No person with christian feeling will expect that I should bandy abuse with Dr. Carson: it is not my intention. Nor do I complain of any attacks upon me. Of the statements of the “Record,” or of Dr. Tregelles, I shall not take any notice whatever. Dr. Tregelles has profited by the present attacks against brethren to seek to bolster up Mr. Newton’s doctrine. I shall not be turned aside from the main subject of the law by any such effort. That doctrine should be discussed fully, if such discussion were called for, directly from the statements of the author. That is not my object here. I seek only to take up every argument by which the main point of die present controversy may be assailed; namely, Did Christ keep the law substitutionally for us, so that we have righteousness thereby (that is, Are we justified by the deeds of the law fulfilled by Christ)?
I only refer to one fact in Dr. C.’s statements. His judgment of its motives, I leave between him and his readers. One edition of “Brethren and their Reviewers” was published without a paragraph as to Dr. C.’s tract, another with it in. There is no statement that Dr. C. told an untruth. And I do not know why I should not be at perfect liberty to leave the passage out if I thought proper. Had I done so, courtesy might have expressed regret for putting it in. But the fact is, one edition was published under my eye in Canada, having sold largely to all kinds of people there, while a number were sent to England. English publishers asked permission to republish it in England; which was given. Those of the first edition sent to England having some considerable faults of impression, the publisher of the new English edition employed a person in England to revise it—a friend of mine. He, as I have learned since I returned to England, struck his pen through the passage, judging, I suppose, the point referred to, beneath notice.5 He may be right: I have doubts that he was. But I certainly think it undesirable to change a person’s tracts without his knowledge. I attach no importance to it; but I think it should not have been done. I was wholly ignorant of it till it was shewn me in Dr. C.’s attack the day I left Canada for the States to come to England. I am quite willing to accept Dr. C.’s explanation of the contradiction on the cover of his tract, namely, that he had orders for the whole five thousand, and so stated it was sold. But I still think it was a glaring contradiction to sell a tract which positively declared that it was one of the first five thousand then and there sold, and to state on the back of the same cover that the first five thousand were all sold already. Dr. C.’s statement may explain it; but the thing to be explained remains a contradiction on the face of it. I know nothing, of course, of what was ordered of Dr. C; but I know that a tract was bought for me which professed to be itself one of the first five thousand, and which also declared that the first five thousand were all sold.
I now turn to the weighty subject of righteousness and the law, and shall take up any objection I find without minding who makes it. I write for souls, and heed not where the objection is found. The first serious question is, if all Christ’s obedience was mere kw-fulfilling. It is said, if He loved God with all His heart, He always kept the law. No doubt; but that does not touch the question. The question is, if that be the whole character and principle of His obedience, whether He did not do more than keep the law. “Every acting of the creature,” we are told, “is in accordance with the law laid down by God—or else in opposition to it. The incarnate Son of God formed no exception.” Now, this statement assumes that all are under the law, and that the law is the measure and principle of the believer’s conduct, and that no action of Christ could go beyond the obligations of the creature under law. It is the whole proposition, and its foundation and principle, which I deny. There are things in which we obey which are not within the scope of law at all; more, truly, none of our obedience is on the principle of law, or its obligation, as its motive or measure; it is that to which neither accordance with law, nor opposition to it, can be applied. I mean the actings of grace; love to sinners; the superiority of the divine nature over evil.
Law may be the perfect rule of man’s duty towards God and his neighbour; that, no doubt, Christ fulfilled. But it is not the measure of God’s actings in grace toward man, and that Christ displayed too; and yet did so in obedience to His Father. But no law of loving God as the responsibility of the creature to God can measure Christ’s self-sacrifice for us, nor, consequently, the path in which we are called upon to follow Him. The will of God is not all made up of law (that is, of the measured rule of creature-duty). No doubt, Christ loved God perfectly; but to make Christ’s sacrifice the measure of the creature’s duty in accordance with law, or else in opposition to it, is monstrous. Was He not obedient, then? But scripture is very distinct on this point. It contrasts obedience with law as much as anything else.
First, as to the passage quoted—Romans 5:19: we are told, that “His whole life, as the law-fulfiller, constituted the obedience by which many are made righteous.” Now, how does the passage speak? It speaks of Adam and Christ as two heads of races subordinated to them, in contrast with law, shewing that we must not confine Christ to those under law, since death and sin had reigned when there was none—between Adam and Moses—over those who had not transgressed any covenant like Adam. (Hos. 6:7.) And Christ’s work could not be limited within bounds short of sin and sinners. It is a contrast between sin and law-breaking; the passage shewing that it was not simply by law-breaking, but by a disobedience which applied to those who were not under law, and an obedience which did the same, that evil and good came; and making, not individual law-keeping, but their state in their respective heads, the true ground of ruin or righteousness, and then adds, in direct explicit contrast with this: “(But) law entered that the offence might abound; but where sin abounded grace did much more abound.” Romans 5:19 is the summary of the argument of the obedient and disobedient man in contrast with law; and not only so, but declares that the law came in by the by as a distinct thing. Verses 12, 13, 14, 20, shew that the apostle diligently argues here against obedience, sin, or righteousness being confined to law-breaking or law-fulfilling. But this is not all. In chapter 6, the apostle raises the question, in practice: whether not being under law is a reason for sinning, as is alleged. “Sin,” he assures us, on the contrary, “shall not have dominion over us, because we are not under law, but under grace.” And then shews that, though not under law, we yield ourselves up to obedience unto righteousness. He contrasts christian obedience and law. Taking from under law might seem, as with our modern legal divines, to take away from obedience. The answer of the apostle is, “In no wise.” We get from under the power of sin, because we are not under law; and we obey as servants to righteousness and to God, being not under law. In a word, the passage quoted to shew that obedience is law-fulfilling is an elaborate argument of the apostle’s to shew that, while doubtless Christ kept the law, as to Him and as to us obedience is insisted on outside, and in contrast with, law.
But it is said, we confound all laws together. I take it as the word of God does. That law is not the way of righteousness or sanctification, nor of obedience. Paul does not even say the law. Law came in by the by (novmo" pareish'lqe), that system and way of dealing on God’s part. He carefully distinguishes men under law, and men not under law—without it; he alludes to Adam as under a law, Israel also; whereas people between them are on a different ground: so all Gentiles, having no law (novmon); so Christians. I know that great pains are taken to undo his words, and shew they must have had some law, though the apostle declares they have none, and perish without it, instead of being judged by the one which was given. I know that it is urged they were a law to themselves where they had none, because they had a conscience; but this is only to prove that actual righteousness by conscience is better than the having a law and breaking it; that working good was better than having a law, if it was broken. Scripture contrasts being under law and being without law, and does not know these speculations on it. What it calls law as absolutely as words can make it, it declares the Gentiles to be without (mhV e[conte" novmon), having no law at all. It does say every one has a conscience which tells him of right and wrong. They are without law—cwriV" novmou. They are inexcusable, from natural proofs of God, and as giving up God when they knew Him. But they are not proved guilty by any law they were under; but it is declared, having sinned without law (ajnovmw"), they will perish without law—while others have sinned under law, and will be judged by it. The sense in which scripture says they were without law and had none, in that sense I believe and say it. Nothing can be more absolute. The reasonings of men as to it are all inventions not found in scripture. What scripture calls law, Gentiles and Christians are not under. I know passages are quoted to shew that they must be, in spite of what scripture says. I shall refer to these. Ignorance of Greek can hardly excuse the use of some of them, where positive scriptures are so plain.
Sin, we are told, is the transgression of the law. Now, no one knowing Greek could cite this theological, but fatally unscriptural, translation. It is simply, Sin is lawlessness, ajnomiva, not paravbasi" novmou. Another passage quoted is, “under the law to Christ;” but neither here is the law spoken of at all; it is, not as lawless in respect of God, but rightly subject to Christ— e[nnomo" Cristw'. It is in contrast with having to say to the law. But there is another passage which is reckoned on to prove that all men are under law, Romans 3:19. It is astonishing how any one could so little see the force of the apostle’s argument. I am aware that Dr. O’Brien refers to this; but I am only so much the more astonished. The apostle had proved Jews and Greeks all under sin, and then turns back to the many advantages the Jews had. He was not derogating from them. Well, he says, you have the oracles of God. Let us hear them. Are we better than Gentiles? You are as much under sin as the Gentiles. Read your own books, from which he then cites passages, and, relying on the claim of the Jews that the law belonged to them, that the law spoke to those who were under it, applies these denunciations to the Jews who were; thus stopping their mouths by their own oracles, which they claimed as belonging exclusively to them. There you are then, says Paul. You say the scriptures apply to you, and that is what they say; and then every mouth is stopped. That the Gentile was a sinner was admitted; they were not Jews by nature. But their own oracles brought in the Jews too; and every mouth was stopped. How any one could think that the statement that the law spoke to those who were under it, meant that it spoke to all, when the subject is the Jews alone possessing it and its advantages, would be hard to think, but for the prejudices of a system. I do not go on to insist on what follows, that the righteousness of God is manifested (cwriV" novmou) absolutely apart from law, because I have done it elsewhere.
But we are told of absolute law, and referred to Hooker. Hooker, as is known, pleaded the cause of the Episcopalian Establishment against Travers, resting it on the nature of law, with a view to justify the obligation of what was not contained in scripture. I have nothing to do with his views; but it is singular enough that what is referred to contains the germ of the two principal infidel doctrines of the present day, and of the Pusey-ite movement—quite unknown, surely, to himself; but a false principle bears its fruit in its own season. One is the subjecting God to the law He has imposed on Himself in a way which destroys His sovereignty; the other exalting conscience under the name of right reason: quoting Plato, Aristotle, &c, for proof, so as to give conscience a title, enfeebling that of scripture; and on the other hand, insisting (contrary to the Reformers) that scripture does not prove itself, but we must have proof of it from another source; and further, that scripture does not contain full direction for men. I quite admit he did not contemplate the consequences. But the great stand-point of infidels now is that, God acting necessarily by, and having established, uniform law, miracles are impossible; and that conscience or right reason must judge of scripture. That scripture cannot prove itself is the war-horse of Popery, as is its insufficiency.
Here are the author’s words on the first point (vol. 1:204 of Keble’s edition, book 1, chap 2:3), “That law, the Author and Observer whereof is one only God to be blessed for ever,” &c. “The law whereby He worketh is eternal, and therefore can have no show or colour of mutability,” &c. “Nor is the freedom of the will of God any whit abated, let, or hindered; because the imposition of this law upon Himself is His own free and voluntary act. This law, therefore, we may name eternal, being that order which God, before all ages, hath set down with Himself for Himself to do all things by.” Now this (however far it was from Hooker’s mind) excludes all miracles. It is the modern ground of denial of them. If Hooker had said, God has established a law for nature and left Himself free, it had been all well. Then nature would go on orderly, as Hooker speaks of it, and God interfere in power, when He pleased, for good. And in this he might have well said,” God could not act inconsistently with His own blessed nature.” But farther on we shall see a little the danger in practice of entering on such a ground. Still, in a general way, we can say, “God who cannot lie.”
Hooker takes up these forms of law, first, a rule imposed by authority, alone held to be such by some, which he extends to any rule by which actions are framed. I have no objection. The first only is properly law, and the difference is all-important; but the second is often in a secondary sense so called, as the law of faith, the law of the spirit of life; so in natural things, the law of gravity. But scripture, speaking of law as such, uses it in the former sense. The fact of an imposed rule (as contrasted with the voluntary actings of nature, uniform because it is such) is capital. But to return a moment to Hooker. He classes under the general idea of law, nature’s laws, what angels observe, the law of reason (he never speaks of conscience, which is by no means immaterial), divine law known but by special revelation, human law, suppose conformed to one of the last two. The first two he calls law eternal. God may overrule, he alleges, the law imposed on the creature—nature’s law—according to the law which Himself hath eternally proposed to keep. Still this is eternal and immutable. I quote this to shew that as to this highest law, however overruling power may operate, God is, though by His own act imposing it on Himself, immutably bound. Now this is surely unsound. God will not act contrary to His nature, for then He would not be Himself, which is impossible. But it is not an imposed law; or freedom, grace, miracle, sovereign goodness, are all taken away from God. The reader must not think this metaphysical. I am speaking of what I have been referred to as setting me right. And we shall soon see it is at the root of the whole matter.
Law is the rule of just conduct in the relationship in which we stand—its measure. Now I will suppose that conscience perfectly maintains this rule. This is, in fact, impossible, because man got the knowledge of right and wrong when he broke from his relationship with God (hence law can only condemn, as the apostle shews); as if a son have gone off in rebellion, he may not steal, &c, may judge of right and wrong, but he can do nothing right till he repents and goes back home again. But I will suppose conscience does maintain its rule—conscience can only maintain the rule of duty according to the place I am in. This shuts out—not the conferring of greater benefits (Adam innocent, for example, might have gone to heaven), but—dealings of grace and sovereign goodness to evil doers. These cannot be a law in any sense: God is free in His mercy. Part of the law of His nature is to be so. Hence the apostle shews us that grace and law cannot go together. Well, what Christianity teaches is, that God has acted so. In contrast with all that law, man’s duties, and all right reason could tell man, He has given His Son for sinners. It may confirm law in the highest way, because it meets its obligation and curse in the death of the blessed Son of God: but there is no law for God’s giving Christ to die for us, no right reason to talk of obligation, save as shewing we have been wanting to it. Even to understand this gift, man must be taught of God. It would have been audacious sin for man to have looked for it. God has acted in sovereign grace. When He has, I by grace apprehend it. He is free, infinite in goodness, in doing it. If He is not free in it, I have lost grace. It is according to His blessed nature, for He is love; but its free actings above all that could be imposed on it. It is an act, not a law; though an act according to the perfection of His nature, which is always such. This saves me, not by any law, but by redemption, by power. Along with this, I partake of this nature as born of God.
Now, Christ came to accomplish this work in obedience, but not according to any law imposed on man. He did love God perfectly in it, which law required, but He came to fulfil the work out of sovereign love to man a sinner. He became obedient in this special service which was not in itself any “rule or canon by which actions are framed,” though He fulfilled the highest formula of law in doing it, but He was not accomplishing any law in what He did, but a special sovereign will of God. There was no uniform rule or canon by which actions are framed in God’s giving His Son, none by which the Son offered Himself. God prepared Him a body. No doubt, when a man, He obeyed, and being born under the law, He obeyed the law; but obedience to will, when there is no law, is the highest, truest, and most absolute obedience, personal subjection, absolute and entire, without any law to measure it. This Christ did. And this we have to do. We have, as born of God, a nature which delights to do it, and asks no law or measure, but asks a will—is glad there is a will. It is this which, even in ordinary walk, is contrasted (that is, law and obedience) in Romans 6. It is thus that Christ baffled Satan. He waited for a will to act, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God shall man live.” A word comes out—I act. None comes—I wait. The delight to do God’s will, whatever it is, and to do it because it is, and having no motive when it is not revealed, this is true obedience.
Note, I may fulfil the law by this; but it is not by being under the law, nor in virtue of it, that I do so, but the contrary; and this is what the apostle insists on. Nor was it assuredly because Christ was under law that He died for sinners. He came freely into obedience by His own love, and accomplished the work of obedience to a special sovereign will, though in doing so He proved when man, His perfect love to God, and even before it to His Father. And He did it in obedience. Note, hence this kind of obedience does not exclude commandments; it supposes them. It does exclude taking the requirements of law as the motive and principle of conduct; it alone fulfils it. But it is not obedience of law and under law.
I repeat, it is exactly in this way (Christ, the blessed One, being our life) we are called to obey. Obedience is not the estimate of a measured rule, a canon to which we are bound, but the delight in love which refers to a person whose every command and expression of will governs this nature. Thereupon commands, precepts, perception of His mind, of what is pleasing to Him, all govern us; the written word being that which ministers this to us. I repeat, he who keeps the Lord’s commands, loves. He who loves Him, and so his neighbour, has fulfilled the law; but subjection of delight to anything a person wills is absolute obedience, not a canon or measure I refer to, though in doing it I fulfil the canon. I am not uJpoV tou' novmou, but e[nnomo" Cristw'/. I prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God, having offered my body a living sacrifice.
All I find in Hooker on this point then is, subjecting God to a self-imposed law, destroying the possibility of miracles, or free sovereign grace, and destroying thus along with it the true principle of christian obedience and acting in grace after Christ’s example. It is evident, if we speak of a law binding on the conscience of any being, it must be a law suited to his nature according to the measure of it; and so God’s law expressly is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbour as thyself.” Now this is evidently the measure, and must be so to the conscience. Man may be incapable of it through sin; but that is the normal measure.
Now the love of the Son to the Father (may we ever speak with adoration and reverence of Him!) was infinitely above this in its nature. No doubt, when a man, He fulfilled what the law thus required; but His service to the Father was none the less according to His love to Him. Hence reducing it to law given to man, and saying it must be in accordance or opposition to it, is only a proof that the blessedness of His service is unknown. In its true blessedness—who indeed does know it? But it is by these views reduced in its nature to His dishonour. It may be said, We have nothing to do with this kind of obedience. We have everything to do with it, as far as it is revealed. That in ourselves we never rise up to it, that surely is true; but it is made known to us in Him, and becomes the motive and spring of all our christian thoughts of God, and so of moral life and obedience. “The Father loveth the Son.” We read, “That the world may know that I love the Father.” “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life and take it again.” Yet herein He was also obedient; and die blessed Lord tells us, that the world shall know that the Father has loved us as He loved Himself, and that we are to know it, He dwelling in us. So our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. The Father Himself loves us. God is thus revealed to us, and makes us partakers of His holiness. And when, as He is thus fully revealed, God becomes the test and measure of responsibility either in rejecting Him or in walk, the grace revealed is unfolded in the relationship and revelation of the Father and the Son. This difference of light in and of God, and grace in the Father and the Son, never fails in John’s Gospel and Epistle.
Now the revelation of these unutterably blessed truths gives the spring and character to our life and obedience. We are not our own; we are bought with a price. We do not love a neighbour as ourselves, but give ourselves up, our bodies a living sacrifice, lay down our lives for the brethren, because thus Christ has shewn us love, because they are His. The law knows nothing of this. No doubt, in thus forgetting ourselves, we love God with all our heart; but the nature and measure of our obedience is infinitely advanced. Some are afraid of this. But God, in leading us on to serve as Christ served, and love as Christ loved (for we are to love one another as Christ loved us), has not taken us away from His fear, but brought us closer into it. God is indeed revealed; but we are manifested to God. And, as the apostle teaches us, if we bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, there is no danger of any law condemning us. We serve the Lord Christ. The Lordship of Christ (not the law), the eye of God (not a rule for one who cannot approach), is the check upon our thoughts. We wait too for His Son from heaven.
Hooker’s views as to right reason are spread over a wider space, and more difficult thus to present to my reader. But the lowering of God, so as to bring Him under law, is naturally accompanied by exalting man. One would almost think, that in Hooker’s mind philosophy had shut out the fall. I know it had not; but I think it had deeply clouded his view of it. I do not doubt there is a conscience in men; but, let us well remember, he got his knowledge of good and evil (what Hooker boasts of as right reason) by the fall. But, as far as possible, I will let him speak for himself.
He declares, “There is a desire to be perfecter than they now are; and wise men [quoting from a heathen] study to frame themselves according to the pattern of the Father of Spirits.” (Book 1:5.) “To will is to bind our souls to the bearing or doing of that which they see to be good. But we are specially to remark how the will, properly and strictly taken as it is of things which are referred unto the end that man desireth, differeth greatly from that inferior natural desire which we call appetite. The object of appetite is whatsoever sensible good may be wished for. The object of will is that good which reason doth lead us to seek for… neither is any other desire termed properly will but where reason and understanding, or the show of reason, prescribeth the thing desired.” (Chap. 7:2.) For this latter cause he admits reason may be misled. Yet he says, “As everything naturally and necessarily doth desire the utmost good and greatest perfection whereof nature hath made it capable, even so man… All particular things which are subject unto action, the will doth so far forth incline unto, as reason judgeth them to be the better for us, and consequently more available to our bliss.” (Chap. 7:3.)
“Again, the rule of voluntary agents on earth is the sentence which reason giveth concerning die goodness of those things which they are to do.” (Chap. 8:1.) Certain things, he says, are evidently good. “Notwithstanding such principle there is, it was at the first found out by discourse, and drawn from out of the very bowels of heaven and earth.” (Chap. 8:4.) Now here it is not mere conscience acquired at the fall, but man’s moral power and capacity of reason. “The heathens,” he says, “shewed this principle by making Themis, which we call ‘right,’ the daughter of heaven and earth.” (Chap. 8:5.) “So,” he says, “by degrees of discourse the minds of men, natural men, have attained to know not only that there is a God, but also what power, force, wisdom, and other properties that God hath, and how all things depend on Him. Hence,” he says, “they have learnt to pray to Him, and what amounts to the first great commandment to which Christ refers. So of the second, the like natural inducement hath brought men to know that it is their duty no less to love others than themselves. And the law of reason, or human nature, is that which men by discourse of natural reason have rightly found out themselves to be all for ever bound unto in their actions.” (Sec. 7.) “As to evil,” he says, “if it be demanded why so many thousands of men notwithstanding have been ignorant of even principal moral duties, not imagining the breach of them to be sin, I deny not but lewd and wicked custom, beginning perhaps at the first among a few, afterwards spreading … may be of force even in plain things to smother the light of natural understanding.” (Sec. 8.)
He says, too, “Take away the will and all actions are equal.” (Chap. 9:2.) See Romans 7. Yet appetites and lusts, we are told, have nothing to do with will, arise without it, nor choose, but rise at the sight of some things—hence, of course, are no matter; for will is not in them.
We see that our sovereign good is desired naturally. “That is the enjoyment of God” (chap. 12:3), though he admits that man has lost nature’s way of attaining it by working. So chapter 11:4, he seeks a triple perfection, sensual, intellectual. Thirdly, “Nature, even in this life, doth plainly claim and call for a more divine perfection than either of these two that have been mentioned.” Yet this he admits can only be had by salvation. I do not pursue this farther.
I turn to his views of scripture: “It may be, notwithstanding, and oftentimes hath been demanded, how the books of holy scripture contain in them all necessary things, when of things necessary the very chiefest is to know what books we are bound to esteem holy, which point is confessed impossible for the scripture itself to teach.” (Chap. 14:1.) And he continues to insist on this point: saying, “It is only what is necessary, and could not at all or easily be known by natural discourse, which we learn from scripture. It sufficeth, therefore, that nature and scripture do serve each in such full sort that they both jointly, and not severally, either of them, be so complete, that unto everlasting felicity, we need not ask the knowledge of anything more than these two may easily furnish our minds with. And as regards the reception of the scripture by the Spirit or natural judgment— wherefore, albeit the Spirit lead us into all truth, and direct us in all goodness, yet, because these workings of the Spirit in us are so privy and secret, we therefore stand on a plainer ground, when we gather by reason from the quality of things believed or done, that the Spirit of God hath directed us in both, than if we settle ourselves to believe or to do any particular thing as being moved thereto by the Spirit.” Book in, 8:16: “Capable we are of God, both by understanding and will; by understanding, as He is that sovereign truth which comprehendeth the rich treasures of all wisdom; by will, as He is that sea of goodness, whereof whoso tasteth shall thirst no more.” (Chap, 11:3.) “Now, if man had not naturally this desire to be happy,” &c. (Chap. 11:4.) I quote this to shew how he identifies the natural desire of happiness with God as the sovereign good. “Therefore this desire in man is natural, so that our desire being natural is also that degree of earnestness to which nothing can be added. Scripture is not only the law whereby God hath opened His will touching all things that may be done; but there are other kinds of laws which notify the will of God.” (Book 11, chap. 2:2.) Again, he argues that there may be a certain belief grounded upon other assurance than scripture. (Chap. 4:2.) Again,” It is not the word of God which doth or possibly can assure us that we do well to think of His word.” (Chap. 4:3.) “The light, therefore, which the star of natural reason and wisdom casteth, is too bright to be obscured by the mist of a word or two uttered to diminish that opinion which justly hath been received concerning the force and virtue thereof, even in matters that touch most nearly the principal duties of men, and the glory of the eternal God.”
When I compare all this with scripture, such as the beginning of Romans, “There is none that understandeth, none that seeketh after God” (whereas, we are told that nature cannot but seek after this sovereign good with “intentive desire,” so as to neglect all else); that “the natural man understandeth not the things of the Spirit, because they are spiritually discerned;” that “the mind of the flesh is enmity against God” (whereas, Hooker declares it is necessary and cannot be avoided, and quite distinct from the will; that sin works the lust in me, where, according to him, will is not, even at all)—in a word, when I weigh Hooker’s doctrine with the word of God, I am not at a loss to judge what are the views of law absolute, and others to which I am invited to look, in contrast with the plain declarations of scripture. Hooker uses them to vindicate those things in the English Establishment for which there is no warrant in scripture. But they equally warrant, though he did not intend it, Popery and modern Rationalism; one contending that scripture does not suffice, the other contending that the christian conscience has its light independent of scripture, just as Hooker does, applying it then to the judgment of statements in scripture, and, of course, soon to the rejection of all that reason does not like, Hooker laying full ground for it in insisting that scripture does not prove itself (in which he wholly departs from the first Reformers). As regards Popery, Hooker distinctly asserts, not that scripture suffices—this he denies in terms—but that, as we have reason and scripture, they are sufficient, and tradition therefore is not needed. It is a pity that the national Establishment should be founded on such principles. I recognize, not right reason, but conscience; I recognize all use of gifts of ministry, parental care according to God; but the doctrine of Hooker is low and dangerous.
But I turn to the substance of the objections. Does my reader believe that Christ, in giving Himself for us, offering Himself through the eternal Spirit without spot to God, was simply fulfilling law for us? When we are called to reckon ourselves dead, when we are said to be dead—are called to have the same mind which was in Christ Jesus, who made Himself of no reputation, is that law? Yet I suppose we are to obey in this.
And this leads me to another point, on which, as to us, all really hinges. We are not, we Christians, looked at as alive under law, but as dead. Hence not under its empire at all, but on a new footing of obedience as risen. Let it be remembered that no deliverance from law is deliverance from obedience or commandments. I add even commandments, for it is not sufficient to be right, Christ’s expressed authority must be obeyed. It is said that, if Christ’s whole life had not been law-fulfilling, it must have been law-transgressing. This is simply saying that He was incapable of going beyond the measure to which all as creatures are subject. If there is no alternative but law-keeping and law-transgressing, there could have been no act of sovereign goodness and love to sinners; for that is neither. He could not go beyond man’s obligations. Such is the theology and reasoning opposed to us.
The imputation of Adam’s g jilt is insisted on, and Romans 5:19 is quoted. But that does not prove imputation of sin or of righteousness. There all are looked at in their head; only, as to sinners, the condition (ejf* w|/) of their own sin is added. All are involved, as one, in the state Adam brought them into by his one act; so all in Christ are in His standing before God. But imputation of the particular act is not spoken of here. Christ is righteousness, and it is imputed to us, for it is not our own doing; but the point which is always avoided is, that imputing righteousness has the sense in scripture of accounting the man righteous (and not seeing this is at the root of the fallacy of all they say), not of something done which is imputed. It might be in that way or not, but it does not say that—it is not in its meaning. It is not somebody else’s righteousness imputed to me, but my being accounted righteous. Many being constituted sinners by one man’s disobedience is not saying that the individual’s sin was imputed to them, but that they by him all entered into and stood in that standing before God into which he got by that one sin. All are looked at as in his loins and as alienated and in sin before God. It is really the opposite of imputation of a particular act, as far as this passage goes.
It is attempted to prop up the opposition by quoting Augustine, alleging the Reformers followed him. Now Augustine, in the passages referred to, teaches (as Milner’s “Church History” long ago remarked of him) inherent righteousness, not imputed righteousness in any way. His words are these, in the same passage as is quoted: “But the righteousness of God without law is that which God confers on the believer through grace, without the help of the law.” What that is the same section shews: “Not that it is done without our will, but how will is by the law shewn to be infirm, that grace may heal our will and the healed will fulfil the law, not constituted under the law nor wanting the law.” (De Sp. et Lit. 9:15.) It is inherent righteousness without law. And so he continues in chapter 10:16. And this view of righteousness and grace is a settled one with Augustine, as the other passages quoted shew. But no one fulfils the law save he whom grace has helped (he is speaking of the righteousness of God): “What is this, the righteousness of God and the righteousness of men? The righteousness of God is here spoken of, not as that by which God is just, but which God gives to man that man may be just by God; but what was that justice of theirs? That by which they persevered in their own strength, and, as if they were fulfillers of the law by their own virtue, gave themselves the name of righteous. But no one fulfils the law save he whom grace has helped; that is the bread descended from heaven. For the fulness of the law, says the apostle, is charity… Whence is that charity to man? Let us hear himself. “The charity (love) of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given us. The Lord, therefore, being about to give the Holy Spirit, said that He was the bread descended from heaven, exhorting to believe on Him.”
If the Reformers followed Augustine, their belief in imputed righteousness was a very poor one. Here is Dr. Milner’s account: “The precise and accurate nature of the doctrine itself seems not to have been understood by this holy man. He perpetually understands St. Paul’s term, to justify, of inherent righteousness, as if it meant sanctification: still he knew what faith in the Redeemer meant.” The extracts I have given of the continuation of the passages quoted by my opponents prove pretty clearly how right Milner was. A pretty clear proof that they have no scripture for it is afforded in the following sentence: “We say imputed, because the scripture speaks of imputation; we say imputed righteousness, because that which is imputed is righteousness (Rom. 4:6).” If this is the authority, faith, not another’s righteousness, is imputed, and it is equal to not imputing sin: only it is convenient not to bring this out by quoting the text. But to proceed: “We say the imputed righteousness of Christ, because there is no other righteousness but His which will avail before the tribunal of God.” Would it not be well to shew us some scripture for so speaking on so momentous a subject? Well, he will try. “Because the word of God teaches us that our acceptance is through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
I still say, Where? “Oh, there is 2 Peter 1:1.” But this says nothing about our acceptance, but that we have received like precious faith through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, which makes it perfectly impossible to apply it to imputed righteousness. And also, “The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake [i.e., Messiah’s]; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.” (Isaiah 42:21.) First, Why Messiah’s? It is always, in the prophets, Jehovah’s righteousness; Messiah is not mentioned. I have no doubt Jehovah is infinitely well pleased with Christ’s righteousness. But Jehovah’s righteousness is spoken of here, nor is there a question of imputation, good or bad. But to conclude my citation: “Thus, the expression is not merely one which conveniently states a doctrinal truth, but it is one which flows from the use of words by the Holy Ghost Himself in scripture.” Could there be a more distinct acknowledgment, that, after every effort, it cannot be shewn that the Holy Ghost has taught it?
Christ is our righteousness; and we have no other one—desire no other. And thus righteousness is imputed to us: we are accounted righteous before God, according to the acceptance of Christ Himself. To that His perfect obedience was needed—an obedience shewn in life as in death. But I reject the unscriptural statement, not to make any an offender for a word. I have used Christ’s righteousness often myself as a general term, expressing divine righteousness by Him, and I have no regret about it; but it is employed to put us under law, to make Christ’s law-keeping our righteousness; and to make us stand before God in legal righteousness in flesh, wrought for us by Christ, by His law-fulfilling. This is unscriptural. I repeat, as I have said, abuse and charges of heresy are no use. We must have scripture, not theology. When it is alleged that Christ is our righteousness, we are told that the living obedience of our Surety explains what this righteousness is. That is, our opponents so explain it, but this will not do.
But I turn to further points as to scripture. We are told, If we are not under law, we may live licentiously. It is singular, how hard it is to get our opponents to scripture or scriptural truths. Paul takes up this question in Romans 6, and asks, Shall we sin because we are not under the law, but under grace?—not the question, mark, of justifying, but of practice. The apostle declares there, as to practice or to sinning, we are not under law; but that our being dead to sin, and alive to God through Christ, is the principle of our obedience, not law. I do not know how any could speak plainer. We are obedient to God Himself in a new life, in which we are not under law, having died to sin, and having life in Christ.
And see the consequence. Our being dead to sin is openly denied. St. Paul in this chapter (Rom. 6), tells us we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin, and alive to God. “It must certainly be,” we are told, “that we are dead to, or freed from, the guilt and consequences of sin.” This is why I am glad of this otherwise wearisome service of controversy—the true character of doctrines is brought out. Here we are told, that being dead to sin is only being dead to the guilt; a most serious statement; for thus the doctrine of a Christian being dead to sin is wholly set aside. He is only dead as regards guilt; and this is to maintain godliness! Now no one can read the chapter with the smallest attention, without seeing that it is sin, practical righteousness, serving God, which is in question. It is the apostle’s, the Holy Ghost’s answer, to the charge that being righteous by Christ’s obedience was giving license to sin. What answer to that was being dead to guilt? It was just the contrary. To be sure, the flesh would say, That is what I am glorying in. I am dead to all the guilt: so I may continue in sin. The apostle’s answer is, Ah! but you were baptized to Christ’s death—you have been planted in the likeness of Christ’s death—to be thus clear: how can you live in a thing you are dead to? Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. We were servants of sin in the flesh—now to righteousness and God, as alive through Christ. Not under law—but this is no reason for sinning; for it is a-question, not of law or measured claim, but of yielding ourselves wholly to God as alive from the dead. Death to sin, and life to God through Christ, are contrasted with the sin in the flesh we are dead to, and the law Which found it in us and left us under its dominion. Sin would not have dominion (it is no question of guilt) because we were not under law, but under grace; and living in the life we have through Christ, and thus to yield ourselves wholly to God (obedience to a person in full and absolute devotedness to do what His will is), our members as instruments of righteousness to God, and so grow up in holiness itself by living to Him in righteousness.
Now the divine way of being able to do this is (not by saying sin is in the flesh, therefore I am not dead; as my opponent does; but) reckoning myself dead, so as to get power under grace; every motion of sin, which is by the law, being thus disallowed. But I beg distinct attention to the point that, to sustain this doctrine of our being under law, my adversaries are obliged wholly to deny the Christian’s reckoning himself dead to sin. “I unhesitatingly conclude then, that when scripture says we are dead to sin, and dead to law, it means no more than that we are dead to the guilt and consequences of sin, and dead to the justification or condemnation of the law, on account of what Christ has done in our room and stead.” I only ask my readers to read through Romans 6, 7, which treat these two questions, and see if it is not a total subversion of the whole doctrine of the apostle, and of the power of Christianity, as to godliness. But if so, the whole system falls with it; because, if so, godliness and obedience come not by law, but by a new nature in the power of Christ’s resurrection, in virtue of which we count ourselves dead as regards the old, not in the flesh at all. Sin and law are met by our death as to the flesh, and a new nature in which we live to God. Hence the apostle says, “When we were in the flesh;” “Ye are not in the flesh.” Flesh, sin, and the law, are correlatives; for the old man lives in a fallen nature, and the law applies to man as responsible in that nature in which he is fallen.
Scripture teaches that the true Christian (whose life Christ, the Second Adam, is) has by faith—has as partaker of that life— died with Christ, and is to reckon himself dead; and, as in the new man, is not to place himself under law, but to live to God as one that is alive from the dead, Christ’s authority being that which governs him; His word the guide as well as the seed of life to him—His Father’s will his constant delight.
My opponents tell me we are not dead, nor to reckon ourselves dead to sin; but, ignoring our having put on the new man, and Christ being our life, put us back under law, as if sin was our only desire, and that which would break out if law did not hinder it—which it never did. The apostle, on the contrary, assures us that sin shall not have dominion over us, because we are not under law.
I have been referred to Dr. O’Brien’s book as a masterpiece on this subject. There is a great deal that is excellent in that book; especially when the faith of the writer himself breaks through, it rises up into real moral eloquence. In its insistence on the plain doctrine of justification by faith, I am thankful for it; but on this point we are treating, I find nothing that can be called argument —indeed, nothing about it (save a mistaken piece of logic) but what the “Record” quoted, which assumes the whole question, and is no argument at all. “It is evident,” says the now Right Rev. Prelate, “then, that in the justification with which we have to do—in which man is the party and God is the Judge—we have only to look to the law to which man is answerable, to see what his justification means.” Now, what argument is there in— “It is evident? “He says,” The law to which man is answerable.”
Now the apostle declares that, when God is the Judge, there are those who have sinned and perished without law; and others who are judged by the law. And he equally assures us that the Christian is not under law at all; but that law has power over a man as long as he lives. But that the Christian is viewed as having died, and risen again in virtue of a new sovereign way of God’s dealing in grace.
The teaching of the word tells me, that talking of man’s being amenable to law, as if nothing had happened—that this generic way of talking of man—is false altogether. It tells me that man was with God under a covenant; broke it, and was driven out from God’s presence; and is wholly lost, sinful, and lawless. And that God took a special people out of the world to shew us clearly what flesh (sinful human nature) was, when subject to law; and to give us the profitable lesson of its convicting of sin. It does shew me that, when man was driven out from God’s presence, he got a knowledge of right and wrong—a conscience to carry with him into the world; but that the law was given by Moses.
This whole view of man and law is heathenish and false. If my reader take Hooker’s argument, he will find heathens, not scripture, quoted for it, the apostle’s judgment of whom is, “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest.” But I said our preacher added a piece of false logic: it is this. He does not mean to intimate that, when he speaks of acquitting of violating the divine law and acceptance as though he had fulfilled it, these are distinct acts. The nature of the divine law recognizes no intermediate state between the guilt of violating it, and the merit of obeying it. There is, he insists, no separation between the acts of pardon and acceptance; but my reader will remark that the theory is, that Christ died for the violation, and lived for the fulfilment besides. But if that be so, the prohibitions of which Dr. O’Brien speaks could have no fulfilment. When a command was violated, there was satisfaction for the violation, and fulfilment of the command. May our hearts be kept in reverence towards the Blessed One, while we meet such arguments! But if I had acted when something was forbidden, satisfaction may be made; but there is nothing to be fulfilled, so that there cannot be the merit of doing here; and the difference the writer so justly seeks to avoid, his false system drags him into. Our bolder adversaries do not stumble on the difficulties which beset the cautious prelate’s path. Do this and live, we are told, is written on heaven’s gates; and we want active duties to be added to make up the inadequacy of atonement.
But to the substance of the matter: Dr. O’Brien assumes the whole question, and only discusses its form as to negative and positive precepts. I deny the whole ground assumed, and affirm that scripture puts the believer on a wholly new footing in Christ, as dead and alive again in Him, where law does not reach. I may be allowed to quote Hooker here. It may instruct some as to justifying the ungodly, and awaken some who may receive his testimony, and would not mine, to a righteousness beyond law. It shews the power of God’s word on a godly mind, in spite of system. “Christ has merited righteousness for as many as are found in Him. In Him God findeth us, if we be faithful; for by faith we are incorporated with Christ. Then, although in ourselves we be altogether sinful and unrighteous; yea, even the man which is impious in himself—full of iniquity—full of sin; him, being found in Christ through faith, and having his sin remitted through repentance—him God beholdeth with a gracious eye; putteth away sin by not imputing it; taketh away the punishment due thereto by pardoning it; and accepteth him in Jesus Christ, as perfectly righteous as if he had himself fulfilled all that was commanded him in the law. Shall I say, more perfectly righteous than if himself had fulfilled the whole law? I must take heed what I say. But the apostle saith,’ God made him which knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.’ Such are we in the sight of God the Father, as is the very Son of God Himself.” Now, I am not giving all this as systematically what I hold; but it does shew how the word of God forced on the mind of a godly man the belief that there was a righteousness of God beyond law. There are other objections, too poor to dwell on, as that Christ is an example, not a rule. But that Christ is an example because He rendered perfect obedience to the law, I wholly deny. He does not become a law, but He is a rule or measure of our conduct, and as far beyond the law as the manifestation of God is beyond the perfect measure of man’s ways. As to Romans 13:9, Paul does not quote the commandments to put us under them at all, but to shew that love fulfils them; so that, as Augustine says, we do not want the help of the law for it.
I would just refer to two passages said to be obscure in what I have written, because one of them is so on an important subject. It is from the tract “The Righteousness of God,” p. 9. The word “it,” in “no conferring of righteousness on it,” refers to what precedes the passage quoted by Dr. Carson, and is not in the quotation at all. It refers to the old man, our sinful nature in flesh. But that to which the “it” refers, though carried on in my mind as being the main subject treated of, yet is so far from the “it” that the sentence is obscure. The doctrine is all important, and easily apprehended by those who wish to know what is meant; but I do not justify the obscurity.
As regards the second, I have nothing to change or remark, save that he who does not understand it does not understand the true place of a Christian before God, nor the diligent teaching of Paul on the subject; I know many dear saints of God do not. And I take this opportunity of saying, that, for my part, my heart would receive a Christian who believed Christ had kept the law for him, as cordially and freely as any other. I know of no difference on that ground. Only I am sure that such are not clear on the scriptural doctrine as to the place we have in Christ by faith. But clearness as to truth, or progress in it, is not the ground of union in Christ, however precious it may be.
Let me add, as I am speaking of corrections (and it is an important point) that there are other adversaries of the truth than Dr. C. and his friends whom he comprised in the word “we,” and who distinctly hold that all Christ’s sufferings in life were penal sufferings; he may see it stated in Dr. Tregelles’ preface to his letters just published in the “Record” as being the Protestant doctrine. The true question with Dr. C. and his abettors is this: he says Christ’s people “are united to Him in life,” i.e., in life down here before His death. This is denied. They are united to Him, as risen and gone on high after His accomplished work, by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. The statement, that except the corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone, is referred to; and it proves that and more, to shew that there was not union before His death, for till then He abode alone. He was not united to man in the flesh; but believers are united to Him by the Spirit when He had accomplished His work and taken His place on high as the glorified man, the head, and thus become members of His body. They were not members of His body as living on earth, but as exalted to heaven. In connection with this, it is objected to as blasphemous, that I have said that Christ “required to keep it for His own personal perfection.” Certainly, if Christ was under the law and bound to keep it, He would not have been perfect if He had not kept it. Nothing can be more simple. It was not possible He could fail; but it was necessary He should keep it to be perfect. There is not a word to withdraw in it. If I had said, as Dr. C. in the same sentence practically does, that Christ required to keep the law to become perfect as the sinner’s substitute, it might have afforded a handle. But I say freely, I do not suppose Dr. C. meant any harm by it, though I think his doctrine wrong. Righteousness does come by law, if it comes by its being kept. Men before Moses, Gentiles since, and Christians now, are not under law. They are in themselves sinners as children of Adam and of wrath; but, if Christians, redeemed, justified, and risen in Christ. The great point I contend for is that we are not in the flesh; we are crucified with Christ and so dead, for faith, to that life to which law applied, and alive to God by Jesus Christ who is risen.
I had got thus far in my comments when a pamphlet, by Mr. Frederick Trench, came to me by post (with a recommendation by the “Record”) entitled, “Extreme Views.” He advocates common sense. But common sense has its extremes as well as other things. It is sometimes human prudence contrasted with simplicity of faith. I had rather mistake somewhat in the way of energy for Christ—would that I knew more of it!—than prudently refrain from committing myself. The man with one talent acted with extreme prudence, and found himself ill of it. There is often a common sense which, judging by possible results, leaves very little conscience, and less of its kindred faith. It is common sense which Mr. Trench recommends, and it will, of course, find favour with all who seek to avoid being stirred by conscience or earnest zeal. He is of what is called very low doctrine, and this is largely wrought into the structure of his pamphlet. As this may be found discussed in many other places, I shall only take up a few points of it here. For the rest, his pamphlet is made up, as many others are, of scurrilous attacks on “Brethren” which are taken as facts, and expressions in popular preaching and tracts which overstep scripture.
Now I have no doubt that, in recent activities, Christians outside and inside “Brethren” so-called have (in their zeal—a zeal I wish in many things I imitated better—for winning souls, and delivering them from the state of death in which they were) stated many things less soberly than was right. They have pressed the love of God and the freeness of the gospel in a way which would not bear critical examination. I have no doubt such defects are to be found in their statements, as I have no doubt they are in Mr. Trench’s; only that his are more detrimental to the glory of God a great deal than theirs. Still truth is truth; and it is well that errors should be corrected. But I do not think Mr. Trench’s views that which will do it. Of all styles of Christianity, I avow, the calculating one of Mr. Trench I believe to be the least agreeable to God. As to the charges against “Brethren,” the simple way is to leave them where they are; they have outlived many others.6 “Woe unto you when all men speak well of you.” Mr. Trench is little in danger of being so attacked. I would warn him that, in the present breaking up of much that he trusts in, common sense will be found an awfully poor thing to guide a man. In these last days God directs us to the scriptures as a safeguard. Mr. T. would secure us by the Establishment and confessions of faith. Why, they drive a coach and six through them now-a-days. Here is the highest legal authority of his church, acting for the Archbishop of Canterbury, who tells us that unfeignedly believing all canonical scriptures means simply that all necessary to salvation is to be found in them. And the clergy of the system he belongs to are the public active promoters of infidelity in the country; and the same high authority has gone out of his way to declare that, if they do not contravene the letter of the thirty-nine Articles, they may teach all the devil ever hankered after. And they are doing it earnestly enough, and infidelity moves over the country with rapid strides by the means of the clergy. Mr. Trench thinks a person may hear the most unprofitable doctrine in a “Brethren”-meeting. It is of course possible; but he is certain, by Mr. Trench’s system, to hear what is confessed to be the contrary of divine truth in the majority of parishes, if he holds to that system. The ministers are not converted, and are teaching what the apostle wished men cut off for teaching. But then it is true it does not violate common sense. On the other side, whence have people passed over to Popery, and who has led them? Clergy of the Establishment.
The person who sent me Mr. T.’s pamphlet, and with it the “Record’s puff” of it, little knew what a precious morsel he was sending with it. I turned the morsel of paper round and found the following: “Law intelligence—The Claydon Church Disturbances. At the Needham Market Petty Sessions, on Wednesday, the Rev. George Drury, Rector of Claydon, was summoned for having, on the 7th inst., assaulted Abraham Watkin, labourer, one of his parishioners. A cross summons had been taken out against Watkin, charging him with having assaulted Mr. Drury, and a second charging him with riotous and indecent conduct in the church. It appeared from the evidence, that on the evening in question, two young men from Ipswich, attracted by the reports of the doings at Claydon Church, paid a visit to the parish. Not knowing the way to the church, the complainant Watkin, at their request, accompanied them thither. They found the principal door fastened; but a boy in the churchyard told them, that if they went to the organ-room door, they would be able to get admittance. They did so, and found this door also fastened, but it was opened by a girl, and all three went into the church. Four monks were then engaged in prayer. There were about twenty lighted candles upon the altar. On entering, Watkin exclaimed in a low tone, addressing Brother Ignatius, ‘What do you mean by that, Blazer?’ Brother Ignatius, who heard what had been said, at the conclusion of the prayer, walked up to the complainant and the other two young men, and requested them to leave the church, as the ceremony then going on was private prayer. The young men from Ipswich left as desired, but Watkin refused, stating that he meant to remain during evening service, which did not commence till seven o’clock. Brother Ignatius endeavoured to persuade him to go, but in vain; and he then called in the aid of the Rev. Mr. Drury, who, the complainant alleged, took a red-hot iron out of the tire, and, without having previously said a word, struck him with it on the forehead, inflicting a wound from which blood flowed, and also burning him. Having done this, Mr. Drury turned to go away, and the complainant admitted that he followed him to the chancel…”
I have no more of this morsel; but I hear Brother Ignatius (otherwise Mr. Spencer7) is going about Suffolk in a monk’s dress to get the means of establishing the Benedictines. Such is the security creeds give. It was a witty remark of the Pope, and good sense in it too, as to a large class of English clergy: You are like the church bells, gentlemen; you call people into the church (i.e., Roman), but you do not go in yourselves.
But a little more history before I turn to doctrine. Mr. Trench refers to the Irish Home Mission, in which the old Home Mission took its rise. I also had part in setting the former a-going, a httle more perhaps in its first organization than I suppose Mr. Trench would like now to allow; but it is of little matter. I admit fully, that Mr. Trench, by his capacity for arrangement and activity, was, as to its establishment and carrying on as a matter of business, the efficient instrument, working in it actively too. But I will “efresh his memory, how what grew out of it came to be “old.” As he says, clergy worked in it, but very few; a few however did. Many of the “Brethren,” perhaps some Dissenters. I do not recollect them; but, in principle, any one who truly preached the gospel; and it went on, and circled pretty much all Ireland round —I hardly know a county I was not in myself. I have no boast to make of it. We all did our best. It had planted itself pretty substantially in many quarters; and the clergy, I suppose, began to think a work thus rooting itself into the country ought not to be left out of the hands of the clergy. However that may be, Mr. Trench went to Dublin and came to an arrangement with the clergy (guided, I suppose, by sound sense), that they should take it up, and what they call the laity be turned out of it. Mr. Trench came down to me at Limerick, and told me of it, saying, I was sure of your largeness of heart, and that you would join in the plan. I replied: “Impossible. I was delighted to have the clergy preach where they would; but when it is the clergy as such to exclude others whom God has sent and blessed, I cannot. It is against my principles, and certainly not my place.” And we, laymen if you please, went on as far as we could, on a smaller scale, doubtless, but with a good deal of blessing; and, in a very short time, the various prelates, who could not hinder the laity and a mixed set of preachers, put a stop to the clergy doing so, and it became the “Old Established Church Home Mission.” Mr. Trench told me when we met about it, that it was the only thing he regretted doing in his life. It is not the only thing where his common sense has been baffled by his clerical friends.
After these little discursions, I turn again to doctrines. There are extreme views, and when one of these is settled, and mischievously settled, the introduction of the balancing part of truth is always one-sided, often held to be new; and, I freely admit, there is danger (in those introducing it) of settling into exclusive-ness on that side. That is human nature. Thus the common evangelical doctrine for some hundred and fifty years is put thus: justification, then progressive sanctification; and this connected with perpetual doubting—a human scheme of truth. People have seen that sanctification is spoken of as an absolute accomplished thing also, and, when it is connected with justification, always put first. They have rejected that view, and taken up this. That view has lowered grievously the truth of the gospel, and kept souls in bondage. It is the extreme which Mr. Trench, whose views of truth are very contracted, and, withal, what are called low, adopted. Others, I think, and Plymouth Brethren so-called among them, have fallen into the other extreme.
Now, sanctification is chiefly spoken of as accomplished, and before justification; but it is also spoken of as progressive: “Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified.” “Sanctified unto obedience and the blood of sprinkling.” “Sanctified in God the Father.” Such are the expressions of scripture, treating the Christian as sanctified and set apart by grace, and thus brought under the efficacy of the blood of sprinkling and justified. But while thus personally, as born of God, wholly sanctified, scripture does say, “Follow after holiness,” “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly.” It looks for a practical and increasing realization of this setting apart in thought and affection by a growing knowledge of Christ. The Evangelical school, fancying it knows how to take care of holiness better than divine wisdom does, takes only the latter, rejecting the former. This has led to pressing the former more particularly; it may be to the exclusion of the latter. But those who reject the former press a mere practical change, in contrast with a divine title over us and personal setting apart to God, and use the practical state as a test of justification, and they thus cast true souls into doubt, and lower the nature both of justification and sanctification itself. The gospel is lost. This is the mischievous extreme in which Mr. Trench is. I would recommend him a sentence of Dr. O’Brien’s: “God’s honour is to be maintained by the right use of the safeguards which He Himself has provided for it, not by our devising new muniments for its protection.”
The doctrine of self-examination is taken up; but here Mr. Trench does not even know what the question is. I never heard of any one objecting to self-examination. It would be sufficient to quote i Corinthians n: Let a man examine himself. If we judge ourselves, we shall not be judged of the Lord. That is not the question; but whether people should examine themselves, in order to know whether they are justified, whether they are children of God, whether they are in the faith. Cannot Mr. Trench’s boasted good sense understand the difference between his children examining whether they are his children, and whether they are acting as his children ought, seeing they are such? One would be a horror in a family, the other a duty. Now I affirm it is un-scriptural to examine ourselves if we are in the faith, and absurd too. We all pass through it. It is a useful humbling process till we are forced to submit to God’s righteousness, but always a proof that we are not in the liberty wherewith Christ has set us free—that we are not clear as to redemption. It is absurd; for if I have not a spiritual mind, I am not competent to do it; if I have, the question is settled—does not exist. I know, “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith” is triumphantly quoted. But people leave out” If ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, examine yourselves.” The Corinthians were calling in question Paul’s ministry; and, as a last appeal to their “common sense,” he says, “Why, you were converted by it, you had better doubt about yourselves. Do you not know you are Christians? How did you become so? Who spoke to you?” There is no command for Christians to examine themselves, but an appeal to the certainty the Corinthians had to shew the folly of doubting the ministry by which they themselves had been converted.
John’s Epistle has more appearance of confirming this idea; but John treats all he writes to as undoubtedly children of God. “I write unto you, children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake… I write unto you, babes, because you know the Father.” Others were trying to seduce them from this full confidence that they had eternal life already; and John writes that they might not be shaken, but know, as he says, that they had, and confirms them by the contrast of their love to the brethren, and the character of the seducers. But there is no call to doubt, no command to examine. If my self-examination were the means of my having peace, I ought to say, Therefore, being justified by experience, &c. But it lowers practical walk also. If I examine myself to know whether I am a Christian, I content myself with finding that out. If, as freely justified by grace, I examine whether I am living up to the example of Christ, I am always at peace, having blessed confidence in divine favour, and never content without growing up to Him who is the Head in all things, having the same mind that was in Him. The whole tone of soul is different in piety and standard of holiness.
Next, it is complained that it is held that all our sins are put away. The only meaning of this is, that Mr. Trench is in the evil extreme of a low gospel. His doctrine is akin to Wesleyanism. He believes in a sufficiency for the world, but knows nothing of a substitution for God’s people. If Christ has really stood in my place (and I believe through grace He has), it is clear He has borne all my sins. If He has not, He never can: that is equally clear. When I am brought to simple faith in the gospel, I know it. All my sins were future when He bore them. Mr. Trench says, “There may be here a mistake between forgiveness and atonement. I believe an atonement sufficient for the sins, past, present, and to come, of the world was made by the Lamb.” Be it so. But does Mr. Trench believe that the blessed Lord bore his sins in His own body on the tree? Some, or all? Without shedding of blood there is no remission. And the apostle’s argument is, that if this work—this really putting away of sin—was not done once for all, Christ must have suffered often since the foundation of the world. He draws the conclusion, that the worshippers once purged would have no more conscience of sins, and gives the reason—”that by one offering Christ has perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”
Mr. Trench may think all this dangerous. I reply, there is no worse, nor so dangerous, an extreme as denying scripture, and putting your own good sense in its place. If he takes the trouble to read Hebrews 9, 10, he will find that it is a careful contrast of the divine truth of purging the conscience once for all with his repeated clearings and forgivenesses; and he will do better to trust God’s care of His own honour, than be devising new muniments for its protection. All his statement means is, that he holds Wesleyan or Arminian doctrine instead of a true view of the gospel; and he is so little informed in truth, that he is not aware of it. If he seeks a guard against abuse of it, he will find it, not in the lowering of truth and grace, but in such a chapter as Romans 6, and the truth that, if we are Christians, we are dead to sin and alive to God; and, I may add, if the power of the word through grace be not sufficient—for that may be the case, and his system will not help it—in that, of which he can know nothing, the just scriptural discipline of the Church of God.
I have spoken of the Church; so has Mr. Trench. I would again remind him that, besides common sense, there are such things as conscience and faith, and that the wisdom of men is foolishness with God. Mr. Trench says, “The Church of England (like all other churches) being a human institution, must necessarily have its faults, and partake of human infirmity.” Supposing a person, humbly bowing to God’s word, found that the Church was a divine institution, had its order and directions from its heavenly Head,” Son over his own house,” and felt that it was a monstrous inroad on God’s authority, a dreadful denial of His sovereign title, to have substituted a human institution for a divine one— does Mr. Trench deny that the Church was a divine institution? or does he think men may substitute a human one for God’s own special institution in the earth with impunity? And if a man does not, what is he to do? If he finds conscience towards God something, and not merely something “better for the present, and likely to be better in the long run;” if he finds solemn warnings in the word of the inroads of this apostate principle of substituting man for God, and directions that whoever names the name of the Lord should depart from iniquity; and that when the Church does become a great house, we are to purge ourselves from vessels of dishonour—is he to judge by what is convenient, or to follow what is conscientious by the light of God’s word? Supposing he sees men educated for a profession, for a living, made to declare that they are moved by the Spirit of God to become ministers; and then another man, named by the Prime Minister of the day, professing to give him the Holy Ghost, and then, after leading him into it, laying the guilt, Satan-like, on the same man, because he has made the profession they have put into his mouth; and he feels it is profanation—is he to join with what is profane because it is better for the present, and likely to be so in the long run? I believe it is worse for the present, and likely to meet with God’s judgment in the long run.
If I find men declaring that all the infants they christen are born again, and regenerate of the Holy Ghost, which they do not believe; teaching these children, without any question of an alleged charitable hope, that they were therein made members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven, which they do not believe either: if a man has conscience enough not to do and say what he sees is wrong, and does not believe, in the solemn services of religion, what is he to do? If he has faith enough to break many a cherished tie, the path of conscience and of God is clear. If a man cannot say such things as, “Spare thy people whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood, and be not angry with us for ever;” if he do not think it “truly scriptural” to say always and perpetually that God is angry, and may be for ever, with the people whom He has redeemed—not merely doubting a person’s own redemption, but affirming God’s anger of those whom He has redeemed; if a man cannot settle himself to go always in future, and say, always say, for ever repeat as his worship, that he is “tied and bound with the chain of his sins,” when he knows the essence of practical Christianity is, that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made him free from the law of sin and death; if he cannot say that the burden of his sins is intolerable, and then get absolution, because his conscience is already purged; if a person’s conscience and faith both call him to depart from this because it is iniquity, and he names the name of the Lord—will Mr. Trench’s common sense give him a good conscience? A bad or hardened one it may. If he even sees that the whole principle of the language is Jewish in what Mr. Trench has referred to, “Remember not the offences of our forefathers;” if he has a little knowledge of liturgies (of which, for my own part, I cannot boast much), and knows that a litany is a supplication and common intercession to God when His wrath is upon us; and that our litany was arranged by Pope Gregory, out of previous ones used to this end in processions, and that Rome was thus delivered from a grievous mortality, and that this, so very Jewish in its character, is now made spiritual food Wednesdays, Fridays, Sundays, when there is no thought of calamities at all; if one, humble as he may be in spirit and not given to change, cannot force his conscience through such a mass of contradictions to scripture and true spiritual Christianity, what is he to do? Go to other human institutions? Is this what Mr. Trench’s human institution has done for us, brought us to fly to common sense, and the best we can, because they have grossly violated scripture, and nothing better is to be had? What shall I think of a minister of Christ’s gospel telling us this? I regret these questions being raised.
I remember when, though I could not in conscience stay in it, I looked with affection to the Establishment as that which was a barrier against popery and professed infidelity. Alas! (and it is a grievous sorrow, for I see the breaking up of all things, and the inroad of both) it is become “the bell,” as the Pope said, to call to one, and the public promulgator of the other. Can any honest man deny it? I am sure, no one, no clergyman, will grieve as I do in saying it. We want something real, and of faith, for those who have faith in these perilous times, and not a plea of common sense to sustain evil, which every exercised conscience is getting dissatisfied with, and active faith breaking the bounds of, while infidelity and popery are rampant all around us.
I will turn to more peaceful subjects.
Mr. Trench leans on Dr. O’Brien for his definition of faith. I can heartily desire that the book in its main objects may be abundantly blessed, and have no desire to weaken, in any way, its effect on the minds of those it may address itself to; but Dr. O’Brien was defining, and I take up his definition. Had I heard a mere sermon on faith, urging to trust in Christ, I should have hailed it, and made no comment on the word. Simple minds take the good, and do not define. But all souls are not simple; and many an earnest one may anxiously enquire, “Do I really trust; for I fear it is not for me?” I am sure deliverance is with God; still we must not make difficulties for souls. I do not believe faith means trust, though I believe trust will infallibly be there if faith is. As surely as I am burnt, being a man, pain is there; but burning is not pain. I am sure that the right rey. prelate, as he now is, is humble enough to allow me to speak freely of his writings without thinking it any want of deference.
In the main purport of his book I heartily concur. I rejoice in the testimony, which is its main object. But I do not think him, as Mr. Trench says, an accurate, though he is a careful, writer. To say that trust is an essential and leading constituent of faith, is different from saying faith is trust in Christ. I could almost assent to the first, for it cannot fail to flow from it: to the last I wholly object. But I have a further remark to make here.
It is said (Serm. 1: p. 12, 3rd ed.), “It is not belief of the truth of the scripture narrative, or an assent of the understanding to certain propositions; but it is trust in Christ.” Now, I admit fully, belief in the truth of scripture may not be saving faith; and it is never the assent of the understanding to propositions. It is not a human thing as Rome makes it; nor mere assent as Sandemanianism would make it. But it is not therefore trust. It is not the fact of the assent to the testimony of scripture, or the contrary, which is real faith, or the contrary; but the nature of the assent which makes the difference of real faith and mere educational or intellectual. The latter is called believing in scripture (John 2:23-25), and believing on (eij") His name; yet, being only an intellectual conviction, Jesus did not trust Himself to them. He knew what was in man. It was an honest conviction—an assent; but it was only from what was in man, and was worthless. True faith is the work of the Holy Ghost in the soul, revealing the object of faith in divine power; so that the heart receives it on divine testimony as divine truth, and a divine fact. “When it pleased God,” says the apostle, “to reveal his Son in me.” “He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.” “He that heareth my words, and believeth (on) him that sent me, hath everlasting life.” It is really identical with the communication of a new life by the power of the Holy Ghost through the word. Hence we are said to be the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus; to be born of the Spirit, and to be begotten by the word of truth.
Faith is the divinely-given perception of things not seen, wrought through the word of God by the Spirit. Hence it is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen. The examples in Hebrews 11 are not given to shew all that faith is, but how it works in man in active life or patient endurance, because God’s word is believed. If the word reveals a divine person in grace, He becomes the object of trust; if a work, its efficacy becomes the ground of confidence. But the trust and the confidence is not the faith. Indeed, though there will always be attraction, and so far trust in Him as a person worthy of it, and drawing it, in the revelation of God in love, it does not at first always produce confidence, properly speaking, and, speaking of Christ, “a full reliance upon Him and upon His work;” because that revelation, if it attracts the confidence of the heart, awakens the conscience; and, till this is purged by a clear knowledge of redemption, we cannot trust. The element of it is there, but we cannot do so. When Peter preached to the Jews, the effect of the power of the word, convincing them that Jesus was the Messiah— making them believe—was to make them say, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” They had crucified Him. This was not trust; but faith was wrought in their hearts as to who Jesus was. Not that scripture was true—that they believed before; not assent to a proposition—but true faith that Jesus was the Christ. The answer to the need of soul this produced was Peter’s shewing them the path of peace. They were to have remission of sins, and receive the Holy Ghost.
As regards the words pisteuvw, used simply with a dative, it is to believe a person. There are at the utmost two exceptions, in the Acts. I leave out the cases of both accusative and dative, as not to our purpose. To believe eij" toV o[noma may be—yet no genuine faith or trust at all. (John 2:23.) It is recognizing the person to be what he comes as. The divine or human character of this faith is a subsequent question. Nor does ejn convey trust: “Repent, and believe (ejn) the gospel.” (Mark 1:15.) I cannot doubt that, as a general rule, believing eij" Crivston means a divinely given recognition of Christ. But it does not necessarily follow that it is divine. It was sincere recognition of Christ as such. But I am not aware of any case where pisteuvw eij" is used of dead faith. Pisteuvw eij" points out more the object faith looks at; ejpiV rare, I believe only in the Acts, and with an accusative, that which man has come to as the basis of the faith; ejpiV with dative only in quotation from LXX, and once in 1 Timothy 1:16. These shades of meaning depend on the prepositions and cases. But I do not see any one passage which leads to the conclusion, that pisteuvw is employed for trust or confidence, save where it is trusting another with something, which is another thing. As to pivsti", it is almost always used absolutely —faith; a few cases with a genitive, faith tou' Qeou' recognizing Him—the faith of Jesus Christ. But I find nothing to build upon to make it trust. Faith, if real, is a divinely-wrought recognition of the object of faith, through the power of the word of God; and, in a few cases, the actual revelation of the object. In connection with this, it is life.
And here, I think, there is a want in the volume of Dr. O’Brien —the recognition of the real power of life in a risen Saviour become our life. Faith, it is said, unites us to Christ—so commonly; but it is never so said in scripture. The Holy Ghost which dwells in us unites us to Christ; and we live in the power of life which is in Christ risen from the dead; and this is the way of holiness, not putting us under law. Hence all the doctrines connected with our being quickened together with Him, raised up together (Jew and Gentile), and sitting together in heavenly places in Him; so that we are before God in Christ, and always thus before Him accepted in the Beloved; this whole character of acceptance and justification is wanting in Dr. O’Brien’s work, and Mr. Trench shews himself totally ignorant of it. Yet it is the very glory of Paul’s doctrine, and that in which the apostle John shews the perfectness of God’s love. “Herein is love made perfect with us [not “our” love, which is a wretched perversion, not a translation], that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as he is, so are we in this world.”
Whatever Hooker may do, it is because Paul had received this ministry that he used great plainness of speech. Faith is then the real vivid perception of what cannot be known by sight—God, Christ, anything revealed of God, being the object. If there is merely a mental conclusion, as in the end of John 2, or assent to a proposition, it is worthless. If it is the revelation of the object of faith to the soul by the Holy Ghost, it is real and living; and this only is true faith.
Further, though all rightly preached together, we must not confound faith in the person, and faith in the work of Christ. The latter alone can give peace to the conscience (unless the direct revelation of God, as by Nathan to David, or Christ to the woman that was a sinner); but the former is always held out as the first proper object of faith; while scripture declares, that whoever believes on Him is under the benefit of His work. Faith in Him is quickening and saving. Peace of conscience according to God’s declaration belongs to those who do in virtue of His work. This difference connects itself with the question of repentance. Mr. Trench makes it a sin in the “Plymouth Brethren,” that they say that faith goes before repentance. He is extremely ignorant, as this pamphlet shews, of all the questions which have moved souls, and not a step beyond the lowest Wesleyan doctrines, on these points. This question has been one on which all sticklers for the power of human nature, without grace, or to meet grace,, have held with Mr. Trench. But all who know what grace is believe that faith precedes repentance, and everything else that is good and right in man. Otherwise he would have what is good before he believed the truth at all; he would have it without God. And as to repentance, substantially the whole moral change, the essence and substance of his return to God, would have been effected without any truth at all. For if he repents through the truth, he must believe the truth in order to repent. Nothing can be more absurd than putting repentance before faith; for a man then repents believing nothing at all. The word of God has not reached his soul, good or bad; for if it has, he is an infidel, or he believes it, and it has thus wrought repentance. That a man does not understand redemption and salvation before repentance, be it so; certainly, he does not really know it for himself. But that does not say faith does not precede it.
Dr. O’Brien leaves all ambiguous here. So much of change of mind, he tells us, as is necessary to make faith real, is essential to it. But what wrought the change? After describing very justly what a convinced soul must feel, as one who knows it for himself, he says, This must be felt by all who can be truly said to trust in Christ, as knowing in whom they trust. Admit it all for a moment, for such trust cannot be without it; but how have they learnt that there is a Christ to trust in? Is it not by faith? Further, what produced these practical elements of repentance? Dr. O’Brien justly refers to the change of mind which the sinner undergoes under the operation of divine grace. Assuredly. But how does this divine grace operate? Is it not by the word; by the presentation of divinely given objects of faith? If faith is not the source of repentance (i.e., in the moral sense, precedes it), then the vital change in the state of a man’s soul is without faith, without grace, or grace operates without any revelation of a divine object. The eye must be opened to turn men from darkness to light: is it opened on vanity, or on God’s revelation of Himself in Christ? Hence I find that repentance and remission of sins were to be preached in His name. Am I to believe that the repentance was to be brought in unbelief in that name, or by faith in it? So in John 16. He shall convince the world of sin, because they believe not on Me. And Peter, accordingly, having announced Jesus, charges them with having crucified Him; and then they are pricked to the heart. And then he tells them the way of escape. Philip goes down to Samaria to preach Christ to them. Did they repent through faith in it, or not? The goodness of God leads man to repentance. Is there no goodness to be believed in in this work? What led the poor sinful woman in tears to the feet of Jesus? She heard that Jesus was in the house. Satan, to bring in lust and sin, had first undermined confidence in God. God, he insisted, had kept back just what would make man like Himself. God is manifest in flesh, and moves in grace through the wretchedness of man, shewing grace in Himself abounding over sin to win back the confidence of sinful man—in spite of, yea through, the burden and shame of sin—to Himself, while surely warning him of the consequences of abiding in it. The poor woman had felt this; she could go to God thus manifested (not explain it all, I dare say), and shewing her to herself too, in the light, when she dared not to any human heart. She loved much. When she heard that Jesus was in the house, she came. What business had she there? When God and grace were there, for her He filled the place in His beauty and grace. He was alone for her soul. Its brokenness and renewed feeling in life fitted to the grace that was revealed in Him. God was there for it. That was all. The rest was all human vanity. Christ had a claim which made nothing of all the rest. Its glitter had found its truth in her sorrow; but Christ met what she was. She knew what the Pharisee did not, that grace and that God, morally speaking (for she might not know it doctrinally), was there. She did not know forgiveness; but repentance had been produced by the revelation of God in Christ to her soul. And Christ pronounced the forgiveness, and told her to go in peace.
Now, here we get faith, repentance, and forgiveness in their divine order—now more clearly preached, no doubt; but not otherwise. Peter preaches Christ. There is faith; this works repentance (for the heart had been enmity to the Christ believed in); and then comes the knowledge of forgiveness through His work.
Faith, then, according to scripture, does go before repentance; peace may not, and surely will not. What was the first thought in the prodigal? His father’s house; he had no best robe until he met his father. Mr. Trench has only shewn that he is wholly astray from the truth (I trust neither he nor Dr. O’Brien will count it amiss that I speak plainly; nor any want of courtesy—I should be sorry to be guilty of any), that he charges an error, when it is only his own; and that the passage he quotes from Dr. O’Brien’s book, in heart and substance sound, is not either clear or accurate. Such feelings must be before there is solid peace; but that does not touch the question—What produces the feelings? The danger of the obscurity of Dr. O’Brien is seen in Mr. Trench’s use of it, who will have repentance without any grace at all; or, if he deny that, without the word of God, or anything it reveals (for, if otherwise, faith goes before repentance). It is an open denial of grace to say it does not. I judge repentance to be a much deeper thing than is thought. It is the judgment of the new man in divine light and grace on all that he who repents has been or done in flesh. Law may be the means of bringing the soul to it; but, though salutary, it is made for the unrighteous. The full knowledge of Christ gives a far deeper hatred of sin. And such is the Holy Ghost’s way: all else, if true, is imperfect. “He shall convince the world of sin, because they believe not me.” To have hated good, seen no beauty in Christ to desire Him—a nature which could do this is worse even than the lusts which the spirituality of the law so justly condemns. Lawless, law-breaking, and God-hating; such is the flesh’s character in scripture, and the order of its manifestation for shewing what sin is. Hence, repentance will, in one sense, deepen all one’s life, as the knowledge of God grows. It is not a quantum of sorrow, nor even a perception of separation from God by sin. That leads to it. It is the soul of man judging divinely of sin, and that, in the consciousness, it had been self, when God is known in grace—at any rate in some measure. I shall return to this point in closing, in the way of positive truth.
I notice some more objections. A great deal is said about being innocent. Scripture never speaks of any one being innocent in God’s sight (I am not speaking, of course, of unfallen Adam). It is unfortunate when the whole argument depends on what is not found in scripture. God never declares a man innocent; nor does it, as we have already seen, ever speak of the righteousness of Christ; yet all the argument of my adversaries is, that man must have the latter in order to be the former. We are guilty of sins of omission and commission. For my sins of commission it is clear there can be no doing, but atonement, because I ought not to have done the things; and here Christ cannot do anything for me. I have stolen: He has put my sin away. What has He to do for me? If the sin is put away, I am guiltless. So that we have one kind of righteousness as to these; another as to sins of omission. Is this scriptural? But as to these—Christ, by His life, has perfectly made them up, they tell us, so that I am absolutely innocent, “as pure as the majesty of heaven.” And then Christ dies for what? Here, consequently, I look in vain for scripture. The passage, “Who can lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” is none. Why is the question, mark, “lay anything to the charge?” Now, I say, if Christ has died for me, none can lay anything to my charge. Dare any one say they can? If not, I cannot be charged with the slightest stain of guilt. Whatever I was in sin, Christ has died for, and I am cleared from all charge—what they call innocent. This they deny. If not, let them admit it. If they deny it, they destroy the value of Christ’s death. If they admit it, all my adversary’s reasoning is false. No, they demand an additional quantum of merit, and hold that man is not cleared from charge by Christ’s death. I repeat, if he is, the whole reasoning falls through as false. This controversy arose from a preacher stating that besides Christ’s blood, and regeneration, it was written on heaven’s gates, “This do and live,” and meritorious righteousness must be gained by doing. That is the doctrine stated by them.
If my adversary will not come to scripture, I will. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died.” Not a word of law-fulfilling. Again, “Being justified freely by his blood.” Is there anything about law-fulnlling? “The righteousness of God, without the law, is manifested.” Well, let us turn to Romans 5. God commends His own love to us, “in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” Again, How do I get my conscience purged? for another important epistle speaks of this. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience?” He appeared once to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Again, “by the which will we are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” And, “by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” So “Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by the which he received testimony that he was righteous.” “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Let us hear Peter: we are redeemed by “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” Christ has suffered for us, “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh.” Christ, “who knew no sin,” has been made sin for us, “that we might be made the righteousness of God.”
Such is the testimony of the word: justifying, cleansing, purging the conscience, perfecting for ever, boldness to enter into the holiest, redemption, bringing to God, are all attributed to the precious blood of Christ and His sacrifice.
Now, I ask my opponents for one text which teaches that the fulfilling of the law is the way of having righteousness. I cite these: “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” “If righteousness come by law, Christ is dead in vain.” “The righteousness of God without law is manifested.” I know they tell me this is our keeping it. No; it is stated absolutely. But if it be, let them produce a text which teaches us that Christ’s keeping the law was a different thing, and that that is the way of righteousness —a passage which refers to the value of His keeping the law for righteousness for us. The curse of a broken law, omission or commission, is spoken of. As many as are of its works are under the curse. Well, we are theologically told that His keeping it is needed. Paul says, “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.” Is it not singular we should get righteousness or justifying treated of in various shapes, and never once the thing mentioned which alone can give us righteousness? that it is never mentioned in the word of God? If it is, let us have it. I must have divine testimony for what is to make me righteous in God’s sight. It is alleged that pardon and righteousness are distinct. Now, in the way they put it, this (which there is a certain truth in, rightly understood) they are wholly wrong in. David describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness without works, saying, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” Now, as far as it has the character of what they call innocence (that is, for holding a man as without sin) it is the same as pardon. In that sense, justifying and pardon, clearing, no sin being charged, is all the same.
There is another truth connected with it, a ground on which they never enter, which does not leave us simply here negatively. He was raised again for our justification. He has perfectly glorified God in His work on the cross, and now, according to the perfection of it, appears in the presence of God for us. There is more than bearing our sins, glorifying God in His holy and glorious nature, and that about sin, and we are before God according to that in Him. I will refer to this when I speak of what I see Christianity to be. I must now turn to objections.
Mr. Trench’s respect for Mr. Simeon, as an aged servant of Christ, who was the means of his conversion, every one will respect. But Mr. Simeon’s views of truth are not such as would govern my mind. I remember once calling on Mr. Simeon with Mr. Trench. I had been endeavouring to draw Mr. Trench’s mind to the person of Christ and failed. It was obscure—a common case for common sense with divine truth. He knew He was God, and knew He was man; but I could get no farther. When we called on Mr. Simeon, I put it to him, thinking he would make it clearer to Mr. Trench than I could, requesting he would do so. His reply I will not repeat, for it seemed to me irreverent; and I would not bring up an aged Christian now long gone to rest; but he treated it with contempt, so that I held my tongue and so left it. Now when Christ’s person is not the centre of our religious thoughts and apprehensions, all will be cold and narrow. This has influenced all Mr. Trench’s religious habits of thinking. I remember—at a time when I laboured with him, and when, I bear him witness, he laboured with assiduity and devoted-ness as a clergyman, and I do not doubt was blessed to many, if not in the spirit and way I should delight in—Mr. Trench used to preach from a collection of skeleton sermons prepared by Mr. Simeon. Mr. T. had the habit of coming to me, and asking, for his sermons, what I drew from such and such a text: I told him as well as I could; and how often did I hear, “Oh, but that will not go into the skeleton!” Now that is the history of all Mr. T.’s theological life since—putting the word of God into a skeleton! I do not quote this as idle recollection, but, while recalling with sincerity Mr. T.’s diligent labours, as the true history of the scope of Mr. Trench’s views. I turn to his objections.
The first is very simple. He was told of “Brethren,” that any person in the apparel of a man could speak. Any sensible person can see that this is simply maintaining the scriptural rule, “Let your women keep silence in the churches;” and that it is left free, in meetings which are not preachings nor lectures, but assemblies of saints, according to the clear scriptural rule, to all brethren who can edify, to do so. We glory in this. We have for it the authority of God’s word, which is worth a host of objections, and, I am bold to say, have found the good fruits of it, in spite of our infirmities.
The next objection shews an ignorance of facts which makes it an unrighteous thing of Mr. Trench to speak of “Brethren” (for I will not suppose bad faith), as it is notorious that “Brethren” have suffered everything—reproach of divisions and narrowness; that they have broken publicly with Bethesda and all connected with it, because the latter wilfully let those who held this doctrine amongst them, rather than have the smallest connection with those who hold it; while Mr. Trench’s friends and colleagues have supported and encouraged those who do hold these abominable blasphemies. Air. Trench may have borrowed it from others; but borrowing accusations, without even enquiring whether they be true, is poor work. It is notorious, that the “Brethren” have at all cost rejected and refused any connection with those infected with upholding this doctrine. They broke with Bethesda, because Bethesda let in knowingly those who held it.
The next accusation requires more detailed reply. It refers to Mr. Mackintosh. I distinctly affirm that the charge against Mr. Mackintosh was an unfounded calumny. The very doctrine he was charged with was distinctly denied and rejected as false and worthless in the immediate part of his book taken as the ground of the calumny. The charge was a false one. And the utter folly of the reasoning by which it was attempted to be fixed on him was evident; for it applied equally to the expression of the Apostles’ Creed, which was thus charged with Valentinianism. It has been replied, in reference to my quoting the Creed to shew it, that I do not quote scripture in appealing to the Apostles’ Creed. I was not proving any doctrine by it, but the folly of a reasoning which charged the Apostles’ Creed with Valentinianism. It shewed the absurdity of the charge. Mr. Mackintosh used the words of the Apostles’ Creed. The words were charged with being evident Valentinianism. I denied the folly of the charge by pointing out that the same words were in the Apostles’ Creed. And I am told I did not quote scripture! To be sure I did not. But Mr. Mackintosh did overstep the bounds of scripture statement. He used language open to attack, and I have no doubt his mind, in opposing one extreme, had gone into the opposite. To have stated the opposite to what he said would have been equally false. Scripture says nothing on it, in its divine wisdom; and our wisdom is to say nothing. That wisdom Mr. Mackintosh overstepped the bounds of. The part “Brethren” took on it was, long before this attack, to point it out to him; and the passage was left out in the second edition, just then being published. Subsequently he published a declaration that he had made a wrong statement, and that it was to be condemned wherever it might be found. I have no doubt his mind had overstepped the bounds of scripture; but the incriminated language not one in a thousand would have noticed as anything particular. When first it was shewn to myself, before it was publicly in question, it was in MS., with an answer by another person. I replied to an enquiry on it. Both have gone beyond scripture; but I do not believe either meant anything wrong. I did not then know whose either statement was. Still I recognize fully that Mr. Mackintosh did overstep scripture, and, of course, it is his duty to undo it as far as possible. He spoke of Christ as a divine man, a heavenly man, which few Christians would find any harm in, however enemies fasten on them. He also said that Christ was Lord as to His humanity. The answer to this statement on the part of his accuser was fatal heresy and denial of Christ’s glory, an open denial of Christ’s lordship as man. But that does not excuse, of course, Mr. Mackintosh. The worst of things may pass with those who fall in with the current; where a testimony is, nothing can. So much the better: I do not complain. But I repeat, the charge against Mr. Mackintosh was a false one. Yet there was a root of unscriptural thought in his mind. I hold it a great mercy that it was brought out to light. The true humanity of Christ is a fundamental truth, and His person and salvation are given up if it be touched. We cannot be too jealous of it, or count it too precious. Attempts to define will plunge any one into heresy and irreverence. For my own part, I have found no truth more blessed for myself and in my labours. If He were not God, His humanity has no value; but with the faith that He is so, it becomes infinite in price, and the very way of blessing in every sense.
The two points charged against Mr. Mackintosh were, that Christ’s humanity came from heaven, and that it was not formed in, and born of, the Virgin Mary. There was not the smallest foundation for one or the other: neither thought was in his mind, or in his writings, but explicitly the contrary. But in dwelling on the perfection of the “holy thing” born of the Virgin Mary, he went on to define, in a way which produced statements beyond scripture, and which cannot be justified by scripture. The “Brethren” objected to them, and he both withdrew and retracted them, seeing he had done so. They were, for all that, of a nature which, if man had denied them, he would have been equally in error. It was presuming beyond scripture. It ill becomes those who belong to a system where the grossest and most dishonest infidelity and popery reign with impunity to make themselves the sound correctors of the admitted errors of others. But I am glad that Mr. Trench has taken it up; it has afforded me an opportunity, now that it has been much talked of, to state what the facts are. Mr. Mackintosh is, of course, bound in the Lord to do all needed to remove any evil flowing from his words.
I do not like the expressions objected to in the next charge— of our faith not justifying, but the work of Christ. Many, outside “Brethren,” have so expressed themselves. I do not think it is the soberness of scripture. The work which justifies us was clearly finished before ever we believed, or it would not have been there to be believed in; but, as to the state of justification, scripture does not so separate the work, and that by which we have a part in it.
As to the general resurrection being a Jewish doctrine and not taught by the Holy Ghost to the Church, it must be either a proof of incredible ignorance on the part of Mr. Trench of what has passed in the Church these thirty years, or clap-trap. It is hard to believe he should be unaware that half the pious clergy—the Birks, Bickersteths (some of them guilty of wild speculations about it, which it is well the Brethren did not put forward, but it is allowable, of course, with such), Dean Alford, and hundreds of others—deny a general resurrection. For two hundred years nothing else was held in the Church than a first resurrection, and distinct from the final one. I am bold to add that, apart from fundamental truth, I do not know a more mischievous contradiction of scripture than a general resurrection. It throws back the redeemed into the common mass of men for judgment, and upsets the plain statements and authority of scripture. I defy Mr. Trench, or any one else, to shew me in scripture a general resurrection, meaning by it one common to all. I am very glad he speaks of it. We must come to scripture—traditions are losing their power, or leading to Popery. Infidelity is rampant under the shadow of the Establishment. The word of God, and faith in it, must have its place. There is no such thing in scripture as a resurrection common to just and unjust. All will be raised. But scripture carefully distinguishes the first and the second in its objects, nature, time, effects, and everything, save that the power of the Lord Jesus will be exercised in both.
Mr. Trench’s bringing this as an objection only shews his incompetency to say anything about the matter. He may not agree with the view of the mass of godly men who think thus, and whose number increases rapidly, as it must if scripture be believed, instead of taking Simeon and Scott and other men for authority; but to make it an objection in itself is puerile in the present state of the Church of God. Saints are raised by reason of the Spirit’s dwelling in them. They are raised in glory to complete the divine work of life in them; the wicked for judgment. These have no part in the resurrection of the just. Scripture is as plain as possible on it.
The next objection is to what simply draws attention to an important statement of scripture. It is not our repentance which leads to the intercession of Christ, but Christ’s intercession which leads to our repentance. I understand that Mr. Trench believes, as an Arminian, that it is good in us that leads to grace in God; but this he cannot expect those better taught of God to follow him in. It was Christ’s intercession that led Peter to repentance; and it is when we sin, not when we repent, according to 1 John 2. that Christ’s advocacy is exercised. Grace leads to humiliation and repentance, it is not our repentance without grace that procures the latter. It is Mr. Trench who has to learn here, not those he condemns. There cannot be a more blessed truth, more precious to the humble soul desirous of holiness and feeling its weakness, than what he, through ignorance doubtless, condemns here.
As regards his next objection, prayer for the Spirit by Christians is unscriptural. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his.” And it is a mischievous denial that we have it, and of our responsibility as having it, to ask for it. To ask to be filled with the Spirit is scriptural, but to ask for it is not for a Christian. It is deplorable the ignorance Mr. Trench exhibits in almost every line; but it is useful its being brought up, because it is a very common ignorance.
The next objection is on the grand point of our whole controversy. The contrast of imputing righteousness and imputed righteousness is presented as absurd. For all that, though I cannot give intelligence to my adversaries, I can assure them that it strikes at the root of the whole question. Mr. Trench ought to be able to comprehend it, because his Thirty-nine Articles have given the true sense of imputing righteousness, as his friend, Dr. O’Brien, has very justly remarked. In defining the true meaning of justifying, it says, “We are accounted righteous before God,” &c. Now that is the force of imputing righteousness to a man— accounting a man righteous—no more. That is always its scriptural sense. Thus: “that righteousness may be imputed to us also.” “Faith was imputed to him for righteousness.” In this last case, if it were not so, it would be the merit or worth of his faith.
Imputing righteousness to a man is accounting a man to be righteous, without by that saying why. When imputed righteousness is said, it means that righteousness has been in some way made out by another, so that it exists; and so, being made out, is then, as a sum worth so much, put to the account of the person. Now imputing righteousness never means this in scripture. It means, simply accounting a man righteous (whatever the reason), as Article 11 justly states it. One is holding a man in a given state; the other is a quantum made up beforehand which is then put to his credit. In the former case, the reason for accounting a man to be righteous has still to be settled. As a general statement I have no objection to Article 11, though I should have liked to see Christ’s blood more in the foreground, but as far as it goes it is all well. My opponents may hold Christ’s fulfilling the law to be the accomplished righteousness which is put to our account; another the value of His precious blood; others may take a wider view of the whole matter. But in any case imputing righteousness to a man, in scripture, only means holding him for righteous, and does not state why he is held so. This may be stated too, but imputing righteousness does not mean it. One is a person held to be in a certain state; the other, a thing done, a sum of righteousness accredited to a person. A person being accounted righteous may be in a thousand ways, may be by his own keeping the law, but you could not call this imputed righteousness. Imputed righteousness can only be in one way, namely, righteousness in a needed quantity, made out by another and afterwards appropriated. I insist on this, because I affirm, that in scripture imputing righteousness only means what the Thirty-nine Articles give as the force of justifying. And all the errors of my opponents flow from a totally false use of the words of scripture, assigning to them a meaning they never have nor can have there.
I believe in imputed righteousness with my whole soul in the true sense of the words, that it is by the perfectness and work of Christ, and not by any desert or state of mine, that I am through grace accounted righteous. I am held by God to stand, as alive in Christ, in all the worth, value, and perfectness of that in which He has glorified God. It is not my doing, but I am accounted righteous according to the value and by reason of what He has done, and what He is. Part of this my opponents could not say, but of that by and by. I object to their imputed righteousness— a thing not found in scripture; because they, in the teeth of scripture, put me under the law, and then make Christ fulfil it for me. I reject inherent righteousness altogether as my standing before God, though practical righteousness be wrought in a Christian; but my adversary’s view of imputed righteousness I reject as anti-scriptural. I will give my own in a moment. The rest of the objections hardly demand any notice.
Mr. Trench’s calm and calculating mind does not reach the expressions of a poetical one. There would be really nothing more in it, but that I fear Mr. Trench does not see at all that which is thus vividly portrayed. He may complain of obscurity and exaggeration, or, stronger still, incomprehensible, extravagant, nay, silly interpretations. He will allow me to say that some do understand them. Does he ask me for a proof? His pamphlet— it is a cry of alarm. If things go on as they are going, he warns people they will fall into the hands of the “Brethren.” Now I would warn Mr. Trench, as (if he will allow me to call him so) an old friend, that he must not make his comprehension the measure of the truth which is gaining hundreds of minds. I am quite willing to suppose that every one does not put it out soberly, wisely, as a St. Paul would; but what Mr. Trench wants to learn is, that there are truths largely disseminated now, of which he evidently, from his pamphlet, knows nothing—precious truth, which is everywhere arousing and acting on the saints and sinners too. And if he seeks to confine them within the limits of Scott and Simeon, he will find, however justly their names may be respected, that with all his common sense, he has made a great blunder. He will keep some back—those with little conscience and little interest in truth. But multitudes of souls will go on, search the scriptures whether these things are so, and act on others. Some will exaggerate, some be poetical, in spite of him; but souls will learn infinitely precious truth, and go on, and he will be left behind. Those who will not have scripture as the stay of their souls, will be Puseyite or infidel. Paul has given it as the one stay under grace of the last days. The thought that eternity is worth more than time is a most solemn one—one we should do well to take heed to; it may lead us to the gospel by grace, and keep the soul steady; but it is not the richest soil for the faith of God’s elect to grow in.
Mr. Trench complains of speaking of clearing the shores of the old world in the resurrection of Christ, and now living and having your happy home in the new. Now I affirm this to be most precious truth, poetically put, so that many more would read it than my dry reasonings on it, but sober, blessed, scriptural truth. Does Mr. Trench know what being risen with Christ is? Does not resurrection clear us of the old world, and introduce us to the new? Does not the scripture say we are risen with Christ, and our life hid with Him in God? Is not our Father’s house our home? Where is it? Is it not in the new world, the heavenly one? We are sitting in heavenly places in Christ. Mr. Trench may seek in every way to lower these truths, and thus destroy their power; this is all he can do; but he may be assured he will not do it with all. Scripture is too precious—has too much authority with them. They will search into it—seek to realize these truths—value them for their own sake—value, them more than the false teaching that every christened child is regenerate and made a member of Christ. Mr. Trench will tell me he does not believe it; no, he only signs it, or declares his assent to it. This, he may be assured, does not make everybody acquiesce the more in the dictates of what is called good sense.
The next thing objected to is, that, as far as life is concerned, we are in the resurrection state already. To be sure we are. Mr. Trench is only shewing his own ignorance of truth, the truth by which God is acting in so many souls now. We are quickened together with Christ, and raised up together. We are risen with Christ, as we have been crucified with Him, nevertheless live, but not we, but Christ lives in us. The whole doctrine of the Ephesians (though it goes farther) and of the Colossians, as indeed of other parts of scripture, is founded on this truth. It lies at the basis of our true christian position. First, that Christ is risen, consequent on His death; and then that we are risen with Him. He is the resurrection and the life. That it would happen to us hereafter, Martha believed. The Lord insists on it as present power; the apostle as our place in Christ.
Is Mr. Trench going to reject St. Paul’s doctrines, and run away from the Lord’s teaching, like Martha, as that which he cannot bear? We are risen together with Him, through faith of the operation of God, who raised Him from the dead. This is our very profession in baptism, according to scripture. Those who lean on the word of God, will seek its power, not despise its truth. It may be opposed by scurrilous abuse, by gathering up every calumny, by the calculations of good sense, by the traditions of men. It is probable that these influences will keep many from it. There is nothing new in this. It may be coloured by poetry, exaggerated, as truths fresh to the soul often are, untowardly expressed by some, the bounds of scriptural soberness overstepped by others. This is poor human nature too. But there it is in scripture; and souls who feed on truth and love the Lord will go on to learn it.
I do not dwell on various interpretations; such, of course, may be sound, sober, or otherwise. But “I regard” will not weigh much with those who learn of God from scripture, and (I pray Mr. Trench to forgive me, and to believe I say it in love) not from one whom they see to be ignorant of fundamental truths of scripture connected with the whole nature of the divine life, and our standing before God—truths which furnish the key to the understanding of a vast body of scripture, and the development of its contents.
Mr. Trench, however excellent a clergyman, lives in his own circle of ideas, transported from Cloughjordan to Newtown, near Kells, but little beyond. He will learn, if he enquires a little farther into what is passing in the Church of God, that many have got, and many are getting, out of that circle. I have no doubt he will hinder them if he can; of course he will some. But there is that work which he will not, and that which is directly of God too. I mean conscience and the truth, the authority of God’s word, and the power of God’s Spirit; the authority of God Himself over their consciences, which will be too strong in many souls to be restrained by the motives by which Mr. Trench would bind them down to the measure of truth and character of walk, which his common sense would allow.
I close by stating, as briefly as I can, what the real question of all this controversy is, and what I believe to be the truth as to it. My opponents hold that we are all under the law, and that Christ, born under the law, kept it for us, and that this is the way we are justified and obtain righteousness. It is well my readers should recall, that all this controversy arose from the preaching of Mr. Molyneux, in Exeter Hall, who declared that if a man was born again of the Spirit, and washed in Christ’s blood, still he could not go to heaven; that there was written on heaven’s gates, “Do this and live;” that we were sanctified by the Spirit, cleansed by Christ’s blood, but had positive righteousness only by the law’s being kept. As to which, remark, it is not merely that the law is a rule of life, which is asserted, but specifically that righteousness comes by the law. All this I reject, founding my opposition on the plain and repeated statements of the word of God. It is making a righteousness in flesh for men in the flesh, by the law to which they are, as in the flesh, subject; and moreover at the same time excusing their fulfilling it actually by another’s doing it for them. But, specially, it is a first Adam’s righteousness, a righteousness for man in flesh.
Now I believe that it is not the mind of God to set up righteousness of man in flesh, or to set up sinful flesh again in any way. He has put the saints in a wholly new position in the second Adam, passing sentence of death and condemnation on the flesh never to be removed. Christ (as come down here in the likeness of sinful flesh, but perfectly sinless, come under the law in the place and circumstances where man was, but having entered into them by a miraculous birth, as every Christian owns) was perfect in this place, glorified God in it. And all that perfectness was needed for God’s glory, and for His being our Saviour; but He did not do it to set up man in the flesh again (flesh had proved in His death its hopeless enmity to God), but to bring man into a wholly new state (where even Adam innocent had never been) by resurrection, Himself the firstfruits, the Old Testament saints having to await our entering into it to be made perfect with us. The Lord Jesus gives us a place, not under law, but in resurrection, and finally with Himself risen. This did not take away our responsibility as Adam’s children in flesh: not only were we separated from God by it, driven out of the earthly paradise, but sinners and guilty all, and more especially those under law—transgressors of law. Hence the blessed Lord, to glorify His Father, yea, God’s own nature in this behalf, not only, as I have said, was perfect, and kept the law in the midst of temptations, glorifying God in every way of life, but through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, bearing our sins and the wrath due to them, taking the curse of the law on Himself, thus cleared the believer perfectly, having by one offering perfected for ever them that are sanctified. We believing in Him are clear, justified from all things which attached to us, in our position of men in flesh. But flesh in His death is judged, condemned, and sentenced for ever. But this was not all. He glorified God perfectly in dying. Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. Hence, raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, God has glorified Him in Himself, and straightway. This is witnessed in His resurrection, and we may add in His ascension. But He is raised again for our justification, and appears in the presence of God for us. Hence we have justification of life, and from Him risen a wholly new life, standing, and nature, though we have the treasure in an earthen vessel; standing before God as to acceptance, in the acceptance He is in, by His glorifying God in what He stood in for us, on the cross. We are not in the flesh at all; not in the flesh, but in the Spirit; and the Spirit of God dwelling in us, we know we are in Him, and He in us. It is a new creation, where what belongs to the old things is passed away. Hence, when in Christ, we reckon ourselves dead to sin, to the old man, and the law; alive to God by Jesus Christ thus risen and gone on high, when He had by Himself purged our sins. Our place in the Spirit is wholly in Him, according to the power of the life of the second Adam, risen from the dead. We are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God. This it is connects inseparably godliness and justification. Christ is both righteousness and life to us. We are in Him for one. He in us as the other, the Spirit given to us giving us the consciousness of it. (John 14.) This, and not our being under law, is the true way of godliness. It is not the imposition of human righteousness on flesh, which would it not; but the display of the life of Christ in us. Against that (as the apostle says, speaking of the fruits of the Spirit) there is no law. The safeguard of this is, not changing the principle and putting us back under law, which scripture forbids, but the precepts, commandments, example of Christ, the government of God, and the discipline of the Church itself.
Our acceptance is in the whole of the work of Christ, and in Himself who has done it, and that according to the value God has, and has manifested for it, in virtue of which Christ sits at His right hand, and we in Him. To return into flesh and law is to ruin and subvert all this. It is not Christianity. The man who only sees that Christ has died for him knows what justifies him from all his sins as a man in flesh, has the ground of peace, and is a Christian; the man who sees that he is risen with Christ, and in Him in God’s presence, according to the glorifying of God by the man Christ Jesus, knows his acceptance in the Beloved, and the character of it. Christ is His righteousness. He knows what the righteousness of God is; that he is made it in Christ, who was made sin for us. He who brings us back under law brings us back into flesh, and subverts the whole truth. It may be only a blunder in his mind, and he may sincerely trust in Christ’s precious blood, and be a Christian; but all is obscured and muddied by his views: he cannot stand in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. He does not know what it is to be dead with Christ; to reckon himself dead; nor risen with Him; nor sitting in the heavenly places in Him. All this is dark to him, as we have seen in those who have written against this view. Being dead to sin they openly deny, save as dead to their guilt (to which, on the contrary, they ought to be ever alive); and being in resurrection in Christ is a hopeless riddle to them.
Practically Christianity is a wholly different thing, and repentance, though it may begin by the acknowledgment of sin, is the judgment the new man passes on the whole condition of the old. So little do I reject imputed righteousness, that, if I were obliged to choose between Christ’s keeping the law for my righteousness, and inherent righteousness, I should prefer the former, because, at least, it would be Christ’s, and not myself; but I am not. I am reckoned righteous according to the perfection and acceptance of Christ Himself, having glorified God in all He is, when sin was in question before Him. I stand in the value of Christ’s own value and worth before God, and that in respect of His work—a work which was wrought in perfect obedience. I reject my opponents’ view of imputed righteousness, because it is legal righteousness for the flesh, for a living child of Adam; whereas Christianity treats that as dead, condemned, and set aside, and shews our place in the Second Adam risen. It does not bring in the Second to set up the first again on its own ground; but to substitute the Second for the first, for eternal glory and the blessing of our souls, brought to infinite delight in being brought to God in Him.
Such is the christian place; such is the christian hope, realized through the Holy Ghost which dwells in us, enjoyed in the knowledge of the perfect love of God, according to which we know that as He (Christ) is, so are we in this world, not returning under the law, which, perfect in its claim on the first man, brought a curse on the flesh. Let the reader remark withal, how, in the death and resurrection of Jesus, death has been fully entered into, and its power broken, Satan who had its power annulled in His, and the true deliverance of the believer in every respect, now in spirit, hereafter in the glorifying of the body in which he now groans. He will find it portrayed in Romans 8:1-11.
I have not the remotest thought, that the subject of the present paper is distinctive of “Brethren.” I know that a great body of the established clergy reject Christ fulfilling the law being our righteousness. What I believe does distinguish “Brethren” is, the believing the forming of the Church of God by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; the unity of that Church, and its union with Christ on high as His body, and that this ought to be manifested on earth. Clearness as to our being risen together with Him accompanies this; the waiting for God’s Son from heaven, to see Him as He is, and find then the accomplishment, the full result, of heavenly blessing. Collaterally this deliverance from the law flows in the same channel of grace; but that which characterizes their doctrine, as far as I understand it, is faith in the presence of the Comforter sent down from heaven, uniting the saints to their Head, thus forming them into one body, and acting in the members of that body for its edification in revealing Christ, giving withal enjoyment of the Father’s love.
5 But, he tells me, at the suggestion of the publisher.
6 Mr. Trench, indeed, is an undaunted prophet as to their state: he published some twenty or thirty years ago an article entitled “Atoms at Last,” predicting from the condition of the Ammonites we should not be two together. He gives us the same prophecy now. This is unhappy. The “Brethren,” in spite of many difficulties, are a hundred to one in number, compared to what they then were; and Mr. Trench, if I may judge from his pamphlet, is afraid of their increasing, though numbers are far from the chief point.
7 It may be well to say that there seems to be a mistake here. Mr. S. was distinguished as Father Ignatius; a different and much younger person, nominally an Anglican Clergyman, bearing the name of Brother Ignatius.—Ed.]