A Letter To A Clergyman On The Claims And Doctrines Of Newman Street

My Dear F——,

I comply with your request, in writing down some of the principles and statements which deter my mind from at all receiving or acknowledging the teaching of the missionaries who have lately come from Newman Street to this place. It requires me to set aside all the teaching which I have received from God, before I can recognize their teaching to be true. This I cannot do. I have invariably found it to be the effect of receiving their teaching; but, if this be the case, it is clear I have no ground to judge of them or of anything else. If I have learned nothing from the word of God, how can I know of the Church, be interested in the Church, hope or fear anything for the Church? If I am to I try them, it must be by the word: if I receive them without trying them, I set out in disobedience, and am a necessary and helpess prey to whatever they state, having given up the only means of judging whether they are of God or not.

The relinquishment of previous knowledge of scripture I have found to be the invariable effect of receiving their teaching and mission. Now I cannot deny the grace of God given to me in order to assume that all spiritual teaching is in them. I am well aware that they talk of reading scripture in the flesh; that previous knowledge of it has been in the flesh; and that we must not come critically to hear them, but willing to receive their doctrine. I cannot be willing to receive it, till I know what it is. Now do they mean by critical judging everything they say by the word? They themselves assume that I cannot do this, as knowing nothing except in the flesh. But if they do mean this, then I confess at once that it is precisely the spirit in which I do come to hear persons professing such an authoritative mission as they do: and I confess that it makes a very strong prima facie argument against their claims, that they do not like people so to come. If I am spiritual, it is clearly my part; if not so, still I must search the scriptures daily to see whether these things are so. Surely the Bereans knowledge of the scriptures was just what they call fleshly knowledge; but it is a remarkable thing, that precisely what they call knowing the scriptures in the flesh is made the guard against delusion in the perilous times of the last days. “Continue thou,” says the blessed apostle to his son Timothy, “in the things which thou hast learned, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith, which is in Christ Jesus.”

Now we have here precisely what they call fleshly knowledge of the scriptures, the guard against the delusions of the last perilous times; which guard they throw down; it is wrested out of the hand of those that give heed to them. They say, the guard against the dangers of the last days is the possession of the Spirit which they bring or are sent by. I find that the fleshly knowledge as they call it of the scriptures, which they reject and discard, is the guard given by the apostle, that is, by the Spirit of God, against the delusions and deceptions of the latter day. The word is the stability and security of the Church of God. It is quite true, we cannot use it really but by the Spirit; but that which the Spirit uses, for the comfort and keeping of the children of God, is His word.

And now I will mention some of the interpretations which they have produced as being the authentic interpretations of the mind of God in the scriptures. In the first place, Isaiah 40. The former chapter had left the church in Babylon; this chapter speaks of them as actually brought out, no information being given of their state while staying there: this, according to these teachers, is the restoration of the church! “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people,” means the restoration of apostles. “The voice of one crying in the wilderness” is the restoration of prophets to the church. “O Zion, which bringest glad tidings,” is the restoration of evangelists; and “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd,” is the restoration of pastors. “Keep silence before me, O islands,” (chap. 41) is a command addressed here by the Spirit to the little isolated bodies of Christians. Then, after referring to previous deliverance, the words “I will give thee a new sharp threshing instrument with teeth, and with it thou shalt thresh the mountains,” mean that the poor despised people that have the Lord among them in the gifts shall thresh and break down all the systems of churches and religion. “I will open rivers in high places:” these are the gifts and presence of the Spirit restored in Newman Street and elsewhere.

I give this merely as a specimen of their interpretation; I leave the judgment of it to others. The two latter interpretations are important, because the threshing of systems, or Babylon which they avow these systems to be, seems directly contrary to the statement concerning Babylon given in the Revelation, and in the latter they directly contradict themselves. It is stated, on the one hand, that the rivers opened in the restoration of the Comforter to the church, known in these gifts, were not flowing in the intermediate time from their exercise in the early days of the church; that heaven had been shut; that they did not exist, but are now restored; so that now, if the poor and needy seek water, then it is in unexpected places thus restored, but, till now so restored, not existing in all the interval. Now it is also stated by them that the energizings of the Father, the ministries of the Lord, and the operations of the Spirit, are as identified as their persons, and one cannot be without the other, that, if one fail in any measure, the other proportionately fails; and they also state that it is the energizing of the Father which quickens souls, even as Christ was raised from the dead, which last, doubtless, they are quite right in. Now they conclude, and justly, from this ground, that if the gifts and operations of the Spirit in them ceased, then the energizing of the Father must have ceased also; but this, coupled with the other part of their doctrine, that these gifts’ did cease, and that there were no rivers but that they are now restored, would simply prove that there never was a soul born to God until these gifts arose and were restored in the Church.

Thus the very principles of their system do not hang together. They boast of the restoration of the gifts for themselves. The thing that they announce is, that they are evangelists of the restoration of them; so that if we do not join them we shall, to say the least, not escape the coming judgments; for they do not venture to say we shall be lost, and yet we are told, if they did not continue, the energizing of the Father did not, so that no soul was born to God at all; and they press the necessary continuance of the gifts in the Church all through.

Again, though they would now admit that the Spirit dwelt in every believer, at least in some sort or sometimes, but not that the Comforter was in them, their language varies. They sometimes compare it to the difference of dwelling with them as in Jesus, and being in them as subsequently after the day of Pentecost. In this latter sense of the Comforter thus being in them, they say we have not the Spirit; and so much so that, if we do not join them as having this in whatever measure, we are in danger of the judgments coming. If we have it, all their pretensions and warnings are but idle bombast and terror. But I read that the Comforter, so promised as taking the place of Christ, should abide with them for ever. Which am I to believe? Let God be true. I admit our unfaithfulness; but while God’s faithfulness cannot justify my unfaithfulness, my unfaithfulness cannot make that word of none effect: “He shall abide with you for ever.” I do not find the consistency with themselves or with scripture, which the Spirit of God would give and manifest. The word condemns them: they deny themselves.

Again, one point they are very fond of is this, that they are the hundred and forty four thousand in Revelation 14, and that afterwards the harvest will be: but that those in it will not be able to sing the song which the hundred and forty four thousand do. But, again, they will take the parable in Mark, and teach us that first there is corn sown, then the long stalk of apostasy, producing nothing, and then the full ear like the grain sown. These are themselves, not indeed in their present state, but when fully ripened, baptized with the Holy Ghost and fire, and thus perfected to meet the Lord: and then, when they are ripened, immediately He will put in His sickle, because the harvest is come. Now, it is clear, they change the whole structure and statement of the parable; but both cannot be true: for one identifies them and the harvest, the other makes the very point of their importance, that they are quite distinct from the harvest, and that the harvest is not then come at all, but many most important things between it and them. I do not agree with their interpretations; but the Spirit of God clearly cannot teach opposite and discordant things.

Thus far upon the face of their teaching. Many things I am well aware they would answer, as, that they may err, but they are not the Spirit. But what then is their teaching, and why receive their extraordinary mission? They may state the gospel, for aught I know, and state it clearly: others state that they have done so. I am ready to believe them: one of those who are here ought at least to have known it. But we are here only where we were before. The question is, Do they, besides the gospel, state things inconsistent with the truth and Spirit of God? Besides, do they privily bring in (whether deceived themselves, or doing it wilfully, is not the question, though concerning one at least I am satisfied he is doing it without wilfulness)—do they privily bring in heresy? When I have heard them, they preached what I judged very contrary to the gospel. They taught, as to forgiveness of sins, on Paslm 32, that the love of God led us to judge sin as He did, and to confess it to Him and to man, searching it out till we found none, and so we had peace; and Christ and His blood-shedding were not mentioned in connection with it, nor Christ’s name, save requiring in one sentence conformity to Him.

I confess, to me this was not preaching the gospel, nor the forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name, and therefore I heard what I believe not to be the gospel. But be it that they have at other times preached the gospel: what else have they taught? Certainly, they preach themselves; and the joining them as the way of security, not Christ. They say they were sent by a spirit, the presence of which among them is the only security in the evil day. And I must therefore judge them by that which the Spirit has done and said, if this is offered as any security in the evil. They preach the gospel; they explain many things; and I must say that the multiplied variety of the way in which they state things, the very great difference of their statements to different people, their extreme guardedness in the presence of those informed so as to know the contradictoriness of their statements, their refusal to reason the matter when opposed, or unless received as teachers, which is their habit, all to my mind, and specially the want of openness as to what they do hold, contradict that character of the Spirit’s truth—“We use great plainness of speech.”

I have observed even that, where evil is brought in, it is brought in privily—when truth, the house-top is the suitable place for its announcement. “Ask them which heard me” (when a nation had been taught), was the righteous appeal. Ask them, Do they hold that the humanity of our blessed Lord was sinful humanity?—a principle originally boasted of by the great instrument and leader in all this work, Mr. Irving, as the very ground of the introduction of the gifts, that these could not be given till this truth was brought in; and to one they will deny it, to another explain it, to another modify it, and fall back upon scripture words, but saving the point really by something; to another they will acknowledge it to be there, but dead; but that it is really the hinge of the matter, which it really is. If charged with Mr. Irving’s views on the subject, they disclaim him and his doctrines, and say that they are not bound by them although sent by the church over which he presided as angel, the teacher and expounder of truth or doctrine in it. Let any one able to see the bearing of an answer, or capable of insisting on a direct one, ask them the question, Do they hold the sinful humanity of the Redeemer? and judge of this. Now I confess all this want of openness I hold to be one of the strongest marks that the teaching is not the known truth of God; and in connection with this, the secrecy of their own meetings (not for discipline or correction, in which it might be fit, but in which the initiated take a part) does speak most loudly against the spirit which guides them.

But I would press upon your mind that, while I have stated here as to teaching merely what has passed in this country, coming as they do we cannot confine ourselves to their own account of themselves. They are sent by a spirit which has already expressed itself elsewhere: this spirit is their authority for coming; the gifts connected with it are the very subjects brought before us by their mission. The gospel we have had, feebly perhaps, before. The Spirit, or, as they would say, the restored Comforter, is the great point they present—its presence the security they propose— its sending them the authority with which they come. That spirit pronounced young Napoleon to be the man of sin: it stated that an American Indian Chief, then in London, would be converted there, and receive the work and return to America, and lead back his countrymen, who were the ten tribes, to Palestine; but he went back unconverted. And there are many other things not verified as declared; but I pass by all this. Signs and wonders may be wrought; things that happen may have been spoken of beforehand; this we know is quite possible, though it is impossible that the Spirit of God could give an untruth.

They have attempted to explain these failures in many ways, which a little attention shews to be utterly futile. Such is the prophecy of conferring apostolic gifts on Air. Baxter, and the then promised baptism by fire. They have attempted to explain it, which is the admission of its failure, by the case of Nineveh. But the Lord has expressly declared that a pronounced judgment He will turn from, if they against whom it is pronounced repent. They have attempted to explain it by saying, that Satan had used the person as his instrument, and that what was true was of God— what failed of the enemy, though the utterances had declared this should never be. They have, in the support of one utterance given to another by acknowledged prophets, really subverted what was given by a former. They have sometimes got over this by declaring that no individual had any right to interpret the prophecies at all (they were not of private interpretation): the Church only could do it. Thus the whole tenor of the matter strongly bears against it in my mind.

But the fact is, which to me is determining, they do clearly hold the sinful humanity of the Lord Jesus. Mr. Irving was honest enough to own it openly; they are more guarded in their statements—their present manner is to reject him; they say that the Spirit declared he had said unguarded things, and declare that they will merely use scripture statements; as, that “Christ was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin;” and that the latter clause does not qualify the former. To me that is quite sufficient; for the latter clause not qualifying the former just means, that sin is not excepted as to temptation. This is the whole point in question; but the fact is, they do hold the sinful humanity, and have acknowledged that it is the hinge of their whole scheme of doctrine. Nay, more; the spirit which has sent them has borne witness to it in its worst form; and this is the whole question. Let them deny, or modify, or perplex any as they will: the spirit on whose authority they act has expressly sanctioned Mr. living’s doctrine on the subject—what this is I shall state to you.

Mr. Irving says, “It is an heretical doctrine that Christ’s generation was something more than the implantation of that Holy-Ghost-life in the members of His human nature which is implanted in us by regeneration.

“If Christ was made under the law, He must have been made by His human nature liable to, yea, and inclined to all those things which the law interdicted.

“If His human nature differed, by however little, from ours in its alienation and guiltiness, then the work of reducing it into eternal harmony with God hath no bearing whatever upon our nature with which it is not the same.

“Was He conscious then to the motions of the flesh and of the fleshly mind? In so far as any regenerate man, when under the operation of the Holy Ghost, is conscious of them.

“I hold it to be the surrender of the whole question to say, that he was not conscious of, engaged with, and troubled by, every evil disposition which inheriteth in the fallen manhood, which overpowereth every man that is not born of God, which overpowereth not Christ only because He was born or generated of God.”

Many passages more openly revolting could be added—none I think more distinct in their meaning. I add but one more: “I believe it to be most orthodox, and of the substance and essence of the orthodox faith, to hold that Christ could say until His resurrection, Not I, but sin that tempteth me in my flesh.”

What is the answer attempted to this? First, it is said, that Mr. Irving wrote this before the spirit came amongst them; just as it is said, when some of the obvious weaknesses and mistakes of one of the evangelists now here are quoted, and the term “the fiction of imputed righteousness” is quoted from his pamphlet, he had not joined them then. The answer at once is, they are the principles which made him join them. But Mr. Irving has stated subsequently, and on the point in question, equally decided things; for, on being condemned for these things by the General Assembly, he desires the Scotch to go to the ministers of their parishes, and ask them to their face if they believe that Christ came in the flesh, and had the law of the flesh and the temptations of flesh to struggle with and overcome; and, if they confess not to this doctrine, to denounce them as denying the Lord that bought them, “as wolves in sheep’s clothing;” so that he held the doctrine after the spirit was amongst them, as well and as strongly as before. But, as the matter stands, his holding it before was the more important, because the spirit came as the seal to it. And, not only so, but on the question being raised, the spirit which sent these two missionaries gave its express sanction to the doctrine. I am well aware that they allege that the spirit said that Mr. Irving had used unguarded expressions. This may be so; and they may be consequently much more guarded in their expressions, more careful not to alarm people, which he honestly did; but the spirit which sent them confirmed the doctrine as taught by him.

Mr. Baxter, once designated as their apostle, wrote to Mr. Irving, stating fully his error in conceiving the law of sin to be in Christ’s flesh, &c. Mr. Irving warmly supported his own views, and tells him the spirit came upon Miss E. C. and (after speaking in a very grieved tone and spirit in a tongue) she was made to declare that Mr. Baxter had been snared by departing from the word and the testimony; that Mr. Irving had maintained the truth, and the Lord was well pleased with him for it; which was followed by a similar utterance from Mrs. C. and a renewed utterance to the same effect from Miss E. C. Thus Mr. Irving’s previous statements just give occasion to our knowing the express sanction of them by the spirit which has sent the missionaries here; and they believe it. It is (and they know it to be so) the hinge of the whole question; or, as Mr. Irving stated it of old, “The way for the promise of the Comforter had to be prepared by the preaching of the full coming of Christ in our flesh, and His coming again in glory, the two great divisions of christian doctrine which had gone down into the earth, out of sight and out of mind, and which must be revived by preaching before the Holy Spirit could have anything to witness unto.”

That Christ came in the flesh, in the ordinary sense of the word, has ever been held save by the Docetæ. The doctrine which Mr. I. alludes to, therefore, is coming in our (that is, in sinful) flesh. This it was which, as we have afterwards seen, the spirit amongst them explicitly witnessed to. It is then a shame for any to come here from the Newman Street church, sent by the spirit which has so expressly borne witness to it, and cloak, or hide, or garble the doctrine. Let them deny the spirit that sent them, if they deny the doctrine; or own the doctrine honestly, if they claim and terrify people with the authority of the spirit. I say, terrify; for while they do not state openly their doctrine in intercourse with strangers, they use the most imposing and frightening terms of responsibility to make people come and hear them where they teach; then for a long time perhaps, unless of spiritual discernment, they hear nothing to shock them of open avowal of their doctrines, and they are gradually prepared for the full reception of them and denial of others. The “fiction of imputed righteousness”2 is too hard, too unguarded an expression to state; when this was used, they had not the spirit: at least, if they had not, they had honesty; and where they have opportunity of boldness, they mock at it and the idea of substitution.

Let us read the simple effect of the doctrine of the sinful nature, as stated by Mr. Irving. “The man who will put a fiction, whether legal or theological—a make-believe, into his idea of God, I have done with. He who will make God consider a person that which he is not, and act towards him as that which he is not, I have done with. Either Christ was in the condition of the sinner—was in that form of being towards which it is God’s eternal law to act as He acted towards Christ, or He was not. If He was, then the point at issue is ceded, for that is what I am contending for. If He was not, and God treated Him as if He had been so; if that is the meaning of their imputation and substitution, or, by whatever name they call it, away with it from my theology for ever.”

These are Mr. Irving’s words, and shew the identity of the doctrine of the sinful humanity with the denial of the doctrine of substitution, and therefore with the denial of any reality in the blessed truth of scripture—“he suffered, the just for the unjust.” “He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

If Christ had a sinful nature, that is the thing that must be reconciled, not we. He is not, as knowing no sin, to be made sin for us, but, as conscious of every evil disposition, to reconcile this nature to God; or as Mr. Irving expresses it, “It is no reconciliation of individuals, but a reconciliation of human nature. It is not thine, it is not mine, it is not Christ’s, but it is the common unity of our being.” It is ridiculous to talk of unguarded expressions. Either sin was in Christ’s nature or it was not: if it was, then it had to be reconciled; if not, then we had, by a sinless, spotless offering. I have not quoted the revolting language in which it is often conveyed: the doctrine is the thing in question.

I shall merely here give one statement to shew its effect upon the view of the atonement, and how distinctly contrasted it is. “The atonement,” says Mr. Irving, “upon this popular scheme, is made to consist in suffering; and the amount of the suffering is cried up to infinity. Well, let these preachers—for I will not call them divines or theologians—broker-like, cry up their article; it will not do; it is but the suffering of a perfectly holy man treated by God and by men as if He were a transgressor.” Would any person taught by God in the matter, or under the influence of the Spirit of God, so speak of the death of Christ? The language may be rash, but it is explicit. It shuts out the value of the person of Christ in His sufferings most explicitly.

The system is consistent with neither scripture nor itself; but so it ever is with error. It is consistent only in affirming sin to have been in the nature of Christ; and, consequently, in denying the value of the atonement in its common popular sense. Christ was treated as He was, because of the condition He was actually and really in Himself, not because of the sins of others— that would have made a make-believe God. And, now, what does it come to? If this sinful nature was in Christ, this carnal mind, the frovnhma sarkoV", this nature that needed to be reconciled, what do I find concerning it in scripture? “It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” So that the moral reconciliation of the nature was impossible; nor could Christ fulfil the law in its intrinsic requisitions. And, according to Mr. Irving himself, instead of being reconciled, God had to deal with Him according to the eternal law, by which He must act towards one in that condition—the condition of a sinner, and dealt with’ Him because in it. When was the reconciliation? That He was treated as a transgressor by God, Mr. Irving himself tells us, and it was no “make-believe.”

Is this the gospel of the grace of God? It all hangs together on the foundation of the whole system to which the spirit had to witness, that Christ took and had a sinful nature. If so, it is clear it must be reconciled; not He make reconciliation [or, rather propitiation] for the sins of others; and to this doctrine, the spirit which the teachers here profess to be sent by, has borne explicit witness, is the seal of it, identified with it—first, teaching it, then sanctioning it; and these persons come here under the special character of being sent by that spirit, after it has sanctioned this very doctrine. They may guard their expressions, but they have not guarded them so as not to be quite clear to those aware of the difference. But they are the servants of that spirit; and my inquiry in judging of them is, what is that spirit the sanction of? It is the sanction of this doctrine (and in their case of the promulgators of it), therefore, that Christ took sinful human nature.

And now, one word as to “temptation.” The poor tried soul is easily, when undiscerningly, led to desire the sympathy of Christ in its temptations and trials. Who that knows himself, as a poor, weak, sinful creature (but observe, renewed to love and holiness), does not feel this?

But a moment’s reflection on one’s self will shew one the fallacy of their use of this. Does the renewed soul want sympathy of Christ in its sinful feelings? No, it has learnt to hate them itself —to say, “Not I.” It wants the sympathy of Christ’s strength with its new man to judge them, to put them down. It does not desire sympathy in the sin: that is not what we mean or want by sympathy; we want strength against that. It is in our new man, in mind, we are one with Christ; it is by Christ risen we are quickened. His sympathy is with us in our new man, and what is that in us? Hating sin, condemning sin, saying, “Not I,” &c, and bearing trials of opposition from without, which press upon us as holy persons and in proportion as we are holy persons.

The sufferings of Christ in us are the sufferings of a holy loving nature in the midst of evil: our giving way to sin in us is not the sufferings of Christ in us. Our remedy for sin is the atonement of Christ, in what He suffered for us; the entire absence of sin in Him who represents us is the comfort and remedy for this, and, sins being known to be forgiven, having our feet washed, we seek to walk in the strength of that new life, in the conflicts of which we have His full sympathy; and, as has been justly remarked, we should want sympathy in the sorrow of actual trangression, if He were to sympathise with us as to sin. And, I say, we have this sympathy; but how? where? In His having borne the penalty for them—“bruised for our iniquities, wounded for our trangressions.” It is precisely in the discovery that He did bear our transgressions, and so has justified us—in knowing that He hath “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself”—that we have comfort under all sense of sin—not by His having been conscious of the evil disposition; or He could not, as “knowing no sin,” be made sin for me. And this then I take in its full, unlimited sense, according to my whole need, as believing in Him.

It is not partial subdued sin—a mind kept always dead— a consciousness of what a regenerate man is conscious of. This would not do for me; for I am and have been much more. This would be no real adequate sympathy for me, or for any sinner. He must be atoned for in all his sins. He is atoned for in them by Jesus, made sin for him. And here is the sympathy of Christ as to this; that is, here it is he gets comfort, either originally, as by the work typified in the day of atonement, or by the Spirits witness (as in the type of the red heifer) that Christ had entirely put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself—access to God by the blood upon the mercy-seat,—knowledge of all our transgressions being laid upon Christ in the scape-goat; and in the kept ashes of the red heifer, sprinkled by the running water, the continual witness that sin is put away by the sacrifice. To these the apostle refers in Hebrews 9 and refers as purging the conscience: and this is what we want as to sin—not sympathy3 (save this great, immense, invaluable sympathy, that Christ has put it away, having borne our transgressions).

But we do want actual sympathy in a godly life; for we are living under effects and trials of evil and sin in the world, though belonging to a higher scene spiritually. I suffer pain for Christ —reproach and shame enough to break my heart; it is no sin to feel this, but quite the contrary—contradiction, desertion, want of sympathy, and like-mindedness. For my love I have hatred, misrepresentation, my words daily mistaken, snares laid for me, efforts to entrap me and dishonour the name of God in my person. Supposing even I do not fall into them, they are utter pain to me—the insensibility of those around me to the love of God, the evil estate of the church of God’s planting, the little fruits of grace in those who receive the Lord, the insensibility to the hopes He sets before us, the blindness to His testimony on many important points, the prevailing of Satan’s power over so many. The more I am like God, the more grace I have, the more holy I am, the greater sense I have of His love, the greater love I have to men and the Church, the more and greater will be my sufferings: and if drawn into the activity of love, the more endurance of the contradition of sinners against myself. But these are not sin in me, but just the contrary. Christ was quite perfect in spirit and thought; and therefore He perfectly felt the evil. Had there been any one evil in His nature, He could not have felt as He did the perfect evil of all that was around Him; nor, therefore, have any perfect sympathy with the trials of the godly; for, when we read of being “tempted like as we are,” the apostle is speaking for the comfort of saints in trials—calling them to consider Him who endured the contradiction, lest they be weary and faint in their minds. This is the sympathy the saint wants, not sympathy in sin. That Christ met in atonement and sacrifice; and now, in the judging power of His Spirit, revealing in that the power of His sacrifice.

And now as to the word “temptation,” to be tempted is another thing from having a lust to sin, the carnal mind. Temptation is used in scripture, not for internal sin at all, nor in connection with it, save where it is the actual giving way to the temptation by reason of the sin—“drawn away of our own lusts, and enticed.” This will not be affirmed (I suppose) of Christ if it be, then let it be said so, and the name of Christian given up; for then He was a sinner indeed. Tempted, there, is the giving way to the trial. But temptation otherwise is just the trial of what is in the person so tried; and this may be very various. God in this sense may be tempted; yet, we know from His very nature and from the word, He cannot be tempted of evil. But “they tempted God in the desert.” They tempted and were destroyed of the destroyer. God was put to trial—what He was, which was just their sin. In Him, it need not be said, absolute essential perfection was found. Neither can God tempt any man in the way of evil or lust. Yet God did tempt Abraham; He put Abraham to trial, and proved the grace which He had given him, saying, thereon, “Now I know:” exhibition of grace was the result of the trial of the temptation here. So we pray, “Lead us not into temptation”—clearly not into lust or evil, but into a place of trial of what is in us—we knowing our weakness, and therefore adding, “But deliver us from evil,” or the evil one.

But the Spirit of God did lead Christ into temptation (we are expressly told in Matt. 4 and Luke 4), not surely into any exercise of a sinful nature, but into Satan’s trial of what He was. So the first Adam, confessedly innocent and having no sin (that we may turn to man), yet was tempted, and so tempted that he fell into sin. So that clearly here temptation does not imply existing evil, or a sinful nature; for there may be temptation, so as to fall into sin, where there was no evil nature at all. He was tried and fell; weakness and fallibility being there, though not sin. We are tempted—what is in us is tried; and in our case evil continually is found. The old sinful nature is found: there may be cases where, through divine grace, we get the victory, “are more than conquerors,” glorying in tribulations, happy as enduring. The sinful nature is distinct from the temptation, though discovered by it. So Christ was tempted, tried in all points, according to the likeness of His brethren; but the result was, that nothing was found in Him but perfectness. Adam was tried and fell; we are tried, and often evil is found in us, and we are led away and enticed. Christ was tried, and neither fell nor was led away, nor evil found in Him.

If sin was needful to temptation, then would sin be justified in every temptation we were in, for we could not, they say, be tempted without it. Now temptation coming from an enemy without, and sin being needful to this, it is justified if we are so tempted. This is exactly what it is not. “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man”—a human temptation—and God is faithful, who “will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

Thus, though we often do give way, it is shewn to be sin when we do, and unjustifiable; and this, as to its source, is what is meant by condemning sin in the flesh. Christ, having placed Himself in our circumstances (which as to trial He fully did), and having never, in any sort or sense, given way, has proved that what does give way (the lusts that entice us, and make us yield to the temptation) is sin; for perfect human nature, and thorough temptation was in Him, cwriV" aJmartiva"—everything except sin; and so has condemned sin, not in His flesh but in the flesh, being without sin, and passing through all the temptations, and so made a sacrifice for sin. Thus, concerning it, He has proved it all to be sin in us; He has condemned sin in the flesh, though He gives us peace concerning and in spite of it, because He is a sacrifice for sin, periV aJmartiva"

Thus His being tempted in all points apart from sin is precisely the way in which He condemned it; not in its acts but in its source—the very difference of a believer taught by the Spirit and having the Spirit of Christ. He knows not only transgression, but. sin as an evil, sin dwelling in him. More correctly, God condemned sin in the flesh, by the exhibition of a tempted man, in every point without it. It was not actual sin that He thus condemned (that had been done, and would be done in due time), but “sin in the flesh.” The law could not do this (it only called it out into knowledge, and even action); but God has “effectually done it, sending His own Son, free from every spot, stain, or motion of it—from it in His nature; so that it is all condemned as mere sin in me, not in its effects, but “in the flesh.” Had it been in Christ, I could not condemn it as sin, or I must have charged Christ with it as sin; so that the absence of it from Him is the very means of my condemning it as such. The thing wanted was to shew this as judged, condemned sin by God. The law could not do this, but found sin everywhere; it was weak through the flesh. Law connected itself with men as they were, leaving it; and though therefore it might prove they had sin, it only therefore condemned them. But God, sending His own Son in the likeness of this sinful flesh and for sin, has condemned (in propitiation withal) this in the flesh: and the life which we have of Him, strengthened in His might by His Spirit in the inner man, judges and condemns it in us, as not according to the power of the inner life in Christ. This is the force of the passage, hanging upon the absence of sin from Christ’s nature: the sinlessness of His nature, and consequent perfectness through temptation, proves that what yields in us is sin. It is that in us which was not in Christ, and yields to the trials of Satan, which He, not having, never did; it is sin, it is condemned.

And this as to the fact is the express doctrine of scripture. He was in all points tempted like as we are, according to the likeness He was in, except sin. The English passage does not convey the meaning properly, specially the latter clause; for “yet” might imply that it might mean actual sin resulting; though, I admit, a simple scripture-taught mind would take the sense aright. The statement of the teachers from Newman Street is, that the latter clause is not meant to qualify the former. What then is it for? this is just the difference—He was tempted in all points, according to the likeness [He took], except (or, apart from) sin; that is, that which is connected, or continually so in us, with temptation, was not so in Him. It is the revelation of that difference precisely: He was tempted apart from sin—we are tempted in connection with that which has been condemned as sin, not being in Him. It is sin which is in our nature, which makes us give way.

The “yet without sin,” which I translated “apart from sin,” is the same word as in the passage, “He shall appear the second time without sin.” As free as He then will be from it, so free was He in the temptations He went through. Thus, we have the express testimony of scripture on the point. Every trial, every sorrow, every circumstance, in which the enemy of our souls could try Him, He was tempted with kaq* oJmoiovthta. Everything which sin had caused as an effect He bore; in His nature He was sinless. He sympathizes with us in every trial of ours as new creatures. He judges—God has judged—and strengthens us against the suggestions of our old man, with which He can have no sympathy, but which is all condemned, we being received because He has willingly died for us as to it all, which was the sympathy we wanted for it, and which He could not have given if He had been in any way or sort sinful Himself. He could not then have been made sin.

But while scripture is thus express on the point, the contrary doctrine, their doctrine, really destroys the incarnation. Christ’s generation, to use Air. Irving’s words, is no more than the implantation of that Holy Ghost life in the members of His human nature, which is implanted in us by regeneration. This is denial of the incarnation; for we must not take what they merely allege, but what the spirit which authorizes their mission sanctions. Now, God the Son being manifest in the flesh— flesh not conceived in sin (that which was of His mother being a holy thing), maintained it a holy thing; and there never was anything which defiled the incarnate Son in suggestion, act, or otherwise, through everything that tried and wearied Him without; and this having been proved through years of trial, the prince of this world came at the end; and, though He shewed His love to His Father, and therein also obeyed His commandment in laying down His life, the enemy found nothing. He offered Himself without spot to God. If the human nature which was born of His mother was a holy thing—if the person of the Lord was sinless in its generation—then, when did sin enter? If ever there was failure—if in that which was born of His mother there was sin—then, as born, it was not a holy thing. Consequently, when speaking of the nature of our Lord, Mr. Irving speaks not of “the Word made flesh,” or the like, but the human nature He was clothed with, thus destroying the incarnation.

I cannot see, therefore, a single doctrine of the gospel left untouched by this destruction of the person of our blessed Lord. The incarnation, the substitution of a sinless offering, the fact and condemnation of the sin that dwells in us, and that it is sin— our judgment of it as such—all are struck at by this doctrine.

It appears to me that the real truth of the Comforter’s presence is also denied, saying that it is restored, when God said it should abide for ever, and consequently the power of judging them taken out of the Christian’s hands; for if He has not the Spirit, it is clear He is incapable of it. The word is rendered of no avail; because, as they speak, we have read it in the flesh, and therefore can use no previous knowledge of it against them. All this is the crafty subversion of the great truth on which the soul rests. God is for me, is already with me, and by His help and word I must judge of all that is presented to me; and this, with fundamentally false doctrine and no sign of authority about them, we are called upon to believe what they say, under pain of being in awful, perhaps fatal, judgments. Their great instrument is terror. If a man knows his peace with God, knows he is taught of God, and that he has the Spirit of God; and if he is not unsound on the sinfulness of the Lord’s nature, and holds to the word of God, their persuasions—however subtle, and full of gorgeous promises when listened to, promises often falsified by facts— are without effect. Thus, if false prophecies, and false doctrine as to the foundations of Christianity, and the spirit of concealment, and the slighting of the word, and the terrifying with false fears those to whom the Lord has given peace, be not the way of the Spirit of our blessed God, their way we safely reject, and are bound to reject, however we may pity the immense pretensions of those who assume to be sent by divine authority, without sign or scripture to warrant them.

2 Hardman’s Tract on 1 Cor. 12-14.

3 I cannot want sympathy as to sin, till I am conscious of it. If I have sympathy in this, by similar trial, then was Christ conscious of it too; and this would destroy every ground of hope.