Book traversal links for Christological Pantheism
There is a very grave question at issue now in the professing church of God, which branches out uniformly into many collateral points, all of which, though in different degrees, affect Christianity; that is, the true nature of Christianity itself. The root of the whole question however is, Where is the bond, the union, the living association between what is divine and men?51 It takes the form of Popery or Romanism; Ritualism or Puseyism, so called, in the Episcopal body in England and in this country;52 the Stahl and Hengstenberg school in Lutheran Germany; and in what is called Mercers-burg theology among the Dutch Reformed here. The last is allied to a new school in Germany, propagating actively its views on the Person of Christ; but all, however various the shades of theology, are essentially the same. They all hold union to take place in the incarnation, to be with humanity, not (consequent on redemption) of believers with a glorified Christ; and, without in words denying it, they put redemption entirely in the shade. Redemption, in their view, is not really accomplished by the atonement, but by the incarnation.
Their system of union develops itself in the life-giving power of sacraments; and in insisting on the importance and organic power and authority of the church, but meaning thereby the clergy. Where the German school has infected it, it introduces the organic and historic development of Christ’s life in the world, and that in all arts and sciences, a kind of Christological pantheism. In all cases, the mystical power of the clergy, and organism of the life-giving power of the sacraments which the clergy alone can introduce into them, is its practical character. It slights the written word and the operation of the Spirit of God; and, while speaking much of historical development, carefully avoids historical facts, as well as scriptural statements, and the direct authority of the word of God over the soul as from God Himself. That is, private interpretation, the church, the creed, the (Ecumenical Council, in result, the clergy, are to be trusted. The church has developed the imperfect elements of Scripture; and theology (which is of course in the hands of the doctors, that is, themselves) is alone full and formal truth.
It is remarkable how God is set aside in this system, and man, humanity, exalted and made everything of, even in Christ and His work, as far as His work is made of any account.
I shall notice some details, but I shall take up the root-question as concerning every one; for it is a question of what Christianity is—what the truth is. The consequences are deplorable and demoralising wherever it prevails; but, without denying that there are pious persons and real Christians ensnared it, I affirm that, as a system, it is a denial of the truth of Christianity, of Christianity itself in its foundation and vital truths, as revealing what man is, and bringing what man is, and bringing him savingly, to God. I add these last words because the error, save in the German school of the system, is not in the objective part of Christianity (or no one could be a Christian who adopted it), but in the application of its efficacious power, and the way in which God has dealt with man. They do not deny that those who oppose their system believe in the Trinity; in the incarnation; in the true humanity of the Lord; in the atonement; in the union of the two natures in one Person in the blessed Lord; as I myself adoringly recognise all this: and the true value of the two ordinances established by the Lord, baptism and the Lord’s supper—both (and especially the latter as a continuous thing in the Christian’s life) precious to his soul. I may add the exercise of ministry as given and appointed by Christ. These are not the questions at issue; at least I have nothing now to do with those who call them in question. For me, as to all the first truths, there is no Christianity without them, nor orderly Christianity without the latter. The question is, Where is the point of contact between God and man, these things being true?
But I go farther in what may be considered agreement with the school of error. I do not deny, but assert and affirm strongly, that the Lord established a church, that is, an assembly, on earth; which, in one point of view, is His body, formed by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; and which, in another character, is the habitation of God on earth by the Spirit (not the clergy; they are in no sense the church). This (and the word means nothing else) is the assembly. But, though individual relationship with God is always put in the first place by the word of God (relationship with the Father in grace and Christ the First-born among many brethren, and responsibility, conscience, and faith are uniformly individual), yet God did establish an assembly on earth, designated as “the body of Christ,” and as “the habitation of God by the Spirit.” Further, the Lord instituted two great ordinances in connection with it— baptism and the Supper of the Lord. He established also a ministry in gifts given by Himself from on high—evangelists, pastors, and teachers, as He founded it by apostles and prophets, besides its being compacted by that which every joint supplies, so that it should, in the edification of itself, increase with the increase of God. All this is plainly stated in the word of God itself. No history is needed to give it authority or validity. The particularly views of Rome, of Dr. Pusey, or of Dr. Nevin, about these things, are another question. They are not inspired; the word of God is.
But I go farther still. The Person of the blessed Lord is the centre of all Christian affections and all Christian truth for the believer (and God has given us eternal life in Him— “he that hath the Son hath life”); as, in God’s time, all things will be headed up in Him in heaven and in earth. This is supremely dear to the believer’s heart. But how and where are men brought into living association with Him? All those to whom I refer say, in the incarnation and the sacraments. That life is and was in His Person is most true. His Person is the foundation of everything; but where are we brought into association with Him? The formulary among the Episcopalian Ritualists was, the sacraments are a continuation or extension of the incarnation. German theology, and American borrowed from the Germans, has added a principle of historical development before as well as after the incarnation, which the soberer Episcopalians have not adopted, as far as I am aware, but confine themselves to the continuation of the incarnation of the Son of God by the sacraments in the church, and have not followed the reveries of the Germans; but the doctrine, as far as the truth I am occupied with is concerned, is the same.
The atonement loses all its importance as a redeeming work; at-one-ment, as Irving said and they say, was in the Word being made flesh and receiving humanity in His own Person. Our connection with God is restored by incarnation. Many grave errors flow from this as to justification and the like; but I confine myself to the root of the matter. Thus it is stated in this country:53 “The Son of God… assumed humanity and became the universal man, standing related to the race as redeemed in Him, as the first Adam stood related to the race as fallen in him. The humanity of the One is as broad, as universal, and comprehensive, as the humanity of the other.” “The very assumption of that nature, in its sinless perfection, was itself the redemption of humanity. In Him humanity stands redeemed already, as the source and fountain of the new race which proceeds from Him.” “The church becomes, accordingly, an object of faith, inasmuch as it is a continuation of the mystery of the incarnation.” “The sacrament of baptism is the divinely instituted means by which, ordinarily, the life-communication takes place.”
How far this goes in the hands of the followers of the Germans, and how it lowers redemption to what is human, may be seen in what follows: “He, taking upon Himself our nature, not simply as an individual, to stand forth as one in the teeming race of Adam… but, grasping the very foundation of our human existence, appropriates it to Himself as the generic force and life of our race; not a man, but the man; the second Adam, like unto the first, as the bearer of the totality of our humanity, comprehending in His Person the whole of our human life.” Now that He was the last (not second) Adam is all right, and that He took all that constitutes a man is all true; but this means a vast deal more. “For man is man, in the proper sense of the term, only as his life reveals itself in the outward forms of the institutions and relations in which it becomes actual in the world. The family, the state, learning in all its departments, the arts, the sciences, and all monuments besides of the activity of the human soul, stand not apart from, but are truly comprehended in, the constitution of our human life. These departments, if we may so call them, and all others besides, comprehended thus in the wonderful constitution of our humanity, must come at last to a vital union with the divine. Failure in this is failure equally deep and disastrous in the purpose of its being; it is death. But to attain to this is to attain to life and immortality! It was in this comprehensive sense that the Logos apprehended our nature, and took it into union with His divinity. These are the ‘all things on earth’ which the divine will would gather up in Christ, even in Him, of which St. Paul speaks.”
I give this long quotation to shew how entirely man, as in and for this world, is in the mind of those degraded (for such it is) by this system. Not a trace of spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ, to say nothing of God Himself, communion with the Father and the Son. It is bringing Christ and the effect of His incarnation to the sphere of the mere natural man; indeed this is stated in terms. Again:
“Moreover, we must bear in mind that the humanity of Christ is, and must necessarily be, co-extensive with Adam’s. Its remedial powers must be commensurate with the ruins of the fall, and reveal themselves wherever these effects are to be found. We look, therefore, for their regenerating and sanctifying potencies in every department of human life. The family, the state, our social relations in all their phases, art, science, learning, and all the outward revelations of human powers, are gathered up in this supernatural constitution,” etc. “There all things in earth were gathered up and completed in the Person of Christ and the mission of the church on earth is to carry forward this germinal realisation to an actual development in the world.” Christ come in the flesh in this world, the incarnation prolonged (to speak with them) in the church, has its object in this world to take up human development in what are man’s natural faculties. This is “the meaning and design of the incarnation of our Lord, and the constitution and powers of His holy body, the church.” Of a citizenship in heaven, or affections on things above, not on things on the earth—not a trace, save the denial of it. I add another short quotation to shew it is systematic teaching, not merely individual opinion.
“The gospel is emphatically a world-saving power. It enters into the life of the world in an organic way … the scheme that says, ‘There can be no real marriage of divine and human powers, of the life of Christ, with the life of the race, in an abiding, historical, sacramental union, and continuing in the world in such a way as to carry forward society in a living process of life and growth in knowledge, and in faith, and in hope, and in charity, and in all that belongs to the existence of an emancipated and regenerated humanity’ … is not only unreal and unhistorical, but it seems to run directly in the face of the plainest teachings of the word of God. This teaches that God is in Christ, and that Christ is the life of the world,” etc. This writer, indeed, though making God create the world by His omnipotence, yet, as to its present form, whether accomplished in six days or six long geological periods, tells us that “all nature was made to rise, by an inherent law and tendency, from one gradation of development to another under the moulding generic power of the Almighty, until, finally, the whole culminated in the creation of man,” which is little less than Darwinianism, and the progress from atomic cellules by “an inherent law and tendency.”
But we must now see the introduction of this life in Christ. “Christological theology must be historical” … “His [Christ’s] deepest, truest, and most real coming through the Old Testament is a coming in flesh and blood, a coming in and through generations, a coming in history; not in the events of history merely, but in that human hfe in which lay and from which operated the life of history. Yea, more, if we acknowledge, as all Christian historians do, that the incarnation is premeditated in heathenism, we are in like manner impelled to escape the subtle deception into which the mind so naturally falls, that this same prevening heathen history could have such a relation to the incarnation, if the eternal Logos had not such an aptitude for the human as that His own life should also be in some kind of underlying and underacting communion with the life of whose activities this heathen prophetic history is the creation and the result. If such be the relation of the life of the Logos to human life and history, previous to His actual incarnation, how infinitely deeper and more certain must be that relation after He has actually entered the human in a personal way, and so joined His own divine-human life with the life and history of the race!
“Let us not deceive our own minds by separating history from life. Christian history, the history of Christianity, is the coming of Christ,” etc. “Thus Christ came in humanity as its genuine principle of life, before He was actually incarnate in the fulness of time. But the mystery was not completed in this prevenient union of His with humanity.”
Now, that the Son quickened souls from Adam onwards, no Christian, I suppose, would deny. That in God we live, move, and have our being, so that we are in a certain sense His offspring, we know is scriptural truth. But this is vastly more. It is in heathenism, as such, communion with divine life in Christ. The whole of this argument (and here the theologians run completely into the same channel both here and in Europe, with a large class of Germans whose system is infidel) confounds the wants and cravings of a being created for God, when they have Him not, with the answer that grace gives to those cravings in Christ: a very grave blunder.
But I must pursue my subject. To notice all their errors would be endless. It is the antiscriptural, antichristian character of the system, as a whole, which occupies me— “that His saving life exerts its redeeming and restoring power in humanity,” and “that the person of the God-man, which is constituted by the real and true union of the divine and human, is the ultimate generic principle of redemption, the generic head of the new humanity.” “He was the principle of that hereditary blessing which laid hold of human fife generally.”
Now it is perfectly clear, that in the counsels and wisdom of God before the worlds (Prov. 8) His delight (Christ’s, as wisdom) was in the sons of men. His incarnation, as celebrated by angels, was the expression of good pleasure in men; Luke 2. They were the race of His predilection, and it was in Christ, the Word made flesh, that this was to be accomplished. But our theologians use this truth as a basis to their own speculations. Adam was only a candidate for the grace of life,54 to be enjoyed only in the event of his “predetermination admitting him into the wonderfully mysterious sacrament of the tree of life.” It is “not, and never was, designed by the Creator that man should have life in himself, but only as he stood in vital union with His own being as the absolute ground and source of all life. To be out of and separated from God is to be dead; to be in union with Him is to have life.” Note well: this denies the immortality of the soul, and confounds permanent life with the divine life as possessed in Christ. Either Adam, as created, had not life in himself by creation, or he was united with God already, and fell when he was. Nay, the very devils could not exist. It is a theory involving ten thousand absurdities and heresies, at once confounding death and separation from God; spiritual death with dying as a creature, and life, as existence, with divine life in communion with God. As to union with God, though used by many Christians, save as regards the Person of Christ it is a wholly false and unscriptural idea; it is always with Christ become a Man, and risen from the dead, that we have union.
But I continue: “In what form the reunion of the human and divine would have taken place, had not sin entered into the world, it is not necessary for us here to inquire. It is enough to know that it would have taken place… There was no miscalculation in the divine reckonings which the presence of sin for the first time revealed.” However, sin came in; but “the union of the human and divine was originally involved in the plan of creation, as its ultimate design and end; in this union as it holds in the Person of Jesus Christ, do we find the revelation of God’s will touching this precise interest.” “The appearance of sin as a disturbing force, growing out of man’s free self-determining power, was confronted immediately by this very resource for its effectual overthrow.” It is not thus denied that Christ’s going down to death, and meeting the penalty of the law, was needed; as He took humanity, He took it as it was, subject to its penalties, and consequently died on the cross. But, “though finding in sin a fresh call for the incarnation, yet this determined not the fact, but only the form under which it should hold.” “The archetypal conception in the divine mind, overthrown by the fraud and malice of Satan in the first Adam, we find in this second Adam in the complete elimination of all the abnormal forces, carried along in the bosom of humanity, not only restored and realised, but perfected and advanced.” This is in Christ incarnate down here. He “exhibited what, from the start, lay really and truly in the normal sense of humanity.” Nay, even “the church, it fully appears, was no necessity of the fall. It existed anterior to the accident of sin; and, had the fall never occurred, would have continued, though not under the subsequent form of mediatorial offices and propitiatory agencies, but as a divine instrumentality, answering man’s normal development. It sprang necessarily out of our moral constitution and our relation to God as the subjects of His moral government.” “True to this law of his own moral being, he would have been advanced, without bodily decay and decomposition, to a state of full glorification, but only through the appearance, ultimately, of the Logos incarnate.” Thus sin was an accident, impotent, as is said elsewhere, to hinder the course of God’s purposes, foreseen indeed of God; and redemption by blood itself, an accident, a provision, a “change of procedure,” “a subsequent form,” dependent on this accident. “But it will be borne in mind that Christ was not a new humanity, a creation de novo; His was Adam’s humanity as under the power of the curse.” “In its commencement it was human nature, as that of His virgin mother, and therefore fallen.” It is added indeed, “From the moment of the holy conception sin was eliminated.”
But this is not the doctrine of their leading theologian, and in a discourse published by the request of the Synod he holds that “on the divine side, that which was divine was mediated by the divine Spirit, and so found pure generical beginning in fallen and depraved human nature. In this bosom of the abnormal human the divine gradually assumed the normal human, by a steady victory over corrupt human nature in the womb, forward to the birth of the Holy Child.” “So on through life, it is fully and naturally human. Though as human He is tempted, truly and really tempted, He is always victorious over defect and corruption of that nature.” Under the law “which He has assumed, and which ever presses upon and vitally touches His pure life at every point, thus presenting to the world the picture … of a sinless man. Thus in His own personal human nature He obtained, first of all, a complete victory over that abnormal humanity with which He had formed a union, presenting it fully restored to its normal purity, in His own Person, especially exhausting and overcoming at every point the virus of sin and death, till He came forth from the grave victorious over its last power and penalty, and glorified human nature in the heavens. All this was one continuous, silently-working, steady, victorious miracle, going forward in His own Person, a victory of sinlessness overcoming depravity by the process of His divine-human life in the womb. Though made of the woman … He was still made under the law, that is, His human nature had to be purely developed out of the bosom of an impure humanity.” (See Rom. 8:2; 2 Cor. 13:4.) I add the quotations to shew that they carry the principle on to the cross.55
This is pure Irvingism. A sinless effect was produced, but by His being victorious over an evil nature within: where defect and corruption existed, He restored it to purity, but it was with corrupt abnormal humanity He had formed a union and had to overcome the virus of sin. Where was it? “This victory was first in Himself, that it might be also for us. It had to take place in Him, because He is the principle and fountain of life to all. ‘For their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.’ Let these great words be understood.” They are wholly misunderstood. They were spoken when He was going to His Father (John 17), as He says in the passage, “Now, I am no more in the world.” He was setting Himself apart as the glorified Man in heaven; not what He had been doing all His life. He knew no sin. It was a “holy thing “that was born of the Virgin Mary.
So, to the same purpose, is quoted by them, “He learned obedience,” and “being made perfect.” “As His own divine-human life thus sanctified and perfected “(think of a divine life needing sanctification!) “was to become the restoring and perfecting fife of humanity, it had to extend beyond Himself, that it might begin and carry forward to a like victory fallen and depraved human nature in others.” “But it must lay hold also on the fallen world beyond man.” “And all the particular miracles wrought by Him are only individual manifestations of that same divine-human miracle life.” “The miracle is supernatural because its force is the life of a higher world.” Consequently, dividing the Red Sea and the Jordan was no miracle, nor the earth opening and swallowing up Dathan and Abiram. Christ’s divine works were miracles of good: but the definition is as false as the doctrine is.
I do not go into all this system, fully developed as it is in Europe, and borrowed here. “Human nature in its creation… free from all sin… was not yet perfect, but awaited process… in order to become perfect. How much more was such a process of development, not only possible, but also necessary, in the fallen humanity which the Son of God assumed.” “We assent here, with Lange, that the very idea of temptation implies the possibility of sinning.” “His triumph over the temptation of the devil was a personal victory, a step in the process of His own perfecting of Himself, as well as for the benefit of His people.” “This view is required by the nature of Christ’s human will.” It is then said, “if the human in the Person of Christ had been compelled by an overshadowing power to will as it did.” But this flows from their idea that the corruption and “virus- of sin,” of a fallen abnormal nature was there. The non-possibility of sinning did not even arise from a compelling power, for then, without that power, He might. It would not have been the holiness of His nature, but from the intrinsic rightness of Christ’s will, in His holy Person, as a man. Their darkened understandings have not been able to distinguish between morally impossible (and here absolutely so), and impossibility by compulsion; because they have a false unholy Christ. The Christ of God had no inclination to sin. His will was only to obey: and He was led of the Spirit to be tempted.
As regards the sympathy of the Lord, on the ground of which His liability to inward temptations, and even His peccability, is insisted on, it fails altogether. For the sorrow and discouragement of sincere souls does not come from the existence of sin in the flesh, but much more from their yielding to it. Now, if they are to get sympathy here by Christ being in the same state, He must have failed. But then all is lost. And if not, the whole argument is proved false on its very base. Such persons do not know what true deliverance is. Nor do I ask for sympathy for sin, but the word to judge it, and deliverance from its power by redemption and the Holy Ghost, in the knowledge that I have no strength. The advocacy of Christ to restore communion if we do fail, when we are free from the law of sin and death, is founded on righteousness and propitiation.
But as I am on this point, I add, they have no true Christ at all. I read, “How such human nature, as body, soul, and spirit, including a human will, could be held in personal union with the divine, so that this humanity was complete, without a human personality or ego, we cannot understand, but we believe it is a mystery revealed for faith.” Where? Why does the blessed Lord say, “Not my will but thine?” Why does He say, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” if there was no ego, no human personality? Why does Hebrews quote, “will I sing praise,” and “will put my trust in him,” “behold I and the children which God hath given me,” if there was no I (ego)? Why does He say, “My God and your God, my Father and your Father “(not our), if there was no personality?56 And this last remark, that Christ never says “our” with His disciples, I borrow from a European minister of some note, thoroughly imbued with the German system, where it is at home, not borrowed, and itself spoiled, as it is at Mercersburg. And this last statement, that Christ had no human personality, no ego, which is really heresy (though God and man were united in one person), and the mere folly of man attempting to fathom the mystery of His Person, when He has said, “No man knoweth the Son, but the Father,” is found in the Article of one by no means the worst of their doctors. His antecedent respect for the blessed Lord has not been destroyed, as in others of them. But all hold it was corrupt fallen human nature which He took and had; not that He took human nature from a fallen mother but without sin, miraculously, by the power of the Holy Ghost. But he is the least bad on this point.
But my object here is to bring the system fully into the light. Hence I quote several passages to shew it is the system, not individual opinion. Thus another says to us, “The tempt-ability of Christ grew out of His peccability; His peccability out of the realness of the human side of His being. What is less than infinite is temptable and peccable. Christ’s humanity was less than infinite; therefore His humanity might have been overthrown.” And that, note, united in one Person to Godhead, without there being even an I, or human personality —a word wrongly used really—in His human nature! Was ever such folly and confusion? God united to fallen humanity, with defect and corruption and the virus of sin in it! My hand revolts at writing such blasphemous absurdities.
This taking the fallen human nature, the ultimate generic principle of redemption, “accounts for the striking analogy between the birth of” the God-man,57 and the new birth of every human soul that is now born from Him. Both alike are a birth to a true and pure human life, out of a fallen and defiled humanity, by the operation of the Holy Ghost.” “This birth is vouchsafed to as many as receive Him.” This last gross misapplication (indeed false sense) of John 1:12 I quote, as connecting itself with the subsequent teaching as to baptism. I add another here, to shew the strange heretical confusion of those teachers: “If therefore we say that in baptism a real immanence of the nature of Christ and of human nature, a mysterious oneness of His holy essence and the sinful essence of man, is brought about, we also hold fast to the idea that this is not to be regarded as an immanence finished and immediate, but one endless beginning.” Think of one endless beginning, of a oneness, of Christ’s holy essence and the sinful essence of man! Is this endless oneness (!) of holy essence and sinful essence a moral oneness, or what?
We have thus the Lord’s incarnation, the point where (they say) He connects Himself with human nature; not merely personally, or rather not personally (so they expressly say), but in nature as the new head of the race (He is not a man, not a human personality, but) with humanity, and that fallen humanity the new head of the race. This is continued in men by a new birth, the continuation of this divine human life, and this last not by the word but by baptism, through which there is a mysterious oneness of His holy and man’s sinful essence, and this forms the body of Christ! I must give some quotations to make the last point evident. The general statement is thus: “The Spirit in Christ, the Spirit having entered into the apostles in the mystery of Pentecost extraordinarily, the Spirit, by their divinely appointed ministrations, through holy baptism.” Thus it grows into a holy temple. “The life of Christ infuses itself through the foundation and the entire organism of this life-building.”
Further, preaching presents the claims to us: “This preaching is the means by which the quickening energy of the Spirit opens the blinded eye of faith to an apprehension of the sinner’s estate as dead, and the spiritual discernment of the kingdom of life, as the power of deliverance from this ruin. Now, this faith is the organ of the human spirit by which the objective supernatural order is discerned, and its participation is made possible. But this subjective power of discernment and receptivity is by no means one with an actual entrance into it and a participation in its life. It is only the qualification and ability so to do.” “But unless the human activity is met by a curative response on the part of Christ, the soul still remains under the power of death” (only it has got its eyes opened). “The office of the apostle, preparatory preaching, is then simply to effect the preparation on the part of the sinful subject for the reception of the communication of grace. The meeting of the human and divine activities we have in the sacrament of baptism.”
“The question now is by which of these means specifically does God design to effect this wondrous work; by the word or by the sacraments? Not by the word, that is, as we have defined it, the preaching of the gospel, and for this plain reason: preaching is directed to the mind or intellect, the moving of the affections and of the will is not reaching the life-centre of the being; the intellect or mind is not the life of man; all the thinking, feeling, or willing that one can do, though assisted in their acts by a divine power, cannot of themselves make a man a new creature in Christ Jesus. This inward radical divine work must be accomplished, therefore, by the only other means—the sacraments… Baptism is the ordinance of this mysterious union… Holy baptism is the means of grace whereby the Holy Spirit ingrafts, for the first time in any substantial sense, the believer into Christ, and thus brings him into a state of salvation.”
I continue: “In that Christ as the unseen Head stands in an inward indisputable relation to the church as His mystical body—that is, that total organisation of souls which has its point of personal unity in Him, receives the power of life from Him through it, renews and animates itself, and the members themselves are all its organs—He, by means of baptism, causes this universal organic relation to become effectual in each single new point of life which He appropriates to Himself and His kingdom. As He continues His life through the church as a whole, so He also continues it through this particular mode of individual life, and therefore makes Himself the true beginning of life to it.”
But, faith being necessary, as they hold, “The child stands on the warm bosom of the faith of the church, which, through its parents or sponsors, is pledged in its behalf.” “Neither can we say that the word is the specific means of grace, whereby men are ingrafted into Christ. The word, as preached by the apostles, was a call to Christ. This was its object, to turn the attention of men to Him, as the true Messiah, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world. When they were ready to receive Him, they were baptised into Him, and thus made members of Him.” “Christian baptism then, we think the Scriptures teach, is the sacrament of our incorporation into Christ.” “The word has to do with truth; the sacrament with life. The one operates upon the intellect and affections; the other upon the centre of the being. By the word men are brought mentally and morally into contact with Christ; by the sacrament into actual life contact.” “The theology then we speak of is churchly. It believes in the church … in the bosom of which only, not on the outside of it, the gospel can be expected to work, as the wisdom of God and the power of God unto salvation. So far as this goes, of course, it owns and confesses that the church is a medium of communication between Christ and His people.” (His people, then, are not the church!) “They must be in the order of His grace, in the sphere where this objective working of His grace is actually going forward, and not in the order of nature, where it is not going forward at all (but where Satan reigns and has his own way), if the work of redemption and sanctification is to be carried forward in them with full effect. In this sense, most assuredly, salvation is of the church, and not of the world,” etc. Now that, as a general truth, sanctification is to be looked for in the church, not in the world, is all true enough. But the gospel, they say, cannot work outside of it; the poor heathen are in a bad way, and redemption is carrying on, and that only inside it. Salvation is not of the world, assuredly, but it is to the world, and could never have been, had it not come to it as such; nor could the church otherwise have existed. The grace of God brings salvation—where? to those already within, or to men without to bring them in?
There are some points I shall touch on just in detail; but I assert now that the whole of this system is totally antichristian and antiscriptural. “Christ incarnate is the point of union, and His divine-human life is continued by baptism; the word is not the means of communicating it; baptism incorporates into Christ; the accident of sin produced a change of procedure (that is all): man was to be perfected in Christ at any rate.” All this is false: Scripture, as to the main points, teaches precisely the contrary; and God’s glory is wholly, totally, left out in a most extraordinary way. Human perfection is the only thought.
Now, that it was in the wondrous counsels of God to have man in the same glory as His Son is, however wonderful, blessedly true. That Christ is life, our life who believe, is equally so. The question is, where and how life in this system, not death, is the means of redemption. “His saving life exerts its redeeming and restoring power in humanity, not by becoming an individual man among men, and then operating on the general life of humanity, but by entering into it; and this entering is by birth, so that the new creation of human nature in its organic being falls together and co-ordinate with natural human birth. The reheading of humanity is thus effected in its very beginning by the union of the divine-human life” — (two human lives again in Christ)— “with human life in a human birth; even as man’s first creation was completed by the conjunction of the breath of God with the human lifeless form, when God made man a living soul by breathing into him the breath of life. From all this we cannot but see that the Person of the God-man, which is constituted by the real and true union of the divine and human, is the ultimate generic principle of redemption.”
Humanity (in its nature) is redeemed by incarnation; and this is carried on by baptism! Now, all this is definitely contrary to the revelation of God; and, in that sense, is a denial of Christianity. It is true, that conformity to the image of God’s Son is the portion of God’s saints; true, that God’s delight was in the sons of men before the world, and that the Lord did not take up angels but the seed of Abraham: true, that the incarnation was the expression of good pleasure in men; true, not that the human-divine life of Christ was the generic source of the race before the incarnation, but that the Son quickened souls from Adam onwards; true, that He is now the life of all believers, and the Head of His body, the church. But reunion with Christ, connection with Him, is with a glorified Christ, and with a glorified Christ alone, after He had accomplished redemption. As the first Adam sinned and was cast out before he began to be the head of the race, so the perfect and divine ground of righteousness was laid and complete before Christ, as man, became head of a new race as man. It is with a glorified Christ that the church is united, and with no other. There are many errors and heresies in the system; but, if this be so, the whole system is fundamentally false. It is a false Christianity, “another (a different) gospel, which is not another,” for another there cannot be. Death and redemption must come in before we can be united to Christ. What Scripture shews us is the counsels of God before the world for uniting us in grace to Christ in glory; then God beginning not with that, but with the responsible man, Adam. When he had failed, and fully tested, was found an enemy of God, there came the second Man, the Lord, to seek and to save what was lost; and, when He (having glorified God as made sin) had accomplished redemption in His death, to unite us with Himself as gone on high.
Man failed in innocence, failed under the law, killed the prophets sent in mercy; and then God said, “I have yet one Son; it may be they will reverence my Son.” “But they cast him out of the vineyard and slew him.” There was lawlessness without law, transgression under law, and, when God came in grace, absolute enmity against Him. The Son had quickened whom He would, no doubt, all along; and their sins were forgiven through His blood: but man, as such, was then fully and finally proved enmity against God. Flesh was not subject to the law of God, nor could be; and they that are in the flesh cannot please God. Not only was man driven out from God’s paradise on earth, as a sinner; but he had, as far as he could do so, driven God out when He came in grace into this world. “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloke for their sin… If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin; but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father.” Such was man, guilty in fact, and lost in estate. Redemption was needed, not merely a communication of life: not redemption by a mystical communication of life—a thing totally unknown to Scripture; but redemption through Christ’s blood, propitiation: not the folly of “oneness of a holy essence and a sinful essence,” but to be born anew, wholly “created in Christ Jesus”; being redeemed out of the state he was in, and associated with the Redeemer, but only when the redemption was accomplished. Christ the Lord came, as Son of God and King of Israel according to Psalm 2; a minister of the circumcision, to fulfil the promises made to the fathers; but the kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers took counsel together against Jehovah and against His Anointed. He was the despised and rejected of men. He came into the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. Those who did receive Him were born, not of the will of man, but of God.
Still His title was good. He was also Son of man. But when was He to take this? When rejected, God gave witness to Him, as Son of God in raising Lazarus, as Son of David in riding in on the ass. One title yet remained; when was He to take this up and have others connected with Him? The Greeks came up desiring to see Jesus: “The hour is come,” He says, “that the Son of man should be glorified. Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit,” John 12. The Son of man must die, that others might be associated with Him. Without that, He abode alone.
Hence it was, that, when He had given full testimony, He charged His disciples strictly to tell no man that He was the Christ; saying, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected, and put to death, and rise again the third day.” Hence, as in the former passage, in John 12, His soul was troubled, and He said, “Father, save me from this hour, but for this cause came I to this hour; Father, glorify thy name”; and then, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” It was a dying Saviour that was this point of gathering; one rejected by man, but, by sovereign grace, therein a Saviour. He rises again, and is glorified to be in the place where He connects man with Himself; so that “He that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.” And if He was made a little lower than the angels, why so? “For the suffering of death, that he, by the grace of God, might taste death for every man” (or “thing”). And then we read, “It became him for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering.” It was not by incarnation He sanctified any one. “By the which will we are sanctified, by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
And now see another aspect of it, the glory of God and of the Son of man Himself. It became God, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through suffering. These doctors only see man, humanity, aptitude for humanity: God and His glory have no place in their system. They quote the passage, “The life was the light of men.” Let me finish the sentence for them, which they do not: “And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.” Rejection, and increased guilt, and proof of sin, was the only fruit in man of incarnation taken by itself. It was condemnation, not life, to others, “for this is the condemnation that fight is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” When the blessed Lord, being in the form of God, made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, was it there His blessed career of grace stopped? No! “Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; wherefore also God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,” Phil. 2. Here it is He takes the place of Head of the new creation.
In John 13, as soon as Judas went out to betray Him, the Lord says, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him; and if God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him”; and He has, as man, been exalted into the glory of God. So in John 17, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do; and now, Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory I had with thee before the world was.” And it is as thus perfected in glory that He has become “the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him.”
But God was glorified in Him also. All good and evil came to an issue on the cross, and there only perfectly. There was man’s absolute evil, enmity against God come into the world in goodness; power in grace that removed every evil brought in by sin, even to death; but, as that displayed God’s presence, it drew out man’s enmity. The sin was not healed by it, but made fully manifest in its absolute character. They, killed the Prince of Life. There the complete power of Satan over men was manifested and exercised—the prince of this world came. There the perfection of man in Christ: the prince of this world had nothing in Him; but there was perfect love to the Father, and perfect obedience displayed by Him. Perfect righteousness against sin, in God, was displayed as nowhere else; but perfect love to the sinner. Nor could these both have been manifested together in any other way. Cutting off men might be righteous, but no love; sparing them all without atonement, held to be love, but no righteousness; nor would destroying them all be God’s glory but defeat and failure. But through Christ’s death God’s majesty, what became Him, His righteousness, His infinite love and truth— all have been glorified, and the foundation of the new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness, laid in Christ’s appearing (in the consummation of ages) to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. “Through the eternal Spirit he offered himself without spot to God,” Heb. 9. All this we are to believe is through the accident of sin, which changed the mode of procedure, humanity being the end of all! But if the prince of this world was cast out by this wondrous work, then was the judgment of this world.
Where then, in all this, was reconciliation? The incarnate Word, the Son of God, was rejected. The premediating heathen, in whom Christ’s life was germinally and prophetically, as they tell us, were—the apostle tells us (Eph. 2)—without Christ, strangers to the covenants of promise, and without God in the world, given up in judgment to a reprobate mind (Rom. 1), because they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, by nature children of wrath, walking according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air. And how reconciled? or where redemption? In incarnation, and the uniting the divine life in Christ with fallen humanity? Not at all. “And you, who were alienated and enemies in your minds by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death,” Col. 1. “God was in Christ reconciling” —not He had by incarnation done so. The world would not have Him in that character. He was occupied with that work, but totally rejected. Satan was the prince of this world, and the world came under judgment. The wrath of God was revealed; and then, Christ having died, the work was committed to His ambassadors.
There was no link formed by Christ Jesus with other men by His incarnation. Preparation was made for it: but it issued in the judgment of this world. If we look to life and union in the church, the body of Christ, its fullest and highest character; is it in incarnation, or with a glorified Saviour, and (for us) by a new creation? No union till He is glorified! “What is the exceeding greatness of his power to us ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in heavenly places, … and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” He is not in the place of head till He is glorified. And, when we were dead in sins, God hath quickened us together with Christ, and raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works. If any man be in Christ, it is a new creation: “old things are passed away, all things are become new.” Therefore the apostle knew no man after the flesh; yea, though he had known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth he knew Him no more. Christ had come as the Messiah of the Jews, as the crown, if He had been received, of humanity; but as such He had been rejected; and now it was only through redemption by blood, and as a glorified Christ that man could have connection with Him.
Does Peter, who enters less into the counsels of God than Paul, take a different ground from this? No; “we are begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Is redemption otherwise than by blood? “We are redeemed, not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ”; and we “by him do believe in God who raised him up from the dead and gave him glory, that our faith and hope might be in God.” It is by His stripes we are healed, and, if He be our life, it is as risen. In Colossians as in Ephesians, when we were dead in sins He hath quickened us together with Him; He suffered, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. Hence in John also (chap. 6), where He speaks of the bread come down from heaven, He takes care to add, “If ye eat not the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.”
They tell us that God has gathered together all things in Christ. Scripture does not say so; but that God has made known to us the mystery of His will, that in the dispensation of the fulness of times He will do so, in whom (Christ) we have received an inheritance, and that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, till the redemption of the purchased possession to the praise of His glory; Eph. 1. So, in Romans, we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, if so be we suffer with Him that we may be glorified together. Not only so, but we are assured that all things are not put under Christ now (Heb. 2), but He is crowned with glory and honour, according to Psalm 8, and He is sitting, not on His own throne yet, but on His Father’s, expecting, at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens, till His enemies be made His footstool. So in 1 Peter, the prophets, searching their own prophecies, found it was not to themselves but to us they did minister the things which are now reported to you by them that have preached the gospel to you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; and we are to be sober and hope to the end.
God will head-up all things in heaven and in earth in Christ, but, though He was incarnate that it might be so, incarnation did not put Him in this place. Though all power is given Him in heaven and in earth, He is not in this headship yet. His incarnation brought Him into universal rejection: man saw no beauty in Him to desire Him; it was the time of His rejection, not of every knee bowing to Him, nor is this time come yet. Now He sits on the right hand of God expecting. These doctors make it a sanctifying of arts, sciences, etc., on earth, by penetrating life. The Scriptures make it a bearing of the cross now, separate from the world; a suffering with Him, and then a glorious Christ, under whom are reconciled all things in heaven and in earth, as reigning in glory: and that we only are reconciled now by His death, and He expecting till His enemies are made His footstool; and always (eis to dienekes) now, and, till then, sitting at the right hand of God, while His joint-heirs are being gathered.
Through death He has glorified God, through death destroyed him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. It is the travail of His soul that He is Himself to see. Through death He has reconciled us to God; redemption is through His blood. It is as glorifying God on the cross that He is glorified by God; it is by His blood He has redeemed out of every nation: hereby know we love, in that He laid down His life for us; He came to give His life a ransom for many. There He was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him; 2 Cor. 5. His incarnation drew out the enmity: by the cross He reconciled Jew and Gentile in one body, making peace. What He had seen and heard, that He testified, and no man received His testimony. When He came, there was no man; when He called, there was none to answer. He spoke that He knew, and He testified that He had seen, and they received not His witness. God came out to man in Christ, and man rejected Him, crucified the blessed One come in grace. But the veil was rent in His death, but never till then, and men can go to God in the holiest. It was not by life, precious as that is, but by death that He redeemed us and reconciled us to God.
The whole system is utterly antichristian and antiscriptural: moreover it is, as a natural consequence, a perverted and false system practically. It insists on the union of supernatural grace and the order of nature in this world, and makes Christ’s headship to be in enjoyable arts and sciences in this world, instead of, as He says, taking up the cross and following Him— setting our affections on things above, not on things on the earth, as being with Him dead, and our life hid with Him in God. If Christianity be true, this system is false. If it were not for the extreme ignorance of Scripture, both textual and critical, which they display, I should say the audacity of their statements would be marvellous; but I suppose much of it may be attributed to ignorance.
They say that the communication of life is not by the word but by sacraments. Now what saith the scripture? “Of his own will begat he us by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures,” James 1:18. So Peter: “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever.” We are all children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. Now faith cometh by hearing (akoe), and hearing by the word of God: he that heareth my word and believeth Him that sent me hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life; John 5:24. It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe; 1 Cor. 1:21. Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness; Rom. 4:3. For this cause thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God, which worketh effectually in them that believe; 1 Thess. 2:13. Lastly, when the church had become utterly corrupt, as bad as the heathen, so that the times were perilous, the apostle refers to the Scriptures as able to make wise to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus; 2 Tim. 3. I shall refer to this again when I come to speak a word of the church. I have quoted only direct passages as to the word, of faith in it, quickening and vivifying. There are many other passages which speak indirectly to the same purpose.
They tell us baptism is what gives life and incorporates into the body of Christ. First, as to life, no passage that I can call to mind states anything of the sort. Before Christ, and during His life, it clearly could not be. When Christ was there, the dead heard the voice of the Son of God, and they that heard lived. I can only take their quotations. They quote Peter’s statement in Acts 2, but nothing is said there of communicating life at all. They were to be baptised for the remission of sins, and they would then receive the Holy Ghost. They were baptised in Samaria when they believed; of course they were, but no word of life or life-contact. The case of the eunuch is then quoted, the writer being ignorant that the verse is not genuine: but even with it not a word about life. Lydia and the jailer were baptised, and their households: but no word of receiving life. Saul was called to arise and wash away his sins for the formal administration of forgiveness. I do not doubt this had real force, though it is not the ground of it, but the death of Christ whereby we are justified by faith: but not one of them alludes to communication of life by baptism.
Our doctors claim the interpretation of the Scriptures for themselves; if any one wants to see what it is worth, he may learn from their comment on the texts they have quoted as to “the word.” They prove to us that Peter does not use “the word “of the preaching of the gospel, from the fact that he says that it “liveth and abideth for ever,” which cannot be affirmed of preaching—is not that profound? They seem to be ignorant that Peter only quoted a passage of Isaiah affirming that the gospel was a fulfilment of it. Did they never read “the word preached “? The word is what is preached, and so the apostle would say, “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Who does not see that it is not the act of preaching (that is, the part of the preacher), but “the word preached”? But God has chosen by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. It is wearisome to notice such absurdity. Supposing I were to say, “Eating his dinner has quite set him up,” and a Mercers-burg theologian, claiming to be an interpreter of the word and refusing “private interpretation,” should say, “Eating cannot set a man up”; what answer can one give to such wisdom but to say, apechei. All right; I quite agree?
The passage of James (chap. 1:18) is passed over as lightly as possible—no wonder.
When Paul writes of Christ sanctifying the church “by the washing of water by the word,” they tell us it means water and the word, an “unmistakable testimony to the importance and force of holy baptism.” What! When the Lord says, Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you; and note, that if so, the word as spoken of us in Ephesians 5 never can be applied to the soul again: for baptism cannot be repeated. But they have to change the passage to make their use of it. It is alleged that it is affirming that the “Holy Spirit has power to act in an extraordinary way, dispensing with the ordinary organs of communication.” So indeed the Lord affirms He does as to this very matter. The wind blows where it lists, and ye hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. It is curious how they go in the teeth of the word, doubtless through ignorance.
But the word of God is the ordinary means, the divinely-appointed means, of communicating life, as we have seen: which baptism is never said to be. They speak of magical operation: it is very irreverent when speaking of being born of” the Spirit who is the immediate divine agent of imparting the divine nature. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit “: but what more magical than a little clean water, and a few words spoken by a man who pretends to have power to do it, being the means of communicating divine life! Far from me to despise baptism; I believe it to be the divinely-appointed door of admission to the place where God has placed His peculiar blessings on the earth. For such a place there was in Israel, and such a place there is in Christendom, awful as its state may be: not of entrance into the body (of this I will speak), but into that habitation which God has set up, and where He dwells by His Spirit. But not only is baptism not life-giving; but it does not mean this even as a sign. It is to the death of Christ we are baptised, unto, not into; we are not baptised into anything, but unto. They were not baptised into Moses, and it is the same word: so, “Whereunto were ye baptised? “Here the translators, though they changed it when they could, could not mis-state it. The answer was “Unto John’s baptism.” We were baptised unto (eis) Christ’s death. How? There is no dead Christ, and you cannot be baptised into His death. We are identified with Him (sum-phutoi) “in the likeness of his death.”
The only connection with life is the passage in Colossians 2: “Wherein also we are risen with him”; but there it is carefully added, “by faith in the operation of God who raised him from the dead”: and even there the coming up out of baptism is resurrection with Him: not simply quickening or life-giving, but formally distinct from it. Baptism is death—reception in the visible assembly, through death of that which we were, as alive in the first Adam, the death of Christ. As to putting on Christ in Galatians 3, it is only the public profession of Him, as contrasted with Jew or Gentile, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free, male or female. The passage itself is that which declares that “we are all children of God [not by baptism but] by faith in Christ Jesus.”
Nor is baptism incorporating into Christ. There is positive testimony to the contrary: “For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body.” The Holy Ghost come down from heaven unites to the glorified Head in heaven. That baptism of the Spirit, we are told, took place on the day of Pentecost. “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit”; others, when they came in amongst them, partook of the same Holy Ghost.
But perhaps the most curious effect in detail of this anti-scriptural system is the absolute denial of all operation of the Holy Ghost by the gospel in the world. “It (the church) meets us exactly at the right point, as setting forth the form and manner in which Christ, by the Holy Ghost, carries forward His work of salvation in the world. If we are to hold fast the objective historical character of what this work was first, and still continues to be in His own Person (mark the work is first in the Person of Christ), it cannot be allowed to lose itself in the agency of the Spirit in a general view, it must necessarily involve for us the conception of a special sphere, this likewise objective and historical, within which only (and not in the world at large) the Holy Ghost of the gospel is to be regarded as working. This is the church.” “To look for it in the world by private spiritualistic negotiations with God … is to look for it where it is not to be found.”
Now, I ask, in opposition to this teaching, were Paul’s evangelistic labours in the church or in the world? That the church was formed by them, where it was not before, no doubt: and doubtless the converts were all baptised. But where was the Holy Ghost of the gospel working? Was it “not in the world at large,” as they say? It is as absurd as it is evil. Let us hear what he says. Did he preach the gospel in the church or in the world? He distinguishes this double ministry; Col. 1. But the Lord Himself before Paul, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature… And they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by signs following them.” And to Paul: “The Gentiles, to whom now I send thee to open their eyes,” etc. So Paul: “Whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel which is come unto you, as it is in all the world, and bringing forth fruit, as it doth in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth.” And what was this gospel? We read in Ephesians 1:13, “The word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” He does not think it worth while to mention their baptism, though, doubtless, it took place.
I said he distinguished his gospel ministry and his church ministry (Col. 1:23): “The gospel which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven, whereof I Paul am made a minister.” … Then “His body’s sake, the church, whereof I am made a minister, to fulfil [complete] the word of God.” I may add here, what belongs to another point, that the reconciliation of all things, which they affirm to be going on now, is distinguished from our reconciliation now who form the true church. (See vv. 20-22.)
Again Paul declares himself (Rom. 1) a debtor to the Greeks and to the barbarians, to the wise and the unwise; not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek, for therein is the righteousness of God revealed; and in the doctrinal part of the Romans, all is absolutely individual, only in the hortatory part is there any allusion to the church. There it comes in as a known fact. His boast is that he preached where Christ had not been heard of; 2 Cor. 10; Rom. 1:5. He would not have anything to do with the church in this service; Gal. 1:16, 17. It was where Christ was not named; he went directly from Christ, “not of man nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father.” (Compare Romans 15:15-21.) What the apostle boasts of as his glory, these theologians denounce. But more, the commission in Matthew 28 was never carried out; Paul’s took its place (Gal. 2:6-9), and Paul puts his mission in contrast on these points with theirs. They may have gone abroad, as Mark 16; but this is the only allusion to it in Scripture, the tradition as to it being a very late one.
But, besides, Paul declares he was not sent to baptise at all, but to preach the gospel. I know our theologians, with the Baptists, say this was for fear of its being thought he baptised in his own name. But this is a come-off. He positively declares Christ did not send him to baptise but to preach the gospel: the cross, the death of Christ—foolishness, no doubt, to a ritualist, but—to us who are saved the power of God. But is it not a strange thing if life-contact is only in baptism, he should tell us he was not sent to do the only thing which gives life, and to do that which “the Holy Ghost of the gospel” does not do? Pity he was not sent to Mercersburg. And somehow he “laid the foundation” in his ministry. As regards the full revelation of the mystery of the church, a dispensation was committed to him. The whole testimony of Paul, both as to the gospel and as to the church, is set aside by these ritualists; that is, of him to whom the mission to the Gentiles was specially committed by Christ Himself, and relinquished by the apostles at Jerusalem.
But let us consider this doctrine of the church scripturally and historically too: for these doctors avoid history to replace it by dreams of their own fancy. We have the church or assembly of God under three aspects in Scripture, primarily two, and then one of the two as the effect of divine workmanship, and as the effect of the work as entrusted to the responsibility of man: “The body,” if we speak of that which is united to Christ, the glorified Head in heaven (Eph. 1, 5; compare 1 Cor. 12), set up on earth, but to be complete and perfected in heaven, is not formed by baptism. Simon Magus, for instance, was baptised, but had neither part nor lot in the matter; the one hundred and twenty at Jerusalem had formed the nucleus of the church but were never baptised at all. There is no trace of it, nor anybody to do it: yet they were the church itself at its starting. It is, we are expressly told, “by one Spirit we are baptised into one body.” This baptism, we know from Acts 1, was on the day of Pentecost. The truth concerning this one body was more fully developed in Paul’s ministry. But Christ exalted on high was the Head, those who had the Holy Ghost the members. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. It is never connected with water-baptism, nor are there rotten members of Christ’s body. An unbeliever not born of God is not a member of Christ’s body! He is “without Christ”; nay, more, “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” “Ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwell in you.” “There is no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” “The whole body edifies itself in love”; they are “members one of another.” The “Head is Christ, from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, maketh increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love.” So “there is one Spirit and one body, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling”; and then “one Lord, one faith, one baptism”; and then “one God and Father of all”: the circle each time widening with the Spirit, the Lord, and God the Father. The same distinction is made in 1 Corinthians 12.
This is one aspect of the assembly of God. There is another—it is the “habitation of God,” and that now “by the Spirit.” But this is viewed in a double way in the word: Christ builds; and man builds. “On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” But here Christ is the Builder, and the building unfinished, nor can Satan hinder its being built. He can catch the sheep and scatter them, but not pluck (catch) them out of Christ’s hand. So in 1 Peter, the living stones come and are built upon the Living Stone, a spiritual house; no human agency is spoken of as bringing them. So Paul: “fitly joined and compacted it groweth to a holy temple in the Lord.” This house is not yet finished, it is growing, grace is carrying it on; it is not that life is given by energy in a sacrament: but living stones come.
But when I come to 1 Corinthians 3 it is another matter. Here man’s responsibility comes in and man’s agency. As a wise master-builder, Paul laid the foundation; but every one was to take heed how he builded thereon. If he builded with gold, silver, or precious stones, he would receive a reward: if with wood and hay and stubble, his work would be burnt up: in a word, the work depended on the responsibility of man. Looked at as to the result on earth, God’s temple might be badly built: and man, as he has ever done from Adam, has wholly failed. This I shall shew. The papacy, and then Ritualists, drinking in their sweetened poison through their utterly false views as to baptism (false in every respect), have confounded Christ’s work in building, yet unfinished, with their own wood and hay and stubble; or worse, they tell us that, by an organic system of clergy and baptism, it is to restore the race and bring in consecration of everything to God, uniting the supernatural with the natural as it did in Christ, or grace and nature till it culminates in glory!
Now let us see what God tells us. First looked at as the kingdom of heaven: When Christ had sowed the good seed, the enemy came and sowed tares, and the evil done had to remain till the harvest; the wheat of Christ’s sowing was not spoiled, but the crop was here. Next take Jude: False brethren crept in unawares, baptised with the organic system we must suppose, but false brethren always, no life-contact with Christ, but spots in their feasts of charity, and of these Enoch prophesied, The Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints to execute judgment. The evil went on to the end. In John we have the other character of evil. They had gone out, apostatised, were not of them though they had been among them. The last times were already come marked by these antichrists. Paul more fully: The mystery of iniquity did already work; only there was what hindered it; and, when this was gone, the man of sin would be revealed, whom the Lord will destroy by the brightness of His coming. He could say already, All seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ.
In 2 Timothy we have the Holy Ghost’s directions when the church had fallen into this evil estate. God’s sure foundation remained, the Lord knew them that they were His: and whoever named the name of the Lord was to depart from iniquity. In a great house (for such would the church become) there are vessels of gold, silver, and earth, some to honour and some to dishonour; if a man purged himself from these last, he would be a vessel to honour and fit for the Master’s use. Spiritual judgment must discern what these teachers were worth in the house, for it would contain all sorts. But, further, so far from trusting the church, in the last days perilous times would come, and a description is given of Christendom, the same (save two or three words) as that of the heathen in Romans 1, not of the world without. There would be a form of piety denying its force; believers were to turn away from such. What was their resource? The Scriptures expressly: what Paul taught, and the Scriptures given by inspiration of God, that, when the church was gone to ruin, the word of God remained sure: and this was to guide.
So John: If that which ye have heard from the beginning abide in you, ye shall continue in the Father and in the Son. No developed and formed theology: but that which was from the beginning. He wrote this concerning those that seduced them. But further: In the seven churches, he that hath an ear is called upon to listen to what the Spirit said to the churches. Christ was judging them. They therefore could be no authority. He that had an ear for what Christ said was to listen to His judgment of them. Thus, so far from their word being an authority or rule, we are called on to listen to the word which judges their state: and whence can we date the ruin? Paul declares that after his decease wolves from without and perverse persons from within would arise; John that they were already in the last time. It was merely, alas! what had ever happened under man; with Noah, with Israel under the law, with the priesthood, with the Jewish royalty, with the Gentile. Thus, what God had set up good, the first thing man did was to spoil and ruin it. But we have the additional testimony from Paul that evil men and seducers would wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived, the Scriptures and what was taught by inspiration from the beginning being the only resource of “the man of God,” and able to make him wise unto salvation. John tells us that the last time was already come: so Peter, that the time was come that judgment should begin at the house of God. And mark this: when Romanists or Ritualists tell us to listen to the church, they merely mean themselves, the clergy; they interpret the Scriptures, doling out as much as they think proper to give us, and cooked up as they please.
Paul, they would have us believe, did not know how to address the church; what was from the beginning is not what I am to hold fast! Let us see what ground there is for this apostate doctrine, this doctrine of Satan—for such it is: he knows the power of the inspired word of God. To whom did the blessed Lord speak? To the multitude. To whom did the apostles speak and write? First to the world; but then in the Epistles—all save three short ones—to the assemblies, the mass of believers. If you choose to call them clergy, the clergy wrote to the mass of common believers. The church, or mass, really never teaches. Those gifted, as sent, teach the assembly; but the Scriptures generally are addressed; always addressed, to the body of believers; God’s word is addressed to them without any interpreters. They are God’s own word to them, by which I should be called upon, if needed, to judge even apostles, with a curse pronounced upon them if they taught anything else.
The church never teaches. The teachers are to be judged by the word of God. Sad it is if that be needed, for gifts of teaching there are; but, if needed to be done, God has sent His word to the saints at large. He who comes between and intercepts the message meddles with God’s rights, not merely with mine. If I own this title in the clergy, I am withdrawing myself from God’s own direct title over me as His servant; but I cannot from my responsibility, for He has addressed His word directly to me. Man cannot withdraw himself from the consequences of his own moral state in reading it; that is true, nor is he meant to do so. If he comes presumptuously, he will reap the fruits of his presumption. If he comes meekly (“as newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the word “) he will reap the fruits of God’s grace. Those teachers who write “Bible-worshippers,” and deny what they call verbal inspiration, may learn, at any rate the simple may, what the apostle teaches: “We” (the apostle himself and the inspired teachers) “have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things which are freely given to us of God.” There is revelation: “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” There is verbal inspiration. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, because they are spiritually discerned.” There is the intelligence of the things taught in the word, as it is written; and it is the distinctive character of the time of grace: “They shall be all taught of God.”
And, now, let us see how far the church is to be trusted— the historical development. I affirm that the history of the baptised mass is the history of the greatest wickedness—crimes natural, ecclesiastical, and unnatural—that ever disgraced human nature, worse and more universal than among the heathen, bad as they were.
Did our theologians ever read the letter of Nicholas Clemangis (rector of the University of Paris at the time of the great schism, the greatest man of his age), and his description of the state of morals? In the middle ages, so great was the violence and disorder—one pope annulling as invalid all the ordinations of another whom he had driven out—that a book had to be written to apprise the people there were still sacraments— unnatural crimes universal, especially among the clergy; and such a state of things in the papacy, that the great Roman Catholic historian, cardinal and Jesuit Baronius, declares that for a century he cannot own the popes for legitimate, but only puts their names in for dates, set up as they were by the mistresses of the Marquis of Tuscany, or by their mothers, mistresses of deceased popes. The Pope got hold of a book written by an honest man, denouncing the state of things, and suppressed it, saying that it would be too scandalous, and that he would punish the most flagrant cases. And the gloss of the canon law on a decretal, speaking of degrading for licentiousness, declares that it cannot be for simple fornication, for then it would be universal. There is no such system of wickedness as the organic system preached up by Ritualists. I challenge them, with their historical Christianity, to state honestly what history states; nor, though more decent outwardly since the Reformation, is it really very much better now. This was the baptised organism that contained—(can I say the words?)— Christ’s life!
Let us turn to an earlier date: Did our theologians ever read Cyprian de Pudentia (or Chrysostom’s two treatises on the same subject)? Here we go back to, say, 240 a.d. after Christ. But a century before what do we find—that is, forty or fifty years after the death of the apostle John? Infamy under the form of asceticism. Do our theologians, for I do not much trust their acquaintance with history, know what subintro-ductae, or pareisaktoi, in full blow at that time were? So common that it had to be taken up by councils. I do not defile my pages with what was read in the churches then as holy practice.
And as to doctrine, I will give a specimen from one called an apostolic father, but who was really the brother of Pope Pius the First: “A man had a vineyard and set his servant to stake up the vines. The servant did so, but did more than he had been set to do—cleared the garden of weeds. The Lord of the vineyard consulted with his son and his friends what he should do with his faithful servant, and they agreed he should be made heir with the Son. The servant was Christ, who was set to establish the clergy, but did a great deal more than God had set him to do—namely, cleared away our sins. The Holy Ghost is the Son, the angels the friends.” Is not that the church maintaining and forming sound doctrine?
But our theologians will tell us, it is hunting up evil and rinding some obscure individual, and the church cannot be answerable. It was read in the churches, though more in the east than in the west, is quoted by Irenaeus as Scripture, and treated by Origen as questionable, if it was not inspired. They tell us, as proof of the value of the church forming doctrine, that it was only after long struggle that the formal truth as to Christ’s Person was established. His divinity at the council of Nicaea. But what does this mean? They do not mean to deny that the truth as to Christ’s Person is in Scripture. It means, therefore, that the church had lost the truth of Christ’s Person. And so it was. Scarcely one of the known teachers was sound on the deity of the Lord; and those who were, as Irenaeus, were unsound on other things. And Cyril of Alexandria, who set up the title of Mother of God, was a decided Eutychian, so called afterwards in doctrine, justified himself by the authority of Athanasius: it seems to me, he was warranted in so doing. He was as turbulent a ruffian as ever lived, heading the mob at Alexandria to plunder and ruin, and drive out the Jews when Patriarch of Alexandria, and spending all the possessions of the church of Alexandria, which were immense, to bribe the courtiers and empress-sister of the emperor to banish and persecute Nestorius, in which he succeeded. He canonised the man who sought to murder the governor at Alexandria who put down his rioting. The (Ecumenical Council at Ephesus was as great a scene of iniquity and open violence as occurs in history, so that the Emperor sent troops and put the leaders in prison, from which Cyril escaped, and they bribed the court, Nestorius’ patron having died. In the previous Council of Ephesus (the Concio Latronum, convened by the Emperor, attended by the Pope’s legates, with every element of a general council) the bishops beat old Flavianus, Patriarch of Constantinople, in such a way that he died of it. It was quashed afterwards through shame.
This was the primitive church, its organic progress to sanctify the world! They could not cure the baptised heathen (in life-contact, we are to believe, with Christ by their baptism) of getting drunk at the festivals (memories, so called, at shrines of their relics) of the demigods: so the church allowed it, putting saints in the place of demigods, that at least they might get drunk in honour of saints instead of demons! The church (that is, the clergy, the interpreters of the Scriptures) did this. You will say, What proof is there of it? Augustine states it, who tried to put it down. The same state of things is mentioned in Paulinus of Nola; and Gregory Thaumaturgus left only seventeen heathen in his diocese by means of it: and it was part of the directions of Pope Gregory the First to another Augustine sent to convert the Saxons. It is a curious fact that Sicily, which had never been converted from heathenism, went over, I may say in a body, to Christianity; and gave up their splendid temples for churches as soon as Mary was declared by the Fourth Council to be “the mother of God.” God has preserved His testimony and truth in spite of the church thus viewed—of what Ritualists call the church; He cannot fail. These things were not exceptional, but the general state. But what were saints to do if they listened to the clergy as interpreters when they turned Arian with the emperors—when, as Jerome says, the world awoke and found itself Arian? When even Hosius and the Pope Liberius gave way, were they to follow the clergy or the Scriptures? The Luciferians, a sect named by Jerome, had their name from one Lucifer, who would not go with the world when all the clergy turned Arians. Athanasius is justly held in honour as to this too; but what was the course of the whole body of the clergy? Have the clergy of the church of Rome organically maintained the truth in the worship of the Virgin Mary, or in transubstantiation and the offering of the mass? Let us have it out plainly. Ought people under their jurisdiction to follow their interpretation, and acknowledge their authority? They are just as much clergy as Oxford or Mercersburg. They tell us that God has divided His attribute of Almightiness between Jesus and Mary—almighty justice to Jesus, and almighty mercy to Mary. Are their parishioners to believe this? and, as the present Pope has declared, that we must go to the heart of Jesus through the heart of Mary? Dr. Racy has exposed this. Very likely Mercersburg does not believe these horrid doctrines. But why am I to trust them more than their adversaries; or why acknowledge their competency to interpret more than the Pope’s? Am I to believe in purgatory in Savoy, because the clergy teach it; and cross the lake of Geneva, and hold that it is utterly false in the Canton de Vaud, because the clergy teach so there? Am I to hold transubstantiation as vital truth in France; and declare it idle fables and blasphemous deceits in England? Am I to hold that Christ is God in one parish in France, and deny it if I go into the next? For so I must if I listen to the clergy and their interpretation. Were not—though, thank God, there is a reaction—the clergy in France, Germany, Holland, as a body infidel, and still mostly are, or indifferent? It is all well to talk of the church, and hearing the church: but what church am I to hear? The body of the Reformed church was, and in a very large and major part is (particularly the clergy), infidel. Is this the doctrine I am to receive?
In Geneva the State has abolished ordination entirely. In Neuchatel it has left every man to preach what he likes; and half the national church have left and set up for themselves. In all the principal cantons infidelity reigns among the clergy; the godly laity are getting tired of them and their nothingarianism. They have said to me in France, “But if we are Christians, we must have some kind of Christ”; and then not so very strict either. In Paris Christianity was carried against avowed infidelity by twelve votes of more than 2,600 voters in the Reformed church. I do not doubt that the Lord is graciously acting, but it is not generally by the clergy but in spite of them.
It is vain to say things are becoming better. What became of souls if they listened or listen to the clergy when they are infidels or rationalists? When the clergy turned Arians with the emperors, were they or the word of God to be listened to? If Mercersburg or others teach false doctrine as to the Person of Christ and the sacraments, am I to be saved by listening to them? Can they answer for my soul “in that day”? They insist on the peccability of Christ: we are therefore authorised in putting the case (the Lord avert the blasphemy from every heart, that He did sin!), putting it as a supposition, for they affirm it to have been possible: “God was united for ever to sinful man.” Is it not enough to revolt and repel with horror every true soul? Say it, not to doctors, for God hides things from wise and prudent, but to a poor uninstructed saint: he will make short work with clergy interpretation. What simple majesty is in the statement! “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” For these theologians, who pry into divine secrets and pretend to know the Son, whom none knows but the Father, “the divine” (they are sometimes afraid to say what), “having taken sinful nature up, was gradually victorious over it, purifying it.” It was the power of the Highest overshadowing the Virgin Mary for Scripture: for the interpreters, it was “united in the womb to sin in the foetus, and purifying the nature.” (Can more offensive folly, of which there is not a word in Scripture, be conceived?58 I am ashamed to speak of it, but it must be spoken to put these pretentious men in the true light): and that, for them, is “redemption”!
But we have the faith of the church in creeds: the Apostles’ Creed, for instance, universally recommended in all ages by the church. Now this is a deception; they know its history well, they will not venture to speak of the ancient fable, for fables were plentiful in those days (there was one Lucius with uncertain name, a coiner of false documents), that each apostle came forward to give one article. The Apostles’ Creed is not, as we have it, as ancient as the Nicene Creed. Some analogous formulary was gradually established in each diocese; the Roman creed was pretty much the same as what we have, save some important articles. But what we have, save these, is first given by Ruffinus (published in Fell’s Cyprian) in the fourth or fifth century; but there was no descent to hell in it, and, what is more important, no procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son. This was added, it is said, from Spain, when the Visigoths gave up Arianism, and thence passed into Gaul; but this was quite late, and Leo put up the creed in silver tablets at Rome that nothing might be added, the Council of Ephesus having forbidden any additions. This article, added none knows how, is rejected by the whole Greek church, and is the avowed cause of division. I say avowed, for it is pretty clear it was ambition and rivalry. I am not insisting on rejecting nor on receiving it; but what if true must be of first-rate importance in the creed has divided the professing church, instead of having a common faith by it.
But these professors, as one of them says, leave the poor Greek church out in the cold. In the recent conferences of the archbishop of Syra with the English prelates, this article could not be got over, and then Dr. Pusey, it is said, declared they were farther off than ever from union. A priest or patriarch in Turkey did let in an English clergyman to communion, but was severely taken to task by the ecclesiastical authority for it. I am not sure, but I rather think, he was excommunicated.
But let us take the Apostles’ Creed as it stands. There is not a trace in it that Christ is God; an Arian, nay, a Unitarian, could sign it as well as, nay, better than, one who held the fundamental truth of the trinity of Persons in the unity of the Godhead. Is not this rather serious if it is to be the norm of faith? The Father is God and Almighty, and the Son and Holy Ghost spoken of apart with no hint of divinity! Creation is attributed to the Father59 exclusively; all that is said of Jesus Christ is referable to what He was when become Man.
Now Scripture leaves no shadow of doubt on such subjects. “The Word was with God, and was God.” He became Man: “The Word was made flesh.” He never became (but in the beginning was) God. When all that has a beginning began, He was; and was a distinct Person. As far as the creed was the expression of early faith (for it was the creed of Aquilina, and we may practically say, of Rome), the church had so lost the faith—at least its teachers the clergy—that it required the council at Nice, with the Emperor presiding and keeping order among the disputing bishops, to get it on the ground of the divinity of the Lord: and larger assemblies unsettled it again, and it took council upon council to set things straight. Nor, mark, are the great branches of the baptised organism agreed which councils are general, which not. Augustine declares them to be no final rule, one correcting the other by clearer light.
I know not that I have more to add. Many errors, and important ones, could be noticed, and ignorance of Scripture flowing from following men’s thoughts and system. Thus, we are told, that the Holy Ghost after He came is not called the Spirit of the Father or of the Son. He is both: and as far as I can trust my recollection, only after His coming. But I notice this only to shew the rashness of assertion. Their doctrine is false as to justification by faith; it is for them inherent or infused, though professedly not exactly Romish doctrine.
But my only object was the ritualism, the Person of the Lord, and the church, running into this main point: Is redemption by incarnation, or by the death of Christ? They say, formally, by incarnation (the Scriptures, as formally, by the blood of Christ); and all their system hangs on this. As to the clergy, it is Quot homines, tot sententiae, unless we go to Rome, who treat their doctors as outside the church altogether. Take even their friends the English Puseyites (from whom our Mercersburg doctors declare they borrow their sacraments and clerical system, not from Germany—alas! they have no bishops, and, if their friends are to be believed, no organic succession at all, no divine channels of grace whatever: happily in Romanism and Anglicanism the clergy are not necessary to baptism—a midwife can do it, so they may be considered to have life-contact after all!) their Christianity is just saved! As to an interpreting clergy, they are absolutely without any. A goodly system this to secure the truth for the simple! Which am I to believe? Happily I am content with what John, and Paul, and Peter, and the blessed Lord Himself taught, “from the beginning.”
“Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no he, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming,” 1 John 2:24-28.
51 Union with God, spoken of by both Evangelicals and Ritualists, is a thing (save, of course, in the Person of Christ) unknown to Scripture.
54 This is really the foundation of annihilationism. Would he have died if he had not eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
55 Note the absurdity of the system, a divine-human which was sinless, overcoming depravity in an impure humanity. So He had two humanities in the womb, besides what was divine. How thoroughly degrading mentally the system is!
56 I am quite aware of and accept the ordinary orthodox statement of two natures in one. person, though what was at first insisted on as orthodox as to upostasis was afterwards condemned, and the meaning of the word changed; but the statements quoted in the text are really Monothelite. It shews the danger of those early discussions, for the simple faith that Jesus was God and man in one Person can be easily accepted as plain and vital truth; but the moment you deny personality in the man Christ Jesus, you run into a thousand difficulties and errors. What is really denied is Christ’s individuality as a man, as it is in terms elsewhere.
57 Strange to say, this expression was utterly condemned as heresy in the early ages.
58 Elsewhere it is: “The victory of sinlessness over remaining depravity by the process of the divine-human life in the womb.”
59 It is singular enough that, while creation is, of course, ascribed to God in the unity of His Being, when the Persons are distinguished, it is never ascribed to the Father but to the Son and Spirit.