On The Subject Of His Note On The Errors Of Mr. B. W. Newton.89
I have just read the note inserted in “Irvingism and Mormonism,” page 120:—
“Mr. Benjamin Newton combated the Irvingite error in England; but in combating, he was unhappy enough perhaps to yield to it a little in expression more than fundamentally. He owned it afterwards and even bumbled himself for it in a paper which he entitled: ‘A Statement and Acknowledgment respecting certain doctrinal errors.’ In this document, dated November 26, 1847, he declares that what drew him into the error was a false view of Romans 5, but that a deeper study of this passage was afterwards used to rectify his misapprehension. He understood and taught from that time that, Jesus not being in a federal relation (in a relation of alliance) with Adam, Romans 5: was not at all applicable to Him; that the sin of our first father could not be imputed to Him, and that if the Lord participated in certain consequences of the fall, such as hunger, thirst, pain, death, it is that, having voluntarily taken human nature in the womb of the woman, He had personally associated Himself with a race condemned of God. Such is the idea that Mr. Benjamin Newton develops at length in the above-mentioned paper. (Some persons none the less persist in attributing to him until this day an error which he publicly disavowed already five years ago.)”
Your animosity must have been very great, my brother, against “some persons,” to engage yourself, in the desire of blaming them, in becoming guarantee for the orthodoxy of Mr. Newton, and in compromising your own by making yourself thus at one with his views on the point to which you allude. The displeasure with which you regard those brethren has made you bold, even, it seems to me, a little rash. There is hardly any longer a person in England who justifies the doctrine of Mr. Newton. Those who take pleasure as much as you in blaming “some persons” do so while declaring that they are much more faithful than themselves in rejecting the errors of Mr. Newton and in abstaining from all fellowship with him. There is a long time that he hides his doctrine; it is even said (may God grant that it may be so!) that he begins to own that he has been in error. There remains to him only a little surrounding of personal friends, and a great number who would hail with joy and thanksgiving his return to the truth by the grace of the Holy Spirit! For my part, much as I have loved him, spite of faults, and who never knew, as a man, how to suppress an old affection (you ought to be a witness of it, my brother), for me, his restoration would be a subject of profound joy.
But where it is a question of souls and of Christ, there are other considerations than the pains of an affection shut up in the heart, the circumstances of which render the expression impossible. The truth by which souls live, the Christ that they are called to adore, are of more importance than personal affection. Yet, my brother, if you had preserved more in your heart those affections, you would have said, Ought I to condemn, designating them as “some persons,” brethren without hearing them? You might have had useful references on this subject; you should not have despised the help that more complete information would have afforded you. You have not read, I hope, all that has been published on this subject. I will not believe that you could have sought to justify, as you do as much as you can, the doctrine of Mr. Newton, apart from a mistake frankly owned on his part on the subject of Romans 5:19, if you had known what was taught on this point for some years and what was published to justify and explain his views. But if you have not read it, you have pretended to judge the merits of a serious controversy with regard to the person of Jesus without even taking knowledge of what he whom you justify has written on it, or of what has been said in reply to him.
You might have had the confessions of the three associates of Mr. Newton in the dissemination of this doctrine for a very long time—of Christians who have been brought with grief and pain of heart to own that, seduced by Mr. Newton, they had taught errors which overthrew Christianity. You might have known that these friends of Mr. Newton and others who had had their eyes opened had said that he should retract, not his application of Romans 5; 19, but the groundwork of these doctrines; and that he had formally and positively refused it. You might have possessed the notes of his teaching carefully circulated by his disciples wherever this could be done with assurance— disciples who, having been brought out of the error, communicated those pieces to others, for the purpose of warning Christians and putting them on their guard. You might have had the publications of Mr. Newton himself.
I am about to give you, my brother, some quotations from these writings. First, I will translate some extracts from notes of teachings spread by his disciples and received by these persons as the truths that he has taught; and afterwards some extracts of tracts by Mr. Newton himself—tracts that he published, when he was accused of teaching errors, for explaining and justifying himself. In the first we shall find the doctrines of Mr. Newton such as they are in fact disseminated; in the second we shall possess his views, such as he published them when he wished to set himself right with Christians on this point.
With regard to the first extracts, we have them confirmed at bottom by the fellow-labourers of Mr. Newton as being their doctrine; and one of them has said that there were things more evil still.
As to those that come in the second place, Mr. Newton himself is responsible for them. At the same time it will be well to add some details with regard to those two tracts. Mr. Newton withdrew them for the purpose of considering them anew. He never retracted their doctrine: quite the contrary, he published a third tract, in which he declares the principles of the two first justified, though he might have removed some ambiguity in certain expressions or modified them. However Mr. Newton does not flinch from explaining or defending the most minute statements of the tracts. He declares that the great truths which relate to the person and to the expiatory work of the Lord Jesus are preserved intact in these tracts.
I will present you now with the extracts: first, extracts from notes of the teachings of Mr. Newton. They are taken from “Observations on the Doctrines of Notes of Lectures on Psalms 23, 31, 38, concerning the sufferings of Christ, &c, by J. G. Deck.” “He had continually to be exercised as one put in the distance and cast off, sorely tried by Satan. The result depended upon His own exertions, for redemption was not yet accomplished. He had to cry for everything He had to receive—for things that came to Him from God in consequence of His conduct in them. Ours is a very different condition; to us all blessings come in virtue of Him, but every blessing He received was made to depend upon Himself; and without His faithfulness His blessing would not have come—so entirely was His place that of a man finding His way from the distance back to God; for nearness to God was not given to Him as it is to us now. He stood merely on His righteousness, receiving the reward of His integrity. He had to wait and cry for it, so that there was an exercise of spirit that cannot be in us. He had to find His way from this distance to God; but we are born into the place in which Jesus now is, and from whence He pours out blessings to us. Accordingly, in Psalm 119 (which gives the earliest of His experience, during all the time of His growing up, until He came out in His public character), He was waiting on God for His shepherd care. ‘Unless thy law had been my delights, I should have perished in my affliction.’ His place was that of one who desired the shepherd care, as of a lamb distant from the fold, perishing for want of care. He was made to wait for it; the answer to His cry was not immediate, to be reminded as it were of the place in which He had cast His lot, in becoming connected with the family of Israel, on whom the curse had fallen. To such a man there could be no acknowledged claim, but it became a mercy that He should be allowed to find out a way by which He could please God.” (On Psalm 23, p. 12.)
“Hear Him saying, ‘My soul cleaveth to the dust.’ The soul naturally could never rise higher.”
“The baptism of John was the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins past; that afforded an opportunity for Israel to be forgiven, and a new account opened, so as for fresh ground to be taken, so that any who repented of the sins of Israel might have all past sins blotted out; that is the way that many preach the Gospel, as though it were only the remission of past sins, not present or future: That was John’s baptism: and if any person in Israel were able to take and maintain new ground; to get rid of past sins, and keep himself clear of future ones; it would have been of great advantage to him. Until that time Jesus had been under the weight of all the sins of Israel, and because He belonged to that nation. He could never have taken new ground, except that it could have been said that past sins might be forgiven; but He did take and maintain it afterwards, so it was of great use to Him. The baptism of John afforded means by which Jesus was able to take new ground on the earth.”
I lay aside many other things.
On Psalm 38: “He was not allowed to suffer only once, or for a few years at the end of His course, but through the greater part of His sojourn here, He was exposed to suffering as described in this psalm, much more I believe than after. This psalm belongs to the period in the history of our Lord, when He was living in retirement, before He came publicly forth to serve: the requirements and interests of His service were, I doubt not, a relief to Him after having gone through many a long year’s experience, such as this psalm contains. ‘There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head, … I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly. I go mourning all the day long.’ All these things He was made to pass through before He became like the ground flour, or like the ear of corn roasted before the fire: that made Him fit to be owned, as He was when the Holy Ghost descended from heaven, a voice was heard from thence, which said, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’
“But the exercises of the soul of Jesus were of a most peculiar character, for He was always allowed to meet them in His weakness, and to find wrath in them: there was ever upon Him and against Him the wrathful countenance of God, and He was allowed to meet the sense of this; strong in His own integrity, but in the weakness of humanity, always able to say to God, ‘In innocency I have washed my hands. I follow the thing that good is.’ This was His struggle,” &c.
“In such circumstances there are two things we would naturally desire—to find support and consolation in those whom we desire to love for the Lord’s sake; to find comfort and solace from them; and moreover, we should find much consolation by being helped and distinctly sustained by God Himself: then we may say, if I am sustained by the comfort of those dear to me, and if more than all the Lord sustains me, I do not much mind opposition; I will leave it in the hands of the Lord; but if instead of this it pleased God to confront us with His terrors as He did Jesus with His wrath, how different would it be! He placed Himself against the Lord Jesus, rebuked Him in His wrath, and chastened Him in hot displeasure, so that His arrows stuck fast in Him, and His hand pressed Him sore. ‘There is no soundness in my flesh,’ He says, ‘because of thine anger,’ &c. So here we find indeed a peculiar relation of God to Him; here was affliction and disease sent to Him, so that His beauty was made to consume away like a moth; and that under the chastisement and rebuke of God. Whenever suffering comes it is painful, but if as rebuke and chastisement from God to whom we were looking for help, it is bitter indeed: this was the case with the Lord Jesus, not because of any iniquity or sin in Himself, but because He had identified Himself with others, connected Himself with humanity in a fallen world, and God was against it: and more than that, He had become identified not only with man but with Israel, the chosen part of mankind, blessed with instruction and light which they had sinned against and despised, so heavy wrath from God had gone out against them. Jesus became connected both with man and Israel, and their sins and iniquities were like a garment put upon Him: so all the rebukes of God against the world and Israel were as arrows made to enter into His soul! this was the reason why God set His face against Him. He had connected Himself with others; and if the cup of bitterness belonged to them, He must share it with them. This was the real and true experience of the Lord Jesus; and it became manifest to the eyes of all around, so that lover and friend forsook Him. They did not understand why He who once increased in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man, should be brought to a condition from which men would naturally shrink. Therefore every tongue moved against Him, they reviled, mocked, and despised Him, but He ‘as a deaf man heard not, and as a dumb man opened not His mouth;’ that is, He felt so crushed that He did not mind what they said; it could not be more bitter than what He was enduring. He knew it was of no use to vindicate Himself or reprove them for their ignorance and cruelty, so He tried not to hear what was passing around Him; all He said was, ‘In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust!’ Here was His faith: this was the object of the Lord’s dealing with Him, to bring out this faith. When there was no success in His ministry, no lover or friend with Him: God Himself against Him, and His hand so displayed in vexing Him; as for the eye of the world to see its results; when those who had loved, forsook and stood aloof from Him, and all who hated Him, rejoiced and mocked, and there was not one thing to relieve Him; no conscious strength in His own soul, none of that sustainment which the saints of God know; in the absence of all that He could say, ‘In thee, O Lord, do I hope,’ and in conclusion, ‘O Lord, my salvation:’ so His faith never gave way; if it had, His perfectness would have been over.”
On Psalm 31.
“He was emphatically God’s righteous servant. But there was also another in which He stood, as one who felt He was laden with sin before God. He could say, ‘Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up.’ It was most needful that He should be in this place to have the true experience which fallen man has, our experience. For what is the great characteristic of our condition? Is it not that we are placed at a distance from God on account of sin? This was one great element in the experience of the Lord Jesus. Therefore we find such words as these: ‘My strength faileth me.’ Instead of being treated as the righteous servant, He was pressed upon and hated by those around; He felt as if His bones were out of joint, through the chastening of the hand of God upon Him, and that because of iniquity. He was able to say, ‘Mine eye is consumed with grief; yea, my soul and my belly.’ All that indicates the intensity and depth of His feelings, and the inward consuming of that terrible power which comes from God against sin, which withers man’s strength, and causes his ‘beauty to consume away like a moth’— this was the kind of discipline He had to receive from God Himself, these were the real feelings and sufferings of His soul, the effects of which were manifested. His eye really ‘waxed dim,’ and from what persons saw, they felt He was accursed from God; and the consequence was, they fled from Him; so He who was admired in youth and wondered at, and who grew in favour with God and man, who was thought to be something great in the world, was in process of time forgotten by those who once knew Him; as He says,’ I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind, I am like a broken vessel.’ He became like an earthen vessel perishing under some rude blow; and all this while was being consumed under the heavy hand of God. In such circumstances, still to trust in God, and cry to Him, was most difficult; but this was a part of die perfectness of the Lord Jesus. Two things are necessary to perfectness of spirit, and were connected with Him: —First, that perfect brokenness of spirit which is proper for fallen man in this world, as He says, ‘I have trusted in thy mercies.’ This was different from saying, ‘O God of my righteousness!’ So He was made to feel entirely as if He had been a sinner, much more acutely than we ever can, for we know not what distance in wrath is. He felt this and remembered God’s mercies. This was the reason why He was represented by the finest ground flour; that is, something ground as fine as possible under the millstone, by the pressure of the instrument.”
Such are some extracts from doctrines gathered, or from notes taken with much care at His teachings, and which were dispersed among all those who were under his influence or whom they sought to reach. The fellow-labourers who have renounced it own it to have been what they had taught. Their confessions are published.
It will be remarked that it was principally before the baptism of John that all this took place: after that event Jesus was able to put Himself on a new ground by the pardon which was found there offered to Israel. Before, He was at a distance from God. He was not a sinner, but His relation with God, as a man and an Israelite, was that of a sinner in distance and under the curse. Of this He made experience and in a manner more painful than we, so that in proportion as years elapsed, His strength was exhausted under the influence of the distress of His soul, and sickness consumed Him. This was not the expiatory work of the cross; it was the grinding the flour for the offering that was to be made of it. It was the experience He made of His relationship as born in this world, a man and an Israelite.
I will now cite the words of Mr. Newton himself, with the remark that I insist, like the author himself, not on words but on the matter of the thought which runs through all his teachings.
In the retractation of Mr. Newton he declares positively that it was not by imputation of Adam’s sin that Christ suffered during His life; and that he ought not to have said anything which would attribute any of His sufferings to what was imputed to Him. You will understand, my brother, that it is no question here of the sufferings of Jesus on the cross, of His expiatory death. There is no question of them here, though in appearance the words of Mr. Newton go up to that. I do not cite them the least in the world to draw this consequence from them. It would be unjust, because they are His sufferings during His life which alone are in question. I apply that which he says purely and simply to His sufferings during His life. Those sufferings did not spring from imputation.
Having made this preliminary remark, I will cite the words of Mr. Newton. The tract of Mr. Newton himself against Irvingism had attributed those sufferings to imputation, while saying that He was there since His birth. He was born under the curse of the exiled family, a curse He endured by imputation (vicariously incurred). Imputation is now retracted. Alas! the other part of the doctrine is not at all so. Mr. Newton had applied Romans 5:19 (“by the disobedience of one many were made sinners”) to Christ—that is to say, that Christ, being born man, was constituted sinner by the sin of Adam, though He had none in His own person. He has retracted the doctrine that this had place in virtue of the imputation of the sin of Adam, and he no longer applies the passage to the Lord Jesus. I will say a word on this retractation lower down; now having shewn that it is no question of imputation, I will cite what is said in the tracts of Mr. Newton, of which he has affirmed the great principles in a tract published since the retractation. There he declares that the doctrine of imputation is in opposition to the radical principle of the (two) tracts, namely, that of sufferings by voluntary association.
Now then see what is, according to this doctrine of Mr. Newton, the position of Christ by voluntary association; for I believe that in fact he has laid down his doctrine much more distinctly by excluding from it the application of Romans 5 and the idea of imputation—doctrine which does not agree well with the doctrine of the tract, namely, voluntary association. He had made confusion between transmitted consequences and imputation! Let us take the transmitted consequences, leaving aside the doctrine of imputation.
In the Psalms we find not only the sufferings of those hours of public service, not only the sufferings and the reproach which belonged to Him as servant ordained of God, but sufferings which pertained to Him because He was a man and because He was an Israelite. He was made sensible under the hand of God of the condition into which man had sunk and yet more into which Israel had sunk in His sight.
“He was born into the midst of the fallen family of man… But He had not merely become connected with the sorrows and sufferings of man. There was Israel… They had fallen from that ground of professed obedience, and, like Adam, had earned by their disobedience fearful inflictions of God’s broken law, for if 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… His faith, His prayer, His obedience, all contributed to preserve Him from many things to which He was by His relative position exposed, and by which He was threatened… He was made experimentally to prove the reality of that condition into which others, but more especially Israel, had sunk themselves by their disobedience to God’s holy law, a condition out of which He was able to extricate Himself, and from which He proved that He could extricate Himself by His own perfect obedience … and then to see Him emerging out of all the miseries and hindrances of Israel’s condition. … In consequence of His position, He would be obnoxious, that is, exposed to all the inflictions that the hand of God might be directing against that evil generation … God pressed these things on the apprehension of His soul according to His own power and holiness, and caused Him to feel as a part of that which was exposed to the judgments of His heavy hand… He had to realize the condition into which man and Israel had fallen… 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… and as if in token of this great change in His dispensational relations, for I anxiously repeat, that there was no change in Him personally, heaven, which had not before been opened over Him, was opened over His head… If He was made to realize the distance into which man had wandered out of the presence of God; and if He realized also the distance of Israel … I believe it to have been chiefly, if not exclusively before His baptism. Observe, that I am speaking of the exercises of His heart from God … the manner in which He was directly exercised by God.”
“The Lord Jesus was caused to appreciate to the full the relation in which Israel (and Himself because of Israel) was standing before God. We may hear of Sinai or think of Sinai, but Jesus realized it as the power of an actual subsisting relation betwixt His people and God … years passed over His head thus. … He was not found in dissociation from others. He was standing in closest association with those dispensational relations to God, was marked by the darkness and lightnings and voices of Sinai… Sinai marked the relation of God to Israel when Jesus came— and the worship of the golden calf (though that would but feebly represent their ripened evil) may be taken as marking their relation to God. And since God in exercising the soul of His servants must exercise them according to truth … we might be very sure even if the evidence of scripture were less direct than it is that the Lord Jesus was caused to appreciate to the full the relation in which Israel (and Himself because of Israel) was standing before God.” (“Observations,” p. 29.)
“But we should form a very inadequate conception of the living experiences of the Lord Jesus if in addition to the sufferings which flowed spontaneously, as it were, from the condition of man and of Israel, we did not also recognize a yet more close and searching dealing of God with His servant, whereby His sensitive and perfect soul was made to feel, in a manner inconceivable to us, the reality of the circumstances around Him… How should we feel, imperfect as our sensibilities are, if God, according to the power of His own holiness, were to press upon the apprehensions of our souls a truthful sense of the present and future condition of ruined man? The Lord Jesus was as much alone in His living estimate under God’s hand, of the circumstances of human life here, as in enduring wrath upon the cross… He… was also when here made to estimate according to the sensibilities of that nature which He had taken the (to us) inconceivable distance of humanity from God, and when thus exercised, though personally holy and beloved, He was made to feel that His association with those thus standing in the fearful-ness of their distance from God was a real thing, and that it was so regarded by God.” (“Observations,” pp. 34-36.)
“Man was as yet in his distance from God. There was as yet no glorified humanity on the right hand of the throne of God. The mighty power whereby God raised Jesus from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, was not yet put forth … 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 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.” (“Remarks,” &c, pp. 31, 32.)
Do you believe, my brother, that Christ being associated with man was, not by imputation but by transmitted consequences, in the distance from God in which man was found in the flesh, and that He had to find His way to a point where God could meet Him? What place is left here for expiation, if He could not Himself meet God save on the cross, under wrath?
Holy in His person, He was, according to Mr. Newton, associated by His birth with man and with Israel; and He was treated as being Himself in this relationship, not by imputation, but as associated with those who were found there. 5 “His,” says Mr. Newton, “was no mere pretended, imaginary association.” (“Observations,” p. 36.)
What do you think of it? It is no question of expressions that one can modify, or from which one can remove the ambiguity. It is a doctrine carefully stated, clearly expounded in detail; the same in the notes of pupils and in the careful exposition of Mr. Newton when he justified himself in three successive tracts against the accusation laid against him. A letter which affirms the principles of the two tracts, while denying at the same time the doctrine of imputation, was subsequent to the retractation and taking up the point. Christ according to Mr. Newton was in this position by His birth, as a man and as an Israelite. God made Him feel this position as being Himself a part of what was under His judgment. It was His own relationship with God, not for His own sins, but as associated with Israel by His birth. He escaped many of the consequences by His piety. Do you believe that? But He was exposed to all. He had to, and did, extricate Himself from this position by His obedience; nevertheless He passed under grace at the same time of His baptism by John; notwithstanding He had to find a way by obedience to the point where God could meet Him, but, besides, this point was wrath on the cross. What do you say of this?
The last extracts that I have just given are from tracts of Mr. Newton himself, tracts that he wrote with care when his doctrines had been attacked and to screen his doctrines from those attacks, and at the time when the retractation appeared. The third tract, in which he confirms the great principles of the two preceding tracts, was written after his retractation. Now I am going to add some extracts from notes of one of his lectures, where his doctrine appears in the form in which it was assiduously put in circulation by his adepts, wherever they believed themselves sheltered from an indiscretion. The doctrine is no other; the only thing that is of any value in the extracts I am going to give is that they give the doctrine in a manner more explicit and thus help to make understood the force of expressions more carefully arranged in their forms. They are notes from the teaching of Mr. Newton on Psalm 6.
“For a person to be suffering here because he serves God, is one thing, but the relation of that person to God and what he is immediately receiving from His hand, while serving Him, is another, and it is this which Psalm 6 and many others open to us. They describe the hand of God stretched out, as rebuking in anger and chastening in hot displeasure, and remember this is not the scene on the cross … but in this Psalm Christ is not at all standing in the place of sacrifice for sin… This was only one incident90 in the life of Christ … so that to fix our eyes simply on that would be to know little of what the character of His real sufferings were. Now before He came to the cross, there was one great dividing point in His history, and that was, when we first read of Him in the Gospels coming to John to be baptized, when He came publicly forward in the sphere of things, as the servant of God, in the sight of Israel and the world; that was the great dividing point in the life of Christ—only three and a half years of His life passed after that… In the Gospels we have His outward history during those three and a half years, but nothing scarcely respecting the preceding years of His life; they were almost passed over in silence; so we should gain little acquaintance with the character of the Lord’s experience, sufferings, or history by considering simply what is told us in the Gospels… Supposing we belonged to a family which was banished to a distant land and there subject to every hardship and sorrow, and we were to go and form part of that family, we must of course drink of the same cup and partake of their sufferings. This was what Christ did. I do not refer to what were called His vicarious sufferings, but to His partaking of the circumstances of the woe and sorrow of the human family, and not only of the human family generally, but of a particular part of it, of Israel.” “But now the curse had fallen on them. ‘Cursed shalt thou be in the city,’ &c… These were the character of the curses which had fallen on Israel, because they had transgressed the law and broken the everlasting covenant; so Jesus became part of an accursed people, a people who had earned God’s wrath, by transgression after transgression … so Jesus became obnoxious to the wrath the moment He came into the world. Accordingly we find many of the Psalms speaking of this… Psalms which do not apply to the cross or to the period of His manifested service, but which speak of Him as a man living amongst other men, with the terrors of God compassing Him about. I regard this Psalm as one of the earliest experiences of the Lord Jesus… Observe this chastening in displeasure, not that which comes now on the child of God, which is never in wrath, but this rebuking in wrath, to which He was amenable because He was a part of an accursed people, so the hand of God was continually stretched out against Him in various ways. He was chastened every morning. ‘My loins,’ He says, ‘are filled with a loathsome disease.’ Now we do not read of such chastening after He began His public ministry, but before that, I doubt not, He was often so afflicted… So it must have been a great relief to Him to hear the voice of John the Baptist saying, ‘Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Here was a door open to Israel at once. They might come and be forgiven. So He was glad to hear that word. He heard it with a wise and attentive ear and came to be baptized because He was one with Israel, was in their condition—one of wrath from God. Consequently when He was baptized He took new ground, but Israel would not take it. He stood alone nearly, and the moment He took that ground, the Spirit was sent down. God’s seal was set upon Him: ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ … He was able to cure sickness 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… 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… He dreaded not the cross as He did Gethsemane; the cross was the place where He was made distinctly the sacrifice for sin.”91
You see well, my brother, that the point is not imputation: the kind of suffering was well distinguished before the retractation even. They are already transmitted consequences. Such are the doctrines, assiduously taught, orally and by manuscripts, long without the knowledge of the Brethren—doctrines which have given occasion to attacks on “certain persons.” What think you of it?
Now you make it a reproach against these persons for not taking account of the retractation. It was proposed to Mr. Newton by his own friends, several of whom had got their eyes opened, to sign a retractation of the substance of his doctrine. This he peremptorily refused, but he published the retractation of which you speak, which I have before me. I am about to make some extracts from it which will shew, that, while retracting the application of Romans 5 and the doctrine that Christ was under the wrath of God by the imputation of Adam’s sin, he affirms positively the substance of his doctrine, and will have it that Christ inherited the consequences of sin by His birth doctrine, in which lies precisely all the evil. However that be, he says it is only the manner wkh regard to which he was wrong. “If due care had been taken to discriminate between the mode in which the consequences of Adam’s transgression reached mankind through federal headship, and the manner in which the Lord Jesus took several of those consequences upon Himself, but not through federal headship, the error which I now have to confess would have been avoided.”
“If I had watched this, I should have carefully avoided the referring that part of Romans 5 to the Lord Jesus, and should have stated that His connection with these consequences was in virtue of His having been made of a woman and thus brought Himself into association with a race on whom these penalties were resting.”
In a letter of 51 pages published since his retractation, Mr. Newton disavows formally the doctrine that the position in which Christ was found here below was the effect of the imputation of the sin of Adam. He declares that the true doctrine of imputation is entirely opposed to the radical principle of the tracts (those from which I have made extracts), namely, that of voluntary association… “If I had held this doctrine, almost all that I have said in these tracts would have been upset in place of being what it is now. I have explained elsewhere how I have held it, in giving account of the fact that Christ had been associated with certain results of the sin of Adam, in consequence of His relation with Adam by Mary. I have ill-explained the thing and have used theological terms wrongly and have made a false application of Romans 5; in other words, I have confounded between transmitted consequences and imputation. I have owned elsewhere the sin of this negligence, &c… with regard to the tracts, it is a question of facts and each will judge for himself, up to what point the relations of the Lord are, or are not, rightly stated.”
Thus, my brother, we no longer accuse Mr. Newton of applying to Jesus Romans 5, which says that by the sin of one many were made sinners. That was making a bad use of theological terms, that was the sin of negligence. But what as to the doctrine of the tract? You are in a position, according to Mr. Newton, to judge of it? In speaking of Romans 5 he has wrongly presented the manner in which the anger of God rested upon Jesus. He had attributed it to the imputation of Adam’s sin. Now it is a transmitted consequence on account of His relation with Adam as born of Mary, a consequence which caused Him to hear with joy the proclamation of pardon by John the Baptist. Is it a retractation of the doctrine of the tracts to let everyone judge it and to explain that the position of Jesus is not by imputation but a transmitted consequence? He declares that, whilst confounding from negligence his doctrine with that of Romans 5:19, he never really held the doctrine of imputation with regard to Jesus according to Romans 5:19. I believe it, but the doctrine of the tracts, disentangled from that conclusion, remains fully confirmed. To my mind, the doctrine of imputation to Jesus during His life is an error, but an error that one can fall into and yet be sound in the faith; but to say that He was under the wrath of God, as a member of the family of Adam, through His birth from Mary, and that grace and pardon were a relief to Him, are doctrines which deny the truth with regard to the Saviour.
You ought to know that many Christians do not believe in the doctrine of the imputation of Adam’s sin to other men as forming part of original sin, and only believe in transmitted consequences through their birth of Adam’s race.
You will understand then that it is not a question here of saying that the divinity of the Saviour and His humanity are believed in, and His expiation on the cross (although this latter truth is entirely destroyed by the doctrine that we are exposing; for if Jesus found a way to God, and if it is only upon the cross, under wrath, that God could meet with Him because He was man, however innocent He might be, He could not make expiation). It is a question of the relation of Jesus with God outside substitution. Neither is it a question of denying the consequences, while holding the doctrine which leads to them; it is a question of what is taught.
Now you can understand, my brother, why “certain persons” have attacked this doctrine, and why they have not been contented with the retractation. You have put your seal to the teaching in question (in supposing the retractation of the application of Romans 5 and of imputation). You have justified Air. Newton; you have made yourself responsible, in the eyes of the church, for having given credit to his doctrine. I am grieved to have been obliged to put, before any Christians whatsoever, that this is the fact. Simplicity which is in Jesus is a precious thing. You have this doctrine at least submitted to your consideration; you have accredited it, you went out of your way to do so. This then is what you approve of; or must I believe that, carried away by your animosity against “certain persons,” you accredited it unwittingly in order to have the satisfaction of throwing the blame upon them? If the church is preserved from it, I am content, however it may be. I remain, ever, your affectionate brother,
J. N. D.
I think that I shall do well, in order to complete the evidence I have to present to you on this subject, to add the summary that one of Mr. Newton’s fellow-workers in the teaching of this doctrine made of it in the retractation which he has published.
The doctrines of this system of teaching may be summed up thus:—
I. That the Lord Jesus at His birth, and because born of a woman, partook of certain consequences of the fall, mortality being one, and, because of this association by nature, He became an heir of death, born under death as a penalty.
II. That the Lord Jesus at His birth stood in such relation to Adam as federal head, that guilt was imputed to Him, and that He was exposed to certain consequences of such imputation— as stated in Romans 5.
III. That the Lord Jesus was also born as a Jew under the broken law, and was regarded by God as standing in that relation to Him; and that God pressed upon His soul .the terrors of Sinai, as due to one in that relation.
IV. That the Lord Jesus took the place of distance from God, which such a person so born and so related must take, and that He had to find His way back to God by some path in which God might at last own and meet Him.
V. That so fearful was the distance, and so real were these relationships by birth, and so actual were their attendant penalties of death, wrath, and the curse, that until His deliverance God is said to have rebuked Him, to have chastened Him, and this in anger and hot displeasure.
VI. That because of these dealings from God, and Christ’s sufferings under them, the language of Lamentations 3 and Psalms 6, 38, and 88, &c, has been stated to be the utterance of the Lord Jesus while under this heavy pressure from God’s hand.
VII. That the Lord Jesus extricated Himself from these inflictions by keeping the law; and that at John’s baptism the consequent difference in Christ’s feelings and experience was so great as to have been illustrated by a comparison of the difference between Mount Sinai and Mount Sion, or between law and grace.
VIII. That, beside all these relations which Christ took by birth, and their attendant penalties and inflictions, and His sufferings under the heavy hand of God, it has been further stated that He had the experience of an unconverted though elect Jew.
Here you have a summary of this doctrine given us by one of those who has taught it himself, in conjunction with Mr. Newton. Everyone can see that it is a carefully matured system, and the different testimonies we possess leave no obscurity as to the foundation of the doctrine, whatever modification may have been applied to the expressions.
Two other brethren who taught these doctrines with Mr. Newton have published their retractation; but, at this moment, I am not in possession of their writings; they admit the same things.
The second article is the one, and the only one, to which Mr. Newton’s retractation of 1847 applies.
This is the testimony of one strongly opposed to me, respecting the tracts, the retractation, and the letter published by Mr. Newton since the retractation:—
“The third tract of Mr. Newton had been published, his two preceding tracts had been sanctioned after having been considered anew; his retractation, or confession of November, 1847, was thus, save in words, annulled, and worse than annulled. The errors, whatever be otherwise their bearing, without any doubt touch the foundations of our faith, and by this means overthrow, not only the unity of the church, but its very existence.”
89 Vevey, printed by E. Buvelot3 1853.
90 Mr. Newton has explained later that he was accustomed to use this word as having the force “of event.” This was to own at best that he had said what I quote.
91 Mr. Newton has modified his expressions since then. I cite them here to shew that it is not a question of the cross.