The reader will meet with some remarks in a part of this tract which—if not accustomed to abstract reasoning—he will probably have difficulty in understanding. I add these few lines to say, he need not be the least uneasy at it; probably it is so much the better for himself. Abstract discussions on the nature of the Lord Jesus are, I believe, very unhealthful things for the soul; and if, in the form of a positive attempt to define incarnate Godhead—always erroneous in some expression or other—what may be found difficult of apprehension in these pages (and it is chiefly in a note) is introduced with no such object, but merely to shew the fallacious ground of reasoning taken, in order to introduce error. When there were minds exercised on it, it was right to notice this; when this is not the case, the reader will be only so much the happier to rest in his simplicity, and believe, with confiding faith, in the testimony of the word, that the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us, full of grace and truth;—and that, as the children whom He was bringing to glory partook of flesh and blood, He partook of it too: and, while knowing that the blessed One was absolutely, and in every sense, without sin, be assured that He knows how to speak a word in season to him that is weary—to sympathise with every sorrow—and to relieve and lift up in every infirmity—having suffered, being tempted, and thus able to succour them that are tempted.
I shall say nothing as to the moral character of this letter: in itself it would excite indignation; but, alas! indignation refuses itself to often-repeated evil, and gives place to another and more silent feeling.
The principles of the previous tracts are fully maintained; and the retractation, once published, is reduced to an acknowledgment of carelessness in theological expressions. At the same time the terms used to represent the principles have descended so far below the hardihood of those of the tracts, that they might, to many, seem almost harmless. I should not have noticed the letter but that individual souls, untaught by all that has passed, may be seduced into the thought of its harmlessness by the concealment of the evil.
The letter keeps most carefully out of sight what is the whole matter in question—Christ’s relationship to God. The writer says, in substance, that Christ was, as to His person, sinless and acceptable. His doctrine really involves the contrary; but, admitting the statement, that is not the question: Irving even would have said as much. It is also true that he does not hold the doctrine of sin in Christ’s human nature, which Irving did. That which he is charged with is false doctrine as to the relationship in which, as a man, Christ stood to God. But it may be said, he does not conceal his views on this; he does speak of relative position. Yes: but he always puts it before the mind in the letter as referring to relationship to man and to Israel. The question is, What was His relationship to God? This is carefully avoided—carefully concealed; and words so twisted, that a simple mind is unaware of what is conveyed. On this point it is that his doctrine is from the enemy himself.66
Mr. N. maintains the principles of his tracts (Letter, page 15), and does not shrink from the explanation or defence of more minute statements in them. (Page 17.)
The statements of these tracts I shall now reproduce, because, while their principles are re-affirmed, their circulation is suspended, and a false account given of their contents in the letter.
But first a few preliminary observations.
The writer states many common truths, and gives a long string of texts to shew that Christ became a man by means of birth. As to the truths Irving would have put his hand to every one of them. The question does not lie there: the writer’s heresy is on another point. I never heard of anyone who doubted that Christ was born—in these days at any rate. Nobody doubts He was a man and an Israelite,67 nor that He became so by means of birth. These statements then we may leave entirely aside. They are held by both sides—by Mr. Irving himself, equally by orthodox and heretics—on the point in question. Our search lies beyond this.
Mr. Newton states, “My sentiments on these subjects are so well known; it is so well known that I have never held or taught anything that is new or peculiar touching the person or natures of our blessed Lord,” &c. (p. 2); and (p. 18), in referring to certain extracts, he asks, “Do they teach that Jesus was born under the curse of the broken law?”
Now these are the facts:—Mr. N., some ten years ago or more, put into a second edition of the “Christian Witness,” which did not pass through the Editor’s hand, an addition to an article on the doctrines of Newman Street containing the following statement: “All that the soul of a saint recognizes as true in the writings of Mr. Irving, respecting Christ being in ‘that condition of being and region of existence which is proper to a sinner,’ will be found to be altogether comprised in the fact of His being born under the curse of the exiled family, vicariously incurred.68 But He rose out of this ‘region’—[not merely, mark, was able]—through the power of His own inherent holiness;” only He chose “to abide it for the sake of others;” and the result was the cross. And “He might have entered into life by Himself alone,” “He was able to enter into life by keeping the commandments.” The law was “strong unto Him,” it was “unto Him life”—as it is written, “If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” Further, subsequently Mr. N. taught that Jesus was a constituted sinner, born such, and based this on Romans 5:19, as is publicly and universally known.
Having broached this doctrine some four years ago at a reading meeting, the doctrine was subsequently objected to by one present; and Mr. N. justified it in a long letter, but told the person to keep it secret, as the saints were not prepared to receive it yet. It was then taught privately, and, circulated under the strictest guard against its enunciation to those not “prepared to receive it,” was, through God’s mercy, detected, and was then, on some of Mr. N.’s own friends declaring that they could have nothing more to say to him if he did not retract it, retracted as a sin. When he left Plymouth to go to Cornwall, consequent upon the convictions which flashed on the minds of many, he declared that he wished it to be clearly understood that he went voluntarily away as a humiHation, because God, having entrusted him with a new and special truth, which was also said to be a truth which was to save the church, he had failed by bringing it out before the church was ready to receive it.
Now, he declares, it is well known that he never held or taught anything new or peculiar.
His retractation now amounts to a confession of carelessness. He “used wrong theological terms [in accounting for the fact of Christ being brought under certain results of Adam’s sin], and a wrong application to Romans 5.” (Page 32.) A wrong application to Romans 5!!! And what did that amount to? Carelessness in theological terms! In accounting for the fact of Christ being brought under certain results of Adam’s sin, “confused between transmitted consequences and imputation?” Is not Romans 5 plain? You applied, unhappy man! Romans 5:19 to Christ. “By the disobedience of one many were made sinners.” “Certain results!” The verse states the result itself plainly enough; it states no circumstances, but relationship to God. You have stated (pages 30, 31, 32, of this letter) the results of it clearly enough: you taught it where you could—it was circulated secretly, you desired it to be concealed because saints were not prepared for it. Confounded at its exposure, you retracted this gross expression of it; and now it amounts to—a confusion of theological terms, and a wrong application of Romans 5:19! And what was the doctrine of Romans 5:19 applied to Christ? What does it mean to be constituted a sinner under Adam’s federal headship? That is what you applied to Christ. It was not “certain results.” The results flowed from this according to your system. And now you say, “it is so well known that I have never held or taught anything that is new or peculiar.”69
I shall now quote various extracts from your two tracts, which you avow are still your principles; and I beg my reader to recall the question of relationship to God.
“Remarks,” page 1, 2. In the psalms “we find not only the sufferings of those hours of public ministry—not only the sufferings and reproach that pertained to Him as the appointed servant of God, but sufferings also which pertained to Him because He was a man,70 and because He was an Israelite.” “He was made sensible, under the hand71 of God, of the condition into which man had sunk, and yet more into which Israel had sunk in His sight.”
“Remarks,” page 4. “Personally indeed, He was one who, as to His essential relation to God, could know no change… The Son that is (d w[n) in the bosom of the Father. This was an essential condition of being which neither earth nor the grave could alter.” Be it so: but what were the new relations assumed when He was made flesh, made under the law? were they relations that necessarily brought sufferings with them?
“Remarks,” pages 4, 5. “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, earned by their disobedience the fearful inflictions of God’s broken law; 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.’” Did this depend on His position and relationship to God?
“Remarks,” page 8. “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.” So that it was not certain results of actual sufferings. He was exposed to them by His relative position even when He did not suffer them. It was a position He was in.
“Remarks,” page 12. “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 [He was in it therefore: compare quotations from “Christian Witness”], and from which He proved that He could extricate Himself by His own perfect obedience.” … And, “then to see Him emerging out of them”—the hindrances and miseries attached to this condition.
“Remarks,” page 13. “In consequence of His position He would be abnoxious, that is, exposed to all the inflictions that the hand of God might be directing againt that evil generation.”
“Remarks,” page 14. “God pressed these things on the apprehensions 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.”
“Remarks,” page 15. “He had to realize the condition into which man and Israel had fallen.”
But was it a reality flowing from relationship, or only His Spirit entering into them? First, it was, as we have seen, as a part, and He was exposed, consequently, to what He did not suffer.
“Remarks,” page 23. But “the difference between Sinai, the mountain of blackness, and Zion, the mountain of light and grace and blessing … 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 if, as in token of this great change in His dispensational relations (for I anxiously repeat there was no change in Him personally), heaven, which had not before been opened over Him, was opened over His head.” Now this is, beyond all controversy, His relationship with God, with heaven; and I pray the reader to note it.
And what was this relationship to God? “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, I am speaking of the exercises of His heart from God… The manner in which He was directly exercised by God.” (“Remarks,” p. 25.) So “Observations” page 29, “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 between His people and God… Years passed over His head thus.” And here I may add the quotation made in the “Letter” (p. 6) from the “Observations,” to shew that “His birth-relation to the law could have brought to Him only blessing.” It is this, “His dispensational place, therefore, if He had stood alone in dissociation from others, would not have interfered72 with any of the blessings that personally pertained to Him.” (“Observations,” p. 29.) Thus far is quoted to prove his point.
This is what follows, “But He was not found in dissociation from others. He was standing in closest association with those whose dispensational relation 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 souls 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.” Hence, though He escaped much of what He was exposed to by it, through prayer, faith and obedience (so that it was not what He entered into in spirit for others), the relation in which He was standing before God was but feebly represented by the worship of the golden calf. Such then was Christ’s own relation to God in flesh.
The “Letter” tells us (p. 45), “He lived under, not above, the governmental arrangements of God in this world, and endured multitudes of the sufferings which these governmental arrangements had brought, or were then bringing on those with whose present condition of suffering He had connected Himself, and made as much as possible His own. And, seeing that these arrangements were the arrangements of God in government, the sufferings which followed from them are to be regarded as in a special sense coming from God. By which fact [?] we are able to refute that strange and novel doctrine, … that Christ never suffered anything under the hand of God until … the cross.” “These arrangements73 were God’s—and if the Lord Jesus was not above them all, He must have suffered under them.”
In the tracts, the writer insists that they were not spontaneous consequences, but direct inflictions—the direct exercise of His heart from God, such as none else could have, because He was under the law. See quotation which follows in text, and “Observations,” page 36.
In the “Observations,” on the contrary, we read (p. 34), “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… How should we feel, imperfect as our sensibilities are, if God, according to the power of His own holiness, were to press upon the apprehension of our souls a truthful sense of the present and future condition of ruined man?” (Page 35.) Was this merely circumstances or sufferings which followed from the arrangements of God in government?
Again, (“Observations” p. 36) “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 fearfulness of their distance from God, was a real thing, and that it was so regarded by God. His was no mere pretended imaginary association.” You may see, reader, what is meant by the circumstances of humanity.
Of the reality of this we may judge from a passage in the “Remarks,” page 31: “But before I quit this part of the subject, there is one thing only I would further observe: how needful it is to distinguish between the person and the dispensational or relative positions of our blessed Lord. As to His person, we know Him to be the only begotten Son of God… But yet, during His ministry on earth, He stood in a place dispensationally lower than that into which He has now brought us, His church.” Now does this mean, that officially in service He had a saintly place on earth, whereas now the church is one with Himself in heaven? No. “For man was 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, and glorify Him, and set Him at His own right hand in heavenly places; and that point was death—death on the cross—death under the wrath of God.” (Pages 31, 32.)
We may now enquire whether the “Letter” puts the blessed Jesus on any really different ground. This is the character of suffering spoken of. (“Observations,” p. 35.) “Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked74 that forsake thy law. My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments. Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me, yet thy commandments are my delight. I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted.” Let us remember that this is not viewed as Christ’s entering in spirit into things, but “the close and searching dealing of God with His servant.” (Page 35.) “It is the thought of Jesus being caused by God to estimate the terror of His holiness, in relation to the circumstances of humanity pressed in vivid realization on His soul, that alone enables me to understand such words as these” (p. 35): “the exercises,” as it is stated elsewhere “of His heart from God.” (“Remarks,” 25.) “But I am not (“Remarks,” 25) now speaking of the spontaneous actings of His soul, but of the manner in which He was directly exercised by God.” We have seen (Obs. 29) that God “must exercise them (the souls of His servants) according to truth”—hence, according to “the relation in which Israel (and Himself because of Israel) was standing before God.” Hence it was changed for Jesus at John’s baptism. (Obs. 31.) “Remarks,” 23: “His dispensational relations in them, how great the change,” clearly relations with God: for He was not less a man or an Israelite. We learn in the quotation from “Observations,” 35, what the circumstances of humanity mean. It amounts to no less than “the present and future condition of ruined man.”
Now these clearly are the great principles of the tracts, the “great leading principles which pervade them throughout.” (Letter, p. 16.) These are sanctioned, therefore, in the Letter. The doctrine of His personal acceptance, as Son of God, is stated; but it is not the question: Irving held it just as much. Mr. N. may deprecate judgment as to what he holds, and claim “to define the limit beyond which no authoritative sentence must be allowed to go.” (Letter, p. 17.) It is a very comfortable thing for an accused person to do; but the saints are bound for their own souls, and for the saints’ sake, to preserve themselves from deadly error. These principles, then, the Letter re-affirms. (Page 15.)
We may also see if the Letter’s own statements alter the matter. First, the question of relationship to God is, as to terms, studiously avoided, save that the doctrine of the tract is re-affirmed. But, in other words, we shall see it in all its force fully adopted. (See p. 23, 24.)
And first, note particularly, that what is brought before the mind as to Jesus’ acceptance is not at once His relationship to God on earth—not His human acceptance. His personal position in acceptance is His eternal Sonship with the Father. What was due to His personal position is judged of by that, and based on it —His relation to the Father before the world was. “In heaven the circumstances or position of the Son had been in accordance with that which was due to Him.” (Letter, 24.) (Note in passing, we have the sense of position already changed. At first we were to judge of what was due to His position; now circumstances are equivalent to position, and position is due to Him—then they are mixed.) “He was there seen standing in all the excellency of His personal position, and until He took flesh He was receiving all that was due to that position.” [Mark that!] “But when it pleased Him to assume flesh, instead of assuming it under circumstances75 which would have been in accordance with that which was due76 to His personal position, He assumed it in a condition of weakness, &c.” (“&c!” Is Christ’s state to be disposed of with an “&c.?”) “which was not in accordance with the blessedness due to His personal77 position. This, therefore, may be said to be the assumption of a relative78 position.” Relative to whom? What was His relation to God? His personal position of God and eternal Son of the Father, having “an unalterable title to blessing, which neither incarnation nor the cross could change.” But what relation to God had He as incarnate? Incarnation did not change His being God and eternal Son of the Father, or His tide to blessing as such.
Further (Letter p. 24), “To a personal position (as much after as before He had assumed flesh) nothing but blessing would have been due.” What is a personal position here—Godhead and eternal Sonship? That was what personal position meant a while back, and could not be changed. “Even as an Israelite under the law He had a title to all blessing.” Now this was heretofore specifically and distinctively His relative position. Thus in this same 24th page, “He assumed it [flesh] in a condition of weakness, &c, which was not in accordance with the blessedness due to His personal position. This, therefore, may be said to be the assumption of a relative position.” Now this was just being an Israelite under the law. Now, “To a personal position … nothing but blessing would have been due.” “If… He had been pleased to claim that which was due to a personal position.” Why a personal position? Was it His, or was it not? Was it the eternal, unchangeable position of eternal Son of God? If so, it leaves out His actual relative position as a man down here. As an Israelite under the law He had a title to all blessing—not in His relative position; for He was in this, Mr. N. tells us, exposed to all the consequences of Israel’s state. Was being an Israelite a personal position? Is not all confusion here, because the plain truth of His own relation to God, as man, is put aside?
But (Letter, p. 25), “He forewent the title of His personal position79 the moment He took flesh.” Here we have the point. Though He might have had a claim if He had been pleased to assert it, He forewent it. He then “assumed a relative position.” That, then, was His standing before God. This is confirmed by its application to the cross. He took there the position of substitute. His sufferings “flowed from a relative position, namely, that of substitution. So also in life.” (Page 26.) Now, His place on the cross was under wrath, that is, He was regarded of God according to His position; so in life, having foregone the title of His own position,80 He was to be regarded of God in His relative one; that is, dealt with in the world as a sinful man, “according to truth.” That was His relation to God—His relative position. (Letter, p. 26.) “Sufferings that flow from a personal position prove personal unworthiness; sufferings that flow from a relative position prove no personal unworthiness.” No, nor is it charged as a doctrine. But for the same reason they prove relative unworthiness: just as, on the cross, God dealt with Christ according to His relative position—that is, in wrath due to sin. That was God’s relation to Christ, personally worthy as He was, “so also in life.” That is, according to Mr. N., God’s relation to Christ was that He bore to sinful fallen man, the relative position He had taken. Now that is the point. The title of His personal position He had foregone—He had taken His relative position before God, that is, fallen man’s and fallen Israel’s. That was Christ’s relation to God. That is all the writer tells us concerning Him—His relation to God, whatever the reason; and this is confirmed by the statement, that it was pressed on His soul. He was exposed to it: that “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.” (“Remarks,” p. 8.) God might bring it home or relieve Him from it, but that was His relation to God. Of course the only meeting-point was death under wrath for such a position. “His baptism … was the acknowledgment of the condition of His people, and of His association with them in that condition.” (Obs. p. 24.) An association, note, by birth. Hence He was obnoxious to all—that is, it was due to His relative position. For, as He was not subjected to all, ‘obnoxious’ must mean, it was what was due. Hence, heaven was not opened to Him till after His baptism, as we have seen. “He was made to feel that His association with those thus standing in the fearfulness of their distance from God was a real thing, and that it was so regarded by God. His was no mere imaginary association.” (Obs. p. 36.)
I would now add a little which I hope may clear up some minds as to Christ’s sympathy with us. First, I assume that my reader holds, as myself, the true and real humanity of the Lord, both in body and soul—that He was a true living man in flesh and blood. Mr. N. says, that some say He had no human soul; I never heard of any since Eutyches and the Apollinarians— people whom the most of my readers, I suppose, know nothing about.
Christ was a man in the truest sense of the word, body and soul. The question is as to His relation to God as man. We are all agreed that He was sinless. He had true humanity, but united to Godhead. He was God manifest in the flesh. Scripture speaks simply, saying, He partook of flesh and blood. That is what the Christian has simply, and as taught of God, to believe.
Mr. N. goes beyond scripture in saying (p. 35) that “To say that there was in His humanity a divine spring of thought and feeling, is to deny His real humanity.” Was His humanity then without a divine spring of thought and feeling? Had he said it was not of or from His humanity, I should have nothing to say; but to say there was none in it unsettles the doctrine of Christ’s person. There was the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and the divine nature was a spring of many thoughts and feelings in Him. This is not the whole truth; but to deny it is not truth. If it merely means that humanity has not in itself a divine spring, that is plain enough; it would not be humanity. I am equally aware that it will be said that it was in His person; but to separate wholly the humanity and divinity in springs of thought and feeling is dangerously overstepping scripture. Is it meant that the love and holiness of the divine nature did not produce, was not a spring of, thought and feeling in His human soul? This would be to lower Christ below a Christian. Perhaps this is what Mr. N. means in saying He was dispensationally lower than the church. If so, it is merely a roundabout road to Socinianism.
His humanity, it is said, was not sui generis. This too is confusion. The abstract word humanity means humanity and no more: and, being abstract, must be taken absolutely, according to its own meaning. But, if the writer means that in fact the state of Christ’s humanity was not sui generis, it is quite wrong; for it was united to Godhead, which no one else’s humanity ever was; which, as to fact, alters its whole condition. For instance, it was not only sinless, but in that condition incapable of sinning; and to take it out of that condition is to take it out of Christ’s person. What conclusion do I draw from all this?—That the wise soul will avoid the wretched attempt to settle in such a manner questions as to Him whom no one knoweth but the Father. The whole process of the reasoning is false.81
To turn, then, to scripture, we are told of the sinless infirmities of human nature, and that Christ partook of them. Now, I have no doubt this has been said most innocently; but, not being scripture, we must learn in what sense it is used. Now, that Christ was truly man, in thought, feeling, and sympathy, is a truth of cardinal blessing and fundamental importance to our souls. But I have learnt, thereby, not that humanity is not real humanity, if there is a divine spring of thought and feeling in it; but that God can be the spring of thought and feeling in it, without its ceasing to be truly and really man. This is the very truth of infinite and unspeakable blessedness that I have learnt. This, in its little feeble measure, and in another and derivative way, is true of us now by grace. He who searches the hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit. This is true in Jesus in a yet far more important and blessed way. There was once an innocent man left to himself; the spring of thought and feeling being simply man, however called on by every blessing and natural testimony of God without: we know what came of it. Then there was man whose heart alas! was the spring, “from within,” of evil thoughts and the dark train of acts that followed. What I see in Christ is man, where God has become the spring of thought and feeling.82 And, through this wonderful mystery, in the new creation in us, all things are of God. That, if we speak of His and our humanity, is what distinguishes it. Metaphysically to say “His and our humanity” is nonsense; because humanity is an abstraction which means nothing but itself, and always itself, and nothing else (just as if I said Godhead); and if I introduce any idea of its actual state I am destroying the idea and notion the word conveys. But the moment I do associate other ideas, I must introduce the whole effect and power of these ideas to modify the abstract one according to the actual fact. Thus humanity is always simply humanity. The moment I call it His, it is sui generis, because it is His; and in fact humanity sustained by Godhead is not humanity in the same state as humanity unsustained by Godhead.83 Sinless humanity, sustained in that state by Godhead, is not the same as sinful humanity left to itself. If it be said it was in the same circumstances, this is a question of fact, and to what extent? And here we have to guard against confounding relationships and circumstances. Thus deprivation of paradise is stated by Mr. N. as one thing which the blessed Lord had in common with ourselves. As to circumstances, it is quite clear it was so; but as to relationship to God—was Christ deprived of paradise as we are as guilty outcasts from it? Clearly not. And here let me remark on moral distance. Mr. N. says He could not be in moral distance (p. n), for moral distance is hatred to God. Hence (p. 13), “The Lord Jesus never knew, and never could know, moral distance or distance of affection from God His Father:” and then speaks of the change of circumstances from paradise and his future glory. Now, all this is merely avoiding the real question. What was meant by moral distance was this, that by His own relation to God, because of others perhaps, but in which He Himself was, He had to find His way to a point where God could meet Him, rising out of the region of man’s distance from God, a distance inconceivable to us.
Now, that is not mere circumstances. He felt, Mr. N. tells us, in His soul, according to truth, the present and future condition of ruined man. Now the circumstances of exclusion from paradise, hunger, thirst, uneasiness—in a word, the effects or results, death itself—are not inconceivable by us. The question is, not what were His affections, but in what light God regarded Him. What was His relation to God? And let me add here, this enquiry is only puzzled by talking about personal position and relative position. If by the former is meant merely His person, it does not touch the question. We all own the Father’s delight in Him personally. If anything more is meant, relative position is a personal one. If I am a child, it is my personal position, and it is a relative one.
Further, then, if infirmities mean being in the circumstances of sorrow in which man was, and not screening Himself from them, no one, of course, questions it or the truest reality of it. As to death: if it be meant He was capable of dying, the fact is evident—He died, and that death was pressed upon His soul even before; if, that He was under the necessity of death in respect of His relationship to God, then it is false. And you cannot, in His person, separate the sustaining power of Godhead nor having fife in Himself so as to make a necessity without His will in grace. He laid it down of Himself. “The Lord’s own words seem purposely intended to set aside such a doctrine.” I quote from Mr. N. when he had not yet lost the influence of truth, though he had introduced the worst of his errors: and further reasoning about it is vain. If Herod, we are told, had beheaded Him, He would have died. I see no reverence in this—He was not liable to it till He let Herod do it. Nor is it sense. What would have become of Adam, innocent, if he had been beheaded?
But scripture never uses the term that Christ was subject to infirmities. Nor is being in infirmities necessary to sympathy with those in them; but being out of them, though having a nature capable of apprehending in itself the suffering it brings into. The mother sympathizes with the babe in the pain she does not feel. Further, Christ is contrasted in His priestly sympathies with men having infirmity. The law makes men priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, the Son consecrated for evermore. (Hebrews 7:28.) The high priest taken from among men had compassion, for that (while priest, note) he was compassed with infirmity. That was mere man’s way of sympathy; for he had to offer for his own sins. Instead of this, Christ in the days of His flesh, when He was not a priest, cried to Him who was able to save Him from death, took the place of lowly, subject, sorrowful man, and received the weight of it in His soul, and then being made perfect acts as priest. It is not said that He was infirm like us, but in all points tempted like as we are: and that He suffered, being tempted, and therefore is able to succour them that are tempted.
Another important passage connected with this is in Matthew. Christ took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses. Now how was this? “And he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet: saying, Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses.” I do not doubt His whole soul entered into them in the whole sorrow and burden of them before God, in the full sense of what they were, so viewed, in order to set them aside and bar Satan’s power as to them. But was He sick and infirm because Himself took our infirmities? Clearly not. In a word, it is not being Himself in the state with which He sympathizes which gives the sympathy.
This connects itself with another point Mr. N. charges on others, that is, saying that Christ took the nature of the regenerate. This seems to me nonsense. I have just the same nature now as to my body, as I had when unregenerate; though the Holy Ghost may have a tide to my body, exercised in resurrection, in virtue of Christ’s redemption. Christ partook of flesh and blood; that is what scripture states, and that is the whole matter. He was a true real man in flesh and blood. But there is a very important point connected with this which has been spoken of, and in which Mr. N.’s fearful error lies. It is this: according to Mr. N., when Christ did take flesh and blood, He was associated with man and Israel so as to be in their distance from God. That He was truly a man and an Israelite in true flesh and blood, born such, no one questions. But His associations in relationship with God were with the saints in Israel. They no doubt had the thoughts and feelings of an Israelitish saint; that is Israel’s responsibility, failure, hopes and promises formed the basis, or structure, or character of their feelings as saints; but Christ’s relationship was with them. And this is the distinctive character of the book of Psalms. It takes up Israelitish hopes, and circumstances and conditions, no doubt, but as held by the saints only; and excludes the ungodly as an adverse party. Now that was Christ’s place. It was association with the holy remnant in their Israelitish condition. Their relationship to God was a holy relationship; and though they might go through every test and trial of the new nature and faith on which it was founded, and acknowledge all the failure and the sin under which they were suffering, the relationship was a holy one with God. Into that Christ enters;84 and therefore, though He may enter into their sorrows and bear their guilt, He has no need to be in any other relationship to God than a holy one. In that He may feel the effects of another, just as a renewed soul, because it is near God and feels accordingly, feels its former state of sin and guilt; but it is not in it, save where guilt is not yet removed from the conscience, in which position of feeling clearly Christ was solely as a substitute. He is not associated with man’s or Israel’s distance (save as bearing sin), but with the children’s relationship to God. Because the children partake of flesh and blood, He partook85 of them. The taking flesh and blood is stated as the consequence of His relationship with the children. Let us quote the passages.
“Both he that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified, are all of one.”
“Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren.”
“I and the children which God has given me.” Compare Isaiah 8.
“I will put my trust in Him.”
That is, the proof of His being in human nature is godly relationship in man.
It was not, then, that by taking flesh and blood He placed Himself in the distance of man; but that because He associated Himself with the children He partook of flesh and blood, and this is all that is said. The sanctifier and the sanctified being all of one, He was not ashamed to call them brethren. But His relationship was with the sanctified. His spirit entered into every sorrow, His soul passed through every distress, and He suffered under every temptation: but His relationship with God was never man’s or Israel’s as it then was, unless the cross be spoken of, because His was sinless, theirs sinful. It was His own. His relative position, that is, His relation to God, was according to what He was, whatever He might take upon Him or enter into in spirit, which included every sorrow and every difficulty felt, according to the full force of truth, and that before God.
This distinctive relationship with the remnant before God the Psalms specifically shew. The Spirit of Christ does not accept the position of Israel as it then stood: but distinguishes (see Psalm 1) the godly man as alone owned or approved of God, and Christ, born in the world, owned as Son, and decreed King in Zion in spite of adversaries. (Psalm 2.) He identifies Himself with the excellent on the earth. (Psalm 16.) God is good to Israel, even to them that are of a clean heart. He is God of Jacob, but a refuge to the remnant alone. With them Christ in spirit identifies Himself, and abhors the rest, looking for help—judicial help—against an ungodly nation.
The circumstances of His baptism were a remarkable illustration of this. Did the Lord take His place with the Pharisees and Scribes who were not baptized? Clearly not. When does He associate Himself with Israel? In the first movement of the answer of faith to the testimony of God: when the people went to be baptized, Jesus also went. Now that was the answer of grace to God’s testimony in John, in the remnant in whose hearts He was acting—the first and lowest beginning of it; still it was the movement of the heart under God’s grace, in answer to the testimony. It was really the gracious part of Israel: it was really the excellent, the godly remnant, with whom Christ identified Himself in their godliness. He was fulfilling righteousness.
I will notice (without entering largely into any refutation) what may guard the reader against trusting the arguments of this pamphlet. Page 4: “Seeing that it is admitted that in the case of the Lord there could be no imputation of Adam’s sin, and yet that He did suffer under certain consequences of that sin because of voluntary association;… and that this voluntary association was reached by birth, as a means—it follows that there may be association attended by all these circumstances, and yet no imputation.” Now, His suffering some of the consequences of Adam’s sin could not, by reason of birth being the means, involve Him in all, unless birth placed Him absolutely by necessity under every possible consequence of sin in which the being a man by birth involved Him. That is the whole force of the argument from some to all, because it was by means of birth. I pray the reader to note this: it really involves the whole question.
Christ, according to Mr. N., was involved in all the consequences of Adam’s sin by necessity of birth. And mark here, that “circumstances” is used as equivalent to “consequences.” Then remark as to law and Israel. In the tracts the Sinai relationship to God is ascribed to the Lord: a worse state even than that at Sinai after worshipping the golden calf. Galatians 3:10 is quoted as expressing the state of Israel under the law. What means “Israelites became amenable to the things I have mentioned because they were men, not because they were Israelites?” (Page 4.)
Further, it is stated that the law was based on foreseen redemption. “God was too holy to propose any grounds of life to a sinful people except through mediation and atoning blood.” (Page 5.) This subverts every principle both of law and redemption. The blood of the old covenant dedicated and sealed its authority and power. It was not, as to the law, a type of foreseen redemption. Redemption was the basis of the new, this the seal of the old: and mark here the force of “foreseen redemption.” Redemption set them on the ground of getting life by keeping the law! Is that redemption—or its value? The redemption too, mark, of Christ! Is it the old covenant or the new? Man was not treated as a sinful people when put to the test of the law, but a being under trial; and redemption is here wholly and absolutely out of place. The question was, Could righteousness be by law as a means of title to life? It was shewn it could not. God does not put man on his trial by redemption, but saves him because he has failed in it, which is just the opposite of law. This passage upsets every truth as to law, redemption, life, and the whole ground and truth of the gospel, and confounds the two covenants together, making the solemn sanction and seal of the old the cause, as the redemptive power, of the new. And think of Christ earning life by the law in virtue of His own redemption—of Himself, therefore! because people are redeemed, Mr. N. says. He enjoyed the fruits of the earth by virtue of it. Mark here the total ruin of all moral truth in this tract. This reasoning makes the temporal mercies which the raven enjoys the same thing as the terms of moral relationship to God. Supposing the circumstances of the world as to creation, through which Christ passed, were founded in mercy on His work, does that shew the ground of His own personal moral relation to God—His standing and way of life before God? Does the food of a sparrow and the relationship of Christ to God, as to having life, depend on the same efficacy of redemption? In this again you see how circumstances are equivalent to our whole standing before God. Is it not a doctrine which ought to astound and revolt everyone as an inconceivable perversion, that Christ was set to earn86 life under the law, in virtue of His own foreseen redemption? And I pray the reader to recollect, that redemption applies to persons.
Law added another trial to man—man found it to be unto death. That Christ could not do, because He had life and was holy, and, being born under it, did love God with all His heart; and surely we can say, His neighbour more than Himself. Redemption as an effectual thing comes in when sin and transgression too have made all else unavailable to man. Law as a means of life, founded on the redemption wrought by Christ, is a thing unknown to the New Testament. The sentence I have quoted, “God was too holy to propose any grounds of life to a sinful people except through mediation and atoning blood,” subverts every part of the apostle’s reasoning,87 and confounds law and grace, responsibility and gospel, in hopeless confusion; and the putting Christ under it is that reckless irreverence for Christ which is as painful in these papers as the false doctrine itself, and even more so.
“The law was in this adverse to imputation.” If so, the redemption was not needed to put them under it. If redemption had taken imputation away, then it was not in question in the law.
But if (p. 6) “every individual was placed … upon his own basis” by the law, on a principle that “superseded … the effects of imputation,” so that God promised to recognize the individual condition of each Israelite, according to that which it actually was, how was it “quite open to Him to punish the nation, and to cause righteous individuals to share in the calamities which fell upon those with whom they were nationally associated”? That in grace and by the Spirit they should enter into it, that I understand. So Christ did. But that it should be quite open to God to do die contrary of what He promised, I do not understand. Further, though the law was not a principle of federal imputation, the terms on which Israel were with God were so as regards the government of the nation to the third and fourth generation. He could not forget the innocent blood shed by Manasseh for all the piety of Josiah.
And here I will remark on the objections referred to. Some “have implied that the Son took not the nature of man, but the nature of the brethren.” (P. 9.) What is the difference? I always thought we had the nature of man till now; and what is more, that I had it after regeneration as well as before. I was a man, and I am a man, I should think. Mr. N. adds “meaning apparently the new nature of the regenerate.” What has that to do with their humanity? Besides, it is nonsense. Christ was the spring and source of that; He could not take it. I have already shewn that it was the relationship and position of the children and brethren he did take, and that the contrary is the form of Mr. N.’s error. I ask only where have they used this language? As to this, as in every other case, we are left in the dark. Christ’s humanity was not superhuman; but it was humanity in superhuman association.
In page 27 Mr. N. says, “It has also been said, that the tracts teach, that it was necessary for the Lord Jesus to extricate Himself from its circumstances, before He was fit to be the Lamb slain. But the tracts teach no such thing.”
Again, where has it been said?
Mr. N. then admits, they state that “He was able to extricate Himself.” Now Mr. N.’s paper in the “Christian Witness” declares He rose out of the region (not He was able to do so) by His own inherent holiness. The tracts say, He was able, and proved He could; and that He did change from Sinai condition (the state in question) to Zion condition, and that He had to find His way by obedience to a point where God could meet Him; so that the tracts do distinctly teach it in the worst way. I must leave everyone to judge of pleading the word “able to do it, and proving He could” along with the other passages, to shew that it was not said He did.
Further, the tracts, it is said, did not teach He had to do so “before He was fit to be the Lamb slain.” Where has it been said they did? The notes published by Mr. Harris teach that He had to go through the suffering process, in order to be fit to be a sacrifice. Mr. N. printed corrections of this, by which the reader was to know what he did, and did not hold, of these notes; and he corrected the word “Lamb,” changing it into “the One” made perfect; but did not correct, “in order to be a sacrifice,” which was the whole point. That was left untouched by his corrections. And he is very precise in the correction and source of the error (see “Observations,” p. 6); only the real weighty point is passed over with an “&c.”
Page 29.—“It has been said that the doctrine of sin imputed to the Lord Jesus, under the federal headship of Adam, is taught in these tracts.” Where has it been said? Mr. Newton did teach it, and was obliged to retract it, and published the tracts as the careful clearing of the doctrines; and he was charged with holding horrible error still, and extracts given to prove it. The words “federal headship” were withdrawn, and his evil doctrine set on what was considered safe ground.
Everyone owns there was relation to Adam; but does not own, that it was such that He had to find His way to a point where God could meet Him, because He realized a place, Adam’s place, of distance from God inconceivable to us, and Israel’s when worse than the golden calf, as His own relation because of Israel, not vicariously.
Page 37.—“Experiences proper to the unconverted.” Mr. N. does not merely speak of Israel; he declares that Jesus had “the exercises of soul which His elect in their unconverted state ought to have, and which they would have, if it were possible for them to know and feel every thing rightly according to God.” (“Observations,” p. 26.) Now whatever nonsense this may be (for it is a contradiction in terms, because, if they had such, they would not be unconverted), yet, taking it as it is, what feelings does it give to Jesus? What ought an unconverted man to think of himself, if he thought rightly according to God? Only think of applying this to Jesus, and excusing it! As to the Psalms, the note is inconsistent enough. Christ, according to it, had (only they were perfect) the experiences of the stricken remnant of the unconverted elect. But then we are told that to place in His mouth the Psalms which expressed it, as if they were His experience (which Mr. N. does), is most serious error. Now I say the Psalms in general express the feelings of the godly remnant, into which Christ in spirit enters and gives a perfect expression to. Mr. N. has not told us where these, and some other imaginary objections, are any of them to be found. It would have been better to have referred to and answered the plain printed statements, which everybody could have verified. These are all passed over.
Page 19.—“How, then, could such sufferings unfit Him for His last great act of atonement?” It was not the sufferings, but the position and relationship to God in which Mr. N. placed the blessed Lord, which would have unfitted Him. This “relative position” cannot be imputed; that, as we have seen, is the question.
Page 27.—“He proved He was suffering because of relative position on the cross.” But there He suffered instead of others, to whom it was due. In life it was not instead of others. To what was it due?
Page 28, 29.—The tracts do distinctly state that He emerged from the circumstances by changing His dispensational relationship to God, as Israel did at John’s baptism.
As to federal imputation and the law being adverse to it, and Christ not being under it, Mr. N.’s corrected statement is (“Observations,” p. 7), “They state that He was obnoxious, that is, exposed to the inflictions which, in consequence of the curse of the broken law, had gone forth against Israel.”
He had not quoted Galatians 3:13, referred to in the tract (“Observations,” p. 7): that he can safely deny; but he had quoted Galatians 3:10, as may be easily seen. (“Remarks,” p. 5.) They “had earned by their disobedience the fearful inflictions of God’s broken law; 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,’ Galatians 3:10.” With this it was that Jesus associated Himself. It was His relation because of Israel. In the “Observations” the remark on this is, “Who would deny that Elijah was obnoxious to, and that Elijah suffered under, the drought and the famine?” &c. (Page 7.) And let the reader remember that it is stated in the “Letter,” that suffering under certain results of Adam’s sin, inasmuch as it was by birth, may be attended by all the consequences of that sin.
The reader may also remark (p. 36) the way in which while Christ is made like all in physical suffering, in moral experience He is said to be peculiar and not like us. Where was the sympathy with us then?
I do not enlarge further on the note (p. 37), but only remark, “before they are received and acknowledged by the Lord as His; before, therefore, they convert.” Now they cannot before they are received. This is merely the root of all this grievous error, and connects Mr. N.’s prophetic system inseparably with his horrible views as to Christ; because he makes the sympathies, associations, and experiences of the Lord to be those of the unconverted Jews, His prophetic system requiring Him to treat them as such; and if He does, the book of Psalms obliges him to put Jesus in that position and relationship to God. But all this is unsound. If this note be well weighed, the real bearing of the whole will be found out, though the contradictions, as in all error, are without end. Let him weigh this word (p. 38), “whatsoever shall be according to truth in their view must be included in the perfect view of the Lord Jesus.” Because the whole statement rests on this, that, though He felt perfectly rightly, and they imperfectly, they were in the same relationship as giving rise to the feelings. Hence Mr. N. thinks it dreadful, and accuses his opponents as putting the Lord Jesus in the same condition as that of the stricken remnant of Israel. On his ground of identification with the unconverted it would be so. But why stricken remnant? Israel was stricken. But with the converted remnant Jesus had blessed sympathy. Instead of that, what does Mr. N. give us in the Psalms? The Holy Ghost consecrating the self-righteous ungodly feelings of an unconverted remnant, and inspiring men to utter them, and then giving Christ’s own experiences which were not these, and in which He had sympathy with nobody at all. And yet so truly identified was He with this unconverted elect remnant in His relationship with God, that He had (though they had not) the experiences which such an unconverted elect man ought to have. They were His feelings of sorrow in the place, as Himself there. And that is the book of Psalms.
So in page 40: “He was an Israelite; but… distinct, separate, alone, and ever … so regarded by God,” and “exercised according to truth.” “But no one … could suppose that I meant by this, that He felt as a mere Israelite, or as other Israelites did. It was not sympathy nor entering into their feelings. It was the expression of His own; and according to the truth of the place He was in, His own relation to God. But in truth it needs no reasoning: ‘Because of thine indignation and thy wrath,’ are plain and unambiguous words; and if we could not comprehend the reason for such a relation of God to His holy and perfect servant, it would be our place to submit our understandings and bow.” “Observations;” and see page 20, 21. See also “Observations,” page 15, where, after quoting Galatians 3:10, and “law worketh wrath,” &c, it is formally stated, that, under a covenant of law, “they were brought under curse;” and that Jesus was “one of a nation that was exposed to all the terrors of Sinai.” See too “Observations,” page 29. “Still,” says the Letter, “the aspect, and the expressed aspect, of God’s mind towards… Israel was one of love.”
I pass over many other points, only remarking on the words, “taking upon Himself the necessity of dying.” He did take that; but that is not being by necessity under death. No two things can be more different and opposite. Had He been by necessity under death, He could not have taken upon Himself the necessity of dying.
66 It is a great mistake to suppose, that, because people have not intelligently received an evil doctrine, they have not suffered by it. The plain simple notion of Christ is undermined; and power against evil and for good destroyed, though the soul is unaware of it. The sense of the evil is utterly enfeebled, and Christ practically lost.
67 The unsuspecting pupil supposes that he has got, with unusual simplicity and clearness, at Christ’s real humanity and association with Israel by birth; but in page 40 we read, “It is true that He was an Israelite, but it is also true, that He was an Israelite distinct, separate and alone, and that He was so regarded by God.” The consistency of this with the tracts I do not touch on here.
68 Vicariousness is now denied in the sense of substitution, but maintained in the sense of being for others; but this is immaterial. He was born under the curse of the exiled family, and abode it, though He had risen by obedience out of that region. That is, He was born under the curse He abode on the cross.
69 I am not unaware of what would be attempted to be said: that this did not refer to the person or natures of Christ; but if being a constituted sinner by descent from Adam does not relate to the person or natures of Christ, what does it relate to?
70 Note here, His being a man did not make Him suffer. Adam, before his fall, was as much a man as after. If Christ suffered, because He was a man, it only means a man under the same necessity and relationship to God as Adam in sin. The reader will do well to bear in mind this. Sin did not make Adam a man, but placed man in a certain position before God. The question is, Did Christ take in His life the position of the sinner, as such, before God? Mr. N. held that He did, and worked His way out of it; sometimes stating He got out of it at John’s baptism, at other times at the cross. Here, moreover, it is not merely that Christ suffered as in the service of God, but because He was a man. No one doubts He suffered, and must have been a man to suffer. But was He by necessity of condition, because He was a man, involved in all the consequences of sin? If it was because He was a man, He was—and so indeed Mr. N. states in his tracts—“exposed to” them, though He did not suffer all. Do not let the reader be misled by the word sinless. Damnation is not a sinful thing, it is very righteous. No penalty, as such, is sinful.
71 This is repeated so often, in far stronger terms, that it is useless to quote the passages. See “Remarks,” 14, 22; “Observations,” 21, 23, 29, 36, 42.
72 Mark the word “interfered” here. It is important as shewing the way in which Mr. N. rests on the eternal personal place of Christ, so as to put His relative place, as incarnate, on the very questionable ground of not interfering with His acceptability. Was it not positively acceptable in itself?
73 Was it an “arrangement” that His “relation to God” was fully represented by that of Israel after making the golden calf?
74 Note here, whether it was His own relation He was thinking about.
75 Circumstances on earth were not the same as in heaven, of course; but in what way did God regard Him on earth?
76 What would have been so? And note here: His place on earth is not in itself a definite position; but His position is the eternal One, and His earthly state a question of accordance with that. Mr. N. is perfectly aware of this, and in referring to earth uses terms which seem to be all right but which only affirm integrity in conduct, or original personal position. The title to the latter He had foregone. His conduct is not in question. His relation in this world to God is carefully avoided.
77 Here position is no longer equivalent to circumstances. These changes in the sense of words bewilder the mind as to what position and relation mean, because, if personal position mean His Sonship, this is a relative position. Is that changed? If not, where is another relative position assumed. What is it? Is it one of perfect acceptance? If we take it as Godhead, then it has nothing to do with position, or circumstances, or relationship. Godhead place does not touch or mingle with relative position. Our question is, “His relation to God as a man and an Israelite.” Godhead place cannot be brought in here. Mr. N. did at first apply Romans 5:19. That was wrong. What is right? The principles of the tracts, which made Him learn to find His way by obedience to a place where God could meet Him? His own relation (on whatever reason) to God being feebly expressed by the state of Israel after worshipping the golden calf? What was Israel’s relation then?
78 But if He forewent what was due to His personal position, what was His relation to God?
79 Note the careful confusion here. “He forwent the title of His personal position the moment He took flesh.” What personal position had He then on taking flesh? Any or none? That is, in flesh. Was his personal position solely what He was in Godhead and eternal Sonship? or had He, or did He take, any personal acceptable position on taking flesh to fulfil His Father’s will? did He forego that in taking it, or was there none? This is the point.
80 That is, He never stood before God on earth according to the title of a relative position down here, in personal acceptance. It is said indeed, “as an Israelite under law He had a title to all blessing.” (Page 24.) But this was acquired by holiness, not (as we have seen) in His relation as such before God. Another ground is stated (p. 6) in the letter to get out of this difficulty, namely, “the son shall not be punished for the iniquity of the father.” But if not, and it was merely under governmental arrangements, by which He inherited a certain position from His mother as Daniel might, how so? This plain question still recurs: What was His relation to God?
81 I must here just remark, in passing, that throughout this Letter we find objections, said to have been raised, quoted from nowhere and nobody, and answers given demolishing them: the objections not being the real ones at all.
82 Did He hereby cease to be man? not at all. It is, though “according to God,” in man and as man these thoughts and feelings are to be found. And this extends itself to all the sorrows and the pressure of death itself upon his soul in thought. He had human feelings as to what lay upon Him and before Him, but God was the spring of His estimate of it all. Besides, the manifestation of God was in His ways. We had known man innocent in suitable circumstances; and guilt, subject to misery; but in Christ we have perfectness in relation to God in every way, in infallibly maintained communion in the midst of all the circumstances of sorrow, temptation, and death, by which He was beset, the spring of divine life in the midst of evil, so that His every thought as man was perfection before God, and perfect in that position. This was what marked His state as being down here this new thing.
83 Hunger, thirst, uneasiness, are not a kind of humanity, but a state of circumstances in which it is placed. That Christ came into these circumstances is undoubted. I have not different humanity when I am hungry and when I am full. But I am placed in a condition in which hunger and starvation may fall upon me if God so permits. Who will say if Adam had not had food he would not have been hungry? But God had not set him in that condition. Further, even as to death, there is much misapprehension. No creature is, in itself, in a state which cannot perish. That is the condition of existence of God alone, “who only hath immortality.” If Adam was not mortal before he sinned, it was by God’s continual sustaining power—we may say, by Christ’s. By God’s appointment, when man sinned, he passed out of that state of continually sustained existence, and was not to continue beyond a limited period in his actual condition of existence. This was not humanity, but man’s state, as such, when Christ came. Now, Christ came expressly to die, and took all this sorrow in its full weight upon His soul; He was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death. But His doing this in obedience, “Lo I come to do thy will,” to glorify God and manifest and accomplish His love, exalt His righteousness and be the suffering vessel of witness to the claims of this necessity, was infinitely acceptable to God, so that His relationship to God as being in flesh, and by being in it, was one of infinite acceptability to God. But, though He came on purpose to die, because of the ruined condition in which man was, to raise His people, and so was in a capacity of dying, as made lower than the angels, yet it was in such sort that it should be a matter of pure grace in Him to give up His life. He laid it down of Himself. He had authority to lay it down and authority to take it again, still in obedience. “This commandment have I received of my Father.” That was the real condition of Christ’s death. He came to die, but He came to give His life. He had life in Himself. The condition of His existence here was to lay down by grace, obediently, but of Himself, His life. He was not, as of God, in a condition of losing it. He was not in Adam’s condition. For Adam could not lay down as Christ, or take again his life, nor had he life in himself. To speak of Him as liable to death, if something had happened, is mere irreverence—He was in a position of commanding His own death and life, but could do this, because of His perfection, only in obedience to His Father’s will—it is nonsense; because in the supposition is denied the condition of His existence, which was to lay it down; and, as I have said, if Adam had so lived under violence, and been hewed in pieces, would He have survived as a living man? The answer was, That was not His condition of existence. When Christ gave Himself up to the appointed consequences of sin, He took the wrath and the consequences. He came with that purpose, so that it was always before Him. His relationship to God in this (yea, because of this) was of infinite acceptance; not only because He was eternal Son of God, the title of which He did not forego, as towards God, in assuming flesh, but was in His acceptance all through. But the position itself that He assumed was a cause of infinite acceptance, and in that He stood as man even in what He suffered. “Therefore doth my Father love me.”
84 This was His relative position as regards even Israel. Any other would have been morally incompatible with His being and proper relationship to God. A saint may feel the guilt: into that Christ could enter, but He could not be in it in His relationship to God save vicariously.
85 Mr. N.’s criticism on this is quite unfounded: paraplhsivw", if in any other than an entirely general sense, would have the contrary sense to that which he gives it. In scripture itself it is only used once more, “He was sick nigh unto death.” (Phil. 2:27.)
86 Mr. N. says, this expression is applied to Christ by one of the principal objectors to the doctrine, in a paper in the “Words of Truth;” but, as usual, omits saying where. What may be in the “Words of Truth” I know not, for I have not read them; but be it where it may, it is a horrible and inexcusable statement. Air. N. says it may be in a good meaning. It cannot possibly be so; because Christ, having life in Himself, could never be said to earn it, though what He did may have been such as merited it; but to speak of His earning life upsets His person in a way which no one who knows that person ought to pass as allowable. Mr. N., however, does not tell us where in the “Words of Truth;” and the reader had better reserve his judgment till he finds the passage.
87 No one can be familiar with St. Paul’s Epistles but must see that all his reasonings on the nature and dispensation of law, as contrasted with redemption, are absolutely incompatible with this monstrous statement.