(To the Editor of the Bible Treasury)
I do not at all desire to make your periodical the vehicle of controversial papers; but allow me to draw your attention to a paper in a magazine92 supposed to be exclusively occupied with edification, or what was intended for it. It is so utterly without basis, or attempt to found its assertions on scripture (the only two or three it quotes it quotes falsely on the point in question), that I should not have thought it worth an answer, but for the bold presenting of the doctrine which it is its object to circulate. In this way it may be useful.
“Not merely was He,” it is said, “the rejected of men,… but He was the outcast, the condemned One… As such, His true place was outside the city of God; outside the dwelling of the Holy One. If permitted to resort to Jerusalem, He can only do so as a stranger or wayfaring man, who comes in with the crowd during the day, but retires at night. If allowed to frequent the temple, He can only come as far as the outer court, on the common footing of a sinner—just as the publican might do. He might stand and see the daily sacrifice offered.” (Page 314.) For whom? let me ask in passing. Was it with a consciousness that it was not for Him—that is, that, as to His relationship to God, He could go into the holiest, or ignorant as to this, and in His relationship supposing He needed one Himself? The writer has brought the point pretty much to the test by this way of putting it. What was the blessed Lord’s sentiment when He saw the sacrifice offered?
I continue: “He might watch the shedding of the blood, and the consuming of the victim; but only as one of the crowd. He might stand, on the day of atonement, and see the two goats chosen by the high priest; He might listen to the confession of sin over the head of the one, and mark the pouring out of the other’s blood; He might see the high priest take the basin, and carry the blood into the holiest, Himself standing on the outside; and, though the Blessed One, waiting amid the crowd to receive the well-known blessing. But more than this He might not do. Were He to go beyond the circle thus marking off the limits within which He was to walk, He would not have been acting as the sin-bearer, nor submitting to be dealt with as an outcast and a curse for us.” (lb.) I shall notice this: but I continue my quotations. “He is so completely identified with the sinner, the outcast, the banished one, that He is not only deemed unworthy to live within Jerusalem, but unworthy even to die within its walls. As the great sin-offering, He goes without the camp, there to complete His sin-bearing work, and to sum up the testimony which His whole life had given, namely, that He was standing in the sinner’s place, enduring the banishment of the banished one, bearing the curse of the cursed one, submitting to the condemnation of the condemned one, and never for one moment contradicting or modifying the testimony intended to be given by His life to His sin-bearing character and work.” (lb.) Is that all the cross was? The writer must be singularly absorbed with his doctrine to speak of it in this way.
“The one hindrance to His exercise of this, His divine right of entrance into the holiest of all, was our iniquity, which was lying on Him. That kept Him out. Until that was fully borne, He could not enter either the sanctuary below or the presence chamber above. In taking our sin upon Him, as He did from the moment of His incarnation, He had consented to forego for a time His right of entrance into the Father’s presence, and into that place where the glorious symbol of that presence dwelt.” “It was as such (the outcast) that we find Him walking in Solomon’s porch; thus proclaiming to all who truly understood His character and work that He was acting as the sinner’s substitute.” (Page 325.)
One sentence that I have omitted I will quote here. “He was Himself the true sacrifice, the bearer of sin. As such He lived and died. In all that He did, and in all that He abstained from doing; in the places which He visited, and in the places which He abstained from visiting, He kept this in view. He was loaded with our sin, our curse, our condemnation, our leprosy; and, as such, He must keep at a distance from the holy and the clean.” (Page 314.) “Let us then look at Christ in these two different conditions… 1. As walking in Solomon’s porch—He walks there as our substitute; our substitute as truly as when He groaned in Gethsemane or died on Golgotha. 2. As one consenting for a season to be shut out from the presence of God, that we might enter and dwell in that presence for ever, He stands, or walks, or sits outside the sanctuary. Thus it is that He bears our banishment; He takes upon Him not merely the penalty of suffering and death, but the penalty of exclusion from the house and home of God. That penalty He has endured; that exile He has under-gone; that substance He has experienced; and all this, as the substitute, bearing what we should have borne.” (Page 325.)
The difficulty of answering the paper, from which I have here given extracts, is, that it is such a mass of absurdity, that it is hard to know at which end to begin. I refer to it, as I have said, only as an audacious attempt at circulating the doctrine it contains.
In the beginning, it is said, there were several reasons why Christ could only have access to the outer court, and had to keep outside the holy and most holy place; Dr. Bonar then gives three: Personal, He was of the tribe of Judah; Ceremonial, He had no blood to offer;93 Typical, He was loaded with our leprosy. This is found in pages 313, 314. When in the full flow of his subject, he says, “the one hindrance to His exercise of this, His divine right of entrance into the holiest of all, was our iniquity.” Then in page 325, the two others are forgotten. It may be alleged he was only speaking in the latter place of Him as God. But, then, if the holiest of all was really then the dwelling place of God, and God there so that He could not approach, as Jehovah He was there. But this is not true: the house was empty, swept, and garnished. His own body was the temple where Jehovah dwelt. There was no shechinah in the second temple.
It is alleged that He never went to the holy places of Israel. Who says He did not? But let that pass. Did He come here to turn Israel back to old shadows, and typical service, and places counted holy by them? But among others He did not go to Bethlehem. What profound sense there is in this! If this was because it was already a holy place, He became the leprous and unclean thing in the holy place. Because it was so—and all the imperial world was set in movement to have Him made leprous there— I suppose to desecrate it! If it was His birth that had sanctified it, then He could not go to a holy place because of what He was when He had consecrated it by being that! Is it possible to conceive greater nonsense than all this?
He did not go into the temple, because it was impossible, and out of God’s then order, and inconsistent with every Jewish and every Christian thought. If spoken of as God, He was there as far as God was there; but, as I have said, His body in this sense was the true temple: He calls it so. If as man, He was not a priest: there were other priests to do it, as the epistle to the Hebrews tells us. As come, He was not there to set up Judaism, but to submit to its order; as born under the law, His entering into the holy place would have been a gross violation of it. Was He there to establish the earthly system as a divine thing, to have His place and title as Son in an earthly sanctuary?
We are specially referred to Solomon’s porch. It was the common place of assembly in the temple. Was His being there a proof He was a substitute under a curse? All the apostles were afterwards with one accord in Solomon’s porch. Were they all substitutes under a curse? I will speak of the doctrine. I speak now of the ridiculous absurdity of such reasoning.
But further, it is still more absurd; because, if He were a leprous man, and keeping this always in view as to holy places, other holy places lepers might have gone to as much as anyone else; but the really holy place, in a Jewish sense, which a leper could not go to, was the temple, and there He came, and was in the crowd of the clean, for none else could go there. It is painful to have to meet all this folly, used to make a leprous man of the Lord. Leprosy was defilement, not merely a type of guilt; our Lord, therefore, took a defiled place. Clean persons could not have gone into the holy of holies: there we are told He could not go because He was leprous. Leprous persons could not go into the temple, or be amongst the crowd of clean Israel; but there He was, and that is a proof that He is leprous! and, strange to say, He drove the defilers out, because it was a holy place.
But the true answer is simple. He came not to build up the holiness of Hebrons or Bethels: He went into the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphthali, Galilee of the Gentiles, because it had been prophesied of Him, that the poor of the flock, who sat in darkness, might see that great light, and light spring up on those in the shadow of death. He was there because He was light, not because He was leprous. He left Judea because the Pharisees had heard that He made and baptized more disciples than John: was that as a leper, or did His disciples baptize, not Himself, because they were not leprous and He was? It is asserted, without the remotest foundation, that He did not sleep in Jerusalem. He visited Jerusalem only during the day, retiring from it at night to Bethany, as one cast out! That was only the last week, when He had judged Jerusalem (but that was the time He rode into the holy city as its king: was this as a substitute and leper?) and when He cleansed the temple, because it was defiled.
If the reader ask what scripture is alleged for His being a substitute, or avoiding holy places on this ground—which there was no ground for doing—the only scripture is the one emanating from Dr. Bonar’s private assertion. In God’s word there is not a single trace of it. Dr. Bonar does not attempt to allege a symptom of scripture—for the simplest reason: there is none to allege. It is simply an unholy fancy of Dr. Bonar’s. But he does quote some scriptures as to Christ’s state during His life: I will examine them.
“He was made sin for us:” this is referred to His life. But it is He who knew no sin whom God made sin for us. Hence, through the eternal Spirit, He offered Himself without spot to God. He was not made sin when “that holy thing” was born of the Virgin Mary. When it could be said of Him, as a man “who knew no sin,” then He was made sin, “a curse for us.” “As such, His true place was outside the city of God;” but He went into it, and into the temple, and did not stay outside; that is, according to Dr. Bonar, He went out of His true place. But He was made a curse for us. But scripture says, Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, as it is written, Cursed in every one that hangs upon a tree. That is, He was a curse as crucified, not in His life.
“The most holy place was, we may say, the type of that very bosom of the Father out of which the only-begotten Son came forth.” It was nothing of the kind. Dr. Bonar confounds God in His throne in government and the Father’s bosom; but let that pass. Dr. Bonar’s doctrine hangs on this—that He came forth out of the Father’s bosom, and could not go into it. Now, the only passage which speaks of the Father’s bosom, is a careful statement that He did not come out of it. “The only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” He was competent to reveal God, because He had not come out of it at all. His going into the empty earthly place of God’s throne is fit only for Dr. Bonar and his school. Not only so, but scripture is careful to connect this presence in heaven with His manhood, and shew that as such, though bodily on earth, He was personally in heaven. “No man hath ascended up to heaven but he who came down from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven.” So that He was in heaven at the time Dr. Bonar says He was taking the sinner’s place of exile outside the blessed heaven where He had dwelt from everlasting.
One scripture more Dr. Bonar quotes, if quoting it can be called. “Such,” he says, “is the efficacy of our Substitute’s life and death, that we have boldness to enter into the holiest.” This is not quoting scripture, not ignorance, but falsifying scripture.
Hebrews 10 is solely occupied with the sacrifice of Christ. The point on which chapter 9 had insisted was that there was no forgiveness without blood-shedding, and that Christ must have suffered often if He had offered Himself—“often” excluding all idea of forgiveness but by death. Chapter 10 then sets aside Jewish offerings, and substitutes a Christ come to do God’s will, but speaks only and exclusively of His offering; by the which will we are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all: thereupon declaring that we have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He has consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh. That is, Dr. Bonar leaves out the one point on which the word of God insists; and introduces what it does not introduce but excludes. I can only say the word of God is pure. “Add thou not unto his words lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” All this I must call wickedness.
And now the main point—Christ—is the “banished One bearing our banishment.” Banished by whom? Banished whence? Is that, Christian, your thought of Christ, that He was banished from heaven? Is that the way—is it in that spirit scripture speaks? or, that He came in His own love, and was the blessed and holy One given in love, sent of the Father? Is it not the infinite preciousness of that gift that exalts the love of the giver? Was He given as a precious one, or banished? Forsaken He might be when He was made sin, as to the anguish of His soul; but banished, never! Did He cry, Why hast thou forsaken me? at that moment, having been forsaken all His life? yet hardly to be said forsaken at any time, for He was never near God—had to keep at a distance from what was holy—experience distance and the penalty of exclusion from the home and house of God—“outside the blessed heaven where He had dwelt from everlasting!” Was that the Son of man who is in heaven? He could tell of heaven, which no one else could (He declares to Nicodemus), inasmuch as He was still in it though come down. This, Dr. Bonar interprets, by His being banished and excluded from it.
And, mark the result: He could look on in the crowd at the offerings, coming as the publican might do, on the common footing of a sinner; He might listen to the confession of sin over the head of the scape-goat, waiting amid the crowd to receive the well-known blessing. This, because He was excluded, because He was loaded with our leprosy! But, if He was their sin-bearer, why in the crowd looking at another sacrifice, and waiting for the well-known blessing? Blessed for whom? For the crowd, of which He was one in virtue of the sin-offering. Is this Dr. Bonar’s view of Christ, standing as the Substitute for the crowd, for He died for that nation—and yet one of the crowd looking on, in respect of His own state, on another sacrifice, founded on which blessing was to come on Him as one of the crowd? If He carried the sin there, if it was already laid on His head, why was He with the crowd looking to another sacrifice and seeing the sins confessed on it? and why Himself waiting to receive the blessing? I suppose, because He needed it; or, at least, that it was real. Did He need the blessing flowing from atonement? How could it be real for Him, when He knew the very sin it professed to put away had not been there at all? It was resting, in all its weight, on His own head. Think of the Son of God waiting in the crowd, as a Substitute, to receive the blessing flowing from the atonement, Himself really bearing the sins all the time, which were not put away; and, to complete the confusion, excluded as a leper, because they were on Him, from the holy place in which He nevertheless was!
But the confusion is too horribly mischievous to do anything else than to point it out in its naked character. This article may do good. It will shew the true bearing of that which clothes itself in pious forms, though here, if one has any sense at all, it can hardly be said to do so. I do not attempt an elaborate article: these one or two hints are enough to shew its character. I do not see the smallest trace of divine teaching, but a man left to himself in a special way to expose the folly and evil of his own inventions.
92 The Christian Treasury, part 7, July 1, 1861. “The Banished One bearing our banishment.” By the editor (Dr. Horatius Bonar, Kelso).
93 It is hard to tell why. It was a typical high place and typical blood shedding sufficed, and that He could have offered. There was only one reason, He could not have the blood of a suited sacrifice to offer. He was not the typical high priest, nor a priest at all judicially; nor did any one go into the most holy place save the high priest, nor with blood into the holy place, save for the sin of the high priest or the whole people; but that shews the gross absurdity of the whole reasoning from beginning to end. To think that Christ should need His blood to enter the earthly sanctuary is worthy of this school alone.