The Christian has to watch, and closely watch, himself in controversy, particularly if he has any keen sense of the ridiculous, lest, when his adversaries expose themselves to being confounded by the manner of their attacks, he should seek victory, and not the grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ—lest he should seek to expose them instead of patiently insisting on the truth. My desire is to do this last, because I feel that important truth is in question.
The “Quarterly Journal of Prophecy” has again attacked the “Brethren,” quoting Mr. Ryan and Dr. Carson. Of the former I shall, as heretofore, take no notice whatever; the point referred to by the “Journal” I have fully noticed in reply to other correspondents in the “Bible Treasury.” (See Number for July, 1862.) I only recall here, that the use of such expressions as are insisted on by the “Journal” as proof of the divinity of Christ, is denounced by Athanasius as the madness of the Arians. We may estimate the value of the judgment of these modern theologians by this circumstance. The “Journal” quotes Dr. C. I shall notice Dr. C.’s doctrine, because truth is important. I prefer refraining from expressing any judgment on the character of the pamphlet which the “Journal” admires, lest I might even seem to imitate it. I confess I pity those who cannot estimate that character. The reader may judge of the kind of thing it is, by learning that while the first page assures us it is the first five thousand (so that the “Journal” rejoices at six thousand being sold), the last, the very same side of the same sheet, assures us that the first five thousand are all sold! It is painful to have to do with such adversaries, but the truth concerned is my motive. I will give one quotation from the “Journal” to shew the spirit in which “Brethren” are met. “Mr. Darby’s bitterness we do not mean to imitate, and his unchristian imperiousness we leave to others to admire; we look in vain for the mind of Christ, or the word of Christ, or the doctrine of Christ, in his writings. He has made shipwreck of his faith, and his adherents, instead of trying to reach the shore on the planks of the broken vessel, are drifting far out to sea, not knowing whither they are floating.” Now I admit that this is not an imitation of Mr. D.’s bitterness. What follows as a consequence as to it I will not say. I only seriously add, that I challenge in all grace the Editor to produce an example of the bitterness of Mr. D.—the bitterness he has not imitated. Doctrines which dishonour Christ I shall not cease (according to what is given me) to denounce; but it is ill work to pain and irritate those here below, of whom we may meet the lowest in the scale in heaven.
Having said this, perhaps too much (which I do as an excuse for noticing writings which, to my mind, have the character these have), I turn to state first the doctrines which have led me wholly to break with, and, when needed, to denounce, a certain school of doctrine. Casual expressions, in which we may all offend, have not called forth my remarks, but an elaborate system of doctrine which I have denounced and do denounce as characterized by blasphemy against the Lord. I do not speak of the intentions of individuals, but of the doctrine which they intended to promulgate. The reader will judge whether these statements as to Christ, defended by journals and theological names, ought to be denounced or not. I will enquire whether the attack on Mr. Mackintosh is a righteous one or not, and what the ignorance of Dr. C. is (for I do not think more of it) which theologians and reviewers can admire or pass over so that “Brethren” are attacked, and then pursue what is my main object in all this—the question of what is divine righteousness.
Mr. Cox’s pamphlet comes in here, which I confess I have hardly read, and do not feel the need of answering, because, as far as I saw, it quotes only modern human authorities, and I recognize none but the word of God.
Mr. Newton taught that Christ had all the experience an unconverted elect man ought to have; that He was farther from God than Israel when that people made the golden calf; that He had to find His way to a point where God could meet Him, and that point was death, the death on the cross; that He heard the gospel from John the Baptist, and so passed as from the law under grace; that till He took the place of repentance with the remnant die Holy Ghost could not come upon Him; that He was, as born of Adam and a Jew, subjected to the wrath and terror of God in His soul, from which He was able to extricate Himself by prayer and obedience and piety; that we could not be surprised if a man with a heavy burden going up an ice-mountain should slip. These statements are not casual unguarded expressions, but an elaborate justification of a doctrine when it was objected to, after having been secretly taught for some years and then discovered.
Persons under this teaching, as is usually the case, came out more plainly. Miss Adelaide Newton (who is I trust now in heaven, but the character of whose piety on earth has been, I judge, most falsely estimated) declares, “There were moments when Jesus appears to have 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 up in hopeless despair! Oh what depths we may be led into through our own prayer to know the fellowship of His sufferings!” Again, “Jesus knew what it was to be apparently set fast in His onward course, as is strikingly expressed in the image 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 out of the miry clay, out of an horrible pit.’ It was no light thing which made Jesus express Himself thus. He knew what it was by painful experience to be in such a position. Thus He says in Psalm 28:16, 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)!” The darkness of unbelief and inability to pray are declared by Miss Newton to be the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. The best traces we have of this fellowship, we are told, are when we doubt of our salvation; for He often did not know how it would end with Him.
It will be asked why I bring forward the publication of a female, and of one deceased. I answer, It was not published by a female, but by the Rev. Mr. Baillie, Free Church minister (now, I believe, in the English Establishment). Nor was it only published as Miss A. Newton’s Remains, but separately as a tract for edification, in which shape I received and first read it.
Next, Dr. Bonar publishes an article in his journal as Editor, in which he declares that Christ was on earth as the banished One; that, viewed as leprous all His life here and loaded with our leprosy, He must keep at a distance from the holy and clean; that He was not permitted to sleep in Jerusalem. “If permitted to visit Jerusalem, He must retire at night. If allowed to frequent the temple, He can only come as far as the outer court on the common footing of a sinner, just as the publican might do. He might stand on the day of atonement.. . and see the high priest take the basin and carry the blood into the holiest, Himself standing outside, and (though the blessed One) waiting amid the crowd to receive the well-known blessing, but more than this He could not do.” My object is not now to answer this: the reader may see it noticed in the “Bible Treasury” for September, 1861. My objea is to shew to my reader that it is an elaborate system of doctrine, a system in which Christ is horribly dishonoured, in which He is blasphemed. The terms may be gross and rise up to absurdity, or they may be guarded and calculated to perplex and trouble a simple reader; but, be it Mr. Newton, Mr. Baillie, or Dr. Bonar, the doctrine is the same.
Christ, who according to scripture was always in the bosom of His Father, the Son of man who was in heaven, according to this system was banished thence, and not allowed to visit a holy place. “His true place was outside the city of God: outside the dwelling of the Holy One.” “He must keep at a distance from the holy and the clean.” This has been noticed and commented on: has there been any acknowledgment of its shocking character? None. Has the, doctrine been withdrawn? It has not. Dr. Bonar’s journal insisted that “bearing our sins in his own body on the tree” meant bearing them to it, not on it. The utter ignorance of this assertion was shewn: was it withdrawn? Never. It has been alleged indeed that Mr. Newton has retracted. I can state from his own words that in his judgment there is no heresy contained in the tracts which contain the statements referred to above, nor anything approaching to it. I may add that Mr. Craik has declared that he knows none in Bethesda who consider him a heretic: it gives him, as others, their moral support.
Now I desire no squabbling, no indulgence in abuse against the persons who, in various forms, are always propagating this system of doctrine. The majority of them I have never seen, and have personally no possible ground of quarrel with; but I do denounce this system of doctrine and language as dishonouring to Christ and blasphemous in its character. It is a system of doctrine elaborated in various shapes, but very distinct and definite in its character, and leading those who hold it to a use of language as to Christ which those who are not on that system of doctrines, not used to this dishonouring way of thinking of Christ, could not for an instant bear to use, which would never enter their minds. Those who hold it may abuse me for noticing it—bringing it to light. They may ingeniously, if not ingenuously, charge me with teaching the same. I shall bear the abuse, not retort it; but the doctrine I will denounce, and call on every godly soul to denounce with me, not to suffer themselves to be contaminated with it, and, while walking in grace, to hold aloof from those who propagate and sanction it. This is all plain sailing. If I have used a bitter expression, let it be produced, and I will retract it, and acknowledge my fault. But there is the doctrine. Is it to be covered up that others may be infected by it, and the piety of its propagators vaunted to make it acceptable? or to be plainly brought forward and without respect of persons?
I am the rather induced to do the latter, because the favouring of this system, perhaps the desire to attack “Brethren” also, seems to deprive Christians of spiritual judgment. In Ireland the “Christian Examiner,” which represents the waning evangelicalism of the Establishment, borrowed from an English periodical an article full of German views on the subject, written by some one imbued with these Newtonian views. In this article there was an utter setting aside of the atonement. Yet this was not perceived (for I do not believe the Editor would do it willingly and with the knowledge of what he was about), and the article was in great vogue in the Establishment. The true value of the atonement is weakened by the doctrine of propitiatory sufferings without bloodshedding. The writer looks at all Christ’s work as a mere completing obedience at all costs, which, though true, is not propitiatory. Christ is dishonoured and thus spiritual discernment lost, and, provided “Brethren” are attacked, any doctrine is welcome. My adversaries may be assured that this is dangerous ground to be upon; and, if we are in the last days, a fearful look out for them. I entreat Christians to pause and see if they are prepared to receive such doctrines as those I have detailed, and to think what are the characters of attacks directed against “Brethren,” coming from such a quarter and associated with such doctrines.
I will turn to the question of the attack on Mr. Mackintosh— not to enfeeble the acknowledgment he has sent out, the value of which is in its” frankness and integrity. I am glad he has done so. I think he laid himself open to the attack that was made against him by language which, if it might be defended, at any rate gave occasion to those who sought occasion. The expression might be laid hold of, and it was laid hold of. The charge against him was unfounded and unrighteous. Our writings are not to be compared with scripture, which is perfect. If I were only writing for argument, I might challenge the accusers of Mr. M. to explain, without confounding themselves, the sixth chapter of John. But I am not. John 6 is perfect and infallible truth; Mr. M.’s statement an unguarded one—I say, unguarded. I am not afraid of my adversaries: I know what they have said of “guarded.” It is an accusation which recoils only on the accuser, whose mind suggested the imputation. Where no error was meant, it was the way of expressing himself that had to be more guarded. The man who can have any other thought than this of the word is at liberty to have his own thoughts, and he can indulge himself in them: I shall not interrupt him.
As I am not defending myself, I feel at liberty to express myself thus freely. But I am bound to prove the charge made against Mr. M. to be unfounded and unrighteous. The charge made against him was denying the true humanity of the Lord Jesus as truly born of the Virgin Mary. Dr. Bonar charged him with the renewal of the Valentinian heresy, which taught that He had only the appearance of flesh, and was really a spiritual Æon come down from heaven, which might pass through the womb of the Virgin, but no more; there was no being really born of her, so as to have the human nature. Dr. C. says, If (as to His humanity) He was the Lord from heaven, He could not by any possibility in the world be of the substance of the Virgin. “If His humanity be heavenly, it cannot in any sense be of the substance of the Virgin; if it was sent from heaven, it was not formed on earth.”
I shall now quote a passage from the work of Mr. M. which gave occasion to these remarks, and from the same part of it just two pages off.
“It was a real human body—real flesh and blood. There is no possible foundation here on which Gnosticism or mysticism can base its vapid and worthless theories… The early promise had declared that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head, and none but a real man could accomplish this prediction; one whose nature was as real as it was pure and incorruptible. ‘Thou shalt conceive in thy womb,’ said the angelic messenger, ‘and bring forth a son.’ And then, lest there should be room for any error in reference to the mode of this conception, he adds such words as prove unanswerably that the flesh and blood of which the eternal Son took part, while absolutely real, was absolutely incapable of receiving, of retaining, or of communicating a single taint.” Mr. M. then refers to the words he had quoted, Luke i:35. He elsewhere speaks to the same purpose. The whole contents of this part of his book are as plain as possible upon the point of incarnation. I here quote from the first edition; and, strange to say, he specially condemns as vapid and worthless that theory of which Dr. Bonar accuses him. I repeat, therefore, the accusations are unfounded and unrighteous.
Had he held the doctrines imputed to him, I for one should have objected to holding communion with him; but his statements on this point are as plain as their plainness makes the injustice of the accusers to be evident. But I think his expression objectionable. “The second man was, as to His manhood, the Lord from heaven.” The objectionableness lies in this, that in ascribing the title of the Lord from heaven, it goes beyond ascribing it to His person, being man; and by the expression “as to” separates the nature and ascribes the title to it. Had he said, He was Lord from heaven in His manhood, he would have been perfectly right; and he who denied it would be unquestionably a heretic; but “as to” separates the manhood, and thus the words cannot refer to His person who was there in manhood. Dr. C. does not see the difference, and quotes them as “in His manhood,” condemning them alike as the same. That Mr. M. ever asserted that His manhood came down from heaven, is, as far as I can discern, simply a false accusation. The second man was the Lord from heaven: that scripture states. And it goes a great deal farther (in predicating of the nature what belongs to the person) than the ignorance of Dr. C. seems to be aware of. “This,” says Jesus, “is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” Now I fully admit that this language deals with His human nature, His flesh, having in view the union of the two natures in His person, just as He says “The Son of man which is in heaven.” He begins by “I am the living bread,” and then passes on to the bread being His flesh. Still this union is so true, that He speaks of Himself as the living bread which came down from heaven, and declares that this bread is His flesh. Hence, as mere human expressions, “the divine man,” and “the heavenly man,” can be used as expressing what is blessedly true, though they may not have the accuracy of scripture. The true humanity of Jesus is fundamental; but he who would so separate the natures in the person as to touch such expressions as the sixth of John gives is on very slippery ground. The bread came down from heaven, and the bread was His flesh. Yet it would be wrong to say His flesh came down from heaven.
But this is not all I have to say to Dr. C. His statements on the subject, which the “Journal” admires, need no such careful examination as to expressions. What he states is a ruinous and a fatal false doctrine in a great and essential truth as to Christ. I do not charge Dr. C. with heresy in it, because it seems to me sheer ignorance. He says, “To speak of His being Lord as to His manhood seems a strange contradiction in terms.” “As Mr. Mackintosh, however, expressly applies the term Lord to the humanity of Christ, he should join the Socinians and Unitarians in denying that the expression ‘Lord’ is a proof of the divinity of Christ.” “Regarding the divinity of Christ, there are plenty of proofs that He is the Lord from heaven; but regarding His manhood, we are plainly told He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.”
Now I have not read any Socinian books; but if they were to be met only by such statements as these of Dr. C, they would have an easy victory. “Lord” is often a clear testimony to the deity of Jesus, because it is used of Jehovah; the term kuvrio" being that used by the LXX for Jehovah, and retained in the New Testament in a multitude of passages. But the word “Lord” in itself is not a proof of the divinity of Christ; and to deny His Lordship as man, and that in a way in which it is impossible to apply it to His Godhead, is to deny the first great truth promulgated as the foundation of Christianity. And this is what Dr. C. does. “Therefore,” says Peter, “let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” And he quotes the passage which puts this Lordship in contradistinction with Jehovah. “The Lord (Jehovah) said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand.” Christ as man was made Lord by God. That is not Godhead, I suppose.
Now this was the great truth which Peter preached first of all at Pentecost, by which Christianity was founded in the world. And this, which makes the apostle’s first announcement of Christianity to be joining Socinians and Unitarians, is (the “Journal” assures us) “most excellent, and only requires to be added to and amplified to bring the subject fully before the Church.” “We (the ‘Journal’) are much indebted to Dr. C. for it.” That God had set man over the works of His hands, man whom He (God) has raised from the dead, is one of the great and glorious truths of Christianity, as taught in Psalm 8 and quoted in 1 Corinthians 15; Hebrews 2; Ephesians 1. This place of man, and the true manhood of Christ in connection with it, is set forth, specially in Hebrews 2, just as the first chapter had unfolded His Godhead. God has “set him over the works of his hands.” The Lordship of Christ, as a conferred Lordship, the New Testament is full of. So it is said, “To us there is but one God the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ.” “Every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” That He is Jehovah too the scripture is full of. Nor does the soul of the believer ever lose sight of this, whatever position He takes. But where every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, it is God also who has highly exalted Him, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. Does this shut out His being God? That the Socinian perhaps might say. We have only to turn to Romans 14:10-12 to shew the falseness and folly of this conclusion; just as turning to Acts 2 shews the falseness and folly of Dr. C.’s. But this statement of Dr. C.’s, destructive as it is of the Holy Ghost’s first announcement of the truth on which Christianity was founded, may lead us to see what the worth of the criticisms of our adversaries is.
The next piece of Dr. C.’s theology that I shall notice is this very wise conclusion: “Again, p. 36 [of Mr. M.], we have the words, ‘the conception of Christ’s humanity, by the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin.’ The doctrine is here again. The scripture says in regard to the Virgin, ‘Thou shalt conceive in thy womb,’ but Mr. M. says it was the Holy Ghost conceived in her womb, it was not the Virgin herself who conceived. According to this view, the Virgin had no more to do with the conception than, as Valentine said, the conduit has with the water that runs through it.” What a mercy it is to have a detecter of heretics! No doubt Dr. C. is not of the Establishment, and has never learned “the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments in the vulgar tongue.” I will quote one of these: “And in Jesus Christ our Lord who was conceived by the Holy Ghost.” This is the Apostles’ Creed, Dr. C, and “the doctrine is here again.” The creed the church has been saying these fourteen hundred years, and taken for apostolic, contains this dreadful doctrine, and, “according to this view,” the whole church has been Valentinian unto this day, without knowing it! I ask any reader in his senses, what effect criticisms, which make Peter, in the first sermon that founded Christianity in the world, teach such doctrine, that “he had better join the Socinians” —criticisms by persons who have never read the Apostles’ Creed, and accuse it of what Valentine said (of being Valentinian)—can produce upon the “Brethren”?
But, further, Mr. M. has said, p. 40, “‘Such was the humanity of Christ, that He could at any moment, as far as He was personally concerned, have returned to heaven, from whence He had come, and to which He belonged.’ What do you think of this, reader? Could this be misunderstood?” Well, I should have thought not. I suppose Christ belonged to heaven, that He came from heaven (at least He says so), nay, was in it (“the Son of man who is in heaven”); and that His humanity was such—so holy, so pure, so undented—that He could have returned at any moment; that, as He “came from God,” so, unsullied as He was, He could “go to God.” And this purity is what Mr. M. is speaking of. He says, “He assumed a body inherently and divinely pure, holy, and without the possibility of taint—absolutely free from any seed or principle of sin or mortality. Such was the humanity of Christ,” &c. According to Dr. C, “No words could more plainly assert that the humanity of Christ could return to heaven, from whence it had come, and to which it belonged.” The only answer is, that there is not a word of the kind. It is said, not it, but “He had come,” “He belonged,” and “He could return,” and that the humanity was of such a purity that it would not preclude His doing so. And if Dr. C. does not believe that, he is a very great heretic, and not a Christian at all.
Dr. C. complains that it is asserted that there could be no union between humanity as seen in Christ, and humanity as seen in us. “At this side of death there could be no union between Christ and His people.” Dr. C. makes no remark on this (“it would be waste of time,” he says); I shall, because important truth is concerned in it. I affirm it to be sound and important truth. The union of saints with Christ is with Christ glorified, by the Holy Ghost, and not otherwise. God gave Him to be Head over the Church when He had exalted Him above all principality and power. The union of saints with Christ is consequent upon redemption, not before it, as these false doctors teach. “Except a corn of wheat,” our Lord expressly teaches us, “fall into the ground and die, it abides alone; if it die, it brings forth much fruit.” A union without atonement and redemption is fundamentally false doctrine. Incarnation is not union. Christ was among men, very man, in the likeness of sinful flesh, in grace and love; but there was no union. I am aware that these teachers say He was bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, scripture does not; but that, when He was exalted, “we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” There was no union between Christ’s humanity and our sinful humanity. Scripture never speaks of anything of the kind. It is the ruinous doctrine of Irvingism and Puseyism, sanctioned, it seems, by Dr. C. and the “Journal.” I say so, not to attack them, but because it is of vital importance that Christians should understand and hold fast, if they would have the truth, and be in safety in these last days, that there is no union by incarnation; that scriptural union with Christ as the Head of the body is of the saints, by the Holy Ghost, with an exalted Christ, consequent on the accomplishment of redemption. It is vital, in these days, to hold this fast. Incarnation is not union. Christ was not united to sinners when He came in the flesh, but saints are united to Christ when exalted to God’s right hand. Union without redemption, or, if you please, this side of Christ’s death, is the destruction of true Christianity.
Having said this much, I would press my reader to do as I do— leave their attacks where they are, without further notice; only I would recommend those who have Dr. C.’s attacks on the “Brethren “upon their table, whether of the first five thousand or of the second, to read the Apostles’ Creed and Acts 2, and if they wish to be thought to know something about Christianity, to put the pamphlet on the bookshelf; for this denial of Christianity as taught by Peter is on Dr. C.’s first page. And then it is awkward, if they belong to the Establishment, to have the creed they recite every Sunday accused of Gnosticism. The pleasure of seeing “Brethren” attacked may perhaps outweigh this with some; but what can we think of such a judgment? And now I will beg my reader to turn to more material things.
Yet here excessive ignorance pursues me. We are assured that divine attributes cannot be conferred upon the human race. Here all is triumph. Now the believer is made partaker of the divine nature, and all God’s moral attributes are communicated to or conferred upon man. He is created again, and “renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him,” “in righteousness and true holiness.” Is holiness not one of God’s attributes? Is it not conferred upon man? Is it some other kind of holiness? It is said, “that we may be partakers of his holiness.” I can hardly call “love” an attribute, for it is God’s nature; yet practically it is the same, or a stronger case; but “he that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.” “Love is of God;” I suppose this is conferred upon us. The very essence of practical Christianity is our partaking of the divine nature, and having God’s moral attributes conferred on us, or implanted with His nature in us. And as to “righteousness” as an attribute, this is equally true. But an attribute being imputed to us is simple nonsense, being a contradiction in terms; because an attribute is something which belongs to, or is in, the being spoken of, so as to be a part of himself. But that which was an attribute or was in God may be imputed, taken abstractedly. Nobody has said that the righteousness of God is imputed. It is really difficult to deal with such extreme ignorance as this pamphlet displays. The righteousness of God is an attribute of His nature; I suppose Dr. C. does not deny that. Nobody ever thought of imputing an attribute of God, or any attribute at all.
What I have insisted on (in conformity here with the expressions of the Establishment) is, that imputing righteousness to a man is accounting him to be righteous; and that is all. And this the scripture use of the phrase clearly demonstrates to be its sense there: “God imputeth righteousness without works;” i.e., accounts the man to be righteous. “His faith is imputed to him for righteousness.” It is not the value of his faith; but, as the Article of the Establishment expresses it, “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings.”
I am asked why I do not say inherent; and it is said that this is no imputation at all. I do not say inherent, for the simple reason that it is not inherent. If I am accounted righteous for the sake of the work of Christ, that cannot be inherent. The man is accounted righteous because of it. To talk of its being inherent would be nonsense. Dr. C.’s objection to this makes me doubt whether he is a Christian at all; at any rate, he is totally ignorant of justification by faith. I am not his judge, and I would hope all things; but indeed I do not see (judging only by what is said) how it is possible to own anyone as a Christian who could write what follows: “According to the turn Mr. D. has now taken, the righteousness is not imputed at all, but the man who is not righteous is accounted righteous! Most monstrous! The God of truth and justice is to come forth with a he in His right hand, and to account the man righteous who is not truly righteous—to call the thief an honest man!! Horrible, most horrible!” Now if a man not truly righteous in himself has righteousness wrought out by another imputed to him, when he has not done it (which is the theory of my adversaries), “is not truly righteous” the case is just the same—the man is held for righteous when he is not truly so. All the horror is thrown away. But although a man must be born again, have Christ as his life, to have a part in the righteousness of God, yet that is not being righteous before God. Were it so, it would be inherent righteousness. But the essence of justification by faith is, that God justifies the ungodly. I suppose “ungodly” does not mean “truly righteous.” It is the ungodly whom God justifies; and if we believe on Him who justifies the ungodly, our faith is counted for righteousness. No attribute of God is imputed; but a man who is a sinner is accounted righteous according to that attribute, according to all its perfection and all its exigencies, because of Christ and His work. If only a man who was truly righteous was accounted righteous, there would be no ground for imputed righteousness at all. Imputed righteousness has all its value and meaning in this: that a man who cannot pretend to be righteous in himself is so accounted for another’s sake. It is God’s justifying the ungodly. I repeat, the work of God in us is needed that we may have a part in divine righteousness; but Dr. C.’s statements are a denial of the whole gospel, and nonsense to boot. For a man who is truly righteous does not want imputed righteousness; and if he is accounted so for another’s sake, it is because he is not truly so in himself in God’s sight. It is a denial of the gospel; for the essence of this is, that God justifies the ungodly. No one who knew what scripture means by imputed righteousness could for a moment speak of imputing the righteousness of God; not only, as I have said, because imputing an attribute is a contradiction in terms, but because it is denying the proper sense of imputing righteousness. Clamour and abuse are no argument.
I affirm that scripture never speaks of imputed righteousness as of a sum of righteousness first existing in itself and then imputed. The truth is, it never speaks of imputed righteousness at all, but of imputing righteousness; and the difference is very great indeed. Imputed righteousness may carry with it in the mind the sense of a substantive quantity of righteousness first existing and then imputed; imputing righteousness cannot. It is an act of the mind accounting the person something at the moment the act of the mind takes place. If it is God’s mind, it is perfect, and does not change, no doubt; but when I say God imputed his faith to Abraham for righteousness, it is plain that He held Abraham to be righteous in His sight on account of faith; that is, imputing righteousness means, in scripture, to hold a person to be a righteous man, to reckon or account him such.
Theologians may torture themselves, and abuse those who state it, and quote clouds of doctors like themselves. They advance nothing. When scripture says Abraham’s faith was imputed to him for righteousness, it means Abraham was accounted righteous on account of his faith. Hence imputing God’s righteousness could not be employed or thought of by me, because I deny all such previous sum of righteousness made out and then imputed to be the meaning of righteousness being imputed. Imputing righteousness (for, I repeat, imputed righteousness, as a compound term, is unscriptural) is the estimate of the man’s relative state to God. The man is righteous in the sight of Him who judges.
But further (I have explained in a previous tract that righteousness has a double sense), what is inherent, i.e., characterizes the nature of the persons—this is its constant use as to God. He is righteous; His righteousness is as the great deep. It is used as to man—a man is a righteous man; but it is used relatively or judicially. A man is held to be righteous—righteous in God’s sight. Here it is the estimate God forms judicially, not the intrinsic statement. If the state be such, He will hold him such; but this is impossible for sinful man. Hence if a man even partakes of the divine nature, loves righteousness, and, as to his new nature, nothing else, yet relatively and judicially, because of the old man he cannot pretend to be—is not in himself—truly righteous in God’s sight, because of what he is. Because of Christ, God holds him relatively and judicially to be perfectly righteous, according to His own divine estimate; righteousness is imputed to him. All that God is Christ has glorified; and the man is in Christ before God according to the value of this. He is made thus the righteousness of God in Him. Righteousness first existing as a sum of righteousness, under obligations fulfilled and then imputed, is not in scripture. Imputed righteousness is not a scriptural term; imputing righteousness is what scripture speaks of. But this has nothing to do with inherent righteousness, but is God’s accounting a man righteous who could not pretend to that by what was inherent in him.
The real question however lies further; that is, by reason of what is the man accounted righteous, yea, the righteousness of God in Christ? My adversaries say it was Christ’s keeping the law for us; but when I ask for scripture, it is impossible to have any. It is a mistake to say “Brethren” deny Christ’s righteousness. Of course, personally, He was righteous. They deny the imputation of His law-keeping to the believer, and that the righteousness of God means anything of the kind.
What Mr. Haldane says has no foundation in the word of God. The point on which his argument rests is not in scripture at all. “The righteousness of God which is received by faith, denotes something that becomes the property of the believer.” But the phrase which he says denotes so and so, and on which he founds consequently his argument, is unfortunately Mr. Haldane’s phrase, not that of scripture, so that the whole argument comes simply to—nothing. Scripture never says that the righteousness of God is received by faith, our enemies themselves being judges; if it did, it might be alleged it was a sum of righteousness wrought out before, and subsisting to be received; but scripture does not speak so. The nearest approach to it is where it is said, in Romans 5, “They who receive the abundance of grace, and the gift of righteousness, shall reign in life.” Now here it is in general stated that they receive abundance of the gift of righteousness. They have their righteousness by gift, not by works, as every Christian owns; but not a word of receiving the righteousness of God by faith. I deny all possibility of righteousness becoming a property; there is no idea of it in scripture, nor is there any sense in it. It is not the idea of righteousness in scripture: that is either a quality in God or man, and then it is inherent (but if in man, not his justifying righteousness before God), or it is a relative state, his judicial acceptance in God’s sight. Innocence is no longer the lot of man, nor applicable to God. The knowledge of good and evil exists. No keeping of the law makes a man innocent: it makes him righteous if he does so. The blood of Christ does not make him innocent; it cleanses him from sin and justifies him.
Let me sum up distinctly what I affirm. I am not speaking of inherent righteousness at all, not any quality in or actual state of man, but what he is reckoned or accounted; and (as it is on account of another, and not of what he is in himself) of righteousness being imputed to him.
Next, I say imputed righteousness is an unscriptural term and an unscriptural idea; if it be used in scripture let the passage be produced. You have neither dikaiosuvnh lelogismevnh, nor dikaivwma lelogivsmenon, nor dikaiwvmata lelogivsmena. Imputing righteousness is a scriptural and most important truth; not accounting a man righteous who is truly so, but, according to scripture, “justifying the ungodly.”
Next, imputing righteousness means in scripture accounting a man to be righteous.
These statements must be answered from scripture; it is of no use talking about their being monstrous. Answer them from scripture, or confess they are true according to scripture. As to the first, that the term “imputed righteousness” is not found in scripture, a concordance will prove.
Imputing righteousness, or righteousness being imputed, is found; the question is what it means. Does it mean a given quantum of righteousness transferred over to a man’s account; or holding a man to be righteous—reckoning or accounting him such? I affirm that in scripture it always means the latter. Thus in Romans 4:11 it is abstract—”that righteousness might be imputed to them also;” that is, that they might be held or accounted righteous though not of the circumcision. There is no question at all of a quantum of righteousness subsisting and then put to their account; but that righteousness itself should be reckoned to them. And this is the more clear, because the sentence on which all the apostle’s reasoning on the point and his whole use of the phrase rests is, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness;” “faith was reckoned to him for righteousness,” i.e., he was accounted righteous before God because of his faith. The meaning of the phrase is, Abraham was held for righteous on this ground. That is clearly the meaning of the passage; but this passage is the governing passage—that from which the use of the phrase is drawn in every instance.
A sober mind, taught of God, subject to the word of God, has only to read the passages in which imputing righteousness is spoken of in scripture to see at once the force of the expression.
The last question, which lies behind all this is, Why is the believer accounted righteous?
My adversaries say it is because Christ kept the law in his stead, and that this is imputed to him.
I deny this as an utterly anti-scriptural doctrine; I have said it and repeat it. I know many beloved and godly souls have been so taught, and have held it in integrity of heart. But since it is insisted on, and the truth is evil spoken of, I speak more plainly. It is an anti-scriptural doctrine which does great injury to souls.
Our union with Christ is not under law. “We are not under law” at all. We are not justified by works of law, by whomsoever done, but entirely in another way. It was never God’s intention to bring in righteousness by law. “If righteousness come by law, Christ is dead in vain.” The whole system is mischievous and false. My statements, I think, are plain. I shall now turn to scripture to prove them.
My difficulty here is, that I am reproducing the whole argument of Paul. For it is the point he insists on in all his doctrine.
He teaches that Adam was under a law; not a law by which he was to obtain life (for these false doctors are unscriptural on every point), but a law the breach of which was to entail death on him who was alive. That law he broke, and came under death and condemnation; only the promise of the woman’s Seed came in. He was not replaced under a law again, but, saved through grace and faith, remained dead and lost under the effect of that he had broken, which none else could come under personally. But he had acquired a conscience, the knowledge of good and evil, which served for law, but was a very different thing; because in its nature it was an intrinsic consciousness, of right and wrong, but was not the imposed authority of the Lawgiver. It was a new quality in himself, which was found also in God; not a law imposed by authority, though the violation of it might make him fear, because he had the consciousness, that he was subject to God. But he was a law to himself, had not God’s law over him and the explicit authority of the Lawgiver—a most important point. The Gentiles, we are solemnly assured by scripture, had not the law, have no law (novmon mhV e[conte"). Afterwards come the promises, the unconditional promises, and four hundred and thirty years after that, and not till then, came the law, and under it promise became conditional. But that could not disannul the previous promise. But it was added, came in by the by, was our schoolmaster to Christ, was added because of transgressions, entered (or came in) by the by that the offence might abound. It was the strength of sin; the motions of sin were by it. Sin has dominion over us if we are under it; such is the testimony of scripture. The Gentile had no commandment. If one went to condemn him because he had transgressed, his answer would be —I never heard the commandment: how could I transgress the authority of Him who gave it? To say that sin became exceeding sinful by the commandment, and yet that men had the law everywhere, is simple nonsense. It cannot be in vigour everywhere, at all times, and yet sin become exceeding sinful by its being given.
The statements made as to the law are unscriptural and false. Only one passage would seem to bear out the doctrines advanced —“Sin is the transgression of the law.” But every one acquainted with Greek knows that this is not the word elsewhere used for “transgression of law,” and that that is not its true sense. It is ajnomiva, not paravbasi" novmou. But the turning point of the question lies yet farther on.
Christ was made under the law, and kept it. But sinners had no connection with Him in this place. It was needed for His personal perfection and God’s glory, but there was no union with Christ so alive in the flesh. We are married to another, even to Christ who is risen from the dead. God raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the Church which is His body. He is exalted, that is consequent on His redemption work, that we may be united to Him there in virtue of redemption, not as unredeemed and under law. If He did not die, He abode alone.
Two systems, then, are in presence. One puts all men, and not only men but Christians, under law, and makes the fulfilment of law to be righteousness; and as men have not kept it, and hence have not righteousness, connects them as thus still in flesh with Christ known after the flesh and under law, and makes His accomplishment of it their righteousness.
The other says, No; all that is of the flesh is finally and hopelessly condemned. Christ, by dying, has closed all possible connection between God and man in the flesh. Man in the flesh has rejected Christ, is condemned, and judgment only remains for him. The law was not given to all men. It was the rule of right for man in the flesh, but given when man was a sinner, whom God knew to be wholly and hopelessly lost, to the Jewish people, to bring out the great truth of man’s condition, if righteousness was claimed from him. Sin, death, judgment, were already man’s portion, and nothing else. He was lost; he proves it by rejecting Christ. But the law came in to raise the question of righteousness. Christ was perfect here as everywhere, but alone in it. Man in flesh, unless redemption came in, was as alienated from God as ever. But redemption came in by death, and the believer has died with Christ, does not in God’s sight exist in the life in which he was in the flesh (and if he were under law, it was in flesh), and he has died away from under it to have his place and portion through redemption in Christ risen, having died as to the life in which he was under the law. He is in Christ, and in Christ accepted according to Christ’s own acceptance. The value which Christ has in the sight of God, which is real and meritorious, is the value in which he stands, but as dead and risen. The death of Christ has put away his sin, and all the glorifying of God, in virtue of which Christ as man is at God’s right hand in righteousness (he stands in the value of Christ) is his righteousness. He is not under law at all, but under grace. Which of these two schemes is the scriptural one? I affirm the first to be false and anti-scriptural, the latter to be the Christianity taught in the New Testament. The first is not Christianity, but a human unscriptural scheme, putting the Christian back into the flesh; the second is the Christianity of scripture.
I challenge my adversaries to meet this question fairly. As yet they have not dared to do it: I can understand this as prudence. I put it plainly and fairly. I declare their whole scheme of putting Christians under law, and then imputing Christ’s law-keeping for righteousness to them, to have no foundation in scripture. I dare say they can quote evangelicals and modern theologians by sacks full. It is no use. Allegatio ejusdem rei cujus dissolutio petitur nil valet, say the lawyers. This modern opinion of theologians I denounce as unscriptural and mischievous, as subversive of the true power of Christianity.
Christians are not under the law in any way. So scripture positively states: to allege that this is allowing evil is attacking scripture, not me. Scripture states that walking in the Spirit is our path, but that then we are not under law; it states why even those who were under law ceased to be so before God when they became Christians. They had died, and the law had only power over a man as long as he lived. Their deliverance from sin was not by law—the contrary was the case—but because they had died to sin; they were crucified with Christ, and Christ was their life. He that is dead is freed from sin. Sin shall not have dominion over us because we are not under law. The law is the strength, of sin.
That a Christian is under law, or that Christ has kept the law for us, so that it should be imputed to us, I defy all my adversaries to shew from scripture.
I will first take a single chapter (I have elsewhere discussed the different texts) to shew the ground Paul sets the Christian on; and the reader will remark if the Spirit of God does not contrast the christian state with being under law in any way whatever. (Gal. 3.) “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.” Here we have precisely the question raised, imputing righteousness, and all believers put on Abraham ground: “So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” There is our thesis—imputing righteousness—not merely forgiving sin, if we are to make the difference, but especially imputing righteousness.
Now my adversaries say that this is done by law-keeping, and is only to be done so: only that Christ kept it, which we did not, and that so it was imputed to us (His righteousness by law-keeping), and we are thus righteous. It is by faith, because it is by believing we get a share in Christ’s law-keeping.
I say, No; faith is contrasted with law. Promise is distinguished from law. Promise comes first, is confirmed to the Seed—Christ. Law comes in afterwards, by the by—four hundred and thirty years afterwards—and has its application to men on earth until the Seed came. They that were under it were under it till faith came, and then, as redeemed, they take the place of sons with the risen One.
Now what does the chapter say? We have righteousness imputed to Abraham believing, and because of believing the promise. Had this anything to do with law or its fulfilment, or was it the fullest and carefully argued contrast with the law? And we have blessing, note it, the same way. (Ver. 9.) So far from faith having a part in law-fulfilling, it is in the fullest contrast. “As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse,” for it curses every one that does not keep it, and none have kept it, Christ excepted. “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident.” Now we are told that we are justified by the law being kept, and thus righteousness being imputed to us. We are justified (we are told) only by law; forgiven, cleansed, by blood; but justified by law-keeping. The apostle declares that it is evident we are not, that no one is; it is not by law or law-keeping we are justified. Will it be said that means our doing so? The apostle does not say so.2 He speaks of the principle upon which it takes place—It is evident that no man is justified by law —and he gives the reason, “It is written, The just shall five by faith.” But, then, why cannot the believer have the benefit of law-keeping by faith? Because “the law is not of faith;” the two principles are opposed. The man must keep the law himself to have life by it. Is not this a strange thing to say if we have it by Christ’s keeping it? See how it stands. My adversaries say a man can be justified only by law, and he need not do the commandments, but Christ for him, and he get it by faith. The apostle says, that no man is justified by law it is evident, for scripture says the righteous shall live by faith. Well, but we have, says my adversary, the good of law-keeping by faith. You cannot, says the apostle; the law is not of faith. The principle is wholly opposed. “The man that doeth them shall live by them:” he must do them himself to have righteousness by them. It must be his own righteousness. The law is not of faith at all. The law was mighty to curse, but the redemption has come in by Christ’s bearing the curse, that the blessing which was by promise—not by law at all—should come upon us, and we receive the Spirit, which does not come by works of law. God gave the blessing to Abraham by promise, and if it be of the law, it is not by promise at all; but by law is not the way in which God has given the inheritance. I pray you, reader, to mark all this distinctly.
The apostle then shews it was confirmed to the Seed, that is, Christ; but this was a distinct unconditional promise made (Gen. 12) to Abraham, and confirmed (Gen. 22) to the Seed; depended on no condition of law-keeping at all; was God’s simple unconditional promise. The law was a distinct thing which came in afterwards, most useful to raise the question of righteousness in flesh, and shew man could not have it; but it could not affect, disannul, or be added as a condition to the unconditional promise —this must remain untouched, unaffected, unadded to, in all its own force. The law was added because of transgressions till the Seed should come and the promises be made good. To Him they were confirmed, and if we are His, consequent on the work of redemption, we are heirs according to promise; but the inheritance is not of law at all, it is of promise in contrast with law, which cannot affect the unconditional and confirmed promise. But it will be said that, though no formal law was given, the law was always in force. It is false. For a law to be in force, there must be an enactment of it, the authority of the lawgiver intervening. That the contents of the law were holy, and just, and good, is nothing to the purpose; that the natural conscience acquired by the fall saw many things contained in it to be right, is true; but to have a transgression and a law there must be a formally given commandment. Since the law given to Adam, God never gave a law till Sinai came, unless we except the condition of not eating blood to Noah. It was never given to have righteousness by; for man was a lost sinner before it was given, and Christ’s death needed. It was given to make the offence abound, to bring in the conviction of the helpless condition of sin man was in more definitely and distinctly. It was never meant to be the means of having righteousness, it came too late for it: if a law had been given which had given life, then man in that life had wrought the righteousness, and righteousness would have been by the law. But such was not God’s plan, and He took care to shew it, and gave the promise on which the blessing depended before any law at all, confirming it to the Seed—Christ; and then, when He had established the blessing otherwise than by law, He gave the law.
Now if I am to take the use and application of law, I must take it as God used and applied it, and that was not to produce righteousness but to make the offence abound, having previously given the blessing in a way which excluded any bringing in of the law for it. Justification and righteousness then are declared to be in another way than by law, and by a way with which it is impossible to connect the law, because nothing can be added to the promise confirmed to Christ. Adding the law, setting it up again, when we have gone to Christ, the promised Seed, for justification, is frustrating the grace of God; for if righteousness came by law, Christ is dead in vain. But if we are righteous by Christ’s keeping the law, it does come by the law, and Christ’s death is in vain. The inheritance is not by law, says the apostle; righteousness is not by law: the doctrine which teaches that it is, is a subversion and denial of Christianity as Paul taught it. The apostle’s reasoning is careful and reiterated on this point; it is his great thesis as to justification. That is, his great thesis as to justification is to deny and denounce what my adversaries insist on, and in the chapter which follows the one to which I have alluded the apostle carefully shews that the two principles of promise and law cannot go together, that the scripture declares that the bondwoman and her seed must be cast but.
What does he say in the Romans? “For the promise that he should be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith;” that is, the righteousness of faith is not by law at all. “For if they which aire of the law be heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of none effect.” Yet we are told it must be by law and so only, and Christ’s keeping it; that is, righteousness is in a work done according to our responsibility in flesh, and accomplished before any redemption is wrought by blood; whereas we are all called to reckon ourselves wholly dead as regards that life, yea, told we are dead, and so justified or freed from sin, and alive now to God as risen in Christ, taught not even to know Christ after the flesh. And what consequently am I called upon to believe in order to righteousness being imputed to me? On Him who raised up Christ from the dead, who was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification. I am not called upon, the law being in question, to believe He kept it for me that I might have righteousness imputed to me; I am told the promise does not come in that way, but to believe that He was delivered for my offences and raised again for my justification. It is to a Christ raised from the dead I am called to look. It is not to His keeping the law that God teaches me to look for my justification. I am taught that my righteousness does not come by law or that His death is vain.
If I go a step farther; 1 find not only that Christ died for me and rose again, but I am dead and risen with Him so as to have no existence in relationship to that to which law applied. Law applied to a man alive; but I have died. I am become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that I might be to another, to Him who is raised from the dead. “When we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members; but now we are delivered from the law, having died in that in which we were held.” The law has power over a man as long as he lives, but our old man is crucified with Christ: the whole footing we are on now, not in the life in which we are born of Adam, to which as long as it lived law could apply, but created again in Him who is raised from the dead, passed out of the region to which law applies, not by enfeebling it, but by dying as to the nature and state to which it applies and to sin at the same time, and being a new creature, accepted in the Beloved and belonging to another, so that we cannot live to the old, nor admit the claim of law over us, and so be to another while we are to Christ.
If we turn to the Ephesians, where the subject of our place in Christ is fully viewed, we find man, Jew or Gentile, viewed as dead in trespasses and sins, and Christ Himself as Head. God’s power raises Him up and gives Him to be the Head of the body; we, by the very same power, when dead in trespasses and sins, have been quickened together with Him, and raised up together— Jew or Gentile, under law or without law, near or far off, alike children of wrath—and made to sit together in heavenly places in Him. Under law? Surely not; but brought out wholly from the place, state, and condition we were in before, were it under law or lawless, by the power of the new creation, in union with Christ as sitting at God’s right hand. It is not a making good the duties of the old state or creation, but holding all as dead and ruined in it, and forming a new, which has its duties—good works which God has afore prepared. We were predestinated, the whole place and glory too, before the world, and the works afore prepared as suited to the new place, even to be “imitators of God as dear children,” and not, as Paul says, to build again the old thing out of which we have been delivered.
This alone gives a just estimate of what Christianity is. I do not say that every truly converted person has laid hold of this. A man may be a Christian and only just know that he is forgiven— blessed knowledge too. But the doctrine I oppose denies the truth I am speaking of, builds up again that out of which we are delivered, makes Christ a restorer of the old man, not the beginning to us of the new in the state into which He is entered as risen. The making Christ a keeper of the law for us as being under it is destroying the very truth and nature of Christianity as scripture teaches it. Was then the breach of the law by those under it held to be of no account and immaterial? In no wise. Christ took its curse so as to maintain all its authority in the highest way, but not to put Jews back, and Gentiles for the first time under it; but, having risen after having died as bearing the curse, to introduce both into a wholly new place founded on the power of divine life in resurrection, where neither Adam innocent nor Adam fallen, nor the Jew under law nor the lawless heathen, ever were, one more than the other, different as their states might be. Taken even in their highest character, the duties of man as man are not the manifestation of God; and this last is what we are called on to follow and imitate. Christ was perfect as come in the flesh, and born under the law; but by redemption He has placed us on a new ground, where we are not in the flesh at all nor put under the law. We are sons in the power of resurrection, not servants. Christ has perfectly glorified God as regards the old position, both in His own walk and in bearing the curse due to our failure in it; but He has not put us into it and met our failures in it as now under law by keeping the law, but delivered us out of it by redemption, and given us a part with Himself in the new place into which He is entered, and no other.
People make this great mistake, that because the moral law is in itself good and perfectly holy, therefore man is necessarily and always under it. This is not so. It was not the case at the beginning: men were distinctly placed under promise as contrasted with law, and the law’s use and place is distinctly stated in scripture. Man was under a law when innocent, a specific law which only tested obedience, and required no personal knowledge of right and wrong. He failed and became a sinner. To give him a law then as a way of righteousness and life would be only condemnation and death.
But God shewed that He did not mean putting man under law to be the way of righteousness. His order of dealing was this: an absolute unconditional promise, to which the blessing was attached, and which was irrevocable and unchangeable, was given. The question of righteousness was not raised by it. God promised and of course would give the blessing as promised. This promise was confirmed to the Seed—Christ; and, if we look closer into the figure, confirmed to Him after being offered in sacrifice and raised. However, it was confirmed to the Seed, that is, to Christ. After this the law is added, enters, but cannot change the promise. It raised the question of righteousness, and put it on man’s accomplishment to shew that he could not make it out, and to make sin transgression and exceeding sinful. But it was only till the Seed came, to whom the promise was made. The administration of law, its use with man, was special and occasional. Christ, the Seed, was to be life and righteousness, and the One through whom the Spirit was to be received, not the law. But He comes in connection with man’s position in flesh. Though He knew no sin, He was in the likeness of sinful flesh, “born of the seed of David according to the flesh”—genovmeno" of a woman; genovmeno" under the law. This was man’s and Israel’s place as a sinner; Christ’s place sinless, and in a sinless way. He glorified God in it, as man had dishonoured Him. But He works redemption and takes a new place, taking believers out of the old, so that now we say “when we were in the flesh,” “ye are not in the flesh.” Promise confirmed to the Seed; law till the Seed came; the Seed come; the time of the law closed, and the redemption of him who was under it valid for every believer, who thereon receives the Spirit: such is the divine order of God’s dealings. He who puts us under law, or makes law so universal as to hinder promise being first (when man was a sinner and law only brought in for important purposes by the by), upsets the revealed order and principle of all God’s dealings with man.
I know not that I can add anything to what is so exceedingly plain, if we follow scripture and are subject to it. I do not pretend to answer all the reasonings of Dr. C. To tell the honest truth, I do not see any sense in them. I meet heaps of such as “I was told, a few days since, that it is impossible for the obedience of Christ to be so imputed that the man who has broken the law becomes entirely innocent.” If so, I reply, on the same principle of reasoning, it is impossible for the work of Christ on the cross to be so imputed that the man becomes entirely free from the punishment of his guilt. If the one is impossible, so is the other. With a man who can reason thus it is lost time to reason at all. There is not a particle of sense in the passage. An innocent man is (to go no deeper) a man who has never been guilty. And his ever becoming innocent is simple nonsense. Whereas being free from punishment of guilt, if another bear the punishment in our place, is the simplest thing possible.
A man who has made debts can never become a person who has never made any; but, if his debts are paid by another, he is free from the consequences of his folly. I ask any man of common sense, if a person who has something else to do can be expected to go through some thirty or forty pages of such reasoning as that? And I can assure my reader that a glance at Dr. C.’s book has shewn me pages of writing of no greater worth. I am told that the book is on the tables of evangelicals on every side; I pity them.
Dr. C. has taken up the question of ministry and pastorship, which I shall not mix up with that which concerns the truth of Christianity itself. I only say that his pages prove that he does not even know what the question which has been agitated is. He says “Existence of the christian ministry or pastoral office.” This is one blunder. They are not the same thing, and nobody denies either. Next he makes pastor and bishop the same thing, which is another blunder. Bishops and elders were the same. Scripture is very plain as to christian ministry, it does speak of pastors, and both have their place now. It speaks of elders too. It speaks also of apostles: yet we have none. Why should not they be useful now? why not choose some now? Dr. C. will doubtless think it absurd. So do I. You cannot. It is therefore possible that there may be elders in scripture, and yet that we cannot now have elders according to scripture. If Dr. C. will shew me a direction to the Church to choose elders, or particular instructions sent to a church for it, it would be another matter. Elders were appointed in every city. By whom? is the question; though indeed there is another question—to find the churches themselves first. Dr. C. cannot understand how the Holy Spirit can choose the man, and then make His choice known. He may very easily learn. He said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul.” He did not do so with elders, but He did not confide the choice to the Church either. But all I shall say on this head is that Dr. C. knows neither what “Brethren” hold, nor what the scriptures teach on the subject. The former is easily accounted for. What controversy there was on the subject was abroad and not in England. When he can produce to me a scriptural church and apostles, we may be nearer finding scriptural elders; but I do not purpose going farther into the question here or mixing it up with the far more vital question of what Christianity itself really is. I deny all choice or election of elders by the Church, as unscriptural, and pastors are not elders. I should have thought he had lived near enough to Presbyterians to know that, if he had not learnt what is very easily found in scripture.
I close by recalling my reader’s attention to the main subject. The word of God teaches us that we are not justified by law, nor by any one’s keeping it, but carefully assures us we are not— that, if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. My adversaries teach it does come by law, Christ having kept it for us. The word of God teaches that the Christian is not under the law, that the law has power over a man so long as he lives, but that we are dead to it by the body of Christ, and that we are not in the flesh, in which a man was subjected to it, according to scripture.
Defending the “Brethren” is not my task, but defending the truth. I hold the doctrine of my adversaries to be unscriptural. When they can produce any scripture to prove it I will bow to it. I promise to answer, with God’s help, any sober statement which appeals to scripture, or even any question. I challenge them to produce any scripture—I know they cannot. They should not charge unsound doctrine and then retreat into silence; or, if they speak, indulge in abuse—that I must be excused answering: but here I am for any argument attempted to be based on scripture. I have no doubt it is more convenient to them not to attempt to answer. Their articles, they tell us, are exciting attention. Be it so. I am glad of it too. But they may be well assured that, if scripture be appealed to largely against them, and they do not attempt to answer by scripture, the kind of attention will be such as they will not like. I do not expect every adversary will be convinced, but they may find that many sincere souls will, and that they may be put to silence.
I only add that practical sanctification and godliness is as little by law as justification. All that has truly that character comes under the title of the fruits of the Spirit, and the apostle carefully tells us that, if we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the law. We want life, power, motive, but that is in Christ and the Spirit, not in law.
“If righteousness come by the law, Christ is dead in vain.”
“If the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.”
“Christ is become of none effect unto you, as many of you as are justified by the law. Ye are fallen from grace.”
The very day on which I terminated the above I received a “Record” of August n from England, in reply (if it can be called so) to my letter on the Righteousness of God. I do not think there is any superfluous honesty in it, but only one thing which calls for any answer, because it refers to scripture. The rest insists on the question being settled by divines, about which I trouble myself very little.
The “Record” says I have (in quoting it) omitted what was “the substance of three proof texts.” Had I quoted the passage in full, it says, it would have been an answer to my demand of scripture. Here is what is stated to be omitted, “That he bore the curse of the broken law, and also at the same time magnified it and made it honourable. He was obedient unto death, His obedience unto death.” The “Record” then refers to Galatians 3:13; Philippians 2:8; Isaiah 42:21. Now I am quite ready to admit that the “Record” had these passages in mind, though it did not quote them. Let us look at them. The question is, whether Christ’s keeping the law for us during His lifetime is imputed to us for righteousness.
Galatians 3:13—“Christ hath 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.” The second is Philippians 2:8, “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” The third is Isaiah 42:21, “The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake. He will magnify the law and make it honourable.” The reader must judge for himself how bearing the curse in hanging on the tree, or Christ’s being obedient unto death, applies to Christ’s keeping the law during His life being imputed to us for righteousness. That Christ magnified the law and made it honourable, both by keeping it in His life and bearing its curse in His death, is assuredly true, but does not touch the question of its being imputed for righteousness.
You have now what, after long months’ advisement, the “Record” can produce from scripture for its doctrine. There could hardly be a greater proof of what I have alleged—that it has no scripture to produce. It admits that it has not argued the subject. Of course it asserts that all my tendencies are decidedly Socinian. That is the fashion. I beg leave distinctly to deny the statement.
“He denies that Christ had anything to do with law.” It is simply false. I say, “He kept the law surely, He was born under it.” And again, “Christ, while perfect under the law in His own person, did not keep it to make good our defects under it.” Again, “Being born under the law, He could not but be perfect under it in His person and walk. This is above all enquiry. It is received by the simplicity of faith as the truth.” It is not true that I hold that justification is simply by death for our sin. It is said in the paper referred to, “Thus far we have only His death. But the apostle goes farther—not surely to anything inconsistent. Up to this he had met the sin of the old man by the blood of Christ. Now from chapter 4 he takes up the new man in resurrection. Abraham is justified by faith. So we are to believe on Him who raised up Christ from the dead. What Christ? A Christ who kept the law for us? Not such a thought. A Christ, blessed be His most gracious name,” who was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification.” I shall quote one passage of mine as a whole, that the reader may judge how far the “Record” is to be trusted. “We believers are not under law but under grace. Christ, while perfect under law in His own person, did not keep it to make good our defects under it, or give us legal righteousness or justification by it. He died for our sins and thus put them away; but we are viewed as being also dead with Him, and no longer in the flesh at all, to which law applied, but stand as risen in the presence of God in the position in which He stands, with all the value of His work upon us, and accepted in His person, according to His acceptance now that He is risen. This is measured by His having perfectly glorified God in His work, and hence He is glorified in and with God in heaven; and this is our title to be in heaven and glory in due time with Him— conformed to His image—the firstborn among many brethren.” Again, “As Christ is righteousness to us, and we are the righteousness of God in Him, we are accepted according to God’s own character, righteous in Him. His infinite value, including therein His work, is our title before God.”
After these quotations I can only leave the judgment of the “Record’s” statements to my reader, begging him to read my tract, and to take my statements as to scripture, Calvin, Luther, the Homilies, and the “Record” only from my own tract. Let him note too in anything quoted, whether it applies to Christ’s keeping the law for us.
But there is one passage in the new article of the “Record” to which I must turn, because it is to me vital in this question, more so than some which relate to the law. Those who hold our justification by Christ’s keeping the law are obliged, more or less, to obliterate the true character of His death as propitiation. If His living sufferings and obedience had this character, then the death of Christ loses its peculiar atoning force. “Without shedding of blood there is no remission.” He gives His flesh for the life of the world. On the cross He stands a victim under the curse—under wrath, forsaken of God, pouring out His soul unto death. The life, says the “Record,” “is the basis of the death, the death the close of the life-work.” So before, “We ought to think of Christ’s work as a whole. The Bible speaks of it as His obedience unto death.” The “Record” states that I do “not believe in the obedience unto death of the Lord Jesus Christ as the one man’s obedience whereby many were made righteous.” This is simply untrue: I do believe it.
But I pray my reader to weigh earnestly the point I am now upon. It is a question of the value and character of the death of the blessed Lord, of His bloodshedding. Was His bloodshedding under the curse the same in character and nature as His living obedience under divine favour? Was the drinking that cup of wrath, which Christ prayed, if it were possible, might pass from Him, the same thing as His life-work when He was not drinking it at all, but found it His meat to do His Father’s will, and finish His work? Was Christ forsaken of God all His life? No doubt He was perfectly obedient all His life, and that even unto death, and so I have stated, and insist on His obedience in this respect as being a whole. But was that, to and in which He was obedient on the cross, as there obedient to His Father’s will, the same as His life-work? Had it nothing peculiar in it? Could any one who really believed in the propitiatory power of His wrath-bearing death use the language of the “Record,” and say “Death was the close of the life-work”? I believe it impossible. No doubt death closed His life-work; but when it says “We ought to think of Christ’s work as a whole,” it is making it all one like work. Was all His life-work bloodshedding under wrath? Was He made sin all His life long? Was He brought under the curse as being upon the tree all His life long? When John says His hour was not come, was there nothing peculiar in that hour? I repeat it, Was He always drinking the cup, the thought of which, as thus still before Him, made Him sweat as it were great drops of blood? In a word, had the hour of wrath and the cup nothing peculiar in it? Was it only the close of His life-work? Answer it if you can and dare.
It is this slighting of propitiation and the dying sorrow of Christ—when it pleased the Lord to bruise Him, when He made His soul an offering for sin, when the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, when He was bearing our sins in His own body on the tree, when He once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, being put to death in the flesh—it is this that I abhor and denounce above all. This indeed the Socinian would own— that He was blessedly obedient unto death, that His death was the close of His life-work, all one whole: why should he not? But substitution on the cross, propitiation, drinking the cup of wrath for us there—this the Socinian would not hear of; and this the language of the “Record” sets aside. Nothing, it seems to me, is a more terrible sign of the state of the professing church than the open slighting of Christ’s death which is current in it. With Mr. Newton first it was an incident; with the “Christian Examiner” it was having life to pass through death with; for the “Record” it is the close of His life-work, and to be viewed as a whole.
Is propitiation nothing then? or is there such without death and bloodshedding? Was there no cup of wrath then? Was Christ forsaken of God all His life? Why this agony in Gethsemane? Why speak of the cup as yet to drink? I charge the “Record,” and all who hold these doctrines, with the horrible denial of the whole meaning and value of Christ’s death. The charge is not a light one—I feel it is not. The question is, Is it a true one? None can answer but he who feels what sin is in the sight of God, and knows that Christ was there made sin for us. Scripture indeed shews the folly of such language as that of the “Record.” But I do not believe that any one who is not horrified at the language of the “Record” and the “Christian Examiner” has ever felt in his own soul, what none indeed can fathom, what the dying sufferings and sin-bearing of the blessed One were.
Death the close of His life-work! It is an undermining of atonement and propitiatory sacrifice, and all the quotations of John Owen, or countless bishops, will not purge the contempt that is thus put upon the cross.
The subjection of the Christian to law we may firmly discuss. His lordship of Ossory, for whom I have a sincere respect, may assume we are under it, as the quotation taken from his book by the “Record” does,3 and I may not agree with him. My recollection of his Sermons on Justification, if that be the same work, leaves me under the impression that, however useful they may have been, there was defect in his idea of faith. He treats it, if I am not mistaken, as trust. Now I apprehend this does not adequately keep in view a preceding, and the fundamental, element of faith, of which trust is only a consequence—the reception of testimony as divine. “He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.” This, the testimony being what it is, inseparably produces trust, but the trust is not faith simply in itself. I avow I speak only from recollection, and may do injustice to the right reverend prelate. At any rate, this I should discuss with all worthy respect both to his rank and person; but with the doctrine of the “Record” and others, on the death of the blessed Lord, I will have no peace. I have caused my Lord to suffer agonies through my sins, and I am told His death was the close of His life-work. Was His life-work atonement and propitiation, the drinking of the cup of God’s wrath? Take heed, reader, lest, under this vile pretension to orthodoxy and setting up of the law, you have not lost the value of your Saviour’s death, and become a Socinian in good earnest. Let it come from what quarter it will, this point I will not let go.
What I think of law the reader may see in the tract the “Record” is commenting on. I will profit by the opportunity to state more distinctly what scripture sets before us as the measure of the Christian’s walk, answering to the place grace has set him in, as contrasted with law. I make no modification of the plain statement of truth. We are not under the law for justification— that point I have treated. But though the Christian alone fulfils the law, it is not his rule of life. But then it is important to know what his rule of life is: that I shall now state.
His place is not under law but in Christ glorified in the presence of God. “As he is, so are we in this world.” “As is the earthy, such are they that are earthy; as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.” Christ is the rule of walk, and what He is the measure of attainment. What answers to this glory of Christ is the presence of the Holy Ghost dwelling in us, and sealing us for the day of redemption, when we shall be like Him and bear His image. Grieving the Spirit thus becomes the other measure of right and wrong for us, not breaking the law. Take Ephesians 4, “Till we all come in the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” He is speaking of Christ ascended. The Spirit takes the things of Christ and shews them to us. “We, beholding with open face the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Thus we grow up into the Head; all that is in Christ is the means of forming us by the power of the Holy Ghost into the same image. Thus, in Ephesians 4, again, we are to grow up into Him who is the Head (the exalted Christ) in all things, even Christ. Hence the truth as it is in Jesus is the having “put off the old man” altogether, and “put on the new, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” It is a new creature formed after God and into God’s image. We are to forgive as God forgave—surely that is not law. Here also is found the other principle I have referred to, “Grieve not that Holy Spirit of promise by which ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Thus the stature of Christ Himself—the hew man created after God in His image, and renewed in knowledge according to it, and not grieving the Holy Spirit, being an imitator of God as Christ displayed Him—this is the rule of fife, the only rule of life for one who has been created again in Christ Jesus.
The two systems are undoubtedly at variance. One is law for justification, the flesh, Christ under law before His death, the law the rule of life. The other is the flesh judged, condemned, dead, no union with Christ in flesh, but now redemption accomplished, Christ risen our righteousness, we new creatures risen with Him and in this new place before God, the Holy Ghost dwelling in us. Our measure of attainment is Christ as He is, and now revealed in the heart, thus the image of God practically as revealed in Him here, and all accounted evil which grieves the Spirit of God in us.
Even when here, when His walk presents our practical rule, there were two parts in Christ’s life: the obedient man under the law, and “God manifest in the flesh.” We are called to imitate His walk in the latter character (Eph. 5:1, 2); we are not in His place in the former.
I have been furnished, through the kindness of a friend, with a still more recent number of the “Record” than that to which I have referred above. It affords us an opportunity, for which I am very thankful, of judging of the system advocated by the “Record” and others who desire to be teachers of the law. I agree with the “Record” that the question is vital, that it tinges every part of the doctrine of those it attacks, as it does its own; indeed I have insisted on this above. It pervades, it justly says, the whole system of teaching. I am also glad that I have nothing to denounce, as I must when they speak of Christ’s death as the “Record” did in the other article I have noticed. We can discuss calmly by scripture the justness of the statements, however shocking some of them may seem to me.
C. H. M., we are told, “holds and teaches the Darby doctrine of a gospel without a law. He denies to the law the place and position given it by all orthodox Christians, and hence his whole system is out of joint. It has no backbone, but goes goggling about like a mollusc.” I leave to my reader the good taste of the phraseology; the meaning is very plain. Again, “The law of God cannot be wholly taken away from the gospel of God, and yet leave anything deserving the name of the gospel behind it.” The Darby heresy is charged with teaching that “We are under quite a different principle from law, and under quite a different head from the first Adam.” I pray the reader to notice this last statement, for it is the whole question: what they call heresy, I call Christianity. We are under quite a different principle from law, and under quite a different head from Adam.
But first I must notice some statements to correct diem. It is difficult to do so only from the extreme ignorance and neglect of scripture which the “Record” displays. They accuse us of teaching that “Christ did not obey our law.” This is simply false, unless our law is some other law than the law of God. I have stated the contrary in many places. One passage of scripture suffices: “Made of a woman, made under the law.” Further, I hold that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully. It is useful to convince of sin, but it is not made for the righteous: at least so scripture says. Using it to convict a sinner of sin is a different thing from a Christian being under it; as different as having a sword with a handle, and running another through the body, from being run through oneself. The law is good, if a man use it lawfully; it is death and condemnation if he is under it. “It is the ministration of death and condemnation,” as scripture teaches. Further, the law may be used as all scripture teaching which communicates the mind of God, as in Ephesians 6, where the importance attached to obedience to parents is noticed; God thinks so much of it that it is the first commandment to which a promise is attached. Further, the authority of the law is proved by those who have sinned under it being judged by it; a passage which at the same time disproves positively its universality, because this is contrasted with those who have sinned without law perishing without law. A Christian is not under it, because he has in Christ died and risen again. Of this I have spoken and shall have occasion briefly to refer to it.
I will here add a word as to sanctification. Scripture speaks of it, as both absolute and progressive. Where it is connected with justification however, in spite of “the orthodox,” it precedes it in scripture. In its ordinary natural sense, it is absolute, and once for all. A vessel sanctified to God is set apart to Him simply and absolutely, and so is a person. We are saints by God’s calling. But as a man is a compound being, and the flesh is there as well as the new nature, there may be, and ought to be, practical progress in practically reducing it to subjection, and in the new man’s growing up to Him who is the Head, in all things. We are “sanctified in God the Father,” “sanctified by the word,” that is, set apart to God: so we are “washed, we are sanctified, we are justified,” where it precedes justification. So when it is said we are “sanctified unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ”—we are sanctified unto the blood of sprinkling. That it is not by the law is carefully brought out when it is said, Christ is “of God made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” There, it may be said, it follows righteousness. [I do not think it refers to application, but states what we are to hold as sanctification; but I make no resistance, as I think there is an intended order, though not a state described. The Spirit of God seems to me to be speaking of the first necessity as before God, righteousness; and then the actual result, as viewing the end of being actually before Him; and hence sanctification, the setting apart of the whole man according to what is in Christ Himself, is brought out afterwards; and then final delivery from our whole mortal state into glory, which is what I understand here by redemption.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:23, we get what may justly be called progressive sanctification—“May the God of peace sanctify you wholly.” Again; Hebrews 12:14, “Follow after holiness.” (See too 2 Cor. 3:18.) These fully justify speaking of progress in holiness, or practical setting apart of the heart and mind to God by its being filled with Christ, provided that the first truth be held of a primary setting apart, which is absolute and once for all, and that in the way of a new life, being born of God—of water, and of the Spirit. If this be not held, sanctification becomes a mere gradual fitting of man as such for God, leaving out a new life, and denies that in that he is washed (leloumevno") he needs not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit. And this is a mischievous doctrine; and this, as far as I can see, is the doctrine of the “Record,” the rather as it speaks of a peculiar view as to flesh. Does it not believe that the flesh is irreparably bad, and is not subject to the law of God (which is the “Record’s” means of sanctifying), neither indeed can be? The “Record” must answer for itself in this. Does it believe in a new nature really imparted, that Christ becomes our life, and that thus we are in Christ sanctified to God, though this may be developed, as a child’s life may, but is never in its nature other than it is at the beginning? What does the “Record” say? It does not venture meeting its adversaries on scripture truths.
The “Record” assures us that Romans 6 and 7 fully bring out its doctrine; it forgets to tell us where. But the appeal is a singular one. There we are told we are to reckon ourselves dead and alive to God through Christ; that sin shall not have dominion over us, because we are not under law but under grace; that we are delivered from the law, having died in that wherein we were held; that we cannot be subject to the law and Christ together— that it is as bad as having two husbands. Further, we get the effects of attempts at sanctification under law; namely, the discovery that there is no power; and that, when to will is present, there is no possibility of finding the means of performing what is good, so that the soul is forced to cry for deliverance—a deliverance which is found in Christ, because in Him we are no longer in the flesh at all. Thus the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made the Christian free from the law of sin and death; which the law could not do, because it was weak through the flesh. This, the “Record” tells us, teaches us the doctrine of progressive sanctification by means of the law! It really is infatuation.
I return to the accusation—that we hold that we are on another principle than law. Assuredly we do. I say with Paul, “Be ye as I am; ye have not injured me at all.” We are under grace, not under law. We are not justified by the law. And as to the dominion of sin, we believe that sin will not have dominion over us because we are not under law but under grace. The principle we find in scripture is, being dead to the law by the body of Christ. Nothing can exceed the diligence and care with which the apostle—that is, the Spirit of God—teaches us that we are on a different principle from law. We are not under the first husband, but the second; and death has wholly severed the bond. We are called upon to reckon ourselves dead to the principle on which the “Record” insists, and married to another to bring forth— and by which alone we can bring forth—fruit to God (namely, to Him that is risen from the dead).
Further, we are under quite a different head from the first Adam. This is the vital point—we are under the Second. We have died in Christ as under the first Adam, and belong to Christ only. We say “when we were in the flesh,” because God has taught us so in His word. The truth is, it is difficult to understand how the writer of this article can £e a Christian. If he be, he must have wholly neglected scripture. We are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of Christ dwells in us; if not, we are not Christ’s at all. We have died in Christ to our whole condition as under Adam headship—died in that which put away sin for us, and we know no head but Christ. The flesh remains, to lust against the Spirit, but we are called upon not to own it—to reckon ourselves dead, knowing there is no good thing in it. We are told we are dead; if dead with Christ, not living (alive) in the world.
The essence of the christian position is what the “Record” accuses us of as evil; and I earnestly entreat my reader to notice and weigh it, and search scripture as to it; namely, that we are not under Adam the sinful head, but, as dead to that entirely, wholly and solely under Christ as head, who is risen from the dead and sits at the right hand of God. We admit no other headship at all, though we have to contend with flesh as an enemy; but we are not in it, but in Christ. A person may know forgiveness by bloodshedding, and not enter into this; but to raise the question, and deny our being as dead and risen solely under Christ the Second man as head, and not under the first, is to deny the power of Christianity. I freely admit—insist upon it, that here, with every one who has learned Christianity from scripture, I am with earnest decision (as believing there is no good in my flesh) on wholly, entirely, eternally separated and opposite ground from the “Record.” In fact its doctrine is a denial (through ignorance I doubt not) of Christianity. It does pervade all the system.
I merely add, that to say the taking away the law from the gospel leaves nothing deserving the name of the gospel, is a monstrous statement. Forgiveness, justification, eternal life, sovereign love, all, and still more than this, are ignored as of no consequence. The “Record” quotes, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Does the “Record” believe we get life by keeping the law? The statements of this article are incredible. Of course, under the law, to one who said “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” no answer could have been given than “Keep the commandments.” “This do and thou shalt live” is the principle of law. But was a law given which could give life? or is eternal life the gift of God through Jesus? Is not the whole teaching of the epistles, of Christianity itself, that neither life nor righteousness can be had by law? that Moses says, he that doeth shall live by them, but that the righteousness of faith speaks otherwise? Do we get life by the law, or by Christ? No doubt the path towards eternal life in its fulness in glory is the path of patient obedience. But to quote “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” as the way of attaining life, or as a sufficient rule of life, is setting Christ aside.
And this brings me to another question and to statements in the “Record” which again almost throw the Christianity of the critic into doubt. He accuses C. H. M. of writing “of something higher, better, than the law.” Let him, he says, “tell us what it is, what specifically is the morality, the heart-holiness, that is higher than the commandments demand? Who exemplified it? for Christ did not. The law contented Him. That and that alone was in His heart. The ark was empty of all besides the two tables of stone. Let C. H. M. put his higher law in writing that we may read it and test it.”
The simple answer to this is, God was in Christ. Was He (with reverence be it spoken) to love His neighbour as Himself? Was there nothing but this in Christ? Was this the highest standard of His walk? Let us continue the passage: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them.” Did all His path not answer to this? Were His relationships to saints and sinners not founded on and characterized by this position? Did not all the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in Him stamp His walk in everything as a man? But it will be said, He was no pattern for us in this. This, too, is a mistake. Let us still continue the passage. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” All are not apostles; but all are called, each in his place, to walk in the spirit and temper of this. See how the apostle speaks in 2 Corinthians 5, “The love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that they that live should live henceforth not to themselves, but to him that died for them and rose again. Therefore if any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature: old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new; and all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ.” Nor is the love of Christ in His death excepted from this following of Him. “Hereby,” says the apostle John, “know we love, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Again, see the end of Ephesians 4 and beginning of chapter 5, and the parallel passage in Colossians 3, “And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” “Be ye therefore imitators of God as dear children, and walk in love as Christ also hath loved us, and given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.”
I have anticipated this question, happily, already at the close of the article to which this is appended. I only add therefore, that it is quite evident that the actings of God in grace must be something quite different from the subjection of man to law in its highest form; and he who does not understand this understands neither what the grace of God nor what the law is.
I turn to the question of judgment. That we must all appear, or rather be manifested, before the judgment-seat of Christ, and receive the things done in the body, that every one of us must give an account of himself to God, is as plainly stated in the scriptures as possible (nor would any wise Christian seek to enfeeble its force); but that the believer has to look for Jesus in glory, and not for judgment, is equally certain. The passage quoted to the contrary by the “Record” is a most unhappy one for its purpose. Had it quoted the whole of it, it would have proved exactly the opposite of that for which it quotes it. That I shall do now. Let the reader judge. It begins with an “as,” and the “so” which gives the answer the “Record” has left out. Let us have the whole: “As it is appointed unto men once to die, and after that the judgment.” Thus far the “Record” quotes. But this is only laying the ground of the natural condition of man as the fallen race of Adam. Then follows what Christianity is— the part that the “Record” has left out: “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.” That is, Christ’s second coming for the believer is for final deliverance or salvation, in contrast to judgment. Man was under death and judgment; but, as to believers, Christ bore their sins, and comes again for their salvation. No passage could shew more truly the truth on this subject. The “Record” quotes the first half to shew the believer’s portion.
Every one who can read the original knows that John 5 is a distinct statement that the believer will not come into judgment. First, both the Father and Christ are spoken of as quickening or giving life. But the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son, thereby securing His glory in the case of the unwilling and the wicked. But the cases are not confounded. “He,” says the Saviour, “who heareth my words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but is passed from death unto life.” Hence we read at the end, there is a resurrection to life and a resurrection to judgment.
That we wait for Christ in glory, consequently, scripture makes plain: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, J will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” Are we not to believe that Christ will come and receive believers into glory? Is that taking them up to raise the question, whether they are to be accepted or not? And if we take the saints who have died, it is, if possible, still more absurd; for they have been in blessedness with Him. Are they to be brought afterwards to judgment, to know whether they will be accepted or not?
Again, take the resurrection: “it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory.” We must be judged after we are glorified, if we are thence taken to judgment. I might cite many other passages —Philipplans 3, for instance. None is stronger than the one the “Record” has quoted the half of to prove the contrary. The doctrine of a general judgment at the end, in which the acceptance of the believer is to be settled, is not Christianity. It teaches that Christ’s first coming was a perfect and saving work for those who, through grace, believe on Him; that they are accepted in the Beloved and loved as He is loved; but that all will be brought out in the presence of God. But believers know that, when Christ shall appear, they shall be like Himself; as it is so beautifully stated in 1 John 4, “Herein is love made perfect with us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, so are we in this world.” Christ has borne their judgment, their sins; and when they appear before Him, they will meet Him who has done so. Christ’s coming is, for them, their final bringing into glory.
We have now to take up the question of what the Church is. On this point I can well suppose beloved saints not seeing clear, but I distinctly maintain the doctrine which the “Record” attacks. The Church, a thing spoken of in the doctrinal part of scripture only by Paul, is composed, according to scripture, only of the saints from Pentecost till the Lord comes to receive it to Himself. We must distinguish between salvation and an assembly. When men speak of the Church, Christians have a general vague idea of all the redeemed. If we say “assembly,” we can easily understand that individuals can be saved without forming an assembly. We can easily understand that Israel was an assembly —as it is often called in the Old Testament—without confounding it with an assembly formed of Jew and Gentile, by the breaking down of that middle wall of partition, the maintenance of which alone maintained the Jewish assembly. Even in heaven we find an innumerable company of angels, the general assembly (panhvguri"), the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven (ejkklhsiva), and the spirits of just men made perfect, all distinguished. Now the christian assembly, properly called the Church, neither was revealed nor existed, nor could have existed, before the death of Christ and the mission of the Holy Ghost. The Jewish assembly was that of the people contrasted with the nations. The christian church is, ostensibly and in its real purpose, the gathering together in one of the children of God scattered abroad. These two, Israel and the assembly, are noticed as distinct objects of Christ’s death in that remarkable comment on the prophecy of Caiaphas: He gave Himself “not for that nation only, but that he might gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.” This distinction between Israel and the assembly is brought into distinct relief when the Lord, setting aside Israel for a time, added to the Church the remnant of them that escaped by grace. At the end, when the christian saints get their heavenly portion, Israel will be established as a whole.
I will now shew that the Christian Church had never been revealed before Christ. “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began.” (Rom. 16:25.) “Whereby when ye read ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel.” (Eph. 3:4-6.) “And to make all men see what is the administration of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God who created all things: to the intent that now to the principalities and to the powers in the heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.” (ver. 9, 10.) “Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.” (Col. 1:25, 26.) Thus we see that with this manifold wisdom of God, neither man nor principalities and powers in heavenly places could have any acquaintance; it was hid in God.
Next, I say that the Church did not exist, any more than the knowledge of it was given. The first time it is mentioned in scripture is when the confession of Christ’s being the Son of the living God is made by Simon, and the Lord declares that on this Rock, now first thus revealed, He will build His Church, a thing yet future. I may add that in the following chapter the glory of the kingdom is revealed, and in chapter 18 the Church is practically substituted for the synagogue.
Next, when the Holy Ghost is come down and the disciples have been baptized with it, we find, as we have seen in the beginning of Acts,” The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
We now turn to divine teaching on the subject, which, as we have said, is found only in Paul: not even the word is found elsewhere, save as applied to a local church. It is distinctly founded, in the end of Ephesians I, on the exaltation of the man Christ above all principalities and powers (we being quickened together with Him, to be united with Him in this place). In chapter 2, where the effectuating of these truths is unfolded, it is expressly taught that it is by the breaking down of the middle wall of partition by Christ’s death, and reconciling both Jew and Gentile in one body by the cross, making in Himself of twain one new man; and then shewing that we are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit—a different kind of dwelling of God from that which formed the centre of the assembly of Israel. All this is enlarged and insisted upon, and applied to our walk in this new condition in chapters 3 and 4 from which I have quoted already, and to which the reader may refer. If we turn to 1 Corinthians we are taught how the unity of the body is formed. We are the body of Christ and members in particular; and it is by one Spirit we have been all baptized into one body; and we are expressly taught in the beginning of Acts that this baptism took place at the day of Pentecost. “Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.”
Thus the formation of the body is distinctly revealed to date from the day of Pentecost. The Church according to God did not exist before. I add that it could not have existed before; first, because the head was not yet in heaven, to which the body was to be united; secondly, that consequently the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified; and thirdly, as to its actual formation on earth, because it was founded on the breaking down of the middle wall of partition by Christ’s death. Its existence in the mind of God is nothing to the purpose—that it did from all eternity. And the question still remains, What existed in the mind of God to be revealed in due time? And this, if scripture is to be believed, was the gathering together Jew and Gentile in one body, by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, consequent upon the exaltation of the Christ to the right hand of God. I would just warn the reader to take notice of the double character of the Church: its being the body of Christ on the one hand, and the habitation of God through the Spirit on the other. The confusion of these two is that which has been the foundation of the abuses of Popery and Puseyism, attributing, sacramentally, the privileges of the one to those who have part in the other. The Lord’s Supper alone, even as a sign, is connected with the unity of the body.
The “Record” quotes many coming from the east and from the west to sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, as a proof that they belonged to the Church, the body of Christ. But this is mere blundering: the kingdom of God is not the body of Christ. The reader may see, from the quotation from C. H. M., which immediately follows in the “Record,” that it is expressly taught, that they will be in the heavenly glory. No further remark as to this theme is called for.
The subject of the Sabbath I approach with more fear, though perfectly clear in my own mind about what scripture teaches, because it really requires, in order to understand it, a knowledge of God’s ways, and because of the abuse likely to be made of it by those who are lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. But as the subject has been raised, I will refer to it.
Were I merely arguing against the Sabbath, as people say, I might cite the fact of the entire omission of any reference to it in the “Sermon on the Mount,” where the spirituality of the law is insisted on. I might cite the fact, that in every instance in which it is mentioned, the Lord throws a slight upon it, Christ declaring the Son of man to be Lord of it. I might appeal to history, shewing that the primitive church was unaware of its obligation, and treated it as Judaism, and that there were even stringent canons against the observance of it. I might challenge the “Record” (not “stoutly to maintain,” which it is easy to do, but) to give some scriptural proof or authority for the change of day it talks of; but all this would misrepresent my feelings on the subject. I hold it to be one of vast and important bearing; because a part in the rest of God seems to me distinctive of the blessing belonging to God’s people, whatever the foreshadowing of it may be. A promise is left us of entering into God’s rest; and it must be God’s rest, and not rest without God, if such were even possible.
The sabbath did begin in Paradise: “And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” Into this rest man never entered, as Hebrews 4 assures us. That it was a law imposed upon man departed from God has no sort of scripture proof; and I flatly deny it. To make one totally departed from God an obliged partaker in God’s rest, nothing but unintelligent legalism could have thought of. But I believe, from the Lord’s own statement, that “the sabbath was made for man;” that its observation would have been a temporal blessing to man condemned to labour, and a continual remembrancer, in the scene into which sin had brought him, that his hopes and blessings were elsewhere. That men forget all this we know too well. But the moment that God brought man, in a covenant way, into relation to Himself by redemption, He made the sabbath a sign of the covenant. God’s rest belongs to God’s people. As the form of that covenant was legal, it was given in a legal way. And it is remarkable that in every particular institution, on which in any respect the relationship of God with Israel was based under the old covenant, the sabbath enters for part; and the prophets allude to this as a sign of the covenant. Outside this we only get traces of it in hebdomadal divisions of time, as in the cases of Noah and Jacob.
But that old covenant, in which the sabbath was made legally obligatory, was to be done away, and the time of Messiah, the true rest of His creation, was to come in. We have here, therefore, to consider how the Lord Jesus deals with the sabbath. We-have already seen that He does not introduce it in His spiritual summary of practice in the Sermon on the Mount. Nor can the smallest instance be found in which He sets up or insists upon its authority. But when He goes out of Judaism and reveals Himself as Son of man, He declares that He is Lord of it. Speaking in His divine character, when charged with the breach of it, His language is still more striking—“My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” Grace might labour in a world of sin; but neither the holiness nor the love of the Father and Son could find their rest in a world of sin and misery. No one can find in the writings of the New Testament a word that insists upon the moral obligation of the sabbath. When the question arose between Jew and Gentile Christians as to what was to be maintained as obligatory, the sabbath was not one of the things insisted upon. Have we then lost the rest of God? or even every trace of it here below? God forbid! And I have no doubt that the last words, “The sabbath was made for man,” remain in practice a true blessing now for man; but when we come to spiritual hopes of that rest, it is a different matter. The rest of God in the first creation is over, because sin has entered. It will, I doubt not, have its sabbath; but that will be in the millennium, in a new order of things. It is not a seventh day, but the seventh day—God’s rest after finishing His work.
But our rest is not in this creation. We have been rejected out of it, as Christ has been too, who (if man had not been a sinner as he was) had power to bring in rest, when He first came. But now He has introduced us by resurrection into a new and heavenly rest of God, a brighter and a better hope; and the seventh day, the sabbath, the sign of the old covenant, the rest of this creation, in no way meets our hopes. For the writer of the “Record,” who puts us under Adam headship, this might do, but not for a Christian; and, even so, it is impossible, for how could a sinner have the rest of God under the old covenant? And what introduces us into this new and better hope? It is resurrection—the resurrection of our blessed Lord. In the grave on the sabbath (the only rest He found here), He rises up to begin, as the head of the new creation, brighter and better hopes founded on His sacrifice. Hence, to the Christian Church, the first day of the week, as all the New Testament after His resurrection testifies, not the seventh, becomes the sign and pledge of her rest. It is not a law, but established by the testimony of scripture. It is monstrous, as Christians, to say or think that the neglect of that which is not established by law is not ruinous in its nature. We do not pray by law, nor read scripture by law. And this day is marked out in the New Testament. The day of Christ’s resurrection He met His disciples assembled; the next first day He did the same. The first day of the week, we read, “the disciples met together to break bread.”4 The first day of the week they were to lay by for the poor, as God had prospered them. And in Revelation i it is formally called “the Lord’s day,” with the testimony that John was in the Spirit on it. To make it the seventh day, and a mere change of day, which scripture always positively contradicts, is to confound the old creation (which is under condemnation by sin) with the new, into which we are risen with Christ in resurrection. That corrupt Christianity, which has lost all spirituality, should have lost this altogether, is but too natural; that reformed Christendom could only go back to the law, and make a seventh day of it, is only one of the sad proofs how little its members have known the privileges that God has conferred on us.
I add, that as long as Christianity is to be the nominal religion of the world, or of a country, it must live by institutions, although its tone and character will be really expressed by its preaching. Now of all these institutions, though there are others, the institution of the christian sabbath has, though greatly abused, by far the widest and most beneficent influence on the masses. It is the poor man’s day, and the family day; two objects to which, in the government of the human race, God attaches peculiar importance. And here I may apply the expression, “The sabbath was made for man.” In Popery and in Puseyism, christian institutions, blended with an immense power of Satan over the imagination, have been turned into puerilities and superstitions. Man has been put between man and God. The measure of right and wrong having fallen below that of natural conscience, and sin, what I may call, pried into by man, with occasional individual devoted-ness, the masses have been universally morally degraded, or, if not, turned infidel. The dissenters (while there are many individuals in their ranks more excellent and devoted than myself) appear to me in the old world to be now in an entirely false position; and the same remark applies to all denominations in the new world, where, as there is no Establishment, there can be no dissent. They profess to build up and form the true church upon its own proper principles, and at the same time grasp energetically at the masses and the world. What the state of Presbyterianism is, where it does not come under the category of dissent in the old world, is sufficiently known not to call for any remark from me. The consequence has been, since the full freedom of dissent, a tendency to adapt Christianity itself to the progress of the age, and hence towards latitudinarianism and rationalism, from which the Establishment itself, though with more fixed formularies, knows perhaps still less how to free itself. In the midst of all this God surely carries on His own work; and I have no doubt the just maintenance of the christian sabbath is, as I have said, a great blessing as regards God’s government of the professing world. But this is another thing from the truth of eternal life—another thing from the narrow path in which the Christian has to walk.
I would make one remark here (and they might be multiplied if I were to notice everything), that the ten commandments and Christ’s commandments are most unwarrantably confounded. It is in vain to say that Christ was the Jehovah who gave the ten. Christ’s commandments in the New Testament and the ten commandments in the Old Testament are clearly defined and distinct one from another. Commandments I insist upon, and not merely on doing right; because obeying command is obedience to Him who commands, and not merely doing right. But under the law the commandments were ordained to life, as in the passage quoted by the “Record”—“If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments:” but it was found to be unto death to us. Christ is that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us, and His commandments are the expression of that life and His authority as thus come. When we receive Christ, we possess this life; and His commandments are His guidance and His blessed authority over us at the same time.
I return briefly to the great principle already noticed—the “Record’s” accusation that we teach that we are under another headship than Adam. Now I entreat the reader to consult Romans 5, 6, and 7, and see if the apostle is not there laboriously teaching that we are not under the first Adam, or in the flesh at all, in our standing before God, but in Christ. Let him take Ephesians 2, let him take Colossians 2 and 3, and see if there be any other head but Christ. Let him take 1 Corinthians 15 and see whether our place is not in the last Adam. What is the meaning of having a second man, and the last Adam, if the first is to remain our head? Are we to have two heads—a fallen one and a risen one? To say that our fallen nature of flesh remains in us now, is quite true, but does not hinder the believer saying,” I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” I will not go farther; I am almost ashamed to insist upon that which I should have thought would be familiar to every scripturally informed Christian. But this I say, that this passage in the article of the “Record” shews its whole system in the clearest manner to be fatally and fundamentally unscriptural.
2 I fully believe, however, that he had no idea of any law-keeping, except a man’s doing it for himself. The ungodly principle of putting a man under law, as a way of obtaining righteousness, and making provision for his not keeping it, never entered his mind.
3 I have not myself read it, nor have any opportunity to do so at this moment, or I would.
4 “When we came together,” &c, as the true reading runs, rather strengthens the case as being more distinctively Christian.—Ed.]