continuation of those in which the Jews were in the time of our Lord: only that Antichrist is manifested, the body of the people are given up to unbelief and the unbridled influence of Satan—seven devils, worse than the old spirit of idolatry, but along with it, are entered into them. In a word, it is the time of Satan’s power, the power of darkness, of the oppression of the Gentiles, of the same Roman beast. In the midst of this the remnant find themselves, on the one side, conscious of the nation’s guilt under the law, and of their filling up of their sins, so that wrath was come upon them, the just vengeance of God; yet they feel this because they are renewed and quickened; and the Jehovah they have sinned against is their only hope. Yet how difficult to trust God for help in difficulties in which we find ourselves under His hand by our sinning against Him! Without atonement, they could not be dealt with in grace. The goat of atonement had been offered, so that God could deal with them about their sins for their good, sustain their faith, yet make them feel the weight of their sins, and the darkness they had brought themselves into; and, at the same time, say, “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness and seeth no light? let him trust in the name of Jehovah, and stay himself on his God.” But the true Aaron had not come forth, so that Israel’s sins should be, in administrative application, sent away on the scape-goat into the land not inhabited.
Now here the judgment of God against them, the sense of guilt under a broken law and national unfaithfulness, the full power of Satan and the darkness it brings—all rest on the spirit of the people: yet, though smitten in the place of dragons, there is integrity of heart, earnest desires after the law, and after God Himself and His worship, and trust in Him as their only resource. Thus the full judgment of evil is wrought in them, in hope of goodness and mercy prophetically revealed.
Who is to furnish thoughts, feelings, faith, hope, which can be known to be acceptable and a sustaining ground of faith, till they look on Him whom they have pierced and find peace? The answer to this question, as well as the groundwork of atonement, is found in Christ. All this exercise Christ entered into so as to be able to help them: “This poor man cried” — “God hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted,” and that, when41 He had been really forsaken of God, the real ground of hope for the people. When He was on this earth, the power of Gentile evil, with no fear of God before their eyes, was there; the apostate wickedness of the priestly rulers of Israel who would have no king but Caesar, and who called for the blood of their Fling to be on them and their children—the power of Satan and darkness was there; the judgment of God standing out in all its truthfulness and terror, not one godly man left; the guilt of Israel under a broken law and a rejected Jehovah and King—of the Anointed as of the Lord—pressed upon the spirit of any intelligent saint, if such there were, as in the last days.
It was not now, in these last scenes of Christ’s life, the manifestation of the Lord in grace to Israel, the revelation of the Father’s name to the few given to Jesus out of the world, but the endurance of Israel’s own case42 under the government of Jehovah when guilty and rejecting their own mercies, yet with the sense a holy soul, wrapped up in Israel’s blessings, would have of such a state before the judgment of God;43 not made a curse and drinking the cup, but the sense of it under God’s government and Satan’s power. Here good and evil were fully entered into and proved by the Lord. That is, He must undergo the whole power of evil, not as in judgment, but as trial. Was Satan using death and darkness, sorrow and terror, with God’s judgment sanctioning the pressure of it on the soul—men but His instruments to add to the grief, be they friends or foes? Was Israel’s sin and rejection of good come to its height? Was all this used by Satan against the soul of Christ to stay Him in the path? But was He to enter into the temptation which thus pressed on Him and give way; or, trusting God, was He to go on in the path of obedience, and drink the cup itself in obedience to God His Father? In the synoptical gospels we have the trial; in John, the full and blessed answer. He passes through the trial with God, does net take what death imports from Satan’s hand, so to speak, nor stop in His path; but, while going perfectly through it as the power of darkness, receives the cup itself (instead of drinking from it under Satan’s terror) from His Father’s hand and gives Himself freely up in love and obedience to expiate the sin under God’s hand and wrath, which Satan had in vain wielded to deter Him from it.
The power of evil as trial was broken entirely, and Satan’s power of darkness annulled for us. Man might be made to pass through it under the government of God, to learn what he was, what sin is, what the power of evil in which he had been lying is; but the sympathy and sustaining grace of Christ can support him through it, suggest the right thoughts and feelings under it, and be found a resource in every pressure, so that faith should not fail, however sore that pressure may be. Atonement was needed for this, but the sympathy and consolations of Christ in the trial are what sustain and encourage the hearts of the remnant through their various trials down to the lowest depths of sorrow. If it be asked how they can profit by it, not having any direct knowledge of or faith in Christ, I reply, It is exactly what is furnished in the most admirable detail in the Psalms, where every part of their external sorrow and internal distress is expressed and entered into, the dreadful weight of a broken law, the power of adversaries without conscience, the temptation and pressure of the adversary, with the thoughts and feelings whether of distress or faith, are given a voice to by divine grace, with the witness that He who in all their afflictions was afflicted, and the angel whose presence succoured them, has not forgotten them in their deepest distress;44 but, as the poor man, has passed through it for them, and can comfort them under it, putting His seal upon the holy desires He has awakened in them, with the certainty of a divine answer, and that even by that Son of man, the branch which God made strong for Himself. Hence it is that these Psalms, besides the personal piety which is found in them, have been the comfort of distressed souls who were under the law, and not yet knowing the fulness of redemption, for such will be the state of the remnant.
Hence, too, we find in them the desire of the judgment of enemies and the execution of vengeance, because it is by that judgment alone that the remnant of the people will be delivered. Hence, too, we find the assurance that the Lord will build up Zion, and the remnant of His people inhabit it, in Psalms, where the sufferings of Christ are entered into in detail. Indeed, we have in the Psalms a complete and perfect history of the remnant in every circumstantial and moral phase of their path, both of Jews and Israel, and the result in blessing with Messiah, together with the way in which Christ has entered into it, these last Psalms being prophetic of Christ personally, though in many we have the remnant also, while all the Psalms are the expression of His spirit. The godly remnant is the first thought in them—their subject—Christ’s sympathy is with them. The first Psalm gives us the godly remnant, the subject of God’s government; and the second, Messiah, King in Zion, object of His counsel and decree; and after that, all the various experiences which flow from His rejection, up to the glory at the end.
I have already shewn that the time in which Christ went through the distress and sorrow, under which the remnant fall through their sin, was not that of those public services by which He was the light of the world revealing to others His Father’s name, but when (going again up to Jerusalem for that purpose, and setting His face as a flint for it, and not hiding His face from shame and spitting, His rejection being the ground of Israel’s divorce, Isa. 50) He was subject to the fullest exercise of soul, under the power of darkness, in the hour of His rebellious rejecters, who could triumph in His apparent rejection; when all was changed from the time that He sat daily in the temple, and no man laid hands upon Him; when the prince of this world came.
Few, comparatively, of the Psalms apply wholly and exclusively to Christ. The great body of them express the working of His Spirit in the hearts of His tried ones. The difference (even where suffering is the subject between those which are, and those which are not, exclusively applicable to Him) is very evident, and particularly between His sufferings from the hand of God and from the hand of man, even when this was under the visitations of God and the power of the enemy. It is worth while to note these points distinctly.
Psalm 2 refers personally to Christ as Messiah, the Son of God, born in this world; Psalm 8, as Son of man. In Psalm 16 we find Him formally taking His place among the godly remnant, treading the path of life through death up to fulness of joy in resurrection. Psalms 20 and 21 have, in a certain sense, also Christ alone for their subject; Psalm 22 clearly so. Sins are not confessed till Psalm 25. The integrity of heart of the remnant is presented, or Christ Himself. Besides these Psalms, 40, though mainly of Him, is not absolutely so (see verse 5.) In Psalm 45 He is clearly celebrated; Psalm 69 speaks also chiefly but not exclusively of Him (see verse 26.) In Psalm 72 we find Him again as Solomon; Psalms 101, 102 treat also of Him as king in Israel, and as, though cut off, Jehovah the Creator. In Psalm no He is exalted to Jehovah’s right hand to be priest after the order of Melchizedek. In other Psalms He is introduced, but He is not their personal subject. I do not call to mind others of which He is exclusively or pre-eminently the subject, though it is possible some one may have escaped me; my object is rather to give a certain number of distinct examples than a list of them. As regards the Psalms which speak of His suffering, the marks which distinguish those which speak of His sufferings from man, and those which express His sufferings under the hand of God, are very clear and decisive. Thus Psalm 20, 21, He suffers from the hand of man. The consequence is, Psalm 21 announces judgment on man. So it is in Psalm 69; though other elements are found there. The Psalm treats of the number of those who hate Him without a cause, who gave Him gall for meat, and in His thirst gave Him vinegar to drink; and He desires that their table be a snare to them; that their eyes be darkened, and that God should pour out His indignation upon them. So even in Psalm 31, though it has less of this character, yet it still has this distinctive mark of the looking for judgment on the wicked (v. 17, 18).
I have already remarked that in sorrows from human persecution, on account of what is good, His saints can have a part. The pressure of it, in connection with sins, and the desire of vengeance or judgment, finds its accomplishment in the remnant of the Jews in the last day.45 In Psalm 102, where, though the enemies are seen, the sorrow of Messiah is traced to God’s indignation and wrath, who has lifted Him up as Messiah, and cast Him down, even to the dust of death, no desire for judgment is expressed, but blessing and grace are the result. This is most strikingly displayed in Psalm 22 where the atoning work of the cross is the distinct and definite subject. As soon as the Lord is heard from the horns of the unicorn, His first thought is (as indeed it historically was) to make known all the blessing of His God and Father’s name, where in unclouded blessing in righteousness He now stood, to His brethren. Then He praises in the midst of the Church, then in the great congregation—all Israel in the latter day, then the blessing reaches all the ends of the earth in millennial mercies; then the seed afterwards born. To all the word is that He has done this. No trace of judgment from Him who has borne sin and wrath for us, nor from Him who inflicted that wrath on Christ for us, in the counsels of unutterable grace.
Now in Psalm 69 we have the cross also, and not merely the wickedness of man, though that is fully entered into; but the trusting of God and distress under the sense of sins. How is this to be distinguished from the atoning work of Christ? Here the difficulty presents itself fully, but if we wait patiently on the Lord, all difficulties of scripture are inlets to light and blessing. The mark I have noticed as indicating sufferings from man, and other distinguishing ones, are clearly found in this Psalm. Judgment is looked for on the enemies—an absolute and conclusive distinction in the very nature of the suffering; and there is another characteristic already noticed, but to our purpose here. We read, verse 26, “They persecute him whom thou hast smitten and speak to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded.” Here we have evidently more than man’s persecutions. They take advantage of God’s hand upon the sorrowing One to add to His burden and grief. This is not atonement,46 but there is sorrow and smiting from God. Hence we find the sense of sins (v. 5), though of course in the case of Christ they were not His own personally, but the nation’s (in a certain sense we may say ours, but specially the nation’s sin). But we have the clear proof that they are not atoning sufferings;47 because, instead of suffering in the place of others, so that they should not have one drop of that cup of wrath to drink, others are associated with the Lord here in them. “They persecute him whom thou hast smitten and speak to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded.” When men are wounded too, when Christ is the companion with them—not a substitute for them, then atonement is not wrought nor the wrath of condemnation endured. Yet God has smitten and wounded. It is not merely man that has caused suffering. Man comes in in malice to add to the sorrow.
Thus we have, along with the suffering from man at the epoch of the crucifixion (the special object of the Psalm), bringing judgment on man, the third character of Christ’s sufferings, the suffering48 under the government of God,49 at the epoch of His final sorrows, in which the remnant will have its part and into which Christ is entered for them, afflicted in all their afflictions. Hence, too, though in most deep waters, overflown, weary of crying, Christ is not forsaken—His prayer is to God in an acceptable time. Deep as is the distress, it has a character wholly and entirely contrasted with atonement, yet it is not the ministry of Jesus in blessing in the enjoyment of the light of His Father’s countenance, but the conflict and agony of His soul when the power of darkness is at work.
Another very striking fact in the path of the blessed Lord which I alluded to, is this: During the whole of His life of service, all through, including Gethsemane, Christ never addresses God by the name of God. He always says, “Father.” On the cross we know His words were, “My God, my God.” In His life this title would have been out of place—not of course because it did not belong to Him whom He addressed, but because it was not the expression of the unclouded relationship and conscious blessedness of Sonship in which the blessed Lord always stood. On the cross God was dealing with Him about sin, and therefore as God, in His nature, majesty, righteousness, and truth. Here sin was to be dealt with as such by God, and the blessed One expresses according to truth the position in which His holy soul stood. We are permitted in wondrous grace to see Him in such a one. Infinite and wondrous grace it is. But the terms the Lord makes use of mark very clearly and solemnly the difference of the two positions in which the blessed Lord relatively stood.50 Till the cross the Lord walked in the enjoyment of the relationship of a Son with the Father, yea, an only-begotten Son, knowing that the Father heard Him always. On the cross, as we have seen, all that God was against sin, He, made sin, had to feel and meet and endure; but then, returned into the full joy of all that God and His Father was in righteousness, redemption being accomplished, He brings His disciples into the enjoyment and joy of both. “I ascend to my Father and your Father; and to my God and your God.”
When I speak of three characters of the sufferings of Christ, it is not that He did not in detail suffer in a thousand ways; yea, everything was a suffering, His perfectness and love being shewn in enduring. I speak merely of three distinct positions in which, or principles on which, He suffered. Another question arises, connected with these points, as to the active and passive obedience of Christ, as it is called—whether the righteousness of Christ, as obedient under the law, is imputed to us; and then also as to His priesthood. But this I must reserve, if the Lord will, for another paper; it will be time enough then to consider the opinions of men. One thing is certain, that without shedding of blood there is no remission; and it is a singular atonement and vicarious work which had no such effect. There was, we are told, “a sin-bearing life”— that the sufferings of Christ during His life were satisfactory; yet they obtain no remission, for without shedding of blood is no remission. My earnest objection, however, is not against this, but against a doctrine which, on the contrary, declares that these sufferings were not vicarious, but the effect of Christ’s being born a man and a Jew, and which makes us consequently partakers of these sufferings under wrath as our privilege. Still, those who insist that Christ’s living sufferings were satisfactory, and that all His sufferings wrought the work of redemption, should explain how it is that remission is wholly by something else.
Finally, I say, that he who says that Christ—when He said, “I cry in the day-time, and thou hearest not,” and when He said, “I know that thou hearest me always,” when He said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” and when He said, “He that sent me is with me; the Father hath not left me alone, for I do always those things that please him” — was in the same position, and accomplishing the same work before God, knows neither the tenor of His life, nor the true power of His death rightly before God. Acceptable He always was; but bearing wrath unheard, and enjoying divine favour, knowing He was always heard, is not the same thing; and he who holds that it is does not yet know what his sins have cost the Lord.
One great root, let me just add, of all this (prevalent evidently in Scotland, and I fear not confined to it, and the true root of Irvingism and semi-Irvingism) is an abuse of scripture language, found, if my memory be not very treacherous, in the “Night of Weeping” —that Christ was made bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh. These words have no such application or use in scripture; they are not indeed found there. We, the Church, are bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh, now that He is glorified and the saints united to Him who is on high. The thought is a totally different one and does not refer to His incarnation, but to our union with Him when glorified. As incarnate, He abode alone. But this would lead me to a point I hope to touch on, the Lord willing, in another paper.
I close this paper, already too long, but justified by the importance of the subject, by stating the different characteristic periods of Christ’s life as presented by scripture. First, until He was about thirty years old (save His going up to Jerusalem at twelve years old and disputing with the doctors, given doubtless as a part of what He was in person and grace, and to shew that His relationship to the Father did not depend on any extraordinary anointing for office by the Holy Ghost), He remained in the obscurity of a patient and perfect life, awaiting His calling of God. He then associates Himself publicly with the remnant and is baptized by John, and is owned by the Father, sealed and anointed with the Holy Ghost. He thereupon goes up, before His public service, into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. He overcomes and binds the strong man. Satan departs from Him for a season. Subsequently to this He goes about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him—does always such things as please Him—is always heard and knows it. Satan comes back as prince of this world, and having the power of death. At the beginning he had tempted Christ with all that might be hoped to allure Him, physically, spiritually, and by the glory of the world. Christ, having overcome, displayed the power which could deliver man from all the effects of that of Satan. Now, man’s enmity is brought out, and Satan proves Him by the power of death and the terrible consequences of what man was in judgment, what He must go through if He will take up his cause being such. This was at the epoch of His last visit to Jerusalem. Finally, He drinks the cup which He had freely and submissively taken at His Father’s hand, and works redemption on the cross for those who believe in Him.
Notice of Earlier Opinions on the Subject.
I said I would take notice of the quotations from ancient writers on the point of Christ’s vicarious life and living sufferings. What I have already said will have proved that views of His sufferings, in which (what I avow is to me more precious than clearness) true piety may be found, not only fail in clearness, but are superficial in their nature. And this is real loss; for, far from losing the piety and the holy affections which should accompany the thoughts of Christ’s sufferings, a deeper scriptural knowledge of what they were gives seriousness to our spirits, and makes Him more prominent in our thoughts, emptying us of self. What we have to seek is, that everything our mind is engaged in should be filled with Christ, or rather the fulness of the truth of Christ be that in which our minds are engaged. All other things are thus judged, received as belonging to Him, or we are freed from them. This enlarges and sanctifies the mind, for, indeed, He fills all things. We lose ourselves thus even in Him, and there is very real enlargement of heart. If we have peace and a single eye, scripture does thus feed the soul; sets before it a scene that embraces all things, according to the divine view of all things; gives a large, divine view of things in contrast with, and to the exclusion of, a fleshly, narrow one, of which self and the worldly mind and its narrow and confined interests and apprehensions are always more or less the centre; and, moreover, because scripture is the word of God, this gives submission and certainty to the mind, and clearness of judgment as to the walk.
I avow, I could not tie myself to any of the ancients, nor own their authority in any way. I may learn from them (I would, I trust, gladly from any one), and own thankfully, what was given them of God. I see in Luther an energy of faith for which millions of souls ought to be thankful to God, and I can certainly say I am. I may see a clearness and recognition of the authority of scripture in Calvin, which delivered him and those he taught (yet more than Luther) from the corruptions and superstitions which had overwhelmed Christendom, and through it the minds even of most saints. But present these to me as a standard of truth—I reject them with indignation. They were not inspired. Their teachings are not the word of God. To this I hold fast tenaciously. It is the safeguard and guide of the Church and of the saints under grace at all times, and especially in these days. The gifted men I respect, when presented to me as such, would become a horror to me if they were in any way substituted for, or made to compete with, the word of God.
I am not surprised if eminent servants of God, not vessels of inspiration, did not all at once cast off every trammel, in which all Christendom, save a few persecuted ones (at that time almost rooted out by persecution, but precious in God’s sight) had been bound up. I thank God heartily for the light and courage He gave them. But no one can say they were freed from everything that had overburdened the truth. I do not see that these eminent men were so free from human views, and what governs human judgment according to this world, when they were framing systems for the countries they belonged to, as when they were wielding truth for the deliverance of souls from error. I do not wish to dwell upon the evil which accompanied so much good—evil for which man was responsible, because I do not see that it would be edifying; but I do not wish to blind myself where history shews me facts which ought to have their weight with my conscience. I am writing in peace, because God has delivered us through the instrumentality of these men, some of whom laid down their lives for the gospel and their love to Christ and to souls. I have no wish to depreciate them or the work in which they were engaged—I wish I had the faith of many of them: but do not bring their doctors or their systems to me as authority. You are trenching on the authority of the word of God. Am I to believe consubstantiation? Am I to believe in baptismal regeneration? No honest man can deny that it was, generally speaking, the reformed faith, or at least the faith of the reformers, and that forgiveness of sins was obtained in it.51 I may be told, But they preached justification by faith, so that it cannot be. They did preach justification by faith for the deliverance of souls, and taught baptismal regeneration when establishing a system, and tortured themselves to reconcile both. The evangelical party among the reformed have, at the present day, cast baptismal regeneration off, as freer in their ecclesiastical habits. The stricter Lutherans, at least confessional Lutherans, torture themselves to this day to reconcile both. In England everyone knows where we are as to it.
But (to refer to the points which engage me at this moment) it is remarkable enough that the term “righteousness of God” is not found in Luther’s New Testament—the most unfaithful translation I know. He always says the righteousness which is valid before God—die Gerechtigkeit die vor Gott gilt. Calvin is quoted as an authority to shew that Christ’s living sufferings went to make up righteousness by atonement; that His life, as well as His death, was needed to complete our righteousness. But if I take his doctrine, I cannot stop here; I must believe that His suffering the torment of hell (dreadful thought!) was needed too.52 These are his words: “Nor indeed is it right that the descent into hell should be omitted, in which was what is of no little moment for the effecting of redemption… Nothing was done if Christ had departed by only a corporal death; but it was, at the same time, of consequence (worth while) that He should feel the severity of divine punishment… whence also it was proper that He should struggle hand to hand with the powers of hell and the horror of eternal death. We have lately cited from the prophet, that the chastisement of our peace was put on Him; that He was smitten of the Father for our crimes; bruised for our infirmities; by which he signifies, put in the place of surety for the wicked; and therefore He was bound, like the guilty, to pay and satisfy all the penalties which were to be exacted from them.” Am I in this to adopt Calvin’s view of what made out a believer’s righteousness? or is it true that by one offering He has perfected for ever them which were sanctified?
But it is alleged, I am to receive his doctrine as to the vicarious merits of His living sufferings. Here are Calvin’s words: “Furthermore, as a curse because of guilt awaited us at the heavenly tribunal of God, in the first place is related His condemnation before Pontius Pilate, governor of Judaea: that we may know that the penalty to which we are liable was inflicted on the Just One. We could not escape the horrible judgment of God; and Christ, that He might snatch us thence, submitted to be condemned before a mortal man, yea, a wicked and profane one. Nor is it merely to secure credibility to His history that the name of a governor is expressed, but that we may learn what Isaiah teaches, “the chastisement of our peace was upon him, by his bruises we have been healed.” Previously, this made hell necessary, not scourging by an unjust judge—which is right? I must confess that such a statement as to the sufferings of Christ is very far indeed from carrying any moral weight to my spirit—our deserving God’s wrath met in any way by His standing before a human judge. Does this, in any sort of way, meet or correspond to God’s wrath against sin? And when it is said that with His stripes we are healed, does any person taught of God for a moment suppose that this refers to a bodily scourging by the soldiers of Pilate, or Pilate himself—precious as this may be in our eyes? I avow (while fearing to say an irreverent word, while touching on such a subject) such interpretation is, to my judgment, and I am persuaded to every rightly taught mind, in the highest degree revolting, whether we think of the true character of Christ’s sufferings, or of the true deserts of sin.
Witsius states it more simply and less offensively, yet as a system of doctrine more strongly. “Still more specially do Isaiah 53:5, and 1 Peter 2:24, assert that our healing is due to the scourging of Christ, as a part of His sufferings, when they say, By His bruises we are healed. For by that dreadful scourging, by which the whole body of the Lord Jesus was disfigured, as by one bruise, joined with other sufferings, He has merited for us, that we should be free from the bufferings of Satan, and the rod of divine burning wrath.” … He adds, that “besides healing by example, there remains in the scourging of Christ a demonstration of the righteousness of God.”
You have now, reader, the statements which are relied on to prove that Christ’s living sufferings were vicarious and atoning. The proof drawn from Calvin and Witsius is, that “with His stripes we are healed” refers to His scourging by Pontius Pilate, and that He was judged before a tribunal of man to meet our being arraigned as guilty before God. I do not feel that this requires an answer with any sober Christian. The word “stripes” does not even mean scourging, but the lividness left by blows. Such teaching is simply deplorable.
A passage of Isaiah is quoted, “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” quoted by Matthew 8:17, “And he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses.” Now I believe that in the sympathetic exercise of His power in love, Christ never remedied an ill that He did not bear it on His spirit. But this is not atonement. That atonement may be righteously necessary, that He might sympathize with sinners, in respect of what was the fruit of sin, I can well understand; but bearing on the heart in sympathy is quite another thing from atonement. To apply the principle of atonement here is simply nonsense. Was Christ sick in our place when He made atonement on the cross? He did surfer wrath and bore our sin so as to come under it. But in these healings He was exercising power. He healed, it is true, not indifferently; He entered into our sorrows when He relieved us. Thus the passage is as precious as it is intelligible; but the only act referred to is His healing by His power. What did that atone for? Was healing vicarious to make up for our not healing? Will it be said, for our want of health? But then He should have suffered the consequence of it Himself. What was healing an atonement for? Nay, infirmity and sickness were not to be atoned for. It needed what the compassionate Lord accomplished—healing. To say that His healings, shewing that He bore our sickness, means that healing was vicarious, has no kind of sense.
The truth, moreover, is that the word is not at all that which is used for bearing sin as a burden imputed. Nor would the Spirit here accept the LXX translation, which has amartias pherei—bears our sins. It is the word employed in Romans 15:1; “We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” Was this atoning? The quotation of such passages shews only the extreme poverty of scriptural intelligence, to be borne with when produced in the first dawn of light, or held in systematic and traditional piety; but when reproduced as pretending to the dogmatic maintenance of truth, is as poor as it is unfounded. “The miracles themselves were the manifestation of His sin-bearing work and character.” This language shews the real character of the statement and the force of what I have said. If sin be borne before God, man must suffer; but was the exercising power of love bearing sin? It is not said in Matthew’s explanation, He bore sin, but took our infirmities, which are not sin, and bore our sicknesses. Wrath of God is due to sin, if it be borne; healing the sick is not bearing the wrath of God. What Matthew says may be a proof of Christ’s entering in the fullest way into the sorrows of those who are healed; I believe it is. But this doctrine would destroy all the gracious, sorrowing sympathies of Christ in love; they are but bearing wrath upon Himself.
Isaiah 53 is the recognition by the converted Jew, in the latter day, of the way they had treated Christ, which we, of course, anticipate, but is literally applicable to the Jew. It looks at all Christ’s course and appearance in the flesh, His sorrows and the way He was received. He was despised and they esteemed Him not. He bore Israel’s griefs and carried their sorrows, but besides that, He was wounded for their transgressions. Was that healing the sick? The Lord laid the iniquity of them all upon Him, so He was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people was He stricken. This remark is connected with His death. “It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when he shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed.” “Because he hath poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bare the sin of many.” The chapter speaks of His sorrows, and in doing this goes to their full extent, and speaks of His being cut off for sin, and connects His death with this bearing of sin in the most explicit way. This is not saying that all His sorrows were sin-bearing. To say that His healing the sick was His own being wounded for our transgressions, is introducing confusion into all truth, and neutralizing the value of Christ’s death.
Besides, “the Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all.” On whom? On Christ, Jehovah’s servant. But then He was the Christ before it was laid on Him. Further, “when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin”: why “when,” if it was always? Besides, who offered Himself through the eternal Spirit without spot to God? The divine person in heaven? Clearly not. If Christ was always the sin-bearer, He did not offer Himself through the eternal Spirit of God; He was always by position under sin. The free love of Christ —man—in offering Himself is entirely set aside. This is a very important point. Isaiah 53 gives the general picture of the sorrows of Christ, so opposite to the unbelieving nation’s estimate, and pursues them up to that great truth, that He was numbered with transgressors and bare the sins of many.
The statement as regards Dr. Owen is a mis-statement. It is said that he shews that Christ’s strong crying and tears which He offered in the days of His flesh were “concomitants of His sacrifice,” and in his Exposition of the Hebrews he enters fully into this, shewing that “the days of his flesh “means His life on earth though especially consummated in Gethsemane. These life-time prayers he calls sacerdotal prayers. He quotes the psalms already quoted in proof of his averment, and shews that thus it was with Him “not for a few days, or a short season only, but during His whole course in this world.” I do not agree with Dr. Owen in many things on this point, but it is here stated that he calls His life-time prayers sacerdotal prayers. And that it was thus with Him during His whole course in this world.
Now, Dr. Owen states, “There was no time wherein He was not, as to His human nature, the king, priest, and prophet of His Church… but, as to His priestly office, He neither did nor could enter upon the exercise and discharge of it, until the end of His prophetical ministry.” He speaks of unction in incarnation, declarative unction at baptism. Then, thirdly, to both these there succeeded an especial dedication to the actual performance of the duties of this office; and this was His own act which He had power for from God. “This Himself expresses. (John 17:19.)… In that prayer therefore of our Saviour (John 17), do I place the beginning and entrance of the exercise of His priestly office.” Not only so: where Dr. Owen states that from His cradle to His grave He bare all the infirmities of our nature, etc., he adds, as to His sacerdotal prayers, “But yet respect is not had here unto this whole space of time.” That is, he declares exactly the contrary of what he is made to state. Whoever reads the Thirty-first Exercitation may easily see that the whole doctrine of Dr. Owen is opposed to what is stated. “His oblation was at the same time and in the same action with His blood-shedding.” His entering into the holy place “was consequential to that offering of Himself whereby He made atonement for us.” “His obtaining eternal redemption for us was by the sacrifice of Himself in His death. For redemption was by price and exchange. And the Lord paid no other price for sin and sinners but His own blood “(1 Pet. 1:18, 19).
As regards 1 Peter 2:24, it is alleged that its true meaning is that Christ bore our sins up to the tree—not on it. He carried our sins during the whole of His humbled state. This is only want of acquaintance with the use of the expression; and the passage is only an additional proof of what I feel to be important for our souls in this matter. Anapherein epi to is a sacrificial expression, signifying the proper offering up of the victim on the altar. Peter here compares Christ to a victim laid on the altar as our sin offering with our sins upon it. The reader has only to consult Genesis 8:20, or Leviticus 3:5, 11, 16; and chapter 4:10, 19, 26, 31, where he will find the formula of anaphero epi to exactly what there is in Peter used for hala and katar in Hebrew; that is, the positive offering up on the altar as a sacrifice—the causing it to ascend to God, or burning it. The words do not mean at all what they are stated to mean. The cross was as the altar where the victim was consumed by the fire of the proving and just judgment of God about sin; and all was a sweet savour, though also for sin.
In result, this doctrine of an expiatory sin-bearing life (I will touch on the righteousness farther on) is built on no scripture ground. It sets aside the declaration that without shedding of blood there is no remission. It denies the offering up of Christ by Himself, when a man, to be a sacrifice—a most vital truth; for, according to this system, He is it all His life. It perverts, in the most shocking way, such passages as “with his stripes we are healed,” and casts at once both Christ’s sufferings under divine wrath, as the wages of sin, and His living sympathies into the shade, by confounding them together; making death and blood-shedding to be essential to the first, and turning the latter into sufferings for sin under God’s hand. And see the fruits. “If Paul could say, ‘I die daily,’ how much more Christ? His life was a daily dying. He was always ‘delivered unto death.’” Was Paul suffering for sin, then, in so dying, and in an expiatory way? What an absolute proof of entire confusion of mind, as to the very nature of these things, is here displayed! We are told a whole undivided life is our expiation. Mark that, reader:—life an expiation. I ask, if such a statement be not in opposition to the universal testimony of the word of God. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” So that “without shedding.of blood there is no remission.” It separates redemption from expiation, or gives redemption without blood. No sacrifice is needed for expiation. And what is death when it comes, but the consummation of a life, the same in legal character as itself? He was born “under the law; He lived “under the law”; He died “under the law.” Is, then, one keeping the law in life, so as to be in the perfectness of divine favour, the same thing as being under the curse of the law, because it had been broken? But it will be replied to me, But we say, that He was under that during the whole course of His life. Yes, but scripture says quite the contrary; it declares that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, as it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree. I admit fully an obedience running through life, always perfect, and unto death, when it was consummated; I admit that Christ was in death perfectly agreeable to His Father. The question is not there, but in this—what expiates sin? Is wrath, and the curse, and the cup the Lord had to drink on the cross, the same as His life?
Reader, the word declares that the wages of sin is death; and Christ died to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. If the corn of wheat had not fallen into the ground and died, it had remained alone. He was once offered to bear the sins of many. We are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. Where were we without redemption? And this is forgiveness. Where would you be without that? He hath once suffered for sins, being put to death in the flesh. If death be not written on the old man, you must be judged for its deeds. But it is only in Christ’s dying it is so. “Now, once in the end of the world, hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
One passage I would yet desire to refer to. God “has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin.” Who knew no sin? Does it speak of the eternal Son before His incarnation? Clearly not. That would say nothing. It was Christ incarnate in this world. It was when by His path through this world, in which His sinlessness was put to the test, it could be said He knew no sin, then it was He was made sin. God did not make the Eternal Son sin in His becoming a man, in the word being made flesh. It would be hard to say which would be worse, the absurdity or the evil of such an assertion. If not, it was when Christ had been fully tested, and in result it could be said He knew no sin, then He was made sin. It is alleged that “during His life He was made sin for us.” When? And, remark, being made sin is clearly as an offering.
It is asked, In what sense and for what purpose was He made under the law, if from His very birth He were not the very substitute on whom our sins were laid? Scripture will answer, “He was made under the law that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” Besides, He magnified the law and made it honourable— a matter not without its moral importance. It was of moment to honour the law, the measure of God’s requirement from His creature, at the moment He was going to take him entirely from under it, to deliver him from it. But this touches on the ground of righteousness, which I reserve for another paper.
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I thank you for sending me the query as to the paper on the sufferings of Christ. It was my desire to send a few words to you on a danger to which saints may be liable, through the enquiry which has been raised on this subject. This question of your correspondent C. affords me the ready opportunity of doing so. But for the circumstance of the words “To be continued,” being omitted, through a very immaterial mistake, the paper would not have appeared to be closed without a signature, which would have left on the writer all the responsibility of the views contained in it.
The danger I have alluded to is double. First, that the whole doctrine as to Christ, which has been promulgated, should so alarm Christians that they should be afraid almost of dwelling on the sufferings of Christ, and giving them their full human reality, lest they should trench on the perfection of His Person and position before God. The tendency of the mind to being overbalanced by the fear of one extreme, and running into another, is a well-known infirmity of human nature. If the enemy could lead the saints to shrink from a full contemplation of the sufferings of Christ, because of the heartless blasphemies which have been mixed up with the teaching on the subject, he would have gained a point of the utmost consequence. There is no subject more full of blessing and profit—if the divine nature and perfectness of Christ be fully maintained—than the true humanity and real sufferings of our Lord. It is the channel and expression of His love to us, where the heart meets it most near to us. If this be weakened in the soul—and it has been weakened by orthodox persons, the link of the heart with the blessed Lord is seriously weakened. I remember, at the time when Mr. Irving was promulgating his errors as to the person of Christ, a religious newspaper insisting that Christ’s learning obedience by the things which He suffered meant His teaching it. Now this, though rightly intended in resisting fatal error, sacrificed precious truth, and tended to the very injurious practice of forcing the word of God. There is the danger of losing— through a just jealousy of the abominations which have been stated as to the blessed Lord—a full practical sense of the reality of His human sufferings.
But this danger has another side for every heart that occupies itself with it. It is clear that the peculiar value of this touching part of the Lord’s history is that the wretched and cold heart of man may be touched, the affections engaged in a sanctifying way with Christ, and brought up to what is divine, the soul attached to Him, while a reverent sympathy is awakened in the soul with all He went through, and the heart carried with Him into those better scenes into which His sufferings lead Him. Now, the truth has to be guarded; but a diligent dissection of all we ought to feel is very apt to destroy all feeling as to what we dissect; the power of the sufferings of Christ is lost in the effort to be precise as to them, and to guard the integrity of doctrine as to His Person and work. The real guilt of this would be with those who brought out the hateful doctrines which have given occasion to hedge around the truth with precautions. But it is the wisdom of those who respect the Lord so to deal with the subject as to keep alive (in all their freshness, and with the bloom of first ripe fruit) the sense of the sufferings of Christ, and the simplicity of holy and reverent affections with which they have been first dwelt upon. Such I desire for my own soul, such I desire for my brethren. It is well and very important to have the truth clear, and to guard it—especially when it concerns Christ—with holy vigilance. But it is well to have the heart free and fresh. “In that he hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” Let us never forget that. He laid His hand upon the leper, which if another had done, he would have been defiled; but it was not to contaminate Himself, but to drive away what was contaminating from the defiled one. The immutability of His holiness enabled Him to enter in love into the proximity of sin, and all the miseries and sorrows of sinful men, as nothing else but such a holiness could. It was just the blessedness and divine perfectness of His work, when alive here to do so. God was here revealed, and none but God could have done this, and in grace to the fallen.
The mistake of your correspondent—and I am very glad of his jealousy of anything which could have in it a particle of the doctrine that has been and is spread abroad—is, that he confounds sorrows with the cause of sorrows. First of all, to dispose at once of his first question,” Was He Himself chastened in respect of sin? “It scarcely needs an answer, because He had no sin, in respect of which He had to be chastened. He was not chastened in respect of sin, nor by anger applying to His Person in respect of sin. But we must not confound voluntary sympathy with sorrows, and entering into them in love, with lying under sorrow by His own position. If He lay under the chastening Himself, He could not enter into it in voluntary love, alive as a man on earth, because in that case He was under it already Himself. Here is just the danger— denying the entering into, because of the fatal doctrine of His being necessarily under. It is just the doctrine of Christ’s being necessarily and by birth, when a man, under these sorrows and chastenings for sin, which renders impossible the truth of His graciously and freely entering into them in love; which is just what gives all its value to these sufferings. He could not, as a man on earth, enter in grace and tender goodness towards us into that by sympathy, which He was lying under by necessity in His own Person as man, or more than other men were.
This point is cleared therefore. But sufferings endured by others can be fully entered into and endured by the will and love of an individual, which they are not in the smallest degree subject necessarily to, and could cease to undergo, at any moment, if they thought fit. A mother could enter into prison with a child, and suffer the disagreeableness and discomfort of the prison in love to her child, and to win his heart to what is right, to whom it was no penalty for a fault, and from which she was free to go out at any moment, if she were disposed. She may enter into all his circumstances, and endure the pain and misery of a prison life, and feel that it is, for him, a penalty for his faults, without the smallest sense, whatever, of its being a penalty on herself—as indeed it is not. She is gone there in love. It is no penalty. She is not there, at any time, as in a penal condition herself, nor can she have the sense of its being a penalty on her, as if she were in the same case as her son. Yet, in fact, she is enduring all he is, feels it much more herself (for her natural and moral feelings are much more delicate), and she feels all the shame and misery of it as a penalty on him, without its being in the smallest degree such on her. Not only so, if she were there by the law imposing it on her (even because she was the mother of him who had incurred it), she could not feel in the same way for him. Instead of our being under an evil being a cause of sympathy—so far as we are under it ourselves, we cannot in simple and true love sympathize with one who is. We must morally be out of the evil to feel freely for those in it. The sufferings as to the facts were experimentally the Lord’s own, and He entered in spirit and thought for His people into the causes of them, and did so, and could do so, exactly, because the causes of them had no application whatever to Himself. The scorn and rejection of the Gentiles He underwent; so will the remnant of Israel; but they have been the guilty parties, and are there because they are, though now in heart repentant, and turned away from them. The terror of God’s judgment was before Christ in Gethsemane: so it will be with the remnant of Israel in the last day. They will indeed escape it (which He did not, because of our salvation). Rejection and scorn on the part of the Jews were His portion.) so it will be of the remnant. And thus with all this character of sufferings, as treachery, desertion, and scorn.
Now, all this is quite a different thing from atonement, where the wrath of God is endured. That the remnant (though they, as ourselves, have deserved it) will never undergo. All these sufferings will form the moral state of the remnant—come upon them as a penalty; they will and ought to feel it as such. They are the fruits of their faults and sins, though at the same time of their integrity, as expressed in the Psalms; but in Christ, while the present fruit of His integrity, they are in no kind of way of His fault, nor is He dealt with as faulty in it by God—quite the contrary. He voluntarily enters into it all in grace.
It may be asked, But how could He enter into the sense of wrath in this way? Nothing can possibly be simpler. Israel is under it because they have deserved it, and (though they are encouraged, and in a measure comforted in hope, yet, not being yet acquainted with the fulness of redemption in Christ) they cry out of the depths under the sense of sin; and the hand of God upon them bears with it the sense and dread of wrath because of sin. Christ felt this, not because He had earned it in any way, or was necessarily under it by birth amongst those who had, so that He needed mercy and some means to escape it; but (exactly the contrary) because, when He was not subject to it, but the delight of His Father, He was going to take it in grace voluntarily all upon Him. He could anticipatively feel what He was going really to undergo, and cry unto Him who was able to save Him from death. They could groan under the dread of the same wrath, which (when rightly and for their own good taught the truth of it, so that there might be truth in their inward parts) they are not finally to undergo at all. I am not here speaking of the degree and spirit in which He suffered, for here, notwithstanding grace in them, the difference will still be great. The truth is, that, so far is sympathy from the being in the same state, the sympathies of Christ are exercised when He is in no suffering at all. He has a nature cognizant of the same sorrows, as sorrows, and hence capable of entering into them. But the spirit and mind in which He enters into them may be as different as possible. His Spirit works in the remnant according to what is to take place from His hand—that is, judgment. He feels and enters into their sorrows, for He has gone through the sorrows. His feelings under them were purely gracious. When they suffer, He is going to judge, and His Spirit works the looking for this judgment. The Church alone has, properly and fully, as to their nature, like thoughts with Jesus Himself. On this side also her privilege is great. We cannot estimate it too highly.
Since I sent my reply to some previous questions on the paper on the “Sufferings of Christ,” two further questions have been sent to me. After the explanation I have given in reply to the former, a short answer will suffice. The enquiry made is, What is the difference between the doctrine of the paper and Mr. Newton’s? The question shews the need of making the matter clear to those who have been occupied with it. The answer is very simple. The doctrine of the paper is exactly the opposite of Mr. Newton’s. Mr. Newton taught that Christ, as born an Israelite and a man, was at the same distance from God as Israel and man, because He was one of them, was exposed to the consequences of it, and passed through the experiences an unconverted elect man ought, escaped much of what He was exposed to by being in their position, by prayer, obedience, and piety; but still had the fierce displeasure of God resting on Him as born one of the people. Hence He listened with glad attention to the gospel under John the baptist, and passed then for Himself as from the law to the gospel. Most of this terrible anguish to which He was exposed, as born one of the Jews and of the children of Adam, was before His baptism by John.
I believe, on the contrary, that though suffering from man and feeling for all the sufferings of man and Israel, and the sorrow of love resting continually upon His heart, the sunshine of God’s favour was on Him and was His delight and His joy continually, and thus there was no divine displeasure resting on that Holy One, nor was His frame wasted by the anguish of it. I detest it as a false abomination. But I believe that in grace, at the close of His history, when His life-work, as presented to Israel according to promise and gracious service towards man, was brought to a close, He, the object of divine favour, entered into the sorrows of His people.
Your correspondent has said in a short parenthesis “(unless anticipatively); “but what is Israel’s sorrow in the last day unless anticipative? They will not undergo wrath at the close. Christ felt it in Gethsemane anticipatively, because He was about to undergo it. But He did it anticipatively; that is, He did feel what Israel will feel, only far more deeply. And He felt it in grace, because He was not under it personally; whereas Israel as to his own position will be; and if Christ had been under it personally, because born a Jew, He could not have entered into it in grace. If the whole family are held under the penalties of high treason, and the mother I have supposed in my previous answer in prison necessarily though not personally guilty, she cannot go to partake of her son’s sorrow in love, for the simple reason that she is there by the necessity of her own case. She is not free to go out because she has gone voluntarily in. Christ could have asked for His twelve legions of angels and have been free. Mr. Newton’s doctrine was that He was born under it and sought to escape it by prayer, and obedience, and piety, and partially did; mine, that He was not born under it all, but, instead of having to seek to escape it, entered into the sorrow in love and grace for the deliverance of others. That is, one is exactly and essentially the opposite of the other. The question of “How long?” is as to this in itself immaterial; but the point that He was entirely free as born into the world, His state the opposite of what Mr. Newton says, and that by grace He entered into it, makes the difference of a false Christ and a true one—a true one who, being free, perfectly free, can care for others; and a false one who, being subject to it himself, must think of himself and not of others in love.
Mere attacks on my statements I should not notice, as I see no Christian profit in it. I leave them, where the will of man is at work in them, to Him whose will is above all human wills. I have always found it a happy course, and the way to be really sheltered from any and every attack. “Thou shalt hide them by thy presence from the pride of man, thou shalt keep them secretly in thy tabernacle from the strife of tongues.”
I am uncommonly thankful that the papers on the “Sufferings of Christ” have awakened the enquiry they have. I have no doubt it was needed when the question once was raised. In itself the raising of it would be a cause of regret to me, for fear of the destruction of holy and reverent affections on such a subject. But we all know that it was raised, and a large class of persons in the Free Church of Scotland, and elsewhere were more or less affected by it. The original root in both England and Scotland, was the deadly wickedness of Irvingism. The attempt to meet that in England by explanation led to the statements which have now become notorious. In Scotland it was a more direct result of softened down Irvingism itself. When the English form of the doctrine being put to shame lost its blasphemous virulence, though never given up, it tended to coalesce with the softened and pious remains of Irvingism or semi-Irvingism in Scotland. This is the present phase in which the influence of this doctrine appears. It has sought to support itself by old opinions, and to make use of phrases employed, as is constantly the case, in a general and inaccurate way, when the question was not raised, and no such thought was in the mind of the writer, to sustain a system of doctrine which he, whose words are quoted, never thought of; but its birth and true nature is a distinct false doctrine as to the relationship of God to Christ, which is not Irvingism, but which affects both the person and work of Christ by views which have flowed from Irvingism, or been the result of contending against it without the Spirit of God.
But my object now is not to pursue these thoughts farther, but to say that when the humblest saint is honestly exercised on the subject, or troubled by any statements which it cannot clear up for itself, I am bound and ready to explain, and make the truth, or my own meaning, clear as far as I can. I suppose the replies I have made to your correspondents, C. and another from Manchester, will serve as a general reply to any honest difficulty; but as more than one request for explanation has reached me, I would meet the particular points contained in wme of these and clear up what may have been obscurely expressed in my own statements on the subject. The Psalms afforded more especially occasion to that part of the subject which remains obscure to many. This is not surprising. The subject is new to most, and the bearing of particular psalms or parts of psalms in many cases new to my own mind; so that, though perfectly clear as to what I reject and what I hold, it is not surprising if I have not made all clear to my readers. Something doubtless is my own fault, but much of it the newness of the subject to themselves.
I got one paper stating that my language is to the effect that Christ suffered from God apart from atonement. This surprised me somewhat, and I looked at the papers and I found, “But the moment He [Christ] is suffering from God because of the atonement for sin, it is exactly the contrary”; and a little farther on, “Christ has only drunk that cup, because He suffered from God—entirely apart, totally alone.” Indeed one of the objects of the papers was to shew that Christ’s suffering from God was a distinct thing, even if at the same time, from His suffering from man—that the former brought grace and redemption to man, the latter, judgments; and that this distinction was carefully kept up in the Psalms. In one place it is said, in the preceding articles, that He was smitten of God. This, however, is the language of the psalm, and my remark is introduced in connection with it, though the question may remain how far it applied to Christ, how far to the remnant. No one, I suppose, at least no believer, has ever doubted the general application of Psalm 69 to Christ. The knowledge of the degree of its application to Him, or its being exclusively so applicable, must be, as of all scripture, the result of divine teaching.
A simple saint is kept, by what he does know, with certainty of the truth of God, from being misled by what is obscure; but we may remain ignorant of many such points till God in His grace carry the soul on to further light and spiritual apprehension. I think it a great mistake to suppose (as is stated, if I remember right, in Home on the Psalms) because an expression is applicable to Christ or used by Him, that the whole psalm is so applicable. His Spirit speaks in all and throughout each, and in general in reference to the life of a godly Jew. Where an expression served to give utterance to His own perfect piety and sorrow, He could use it, though the whole psalm could by no means be assigned to Him. This is a very important principle to keep fast hold of. There are some psalms, of course, which are positive personal prophecies of Himself.
That, in Psalm 69, Christ is in the mind of the Spirit of God, though not exclusively so, is, I suppose, hardly necessary to prove to Christians, seeing it is one of the most vivid descriptions of His outward sufferings on the cross. It is in respect to the remarks in my papers on the “Sufferings of Christ,” which arose out of the consideration of this psalm, that difficulties arose in some pious minds. These difficulties I respect, and delight in the jealousy which would not bear anything that they thought touched the divine perfection and relationship with God His Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Whatever expression might throw a cloud on that, or if any did, I condemn it already: I am sure I have no doctrine which does. I hold His cloudless relationship with His Father, save in the act of atonement, to be an essential truth. It was to make this clear that I drew attention to His sufferings from man which brought judgment on man, and His sufferings from God (that is, atoning sufferings) which brought forgiveness and peace. This clearly distinguishes a life of communion, and the forsaking and wrath on the cross, and denies distinctly and unequivocally, in whole and in part, the doctrine of Christ being subject to the displeasure of God as a born Israelite and a born man. He never was but His delight. He was not by birth subject to what He sought to escape, and did partly escape from by prayer, obedience, or any other virtue or quality. All this is fundamentally false, makes a false Christ— not the true one at all, let it be vicarious or not vicarious. The former indeed is absurd, if He is subject to the displeasure of God by birth and position as the necessary consequences of these; for He is in it whether He delivers others or not—in it by His own position, not therefore for others. But vicarious or not, it is false; it denies, before the question of vicariousness can arise, the true being of Christ and His true relationship to God, which alone made His gracious work for others possible.
But then another enquiry presented itself. Did these two statements, of Christ suffering from man and suffering from God in atonement, explain or rather express all that the Psalms contain in reference to the sufferings of Christ? They do give all that we have to say to as Christians, and hence the difficulty many Christians find in entering into anything further. It is true that in the indirect comfort of a soul under law a certain application of the Psalms may be found. I remember when the only passage in scripture which comforted me was Psalm 88, because no ray of comfort was in it; yet I was sure it was a saint who penned it, and I might be a saint though in like anguish. There is a certain truth in this, but it is needless to pursue it farther here. But it is important to give all its value to scripture, without in any way turning aside or shrinking from receiving its full force. God is certainly right. And when the saint holds fast the truth which He has been taught of God, and where a passage is obscure waits humbly till God teaches him, he will not go wrong. But to meet effectually a heresy which uses scripture, we must give their full value to the scriptures of which the heretic avails himself. This frees the spirit of him who respects scripture, and is troubled, inasmuch as what he cannot receive (because he sees it contradicts known truth) seems to have a foundation in some unexplained passage. It will be found universally that heresies are founded either on some obscure and difficult passage, the true sense of which not being known, it is easy to trouble many minds with some apparent sense of it, or on some truth neglected by the Church. The practical neglect of the true humanity of the Lord, of the presence of the Spirit, and the coming of the Lord, laid the Church open to the wild pretensions and dreadful doctrines of Irvingism. So the true interest which the Lord takes in Israel as God’s people being lost sight of, and His sorrows applied only to salvation and to the Church, the scriptures applicable to Christ’s connection with that people remained open to all manner of interpretations.
Christ died not for that nation only, but to gather together in one the children of God which were scattered abroad. But He did die for that nation as such. What God is displaying in that nation (though no blessing can be without atonement) is His government, not the Church’s place and portion. These form, besides individual salvation and relationship to God, the two great subjects of scripture, its heavenly and its earthly parts: in heaven the display of infinite grace in the Church; on earth God’s government, in result the display of blessing, under the direct government of the Lord in contrast with man’s misrule and Satan’s power. The Church is, in union with Christ, the centre of the heavenly blessing, and rules with Him; the Jews, the centre of the earthly blessing, the royal nation in the midst of which Christ governs. In all these (individual salvation, the Church, and the earth’s resurrection through the fulness of Israel) Christ must have the preeminence; but to have it, man being a sinner, He must suffer (Heb. 2:10) and glorify God (John 17) where man has dishonoured Him. First of all, everything is based on atonement— the perfect infinite glorifying of God as to good and evil: that which, if it saves us, angels desire to look into. This, as a moral foundation, is the centre of all blessing, and makes the blessing dependent on it immutable. It is not the founding of blessing on creature responsibility—as was the case with angels, Adam, and Israel under the law, but on God’s having been already perfectly glorified in respect of every moral question which could be raised. In virtue consequently of this work, man in the Person of Christ is raised up and set at the right hand of God in power, raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, and set over all the works of His hands. Now Christ must glorify God in every respect in which the divine majesty required it and in which He was to take a place in glory. As regards His life, this was done, not by being in distress under God’s hand, which would have glorified nobody, but the contrary—would have been the mere subjection of Him who was without sin to the consequence in His soul of the power of evil and divine judgment without a cause, and effacing the divine judgment of good and evil and confounding altogether what had to be cleared up.53 He knew all that was due to God in a divinely perfect spirituality in the midst of evil, and walked in it. To meet this with displeasure would have been the contrary of a display of God’s way as to good and evil.
God was glorified in Him in life by His maintaining, in spite of all temptation and trial and sorrow, undeviating communion with His Father, perfect always towards God, and as to the circumstances through which He passed, and equally undeviating obedience to His will.
This God did not visit with His anger and hot displeasure. It would have confounded, as I have said, all good and evil. It was met by what the Lord says, “I knew that thou nearest me always.” Just as angels and men left their first estate, the creature fell untempted, or tempted in the midst of blessing. Christ kept His as man, and in spite of the efforts of the enemy maintained Himself in His place of communion and obedience, though in the midst of sorrow and loneliness of walk. He overcame the strong man, and could spoil his goods, and did, walking sinlessly in communion with His Father. The essence of His position as a living man was, that He did keep that first estate so that He remained “that holy thing.” Dependence, confidence, communion, and obedience, according to the Spirit of holiness, formed His life towards God. As He knows His sheep, and His sheep know Him, so the Father knew Him and He the Father. The very essence of His position in contrast with Adam was, that He was with God, and never got away from Him or the relationship He enjoyed with Him. The question of good and evil was resolved in the world by the power of godliness in life, in walking in the midst of evil, and overcoming through every temptation, and by goodness dependent on God.
But evil and sin had come in, and if any one was to be saved of the evil race, that evil must be dealt with—the true judgment of good and evil maintained according to what God is. This was done in the wondrous work of the cross, where perfect love to the sinner was at the same time displayed. Here, consequently, the very opposite to communion found its place—the forsaking of God. The Lord Jesus drank that dreadful cup, and made atonement for sin and obtained a place for man in the purpose of grace, which is displayed in the fullest way in the Church united to Him, though all salvation and every blessing depends on it. His position was the closest relationship of enjoyed favour in life, and forsaking made only more terrible by it in death—these formed the two characteristic conditions of the blessed Lord with God and His Father. This faithfulness in all was made good in spite of every obstacle and all the power of evil in man and Satan. So that the whole work was complete.
But there was another side of Christ’s service, besides its aspect towards God, glorifying Him in life and in death—the interest He took in His people; spiritual or earthly, His sheep or Israel. They, in the path of life, have to go through temptations and trials: His sheep, trials of one character; Israel, of another. His sheep have trials of temptation, persecution, sorrow, and the hatred of the world, sustained by communion with God, when in the relationship with God by grace in which Christ Himself stood when on the earth. John 17 fully develops this position (indeed chapter 14 partially so too). This, consequently, Christ went through. He is their example in it on the one hand, and on the other has the tongue of the learned to know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. We have His sympathies as well as His example. With all this, with more or less clearness, the hearts of His saints are familiar.
In general the subjects I have hitherto spoken of are connected with salvation and the Church, rather than with the government of God, although there be something of this mixed with our sorrows and temptations. But Israel is the centre of that government, and in this Christ must have the preeminence too, must secure the glory of God, and comfort His people with His sympathy. The atonement is the basis of this as of every blessing. It has its own unchangeable character. Christ died for the nation. This was towards God for them. His sympathies with them have yet to be enquired into. It is this point that has exercised the minds of some—how He could enter into the sorrows of Israel, when we view them as smitten of God.
I have already spoken of not merely the difference, but the mutually exclusive nature of being subject to these sorrows Himself as born a Jew, and His entering into them in grace. One is subversive of the other, and they are mutually so. I do not pursue this any farther; my object is to explain how He did enter, how, in a fuller personal sense than was once said of Him as Jehovah, “in all their afflictions he was afflicted.” If they are to be accepted; if they are renewed in heart, and at the same time dread the wrath of God, which they have deserved, and see death before them, and hostility without the fear of God around them; if they trust God, and yet fear what is before them; if Satan’s power is to be let loose against them, and death and judgment still press upon their spirit; if all this were from the hand of God, though human beings be the instruments, Christ (to sympathize with them and by His spirit suggest the right feelings as to it) must pass through their sorrows, not because they are resting on Him in His position, but because they are resting on them, and He will enter into their sorrows. He could say, “Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children, for if these things be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?”54 Had He need of repentance, or anything to repent of, when He was baptized with the baptism of repentance, in order to walk with the true residue of Israel in the path marked out for them? He was fulfilling righteousness when they were owning sin; but He did come to be so baptized, and it was part of the path of His righteous obedience to do so. He took this place with them, and took it because He was not in it. This was its true character—the gracious and blessed place of answering to God’s call, which gave a place and a name to the residue. Still He entered into their position, though exactly from another cause, and in the opposite way to theirs. Theirs was confession of sin, His fulfilling righteousness; He came from heaven, having a title to have a will, into obedience, but we from sin, and a will with no title to it; but He came into the path of obedience in which His people had to tread, and walked in it: when they had to be baptized of John, He too, though He had no sin to confess, He would be with them.
This part of the path was indeed quite different in character from what I would now explain. He could walk with them here. When the other part had to be trodden, He must do it alone. They, hereafter, will have the comfort of its being said, “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and delivered him out of all his distress.” If their piety will be shewn in looking on all as coming from the hand of God, whatever the instrument, so Christ, too, had to receive all at the hand of God, and so to look at it as entering into their sorrows, though He was perfectly free in His soul towards God. He bears their sorrows, though He was not the cause of them for Himself, as they had been, and looks at them as coming on them from God—on them from whom He would not be separated till all was accomplished for them.
Nor was this merely sympathetic feeling.55 Because, though government and atonement for sin are two distinct things, yet that government and the wrath borne in atonement would coalesce necessarily if atonement were not already made; for what can finally the government of God, as to a sinner and his sins, be? But till Christ had wrought the atonement, this separation between wrath and government remained, as to the work that wrought it, unaccomplished. What makes the sorrow only discipline for the remnant, when they are not yet brought into the sense of divine favour, was before Him then really (though this be not all the truth on this point, as we shall see) as wrath and the hand of God in wrath. What they dread vaguely, as not yet set free, He underwent in the highest and fullest sense. They are renewed in heart, trust in Jehovah, yet cry out of the depths, and see God’s hand upon them. Christ, always perfect in heart, trusts in His Father, yet cries out of the depths, and sees it is a cup which His Father has given Him to drink. I speak now specially in respect of Israel. If the nation was to be spared and restored, His strength must be brought down in His journey, and His days shortened, and that of God. They are not yet delivered from the sense of wrath, though hoping in God; Christ was looking forward to the wrath He was really going to undergo. To Him government became wrath, for He was going to make an atonement, to go through what was needed for the deliverance of the nation, and He was looking forward to this, though not then accomplishing it.
Hence, when Peter smites one of the crowd come to take Him, He says, “The cup which my Father hath given me to drink, shall I not drink it?” He said this in peace, because He had gone through the whole agony with God in perfectness, and from man He took nothing, though not insensible to his hatred in it. When Israel thinks of it as coming from God, peace not being attained, they mix up enemies and wrath (so to speak) all together. God’s hot displeasure is in the human trials themselves. This was not so with Christ. He takes up the thought of wrath wholly with God. The smiting is entirely God’s, and in His case is not separate from that in which atonement is wrought; and taking death as He did, and ought to have done, from the hand of God, He could say, “They persecute him whom thou hast smitten.”
Indeed, having given Himself up to the work of the cross, before He was actually crucified, He goes as a sheep before His shearers. He looks at Himself as the smitten One. For His faith the cup is already given Him. He had only now to say, “That thou doest, do quickly.” Jesus having bowed to this, men availed themselves of it to trample on Him. As long as His hour was not come, He passed through the midst of them and went His way. Now His hour was come, and, though not actually drinking the cup, He had taken the position of drinking it, taken it into His hand, so to speak, does not expect God to interfere, has been to God about it, and knows it is to be—hence does not answer those who interrogate Him, nor reply. They could have no power at all against Him, unless given them from above: but now the hour for Him to suffer was come. It is not the time for the divine Porter to hold the fold open and free in spite of all; but for the good and divine Shepherd to lay down His life for the sheep. Jehovah was just going to smite the Shepherd, and He had given Himself up to it.56 Did men not profit, yea Satan, by this non-interference of God, as He stood with that cup just taken into His hand, though in perfect peace and power, so that when He said it was He, they went backward and fell to the ground?
The difference between Christ and the remnant in the latter days, even as to anticipated sorrow, is this: He goes, when the hour is come, directly and perfectly to His Father about it. It is then that the dreadfulness of this smiting of God, of the cup He had to drink, is all gone through in the agony of it with His Father, in prayer. He is to drink it. Man’s will in it and Satan’s will in it have disappeared—it is God’s will. He enters into no temptation; power and liberty are there; His enemies go backward and fall to the ground. He then offers Himself freely, saying, “Let these go their way”; so that not one sheep is touched, but they are scattered from the Shepherd, whose portion now is smiting. Then Christ let men do what they please with Him; and what did they please? Oh! what a tale it tells of what man is, left to himself. That is, for Christ personally, even the anticipations of God’s wrath and man’s persecuting are wholly apart. He has gone, as to trial in spirit, through all wholly with God, and then freely offers Himself to man’s ways to accomplish His Father’s will.
Not so Israel: they have not peace with God. They see, because renewed in heart, the smiting of God’s hand; but it is all mixed up with the enemy without, the transgressor and oppressor within, the sense and the legal sense of the sin for which they are smitten, and the sense and dread of His wrath. Yet they have hope towards God by grace, through divine teaching as to Jehovah’s mercy, though peace-making atonement be not fully known as yet. Hence they can cry and do, as to themselves, “They persecute him whom thou hast smitten, and speak to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded.” God in the last days is smiting them, but, in virtue of the atonement, for their good, “till the pit be digged for the ungodly.” “Blessed [it is then said] is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest out of thy law.”
Hence we find in the Psalms, pleas of integrity; and from Psalm 25 confession of sin, of the people’s past sins and of their own confident trust in Jehovah, yet almost despair under a legal sense of sin: the claim to be viewed apart from sinners and a sinful nation, yet the profoundest interest in the hopes and history of Israel. The atonement being made, they have the sympathies of Christ, who, though personally in another way, has entered into their sorrows. Something analogous to their state may be seen in the condition of a soul under the law. But this part of Christ’s history is not that in which He learned sympathy for us, and sets us an example, save in the fact of bearing evil patiently. For this reason: we have full knowledge of atonement; we sit in heavenly places in Him, with the full favour that rests on sons.
Now the enjoyment of that full favour as Son was His condition through His life, before His hour was come. The divine favour rested on Him and on His walk; and persecutions and trials were such as we in principle may expect to find. We cannot, if on really Christian ground, be in presence of the wrath of God as that the dread of which is not yet passed away, nor be crying out of the depths, because Christ has taken us out of them. Now the remnant of Israel, on the contrary, cannot be in the place of Christ’s living delight in Jehovah and comfort in His favour, come what would, because they are not yet assured of this favour as a present relationship, though hoping in mercy. But, on the other hand, no depth of distress that they can go through can reach that which Christ did in Gethsemane, though not yet actually drinking the cup. All the circumstances they are in answer to His at the close as to the state of the people, and heathen oppressors. But Christ, being in perfect divine favour, and perfect in His ways and thoughts, could separate the anticipation of divine wrath and the malice of men, as He did, and present Himself to that malice for the accomplishing the purpose of God; but He could (as having passed through the experience of a cup given Him to drink, in which the Shepherd was smitten, and the use man made of His being in this position) fully enter into the sorrows of those who had brought it on themselves, as He, save by giving Himself, of course, never did. Hence He can sympathize with them and supply to them the thoughts and feelings which suit their state, although they be not the same as that which He felt when passing through His sorrow.
When entering on the path of sorrow after the last supper, which led to the atonement, He (though accomplishing a work in which He must be alone wholly and altogether, yet in the path which led to it and even in the fact of death as rejected of man and with wicked hands crucified and slain) could in His sorrows enter into the sorrows of Israel under the government of God in the last days, when their blood too will be shed like water on every side of Jerusalem. It could not be said to them as to us, “Let the same mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” because they are not in our place of union with Him and liberty; but He could enter into the sorrows they will be under, and though what He then felt towards His enemies is not what they will, for He was not only perfect, but entered as in the divine favour, though through agony, into the divine mind, yet He will enter into their sorrows and supply by His Spirit (as He has done in the Psalms) the feelings suited to them as having passed through, as to suffering and sorrow, all they can do. If He had not, who should help them?
But atonement is not the whole aspect of the death of Christ as suffering. And, indeed, in the Psalms, which are not a directly doctrinal part of scripture, and occupy themselves with Messiah and Israel, it is scarcely viewed in this light, though the facts in which it was accomplished are fully prophesied of. All the present hopes of Israel (as indeed of man), and the accomplishment of all the promises, were connected with Messiah. He was, if Israel had received Him, the crown of all their blessings. But all this must be given up; He must be delivered up, even into the hands of the Gentiles, and be put to death. Did the Lord not feel this as to His beloved people? This is what was expressed in His weeping over Jerusalem— there indeed in sympathy. He was the Jehovah who would have gathered them; but if He was, still He took it all as the obedient man from the hand of Jehovah. This is seen explicitly in Isaiah 50, where this subject is treated. The Lord God had given Him the tongue of the learned. Even what He suffered from man He took from the hand of God when thus given up to suffer, yet even here with no breach in His entire confidence in God, or thought that His portion was uncertain, as has been blasphemously stated. “He is near that justifieth me” are His words when He was under the suffering. So in Psalm 22, He owns Jehovah’s hand in His sufferings, “Thou hast brought me into the dust of death.” So in Psalm 102, “Thou hast lifted me up” —that is, as man into the place of Messiah and glory— “and cast me down.” “Thou hast weakened my strength in my journey, and hast shortened my days. I said, O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days.”
But these passages shew another truth of the deepest interest. Christ felt it, not only as to the ruin of beloved Israel; He felt it as to Himself, and He received it at the hand of Jehovah. The setting aside of every present joy and hope, of the present accomplishment of all promises, typified in the giving up of Isaac by Abraham; all ending, not in figurative, but in real death: all this Christ’s soul passed through. His obedience was tried in it. His devotedness to His Father, His submission in giving up all, entirely up in death. Was it nothing, when every promise and blessing was His natural portion, to find death instead, and the loss of all? Surely He shall have all in a more blessed and glorious way, founded securely on that death and resurrection, the sure mercies of David. Still, then He had to give it all up. It was His piety to look to the hand of God in all this, and He did so.
No doubt that, when the Shepherd was smitten, atonement was made for sin; but that smiting was a great and solemn fact, besides the atonement which was accomplished in it. God’s Shepherd was smitten instead of feeding His beloved flock. Further, death itself was fully felt as such by the Lord. He, with strong crying and tears, made His supplication to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared. It was no light thing to Him to have death instead of life for His portion as a man—He who knew what life was as a true possession of God. But all this has nothing to do with Christ’s being subject to it as born into the world. It is exactly and diametrically opposed to that doctrine. Christ’s life was the witness of a holy life in divine delight through every temptation to which we can be subject—a life in which, as regards His Messiahship, He exercised the fullest power, and disposed of all hearts, so that His disciples in going forth needed nothing. Now He says, “But now I say unto you, Let him that hath a sword take one; for this that is written concerning me must yet be accomplished, He was reckoned with the transgressors. For the things concerning me have an end.” His path was changed from the active exercise of power in love, to the patient suffering the will of God. Not that He had lost the power, as Malchus’s healing shewed; but that He was arrived where other things written concerning Him were to be accomplished. His hour was come.
As a man with death before Him, and as the Messiah of Israel, with the loss of all that belonged to Him, His being cut off and having nothing, He came into a place of sorrow, destined to Him, but not previously the path in which He served God. This He felt as at God’s hand. It was His perfectness and piety to do so. He was heard in that He feared. Yet, till forsaken of God, the work of atonement, the wrath that worked it out in the forsaking of His soul, was not yet in accomplishment. He was till then in communion with His Father, pleaded with Him, was heard in His plea. Yet the smiting of God was the present thing before His soul; for, though the outward instruments were men, and the power of darkness at work, He would not stop at secondary causes, nor take the cup from any but His Father’s hand. He does not say God’s hand. His Father’s giving, and the bright joy of obeying was, though going through conflict, the portion of His soul. In atonement itself this could not be. But the difference here is evident. He never asked any other cup to pass. Men had often shewn their malice and sought to kill Him who had wrought many good works amongst them (and surely His heart grieved over this); but He was not given up to them of God, so that His soul looked to His hand in it. Now He did. It was from divine counsels the word had gone forth: “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts,” though the wounds in His hands had been made in the house of His friends. And the Lord felt it all, as well as (when it came) the all-absorbing cup of the forsaking of His God.
24 From the “Bible Treasury,” 1858-9.
25 [Added to the Second Edition, published 1867.]
26 Yet the explanations at the end leave really little or nothing to be desired.
27 I speak not of having sinful experience, but of the sorrow and distress, of the upright dread of death, and sense of what has brought it on.
28 Was Gethsemane the same as the widow of Nain?
29 This is confessedly the true sense; it is given in the margin of the English Bible.
30 Though Christ’s proper sufferings are entered into in very few, save as from without.
31 Nor was it sympathy.
32 This passage has been used against me, not for what is in it, but as shewing the evil of other passages. The principle is perfectly just. Positive direct suffering from God is for sin, from man for righteousness. But that cannot set aside the sorrows of Christ’s heart in respect of Israel’s rejection, and His own cutting off as Messiah. It does not set aside that He felt what death was, that it became God to make the Captain of our salvation perfect through sufferings. This is not, in the true sense of the word, suffering from God in that sense of wrath of which Psalm 22 speaks. What is here is right. The utmost that can be said is, that a collateral truth should have been mentioned, as it was in my answer to Mr. Newton, where I said there were only these two sorts of suffering. Directly and properly that is true. My accusers may add the collateral truth if they please. Moreover Christ piously ascribed all these sufferings to God even when they were instrumentally from man, as coming from God’s will and counsel. The reader has only to go on to the third following paragraph and he will find these other sufferings. Compare pp. 178-180. It is fully entered on towards the close.
33 A popular book of piety, the “Night of Weeping,” is unequivocally infected with this doctrine.
34 I have altered this sentence to make its sense clear. It refers to Christ’s entering into the sorrows of the remnant, fully explained elsewhere. It ran, “in the same way in the same position” —Christ having entered into these same sorrows in grace; just as by grace He tasted death.
35 I have fully explained this in the introduction, so that I do not add any explanation here nor make any change.
36 This, however, was continued in patience up to His entry into Jerusalem on the ass, when He announces the vineyard was to be taken away from them.
37 I reject entirely as utterly senseless, what is become somewhat the fashion—the reading it, “one sacrifice for ever.” It does not, however, touch our present subject.
38 Note this, and indeed all these passages, for they shew what is the meaning of Christ’s offering Himself to God.
39 Guarded as this statement is by the preceding words, it is what has been especially used against me by Mr. T. Ryan and all his followers, as setting Christ in a false position. But no unprejudiced mind could use it to signify the state Christ was in. It refers on the face of it to the sufferings of Christ because others were in that condition; or Christ would be a sinner under condemnation, and a saint through grace, and He learning when a sinner the difference of good and evil. The last kind of suffering is immediately guarded, only because there was the possibility of misconception. People have confounded His going through the sufferings in His own soul, and being in the state or relationship which occasioned them. He did pass through such sufferings in His spirit; but it was because they belonged to others who were in the state which brought them on, and that He passed through that which makes Him to enter into such. Thus He was upright, feared death and wrath, cried to God with them before Him. What is spoken of is the kind of sufferings, and Jesus’ spirit realizing them. If any prefer “realized in His own soul,” I have no objection; only Messiah was really cut off. It is what was meant by passing through them, as is evident on the face of the sentence. The whole matter is explained in the introduction.
40 This and what follows is another passage which is attacked. I have noticed the matter in the introduction. Here I have only to urge an earnest study of its force as most important for the soul, separating as far as needed the abstract question of evil in every soul, and the special circumstances of the remnant of Israel. This alters nothing, but may make it clear to the mind.
41 This is, perhaps, obscure through its brevity. The meaning is “the answer came, the proof He was not abhorred nor despised; when,” etc.
42 If this create any difficulty, it may be changed into “passing in heart and spirit through, and enduring the sorrow of Israel’s own case and of the effect of His own being the head of promise to that people and now to be cut off and have nothing, of Israel’s case, that is, as under the,” etc.
43 This may be changed to “besides, though not yet made a curse nor drinking the cup, the sense of it under God’s government and Satan’s power. Here good and evil were fully entered into and proved of the Lord, Himself perfect in the good, and perfectly tried by and apprehending the evil. That is, He must,” etc. I do not think myself these corrections and additions add anything, to the instruction contained in the passage, to a rightly disposed mind. They make it laborious and heavy; but if needed, be it so.
44 I have not suggested any alteration here, and the sense is the same everywhere, because I hold the denial of Christ’s passing through the sorrow and distress of Israel to be a fatal denial of the truth of His sufferings. The power of Gentile wickedness, of Jewish apostasy, desertion by man, and Satan’s power, were really felt by Him as no remnant ever will feel them, and the setting aside all the promises of God as to their then fulfilment in Him come in the flesh, and that brought about by His own being cut off.
45 It is one of the things which characterize the Revelation also as distinct, in its prophetic part, from an address to the Church on its own ground of blessing, and its taking a proper prophetic and not evangelical character, that we find joy over the judgment of Babylon, and in the souls under the altar the desire of vengeance.
46 It goes on to that (as stated p. 179, and also in notes to Psalms, and is fully entered into p. 230) in which in another aspect atonement was made. To make death in itself, or mere cutting off, atonement, is ruinous, unless that death be viewed as the expression of wrath from God. It is the secret or unconscious denial of what sin is, and what it deserves—rests in the outside—is infidelity at bottom.
47 This may be changed into “that His sufferings are not viewed here as atoning suffering.”
48 If clearer to any mind, it may be read here “His fully entering into that which comes upon Israel under,” etc. The words express the character of the suffering, which Christ most really went through. This also was used as if it made Christ to be in the state to which that suffering belonged. It is this fallacy which has been the wile of Satan to deceive my accusers: that entering into sorrow and suffering implies Christ’s being in the state or relationship which gave rise to it (see p. 220.)
49 After the word “God “may be added, “through full sense of which He passes, and in the effect of whose evil state He has a part in being cut off as Messiah.”
50 The writer of an article I have alluded to at the beginning of thi$ paper attacks a tract entitled “The Cross,” published in Dublin. No one can be answerable but the editor of the Dublin tracts for expressions found in them, because he modifies them to suit his object, which is popular distribution, and he seeks to make them simple and clear; but the critic’s note is most unhappy. The tract states that God was with Christ in the communion of perfect complacency up to the time His people’s sins were transferred to Him on the cross, but that then all was changed. The critic then exclaims, “What! the Father’s complacency in His Son changed!” Such singular pre-occupation hardly needs, as everyone will feel, an answer. The tract says there was the communion of perfect complacency till then; the note says, “What! the complacency changed!” Now I believe that there never was a time when the Father’s complacency in the Son was so great as at that solemn moment; but that is not the communion of complacency. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” is not the enjoyment of communion. The subject precludes my making any remark on so strange a mistake.
51 It may be alleged this is not the case in Scotland. But their Confession was a hundred and thirty years after the Reformation; and even there it is really taught as to the elect. “Grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed,” they say, “that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerate”; but this is to save election. They say, “The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Ghost to such, whether of age or infants, as that grace belongeth unto, according to die counsels of God’s own will, in His appointed time.” So that, according to this teaching, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is conferred by the Holy Ghost in God’s appointed time. Yet this is the efficacy of baptism. The grace promised is not conferred in baptism; yet, by the right use of this ordinance, in which it is not conferred, it is conferred at some other time by the Holy Ghost. And yet it is the efficacy of baptism. This is a singular effort to reconcile the truth felt as to vital partaking of the divine nature, and tradition as to ordinances.
Here is the Catechism of Calvin: “Baptism is to us as an entrance into the Church of God; for it testifies to us that God, whereas we were strangers to Him (estrangiers de luy), receives us for His servants. The signification of baptism has two parts; for the Lord represents to us in it the remission of our sins, and, besides, our regeneration or spiritual renewal. Not that the water is the washing of our souls, for that belongs to the blood of Christ only, but by the sacrament that is signified to us. The water is in such sort a figure that the truth (reality) is found with it; for God promises nothing to us in vain; wherefore it is certain that in baptism the remission of sins is offered to us and we receive it. This grace is not accomplished indifferently in all; for many destroy it by their perversity. Nevertheless, this does not hinder the sacrament having such a nature, although it is the faithful only who experience its efficacy. This grace is applied to us in baptism, inasmuch as we are then clothed with Jesus Christ, and receive then His Spirit, provided we do not render ourselves unworthy of the promises which are then given to us.” An explanation, though happily less precise than the Westminster or Scottish, equally unintelligible to me, I avow. We receive His Spirit, provided we do not render ourselves unworthy of the promises given in it. Render ourselves—when? Do we then receive it or not?
The Catechism of Heidelberg, in general use among the Reformers, says, “Why does the Holy Spirit call baptism the washing of regeneration and the cleansing of sins? To teach us, not only that, as the filth of the body is cleansed by the water, so our sins are effaced by the blood and by the Spirit of Christ; but much more to assure us by this sign and by this divine pledge that we are not less interiorly purged of our sins than we are washed outwardly with the visible water.”
I need hardly cite less important witnesses of what I allege. The lesser catechism of Luther thus states it:
“What does baptism exhibit (praestat) or confer?
“It works the forgiveness of sins, frees from death and from the devil, and gives eternal blessedness to all and every who believe what the words and divine promises promise.
“How can water effect so great things?
“Water certainly does not effect such great things, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith which believes in the word of God added to the water: because water without the word of God is simply water, and is not baptism; but, the word of God being added, it is baptism, that is, the saving water of grace and life, and the laver of regeneration in the Holy Ghost; as Paul says in Titus 3 (quoted).” What this faith is I may cite from the greater catechism, which is a violent defence of his views. “These leaders of the blind (who said faith alone saved and that externals were of no avail) will not see that faith must necessarily have something which it may believe, that is, on which it rests, and supported by which it endures. Thus now faith clings to the water (aquae adhaeret) and believes that it is baptism in which pure blessedness and life is, not by virtue of the water (as has been abundantly said), but through this, that baptism is united with and confirmed by the word and the divine ordinance, and ennobled by His name.” He founds it all on “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”
The Dutch services teach the doctrine of regeneration by baptism as clearly as possible. See the second point in the address at the beginning of the formulary and the thanksgiving at the end. It is asserted in these places without any question or condition.
Calvin is far less positive in his Institutions, with a great deal that is confused, and in my judgment erroneous, as to the identity of the baptism and ministry of John with that of the apostles. He says that the knowledge and certainty of purging and regeneration are given in it. Purification is promised by baptism, but none other than that which is by the blood of Christ, which is figured by water by reason of its power to cleanse. But for sins committed afterwards, we are to look back to the certainty given us in baptism, which is not only for past sins, for the purity of Christ is offered to us. That always flourishes—is undone (opprimitur) by no spots. He says, “Therefore it is thus to be judged; namely, that in whatever time we may be baptized, we are washed and purged once for our whole life,” and hence, if we fail, are to recall our baptism. We know how earnestly Luther preached justification by faith—how Calvin taught it—how English martyrs laid down their lives for it; yet all in their catechisms taught that forgiveness was received by baptism, so that men were to look back to it if they fell afterwards. I had often remarked the contradiction in the two aspects of the Reformation in England; so that I could not understand how a man could sign his acceptance of both. If he believed the Articles, he denied the Prayer-book which he usually signed (this was the evangelical position). If he believed the Prayer-book, he denied the Articles, or signed them with a reserve; he had his own explanation, as the other had for the catechism and baptismal service.
What I now notice it for is, that this remark applies to the whole Reformation. The preachers of truth proclaim justification by faith. The same men, when they form national Christianity, teach it to be identified with ordinances. The phenomenon attaches itself to the whole circle of the Reformation. The more the formative side is clung to, the more they approach Rome in giving life and salvation by ordinances. The more they seek souls in grace, the more they depart from it. I am satisfied that a great deal of this arose from confounding the Church as the body of Christ, and the house formed on earth with the responsibilities of the Church of God attached to it, but having quite a different aspect from that of the body of Christ. Then baptism was made to be incorporation in the body of Christ, which the scripture never speaks at all of its being—on the contrary, declares that by one Spirit we are baptized into one body—a baptism which is never for a moment in scripture confounded with that of water. On these points, the Reformers clearly have not scripture to warrant their statements. Nor are they alone in this. The language of the English baptismal service and catechism is too plain to need comment. “We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this infant with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own child by adoption and to incorporate him into thy holy Church.” “We call upon thee for this infant, that he, coming to thy baptism, may receive remission of his sin by spiritual regeneration.” And the catechism, “My godfathers and godmothers in my baptism, wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.” And in the service for Confirmation, “hast vouchsafed to regenerate these thy servants by water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given unto them forgiveness of all their sins.” On this last point I will quote a passage of the Homilies, to shew the deliberate view of doctrine as to a sacrament, which governed the minds of the Reformers in England. “And as for the number of them, if they should be considered according to the exact signification of a sacrament, namely, for the visible sign expressly commanded in the New Testament, whereunto is annexed the promise of free forgiveness of our sin, and of our holiness and joining in Christ; there be but two, namely, baptism and the supper of the Lord.” “For although absolution hath the promise of forgiveness of sin; yet by the express word of the New Testament, it hath not this promise annexed and tied to the visible sign, which is imposition of hands. And though the ordering of ministers hath this visible sign and promise, yet it lacks the promise of remission of sin,” etc. This is precise enough. Nothing is a sacrament which has not remission of sin annexed and tied to the visible sign. I quote all these, not for the purpose of controversy, but of demonstrating what the doctrine of the teachers of the Reformation was as to sacraments, and particularly baptism. It does not weaken my value for their work, but it does affect their authority as a standard of doctrine.
52 It has been suggested to me that, though unwisely using the expression in the creed, Calvin only meant to distinguish suffering wrath from the physical act of death, as I have done. This he does distinctly in the passage here quoted, and I have no doubt rightly; the only difference is, that I have avoided the misapplication of the creed, where hell does not even mean the hell of the damned.
53 However derived from Adam our sinful nature may be, and we lost in him, the divine word is careful to add, “and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned,” epháo the condition on which it hung, though not its first cause.
54 I am aware we read, “if they do these things,” poiousin. But Luke so uses, very often, the active third person plural for the simple existence of the fact. The outward instruments were, of course, men, and particularly Israel; but I am persuaded that is not the sense here. If any one prefers so taking it, I have nothing against it.
55 This is one of the attacked passages. I have only to urge the reader’s earnest attention to it.
56 The persecuting “Him whom thou hast smitten” is literally applicable in Psalm 69 only to what was done to Him on the cross. (See verses 20, 21.) Still surely in spirit all that passed from Gethsemane, or when He had given Himself up to the suffering of death and rejection, has this same character. It may be remarked, in connection with this, that Psalm 69 gives the whole course of Christ’s suffering life, closing in this solemn bowing to death at the end, His being in the depths. The zeal of God’s house ate Him up. It was for the God of Israel’s sake He suffered reproach and was alienated from His mother’s children. All His grief and holy service made Him the song of the drunkard. Then, verse 14, He turns to what He was brought into at the end, which is the great subject of the Psalm; and the circumstances of the cross are spoken in detail. There we know was the true smiting. It was written, “Smite the Shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered “; but the moment after, in Gethsemane, He had given Himself up to this, all partook of this character morally, though the fact of smiting had not actually taken place. There were the instruments of this as to the outward act; but I need hardly say whose word ordained “Smite the Shepherd,” and to whom Christ because of His perfection looked. (See Matt. 27:31.) I shall further on take up the truth that atonement was not all the sorrow of death to Christ. The reader should distinctly remark that the subject to which Psalms 69 and 102 are applied is the blessing of Zion and restoration of Israel. (See Psalm 69:35, 36, and Psalm 102:13-22.) [This note is part of the original tract.]