Or, Remarks On The Second Letter Of Mr. Edmond Scherer4
Mr. Scherer has added a second letter to that already known and has just published them together. His aim is to shew that faith can abide intact spite of the denial of the inspiration of the scriptures; but this second letter is already the full proof of the contrary. The doctrine it contains is simply, in very fair phrases, the denial of the expiation of Christ and of the doctrine of justification by faith which flows from it.
The system of Mr. Scherer, who has not even the merit of originality, is only a diluted Irvingism. Besides it is the adoration of man, coloured with a certain mystic tint. Under the pretext of glorifying the Person of Christ, mysticism denies the efficacy of His work. Further, without the doctrine of expiation (such is the deceitfulness of the heart), admiration of the Person of Christ and of His life may be self-admiration. Christ was a man; and, by deifying man in Him, people put on themselves the crown of His glory under the pretext of the duty and capability of being like Him internally.
This system pretends to something more real, more intimate, more personal in religion. Poor heart of man! When will it learn that nothing so humbles it (and this is what is wanted), that nothing operates in it so strongly, in the way needed, as the knowledge that all has been done outside itself? Glorying in one’s humility, and being indeed humble, are two very different things. It is not by thinking of oneself, in order to imitate humility, that one becomes humble; it is by being debtor for all to the grace of Him who has saved us. Pharisaism does not consist in attributing everything to oneself, but in blessing God for what one is, instead of blessing Him for what He is, Himself.
I do not pretend to handle this question thoroughly, but only to examine some points in Mr. Scherer’s letter.
There is no novelty in his system, except that he excludes, as uninspired, what the mystics confine themselves to letting alone, namely, all the Holy Ghost’s teaching by the apostles. See pages 33 and 34, where the thing is plainly stated. “You ask me,” says he, “what remains of Christianity, when the dogma of inspiration is thrown out? ‘Jesus Christ remains.’ What remains of scripture? ‘The history of Jesus Christ.’”
We find in this second letter the same levity as in the first in assertions about serious matters, and in cases when the smallest examination would have shewn how destitute of foundation those assertions are. There is the same inflation of style, serving to veil capital vices in the reasoning, and to conceal unbelief and the desire of exalting man. “Have you not found,” says he, “salvation and life in Jesus Christ? and if it is so, how can you fear, lest any fact whatever should weaken this fact of immediate certainty?” (Page 28.) But it is not the fact of my possessing eternal life that this foolish doctrine weakens; it is the certainty of the truths that God uses as the means to communicate and maintain fife. To deny inspiration is to deny the certain communication of truth on the part of God.
“Very far” (the author tells us) “from being incompatible with criticism, faith carries a critical force in itself.” (Page 29.) This contradicts the sufficiency of moral certitude, and the historical proofs of which he speaks in his first letter. But, passing over that, there is little but words in this phrase. How does the fact that faith possesses a critical force shew that something else has that force? So far as there is any force in the reasoning, the reasoning itself precisely shews the contrary of what Mr. Scherer pretends to establish; for, if faith carries a critical force in itself, faith, having made its own criticism, excludes thereby the possibility of questioning its judgment: otherwise, its judgment is null. It pronounces, because it discerns. If I say, the tongue has in itself the capacity to discern the taste of what touches it, by attributing this faculty to the tongue, I exclude all judgment pronounced on the decision of the tongue; if not, I deny what I have just affirmed. The tongue says that honey is sweet. Who disputes its decision? Who disputes the power of the tongue—the very thing one has just been affirming? And this is owing to a special connection between the quality of an object, and the capacity to discern this quality. Thus, faith is faith, because it receives and understands the things of God, which are in connection with a capacity proper to faith; that is, the critical force which it has in itself implies the incompatibility of all other criticisms. This is so much the more true, because the quality recognized by faith excludes by this very fact all other criticism; for faith recognizes the authority of God in that which it receives; it believes God; otherwise it is not faith. Who will criticize God and His words? But, until one has received a communication as being such, faith is not in activity.
This manner of expressing oneself is, however, very imperfect, because it takes in only the fact of the existence of faith in man. The word of God, as is always the case, gives us much more light than the best reasonings. “The spiritual man,” it tells us, “judgeth [discerneth] all things, yet he himself is judged [discerned] of no man,” 1 Cor. 2:15. There is the criticism with which all other criticism is incompatible. And what is the force of this expression? It is, that God is there introduced, and that the Spirit of God is in the spiritual man, directing him and conducting him. He discerns all things because he is spiritual.
Now, mark well too the effect of this truth. The Holy Ghost, working in man, does not exclude the responsibility of man; on the contrary, it gives him the right feeling of his relationship with God, and judges all that is inconsistent with that relationship. He does not act independently of the Lord, because He subjects man to God, and to what God has said. This was true in the case of Christ, and perfectly true in Him only. In us “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit,” tending always to produce imperfection in discernment and conduct. And again the Holy Ghost, working in man, does not exclude the faculties of man; He uses them; He is not judged by them. He uses them, so that it is human intelligence employed on all the subjects with which the Holy Ghost can occupy it, but employed by Him, enlightened by Him, receiving a capacity, in a certain sense, divine, without ceasing at the same time to be human. Man is thus delivered from the dominion of his corrupt nature. Reason neither judges nor governs; for if it does, it is only the will of man aspiring to independence, that is, excluding God, and always wrong by the very fact of this exclusion. When God is not already supreme, and His authority absolute in the eyes of a man, the man is altogether in a lie, because he is not in his moral place. But, while employing and in a divine way enlarging the capacity of man, the Holy Ghost submits him necessarily to God, makes God known to him, makes him receive what is of God—the word—because it is the perfect expression of the judgment of God. It is true that the flesh “lusteth against the Spirit,” so that imperfection is there. The result is not one of absolute perfection. It is only in as much as he is spiritual, as I have already said, that a man discerns all things.
The Spirit not only makes man subject to God, places him thus morally in what is true, and renders him capable of morally discerning; but He delivers him from the influence of the carnal motives which constantly vitiated his judgment. The Spirit presents to the affections of man, God in Christ, as well as a development of the truth, in all the relationships of man with God, as sinner and as saint, and that according to the height of the Person and work of Christ, and it is His work alone which gives us the true estimate of sin. Christ always estimated sin according to God; but, as to us sinners, it is only in the cross that we perfectly estimate it, because we there see it outside ourselves, in whom all is darkened by sin. It is there that the hatred of man against God, and the love of God for man, have met in one and the same act; and it is there that the moral state of man and the perfect revelation of God have been completely brought into evidence. That act is, at the same time, righteousness and salvation, death and judgment, as they were never manifested before, and never will be; and in that act they have been manifested as salvation and as life, the means which God has opened for His sovereign love and the salvation of the believer.
The insulting spear, which struck the Saviour when already dead, only brought forth the water and the blood which atone for and cleanse the sin which made them flow.
Man, morally, his affections, his judgment, are thus purified by that Jesus whom the Holy Ghost presents to him, that he may possess Him in his heart. Sweet and sanctifying proof of the Father’s love! The Holy Ghost in man is a real and divine power; but He also works morally, and in the intelligence of him in whom He dwells. The spiritual man discerneth all things. All means are at his disposal. He judges all things, he takes knowledge of all things if needful, according to the Spirit and by His direction. It is not his reason which judges; he judges spiritually of all things. He judges himself instead of pretending to judge God, as if he had a capacity independent of Him. It is this that is incompatible with faith; this is that criticism which is incompatible with faith, because faith acknowledges God, and judges that proud criticism, which, in its folly, would judge God.
If then one would speak of faith, it is because it has a sovereign power of criticism, because it is incompatible with criticism. That which criticizes supremely cannot be criticized, it would be a flagrant contradiction. “The spiritual man,” says Paul (for faith is an abstraction), “judgeth [discerneth] all things, and he himself is judged [discerned] of no man,” 1 Cor. 2:15.
What is this “transformation” of faith or of truth? It purifies itself, you say, rejecting every foreign substance. Well and good; but what is that movement in which “the constitutive elements of truth are found to be carried away”? Is not the truth of God stable, immutable, and eternal, transforming man by its power and by grace, but remaining ever itself, and ever the same?
Mr. Scherer—and this is convenient—wishes one to have the courage to set aside the dogmatic notion of inspiration, and place oneself, with the appearance of faith, on the free ground of the historical point of view, etc. It is clear that if I do that, all is done. “The assurance of faith,” say you? In what? Founded on what? On Jesus Christ, will you tell me? But how should I have a divine history of Him, without there being a divine capacity to write it? It is a book that I read, it is not Himself that I see. Mr. Scherer will tell me that what I read is evidently divine. Agreed. But you must fully bear in mind that you have not Jesus personally. You have only what is written: it is that which must be divine, if the Jesus whom I know is divine. Is it man that does what is divine?
Mr. Scherer acknowledges fully that, in order to invent Jesus Christ, one must have been Christ himself. In effect, it is morally impossible to form a just idea of such a character, without having in one the moral elements of that character— without being oneself what He is. I add, that we have this security further than the fact of invention—for this fact would have been the denial of that character, so that we must necessarily have the thing itself. Now, this is what we have by writing: who is capable of it? Man, or the men who wrote it? Then they are all Jesuses—they are all inspired! This is so much the more evident, because, in order to have this perfect and adorable being, more men than one were employed. This history is not their own act; it is a whole which reproduces Him of whom they speak. Finally, if a man who has faith rids himself of the scriptures which serve as a foundation to faith, the question is not to know if he loses his own faith, but if he has not destroyed the foundations on which the faith of others may rest, and level the faithfulness of God, if he has not destroyed the very foundations of his own. For, if God has not spoken, on what is faith founded? If God has spoken by a man, then the man is inspired.
Mr. S. wishes us to “believe in the truth.”5 “You believe in Jesus Christ: believe also in the truth.” This is all very fine; but what does it mean? Truth is an abstraction. It must subsist somewhere. There is such a thing as the truth— moral perfection in relationship with the Supreme Being, or, at least, a just estimate of those relationships—a life and a position which expresses that estimate. A man who tells me things just as they are tells me the truth; but to tell of things just as they are in connection with God is to say a great deal. If everything in these relationships is in its normal state, it is moral perfection.6 In a state of sin the truth does not exist. All is a lie. I said, in the relationship with the Supreme Being; because, in the case of the creature, to exclude God is falsehood itself. It is what Jesus says of the adversary— “He abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him,” John 8:44.
One cannot say, God is the truth, because God is perfect in Himself, and again, no relationship is obligatory for Him. To say that a thing is the truth, there must be a point of comparison by which I can judge of the conformity of what is expressed to that which ought to be expressed. But this is not the case with respect to God. Viewed in His essential existence, God does not express Himself. He is what He is. He cannot be compared with anything; He, as the word expresses it, “Dwelleth in the light which no man can approach unto,” 1 Tim. 6:16. How then is one to have the truth?
The truth is in Christ Himself. He is moral perfection in the relationship which can subsist with God, and in the most perfect way—the expression of God in His relationship with man. His life is also a life which is the just estimate of these relationships, amidst the evil where man is fallen. “He is the way, the truth, and the life.”
This is what Mr. Scherer says (it may be objected). “Can one,” he says, “truly believe in one without believing in the other?” But mark it well, for Mr. Scherer there is one and the other; and as to that other thing, the truth, where does it subsist—out of Christ? Where is it realized or possessed? Realized out of Christ? No one would dare to pretend such a thing and call himself a Christian. There would be another Christ. But possessed? Well, possessed out of Christ— where? There would still be another Christ; for to be this in thought, as we agreed, we ought to be this in point of fact. The man who possesses the truth outside of Christ does not want Him; he is himself the thing that he seeks. What then would be this truth which would be something besides Christ? When I know Christ, I know I possess the truth. I am certain that that truth will be glorified, because it glorifies God, and gives to each thing its own proper place. Although I might abstract, my confidence is not in an abstraction; it is in a living being, in Christ, and in God who glorifies Him.
Why distinguish confidence in the truth from confidence in Christ? Because the first is confidence in man—confidence in oneself.
This is most evident.
You have no confidence in the force of the truth as to a tree or an animal, and you are right. Why? Because they lack the necessary capacity to receive it, and they can neither taste nor appreciate it. The force of the truth is then in the moral capacity of the one who receives it; that is to say, your confidence is in the moral state of man. It is true that the truth in Christ is adapted to the conscience of every man, whose rebel will rejects it. Under the influence of grace the soul tastes its truth. As to the natural man, “the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not,” John 1:5. For the rest, it is certain that truth came by Jesus Christ. What has been outside grace—its force in the heart of man? It is this, that the history of our precious Saviour can teach us. Does Mr. Scherer believe that Christ is the truth? Was Christ received? Had the truth in its perfection that force which compels one to receive it? What then does that expression mean— “believe in the truth”? that is to say, believe in its intrinsic force to make itself received? It is but the adoration of man, in face of his conduct towards Christ. Would Mr. Scherer produce a truth more perfect than Christ, or believe in the efficacy of something less perfect? If one distinguishes between the truth and Christ, to believe in the truth is but unbelief with respect to Christ. You confide in your attachment to the truth, which without that attachment is nothing. Man as a sinner, man obeying his lusts, is not attached to the truth; the truth has no influence on him.
But one may tell me that the man who possesses the truth, who loves it, who tastes it, has confidence in it, as well as in Christ. Is it a living being, and outside of Christ? Where does it exist? In the mind of him who has confidence in it.
But by what means will it have the force which inspires confidence? It is either by the power of God, and then it is faith by the power of grace; or else it is by the acceptation of him who approves of it—that is to say, by man. Now God is here left outside. The work of God is faith in Christ. In the other case, it is confidence in man, confidence in oneself.
It is at the bottom that which Mr. Scherer acknowledges. For him “faith in Christ is a sacrifice of self; confidence in the truth is a sacrifice of our timidity, of our prejudices, of our party spirit.” Who is it that thus overcomes himself? It is man. The man who is true in his heart, in his motives, but outside of Christ; for if it is Christ as power, as motive, and as object, it is faith in Christ, and it is not to believe also in the truth. This new God (for in order for us to confide in Him, He must be God) this new God, I say, is only man after all.7
Truth is of all importance. One of the most important characters of the church is to be “the pillar and ground of the truth,” 1 Tim. 3:15.
We are going to see if Mr. Scherer upholds it.
He tells us that “Revelation supposes … the knowledge of God and the conscience of sin.” Is that truth? The Saviour said, and Mr. Scherer reminds us of it, “they that are sick need a physician.” No doubt; but He did not say, those who know themselves to be sick. But as to the knowledge of God, what does it reveal? The apostle said, that “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20), and that without law he would not have known sin; Rom. 7:7. The Lord Himself says that the Holy Ghost would reprove the world of sin, because they did not believe in Jesus; John 16:7, 9. If Mr. Scherer only means to say that every man has a conscience, I do not dispute it. But to say that the gospel supposes and does not create the sense of sin, and that the revelation of Jesus as light does not produce by grace, in the heart of man, the consciousness of what he is, this is to be as far off as possible from the truth. Mr. Scherer’s own words shew us the true consequence of this idea, that the gospel supposes the knowledge of sin; and they prove that I do not exaggerate, in supposing that he means to say that the gospel is not given to produce it. He says, “the gospel is not for everybody; it addresses itself very directly to some, whilst with others it has not one point of contact.” (Page 32.) Every Christian knows the contrary, and the word of God has a language entirely opposed to this. And if one has the consciousness of sin, without a revelation, why, as Mr. Scherer will have it, is it faith which supposes a revelation that weeps and is prostrate in the dust; or which, like that of the woman which was a sinner, covers the Master’s feet with her tears of repentance and stifled sobs? (Page 32.) If one has the sense of sin, without a revelation, and thus without faith, how is there but one faith, that of the publican prostrate in the dust, or that which shed the tears of repentance—that is to say, which has a true sense of sin? And, besides, is that indeed the only faith? “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, and peace,” Gal. 5:22. We have “not received the spirit of bondage again to fear,” but we “have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God,” Rom. 8:15, 16. Is that a false faith which says, He “loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father” (Rev. 1:5, 6); and which also says, “in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory”? (1 Pet. 1:8).
Is all that tears, prostration, or stifled sobs; or else did the apostles, notwithstanding, “religious inspiration” that Mr. Scherer attributes to them, describe a false faith? Is it that I despise these precious movements of a renewed heart and conscience? God preserve me from it! But, with the habitual pretension of sentimental spirituality, Mr. Scherer confounds the first movements of the quickening Spirit in the heart with the simplicity of peace, with the calm of spirit and rest which are the portion of him who knows Christ. If there is no other faith than that which sighs and covers the Master’s feet with its stifled sobs, what was the faith of this very same woman, when she went away in peace, because her sins were forgiven, and when she knew, from the lips of Jesus Himself, that this faith had saved her? But, if one would tell me that in the gospel faith receives an answer which removes the sobs and the tears, it is in that case nonsense to allege there is but the faith which weeps. Here is faith in the gospel of the grace of God, which gives peace and joy, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us; Rom. 5:5.
Sentimental people love their own sobs, not the grace which produced them. The Christian, feeble as he may be, loves God, because God loved him first. He thinks not of his repentance, but of Him who vouchsafed it to Him, who gave him access to Himself by the blood of the Lamb, and who made him joint-heir with Christ His Son, according to His ineffable love. This ignorance of the gospel explains itself by things still more serious, that we meet with farther on in this letter. But before pointing this out I shall say a few words on another matter which, according to Mr. Scherer, the gospel supposes, namely, “the knowledge of God.”
What vagueness! what a superficial way of treating serious questions! What is the knowledge of God? One asks oneself if the man who affirms that the gospel “supposes” this knowledge of God has himself the knowledge of God. “He who loveth not, knoweth not God,” says the apostle John; 1 John 4:8. “When ye knew not God,” says another apostle, “but now ye have known God” (Gal. 4:8,9); and elsewhere, “the Gentiles who knew not God,” 1 Thess. 4:5. “The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not,” John 1:5. Because the natural conscience tells a man that he is guilty, and that there is a God of judgment, does that man know God? He who speaks of a distinct motion in the soul, as if it was the knowledge of God, ought not to cry out against dogmatism and intellectualism, as evils of a religious life.
I come to things more serious still than the vagueness which reigns in these pages. All the gospel, Mr. Scherer tells us, centres in Jesus Christ… “If one cuts off the dogma of inspiration, there remains Jesus Christ… What remains to faith? The Person of Jesus Christ. He is the beginning and the end, the centre and the whole.” Not a word of His work, mark it well. After having cut off the dogma of inspiration, what remains of scripture? “The history of Jesus Christ.” A history, mark it well, imperfect as the men who wrote it; for, not having been kept by inspiration, their writings are but fallible accounts like those of other men. But is there nothing but the history of Jesus Christ, nothing of the witness of the Spirit as to the efficacy of His work? Does there remain nothing of it, even if it were not inspired? Did the religious inspiration of the apostles occupy itself with things of no value, when enlarging on the value of the work of Christ? No, according to Mr. Scherer, there remains nothing but the history of Jesus Christ, the Person of Jesus Christ. “It is the beginning and the end, the centre and the whole.” For him the work of Christ is a nullity, and he declares himself that it is the suppression of the dogma of inspiration which does this. But there is something more definite still, and it is with deep sorrow that I revert to some lines of the author, which are simply the denial of the doctrines which are essential to true Christianity. However, it is a mercy of God to have permitted that the effect of the rejection of inspiration should be at once stated by the very man who rejects it, stated immediately, so that the weakest Christian, the very moment he hears such words, should be warned of their bearing. I accept the truth that the Person of the Lord is the great object of faith; but there is, on this point, something very ambiguous in the idealism of the author, for I can no longer call it his faith. “Something supreme,” says he, “pierces through His perfection, which is so really human. Sincerely man like us, He has however the consciousness of being above man. Humanity in Him rises up to divinity. He alone knew the Father, with whom He was in a relationship which was unique. He who has seen Him has seen God. All things have been put into His hands—He abides with His own unto the end of the world. The church worships Him, and prays to Him; it acknowledges that its Saviour reigns in the heaven and on the earth, and that the reconciliation is accomplished by Him, because it is accomplished in Him, namely, in the very union of the God and man.” (Pages 35, 36.) Is He God, the Lord Jesus? Was He God before He became man? What pains, what subterfuges to avoid saying this word! “Humanity in Him rises up to divinity… He who has seen Him has seen God.” The Lord said: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9), and yet He was not the Father. “Reconciliation was accomplished in him, namely, in the very union of the God and man.” Why of the God? Was He God? The last phrase which I have just quoted is perhaps the clearest on the subject of the divinity of Jesus; but the union of God and man leaves after all, as to the Person of Christ, and as to the true divinity of Jesus, a vagueness which nothing elsewhere can destroy. The word of God has nothing like this. “The Word,” it says, “was with God, and the Word was God.” “All things were made by him,” and “the Word was made flesh,” John 1. It is not humanity which in Him rises up to divinity, a sort of divine moral quality… It is God—God, before being man—God who had made the heaven and the earth. “All things were created “by the Son, and for the Son, as the apostle tells us in the Epistle to the Colos-sians; Col. 1:16. “Thou, Lord, in the beginning, hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thine hands,” Heb. 1:10. One must not deceive oneself as to the meaning of words, and speak to us about dogmas. Was then Jesus the true God? He who, before becoming man, created the heavens and the earth—is He the Creator? “To raise humanity to divinity … a union of God and man.” These are things that may be agreeable to man, they exalt ideal man; but was Jesus God outside man? Was He the Creator?
Mr. Scherer leaves us on that point in a painful uncertainty. Now, it is important for a serious man to know if his Saviour is God or not, and not to worship one knows not what.
On this capital point of reconciliation Mr. Scherer is by no means obscure. He denies the truth in the clearest manner. “Reconciliation was accomplished by Him, because it was accomplished in Him, namely, in the very union of God and man.” Of sinful man! Is it that the reconciliation of sinful man (of a nature in which, according to the apostle, there is no good) has been effected by the union of this sinful nature with God? And what was this nature which needed to be reconciled? Was it not a sinful nature, and precisely because it was sinful? Is it that which was united to God, or to the God who united Himself to man in Jesus? And further, is it by the union of God and man that reconciliation is accomplished? “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them,” 2 Cor. 5:19, 20. I quote the passage the nearest to Mr. Scherer’s idea, inasmuch as this passage speaks of that which preceded the death of Christ; but this passage shews the complete falseness of Mr. Scherer’s doctrine. For if God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, and not imputing their trespasses unto them, humanity was not reconciled by its union with God. God in the man Christ was occupied with this work of love in the midst of men still sinners. Alas! men would not have it, and something else was necessary. It is that which is found at the end, in verse 20, precisely what Mr. Scherer rejects, namely, an accomplished work to which the Holy Spirit gives testimony by the apostles. “He hath committed unto us,”8 says the apostle, “the word of reconciliation.” We beseech men to be reconciled to God, for He hath made sin for us Him who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
Such is reconciliation, according to God: not the reconciliation of humanity towards God in Christ, (which is nonsense, because in Christ humanity was without sin, and it was the sinner that needed to be reconciled) but the reconciliation of men as sinners, of us poor miserable ones, estranged from God, and that by a testimony of love, founded no doubt on the Person of Christ, but which is founded on His work; not that He mingled humanity in holiness to Himself, but in that He who was holy and who knew not sin was made sin for us.
It is good to put the truth solidly and simply, without equivocation, in face of the extravagant dreams of man, who would make use of the perfection of the Person of the Christ-man in order to exalt himself under the name of humanity. Christ was made sin because we were sinners. This is the truth we have need of. Call it a dogma if you like; no matter. It is a dogma which, received into the heart, gives peace according to God. Other passages are quite as clear. “Having made peace by the blood of his cross.” And you, it follows, “He hath reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy, unblameable, and unreprovable in his sight,” Col. 1:20, 22. We may notice, in reading what precedes, that the work of Christ is distinct from His Person.
“But now in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ,” Eph. 2:13. The reader can examine the verses which follow: they fully confirm that the doctrine of reconciliation is by the death of Jesus, and not by the “union of God and man.”
But Mr. Scherer makes his opposition to the truth still clearer.
“The work of Christ is His Person in action, as the Person of Christ is His work in power. His death is the culminating point of this work. The sufferings of Golgotha formed besides the historical condition of the struggle of the just with the world, and of the Holy One with evil… But there is here more than a simple law of history. The work of Christ is a work of salvation. Jesus saves us by His partaking of humanity, by His realization of holiness, and by the manifestation in Him of the love and of the pardon of God. In fact, if all men have been made sinners by the disobedience of the first Adam, the power of sin has been broken thus for all by the obedience of the Second.” (Pages 37, 38.)
Would one wish for anything clearer to erase expiation from the Christian doctrine? Alas! it will be found.
“Heaven is too much considered as a dwelling-place which one may enter by pardon as one enters through a door, and where one is admitted as the consequence of an entirely judicial sentence, which is justification, in virtue of an altogether outward condition, which is the substitution of Christ, and of another condition quite arbitrary, which is faith in this institution: gross notions, which confound with the internal nature of things an imperfect symbol borrowed from the customs of men.” (Page 49.)
Mr. Scherer does not believe in reconciliation by the union of God and man. The substitution of Christ is a death of Christ; it is accomplished in Him by the gross notion! His work does not even find a place in the enumeration that Mr. Scherer makes of that which, he says, people call the truths of Christianity.
“The church,” he says, “would suffice to propagate what is called the truths of Christianity, original sin, the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment.” (Page 41.)
Need I recall to the reader what a place the death and work of the Saviour holds in all the Bible, from the sacrifice of Abel and the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah up to the song of the apostle and church in the Revelation? We have seen the apostles attribute reconciliation to His death, to the death of Him who suffered “the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” He “came to give his life a ransom for many,” Matt. 20:23. “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many,” Heb. 9:28. “Who, his own self, bare our sins in his own body on the tree,” 1 Pet. 2:24. “He is the propitiation for our sins,” 1 John 2:2. “Who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification,” Rom. 4:25. It is, I think, useless to multiply passages, if the words of Isaiah, of Jesus, of John, of Peter, and of Paul are not enough. As to Paul, we have the declaration that it is of this truth, founded on the Person of Christ, that he has been ordained preacher. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, whereunto I am ordained a preacher,” 1 Tim. 2:5, 6, 7. Now it is not here only a question of inspiration. The ministry of reconciliation was confided to the apostles.
One of two things: either the apostle was mistaken in supposing that the ministry of reconciliation was committed to him, and was also mistaken with respect to the means of this reconciliation and the subject of this ministry… or the doctrine of Mr. Scherer denies Christianity.
Yes, it does deny Christianity.
I admit that the Person of Christ is the object of faith. I admit that, in all those who possess it really, this is living faith. But the reconciliation of which you, reader, and myself have need, which is our great business, the whole of our eternal blessing, the apostle attributes to one thing and Mr. Scherer to another, yea, rejecting as a gross notion the apostolic doctrine!
“The work of Christ,” Mr. Scherer still tells us, “is His Person in action.” (Page 37.) Did He not suffer? What was His activity when He was forsaken of God? “Jesus saves us by His partaking of humanity and His realization of holiness.” (Pages 37, 38.) But “without shedding of blood there is no remission,” Heb. 9:22. “A propitiation through faith in his blood,” Rom. 3:25. It is a sacrifice offered once for all to God, which replaced all the offerings presented under the law. He has “offered one sacrifice for sins,” Heb. 10:12. In a word, the gospel of Mr. Scherer is another gospel, which is not one at all.
If the apostles preached the true gospel, Mr. Scherer does not possess it; if the Christianity which the apostles taught, which Jesus Himself taught, is the true gospel, that of Mr. Scherer is not; it is on the contrary the denial of it. Mr. Scherer may pretend to be more spiritual, to be fond of more living doctrine. It may be that the theology and the sterile dogmatism of schools have disgusted him: he cannot have a worse opinion of them than myself. Nothing more than theological pedantry extinguishes life, vitiates spiritual judgment, and feeds the flame of pride. The Person of Christ, the perfection of His humanity, has an importance that no one can exaggerate; but that alters nothing. It is none the less true that, betrayed by the workings of the intelligence on these points, Mr. Scherer denies Christianity on the principal point of the reconciliation of man with God. Mr. Scherer teaches a false gospel. If he believes from the heart that Christ is the true God, and that He has been it from eternity—if he believes that the Word which created the world became man, he gives himself at least a great deal of trouble not to say so, or to say it in such a way as to satisfy those who do not believe it, and not to appear to share the faith of those who do believe it. Now, it is of importance to know if it is the Creator God who is my Saviour; or if I adore one who is not really so. Let people cease speaking of the Person of Christ, if they are not sure that Christ is God. A sterile admiration of a beau ideal is not faith in the Son of God.
The doctrine of Mr. Scherer is but a vague and equivocal doctrine on the Person of Christ, a complete and formal denial of the gospel preached by the apostles, and of the teaching of the Holy Spirit on the subject of the work of Christ.
I will but add one instance of the same contempt, or the same negligence of what the Saviour said, which I have pointed out as characterizing these letters.
To deny inspiration yet more, Mr. Scherer tells us, “We find (in the biblical accounts), preserved by an authentic tradition, deep traces that Jesus had left in the memory of those who surrounded him.” (Page 41.) Very satisfactory means, it must be owned, when it is a question of possessing the words of Him of whom it is said, “He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God,” John 3:34. Happily we have received from the very mouth of Jesus the assurance that what we possess is not “profound traces preserved by tradition.” “The Comforter, who is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you,” John 14:26. But be it the apostles or the Saviour Himself, it matters not to Mr. Scherer, provided he hears the “noble accents of the human voice,” and that it is not God who speaks to him.
If human subtilty was to attack divine inspiration, one has but to bless God after all that this attempt has been so soon followed by a denial of the work accomplished by the Saviour to reconcile the sinner to God. The believer will understand that it is a question of the foundation of all his hopes, of his salvation, as well as of the glory of his Saviour. He will understand, that to deny inspiration is to deny the teaching of the Holy Ghost on the work of Christ and on salvation; that it is to reject all this as “gross notions,” and reduce his knowledge of a living Christ to “profound traces preserved by authentic traditions! “He will understand that the scheme is another Christianity which is not one, a Christianity which takes the place of the Bible, and that all that remains to him of the volume which he possessed is only, according to Mr. Scherer, some treatises containing traditional remembrances, which teach us to do without the doctrine of the apostles; a God known without a single revelation, and traditions in order to know Him better; a beau ideal of humanity, which raises itself up to divinity; but no more propitiation for the sins which made us guilty before God. Fine inheritance! instead of the certain truth of our God, and of an accomplished salvation, which glorifies at the same time perfectly both the Person and the work of the Saviour, which gives perfect peace to a heart fully reconciled, and which introduces one as a child into the communion of a God of love.
Faith in the work of Christ does not prevent us from living by Him. It is he who eats His flesh and drinks His blood who dwells in Christ, and Christ dwells in him.
4 Translated from the French of J.N.D.: Geneva, G. Kauffinan: Paris, Cherbuliez, 1850.
5 This thought is borrowed from Mr. Vinet.
6 I speak of intelligent and responsible beings; as to other creatures, it would be merely material perfection.
7 I shall hardly be accused of upholding theology and dogmatism; I hold them in horror. I think that Mr. Scherer says something very true about them. For the greater part of those who occupy themselves with it3 theology is like a surgeon who would dissect his friend instead of loving him. But truth which is not Christ is nothing else but dogma.
8 In reading this passage in Greek, which treats of the chief point of Mr. Scherer’s system, and which teaches as being essentially the gospel precisely what Mr. Scherer denies, the light becomes still more striking. Three participles are dependent on the words, “God was in Christ,” and point out three things which flow from this, of which the last is ministry of the Spirit confided to the apostles, to render testimony to the work of Christ as means of reconciliation, by the truth of God, after Christ had been rejected as living on the earth. “God was in Christ” reconciling, not imputing sins, and committing to us the ministry of reconciliation. But this ministry was founded on the fact— become a dogma, in the ministry which spoke of it—that Christ has been made sin for us. Reconciliation is not then the reconciliation of man, or of humanity united to God in Christ, but reconciliation performed by Christ—made sin for him who was separated from God.