I have now to turn to the publications on the sufferings of Christ; and first, of notes of a lecture by one of the teachers of Ebrington Street. Indignation at the destruction of everything that is precious in the truth and the glory of Christ Himself, and poignant sorrow that those I once knew well should be agents in it, contend in one’s heart. But the very essence of the glory of the Lord and the foundation-truth of God, and mischief and ruin to souls, claim imperiously the warning that this teaching is the worst deceit and craft of Satan. The second publication, by Mr. Newton himself, only seriously aggravates the matter. It is not that there are not many truths, and precious truths, long taught by others; and, no doubt, he has corrected the gross outrage on truth found in the expressions of the first part. But precious truths put forward carefully for the purpose of introducing what undermines foundation-truth for the soul, without being suspected, is one of the surest marks of Satan’s direct work. Such is the case here. Mr. N. declares he cares for the cross, that it is the sacrifice for sin; but he refers in doing so directly to the matter of the tract Mr. Harris has printed. So that he does not, as he knows he cannot, deny that tract as to the doctrine taught in it (which came, indeed, from his own family, and was circulated by his friends) in Exeter, London, &c. The person from whom it came, residing in the house with him, was apprised that it would be kept, and stated that it was the substance of Mr. N.’s lecture correctly given. One can understand that he could not disown it, and that he dared not own it.
And now, one word as to the general principle of publishing such documents. I can understand that an honourable mind may shrink from the detection and exposure of evil and dishonourable means employed by evil men for propagating error. It is hard to touch pitch and not be defiled: I am glad to be spared it. But, for my part, I judge that the courage which is bold enough to do it is more to be respected than silence. A man manufactures poison and distributes it without avowing his name, and disseminates it assiduously in secret to destroy and ruin. It comes to the very house and family of those able to detect it. Is it evil, if the proof is clear of its character and origin, to shew what it is, and whence it comes? Is it not to be labelled because the poisoner, in order to facilitate his mischief, will not do it? Is not the character of what he produces to be made known, that people may be on their guard? Because he acts secretiy and subtilly, am I to keep his secret, if, without any art or even seeking it, I have discovered it by the providence of God? No; I publish plainly what it is, and who it is.
I trust no one will seek to get at it by any art, but that every one will publish, or communicate to those capable of dealing with it, what falls into their hands by the providence of God, inculcated (as their doctrines are) in a way which itself demonstrates that the light is hated because the deeds are evil.
Let all be brought into the light. That which is upright will not fear it.
And now, to take up the doctrine. Any of us may err. Any of us much occupied by one side of a question may exaggerate it, and so fail in just truth. But there are certain things—a certain knowledge of Christ, which is a part of our life, our salvation, the glory of Him we love—touch it, the whole soul is up in arms. If it be not, life is not there. The soul cannot, would not, dare not, bear that certain points should be touched. The soul is livingly roused, as if itself were touched and more. A surgeon may dissect and pull to pieces a dead body, but if a living one he may make mistakes—turn his knife wrong; but if he be a surgeon and knows what vital parts are, he dares not approach the danger of touching them, let his plans of operation be what they may. If he do, it is a proof he does not know what the vital parts are, or else that he means to kill. The ignorance of some things proves there is no knowledge of God. The woman that could quietly acquiesce in the division of the infant was plainly, to the eye of one taught of divine wisdom, not its mother: the tie of a mother’s heart was not there. The first tract shews this in the things of God; the second still more (in the effort to save the writer’s credit)— entire indifference to the truth and glory of Christ. He declares his value for things which not to value would discredit him; but fatal error is slurred and glossed over without a regard for the Christ it denies, and fatal ignorance of essential truth displayed. This I shall now shew, as a solemn warning to brethren, not to give heed to this seducing spirit. Had the second not been published, I might have left it simply to Mr. Harris’s notes. But God has taken care that the second should come out, and that I should know nothing till it did, so as to be free to comment on what is authorized by the writer himself.
The system of the tract published by Mr. Harris is an elaborate and complete system, and undoubtedly, for the substance and system of it, Mr. Newton’s.
This has been acknowledged by those to whom the notes belonged, when apprised that they would be kept.
Now, the system and principle of this is to present a third kind of suffering of Christ not vicarious—not His soul’s entering into the condition of those amongst whom He was, and whose cause He had taken up, but suffering arising from God’s relation to Him, and His relation to God, as being one of them:—“For it was not merely the sufferings He had because His soul entered into the condition of things around Him, but there was quite another question, the relation of God to Him while thus suffering. For a person to be suffering here because He serves God is one thing, but the relation of that person to God is another.” “We there see [in the Psalms] what His relations to God were during those thirty years which passed before His baptism.” “So Jesus became a part of an accursed people; a people who had earned God’s wrath by transgression… so Jesus became obnoxious to the wrath of God the moment He came into the world. Accordingly we find many of the Psalms speaking of this.”
Note here, it is not taking wrath nor being made sin: that the writer distinguishes: but God’s relation to Him and His to God, not for personal sin, but as part of an accursed people. He was, in relative position, a child of wrath even as others. Mr. N. to clear himself may cite Hawker, and Hervey, and Witsius, as speaking of Christ being always vicariously subject to wrath. They may be wrong in this notion, but it is nothing to the purpose; they never dreamt of His being obnoxious to it otherwise than vicariously. Error as to the period of vicariousness has nothing to do with fundamental error as to the position of Christ Himself— His relation to God. They had no such thought as the writer whatever. Their names are a mere blind. “I do not refer,” says the writer, “to what were called His vicarious sufferings.” “He came to be baptized because He was one with Israel, was in their condition, one of wrath from God”—not, mark, His soul entering into the condition of things around Him, but His relation to God, and God’s to Him. This was so much so, that “consequently, when He was baptized, He took new ground;” and “the moment He took that ground the Holy Spirit was sent down—God’s seal was set upon Him. ‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’” “He found a new character of affliction as the servant of God.”
“Observe, this is chastening in displeasure, not that which comes now on a child of God, which is never in wrath, but this rebuking in wrath to which He was amenable, because He was part of an accursed people: so the hand of God was continually stretched out against Him in various ways.” “He felt the hand of the Lord rebuking Him in hot displeasure.” “We do not read of such chastening after He began His rninistry.” “He was able to cure sicknesses and heal diseases, so that the last three and a half years were by far the happiest in His life, for He was not afflicted by the hand of God as before.” All this is very distinct as a system; it is not a casual expression liable to be misconceived, but a well-matured system. In the new tract, the whole of which refers directly to the one published by Mr. Harris (p. 26), we find these two periods noticed among five into which the writer divides Qirist’s life, and he says, “It is the second and third of these divisions that I have been seeking to contrast.”10
All this is very clear: that He suffered during thirty years as part of a cursed people, and changed this position at John’s baptism.
The next point is Gethsemane: “What gives the character to Gethsemane is weak humanity, and all the power of Satan allowed to be brought upon Him.”
“I should regard this as the most terrible hour He ever passed through; we shrink from this more than from any other part of His history… He dreaded not the cross as He did Gethsemane!”
What, I ask in passing, made Gethsemane terrible? What was the cup He had to drink? “When it was over, so conscious was He that the difficulty was surmounted, that He said to them, ‘Sleep on now, and take your rest.’ That is His word to the Church now: we may rest; the difficulties are over, and we may sleep on undisturbed in blessed and happy security and rest, for all is over now.” What! before the atonement and the cross? “He dreaded not the cross as He did Gethsemane. The cross was the place where He was made distinctly the sacrifice for sin.” The reader will see the contrast here between Gethsemane and the cross. They were two distinct objects of dread—Gethsemane the worst. They are distinguished as periods in the division into five (p. 26 of the second tract). Now, that Mr. Newton really owns this paragraph, is evident (p. 37 of the second tract). He there says, “But because I say that the end was virtually reached when Jesus delivered Himself up and was led unresistingly away, I do not on that account depreciate or undervalue that which remained actually to be done.”
I shall just now consider why that, namely, humanity in weakness on the cross, was, in the garden, “firmness inconceivable to us, because perfect, such as can be found only11 in God.” But the question of the value of the passage I have quoted from the first tract, glossed over in the second, is discussed in the second, as that which Mr. N. recognizes as his. As again in (p. 33), the second tract, “It was the most terrible hour through which He had ever yet passed.” Can any one doubt to what this alludes, adding the word “yet” to do away the effect? Now I say that no person taught of God in the foundation-principles of God’s truth could say, that though the cross was the place where He was made distinctly the sacrifice for sin, Christ dreaded not the cross as He dreaded Gethsemane; for, though he may be forced to say the cross was a sacrifice for sin, such a statement makes it clear that the idea of the wrath of God does not exist in his mind, and that, having suffered what was not a sacrifice for sin, but a distinct character of suffering not vicarious, but weak humanity under the power of Satan allowed to be brought upon Him; that” Sleep on, take your rest” was His word to the Church now: “we may rest, the difficulties are over; and we may sleep on undisturbed in blessed and happy security and rest, for all is over now”—I say it is impossible one taught of God could say so, because it is not a question of difficulties but of atonement. The forsaking of God was not come; the subject of dread according to the writer was a distinct and more terrible one. The sacrifice for sin was not yet in accomplishment. Nothing vicarious was touched as yet. It was not anticipation of the cup according to the writer, but a distinct thing which Jesus dreaded, and which was over when Gethsemane was finished; and yet all was over, so that the Church was secure and at rest when the vicarious work of atonement was not begun! I say, no person to whom the faith of God’s elect is precious, to whom the atonement of Christ is a reality and the centre of hope, could possibly have had such a thought, or (unless blinded of Satan) not have recognized that it was of Satan.
Further, that Christ was obnoxious to wrath from His coming into the world as part of a cursed people, and changed His relationship to God at John’s baptism, because he preached repentance and remission of sins, and the new economy of grace was introduced, and that He found relief in his message, so that, from the moment He took that ground, God’s seal was set upon Him, “This is my beloved Son,” and He ceased to afflict Him as obnoxious to wrath—is doctrine so destructive of the real human relationship of the blessed Jesus to God, so ruinous to His person, motives, and the path of Him who grew in favour with God, that no one who knows Christ could receive it for a moment.
That the writer means the relation Jesus was in is clear, for he speaks of His escaping much of it by prayer, faith, and obedience (p. 8, second tract), and extricated Himself out of it by His own12 perfect obedience (p. 12); and, moreover, contrasts it in the first with His soul entering into the condition of others.
The writer talks of the privilege of suffering. There is no privilege in suffering under a curse not vicarious.
These statements, of which I can only give the briefest outline, would be impossible to any one to whom the reality of atonement was known, or the essence of truth dear. Being put out with pretension to entering deeply into the sufferings of Christ, and the literal acknowledgment of many truths which they undermine, they are evidently the work of Satan himself to destroy the truth, and to deny the Lord in His special work. The aim is evident; to set up service and sorrow in conflict in man above the great fact of atonement, in which we can have no part whatever (save our sins and the fruit in salvation).
But I shall now take up the second tract more directly, though briefly. For while glossing over many of the grosser statements13 of the first, they save them for those who have received them, while they seek to save the writer’s credit with those who have not. This is always the way with a seducing spirit. The first tract had gone too fast, had been seen and detected, and then, not withdrawn, but, while it worked, the credit of the system was to be saved, and confidence (ruined by the first) sought to be regained. But it could not be attempted to deny directly the first, nor has it been done in the second: some things it must be sought to back out of.
Whereas in the former the periods were doctrinally distinguished in the nature of their sufferings, now His sufferings, because He was an Israelite, cannot be restricted to the years of His public service. Thus the grosser form of the error is obviated, for he does not, in this expression, get on to a new ground and position by John’s baptism of repentance and remission, so as to be sealed; but the substance of the error rests, and though thus apparently set aside by the word “restricted,” it is fully set up again (p. 23), where it is declared, that the difference of Christ’s dispensational relation is illustrated by that of Sinai and Zion (the place of the Church of the firstborn). I have not attempted to go through the tortuous contradictions of error. They abound in the tract. They are convenient for partisans; because, while error is propagated by one statement, if detected, it can be denied by the other. (See the quotation also from p. 22, in a previous note.) He is obnoxious to wrath which is not vicarious, by reason of His own relation to God, such as He was, born part of an accursed people. Now how did being obnoxious to wrath in His own relation to God shew His perfectness? His conduct under it we may suppose did—were such a thing possible. It is the obnoxious-ness to wrath in Him as soon as He was born into the world, a position out of which He had to extricate Himself, that is the point pressed by the writer of the tract.
And here let me notice what is believed by all.
Not only are the vicarious sufferings of Christ owned by every true Christian, but that He suffered also as the righteous One on the earth. The reproaches of those that reproached Jehovah fell on Him. He suffered being tempted, having come in grace, the sinless One, into our position. His holy nature, sinless and untouched by Satan; still as a man, suffered being tempted. His soul entered in the fullest way into the condition of sorrow and distress in which sin had plunged man, and Israel too, especially. In all their affliction, in this sense also, He was afflicted. His heart, fully feeling, entered into the fullest depths of it, so that under the sense of it He could groan deeply in spirit. Not only so: it is evident that He anticipated the trial and suffering of death to which He was to be subject. By the grace of God He tasted death, and we know that He felt it beforehand, not only from the Psalms and the solemn sufferings of Gethsemane, but from His own words, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished!” He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And here note, Christ, because it was His soul entering into it, could go to the full depths of all this, unspared, and unsparing Himself. It was sinless grace and perfectness of love, which, having brought Him into this condition, made Him enter into it in all its fulness, and shrink from none of it. It became the divine majesty, seeing He had placed Himself there, to lead Him through the sufferings suited to this position; that is, it was fitting He should suffer.
Hence our souls, though unable to estimate it, can understand its perfectness, and in spirit pass adoringly with Jesus into the midst of His sorrow: nay, it is our privilege to enter into that part of His sorrow—His holy sorrow—which flowed from sinless-ness and love, from service in spirit and knowledge of the mind of God in the midst of sin, to have the fellowship of His sufferings. His death itself can and is to be viewed in this light also, looked at as coming from man, and even Satan, however far this may be from being all that is found there, as indeed it is.
But the writer takes entirely different ground—ground which bases the sufferings of Christ on an entirely different principle. He speaks of sufferings, not into the depths of which He entered as the holy One, but of wrath, to which He was obnoxious by reason of the position He was in, from which God interfered to deliver Him, from which He extricated Himself by perfect obedience, so that He never felt the whole of it. It was the curse of a broken law He was under by position, not vicariously, without conflict with wicked men, not by the contradiction of sinners endured in grief by a holy soul, which it is our privilege to endure too for His and righteousness’ sake, but what it was no privilege to endure, and no profit either; for if it was to be endured for the profit of others, how could He extricate Himself from it, and be preserved from suffering it all by the interference of God in comforting Him? It lay upon Him, and not vicariously, as that which it was well for Him to get out of as a curse not vicarious. Is it not sufficient to present this to the soul of a saint, for him to see that it subverts the faith of God’s elect? It is not the true Christ of God, the Holy Thing born of Mary, that we have here, but one’ who participates, not by grace but by birth, in the curse, the fruitless curse which is fallen on man by reason of sin—not One who has taken the place in grace, for He extricates Himself from it, but one who is in it under the curse of the law by dire necessity of position. The substance of the truth of Christ’s holy person is set aside, and His taking the curse on Himself is set aside, the two cardinal truths of the gospel of grace; and hence we shall find that all is confusion on these subjects, as it must be where the substance of the truth is lost, and the use of the Psalms as untrue and unfounded as possible. Under pretence of presenting the sufferings of Christ in a new and important point of view, the whole grace of them is lost; and, instead of in grace entering into the depths of the sorrows and suffering, whether of man or of Israel in their position before God—His soul entering into all the full depth of it in full purpose of soul without the least sparing, that, His soul knowing all, our souls might know His love had entered into all, and find its power there—it is a condition He is in necessarily by position as under a curse which He prays against, extricates Himself from, and is saved from enduring the full extent of, God interfering to deliver Him. I have already given the quotations which expressly teach this.14
It is in vain to present other truths to make good the writer’s orthodoxy. It is a mere blind. They are not the truths in question. On the point which the tracts teach, the truth of God is subverted. It is not a true Christ which is taught there. Nor does Christ enter fully into our sorrow, for He is spared it, and extricates Himself from it.
I now refer to some points in the second tract, shewing the entire confusion on the subject of suffering and wrath, whether from intention or ignorance I do not pretend to say, but which, at any rate shew, if it be ignorance, fatal ignorance as to Christ Himself, (pp. 3, 4.) “Had He been a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, having drunk of that cup which Job and Jeremiah had tasted before.” What cup was Jeremiah (though suffering, as Christ Himself did, under the outward consequences of Israel’s evil), as a prophet in his Lamentations by the Spirit of Christ drinking? The cup of sorrow in sympathy. His soul entered into Israel’s sorrow in love by the Spirit of Christ. But this the writer of the tract says is quite another question from Christ’s sufferings from God’s relation to Him. But what were Job’s sorrows? Were they not personal discipline—Satan let loose at himself? It was no suffering on account of others: he was the occasion of his own sorrow (I do not speak of any type now), and confessed himself, when he saw God, a sinner, and repented in dust and ashes. Was “the interpreter, one among a thousand,” shewing to man his uprightness, so that God restored him, saying, “I have found a ransom,” to be applied to Christ as one who needed a ransom? or could Elihu speak to Christ in any sense as he did to Job? and did not Elihu much more represent Christ than Job? That Christ voluntarily took Job’s case, looked at as a typical sufferer, may be also admitted, His soul entering into it; but this is distinguished as another thing by the writer—it is His own relation to God.
Again, what was the nature of the wrath? In the first tract it is left as but displeasure and terror, quoting Psalms which evidently do go as far as possible in the wrath of God, as Psalm 88. Here it is attempted to be distinguished as wrath, as chastisement from wrath in vengeance. It is not chastisement in love15 as we have it; it is not vicarious suffering; it is wrath on Israel, the consequence of sin. Now what is it the writer refers to as that which had fallen upon Israel? Not the process of government which accompanied the law, and formed terms under which Israel held certain blessings. They were already Lo-ammi indeed under that. Messiah could be presented to them according to the promise of Deuteronomy in grace, if indeed their hearts, under whatever affliction, turned back to the Lord and to obedience; but in this respect Christ presented Himself to them as a witness and a prophet, and their heart was as the nether millstone. But what is the position of Israel to which the writer refers? “They had earned, by their disobedience, the fearful inflictions of God’s broken law.”16 Mark that. Did Christ take that not vicariously? And what is meant is clearly stated enough: “for it had been said, Cursed is he that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them (Gal. 3:10)”!! I repeat: Did Christ take this place otherwise than vicariously?
In Galatians 3 there is not a semblance of security, not an appearance of reference to Christ’s life or identification as obnoxious to God’s wrath with Israel from the moment of His birth, a position changed by His taking the place Israel ought to have taken under John’s repentance and remission. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” Nothing can be simpler, or more blessed for us in grace, perfect grace. It is the simplicity that is in Christ. But what becomes of the distinction of vengeance and chastisement, or what the meaning of the inflictions of God’s broken law according to Galatians 3:10? Was what they had earned by disobedience under the curse of God’s broken law inflictions of chastisement? The writer adds: “Inflictions consequent upon this [this follows immediately the citation of Gal. 3:10] had long begun to operate both on individuals in Israel, and upon the nation as a whole.” “Consider the sufferings of the prophets: the chastenings and sorrow of Ezekiel.” It is then added, “One thing at least in this list of woe—He must be allowed to have experienced in no ordinary degree—toil un-recompensed by results.” Was this—the curse of the broken law according to Galatians 3:10? It is sorrow in service, which the writer has distinguished, as he has the soul entering into the condition of the people, from Christ’s relation to God as identified with them. Sinless penalties have nothing to do here: no one questions Christ underwent them; but that is not the sense of Galatians 3:10.
I will now refer to some of the Psalms which are quoted to shew Christ’s sufferings in them, and we shall see if they are not connected with the contradiction of sinners, that is, with His service in respect of them and suffering from them; not His relation to God as being in the same place with them; ending (after faithfulness through it all) with their outwardly getting the mastery over Him, and therein (because making atonement) being left to them and forsaken of God. Whereas, the remnant of Israel in the latter days, to which much refers in the sympathy of Christ, will for the most part be delivered as others had before. They had trusted in God and been delivered; whilst the enemy could taunt Him with trusting in God, and not being delivered.
In Psalm 6 itself, we find the contradiction of sinners, and reaching onward in spirit to death, not a common relationship along with them to God, of wrath to which He was obnoxious, and inward visitations of God in common with wicked Israel:17 only there is no present deliverance.
“Mine eye is consumed because of grief, it waxeth old because of all mine enemies. Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity, for Jehovah has heard the voice of my weeping. Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed.” Here the Lord, looked at in His connection with Israel, is oppressed by wicked enemies, and cries to Jehovah against them. Death staring Him in face, He prays, entering as He does in spirit into the deserts of Israel as identified with the saints in the earth, the excellent, not to be rebuked in anger; as elsewhere not to shut up His soul with the blood-thirsty; the providing,18 having entered into it, for the comfort of the faithful of Israel in the latter day. So in Psalm 719 this contradiction of sinners is fully brought out. For thus it was. The Lord ordered20 that certain persons should be in trial and oppressed, that they might be fit vessels of Christ’s Spirit, who alone could enter into all sorrow. The expression of what was true perhaps of them as to sin became suited to Christ as entering in spirit, in grace, into the condition of Israel in the remnant—fully and entirely entering into it, not escaping or extricating Himself from it as naturally under it by position—and thus providing most blessed instruction as to Him for us, and what shall instruct and sustain the remnant of Israel as of His spirit prophetically, when really in the circumstances and state and guilt which He entered into in spirit.
And here remark, that if it be not Christ entering into it in spirit, or vicariously, these Psalms go a great deal too far; for they do not merely speak of relationship to God, but of actual guilt and sin.
See one of the very psalms quoted by the writer of the tract as being Christ’s condition—His relation to God: “There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger [this would be taken as a proof by the writer of His position, but it is added], neither is there rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over my head: as an heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.” Now this is not relationship, nor position, nor sinless penalties. Either Christ is speaking as charging Himself with the iniquities, or His soul is entering into their condition, both of which the writer says it is not; or in some way Christ must be responsible for iniquities otherwise than vicariously. According to the writer Christ was not in this condition after His baptism, but often before, referring to this very Psalm. And mark, it is not what is earned in the way of punishment which is spoken of here (that may be understood); nor merely of the anger and hot displeasure (the same terms as in the sixth), but He speaks of Himself as involved in what earned it. That He can thus take it on Himself for the remnant, the full consequence of which was the cross, is readily accepted and understood; but that it was a position out of which He extricated Himself, and God interfered to spare and relieve Him, is nonsense indeed, but nonsense which destroys the whole truth as to Christ. And note here further, that He is in the presence of active enemies seeking His life.
Many psalms answer to this. And as further explanation of this we have Psalm 40, where the testimony of Christ in the great congregation is declared to have been delivered in faithfulness on God’s behalf; and after that He declares Himself in the very condition out of which He is said to have emerged on entering into this ministry, His whole state being changed from Sinai to Zion: “For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head; therefore my heart faileth me.” So also we find Him in presence of His enemies.
Cry there was—but it was well seen here, that it was a longer patience and a better deliverance than John’s baptism—and a testimony which only made the clouds gather darker and darker around Him, till the forsaking of God upon the cross closed the scene that the Lord speaks of in this Psalm. Yet we have the very same elements as before and His heart failing Him.
In Psalm 18 the reader will find the way in which Christ, as in this trial, takes up the whole history of Israel from Egypt to their final deliverance, as based on this cry and suffering of His, just shewing Him in all their affliction afflicted—not under curse of law (for it begins before law); but as interested in the people who derive their deliverance from enemies, evil, and oppression, from the cry of Him who was pleased in grace to identify Himself with them and undertake their cause—afflicted in all their affliction. That His perfect obedience was available to this—and this integrity He pleads often—that He went to the full depths of the consequences and cause in the sorrow of His heart (not escaping it, I repeat, for His own sake, as the writer states), is most true, and most blessed; but this is not what is allowed.
It is for the writer a personal suffering, though not personally deserved, to which He was obnoxious from position, which He was partly spared through obedience and from which He emerged by John’s baptism. And note, this as a system, is fully confirmed by the second tract, though the expressions are modified, and the writer hardly knows what to say: for, in the second tract, it is illustrated by the change from Sinai to Zion. And yet he speaks to get rid of the abominableness of the system of its not being restricted to His ministry. How is a Sinai-state not restricted to a Zion-state illustrated by that of the Church of the firstborn? But it is the thing itself, restricted or not, which is the grand evil. Whatever Christ took of the curse of Sinai He neither escaped in part by prayer, obedience, and faith, nor extricated Himself from.
I turn now to the difference of Gethsemane and the cross, not to repeat any of the remarks of Mr. Harris, but to notice what is in the second tract. The first was too bad, too grossly offensive to every christian mind, too plain a proof that the idea of the curse and wrath Christ endured there was wholly wanting. To say that Christ was a sacrifice for sin, but that Gethsemane was more terrible though there He was not, was too open a denial of the reality of the atonement to be allowed to pass, or not to discredit any one that wrote or even circulated it. Hence in the second tract all this is carefully modified and explained. To say, as some advocates of Mr. Newton do, that the second tract, does not refer to the first is too flagrant an imposition on common sense, and the direct and positive evidence of the tracts themselves, to do anything more than excite pity. But it is a part of the same system. The sorrows of Gethsemane are dwelt upon in the terms for the most part in which Christians sound in the faith have spoken of them, as if that was the full force of the statement of the first tract; and, instead of “the most terrible hour He ever passed through,” we have “the most terrible hour through which He had ever yet passed;” and then we are told “that the unequalled hour of pressure was indeed still to come; for that was on the cross. Yet on the cross He seems to have manifested no feelings such as these. There was no such bloody sweat—no such development of agonized human sensibilities. Observe, I say, development. I know well that the hour of the cross was an unequalled hour,” &c. Why then were there no such feelings? “And yet how peculiarly calmness and strength mark the whole period of the crucifixion. His care for His mother; His reply to the supplication of the thief;…all these… mark also the incarnate God. … In Himself alone power of sustainment was—for He was God, and therefore He endured… . The divine character of the human sufferer is thus made very prominent on the cross; just as the human character of the same Sufferer is made, I think, prominent in Gethsemane. Even that Psalm, which is so peculiarly the Psalm of the cross, and commences with the cry of His most bitter anguish, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ concludes with thanksgiving,” &c.
Such is the attempt to undo the effect of the horrible statements of the first tract. It contradicts the statements of the first tract clearly enough, while referring plainly to them, and adopting the substance of the principle. But how low must that soul be fallen which can give garbled statements as to the cross itself, and the infinite and sacred sufferings of the Holy One there, when He made His soul an offering for sin, in order to save its own credit and character! Was there no shame, no pang in the writer’s heart, when penning all this? Alas! alas! and alas! for those, that for the credit of a man, amiable as the feeling may be, can sacrifice, ay, one sorrow, or one feeling of the blessed and holy Jesus. I pity the man that is not revolted and indignant at these tracts.
The writer has changed “weak humanity and all the power of Satan allowed to be brought upon Him” into “the felt weakness of His humanity, with the terrors of the Almighty set in array against them.” But in this even he is in error; for He was praying to His Father in full communion with Him, with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death. The hour was that of wicked man and the power of darkness. He anticipated death. The power of it was on His spirit in prospect, but the cup was not then drinking; it was His Father’s ascertained will that He should drink it. In this sense it was not the time in which the terrors of the Almighty were in array against Him, that is, as from the Almighty Himself.
And hence it was, according to the system of the tract, what He had often suffered before, instead of being a distinct position (see pp. 10, 19), when through “many years of sorrowful experience” before the mission of John Baptist, He could feel and say, “I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up; while I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted. Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off. They came round about me daily like water; they encompassed me about altogether.” So that the terrors of the Almighty set in array were not, according to the writer, peculiar to Gethsemane. Here, however, we are told that the experiences of Gethsemane were not assigned to Him by God till the great appointed time (p. 33).
But as to the cross, it was a time of calmness and strength, because the incarnate God was there. That Divine power and nature sustained Him everywhere, and there especially, yet so as to enable Him to endure not to screen Him, had been said, by those from whom the writer has borrowed it, long before him. But here it is used to put the cross as a place of “strength,” in contrast with Gethsemane as a place of weakness.
Frightful, really, is it to read their efforts—frightful almost thus to discuss the cross, instead of its awakening the adoring feelings of a heart that bows at the thought of the blessedness of Him who endured it. But let us turn to scripture. Blessed be God, it meets every error, let it be ever so guarded or subtilly put, or shrouded in beautiful forms of thought. Is the cross a place of strength according to scripture? “He was crucified through weakness, but he liveth by the power of God.” What is the statement of the first tract as to this very event? “For example the veil was rent.”—We know that was His flesh in death. “It was of purple, and scarlet, and fine linen; but nothing that could not be rent was intertwined in it, and this is strictly preserved through all the types, that we may never mingle the thought of Divinity with the humanity of the Lord Jesus.”
Now, He is so sustained by the Divinity, that there are no such agonized human sensibilities—sustained by the divine nature in Himself. It is the divine character of the human sufferer which is prominent, so that strength marks the whole period of the crucifixion. And when the thought, which would instantly suggest itself as the reply to every holy soul, comes into the mind, on recalling “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”— is that the divine character of the human sufferer, His saying that God has forsaken Him?—it is sought to elude it (I am ashamed to write the word) with, it “concludes with thanksgiving.” This is really worse than error. What can one think of one who can reason thus?
Brethren, it is the cross, the atonement, the foundation of our faith—the sufferings of Jesus we are speaking of. Can you rest under or endure for a moment the work of Christ being thus trifled with? Did the thanksgivings come before the atonement and work of expiation was over? Could Christ declare God His Father’s name to His brethren before the offering was accomplished which made it a declaration of righteous love? You know He could not. Was this declaration a testimony to Christ’s being calm and full of strength on the cross as a divine character while enduring the wrath, so that there was no development of agonized human sensibilities similar to Gethsemane?
But I turn to the psalms which speak of His death—the psalm and psalms of the cross. First, Psalm 22—I shall copy a large part of it; and it is well to refresh one’s spirit with the truth, instead of contending against error.
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on Jehovah that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. But thou art he that took me out of the womb… Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed me; strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. But be not thou far from me, O Jehovah: O my strength, haste thee to help me.”
Is this the self-sustaining and divine character of the human Sufferer, giving calmness and strength, marking the whole period of the crucifixion: this which is indeed so peculiarly the psalm of the cross? Is it not evident that the forsaking of God, as to the condition of His soul, crowned the sorrow and accomplished the holy dread of One whose soul was poured out already like water, His heart melted like wax in the midst of His bowels?
Take again Psalm 69, also a psalm of the cross.
When they gave Him gall for His meat, and in His thirst vinegar to drink:—“I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God. They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty.” The Lord then refers to His zeal and faithfulness for God, and righteous and gracious dealings towards men, and continues, “Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink… Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.” And afterwards, “But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high.”
The Lord, as a man, did never indeed go out of the perfect position of dependence, not even on the cross. What distinguished that was, as we have seen, not only that men, His enemies, were lively, but that that dependence, while His soul was an offering for sin, was not, and could not be, answered. This was infinite sorrow as well as expiation.
Paslm 102 may also be referred to: “He weakened my strength in the way; he shortened my days.” But these amply suffice. Ought they to be needed?
There is another statement here also which really sets aside all the previous efforts to save the doctrine taught in these tracts from the charge of falsifying the very relationship of God with Christ, by distinguishing His being under the wrath of chastisement and the wrath of vengeance. The whole career of the Lord is thus described, page 31 (all being put together, the dispensational position of Christ and the wrath and curse of God in vengeance): “Man was yet in his distance from God… Jesus, as man, was associated with this place of distance in which man in the flesh was; and He had through obedience to find His way to that point where God could meet Him as having finished His appointed work—glorify Him, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places: and that point was death—death on the cross—death under the wrath of God.”
Now that Jesus as captain of our salvation, a place He had taken in voluntary grace, was exposed to suffering and trial, arising from the place He had taken amongst us, every Christian recognizes; but that is not the point here. The writer’s doctrine is, that from the moment He came into the world He was obnoxious to a wrath which He escaped in part by prayer, faith, and obedience.
Now here “man was yet in his distance from God,” and “Jesus, as man, was associated with this place of distance in which man in the flesh was.” Now His having personal sin is not the question here. The writer is not charged with saying that; and hence his clearing himself of that is clearing himself of nothing at all.
What was the place of distance in which man in the flesh was? What was due to it? Was it not condemnation? Christ was there by association. He was in this place; not as made an offering for sin, not vicariously, but by association.
The doctrine of truth is, that, perfectly acceptable and accepted in His person and sinless under the law, He was made sin, and by one offering, offered without the gate, perfected for ever those that are sanctified—a sin-offering once for all. The doctrine of the writer of the second tract is, that Christ was personally sinless indeed, but was associated as man with the place of distance in which man in the flesh was. Not as earning His bread in the sweat of His brow: that is not the meaning of the distance from God of man in the flesh. “‘He had through obedience to find His way to that point where God could meet Him as having finished His appointed work—glorify Him, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places: and that point was death— death on the cross—death under the wrath of God.” Can anything be plainer than this? Is this wrath of chastisement? Is death on the cross—death under the wrath of God—the meeting-point obtained for man at a distance from God, because the appointed work was finished—is that chastisement, or wrath due, in the full sense, to man as in the flesh and at a distance from God?
This, then, according to the writer, was Christ’s place. Not He who knew no sin made sin, but from the beginning of His fife finding His way through obedience out of a place of wrath naturally due to man as at a distance from God, and which was not reached till it arrived at death under wrath. But there He was from the beginning. It is idle, then, to speak of appointment of God as to the extent of His sufferings, not merely because it contradicts God’s alleged interference to deliver Him from them; but because His position was the position of man at a distance from God. What had God appointed? What, by the very nature of God Himself, was the necessary result of that? Hence it is not merely terrors as an occasional thing which might reach His Spirit: He was associated with man’s place of distance, and therefore under wrath for sin. When He said, Mine iniquities are gone over my head, it was the place He was in (for man was there), not vicariously: He had to extricate Himself out of it,21 to escape what He could by faith, and obedience, and prayer, “to find His way to that point where God could meet Him as having finished His appointed work”—that is, “death under the wrath of God.”22 He was under this wrath then all the time in His relation to God in the position He had taken—not vicariously, but by association. It is another gospel, which is not another; for death under the wrath of God is not here itself vicarious— not the bearing of the sins of His redeemed—but finding His way, by reason of the position He was in Himself, to that point where God could meet Him as having finished the work which death on the cross, due to the position He was Himself in, closed. It is not (as Irvingism) that He partook of sinful nature, so that He was obnoxious to wrath as such; but it is that He was from His birth, by the position which He took as man, Himself at a distance from God. Not that He bore sins and took wrath on the cross: it was His own position; out of which He had to find His way to that point where God could meet Him, which point was death under wrath, which is what indeed is due to man in the flesh at a distance from God—the place where Christ always was.
If any man has a respect for Christ, or the fear of God; if any man values the essential truth of the gospel, he will flee from such teaching as from a serpent, and much more earnestly. “Cease, my son, to hear the instruction which causeth thee to err from the words of knowledge.”
I warn every saint, that it is destroying Christ in what is most essential—subverting the gospel—the error of the enemy himself. Souls may be foolish enough to go and ask him who teaches such things, does he mean to do this? Of course he will say, No. The answer is: I have no need to ask him; I know he does it. I have read his own authentic publication—a publication professedly put forth to clear up his views, because of circumstances which have arisen. This proves, in the fullest way, that he does subvert it. I know well that this is the doctrine that has been habitually taught: that Christ was a constituted sinner, and under death, and worked His way up to life. But it would have been hard to catch flying words.23 God has taken care that the doctrine should be printed and published. Every one now who countenances them is answerable to God for the doctrine and for the souls that may be ensnared by it; and therefore it is that I speak plainly of it, as the teaching of a seducing spirit contrary to God. With the motives of those who teach it I have nothing to do—there may be seducers and seduced. The point is to guard souls against the teaching itself, and to warn them against those who teach it.
I shall add a few words directly on the Psalms. It is the custom of heresy, in all ages, to take difficult passages, not generally, or not at all understood, and found on them its doctrines as something more deep and excellent than others possess. Because it is evidently more difficult to reply when the passages are not understood—more difficult to wrest them out of the hands of those who use them thus perversely according to Satan. The thing taught can be disproved by scripture, but the passage rests beclouded. It is thus with the writer. Certain passages, if you introduce Christ as speaking in the Psalms, are difficult; as, speaking of sins, of foolishness, of sin. To understand the bearing of them all supposes an acquaintance with the meaning of the prophetic Spirit, and capacity to apply them exactly to the right object of the prophecy. On these the writer seizes to pervert souls. Confessing that the Gospels afford him nothing, he seeks to introduce his hearers here, to prove to them that Christ suffered wrath by reason of His own position and relation to God. I have replied to this from scripture and plain scriptural truth. It may assist some souls to dwell a little more on the Psalms themselves, which, while blessedly feeding the affections in many parts (indeed in all, as far as understood), and specially when Christ is fully seen in them, are perhaps the most difficult of interpretation in their prophetic application.
But I beg the reader’s attention to this point: that the writer, instead of increasing our apprehensions of the entering of Christ into our sorrow, or Israel’s sorrow, does exactly the contrary. The truth teaches that His soul entered into the full depth of them, avoiding nothing—that, as Captain of our salvation, and as the good Shepherd, He led the way in sorrow. The writer teaches, that He was obnoxious to wrath in virtue of His position as man and amongst Israel, and was preserved from much of what He would have suffered as in that position by prayer, faith, and obedience; so that the sympathies of Christ are largely curtailed. It would be hard to say, why He was not spared all, or why He had to bear some. He was there by reason of others, as in the position they had brought themselves into; but not for others, for He extricated Himself out of it as far as possible. Moreover, it was God’s appointment to Him of a certain quantity. I am not here returning to the inconsistency of this statement, but shewing that it was a limited suffering, arising from the position He was in in His relation to God—a position we have seen to be positive wrath, for this was man’s—not His soul entering into that of others.
Now, I say that the Psalms, whether taken as to man or Israel, teach us that He entered into the full depths of suffering, which made Him the vessel of sympathizing grace with those who had to pass through them; and that, as seeing and pleading with God in respect of them. They were sinners, could claim no exemption, count on no favour which could deliver and restore. They must have taken the actual sufferings in connection with the guilt which left them in them without favour. But this was not God’s thought—He was minded to deliver them; and Christ in grace steps in. [He takes the guilt of those that should be delivered —this was vicarious suffering as a substitute—and, in the path of perfect obedience, puts Himself in the sorrow through which they had to pass; enters into it so as to draw down the efficacy of God’s delivering favour on those who should be in it, and be the pledge, in virtue of all this, of their deliverance out of it as standing thus for them, the sustainer of their hope in it, so that they should not fail. Not that they should not pass through it. Because they were so to pass through it according to the righteous ways of God in respect of their folly and wickedness, and to purify them inwardly from it all, that Christ entered into it, to be a spring of life and sustainer of faith to them in it, when the hand of oppression should be heavy from without, the sense of guilt terrible from within, and hence no hope of favour but that One, who had assured and could convey this favour, had taken up their cause with God, and passed through it for them. And hence Christ did not escape where they would,24 because He must suffer the full penalty of the guilt and evil, or He could not deliver them. Thus Christ must pass personally fully through the sorrow, as He did in spirit; and, besides that, have no deliverance, but, on the contrary, make atonement for the guilt.
But it was as being near to God, save as in atonement, that He passed through it all. And though, in entering into it in spirit, He might see all the terrors of death and judgment before Him, and feel it anticipatively, yet He, as perfectly near to God and in favour, could at once turn to Him in perfectness, and hence make available all the grace and favour of God towards Him, as regarded that case, in behalf of those who should come to be in it (this we see continually in the Psalms and in the Gospels too), and have all the mind of God for them in that case, which they could use when they found themselves in it, even though in darkness. And how many in darkness, even in these christian times, have so availed themselves of them! And this, because He was in the perfect favour, and could count on the perfect favour of God, while passing through these depths, and thus, through the atonement, make it available as to all the circumstances for others in its suitable application—for others ruined else in their guilt. It was favour, and sustaining, and blessing, during the whole course of and in the circumstances, not the deliverance of One who was at a distance as in the position of those who were so, Himself obnoxious to wrath.
And hence we find that, while all the most exquisite sympathies of the Lord’s sufferings are precious in Him and for us, inasmuch as in general the saint is always a sufferer among sinners, and the circumstances are analogous, and we have to walk as He walked, and the grace precious in His walk by which He lived is precious for us, yet the prophetic application is, properly speaking, to Israel, not to the Church, save in a particular way in some very peculiar passages, where the remnant of Israel is considered after His resurrection, which formed the first nucleus of the Church; and where the heavens are vaguely alluded to—where we now know the Church will be, when the judgments come on the earth. There is one point which particularly refers to this—the constant claim for vengeance and deliverance by destruction of the psalmist’s enemies. This is not the Church’s cry, because her deliverance is by being taken out of the scene. That is the certain character of the deliverance. But in the Psalms it is destruction of enemies. The resurrection is clearly put forward as the confidence of those whom the enemy may slay—a principle ever true, and, in fact, accomplished in Christ. How fully this applies to the remnant of Jews, in the latter day oppressed by the enemy, every one will see. But this by the bye.
Let us examine the Psalms in their connection with Christ Himself, who was, as in Israel, the faithful One in the midst of a rebellious and apostate race; but yet put to the test by this last visit in goodness. But as regards His path and trials, Christ was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He called all as such, doubtless; but it was a separative mission. His sheep were to hear His voice. His fan was in His hand—the axe at the root of the trees. The meek were to inherit the land—the poor in spirit to have the kingdom. His preaching righteousness and truth was in the great congregation; but the effect was to gather a little flock, with whom all His associations were, and to whom it was His Father’s good pleasure to give the kingdom. This was His position in Israel. From such, and the thoughts of One perfect before God in such a position, the testimony of the Spirit of prophecy in the Psalms flowed, and flowed for those who shall be in such a position in the latter day; while, as the revelation of the perfection of Christ, they are the blessed portion of the Church in all ages. From all this it flows that some psalms speak of Christ Himself as alone making atonement; others of His sorrows in Ufe as taking up the cause of the godly and being perfectly so Himself; others the prophetic provision of the expression of right feelings by the remnant in the latter day, into whose condition He thus enters in spirit.
We will examine the Psalms a little to bring this out. The first psalm presents the blessedness, natural in God’s ways, to the perfect man under the law; distinguishing him from the wicked. The second presents the title of Christ, in the decree of Jehovah, to the headship over the heathen, as set King in Zion. The third at once turns to the actual position: the righteous man is surrounded with enemies—suffers instead of reigning. The rest shew out all the thoughts of God, as to this, in sorrow, or in purpose and final glory. “How are they increased,” says the righteous man, “that trouble me! There is no help for him in his God. But thou, O Jehovah, art a shield;” closing with the great testimony in Israel—ever true—“Salvation belongeth unto Jehovah. His blessing is upon his people.” The fourth: they turn His glory into shame. But they would know that Jehovah had set apart the godly man for Himself. Many could say there was no good, but for him the light of Jehovah’s countenance satisfied him. The Lord only was his refuge. Here we have the position of the righteous remnant fully provided for, and the Spirit of Christ entering fully into it; putting real strength into it, for the name of Jehovah is a strong tower. The fifth: He finds Himself surrounded by confident wickedness; but God does not take pleasure in it. He knows God’s name. There were bloody and deceitful men. He calls on God to destroy them. He will come into His temple. The Lord would bless the righteous. The sixth: in the midst of these workers of iniquity the righteous soul sees death before it. His soul is vexed. He sees the righteous indignation of God upon the people. The Spirit of Christ enters into that which was due to, and ought to be felt by, the righteous remnant in the day of trouble as really due to it.25 The righteous soul felt it as the chastening hand of God, saw the rod, and who had appointed it, and bowed down as in the presence of death (the simple pass on and are punished), but looked perfectly to the Lord in that condition, saying,” Thou, O Jehovah, how long?” The Spirit of Christ, entering into this, does not “preserve” from seeing the rod and feeling the burden, but quite the contrary, and enables the soul to look constantly to the Lord.
Christ, then, does enter in spirit into this sorrow of the remnant fully: but it is not His relation to God as due to Him as associated with the people. It is because He is near God through it all, that He can hold the soul of the remnant in the place of sustaining grace by faith in the position where they were to receive the chastisement. It is not Himself “at a distance,” as the place of the sinful man under wrath (save in atonement) in His relation to God; but the link with the remnant in spirit, when in the circumstances where they would feel all pressing upon them, and could not have been near God, being sinners and guilty as a nation, but that He who had drawn them to seek righteousness maintained them in spirit, brought them into the sustaining value of His place by entering into theirs in grace. The position is the position of the remnant; the link with God in it, Christ. Sometimes it rises up therefore to where He alone could individually stand, and becomes a direct prophecy of Him; and then we find His interest in, and application of, all this to the remnant as a distinct body from Him. In general, to understand the Psalms, we must see the Jewish remnant faithful in trial, and the Spirit of Christ taking up this position to link them with the strength of Jehovah, as well as, in some psalms, bearing sin alone in the way of atonement that He might be able to do so. Sometimes it is the deliverance and glory which this strength will accomplish as the answer.
So (Psalm 7) Christ pleads in the midst of the people in His righteousness, and calls to Jehovah to awake to the judgment which He has commanded, lifting up Himself in anger against the rage of His enemies. Christ, as He was, did not do this, and could not, but the contrary, for higher and more glorious reasons; nor can the Church now. It is His Spirit speaking in and for the remnant. Yet the Spirit of Christ knew perfectly His title to this righteous vengeance: but He had a higher work to accomplish. He could have asked His Father, and have had twelve legions of angels; but the scriptures were to be fulfilled. The disciples were not even to tell that He was the Christ: the Son of man was to suffer, and hold a higher and more glorious place. He had come to save men’s lives, not to destroy them; and He prayed for His ignorant enemies.
Hence, from the accomplishment of the effect of Christ’s taking up the cause and entering thus into the circumstances of the earthly people, in Psalm 8 Jehovah, the God of Israel, has His name excellent in all the earth, as the God of the Jews, in the exaltation of the Son of man. In Psalm 9 we have the judgment executed against the enemies so often complained of, and an enlarged account of it. So in Psalm 10 the wicked thus domineering in the latter day are fully described, and the result for the humble remnant, whose heart God prepared and caused his ear to hear.
In the psalms which follow on this, this is fully entered into; that is, the Spirit of Christ draws out the whole scene, becoming the spring and portrayer of all the varied exercises of feeling in that day, in the fullest sympathy with the humble, whose heart God had prepared. And it is exceedingly lovely to see all the weaknesses, sorrows, thoughts, feelings, exercises, spoken of by the Spirit of Christ Himself. All this supposes weakness: “I had said almost as they,” says the poor oppressed upright one in that day; that, when all the circumstances by which they shall be occasioned in that day are there, they may have, by the word, the vehicle to their hearts of this sympathy, and the certainty of it in the very thoughts presented by it for and in the circumstances. It is not an excellency out of the reach of their condition; it is the entering of the Spirit of Christ into it.
This is partially true of us; but it is not quite the same, because there Christ descends in sympathy into the circumstances as there with them, whereas for us He is on high; and we having received the Holy Ghost, consequent on the knowledge of full redemption, to join Christ in heaven, and so be ever with Him— we have Him as our High Priest on high to bring us in spirit there, out of where we are, and having suffered being tempted, maintaining the communion of the weak with the perfectness of the light we belong to, and the fulness of glory and perfection which we see by faith, and in which we walk. The Holy Ghost in us presents those groanings which cannot be uttered, because, being already associated with the joy and glory of that new creation, we groan, being burdened with our connection with the old. Our enemies are spiritual. We do not look for deliverance by the execution of judgment on earthly foes, though we see and can desire the deliverance of earth by it in due time. But here the blessed Jesus provides His sympathies for a people who are not in this position, but in trials from which, for the most part, unless killed, the execution of judgment can alone deliver them; and they wait for the Lord, saying, “How long?” and find in the words of Jesus that He has not forgotten them, knows their sorrows, and furnishes them through His Spirit with the expression of them—an expression of them of which God takes notice as being of the Spirit of Christ Himself who has made the atonement for the nation, though it be but the cry of weakness, but divinely suited to their state. They, too, vent their sorrow in what they know outwardly and inwardly, for it cannot be otherwise, for the words of God are sweet and known by His own to be the words their God has given them.
Often, as in Psalm 14, we have the Lord’s view of all this. He rises above the circumstances and takes a view of them. How encouraging to the poor tried remnant! yet, putting them in their place as sinners, for they are not by known redemption out of that, though they wait and hope for it. Hence it is, too, that these psalms often suit souls awakened and in that state. Thus in Psalm 15 we have just a description of the character of those who shall find a place in God’s tabernacle. In Psalm 16 we find one of those psalms which shews us, as the apostle quotes their general principle as illustrating the position of Christ, that He did not merely depict and express, or sympathize, in a way of provision for or in divine intelligence, the sorrows of the remnant, but that He came Himself into their place, and suffered, being tempted, and tasted all the sorrow, so as to be able to succour them that were tempted. He was in the place, not of distance, but of dependence. It is saints who want sympathy, however weak, and however their feelings are the expressions of infirmity— not man at a distance and disobedient. He was in the position of dependence in the place of sorrow, but perfection, in the dependence of a saint. Here Christ looks to be preserved by God, for, as a man, He puts His trust in Him. He said to Jehovah, “He was his Adon (his Lord): to the saints and the excellent on earth, all his delight was in them”—not with man at a distance, as Himself obnoxious to wrath because He was there (though saints may feel their sins when called into the place of trial and repentance and chastening—feel them according to grace), nor with the mass of disobedient Israel, but with the saints and excellent of the earth. This is Christ’s place in the Psalms, unless alone in the atonement. Still it is in Israel. He will not go after another god: Jehovah was the portion of His inheritance; and He sees, in this confidence in Jehovah, the resurrection as His path of fife and joy.
I think I see in these Psalms, which are the expression of the thoughts of Christ Himself, in a certain sense a higher tone, more perfectness, in that He is in the absolute completeness and perfectness of feeling which belongs to perfectness in the place in which He is. He may be in the very depths, but He is perfectly and perfect there. He has exactly that feeling which suits a perfect apprehension of the place He is in. He enters perfectly into the tossings to and fro of the hearts of His poor saints who through grace feel rightly, but hardly know how, and do not know how to estimate absolutely (it would be impossible and contradict their place as exercised because of imperfection, and always feeble, never divine), the place they are in in relation to God. He enters, I say, perfectly into their feelings; but His feelings are perfect; and hence there is an exact perfect setting of each thing in its place, which leaves no broken or vague impression. We see One who has scanned in the light the whole extent of His position, though that position be the depth of darkness itself, giving God perfectly His place in relation thereto. Hence these psalms become as centres of thought for the whole book (as stakes in the hedge which sustain and keep it all in place, though others form it), as they will be in fact for the remnant, as a pledge of blessing for all in similar circumstances of trial, though Christ were alone in the expiatory part of them; and this they habitually express also.
Thus this Psalm 16. So Psalm 22—forsaken of God, no uncertainty, no hope He may not be. He is yet (O wondrous thought, and blessed one that it should have been so!) equally perfect in His estimate of God: “Thou continuest holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” All the powers of evil were then against Him: He is at the same time forsaken of His God, for whom to be near Him He cried in the hour of distress: but perfect in owning the perfection of God in it notwithstanding all. Weakness, hostility, and abandonment did not give an imperfect thought of all that God was. He was heard.
So, in my judgment, Psalm 23 where He walks the path of the blessing and trial of faith, and presents the confidence of it (putting forth His sheep, He goes before them), and shews it to them whatever He had to suffer in it, assured to them what Jehovah was—He who He was proved Himself to be in Psalm 24.
But one word as to Psalms 20, 21, in their connection with 22. In the two preceding psalms the Spirit presents Messiah the object of the contemplation of the saint in spirit prophetically; for we must remember they are prophecies. Psalm 19 gives the testimony of creation and the law, such as they really are. But in Psalm 20 Messiah is seen in the day of trouble. Strange sight! but one that the saint must enter into, and he knows now that the Lord saves His anointed, and none is to be trusted but Jehovah. Here it is the day of trouble, and the saints can enter into it—Jewish saints and expressed in Jewish circumstances. It closes with their hosanna. In Psalm 21 they contemplate the answer, seeing Messiah not only delivered but exalted; glory and great majesty set upon Him. What they had looked for, as interested in His desires, Psalm 20:4, they see answered, Psalm 21:2; and much more, too, as the answer opens out upon their view in the blessing and exaltation of the Messiah, with whom they had identified themselves in heart in the day of His trouble prophetically; but all this in Jewish association, and hence they see His power in judgment. “Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies.”
But in Psalm 22 it was not sufferings in a day of trouble which could be contemplated and entered into by others, and the psalm is, and must be, in the mouth of Jesus Himself. He alone could enter, and in entering understand, that depth. And hence, being of expiatory power as bearing the forsaking of God, which was not the portion of His believing people, He, as now heard26 in resurrection, can declare Jehovah’s name on a new ground to His brethren; and, assembling the remnant round Himself, sing in the midst of the congregation, the gathered remnant of Israel redeemed into fuller blessings, and which became the nucleus of the Church—the Church, in fact, itself in its commencement. But thereon He calls on all Israel also, in virtue of this His being heard. And His praise is in the great congregation—all Israel, when fully gathered hereafter; and then all the ends of the world, “for the kingdom is Jehovah’s.” This gives a very peculiar force to this psalm—in its own proper depth, beyond all our feelings, and the foundation of all our hopes.
In Psalm 69 we have another of the character I have just now mentioned, which will afford us much instruction, and where the Lord fully expresses the well known and well denned position He is in before God, and really in His ways as well as His sorrows. The waters had come into His soul. He cried to God—His throat was dry while waiting for Him—His eyes failed—there was no standing in the depth He was in—His enemies were there, and mighty. But even here, in speaking of foolishness and sins, which we know to have been of others, not His own, He speaks as fully in the presence of God, all being in the light. “Thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee.” His whole case is before God, He knowing it. It is not merely the sorrows and effects of sin down here. Hence, as I have said, He pleads for other godly ones (what touching grace in such a case!), that He, having to suffer the full depths of rejection, having taken all on Him, may not be an occasion of stumbling to the godly, the remnant who waited upon God. How likely in hearts prompt to say on His apparent rejection, because man had rejected Him, and His own word ill-believed, “We thought that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel;” as in the latter day, in Psalm 73, when the godly man felt, “therefore his people return thither, and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them;” and they were ready to say, “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.” “Let not them that wait on thee be ashamed for my sake, let not them that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel, because for thy sake I have borne reproach;” and the Lord shews the real ground on which, on man’s part, trouble had come upon Him —His grace in sorrow towards them. But still in all the trouble also He is fully and consciously before God. “Thou hast known my reproach, and my shame, and my dishonour,” though as a man reproach had broken His heart, and He cried for deliverance. Here also we find judgment claimed from the God of Israel against the enemies; and, in verse 26, Christ brings together Himself and the remnant. In the end, seeing all the result, “their heart should live that seek God; for God will save Zion.” Again, in another Psalm (51), we have, though inspired for them by the Spirit of Christ, the confession of the remnant, the bloodguiltiness being indeed of all from Abel to Zacharias, but surely above all of Christ Himself. Then the confession of the remnant in Israel by the Spirit of Christ clearly applies to them, and not to Christ, save so far as Christ has taken it all on Himself indeed in grace. “In sin did my mother conceive me” cannot in any sense be applied to Christ; for it was not only the absence of personal sin, but an entirely different manner of introduction into manhood, which distinguished the position of Christ. It was a holy thing which was born, so born as to be called the Son of God, so that there was a necessary and special relation between Him and God His Father, even as a man born into the world, whatever He took on Himself, or into whatever He perfectly entered.
In Psalm 40, where we have Christ personally again, we find Him pleading His entire and unfaltering faithfulness, but having come to do God’s will, and that through the offering of His body once for all (for we have the apostle’s application of it here) His iniquities take such hold upon Him, that He is not able to look up: they are more in number than the hairs on His head. It is not His being sorry for them, or remission, as deliverance or relief, but the weight of them on Him. Again, He asks judgment on the enemy, and that the remnant may rejoice.
In Psalm 102 we have again one which applies personally to Christ, rises up to the height, that is, of His person, though never separated from the interests of His people. He had been lifted up, as One chosen out of the people, as Messiah, and cast down to the lowest place. His days were like a shadow, but, as ever, the full recognition, as standing in the light, of the glory of Jehovah in relation to Him: “Thou, O Jehovah, shalt endure forever.” Let Him suffer and be cut off as He might, Jehovah and His glory, His remembrance (and that was to be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God revealed to Moses) should endure. He should arise and have mercy on Zion, and the Spirit of Christ goes on to the time of the remnant in the latter day. The set time was come, for the servants of God (for such these were: see Isa. 65 and 66) took pleasure in her stones. Also, when the Lord built up Zion, He would appear, and His glory among the heathen be established; for He would look down and hear the cry of the poor remnant appointed to death. But what should Christ do? His strength had been weakened in the way, His days had been shortened, yet had He cried to God. “He asked life” of Him. But what a glorious answer to bring out the full person of Christ, in contrast, yet in full recognition and connection in unity of person, with His suffering dying humanity, and with the sparing of those appointed to death, on whom the Lord shall look down on that day! “Of old”—is the glorious answer—“thou hast laid the foundation of the earth; the heavens are the work of thy hands;” they would perish, but He was the same, His years should have no end. The sufferer was Jehovah, the Creator Himself. And then the remnant of Israel are brought in in millennial blessing. “The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.” He, all glorious as He was, could not do without them; nor could they fail who had waited on such as He, though suffering as listening to His word in the midst of the enemies of His name, and appointed to death.
In Psalm 25 we have Christ entering as the head of the godly remnant into the sorrows and consequences of the sin of Israel which that remnant cannot repudiate, but, on the contrary, are known by the confession of, as we see in Daniel. The wicked say, as in Malachi, Wherein have we offended? It is a weariness to serve, the remnant confess. And note here, Daniel is reserved, and makes his confession amongst the Gentiles, now recognized as beasts after the restoration: shewing that for the full and best intelligence of the mind of God there was no restoration yet really of the people. Loved infallibly of God as His people, they were still in condition Lo-Ammi, not God’s people. Hence the post-captivity prophets never call them so, though prophesying that they will be in a future day. Daniel, taking fully their position in prophetic sympathy by the Spirit of Christ, can address God according to His mind, and, confessing their sin, consider Jerusalem as the holy mountain, and all in the full light of God’s unchangeable thoughts of love27 (see Dan. 9); and their condition, as driven out, is the curse he speaks of in which they were. But he speaks also in the certainty of divine love, and of the people as God’s people, called by His name.
In Psalm 25, then, Christ speaks as the head of the remnant, so to speak. “O my God, I trust in thee; let me not be ashamed; let not mine enemies triumph over me;” for in the presence of ungodly enemies we ever find Him, never associated with them. And, therefore suffering, He prays that He may not be shut up with them.28 “Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed; let them be ashamed that transgress without cause. Lead me. Remember thy tender mercies. Remember not the sins of my youth [here Israel is personified—Christ entering into their case; for sins of His youth are clearly not His relation to God], but according to thy mercy remember me.” He enters into the spirit of that word, God’s real and only possible way of dealing with Israel, “that he might have mercy upon all.” Christ had come for the truth of God to confirm the promises, but He had been refused of Israel, and now Israel must come in under mercy. This the remnant understand. The meek are those the Lord will accept and guide. The Lord’s ways are owned; and so conscious are they of no excuse on Israel’s part for their sin, that their forgiveness is based on the name of the Lord, the only sure ground, as it is necessarily perfect in its power. The man that fears the Lord will be taught in this way; and, finally, Israel will be redeemed (so is the desire) out of all his troubles.
I have noticed this psalm, because it shews the spirit in (in which association in grace with the remnant, with those that wait on Jehovah) Christ takes up in spirit, as in the condition of the people, looked at not as bearing the sin Himself, but in the feelings of the remnant about the sin of Israel (right though sorrowful feelings), in which, I say, He takes up the sins and the cause of this remnant: for if He did not take up the question of their sins, He could not take up their cause, nor His spirit be the inspirer and expresser by the word of right feelings in them. For, have they these feelings, they must feel, own, recognize, and even groan under the sins which have brought them to that low estate, as is true of every saint, whose sorrow under the consciousness of sin is the fruit of the working of the Spirit of Christ, not His relation to God as at man’s distance from Him.
I will now turn, therefore, to some other psalms, referred to as expressing the greatest positive anguish in respect of these sins.
In Psalm 38 Israel is evidently viewed in the anguish of the bitter consequences of sin; but then, mark, of sin confessed as the true source of the anguish, unrighteous as was the oppressing enemy. Seeing it as the hand of the Lord, and bowing under it, and hoping in the Lord who would hear, and saying (as Job at the close, when the testimony of Elihu and Jehovah had reached his spirit, and made the suffering spiritually available), he would declare his iniquity, and be sorry for his sin. In a word, he no longer keeps silence, and guile is not now in his heart, so that we recognise the working of the Spirit of Christ in the remnant; and, consequently, here expressed according to the perfect workings of that Spirit.29 All my desire is before thee. The condition is the condition of Israel under the heavy hand of God’s chastening—the sentiments are the sentiments of the elect remnant (and so in spirit morally true of any soul in such case), in faith confessing the sin, and sure that God will hear—a certainty expressed for them by the Spirit of Christ, who fully enters into their case, and produces the sentiments, as having made the atonement which enables Him thus to lead them to God, though as yet they know not its value, and are crying out of the depths. They are the remnant that, in the midst of trial, “follow the thing that good is.” Now that was Christ’s place. He sorrowed in the sorrow of Israel, and suffered the suffering of Israel; but His soul was with God about it, though the effect of His righteous path was to bring trial and forsaking upon Him, and the Lord left Him there till all was complete: but, however groaning deeply in spirit, knowing that the Father heard Him always. As in His previous life, one doubtless of deep thoughts about Israel unknown to man, He knew well, though subject to the path of ordinary duty as of God till God called Him, that He must be about His Father’s business, thus shewing, not merely an unchangeable and eternal relationship as Son in the bosom of the Father, but a known relationship down here (and that in service), according to that which He was as a man born of God, who was His God from His mother’s belly, who made Him hope when He was on His mother’s breasts; and as such He grew in wisdom and stature, in favour with God and man.
Nor can it be doubted that He entered into the sufferings and sense of Israel’s guilt in a more peculiar way, when sealed and anointed with the Holy Ghost, and with power for official service, though I doubt not His heart felt it all along. But He waited in private upon God. Look at the sense of the presence and working of His enemies, and the pressure of the ungodly, the contradiction of sinners, which are invariably spoken of in these psalms. And when was that the case? Was it the blameless carpenter who had grown in favour with God and man, whatever His inward thoughts (and I doubt not at all they were deep and full of the glory of God, the glory of God in Israel, of God dishonoured in Israel, and deep and earnest love to His people, and His glory in them)? Or was it the anointed servant of Jehovah declaring His righteousness in the great congregation, and following His ways so as to confound the hypocrites, and asserting His glory in the temple itself, when the zeal of His house ate Him up, that found that the reproaches of those that reproached God fell on Him, that felt the desolation of a people sold for their iniquities to the Gentiles, and the enmity of a cruel nation, and whose lovers and friends stood aloof? But in all these psalms this pressure and sense of enemies are found.
In such a Psalm as 38, then, Christ enters into the sorrow of the godly remnant where He had been, but in the confession, and inspiring the confession of their sin, taking guile out of their heart, and as One who could do it, as He who had come into all its bitterness, and had borne all its weight as known in the light of God.
So in Psalm 6 it is not the iniquities, but the grief and prostration of spirit, and that in the presence of these same enemies, which bring the weeping souls of the remnant to the gates of death. But this, according to the perfectness of the Spirit of Christ (in man in effect and previously to reading such a word, often mixed with unbelief and the sorrows likely to produce disheartening and turning to the world); here encouraged by the comforting testimony for their hearts in that day—“Jehovah hath heard.” But it is here because of “all mine enemies,” but the hand of God looked to in it—not chastening on man at a distance, but a cry acceptable, and heard because the Spirit of Christ is in it, and heard in the judgment of their enemies: which note.
In Psalm 88 we get deeper into this scene of trial, and as we know that Christ was heard in that He feared, that His soul dreaded death and the cup that His Father gave Him to drink, though perfect in obedience, so He expresses this all here. His perfectness before God was seen: that no sin, no evil, no distance had clouded His sense of how terrible separation from God and His wrath was in that which His soul here expresses. He looks at it as under it. He had seen and apprehended it, we learn here, from His youth up. But it was His nearness to God,30 and sense of what He was, made Him feel what the sorrow and horror was of the contrary. He was Jehovah God of His salvation; His loving-kindness as to man (hence not declared in the grave as to man in the flesh) well known; that is, the relation of God with His people, the godly ones before Him according to His faithful love to Israel; but, on the other hand, the full depth of judgment, sorrow, and wrath, entirely entered into, often anticipated, and now measured and known; for He could measure and know it, and He alone, for He has passed under it.
“Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Thou hast put away mine acquaintance from me; I am shut up, I cannot come forth. Thy fierce wrath goeth over me, thy terrors have cut me off.” This is no escape nor extrication from a state of distance from God. He is afflicted with all God’s waves: He is in the lowest pit. His soul is cast off. God’s fierce wrath went over Him. His terrors cut Him off. That Christ anticipated this we know. That He anticipated it in all its extent during the time of His service in the intelligent power of the Spirit (doubtless His righteous soul entered into it before) we know. But with what result? To escape it partially, or extricate Himself from it? No. Or was it merely after His service was closed, that He entered into another position? No. Jesus, knowing all things that should come upon Him, steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. That the hour of the power of Satan’s darkness, and the hour of the dreadful wrath of God, were different from all before, from the holy anticipation of it, and from that service during which Satan departed from Him for a season (having first tried to seduce, and now, having been unable to succeed, oppressing Him with terror, sorrow, and death)—all this is quite true.
But the thing weighed by the Spirit of Christ in this psalm is the terror, and the wrath, and the waves in their full extent. Till it was accomplished, He had a baptism to be baptized with; and He was straitened till it was accomplished. That Christ’s feelings varied, though the foundation of them all was the same, is undoubted. He could speak of our partaking of His joy, and of the fellowship of His sufferings. He had meat to eat in accomplishing His Father’s work, and a cup to drink so bitter, that it, and it alone, He prayed might pass. But it did not, and He had to drink it, but at His Father’s hand. He might be in the joy of communion with Him who heard Him always, in the service of love to men, or grieved, infinitely grieved, with the unbelief and contradiction of sinners; in glory, speaking of His decease with the saints in glory, or suffering it under the wrath of God. He could be led in the Spirit to be tempted, and return in the power of the Spirit to cast out demons, having bound the strong man; and Satan return as the prince of this world, to whom Jesus would not be subject, nor own: and He was perfect in each position, I mean perfect in His feelings relative to that position. So He might enter prophetically into the sorrows of others, and by His prophetic spirit so record His own that the word became His word when He was in them. But in all this His perfectness never changed in His own relation to God, nor His nearness to Him as man, as Son of God down here born of the Virgin.
The time of atonement had another character, and this we know He anticipated in spirit. And here I would remark, that, instead of escaping wrath to which He was relatively obnoxious, whether by position or appointment, we do find Him, when that one cup had to be drunk, seeing that it should pass, though perfectly submissive; but it could not. For nothing else was like that.
For before, the reproaches of them that reproached God fell on Him, and, though He suffered in every way, in the midst of it all He looked constantly to God. Every groan in spirit, as in the case of Lazarus, was heard, and reproaches because of unbelief turned in the same hour into thanking God in spirit, who hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them to babes. The sense of unbelief, even in His disciples, which disabled them from using the power of His name against the demon that tormented the world, which made Him feel, on descending from the momentary vision or rather realization of glory, that that generation was not long to be supported, nor He to be with them, yet turns without an interval into the exercise of love and display of power against the enemy, while He was with His poor unhappy people—with unhappy man.
But now, when this cup (not reproaches for God, not contradiction from sinners, but wrath from God because man was at a distance, was proved to be so, proved incapable of being won back by anything such as He was) was to be drunk—now, He prays it may pass—that from this hour He may be saved. But no, it could not be. We well know why: our hearts know it well. That cup could not pass; not that one. It was drunk for us; and He drinks it in love to His Father, in obedience, and in accomplishment of His blessed and precious love to us. And our souls adore Him, and Him who gave Him for us—Him who came to do the will which sanctifies and perfects us by one offering. Associated with us in wrath, from which He extricates Himself, and escapes, in part, by prayer, faith, and obedience!—does not the soul revolt from such a thought, and leave it with disgust to the friends or dupes of Satan to entertain or adopt it? But let us turn rather to the Lord.
In this Psalm (88) the Lord enters prophetically into the depth of this; not as in it historically, but as reflecting on it, if I may so speak, so that, in verse 16, He can speak of it as entering into it in spirit at all times. This He has done, no doubt, for every saved soul; but, I do not doubt, also in contemplation of the condition of Israel ruined under the law, the curse of which He fully bore. For, note, it is not a question if Christ enters into this place—He did fully. It is His being associated in it as coming into the world, and escaping part, and extricating Himself from it, and applying His sense of the terror of it to this, that is so evil. Verses 17 and 18 refer, I do not doubt, to that, which however is a minor part here—His enemies and the removal of His friends. But here it is from the hand of God. In Psalm 38, when looked at in another point of view, they stand aloof. It is the misery there—here the wrath.
In Psalm 35 we have Christ again in spirit entering into the sorrow of the remnant, and claiming judgment on the enemy; but giving the remnant credit, as it were, for being identified with Him and His cause, as the righteous one in spirit, and praying that they may shout for joy that favour His righteous cause.
In Psalm 34. He takes up the song of praise for the faithfulness of the Lord. Not a bone of Him had been broken. His soul makes its boast in the Lord—the humble should hear thereof and be glad: “heard in that he feared;” and, whatever the glory that resulted, as seen in Psalm 21, and yet better known by us, He applies it to the comfort of the tried remnant in that day, so that they may bless the Lord at all times, even in trial and seeming desertion. They were to magnify the Lord with Him, and exalt His name together. He sought the Lord, and He heard Him and delivered Him from all His fears. They looked unto Him and were lightened. So they can say, “This poor man cried, and Jehovah heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.” In verses 21 and 22 the grand conclusion, as to the wicked and the remnant, is drawn.
I have, I think, gone through a sufficient number of psalms,31 and those the most difficult, I believe, to give the principle on which I judge we can understand them and their application, so as to facilitate the interpretation and application of the others, and, in having the true sense, the avoiding of a false one. If the Lord permit, and give leisure, most joyous and profitable would it be, not only to search into them all, but I would trust for others, to unfold the application of them; but this, as deeply interesting, would require a long time and much application. I have only rapidly given great principles, but most precious, as rendering us more familiar with the spirit and mind of the Lord Jesus, which is everything to us, and makes the Psalms so precious. Exhortations, prophetic history, psalms of praise, all are found flowing from His Spirit, easier in general of application, specially if we have the latter days in view. I will, before closing, just notice Psalm 91 as one used by the enemy we know to Christ, and affording a key to the position of Christ before Jehovah in Israel.
The first verse gives the two names of the trust and blessing of Abraham, looked at as heir of the world. As the Almighty He was made known to Abraham we know (see Ex. 6:3). The Most High was His name of blessing by Melchisedek. He who knew the secret place of this last should enjoy the protection of that other first-mentioned name. Messiah (ver. 2) takes the name of the God of Israel, as the secret place of the Most High, Jehovah—by which name He was known to them. (Ex. 6:3.) Down to verse 8 the consequence is stated. He is, indeed, the Almighty Protector who should shield Him. As thus in Israel, only with His eyes should He see the reward of the wicked. This was His relationship, and the ground of it with the God of Israel. In verse 9 the Spirit in the remnant of Israel takes up the song: “Because thou hast made Jehovah which is my refuge, even the Most High,” whose secret place He had thus known, His dwellings He should give His angels charge over Him; He should be borne up and trample on the power of evil. In verse 14, the Fear of Israel, Jehovah, speaks: “Because he has set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.” The exaltation of the name of Jehovah, the God of Israel, is constant in the Psalms; and the refusal to look to any but Him, or accept deliverance, or honour, or exaltation but from His hands, and consequently in His time; and this characterizes the faithful remnant in the latter day, though smitten into the place of dragons. But it brings trial and sorrow on them; and into this Christ, therefore, entered in spirit, in its fullest and highest sense—it was His place. And, indeed, when we seek relief elsewhere, we must act on principles below His, for He acts on His own in His own blessed and perfect time; and hence suffering. Satan sought to make the Lord count on this out of the way of obedience, and as putting it to the test to exalt Himself, which would have been really unbelief, saying, “Is the Lord indeed among us?”
This psalm, then, gives the key to the relationship of Christ with Jehovah in Israel. But He awaited therein His perfect pleasure, and suffered for and in spirit with His people, and, blessed be God, not for that nation only.
The division into five books is generally known, and will give a diversity of bearings in this relation, prophetic relation, of the Lord in spirit with the remnant; but I cannot enter into this now, as it would carry me too far, and leads properly to or indeed is rather founded on, the interpretation of the whole book. Peace be with my reader. May he be enabled, indeed, to enter into the spirit of the Psalms as of the Spirit of Christ, and enjoy it as much as my poor and feeble soul has done. And, if only so, he will know Christ the better, and not lose much pains if he bestow it on them. Though, indeed, it is not pains, but the gift of teaching of the Spirit of God, that makes us know Christ, and understand the Psalms as speaking of Him, as of every other good gift.
We may do well to consider what the New Testament does say as to the sufferings of Christ. Mr. Newton’s theory is based on the principle that this kind of sufferings of Christ is not found in the history of the New Testament, but only in the Psalms. But surely a doctrine of such immense importance as the subjection of Christ to the wrath of God previous to the cross, and not vicariously, whether up to John’s baptism, as he sometimes states it, or up to His death, as at others—from which He was delivered by His obedience, or by John’s baptism, or not at all, till He had endured it all (for all these are taught too in the tract, as well as the direct opposite to the last)—a doctrine, I say, of such importance as Christ’s being under wrath would be found in the epistles, in the way of comment on the history. But not a word of any such doctrine is found, but quite the contrary. Sufferings in righteousness from the contradiction of sinners are indeed spoken of, and bearing sin also, but so as to exclude the thought of any other kind. Thus, 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God [not find His way to a point where God could meet Him], being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” So, chapter 2:21, “For even hereunto were ye called [that is, to do well, suffer for it, and take it patiently]: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye are healed. For ye were as sheep going astray, but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”
Now here we have the whole course of Christ’s sufferings for righteousness’ sake and for sins in contrast moreover with the wandering32 condition of Israel. So, 1 Peter 4:1, “For as much then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin.” Now here we have Christ’s sufferings in the flesh given as a whole when they were not vicarious sin-bearing. And we are called upon to arm ourselves with the same mind, not most certainly with inflictions from God in wrath. So, verses 12-19, of the fierytrial: —“Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial… but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings … If any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God… Wherefore, let them that suffer according to the will of God.…”
Here, then, we have sufferings by appointment, and that by judgment on the house of God; and true saints suffering as Christians, partaking of Christ’s sufferings in it: in which they were to rejoice; so that the nature of such sufferings, as known in and by Christ, is entirely contrary to what the writer has taught concerning them. It was no strange thing, but a thing understood and known; and the very contrary of the writer’s doctrine on the points he treats of. For such sufferings by appointment, and inflictions of God in judgment on the house of God, we, according to him, have nothing to say to. Christ extricated Himself out of, and preserved Himself from, them; whereas I find we are to rejoice in partaking of them with Him.
So in Hebrews 12, after many partial though blessed exhibitions of faith held up to lead us to run with patience, it is added, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of faith,” One who has begun and finished the whole course of faith, in which faith is exercised; so that we have here everything in which He trod the path—ajrchgoVn kaiV teleiwthVn—who has led in and completed the course: “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners33 against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” And then taking, as to us, another view of it. “And ye have forgotten the exhortation, which speaketh unto you as unto children. My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” Now that Christ had no need to be rebuked is certain; but so far as this can have any appHcation to Him, as a trial and exercise of perfectness in circumstances, it is clear it relates to His enduring from the wickedness of men, as we in following Him have to endure—giving another character to those sufferings of Christ than that which the writer gives— namely, that one in which the godly man has to follow Him in the path of faith.
So, in the doing of God’s will, which was His whole career in life and death, in Hebrews 10, the apostle sees no such thing as inflictions of God on Him as associated with those who had not done it. It was to do God’s will that His body was prepared: but there is no connection with sins in relation to God in wrath but the offering of His body once.
Indeed, Hebrews 7:27, I doubt not, contradicts directly the statement of the writer; for though, as High Priest, Christ exercises His office as made higher than the heavens, yet His qualifications must have existed previously in order to be m that place: holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, made higher than the heavens. He is made (genovmeno") higher than the heavens, but He was constantly separate from sinners, distinguished in position from them.
And Christ perfect through sufferings, as has been observed by others, is connected with His tasting death. So, if He partook, and in as far as He partook of the children’s, not the wicked’s, place—flesh and blood, it was that through death, &c; and it behoved Him in all things to be made like unto His brethren. But how so? “For in that he hath suffered being tempted, he might be able to succour them that are tempted,” “for he was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” It was not extricating Himself out of something He was in, because sinners were there; but entering into all, that the children were in, of trial and difficulty, that He might succour them there. So in the “strong crying and tears in the days of his flesh,” giving thus the whole constant character to them as such, it was “unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.” It was not inflictions on the position of the ungodly. It was piety met God’s eye in His cry and reached His ear; and thus, “though he were a son, he learned obedience by the things which he suffered, and being made perfect,” &c. There is no thought of another kind and class of sufferings; yet the sufferings are fully spoken of and considered, and so as to leave no room for, but entirely exclude, the blasphemous doctrine of the author as to the position Christ was in.
Indeed, other considerations shew the antiscriptural nature of his doctrine on this all-vital point. For Christ was to get out of this place of being exposed to what was due to man’s sin and Israel’s disobedience. If He was then answerable for it, how without blood? “For without shedding of blood, there is no remission.” Hence, when Christ did put Himself there, He did shed His blood, and was brought again from the dead according to the power of the blood of the everlasting covenant. But how, when He was under it the first time, as born into it? Was His obedient life sufficient to put away the consequences of sin? That He was never under it, by reason of that life, a Christian understands; but that He redeemed Himself out of it by good living is an unscriptural principle.
Further, remark, the position He was in was for sins of others; so that, if this redemption by living righteously under the law was accomplished and effectual, it was accomplished effectually for them, for it was the position they were in He took. But, indeed, it is hard to say it was; for, according to the author, though He extricated Himself from this position by His own righteousness, He preserved Himself only from a part of it. For some eighteen years He had to bear as much as God thought proper during that period. Of what avail, then, was His perfect obedience to bring Him out of it, since He suffered under it a good while? or, why so suffer, if He was perfect enough in obedience to merit getting out of it? For it was not for others in effect then, for He alone got out; nor for us, for we were never in it, says the author. Or why was John’s baptism for the remission of sins so blessed to Him to get out of this position, if He was getting out of it solely by His own righteousness? It is no answer to say that He chose to abide there with Israel, for it was a different way of getting out; nor, if He was relieving Himself by remission, was He fulfilling righteousness. He falsified His place, for, then, to work effectually for Israel, He ought to have separated Himself from them, as now able to take up their cause; nor can it be said that He chose then to enter into their condition, because getting remission of sins by repentance, as joy and deliverance to His own soul and new ground, was not associating Himself with their sins.
He got from Sinai to Zion then; but how was that taking Sinai-place with them? And it is all confusion moreover to say, that He did what Israel would not, because, without any previous title of righteousness at all, multitudes were baptized by John, confessing their sins; nor was John’s ministry to Israel such as the writer presents it, namely, the new economy of grace. It was the representing of an axe at the root of the tree, and Messiah with the fan in His hand about to cleanse His floor, and judge, and execute vengeance against all that did not bear good fruit, gather up the grain into His garner, and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire; so that it was not, in any real or true sense in its address to Israel, the introduction into the earth of the new economy of grace. John did, indeed, prophetically point out something more; but this he identified entirely with the death of Christ and the baptizing with the Holy Ghost. “Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world.” “He it is that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.” And, rising above the circumstances in which Jesus placed Himself, he bears testimony to Him, “and I saw and bare record that this is the Son of God.” “I knew him not.”
Again, shewing the entire misapplication in principle of the Psalms, the doctrine of the writer is, that Christ wrought His way by righteousness up to the point of meeting God, learned obedience, proved His perfectness, &c. It was not a need of, nor had He a claim on, mercy. He must make His way by obedience and righteousness; He extricated Himself by His own perfect obedience. Now what is remarkable in the Psalms is, that they constantly appeal to the mercy of God, putting it ever before His righteousness, as it will be with Israel in that day. It is this that distinguishes them: “God prepares their heart;” for they must come in under mercy, according to Romans n. And this is the case in Psalm 6 itself, on which the writer comments, and where it is said, “Save me for thy mercies’ sake.” It sets aside his whole principle of application to Christ.
I will add also a few words on Jeremiah, which is also used to puzzle the minds of the saints. Recalling the fact, that the question is not, if Christ in spirit entered into the sorrows of Israel: I believe, that, as being always near to God, He could. The doctrine taught is that He was under wrath in a way we never can be, and did not suffer all its consequences but saved Himself from it.
Jeremiah then, in spirit, by the Spirit of Christ, entered in his measure into the sorrows of Israel: not as subject to the wrath, though as a man he was of course; but as having the mind of Christ’s love, and His word about them.
“I have set thee,” says God, “for a tower and a fortress among my people, that thou mayest know and try their way.” (Jer. 6:27.) God had sanctified him for this (chap. 1:5), and the nation would fight against him. (Ver. 19.) This is not sufferings as associated with them, but as separated from them, though divinely interested in them, that is, as a prophet. (Chap. 15:15.) We have his trials under it; and what was the ground it went upon? Just so far as he was there in the Spirit of Christ. “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart. … I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation.” Now, here he is filled with it. How? Is it by being naturally exposed and obnoxious to it, and extricating himself out of it? No, but as sanctified to it by God, and called by His name; it is as partaking of the word of God that he suffered, and suffered as far as that was the case, as Christ did. And this was the identification with Israel which made him suffer, according to the grace of God, and in spiritual understanding according to His mind; his heart and spirit being associated with them, according to God’s love to them, and feeling their sorrow and their sins; the grace of God identifying itself in the prophet with the people as loved of Him—suffering in their sorrows, and calling for judgment on them who wilfully opposed the testimony, despised the sorrower, and helped on the evil.
But this was the opposite of suffering the inflictions of God’s wrath from him as due to the people. Jeremiah 10:24, 25, shews plainly the impossibility of such an idea of wrath, so due and escaped from: “O Lord, correct me, but with judgment not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.” Now, no such desire could be expressed as to inflictions of God’s wrath, to which a man was naturally obnoxious. It looks for correction, but not in anger. No one could look for nor acquiesce in this way in the infliction of the curse of the law. And as to the Lamentations: that Jeremiah and the Lord Jesus entered into the sorrow of the actual wrath and evil that had fallen on Israel, who doubts? But this was not exposure to it from which the prophet preserved himself. His heart entered into it all, as sorrowing over what was loved of God but guilty, and with which he identified himself, being in such a case. Here also the enmity of ungodly Jews is not lost sight of. (Lam. 3:14.) Besides, here also mercy is what is referred to and expected, not wrath due and avoided in a measure, but suffering felt from wrath executed, and looking to mercy out of it, because of God’s goodness and His love to the people. He had seen affliction. (See verses, 22, 31, 32, 48, 52 to the end.)
I shall add some of the doctrines taught which may put brethren on their guard against the whole system. It was taught in London that Christ had no human feelings—that the weakness of man was an evil as well as sin, and hence it was not in Christ.
This was taken notice of, and the cases of Christ’s loving the young man, and His reference to His mother on the cross, were referred to, as proving that He had those feelings: but the first was declared to be the love of election; and the second the divine nature suggesting what was right; but neither human feeling. The fire consuming the wood upon the altar was expounded, as shewing that God did consume nature, not sin merely as a thing hateful to Himself.
It was assiduously taught in more than one place, that Abel’s sacrifice was more abundant than Cain’s, and that this, not its nature, was its superiority,34 the word nXeiova being relied on to prove it. Lecturing on Leviticus 1, it was taught that the preciousness of it was, that if our devotedness, though acceptable, was inadequate in quantity, the deficiency was made up by Christ’s; and the peculiar preciousness of this was, that it was made up for by a thing of the like kind.
I feel bound to add, that the doctrine of the tract involves really, though more obscurely, the person of the Lord; because, it is stated that, as the Eternal Son, He had an unchangeable relation of favour; but, that as man, not vicariously, He was obnoxious to wrath. Now this divides the person entirely. That He took it vicariously, though in perfect favour Himself, is true; but that He was in favour as Eternal Son, and under wrath Himself as man, not vicariously, subverts the doctrine of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is near as Eternal Son, and as man at a distance, not as a substitute.
The horrible and frightful doctrine of this tract then is—it makes one shudder to state it—that Christ was exposed to damnation Himself from the position He had taken; being that of man’s distance35 from God, and the curse of a broken law, according to Galatians 3:10—that He extricated Himself from it, and again entered into it for others. The same doctrine is, not only in the notes published by Mr. Harris, but in the paper of the author in the second edition of the “Christian Witness.” There Christ is said to be not guilty of actual transgression, nor having original sin, but to be under the third part of the consequences of Adam’s guilt, the imputed or reckoned penalty of it as being a man. Nor can there be any doubt what the doctrine is; for it is stated36 that He chose to abide what He had delivered Himself from, by the law being strong for Him; and so the iniquity was laid upon Him, and the wrath came. So that what He was liable to, was the wrath judicially due to sin, for that is what He did abide. Many of the most inconceivable things are in MS. notes, which are in the hands of others, but those I leave to the persons who possess them. But I do say, Woe be to those who pervert the truth and ruin souls by it; or, who are not faithful in their denunciation of it where it is really before them; or, who seek to palliate it so as to enfeeble the security of simple souls against it. It is not for me here to discuss what are the motives, nor what system of doctrine has led to it— of this I may feel pretty well assured. But the business of a faithful man is with the evil itself as the work of Satan, and to warn in the most solemn manner, every saint against those who teach it.
I repeat here, to facilitate the use of the Psalms, three things found in them:—1, The Spirit of Christ entering into the sorrows of the godly remnant of Israel, especially in the latter day; 2, His own grief and sorrow as in life down here (and oh! what sorrow, reproach, desertion, and treachery, for his tender and perfect spirit!), as well as going through this very place of the remnant in principle; 3, The atonement and sin-bearing, which enabled Him to use effectually for others His nearness to God, so that He could bring their sorrows as occasions of mercy, and give to them right feelings in the sense of sins as their drawing near to God. Of course, this develops itself largely in many ways as to suffering and feeling, while other psalms largely introduce the consequences in blessing—Christ’s coming in glory, who He is, and the circumstances and thoughts in the godly among the people connected with these things.
Since the publication of this, an answer to Mr. Harris’s remarks on the notes has been published; but, while labouring to get rid of the effect, it fully confirms the blasphemous doctrine taught. I have examined it elsewhere. It has been doubted whether one passage in this tract made sufficiently clear that the atonement was the ground on which alone blessing could come on the remnant. I judged it clear enough, but, if there be any obscurity, I add this to take it away.
10 “He stood in a new position;” second tract (p. 23). “His (p. 22) baptism may be considered the great turning point in the life of the Lord Jesus… His life of service here… It was the introduction into the earth of the new economy of grace… If the soul of Jesus had realized, experimentally realized, and that too under the hand of God, and to a degree that we little think, the fearful condition of Israel; if He had seen it, as it were, girt about by fiery indignation, and threatened by the full devouring power of that mountain of fire, blackness and tempest, under which they had been abiding.” What kind of wrath was this—chastisement or vengeance? that which was supplanted by the new economy of grace at Jesus’ baptism—”how joyful to His soul the sense of the introduction of new things!”
11 The principles of the two tracts are precisely the same. I have given the statements of the first tract, as shewing that the whole is a well-ordered system; but this quotation is from the second. The second says also, “the felt weakness of His humanity.” I add here this monstrous statement as to Gethsemane from the second: “The danger that had approached so nigh the sleeping disciples, and which Jesus alone had appreciated, was driven away. A gulf unseen by them had yawned around them—but it was gone.” What was gone? “His conflict just passed had given them deliverance from the danger that threatened them in Gethsemane… It [Jesus’ will] had not wavered. And, therefore, was not Jesus justified in speaking [saying, Sleep on now] as if the end had been perfectly and fully reached? … If therefore, the danger that had just threatened was removed, and if that which He was then doing was to give them sure, unchangeable, peaceful security from all the power of Satan and of sin for evermore, why should He not regard them as those who had passed through their last dangerous storm, and who had virtually reached the haven. ‘Sleep on and take your rest.’” What has their last dangerous storm to do with atonement? They could aid here, it is said? “‘Sleep on and take your rest.’ They are words not of upbraiding, but of comfort, or if anything like sorrow mingles with them, it is in the thought that the occasion was lost of aiding in a conflict such as that in Gethsemane had been… They might have prayed with Him in Gethsemane.” So His seeking for sympathy and prayer from His disciples (tract 1, p. 18). He never sought their prayers. “Tarry ye here while I go and pray yonder.” He certainly never sought their aid in a conflict where He found “the terrors of the Almighty set in array against him.”
12 The statements of the writer are inconsistent and absurd enough. It was by the appointment of God and measured by that, and a positive infliction of God; yet, being from His birth obnoxious to it, He escaped a great deal by faith, prayer, and obedience. But it was His privilege and glory to have a great deal, and be chief in it. We, however, are never under Israel’s curse, which this was. He extricated Himself out of this privilege by His perfect obedience, elsewhere by accepting John’s message by a wise heart; and though measured by the appointment of God, and a dealing of the hand of God, yet there were “continual interferences of God in His behalf” to deliver Him from them. How truly those who depart from the faith, and exercise their own mind in order to have a great appearance of knowledge, know not what they say, nor whereof they affirm! Nothing more strikes me, than the total absence of all divine teaching in all these statements. That total absence in the writer’s teaching I have been fully convinced of now for several years.
13 The reckless upsetting of truth as to the person of Christ by other teachers of this school, may be guessed by a lecture on John 15, where it was taught, that there were things in Christ which needed to be removed, and that, therefore, the Father used the pruning knife as to Him. Happily the hearers were guarded enough of God for it to strike and alarm them: the lecturer was spoken to, and it was of course explained away. The way in which the doctrine of the tracts used to be taught at Plymouth (for it is nothing new), was that Christ was a constituted sinner subject to death, and worked His way up to life. But not being in writing, it was hard, as regards others, to verify it. See Introduction, as to the “Christian Witness,” however.
14 The reader may see page 8 of the “Remarks,” pages 12, 16, &c.
15 This, after all, is confusion, for, as a nation, the iniquity of Israel is declared to be purged by the chastisement which she has received at the hand of the Lord, “double for all her sins.”
16 So page 23: “The difference between Sinai the mountain of blackness, and Zion the mountain of light, and grace and blessing, the place of the Church of the firstborn, might be used to illustrate the difference between the two dispensational positions held by the Lord Jesus in the midst of Israel previous to His baptism, and that which He dispensationally and ministerially took when anointed by the Holy Ghost.” That Christ was born under the law, and, being sinless under it, was not obnoxious to wrath, and that He took its curse on the tree: that scripture teaches. But that He was obnoxious to wrath under it by identification with Israel, and the relation He was in to God thereby, is unknown to scripture. That relation is vengeance, certain inevitable vengeance: as many as are of its works, as mere men, are under its curse, which is vengeance. Christ, exempt from that, took it on Himself. That there were curses written in the law which were come on the people, as recited by Daniel, is unquestionable, and that Christ’s soul entered into the sorrow of them. But that is not the question 5 and, to reduce the curse of a broken law to the level of this, and cite Galatians 3:10 as referring to it, only shews that the bearing of the apostle’s teaching, the light which the rent veil has cast on the true extent of the curse of the broken law, does not enter at all into the mind of the writer. What is Sinai’s mountain of blackness in the eye of the apostle, if it be not condemnation and death, even in spite of the grace in government introduced by the mediation of Moses? For it is the law after, and in spite of this, which is spoken of in 2 Corinthians 3. As if to heap inconsistency on inconsistency, though it is useless to point all of them out, especially when far more solemn things are in question, the place of the Church of the firstborn, used, in page 23, to illustrate Christ’s place after John’s baptism and the anointing which followed, is declared, in page 31, not to have been His place during His ministry. “Man was yet in his distance from God. There was as yet no glorified humanity on the right hand of the throne of God,” &c. “The mighty power of God [in resurrection] not yet put forth j the Spirit, not yet become the unfolder and seal [of things to come], &c.; and Jesus, as man, was associated with this place of distance, in which man in the flesh was, and He had, through obedience, to find His way,” &c. And note here, this goes on to the cross. Where, then, is all the grand difference on John’s baptism, illustrated by a change from Sinai to the place of the Church of the firstborn? Is it not pitiable to see souls bewildered and misled by such things, under the pretence of deep knowledge? In page 16 of the first tract it is said, that Christ’s place, during the time of His ministry is granted to us, and that we never come under the curse of Israel, which was His first place; in page 31 of the second—during His ministry on earth, He came into a place dispensationally lower than that into which He has now brought His Church. If we are not in the first condition, and not in the second, it is hard to tell how Christ is an example. If it be said: As man (here, page 31, referred to the place He took in ministry after all), He is associated with man at a distance from God, which is said not to be our place at all. On the last paragraph I have referred to, I shall comment on its own account. But how, in this confusion, is Christ lost to those under this instruction? Thus at sea, with Jesus not really known, they are a prey to any thoughts imposed upon them. But my object is not to shew the confusion, and leave souls in it to fly in despair they know not where, but to shew the very distinct, positive, deadly error insisted on in the midst of this confusion into which the soul, lost in it, falls, having no true knowledge of Christ to keep them.
17 See Remarks, pages 14, 22, and many other passages. This sixth Psalm, as I shall shew, entirely contradicts the writer’s theory, for its appeal is “for thy mercies’ sake.”
18 Not extricated Himself out of it.
19 The same thing is found in Psalm 26 very distinctly.
20 Not as the only reason, but He so ordered it.
21 Page 12, Second Tract.
22 Page 31, Second Tract.
23 Very recently, a brother under the teaching of this system stated that Christ had to be judged, after His death, like another man. This alarmed a brother who heard it, and he spoke of it. The circumstance struck me much, because I had myself heard Mr. N. teaching this from Hebrews 9 at least five years ago, or more, at a private teaching meeting at which I happened, as just arrived at the house where it was held, to be present. I spoke about it, on going out, to Mr. Harris, who was present, with astonishment,* but said nothing about it at the meeting, as Mr. Newton never could bear anything to be called in question. I supposed it was some rash view or statement; and as I did not (though unsatisfied by his teaching, and already miserable at the state of things) suspect any design or system of doctrine, I went no farther than to speak of it anxiously to Mr. Harris. There is daily more of this extraordinary teaching coming out since attention has been drawn to it, but I advert no farther to the particulars here. The ground of this was, that, as it was appointed unto men once to die and after that the judgment, Christ being a man, these things were for Him too. The same ground was stated in the recent case referred to.
24 It is in this the sufferings and the atonement meet] He suffered onwards up to death, then He also made atonement. Some of the remnant may suffer on to death; but then, like Christ, they will obtain a better resurrection.
25 Hence a claim in the psalm founded on mercy, entirely incompatible with the writer’s doctrine as to Christ.
26 I believe Jesus’s soul passed into peace, that He might give up His own Spirit—which no one took from Him—to God His Father. He delivered it up, as it is stated in John 19:30; He commended it into His Father’s hands. (Luke 23:46.) His soul, while living, had gone morally through all the full depth of the—to us—unfathomable suffering of the atoning work, and gave up His spirit Himself to God His Father. But it is evident that the full answer to His prayer was in resurrection. “He asked life of thee, and thou gavest him long life, even length of days for ever and ever. His glory is great in thy salvation.” Full glory, indeed, at God’s right hand, and the redemption of the Church; and, indeed, power over all flesh, and headship over all things, are the only full answer to His work as to result; but we speak here of life. So Psalm 16— “Thou wilt shew me the path of life; in thy presence is fulness of joy, and at thy right hand pleasures for evermore.”
27 Daniel, as among the Gentiles, or any answer of God to him, never goes beyond the point of closure, and introduction of the full blessing: never enters on it prophetically; for Israel was among the Gentiles, and he represents the remnant amongst them, but predicts the close of this and the bringing-in all prophesied of, sealing it, but there ends.
28 So see Psalm 28:2.
29 Historically there may be imperfection in the remnant, as there is in us, but these feelings are expressed in the word, according to the perfectness of the spirit which inspires them, and this is the blessedness of having Christ’s Spirit entering into them, furnishing withal the expression to them when He does inspire them, and for His sake accepted of God, though mixed and imperfect in us, according to that perfectness.
30 His soul entering in a perfectly righteous feeling into what the condemnation of the, law was, and its curse, and the terror of God’s majesty in respect of it, is entirely different from, and indeed the very opposite to, God’s inflictions of wrath on Him, according to the position of distance in which He was from God. Piety and suffering vengeance are surely distinct things; but deep as these sufferings of Christ were, they were the depth of piety: “He was heard in that he feared.”
31 The reader may turn to Psalm 70, where he will again find this desire that the godly in Israel may not be stumbled at Jesus’s sufferings, desiring that they may ever have praise in their mouth; and to Psalm 71, where we evidently find circumstances in the condition of the writer alluded to, “old and grey-headed:” but still used by the Spirit of Christ prophetically; not to speak of Christ merely personally, but of His taking up the condition of the remnant in Israel, feeble in the old age, as it were, of their history, in the presence of their enemies, whose hope God had always been, marking the faith of the believing remnant, and who should shew His righteousness to that generation—His power to every one that was to come. And so it shall be according to the spirit and title of Christ in that day.
32 It is well to remark, that the word in Psalm 119, “I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost,” which Mr. N. applies to Christ, is the same that is used in Isaiah 53:6—“All we, like sheep, have gone astray;” and in a moral way it is ever used of moral error—indeed, is always used in the sense of evil, either moral, or, in a few passages, of misery. This application of Psalm 119 to Christ by Mr. N., well known to all who have heard him, and confirmed in his own tract on the sufferings of Christ (note to p. 16), is to be remarked by Christians. It is a part of that utter and revolting disrespect for Christ which characterizes all their teaching; because it is not only verse 176 in which going astray is attributed to him who speaks, but in verse 67:—“Before I was afflicted, I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.” What does “go astray” mean here? And here I shall mention some circumstances connected with this word. In the notes which are so abundantly circulated, one, amongst others, was furnished to persons in communion where all this evil is not received, in which sins of ignorance were directly in terms attributed to Christ; and here I shall give a brief statement of what these notes are. They are not the communication of casual notes taken by anybody, for which it would be hard to render any one responsible: they are taken by a clever and assiduous disciple of Mr. N.’s, a very good and correct note-taker, copied out fair, and given to other disciples to be copied and circulated; some being paid for doing it. Now I will not here attribute to Mr. N. the ascribing sins of ignorance to Christ in the lecture referred to—I shall just now say why. But this is certain, that his most efficient and ardent disciples so take it, copy it, read, recommend, and circulate it. These notes having been read by another whose faith was not yet ruined by this teaching—this person was naturally shocked at the blasphemous doctrines contained in them, and the thing became known and spoken of at Plymouth; and a friend of Mr. N.’s, one, though his disciple, too much taught of old in the faith to bear this, got the notes and had them interlined so as that the words “sins of ignorance “should be disconnected from Christ, and taken as a comparison of what in others was like what was spoken of as being in Him. But how must feeling about Christ have been lost and destroyed by the teaching, that the disciples of Mr. N. should not have been at once stopped by finding sins attributed to Christ! Nor is it surprising; for, though I do not pretend to attribute to Mr. N. what some of his friends say cannot be, though others have diligently circulated as his, it is quite certain that Mr. N.’s teaching does so. Psalm 119 he applies directly to Christ. See page 15 of his tract, where, verse 9, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way,” is applied to Him; and the psalm in general, note to page 16.
But, as to attributing sins of ignorance to Christ, which Mr. N.’s poor deluded victims are circulating as such blessed teaching, this is certain, that there is nothing more in it than what Mr. N. does teach. He attributes Psalm 119 to Christ; explaining away, indeed, one of the passages which says, that he who speaks went astray. But verse 67, which also states that before he was afflicted he went astray, employs the word which is used all through Leviticus and Numbers for sinning or sins through ignorance.
And I beg also the reader to remark the comparison he makes to justify the application of this and other psalms to Christ. “If I were to send a faithful servant heavily burdened to scale the sides of an icy mountain, and were to see his foot slide, should I marvel? But what, if I should see him stumble or slip in some easy path, because of carelessness, &c. how different my judgment of his conduct!” Did the faithful servant heavily burdened (and whom that represents I can leave the reader to judge of)—did His foot slide on the icy mountain? What does Mr. N. mean about Christ in saying this? He would not marvel at His foot sliding! Is indignation to be restrained at such language? Woe be to the man that hears, encourages, or sanctions such blasphemies.
Either Mr. N. is deliberately seeking to degrade and dishonour Christ, or he is a blind instrument of Satan in doing it.
33 We have seen this principle all through in examining the Psalms.
34 This piece of false criticism I do not comment on; but I do warn the reader, who may be imposed on by an appearance of exact learning, that the Greek criticisms of the writer are oftener wrong than right. This is the case with some found in the papers which have given occasion to these remarks.
35 See page 31, of “Remarks,” by Mr. N.
36 Only, as we have seen it said, there to be vicariously incurred; but this does not affect, unless in the way of confirmation, the evidence of what He had “incurred.”