The following pages were hastily penned at the request of a person who was keenly affected by the teaching which M. Godet’s books presented in a popular form to the Christian public. Others having read the manuscript requested that it might be printed on account of the extreme gravity of the false doctrines it exposes. It was not without some reluctance that the author yielded to this request, the evidence of which will appear in the opening lines of this little work.
Besides mentioning the imperfections attached to a work undertaken whilst travelling, and in the midst of the innumerable fatigues accompanying the ministry of the word, the author considered, that in order to form a correct idea of his system as a whole, it would have been needful for him to make himself acquainted with all M. Godet’s works. He has therefore merely limited himself to noting three essential points, which will suffice in his opinion to warn the people of the Lord against a teaching that assails His word, His Person, and His work.
M. Godet has many times answered the objections of rationalists, and this I acknowledge gladly. Had not the writings now before me falsified the very gospel itself, I should never have taken the pen in hand. I shall, in these writings, examine but three fundamental points relating to the gospel: the authority of the word, and inspiration: the Person of Christ: and, lastly, His work. I have during my life had too much of controversy to seek for it. In one’s old age moral repose, Christ Himself, is that which the heart seeks beyond all else.
It is somewhat difficult, to one whose thoughts have been derived from the word itself, to answer such a book as that of M. Godet, in which the author, while availing himself of expressions used by that word, attaches to them some peculiar signification of his own. Thus the scriptures speak of redemption as the work of the Saviour, and that according to the common acceptation of the word, although the means used to work out that redemption are not in accordance with the world’s thoughts. The scriptures speak of redemption as of a deliverance effected by a ransom, and subsequently by a power producing a full result in behalf of those for whom that ransom has been paid. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of offences,” Eph. 1:9. “Awaiting adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body,” Rom. 8:23.
Redemption, according to M. Godet, is but a positive interposition of God in the history of mankind—a work of education which has put on the character of a redemption. This work appears in the election of one family, and it is seen in development as that family gradually becomes transformed into a people. The manner in which M. Godet seeks to justify this definition of redemption is somewhat peculiar. He thus quotes 1 Corinthians 1:21: “Since by wisdom the world has not known God in his wisdom, it has pleased God to save by the foolishness of preaching those who believe.” I confess that by no efforts of reflection have I succeded in comprehending how this passage shews redemption to be a work of education. The quotation moreover is false. It is written, “since in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom hath not known God, God hath been pleased, by the foolishness of the preaching, to save those that believe.” One of the unpleasant things that occur in such of M. Godet’s writings as I have examined is, that at least half the passages he uses are inaccurately quoted.
According to the author, promised salvation is by Christ’s advent consummated in His Person; the people, having rejected Him, perishes; and then salvation is proclaimed to the world by the elect of the nation. “And by this double result of Israel’s history the religion of redemption with all its antecedents becomes divinely sealed.” Is this the redemption of which the Bible speaks?
But let us proceed. “To this primary fact, a second is necessarily attached. The work of redemption, which we have just sketched out, has been accompanied by a work of revelation.” “How has God accomplished this great work?” —that is, that of redemption—” He has made use of human agents for this work. And to effect this, it was needful for Him to attract, to win, and to attach them to Himself. Consequently it was necessary to make known to them His projected work—to unfold the scheme, at least according to the measure in which they were to participate in the execution of it. He must also make them contemplate prospectively its glorious goal, in order that they might be enabled to interest themselves by acquaintance with the purpose, and be labourers with Him in it, in a manner worthy of the work and of God Himself, with conscience and liberty.” “The phases of revelation also keep pace with those of redemption.” “At the period when God called Abraham to found with Himself the work of redemption, He revealed Himself to him.”
There are many things I might take up in the pages whence I make these quotations, but I abstain from so doing, my aim being to expose the basis of M. Godet’s system. I shall, I trust, abstain from expressing my own sentiments with regard to all stated by the author. At this time I shall occupy myself less with his manner of presenting revelation than with the views he presents in another work upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Possibly I may be wrong; but I fear offending that Saviour by using expressions which might give occasion to believe that I knew not by what spirit I was actuated. Therefore I shall confine myself to placing the views contained in these books in contrast with what is found in the word.
My reader might suppose that, in speaking of revelation and the work of the prophets, M. Godet occupied himself with the Bible. Not so. The Bible, as such, is to him no revelation, and this he formally avows. At page 10 he says, “The Bible therefore, notice it well, is not revelation itself; it is, properly speaking, the narrative given of revelation.” “The statement” of those truths is “the authentic document of the redemption of the human race, as well as of the revelation by which that work has been accompanied.” What then is revelation? It is “a fact which has its place between God and His agent; the place of holy scripture is between that agent and the rest of humanity” (ibid). With regard to the first part of the last phrase, I should have no difficulty in accepting it, were not the definition of the word revelation in question. Whether it be applied to the immediate communication God makes to the instrument He deigns to employ, or whether it be solely applied to the fact that that instrument through the Spirit announces to others what has been revealed to him, it is equally “a revelation from God.”
But if one limits oneself to consider the communication made to the instrument employed, then in that which concerns us (us, “the remainder of mankind”), what have we got, we who are not the recipients of that immediate communication? We have a given statement—but given by whom? Is that given statement a correct one? “An authentic document” is too vague a term to throw a true light on this point; moreover this is all extremely superficial. It is, in fact, to us no question of whether the document be authentic, but whether its entire contents be absolutely true and given by God. The expression itself is very inaccurate. It is no given statement.
A very large part of the Bible, even on M. Godet’s confession, professes to give the words of the Lord. “All the writings and some part of the prophetic scriptures, have these words for title: ‘Thus saith the Lord.’”(p. 42.) Is it true or not? If that is true, there is no distinction between revelation and the Bible. The Bible is revelation itself set down in writing. M. Godet says, “The veracious document of the word of salvation.” (p. 46). If it is veracious, we have, in all that it contains, revelation itself; and that does not only apply to prophecy but to law. It tells us there, “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying.” Is it true or not? The history of the creation, that of Abraham, etc., are they a collection of Elohistic or Jehovistic legends; or is it a written revelation? Man should live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Where find these words if the account rendered and revelation are not identical—if the Bible does not give us words from the mouth of God, that is, say, the revelation?
At the time of the temptation in the desert, all depended upon the fact that the Saviour yielded not in that moment. The first Adam had yielded; thank God, the Second could not fail, while all depended upon His standing firm to conquer the strong man. How did He obtain the victory? By citing that which is written. The scripture was sufficient for the Son of God as divine authority. He referred to words which proceeded from the mouth of God. Scripture cited, one single passage sufficed for Satan, reducing him to silence, the absolute testimony of his defeat. The Saviour made use only of scripture, although Satan quoted it also—falsely if you will, but in order cunningly to avail himself of the written word of God. The Saviour maintained His standing within that divine enclosure of safety, “It is written again.” By those words that proceeded from the mouth of God, the victory on which our salvation depended was won. To the Saviour they possessed a divine and absolute authority—and to Satan also— and that in such a sort that he dared not reply. Had he done so, he would openly have betrayed himself as the adversary; and to man—to one Man at least—to Christ. Blessed are all they who follow Him!
But I anticipate somewhat. Let us bear in mind that the question concerns the communication from God to man; this we all recognize. In speaking of revelation, M. Godet says (p. 14), “They who receive it receive it not solely for themselves. The work of which it unveils the meaning has the world for its object.” It is clear that revelation was not given to be the property solely of him who received it. It might so happen, and has so happened: but, as a general proposition, revelation is received by an agent to be communicated to others. Revelation was not for the channel to which it was confided, but for the people of God, for the church, and for the sinful world.
We will now return to M. Godet’s theory, that also of all who deny the inspiration of the scriptures, who deny it in the full, entire, ordinary, and common acceptation of that word. The Bible IS the word of God. God has revealed to certain chosen instruments His thoughts and His purpose according as it seemed good to Him so to do, and, in thus doing, to use M. Godet’s own expression, God has the world as His object. This communication was made from God Himself to the prophets. The communication is divine—partial it may be, but perfect. The communication is from God Himself, the prophet receiving it as given by God. But, although the world be His object—not the prophet—the world receives but a given statement of that revelation! The prophet, to the best of his ability, communicates to others what he has received. Thus the world, which is the object God had in view, receives revelation only as transmitted with all the imperfections which pertain to the exercise of the human mind, and to human faculties in connection with divine things—to the memory, for instance—in fact to all the weaknesses pertaining to our poor nature. The world possesses but a transmitted statement of the complete, perfect, and divine revelation, supplied by the men who received it; nevertheless revelation was made and communicated, as having the world and its well-being for its object!
Is this a theory that bears the impress of common sense? and what is it as concerns divine goodness? God desired to communicate to the world the mighty efficacy of the truth. He revealed that truth to chosen instruments; but the world, for whom He destined it, and His beloved church, could and can only receive it spoiled and marred by the weaknesses of the channels of communication, for whom personally it was not designed! And this is called rational! Nor is this all. The question becomes yet more serious, when the New Testament and more especially the Gospels are concerned, those given statements of events in which redemption was at least consummated, even though redemption be but the goal of the education of man. Manifestly this is of more importance than all besides. M. Godet speaks of it thus (p. 43): “The contradictions between the Gospel recitals. But our Gospels, as we have seen, are not revelation. Revelation is the fact related—it is Jesus, His work, His word. Our evangelists describe that fact to the best of their ability; one or two among them qualified from having been eye-witnesses, the others from such information as they were able to obtain.”
But then, as regards the most important point, as regards redemption, there has been no revelation at all, because “revelation is a fact placed between God and His agent” (p. 16), whilst our evangelists speak merely from their title of being eye-witnesses, or from such information as they were able to obtain. It is a matter of personal memory, and even of second-hand communication, since M. Godet relies on the legends of the primitive church, to which he often refers. Mark, for instance, according to M. Godet, has, at the request of the Roman Christians, given his own reminiscences of the remembrances of Peter. Matthew has “edited the discourses,” but another has added the facts that link these discourses together as well as it could be done. Luke, having made use of documents already published, probably made some expeditions into Galilee during Paul’s imprisonment at Caesarea, in order to collect together all the possible recollections which the memories of the Galileans could retain; and then from these materials Luke composed a history in the Grecian style, the only one which merited that name. (See “The origin of our four Gospels.” Biblical Studies: second series.)
M. Godet also says (of “M. Colani,” p. 38), “I agree to it without any difficulty. Many of M. Colani’s objections appear to me weighty, and some decisive, against a certain manner of considering the Bible, which might confound it with revelation.” Thus we are left without any revelation, for we have but the Bible; and that, with such contradictions in its most important portion as to falsify the given statement, as to render it not from God but to base it upon the memories of Peter, of Mark or of the Galileans, and thus raise positive obstacles and hindrances to one’s considering that which we have in the New Testament to be a revelation from God! And here we fall lower than ever. The greater part of the Old Testament was based upon communications from God to agents. Those communications were revelations. In the New Testament Jesus and His word are the fact, that is, revelation; and all that we get is only a matter of memory, bringing contradictions into the narrations! Our evangelists describe the fact to the best of their ability. The Christ is a revelation, but, according to M. Godet, we have no revelation of the Christ!
It is important that I should here point out a certain method of presenting inspiration (a method common to M. Godet and to all who oppose inspiration, but which serves to lead the simple astray). He speaks thus (Biblical Studies, p. 48): “To require a Bible dictated word for word from heaven would be requiring a book that would supplant human thought instead of fertilizing it; a book making a passive instrument of man, instead of calling his intelligent and free co-operation into request… Would that be more divine?” We must not expect M. Godet to agree with himself. At page 44 we read: “When it is granted to a man to confer directly with Jehovah, two things simultaneously take place in him. Every creature, himself included, disappears into nothingness. God remains before him as the Being who alone is great, alone real.” This has certainly some appearance of “supplanting human thought”—has it not? Now, not being inspired myself, I do not intend to define inspiration; were I so, I do not imagine it would be possible for me to explain it to one who was not. What I seek is God’s thought; I neither seek to “supplant” nor to “fertilize human thought.” But to define inspiration as being “word for word dictated from heaven,” is but a human idea of the subject. When it has been written, “Thus saith Jehovah,” or “Jehovah said unto Moses,” either He has said it, or words have been put into the mouth of Jehovah, words which are not His own. God Himself makes a distinction in the form, but not in the authority of revelation; Num. 12:6-8. Tongues were spoken which the person who used them could not understand. This was truly “supplanting human thoughts”; but Paul preferred to speak with his understanding. God could fill his heart with glorious and holy thoughts, and so keep him filled with them that nothing should be there, and consequently nothing be expressed, but that which God had placed there. These were the thoughts of God, but through the power of the Spirit became the thoughts, the joy, of a man, creating in him an intelligence, moulding his heart and divinely enlightening his conscience. God could in such sort possess Himself of the intelligence, the heart, and the conscience, that nothing could either enter in or flow out but what He had put there. This is also the highest character of inspiration, because all that is revealed belongs to us; whereas the prophets, in searching into their own prophecies, found it was not for themselves they ministered those things. Be it as it may, is it not wretched in the extreme to put “a Bible dictated word for word from heaven” in contrast with human thought, instead of discerning the operation of the Spirit of God, and man’s mind formed by the communication of purely divine thoughts, they being adapted to man, and also received by him through the work of the Spirit of God?
Let us now examine how the word presents itself to us: for its absolute perfection as a whole, and its intrinsic power, cannot be known but by those in whom it operates. In the law it is, as we have seen, “Jehovah spake unto Moses.” Is this true or not? If it be true, we have the word of God, and not merely a revelation made to Moses, but the word of God such as Moses received it. Pass on to the Psalms of David. “The Spirit of Jehovah spake by me, and his word was in my tongue. The God of Israel said,” 2 Sam. 23:2, 3. If the given statement be true, the Psalms of David are the word of God itself; if it be false, there is even no piety in them, for it is not piety but fanaticism to say, “The word of God was upon my tongue,” if it had not been there. Now the Lord Jesus has on many occasions put His seal to the whole Book of Psalms; the prophets in their turn declare, “Thus saith Jehovah.” The word of Jehovah was with Jeremiah. This is Zechariah’s appeal to the conscience of the residue of the people who returned from Babylon (Zech. 1:4-6): “Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear nor hearken unto me, saith Jehovah; your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever? But my words and my statutes which I commanded my servants, the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers?” These were the words of Jehovah, and they were proved to be such. Jehovah also, and the apostles, have formally put the seal to that which the prophets have spoken, and mark it well, to that which they had spoken as we have it in the scriptures, and there alone.
And mark also this important point—it is not the word in the scriptures, in the Bible, but it is the scriptures themselves as such. It is not simply such and such a passage acting effectually upon me (though this may be the case), but it is the authority of Him who speaks by that means. It is not my mind judging the word, it is the word, God by His word, acting upon me; it is His authority established over my heart. The Samaritan woman did not say, “What thou sayest is true,” but “I perceive that thou art a prophet.” Thus all that He had said had authority itself as coming from God. It is the operation of the Spirit of God that imparts spiritual intelligence by the conscience, by faith—faith with regard to Him who speaks. God is known as being in it; it is divine intelligence. I do not reason to prove that the sun shines; I do not light a candle to know it: the light acts upon me and lightens me. I not only see the object on which my sight is directed, but I know that the light shines.
Let us now see what the New Testament teaches. What was it caused the Sadducees to err? They knew not the scriptures. What did the Lord quote to enlighten the two disciples of Emmaus? Moses and all the prophets. And what did He quote to the twelve? The law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms, that is, the entire scriptures of the Old Testament, according to the Jewish division of them, as we possess them now. To the Lord these were authority. He founds His teaching upon them. Then He opened their understanding that they might understand the scriptures (Luke 24), which would have been perfectly incredible and unintelligent had the scriptures not been the word of God. Would God give by divine power a special understanding to understand a human-given statement, which was as correct as its author co possibly render it from such information as he had been able to obtain? or is there a divine revelation for the Jew, and no divine revelation for the Christian in respect of the accomplishment of the truth as it is in Christ? Peter said (Acts 3:18),” God hath thus fulfilled what he had announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets.” The Lord declared (John 10), “The scripture cannot be broken.” These, we are told, were Jewish prejudices. Did the Lord then confirm them in their Jewish prejudices in order to deceive them?
It is impossible to deny that the Lord and His apostles quote, contemplate, and in every manner encourage us to contemplate the scriptures as being altogether the word of God, and invested with His authority. They may present us the history and the words of wicked men, even of Satan himself; but it is God who gives us them, so that we know that which is according to God. So much is this the case that Paul fears not to say, “The scripture, seeing that God would justify the nations on the principle of faith, announced beforehand the glad tidings to Abraham.” The scripture to him is so thoroughly the word of God, that he personifies it, as though God Himself spoke; such in fact it was by His Spirit. It is specially and expressly not a question of what has been revealed to the prophet, but of that which has been revealed by the prophet.116
The scriptures are in question. There may have been many communications we do not possess, as having been given only for some special occasions. That which concerns the people of God for every age is contained in the scriptures, forming a whole. “No prophecy [says Peter] of scripture is had from its own particular interpretation; for prophecy was not ever uttered by [the] will of man, but holy men of God spake under the influence of [the] Holy Ghost.” When the professing church bears the practical character of paganism, “having a form of piety, but denying the power of it,” to what does the apostle refer us? To the holy scriptures, saying, “Every scripture is divinely inspired … that the man of God may be complete.” Divine inspiration characterized that which has the right to be called “scripture “in its ordinary sense. That which Timothy was acquainted with was doubtless the Old Testament. If I call the New Testament “scripture,” the New is inspired; if not, it has no title to the name of “scripture.” Peter also, speaking of Paul’s epistles, says that “the untaught and ill-established wrest [them] as also the other scriptures” Paul, speaking in general of the writings addressed by the apostles to the Gentiles, calls them “prophetic scriptures,” for such is the true sense of Romans 16:27.
I know not if M. Godet would exclude the most precious portion (if one may venture to make a distinction in a whole, every detail of which is perfect in its place) of all the divine history, of the life, sufferings, and death of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us, of Him whom no human mind could portray, of Him of whom an infidel has said that it would have been as difficult to have invented as to have been Him. God has taken care, I venture to say, that He who was to reveal Him upon the earth for man’s welfare and His own glory should not be falsely described, and thus could not be falsely represented before the world. He has taken care that, where alone it can be learnt what God is, there should be no room for that which could have been unworthy of Him. He has taken care that that which was divinely lovely, His own Son, should be divinely and perfectly presented as He was. And who was able for this but God Himself? He was man, and, blessed be His name, He made use of man for it. He was God, and God formed men that they might present God manifest in a man who was the perfect Man before God. He who is taught of God will discern God in every detail of the blessed walk of the Lord and of His expiatory death in this world.
M. Godet relates several legends on this subject, especially those of Papias, an infirm old man according to Eusebius who was a great lover of such histories. He quotes other Fathers of the church who themselves relate the legends that were current in the world one hundred or one hundred and fifty years after Christ. He quotes men who said that the church of Rome was founded by the labours of Peter and of Paul, for which M. Godet finds excuses, but which we know to be false. He who has chiefly preserved the most ancient of these legends tells us that the church of Corinth was also founded by the two apostles. I notice this to shew how little dependence can be placed on these men. I attach no importance to their legends: they may be true, or they may be false; one of them certainly is false—that which tells us that Luke edited his Gospel from what Paul had told him, for Paul did not know the Lord down here. The legends also state that Mark edited his Gospel without order, whilst in the recital of the Lord’s labours in Galilee Mark presents them in order, which is also the case in Luke’s Gospel. Matthew relates the whole in a single verse; then he edits his Gospel according to the subjects, not merely the discourses, but by grasping the chief points of the manifestation of Emmanuel, of the nature of the kingdom of heaven, and of that which, historically, was to replace on earth the rejected Lord.
It is of the utmost importance to notice that, in the rationalistic system which seeks to render an account of all by the circumstances of the writer, God and the Operation of His Spirit are wholly excluded. The facts may be important if they be correct; but the revelation of God upon earth in the Son of His love is left to such an appreciation as we may have of the uncertain rumours which were current in Galilee, or to the feebleness of the memories of fallible men. One need but read the Gospels to discern the divine traits that abound in them; but if we study them, we shall discover unity of purpose in each, and in all combined a fulness as to the Lord’s Person, presenting of Him a complete idea and a perfect unity, thus affording an irrefragable testimony to the unity of the source whence all has flowed.
Thus, in the four narratives of His death, we possess in each Gospel that which corresponds with its own special character, whilst all concur in presenting the Lord complete in the perfect unity of His Person—all. As a divine Person in John, we have no sufferings in Gethsemane, nor on the cross. As Son of man in Luke, we have more of the agonies in Gethsemane, none upon the cross, but the triumph of His faith in His Father. As victim in Matthew, we see Him forsaken of God upon the cross, and find neither compassion nor anything except misery and malice in man, but Him perfect in all. Mark too much resembles Matthew for me to enter into further details now; but certainly he who is taught of God discerns in them all the divine description of the Son of God and Son of man, the Word made flesh—Emmanuel—Jesus, in His life and death described by One only—by Him who is the Spirit of God, that God might be perfectly glorified.
Do the Gospels teach us that all had to depend on the memory of Peter, of Mark, or on the information which Luke might have obtained in Galilee? “The Comforter [says the Lord], the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and will bring to your remembrance all the things which I have said to you,” John 14:26. He was also to bear witness to Jesus concerning heavenly things. The disciples likewise were to bear witness to Jesus, as eye-witnesses doubtless; but the Holy Spirit which had been given them held in His hand the testimony both earthly and heavenly. He was to lead them into all truth; and what Jesus had been upon the earth— “God in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” —was not the least part of that truth.
It is monstrous to give me the legends of Papias, or the imaginations of Irenasus, instead of the promise of the gift of the Spirit, and of His testimony to the Lord’s glory, to His life, and to His sufferings; it is still more monstrous, forasmuch as the Lord had expressly spoken of that gift for that purpose.
This is Paul’s remarkable declaration concerning the new truths which the Holy Spirit come down from heaven has communicated to us; it cannot be more explicit: “God hath revealed to us by (his) Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, even the depths of God… We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things which are freely given to us of God: which also we speak, not in words [or discourses] taught by human wisdom but in those taught by the Spirit… But the natural man doth not receive the things of the Spirit of God… because they are spiritually discerned.” Revelation was by the Spirit; the communication took place by means of words taught by the Spirit; and, finally, the intelligence of him who received these words was given by the Spirit. Revelation, inspiration in the communication of revealed things, in fine, intelligence or comprehension—all was “by the Spirit.”
In 1 Thessalonians 2:13 it is again said, “For this cause we also give thanks to God unceasingly, that, having received the word of the Spirit of God by us, ye received not man’s word, but, even as it is truly, God’s word, which also worketh in you who believe.” Doubtless this has been proclaimed by word of mouth, but that which the Thessalonians had received was “the word of God.” It was not merely to Paul it was such, but it was such as communicated through him [par emon] to the Thessalonians.
This decides the nature of the communication. It was not a more or less faithfully given statement of the word of God. The assertion, that what he wrote to them that it might remain with them, so as to permanently establish them in the truth— the assertion, that what was to subsist for the whole church in all ages was not the word of God—is a matter that I leave to the appreciation of the piety and common sense of each reader.
M. Godet’s system, as regards revelation, is false according to the, apostle. That which he had communicated to them was so thoroughly “the word of God,” that it worked effectually in those who believed—it carried the power of God with it. It was, as Paul elsewhere states, a savour of death unto death where it was not a savour of life unto life. If his gospel were veiled, it was veiled in those that are lost, whose unbelieving minds Satan had blinded. The light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ shined not only into the heart of Paul, but before the hearts of men; that light was veiled only to those who perish; for the God who, by His word, had caused the light to shine out of darkness, had shone into the heart of the apostle, for the shining forth [pros photismon] of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. The weakness of the vessel was so far from hindering its being the word of God for others, that that word was committed to feeble vessels, in order that the excellency of the power which worked through their means in others might manifestly be of God, and not of men. In fact, everywhere, and on every point, the apostle affirms precisely the reverse of what M. Godet states.
There is then a redemption, but it is “by his blood” — there is a work accomplished once and for all—there is a revelation by the Spirit of God—there is a communication made in discourses [or words, logois] received [through the efficacious grace of the Holy Spirit] in him who hears. Divine things were revealed, communicated, and received by the operation of the Holy Spirit. The same apostle also says, “If any one think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognize the things that I write unto you, that it is the commandment of the Lord,” 1 Cor. 14:37. So far is he indeed from confounding revelation and inspiration with the thoughts which a high degree of spirituality might produce even in him, that he carefully distinguishes the one from the other; 1 Cor. 7:6, 10, 40.
Before proceeding farther, it is important to notice the manner in which M. Godet uses scripture. I shall neither produce all the passages quoted by M. Godet, nor all the errors consequent upon them. This would be tedious. Just a few examples suffice to shew that the reader must accept nothing without examination. Some are but of small importance, but (the habit once contracted) one must be on one’s guard. Thus, at page 6 of “Biblical Studies,” second series, he adds, “in it”; “that… we report to you, that ye also may have fellowship with us in it”; thus entirely altering the meaning of the passage. At page 36: “Thou art Peter, and on this stone” is false; petra is not a stone. At page 49, “after having informed myself exactly “is a false translation of which 1 Timothy 4:6, and 2 Timothy 3:10, are proofs.
At page 49 it is not a quotation, but a false statement of what Luke says. The latter never says that his history was derived from what the first witnesses had stated. That was not the source whence he derived his history; but he says that he communicated the facts of the gospel as they were most surely believed, and as they had been delivered by the first witnesses, having himself had a perfect knowledge of these things from the beginning, which is a very different thing from M. Godet’s assertion. “It is evident that he possessed more than one of those works, and that he used them to compose his own” (p. 53). Now all this is mere supposition, without the slightest foundation. Origen (if my memory does not deceive me), at all events, one of the Fathers, remarks that the expression, “Many have undertaken,” shewed them to be human essays, none of which was satisfactory, but that it was otherwise with Luke. I quote the sense, and from memory. At all events, there is no trace whatever in Luke of what M. Godet speaks. What Luke does say is, that others having undertaken to give a relation of those things, he desired to make known to Theophilus the truth of it all, having himself had a perfect acquaintance with it from the beginning. He writes his relation because others did not present the same certainty. It is the reverse of what M. Godet says. Now all his system respecting the Gospels is here in question; this is my motive in bringing forward these carelessnesses, whilst re-establishing the facts and the passages. He seeks to replace inspiration by patristic legends, and by human means of conviction. He uses this mistake at page 54.
What he says at page 52 is pure supposition, and a very serious matter to nullify divine history by such inventions. (See also page 66.) At page 105 he makes Jesus confess [the sins of others], because others did so—a complete invention. John would not baptize Him, and only did so on the ground of the fulfilment of righteousness. “Thus it becometh us.” This is that which, according to M. Godet, enabled John to discern the holy virtue in Jesus. It is altogether an invention! Moreover, Jesus did not go down into the waters of Jordan with prayer, page 106. This was after His baptism, after He had in baptism publicly taken His place amongst the faithful remnant of the Jews—a difference not lacking in importance as regards the relations of man—a matter of infinite value to us. At page 106 we have also “a shining sign,” “prefiguring the communication of the Spirit”; then three perceptible facts for the inward senses of John and of Jesus. All this is pure invention, contradicting the simple narrative of the Gospel, which is to us of infinite importance. I altogether reject the explanations which follow; but I must avoid entering upon controversy on the meanings of scripture, and simply declare that M. Godet does not relate scripture facts, but that he makes a romance respecting the Lord—a romance which is founded upon his own ideas. I might take up false thoughts and false doctrines at every page, but this is not here my object. Further on I will speak of his views concerning the Person of the Lord. All that is stated at page 123 is a complete invention. I shall return to that later, also to what he says at page 129 concerning His tears; I shall also notice page 131. At page 149, Exodus 3 is quoted to shew that God can change, and be what He will, translating it thus— “I shall be what I shall be.” In his reply to M. Colani, he translates it, “I am,” making use of it then to prove He is the only real existence— Existence itself. All this is inconceivable levity in solemn things. At page 151, “being found in all things as a man “is an entirely false quotation upon a capital point, in order to serve as a basis to the author’s doctrine. At page 169 he says that “St. Paul speaks of a salvation which will result from the life of Christ realized in man.” M. Godet has full liberty to interpret the passage as he understands it, but none to state that Paul says so. He says nothing of the sort. For my part, in reading the passage, it is evident to me that this is not in the least degree its sense. All this suffices to expose the carelessness with which M. Godet quotes passages upon important questions, and how he presents to us as facts that of which there is not a trace in the Gospels—facts that are fiction. Now all his reasonings generally depend on those false quotations and fictitious facts.
The first thing then that I take up as an essential point in M. Godet’s system is that, to please rationalists, he formally denies the Bible to be a revelation; then, in the history of Jesus, he replaces inspiration by the legends of the fathers, which, as regards the historical circumstances, may be true, or may be false, but which present no divine certainty concerning the facts which should reveal God, and form the basis of Christianity and salvation. He robs the Gospels of all divine authority. In the place of a divinely revealed redemption, he gives me interesting reminiscences of John or of Peter, and that at the expense of the explicit promises of the Lord. It is true he admits a revelation, but he admits it according to a wise and rational system, thus explained: Revelation has reached agents or channels in a divine manner; these were to communicate it to the objects God had in view when He gave it (be it to the world, the church, individuals, etc., etc.). But that communication has never reached them at all. The objects God had in view had of it but a given statement, which is no revelation at all; they who were the channels of it having corrected and contradicted each other!
Now, concerning the revelations which complete the history of Jesus, Paul declares to us that he has communicated them to us in words taught by the Holy Spirit.
In common with rationalists, M. Godet denies all that. They require man, but they do not require that God should reveal Himself—at least not to us. It is a revelation which does not go beyond the agents to whom it was committed, even if those agents understood it well. I pity these rationalists for having lost it!
The other subjects I desire to treat are the Person and the work of the Lord Jesus. M. Godet is opposed to the doctrine commonly called grace. He will have free-will amongst men. I have no thought of engaging in these theological controversies, nor should I have touched on his “Biblical Studies,” had not Christianity disappeared beneath his pen. Inasmuch as the author bears the reputation of orthodoxy, this becomes an imminent peril to simple souls. M. Godet truly believes that Jesus is the Eternal Son; he recognizes His divinity, though in a vague and confused manner. According to his fashion, he recognizes His humanity, but it truly is according to his fashion; he also recognizes His work of expiation in his own manner. Had M. Godet been a candid rationalist (that is, an unbeliever), I might have spared myself the task of examining his method of seeing things. All the world knows that rationalism is latent infidelity, and presents itself as being the only intelligent Christianity. However it may be, and notwithstanding the pretensions of the author to orthodoxy, Christianity has no existence in his book. It is replaced by a system which only exists in the thoughts of M. Godet—by a thorough romance, of which the hero is Christ, but not the true Christ, the Christ of the word, “the Christ of God.”
According to the word of God, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself”; also, “him who knew not sin he has made sin for us, that we might become God’s righteousness in him.” According to M. Godet’s book, Jesus is a man who, though moved by a filial sentiment toward God from the age of twelve years, had forgotten that He was Son of God, but recovered that truth by revelation at the age of thirty. He was always capable of sinning, though He never did so. Then, as man, born miraculously, and as innocent as Adam had been, He raised Himself from innocence to holiness, and in His Person elevated humanity. This work was completed at the period of the transfiguration. He might have resumed His divine estate, which He had renounced; but in conversing with Moses and Elias, He communicated to them His intention not to resume it then, but to descend, in order to suffer. This He did. God’s right having been recognized by Him (the right to put all mankind to death), and that right having been made good in the death of Christ alone, other men, profiting by that which He had done, and by this means placed in a position of liberty, can, if they will, attain the same divine condition into which Jesus has entered.
I ask, Is this Christianity? Is it not an infinitely solemn and serious matter to falsify truth on the subject of salvation, just where the glory of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ are in question? But is such truly M. Godet’s system? I have merely put together the prominent points of this system. In examining it, we shall see whether that which I have now presented as such be not verified by quotations from his book. Other things also appear in it. My object in the preceding summing-up is simply to shew that by this system he sets Christianity aside, and replaces it by inventions and human doctrines. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world,” disappears. We get simply a man who sanctifies Himself during His life, in order that others may do the same, and attain the same divine condition. Moreover, after a repeated and most careful examination, I do not find from M. Godet’s book that the penalty of sin is anything else than death—bodily death, or death in its physical sense. This is all that sinful man owes to God’s righteousness, and Christ did not suffer beyond that in man’s stead, and for man. I do not say that M. Godet believes in the restitution of all mankind, nor that he believes that the wicked shall perish utterly. That which is certain is, that, to him, the wages of sin is simply bodily death, and this was all that Christ suffered.
We will now examine the system in detail.
The first of the two pillars of this system is (p. 149), that God can become what He will. “I will be,” says He, according to M. Godet, “what I will be.” This is what he calls “God’s absolute liberty” The Father, remaining in the simple but infinite perfection of the divine nature, the Word, which was God, was made man. Such are the aspects of that truth which this system places in complete darkness. God will be “each moment that which it will please Him to be! “The second pillar is what he calls “the absolute perfectness of man.” There is no limit to it; absolute goodness is his aim. That God was really man, and a true man, is as important as it is precious; but this is how M. Godet presents it—there is no question of God revealing Himself in grace: all is subjective. “Jesus has been reinstated by His miraculous birth in the position of primitive purity and innocence in which the first man was before the fall, and that, in order to be enabled successfully to begin anew that walk of innocence on to holiness, which was the career opened to man, but at the first step of which Adam fell.”
M. Godet also professes to be able to reveal to us God’s intentions relating to the first man. It is, of course, altogether a fable, invented by himself. The object of God’s decreed purpose was the second Man. All God’s revealed counsels relate to Christ. Moreover, what M. Godet says about this is in contradiction to the revelation we possess. The first man was innocent. Now for holiness is needful a knowledge of good and evil, which Adam certainly had not, inasmuch as he acquired that knowledge by his fall. “The man,” says God, “is become as one of us, to know good and evil,” but man became at the same time ruined, a sinner, and lost. The Lord, we are positively told, was born holy, “that holy thing that shall be born of thee.” M. Godet’s theory damages and contradicts revelation, as much in respect of Adam as of Christ.
M. Godet also says, page 101, “History until Him [Christ] was comprised in one word, ‘that which is born of the flesh is flesh.’ Since His appearing, the true meaning of history is expressed by ‘that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’” This is all false. That which is born of the flesh is always flesh, since Christ came as well as before. There had been quickened souls before His coming, as there have been since. I do not say that life and incorruptibility were brought to light in the same way, for it was not so.
M. Godet adds, “For the character of the Spirit in the Biblical sense of the word, is holiness, and where is holiness to be found but in Jesus, and what proceeds from Him? “Nowhere else, doubtless. But did nothing proceed from Him before the incarnation? Did the Son not act before His incarnation? M. Godet has no other idea of Christ than a subjective idea of man, and of a man who was simply man, though without having committed sin. God is really excluded from his system in all relating to His grace and truth. The innocent man must push on his way in order to reach God. Jesus was even delivered from sinning. “His peculiar birth … imparted solely to Jesus that ability not to sin which man possessed before the fall, and which we have lost” (p. 102).
As regards the development of Jesus, “What an admirable sight” (says M. Godet, p. 103, in expressions deeply painful to him who believes that God was in Christ, that Christ was the Lord of glory)— “What an admirable sight, that of that child, of that youth, accomplishing that normal development!” Afterwards he gives a narrative of His baptism, where all, as I have previously remarked, is fabrication—pure inventions— and where the doctrine rests on no scripture basis whatever. Not one trace of that which M. Godet says is found in the word. The result of it all to M. Godet is (p. 109) that “the difference between Jesus and ourselves in this respect (the descent of the Holy Spirit) is simply this, that He is charged with the general task of the salvation of mankind, whilst each of us never receives more than a small portion of it to accomplish with Him.” Think of such language in speaking of the Saviour and His purchased ones! Christ, it is true, has acquired for us the same place in the glory as He possesses as man, and the relationship in which we stand by redemption is shewn in that which was His after His baptism; but therein to discern a large portion for Him, and a small one for ourselves, in the work of salvation, is indeed a startling error. Again, whilst M. Godet says (p. 105), “Christ made the sin of His whole race His own, in the aspect of association,” the word tells us the reverse. “Except the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, it abideth alone.” There is no such association there. Both He that sanctifies and those sanctified [are] all of one. True it is that He was truly man, made like unto His brethren, but in the incarnation there was no union. Christ has historically associated Himself with the godly remnant in their first steps according to God: never has He associated Himself with the unbelieving race of Jews.
Equally false is the explanation of the temptation. Christ, led by the Holy Spirit, has conquered Satan for us. Adam fell at the temptation or trial.
I cannot notice all. M. Godet has no other idea of Christ than that of a man who needed to take thought for Himself, as being capable of sinning. Of Him who in grace has bound the strong man in our behalf—of a Saviour, he has not a notion. “But,” says M. Godet, “God can be what He will be.” The word tells us He changes not. “I, Jehovah, change not.” It is not something granted to His liberty, as M. Godet profanely expresses it—it is the perfection of His immutable existence. “Thou art the same” (su de o autos ei). Now this was said of the Messiah, when in Psalm 102 His humiliation and death are prophetically spoken of. The Spirit also shews how, after having seen His days cut short down here, He could be there for ultimate blessing. All this is in direct opposition to M. Godet’s doctrine. The scriptures declare that He was the same—a word taken by many learned Jews for one of the names of God Himself—a word, at all events, quoted in Hebrews 1 to demonstrate that He was always the same. Thus, it is said of the Messiah, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and to the ages [to come].”
But M. Godet intrudes, or desires to intrude, with profane steps on that ground where the word has solemnly declared that the Father stands alone. “No one knoweth the Son but the Father.” M. Godet assumes to know Him, and to define all. That Christ, as regards His humanity, increased in wisdom and stature, this the word is careful to tell us, and to us it is one of the most precious truths. His delights were with the sons of men, and He became truly man. This was the anthem of the angels when the manger received Him. That His acts as man were done in the power of the Spirit is also revealed to us. “If I,” says He, “by the Spirit of God cast out demons.” But the fulness of the Godhead was there: He was the Son assuredly; but, says He, “the Father who abideth in me, He doeth the works,” and “I and my Father are one.” In the fear also that we might believe that He had returned to the relationship of Son, or had recovered it at His baptism by John, the scriptures lift a corner of the veil which enveloped the thirty years of His life passed in obscurity at Nazareth, and present Him, at the age of twelve years, in the full consciousness of Sonship.
Scripture is opposed to M. Godet (p. 152): “This consciousness of Sonship, which was His light, He suffered to become extinguished within Him, in order to preserve only His inalienable personality, His individuality, endowed with liberty and intelligence like every human individuality … He was, by virtue of this humiliation, enabled to enter into a human development similar to our own.” Can we—we at the age of twelve years, and that without having received a divine and entirely new life—say, “I ought to be [occupied] in my Father’s business?” M. Godet is not even satisfied with that, but goes yet farther. Being unable to deny that He said, “My Father “at the age of twelve years, he takes pains to testify to us that this “in no wise involved a precise dogma in the thoughts of the child; a moral relationship was all that was in question” (p. 144). “At the hour of His baptism” it is “a revelation which He received from the Father,” or (p. 145) it is “here again, a fact of intimate life, by which Jesus is rendered conscious of the relationship of love, which united Him to Him who spake to Him thus.” Also, in speaking of Jesus entering into glory, M. Godet says, page 132, “Here then is human nature elevated in its normal representative to the possession of divine life.” Is this then He of whom John spoke? when he said, “The Word of God … In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness apprehended it not.” The Christ presented to us by M. Godet is another Christ than that of the Word, whom they alone received who were born not of the will of man, but of God. Also, when M. Godet (p. 151) quotes the beautiful passage of Philippians 2:6-8, he entirely falsifies it, and then, at the close, adds, “being found in all things as a man.” Notice well that the Christ of M. Godet’s system is a man who begins with His exaltation in order to advance on to the glory. In the passage quoted from the word, the Christ descends lower and lower, till God exalts Him, and places Him in the glory.
It is important to notice the bearing of some other remarks of M. Godet in this matter. Page 101: “Before Christ’s advent, it could be said, ‘that which is born of the flesh is flesh’: since His appearing, the true meaning of history is expressed by, ‘that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’” This is thorough nonsense. I have another object than shewing it to be such, in now quoting it. I desire to ask, Are we really born of God?
At page 150 we get Christ who made Himself of no reputation, rendering Himself poor, and living in indigence, just as a king would who became a simple citizen. This comparison has no sense whatever. Christ has ever remained King. We read, page 153, “that the very moment of His abasement was for Jesus the starting-point of the lifting up again. In proportion to His development as a child, a relationship of the most intimate and tender nature was formed between Himself and God … it terminated in the spontaneous utterance of that expression, ‘My Father.’” Then, at page 160, “Christ having been the first to supply the glorious career [of from innocence on to glory], invests us with His power to supply it after Him.” At pages 112, 113, “the sanctification of human life, which He accomplished in His Person, He, in fact, purposed to reproduce later in all those who were linked to Him by faith.” At page 94, “He makes Himself worker together with every man in the realization of his supreme destiny.” At page 98, “His life is the realization of the normal development to which every human being is called in principle.” At page 101, “The normal development of humanity, interrupted by sin,” has recommenced. The thought of the new birth is excluded from M. Godet’s system. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” is but the history of that which has taken place since Jesus came. That “the Son quickens whom he will” has no place in this system. There is “a moral obligation,” and in that domain (p. 94) Christ is the “genie” which becomes the mainstay to the work of all others. He groups around His person all those worthy of that name. It is man as he is—a sinner—aided by Christ, who can attain this absolute perfection. Man’s natural condition is presented in a manner totally contrary to the word, as well as to the glorious Person of the Saviour. That there is none who seeks after God—that we must be born again—that thenceforth Christ becomes our life—that it is no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us—that in us, that is to say, in our flesh, no good dwells—that the flesh lusts against the Spirit—that to be without law is to be without restraint to such a degree as to have required that God should send the deluge to cleanse the defiled world—that the flesh, the nature of fallen man, does not submit itself to the law of God, even when that law is given to it—that that which has crucified the Lord of glory, when He came in grace, cannot be subject to it—that it lusts against the Spirit in the Christian—that it seeks to puff up with vanity a man who had been in the third heaven—that no fresh grace delivers it from its pride and its egotism—that even to an apostle a thorn is needed, a messenger of Satan, to buffet it;—all these teachings of the word are utterly set aside.
Christ, says M. Godet, recommences the development of the innocent man (p. 191). “On the one hand, He [Christ] has perfected the development of humanity which had remained unfinished by the sin of the first man; on the other, He has re-established fallen humanity, and reinstated it on the path where it can henceforth reach its destiny.” He had (p. 192) to “re-knot the thread of the normal development of humanity at its point of severance, recommence the moral work which was to conduct man from innocence to holiness, accomplish that series of acts of obedience, each of which was a sacrifice of natural life, and attain that elevated sphere of existence which scripture calls spiritual life.” Christ then had no spiritual existence till He had attained it. “This is what Jesus has done” (ibid.).
“Now,” adds M. Godet (p. 193), “Christ has not only perfected a humanity which had been arrested in its development, but has re-established a fallen humanity.” This is the second part of the work He has accomplished for us. “Then (p. 159), taking possession of the condition to which it [human life] was destined [holiness], He, from the heights of heaven, works towards His own, through a daily Pentecost, the miracle of sanctification, which He has perfected in Himself, and thus prepares their elevation to the position He Himself occupies in the glory.” “God all in one, and by Him one day, all in all; this is the means, this the aim.” Will you know more of this? Read page 160: “He desires nothing less than to make each of us another self, a representative of this supreme type, the man-God.” Compare page 159: “Why should not human nature, created in the image of God, have been destined from the first to become the free organ of the life of God, the agent of His omnipotence?” “The man-God would in that case have been nothing but true man, that is to say, that which God had eternally conceived and intended him to be.” And immediately the author presents these imaginations as the expression of Romans 8:29, from whence it would result that we are all men-God.
We shall be all like Jesus, all conformed to the image of God’s Son. I must leave to the appreciation of each Christian a teaching which states that the union of the divinity and humanity, such as they exist in Jesus, is a purpose of God which ought to be realized in every Christian. Now this is systematically the author’s plan. Thus, at page 204, “After having, during His sojourn down here, completely appropriated the divine Spirit, and made it His own personal life, as God Himself, He has become the sovereign dispenser of it towards His brethren.” Then, at page 160, “What matters it if our life be a pathway of suffering, passing by Gethsemane and Golgotha, provided it terminate at the Mount of Olives and the ascension?” Not that M. Godet thinks the flesh does not exist, or that it improves. At page 208 we read, “Christ being born, and growing in us to such a degree as to fill our heart, and to gradually banish our natural selves—our old man which never improves, and has nothing else to do but to perish.” At page 191, it is “the result of a series of completely voluntary decisions in the sense of goodness.” Then, page 205, “This work [that of realizing perfect holiness in a flesh like ours] once accomplished in Jesus, His spirit emanates from His glorified Person, like a quickening power, gaining in us the same victory that Jesus gained in His Person, and which realizes in our life, as Jesus did in His, the righteousness demanded by the law…” The thought of being born anew completely and systematically fails throughout. It is progress in sanctification by the power of the Spirit, in gaining the victories Jesus gained in His Person. At page 208 we have, “a free and moral process.” “The process in Jesus and ourselves is identical” (p. 209). Is this then a work perfectly resembling that accomphshed in the sinner, to change innocence into holiness? In order to make these two so very different things meet, M. Godet says that Jesus has conquered sin in His Person, and that He reserved it to Himself to conquer it in humanity. But in fallen humanity sin dwells in the will. To Christ sin exists outside Himself. How, then, can there be room for a work perfectly similar in Him and in us?
Then (pp. 176, 178, 179) “What God required was not the satisfaction of His rights by shedding torrents of blood; it was the revelation of that right to human conscience which ignored it; it was the acquiescence granted to that right by that very conscience.” “God demonstrated that great principle, that whosoever rebelled against God is worthy of death.” Then “the very fact of redemption proves that what God sought has been, not the most, but, on the contrary, the least, shedding of blood, provided the same moral effect be produced. One man sufficed Him, in the bloody death of whom He has ostensibly manifested that which in reality had been merited by all; of one victim, at the sight of whom all others could say, that is the treatment which I had acquired for myself.” It was also, “first, the revelation of God’s right on guilty humanity; secondly, the recognition of that right by that humanity itself.” Then (p. 182), “There a reparation, without default, has been offered. The most bitter death has been accepted as the just chastisement of sin, the right which God possesses to inflict such a punishment on man has been acknowledged without reserve. ‘Righteous Father,’ exclaimed the dying Son, in the last prayer He uttered with His own.” Also (p. 192), “It was not a compensation for injustice, but a revelation presented to all of what all would have deserved to suffer, and what all they will truly suffer whom the spectacle of that expiation will not bring back repentant and believing to God.” And again (p. 182), “The demonstration of righteousness which God desired to give the world has then in this case attained the character of absolute perfection. To the adequate nature of the inflicted punishment has been added the full acquiescence of Him who consented to endure it.” After that (p. 185) our faith gives also our acquiescence, in acknowledging that it is we who deserve the chastisement. “It is by faith that this association of individuals, in the reparation wrought by Christ, takes place.”
There are many other things to notice; but first, if bodily death be the punishment, and God be satisfied with that which Jesus has done, why should we die? Then, if bodily death be all, then all pay already down here the penalty of their sin, be they penitents or not. That death, says M. Godet, was the adequate nature of the inflicted punishment. The demonstration of righteousness has attained the character of an absolute perfection.
Why then must I myself, if the Saviour does not come in time to spare me this bodily death, undergo the full consequences of my sin, that same thing which God has already done? Such are the results of human wisdom.
Then, if I myself die, acknowledging that I have merited it, why needed it that Christ should have died? It will be said, Christ could adequately recognize it. But if it be but the death common to all, which is the wages of sin, and if I recognize that I have merited death, I recognize it adequately; then, morally in sight of the cross, I am no more advanced as regards this than otherwise. I only recognize it in proportion to my own faith, even if Christ died for me. And why, if some one had fulfilled the career of holiness, would he not also make expiation? Nothing prevents it according to M. Godet’s system. That is not all by any means. That death is the wages of sin is quite true, but it is quite another thing to understand it, as though it signified that bodily death (natural, if you will) is all the wages of sin. This is so far from being true, that the full effect of judgment overtakes sinners after their resurrection, when death will no longer exist. “It is reserved unto men once to die, and after that the judgment.” They must rise again for that judgment; I speak of the wicked. And when the well-beloved Saviour said, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” this was not death. When that took place, He peacefully resigned His spirit into the Father’s hands.
That which M. Godet tells us of the propitiation is equally false (p. 184, lines 17 to 19), that faith is needed to render a victim propitiatory. The word in Greek is not propitiation, nor propitiatory victim. M. Godet adds “victim.” Christ, in Romans 3:24, is a “mercy-seat” (the place where God is accessible) “through faith in his blood.” But He is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the whole world; 1 John 2:2. The righteousness of God is now manifested to the world, in that Christ has gone to His Father, and the world sees Him no more; John 16.
We read again (p. 185), “Nor has He accomplished this expiatory act, in which the treatment which the sinful world deserved was manifested, with the object of dispensing, as from offering to God, the reparation which we owed Him.” What is the reparation we owe Him for sin? From beginning to end it is M. Godet’s gospel, not that of the word of God— “which is not another.”
I shall not occupy myself with M. Godet’s other interpretations; I do not accept them, neither his two justifications, nor the subsequent loss of those who have been once justified; for the apostle says, “whom he justified them he also glorified.” I might have taken up a mass of things which I believe to be antiscriptural, a crowd of entirely false interpretations. But I will not mix these things with the foundation of the truth, of the gospel of God. The gospel, and revelation of God in Christ, that of the Father in the Son, have disappeared, as well as the cup which an infinitely precious Saviour had to drink for us. It is this that makes me speak. M. Godet tells us that the Saviour comes ever since He went up. My pen, but for that, might remain dormant. But if another Christ than the true one is presented to souls, and another expiation than the true one as revealed to us by the word, and if this be done under the banner of orthodoxy, this concerns all the world.
M. Godet’s system is the re-establishment of the first man, not the introduction of the second Man. The first man is not only a sinner, but he is lost and condemned. God has for our instruction used every means in His power to try if man could be restored. Left without law, the world had to be destroyed. The law having been given, man could not keep it; his flesh cannot submit to it. God sends the prophets: man persecutes and kills them. God then says, “I have yet my Son.” He comes, and binds the strong man; He manifests a power sufficing to remove all the consequences of sin. But God’s presence having been then and thus manifested, man would not have it. Sin, enmity against God there in goodness, manifest themselves to the utmost degree; man crucifies the Son of God; they had seen and hated both Him and His Father. From that time the history of man in the flesh was closed: “Now is the judgment of this world,” says the Saviour. The fig-tree, man under God’s special care, is condemned, never again to bear fruit. Stephen sums up his history in Acts 7; the law violated; the prophets persecuted and killed; the Just One betrayed and put to death; the resistance of the Holy Ghost. Such is man in the flesh. Nevertheless man’s sin only brought about the accomplishment of God’s counsels. Christ was made sin for us; there He glorified God, and faith can say, “He bore our sins in his own body on the tree.” “He hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling.”
Born of the Spirit, Christ being our life, we count that we are dead to sin. Our bodies being the temples of the Holy Spirit, we five from the life of the risen Christ, whilst waiting till He comes to take us to Himself in the glory (not to be man-God, like Himself, but) to be in the same glory, so near Him as to adore Him with the knowledge of what He is, and what He has done; not “restored,” but saved and glorified, not merely by the death of a holy man, as though that were all, but saved from the second death, from eternal torments, by Him who, upon the cross, ere He died, was forsaken by God that we might be brought to and ever with Him. He was far from being “the object of the displeasure and reprobation of God” (p. 190). Never was His obedience so pleasing. “On this account the Father loved me, because I lay down my life that I may take it again.” But this does not prevent that He drank the cup given by His Father, and that He bore in His soul the consequence of our sin.
I have finished. I will only direct the attention of him who reads these pages to the uncertainty and the ambiguity of M. Godet’s expressions. I will quote but two examples. “The true meaning of history since Christ’s appearing is expressed by ‘that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.’” The history of what? And again: “Christ has re-established fallen humanity” What is re-established? Has man ceased to be a sinner? Is he reconciled to God?
116 See the expression in Matthew i:22; ch. 2:15, which the Lord had said by that prophet. It is upo tou kuriou and dia tou prophetou.