There is sufficient fairness in the statement of Mr. Marshall, in rejecting the greater part of the stupid charges in the paper he quotes, to make it easy as well as pleasant to deal calmly with his objections on other heads of doctrine. Though on one head Mr. Marshall is roused, in general he quietly discusses the merits of the case before him. I cannot be surprised that a Wesleyan minister should hold Wesleyan doctrine, though I may not agree with him; and I can assure Mr. Marshall, that (though he mistakes the Brethren’s doctrine in some points, and I think of course there is ignorance of Scripture truth on others, yet seeing the spirit in which Brethren are generally assailed) I have rather to thank him for that in which he has spoken, than to complain of it. The best return I can make (assuring him at the same time of my sincerity in thus recognising the tone of his pamphlet, and my desire to reciprocate it) is to state what L, at least, hold on the questioned points, and to inquire whether the views he objects to, so far as they are justly stated, are supported by Scripture.
I shall only take up the really important questions. They are four: first, “The moral law is not the rule of Christian life”; secondly, “The doctrine of imputed righteousness”; thirdly, “Abraham has no place in the church, nor could any saint have till the Holy Ghost came after the ascension”; fourthly, “Sanctification,” which is treated by Mr. Marshall in his remarks on imputed righteousness. There are other collateral points, as ordination to ministry, praying for the Holy Ghost, the sabbath, which I may touch on: the latter will come naturally under the head of law, and our deliverance from it.
Our subjection to the law is a capital point. But the whole principle on which Scripture places the question is unknown to the writer of the pamphlet; namely, that the law has power over a man as long as he lives, but that we have died in Christ, and are not looked at as being in the flesh at all; not in the first Adam, but in the Last.
Let Mr. Marshall allow me first to quote what Scripture says as to the law and our relationship to it. And first in Romans, in which epistle, and in that to the Galatians, the apostle has chiefly discussed the subject. I cannot but think that what he says must give subject for thought to those who insist on law. Many passages are much stronger in the original through the omission of the definite article inserted in English: thus, “But now the righteousness of God apart from law,” that is, on wholly another ground, so that the question of moral and ceremonial law cannot be raised. It is apart from law in every shape and form. So in many other cases. But I shall take the ordinary English translation: enough will be found there to make all clear. Further, I am quite aware that it is alleged that they do not look to be justified by law, but only to be under it as a rule of life. Let the reader only pay attention to what the word of God says, and all will be clear as to this too. I will speak of it, moreover, further on. I desire that Scripture may be before the mind of Christians, so I will quote it; I can add any comments afterward.
Romans 3:20, 21. “Therefore by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets.”
Verse 28. “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” I shall consider verse 31 hereafter.
Chapter 4:13, 14. “For the promise that he should be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith; for if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: because the law worketh wrath; for where no law is, there is no trangression.”
Chapter 5:20. “Moreover the law entered that the offence might abound.”
Chapter 6:14. “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace.”
Chapter 7:4. “Therefore, my brethren, ye are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sin which were by the law did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, having died in that in which we were held.”57
Chapter 7:8. “For without the law sin was dead; but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.”
Verse 13. “Was then that which is good made death to me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good, that sin by the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.”
Chapter 10:4. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”
1 Corinthians 15:56. “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.”
2 Corinthians 3:7. “The ministration of death written and engraved on stones.”
Verse 9. “The ministration of condemnation.”
Galatians 2:19. “For I through the law am dead to the law that I might live to God.… If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
Chapter 3:2, 3. “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”
Verse 10. “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.”
Verse 12. “The law is not of faith.”
Verse 23. “But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.”
Chapter 4:3-5. “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law.”
Verse 9. “But now after ye have known God … how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements to which ye desire to be in bondage?”
Verse 30. “Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.”
Chapter 5:1-4. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage… Christ is become of no effect to you, whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace.”
Verse 18. “But if ye are led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.”
Romans 8:14. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
“Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
Ephesians 2:14-16. “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances, for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.”
Other passages might be referred to, as Philippians 3, Colossians 2, but I pass them over as long general statements, though most important ones as to the doctrine as a whole. I quote only further—
1 Timothy 1:7-9. “Desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. But we know that the law is good if a man use it lawfully; knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient.”
Hebrews 7:18. “For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof, for the law made nothing perfect.”
Chapter 10:1. “The law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things.”
Verse 9. “He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.”
Chapter 13:13. “In that he saith a new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”
Now I ask if all these texts do not present the law as a system, and a principle of dealing, which, as to the Christian, has been set aside to introduce another? If they do not give ground for reflection to serious men, whether (when we find, not a scarce text, or a forced construction, but a careful elaborate discussion of the law, shewing that we are delivered from it) there is not something as to the setting aside of law, to which they have not given its full just force?
The apostle insists, that we are delivered from the law— dead to it, that we may live to God (what does this mean?); that it made nothing perfect, that we were kept under it till faith came; that as many as are of the works of it (not bad works, mind) are under the curse; that if righteousness come by it, Christ is dead in vain. I might cite many such.
It is evident, that there is a system called law, from which there is deliverance, and which the Christian has done with, by passing into another.
Now I am not ignorant, of course, that people say the ceremonial law of Moses is passed away, but not the moral law. But this is a fallacy: not that there is no difference—there is. But the statement is a fallacy. Scripture shews that the law system has passed away as a whole. A vast portion of the types and figures has no doubt been fulfilled, but all have not, and these last will be fulfilled. As a system, it is admitted by all, they have passed entirely away. This is insisted on in Galatians especially. In Hebrews, though there be more contrast than comparison, the corresponding antitypes are insisted on. The rites of the law were the shadow, not the image. A veil, which shewed men could not go in, is not the very image of a veil, through which, as a new and living way, we enter with boldness into the holiest. A sacrifice which puts away one sin, or a year’s sin, so far as present relation with the tabernacle went, is not the very image of one, by which Christ has perfected for ever them that are sanctified. But, remark, it is not as local immaterial things they were established: Christ has fulfilled them. They were all in the reality meant by them as important as the moral law, nay, more important to us. Still they were only figures, and ceremonies, powerless in themselves. But the moral law, holy, just, and good as it was, was powerless save to curse. It could not give life. Had there been a law given which could have given life, righteousness should have been by the law. But neither life nor righteousness could be attained by it. What was given for life, as soon as a man knew himself, was found to be unto death. It worked wrath. However, as a general idea, though some types may not yet be fulfilled, as the feast of tabernacles, and others, all admit that, as a ceremonial system, it is passed away for Christians.
But further, although there be confusion of mind, and men really seek righteousness by the law, that is, by works, yet it is in terms generally admitted that the statements of the apostle set the law aside as a means of justification. His statements are too plain, for a person who respects the word of God, to contravene them. “If righteousness come by law, then Christ is dead in vain,” “That no man is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident,” and many other such, are too plain to resist. We read, “Christ is become of no effect to you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace,” Gal. 5:4. But they say, we take it as a rule of life: sanctification is as necessary as justification. Now that without holiness no man shall see the Lord is clearly written, and is assuredly true. I should have a great deal to say to this connected with a new life, Christ being our life; but at present I confine myself to our immediate subject. The question is: is the law the means of living rightly? Will a man under the law be victorious over sin? It is not whether a man must be holy: no real Christian denies it. Now many of the statements of the apostle, and many of the strongest which declare we are not under law, or that the law is not the means to live to God, apply, not to justification, but to freedom from the dominion of sin—that under the law we cannot be set free from it, but that deliverance from the law is the way of bringing forth fruit to God. I shall quote some passages. The true means of deliverance, I shall speak of at the close.
Romans 6 treats entirely of living to God, not of justification. “The law,” we read, “entered that the offence might abound,” chap. 5:20. “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace,” chap. 6:14. “Wherefore, my brethren, ye are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God,” chap. 7:4. “For without the law sin was dead; but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died” (vv. 8, 9.) In 1 Corinthians 15:56, “The strength of sin is the law.” Now here, especially in the passages cited from Romans, the question is not justification, but dominion of sin over us, or ours over sin. The apostle takes pains to say all he can for the law; it is not the cause of sin. The cause is concupiscence, but while under law, concupiscence has dominion over us, nay, the motions of sin are by the law. Such is the positive testimony of the apostle. Although it would be quite false to say the law is the cause of sin, yet sin has dominion wherever a man is under it. Being delivered from the law is necessary to bringing forth fruit to God. Such deliverance is as needed for this as for justification. The strength of sin is the law. It is, even if grace be there, the ministration of death and condemnation.58
There are two passages of Galatians which I have omitted, as long reasonings, not short statements, to which I will now briefly refer; Gal. 2:14-19. The apostle rebukes Peter for turning to legal obligations, after giving them up. And note here how he takes the law as a whole, for Peter’s conduct referred to ritual exactitude. Paul takes up as a whole, for while I quite admit the difference of the “ten words,” or moral law, yet, as all given together by God’s authority, it was all looked at as one whole, based on one principle, man’s satisfying God by fulfilling the obligations he was under as contrasted with grace saving him, when he had not, and God’s righteousness. Well, Peter had given up the law to be justified by Christ, and now returned to it, after having Christ. Why then did he leave it to get justification? In building again that which he had destroyed, he made himself a transgressor in putting it down. Who had made him do it? Christ. Then Christ was the minister of sin, for He had made Peter do what his present conduct, if it was right, shewed to be a transgression. That is, taking up the law after coming to Christ is making Christ the minister of sin.
The apostle’s reasoning in Galatians 3:15-22 is this: God gave the promise to Abraham, and confirmed it to his seed— which was really Christ, 430 years before the law. Now a confirmed covenant, if it be only man’s, cannot be disannulled, nor can it be added to; that is, you cannot add the law to the promise. That was complete in itself, and confirmed before the law existed. To bring in the law was to alter and add to the terms of it, and could not be. How could the law then come in? It was added for the sake (ton p. charin) of transgressions, to produce them—not to produce sin: God does nothing to produce sin. The sin was there, but till the law came, it could not be a transgression; for where no law is, there is none. It is the same sense as in Romans: the law entered (the Greek reads pareiselthe “came in by the bye,” that the offence might abound) till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made.
I have added these passages for my reader’s sake, as additionally clearing up the point; but the passages I have quoted prove that the law is not the means of living to God, any more than of justification (on the contrary, if we are under law, sin will have dominion over us), and that we must be delivered from it, in order to bring forth fruit to God. Scripture is distinct and positive as to this. The law is a distinct definite system and principle, under which Christians are not living. People have confounded law with various things and obligations enforced in the law. The truth is, the duties were all there before law was given. Law gives a divine measure of these obligations in contrast with evil, and enforces the obligations by an authority outside ourselves, involving, as it is given, a curse if they are not fulfilled. The law is the perfect rule for a child of Adam, but supposes sin and lust, and forbids them, but does not take them away, nor give a new life. It takes up our relationship to God and our neighbour, and insists on consistency with them. It is a transcript, not of God’s character, as is absurdly said, but of man’s duties. I say, absurdly. Could God love His neighbour as Himself? Or Himself with all His heart, as a duty? Away with such folly. Further, the ten commandments suppose sin, and unless one, forbid it. It is equally absurd, and I speak for others than Mr. Marshall now, to apply the commandments to Adam. How could he honour his father and mother? How could he steal, or know what it meant? He did not know what lust was till after he was tempted. Adam had a law; but it did not suppose sin in him, but forbad what would have been no sin at all, if it had not been forbidden, and was thus a simple test of obedience, and no more; and we can see the perfect wisdom of God in this. The law formally given on Mount Sinai (for the law was given by Moses) supposes sin, for sin was there, and forbids it, and maintains the relationship in which man stood to God and to man, and of course was all perfectly right in doing so.
But did law deliver man from the power of sin and lust? That is at least one important part of the question, that is, where it is a rule; and we have seen the apostle stating, that it did not, but left man under it, yea, was an occasion to lust to act. But more, man must be delivered from it to bring forth fruit to God. To have godliness man must be delivered from law. But I add, for what is it a rule? Is it a perfect, adequate, rule? For a child of Adam it is: he is to love God with all his heart, and his neighbour as himself, and not to lust. Only note, it forbids what is in man, without giving life or force, and, because it is a right rule, condemns, and works wrath; and this is law, and this alone, and all that law is.
A law is obligation, enforced by an authority outside us,59 requires from us whatever the rule expresses, and in God’s law, that there should not even be a lust, but is addressed to those who have lusts, who are alive in the flesh. Its requisition is right; but for that reason it condemns us to death, and because man is not what it requires, it is found to be to death. But in its contents it is a perfect measure, or rule, for man in the flesh; but it is not for him who is in Christ. For him who is a son of God the rule is, “Be ye therefore followers [imitators] of God as dear children, and walk in love as Christ also loved us, and gave himself for us, a sacrifice and an offering to God for a sweet-smelling savour.” “Hereby know we love, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” It is not reciprocated kindness, of which love to self is the measure, but a giving up self, as Christ did, in love. It is good in the midst of evil, which is what Christ was—grace as displayed in Him, doing well, Nsuffering for it, and taking it patiently, as He did. It is forgiving, laying down our lives in the prerogative of divine love, which is our rule, and walking being light in the Lord, as He walked, apart from the world, an epistle of Christ to it; and love and light are the two essential names of God, and Christ was the perfect expression of it as man here.
Of all this the law knows nothing. It does know what a child of Adam ought to be for God, and that it requires: evidently just what it should do. Of what God is for him, it knows nothing; and of what a child of God ought to be, and a dear child as walking in the love he has learned, and which is shed abroad in his heart, it can tell him nothing. The law is God requiring from man what man ought to be, but which he is not; the gospel is God saving him in sovereign love, and, giving him eternal life in the Son, sends him to shew forth this life and the character of Christ (that is, of God manifested in a man) in a world that knows Him not. The law requires righteousness from a man alive in the flesh; and that flesh is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; so that they that are in the flesh cannot please God. And if it is said “but Christianity takes him out of the flesh,” I answer, it does, but at the same time gives him a much higher rule; he is to walk in the Spirit as he lives in the Spirit. The Christian, having Christ for his life, is to manifest the life of Christ in his mortal flesh.
And now a word as to the manner of this. The law did not give life, and could not; it required righteousness from man such as he was. In Christ we have not only our sins wholly put away, which the law could not do, but only curse us for them if under it, but He becomes a new life, and a life as now risen from the dead. But Christ who is our life has been crucified, and God looks upon those who believe as crucified with Him, and so does faith. Ye are dead, says the word; Col. 3:3. I am crucified with Christ, says faith, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. It reckons itself dead to sin and alive to God, not in Adam but in Jesus Christ our Lord. In a word, as Christ died to the whole scene into which He had come—died unto sin once—so the Christian, crucified with Him, belongs to the place Christ is entered into, the new creation in Christ his fife, and has died to the flesh and sin and the world. He is not before God in flesh at all; he knows this, that his old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed.
Now the law has power over a man as long as he lives; but we have died in Christ—are not in the flesh. Hence we read, when we were in the flesh, the motions of sin, which were by the law. But when we know our death with Christ, and that sin in the flesh was condemned on the cross, the law having been unable to accomplish any such object, and have the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, then we read, Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be the Spirit of God dwell in you: now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His; and if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, and the Spirit is life because of righteousness. That is, practical righteousness is attained, not by a law which was weak through the flesh, applied to that flesh, which was not subject to the law of God, neither indeed could be, and withal cursed the disobedient; but by the gift of a new life, that is, Christ risen, and the power of the Spirit of God, and by being dead to sin, as crucified with Christ, and dead to the law by the body of Christ, sin in the flesh condemned in the sacrifice of Christ, but we dead therein to it, and alive in the power of a new life. The flesh, the law, and the world are gone together for faith through the cross of Christ. (See Rom. 6:6; chap. 7:4; Gal. 2:19, 20; chap. 6:14; chap. 5:24.)
If we walk in the Spirit, we produce fruits, against which there is no law; if we love our neighbour as ourselves, we fulfil the law. The righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. They only fulfil the law who are not under it, and have nothing to say to it, but who walk after the Spirit which they have received through Christ. The law deals with flesh which is not and cannot be subject to it, and hence righteousness never can be attained. The Christian is dead to sin, having died with Christ on the cross, and does not belong to the scene to which the law applied, is not in the flesh, and is dead to the law and lives in the Spirit, Christ risen from the dead having become his life. The flesh is the life of the sinful Adam, and law belongs to it. We have died to both in the cross of Christ, and are married to another, that we may bring forth fruit unto God.
The great truth is this: we have died on the cross to our whole standing in Adam, and to the law that was the rule for it; and we are risen with Christ into the new creation in Him, alive from the dead to give ourselves to God. We have the treasure in earthen vessels, but our place before God is that— in Christ, and Christ in us. We have died from under the law, but therein died to sin, and are alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. We are in a wholly new position, and, though the righteousness of the law be fulfilled in one whose life Christ is, it is because he walks after the Spirit, and does not put himself under law. He cannot (Rom. 7) have two husbands at a time, Christ and the law. Remark here that I am speaking, as the passages I refer to are, of practical righteousness, a godly life, but if we are under the law for that, the law also curses us. As many as are of the works of the law are under the curse, and if the curse is not executed, the authority of the law is gone. If we are under law, we are under a curse, or its authority destroyed. If Christ has borne the curse, we have died with Him out of the position in which the law reached us; by the law dead to law, that we might live to God, crucified with Christ, yet living, but not we, but Christ living in us. He will not live wrongly. I do not enter here into failure, or Christ’s blessed advocacy if we do fail, but only bring out the principles of the life in which we do live to God.
Let me take another view of the subject which is afforded us in Scripture. From the fall to the flood, though individuals were blessed and testimony was there, there were no special dealings of God. The promise had been given to the Seed of the woman in the judgment of the serpent; for there is no promise to fallen man, though the object of faith is thus held up before him. But man went on in wickedness till God had to bring in the flood, to cleanse as it were the earth from the pollution. But after the flood, having instituted the restraint of government in Noah (the world having fallen into idolatry, and nations having been formed), God calls out Abraham to be a root of promise for Himself. Abraham is the head of a seed of blessing as fallen Adam of a seed of sinful men. I leave aside Israel the natural seed here to speak of Christ and the nations. In Genesis 12 the promise of all nations being blessed in Abraham is given, and confirmed to the Seed in chapter 22. This was sovereign grace, and no condition was attached to it. The Seed was to come, the nations to be blessed in the Seed. This raised no question of righteousness; there was no if, no condition. But the question of righteousness was of all importance; it was raised at Sinai. If they obeyed His voice, they should be His peculiar treasure; and they undertook to do all Jehovah should say, and made the golden calf before Moses was down from the Mount with the two tables. The question was raised by requiring righteousness from man, and this was the law. Man has been tested on this ground and found wholly wanting.
I add some details. The law simply by itself never even reached man as a covenant of works. The tables never entered into the camp (the golden calf was there), they were broken at the foot of the Mount. Moses interceded, and the people were for the occasion as to God’s dealings forgiven. But Moses could not make atonement, and with the revelation of goodness the people were put back under law. “The soul that sinneth I will blot out of my book.” But God makes all His goodness pass before Moses. The Lord passed before Moses and proclaimed the Lord— “the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear (the guilty), visiting,” etc. Now, here we have provisional grace. They are the terms of God’s government of Israel, but, in fact, grace which spares and forgives past sin; but no atonement effectual, final, and conclusive, perfecting for ever them that are sanctified, was made, as indeed there was no one there to make it. They were consequently replaced under legal obligation and the man that sinned was to be blotted out of God’s book. It was grace and forgiveness, and law after.
It was when Moses went down after this interview (Exod. 34:29, 30) that his face shone. It is this law after grace and provisional forgiveness that is declared to be the ministration of death and the ministration of condemnation (2 Cor. 3) in contrast with the gospel, which is the ministration of righteousness and of the Spirit. And now see how the apostle reasons on the whole matter. The promise, given to Abraham and confirmed to the one seed (Christ), could not be set aside nor added to by a transaction 430 years after. God had thus bound Himself, but the law came in by the bye till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made, that is, Christ. Then its function ceased, and consequent on Christ’s work, all being sinners, the law broken, and Christ rejected (the last means by which God could seek for fruit from man), the attempt only proving that man hated both Christ and His Father—that the mind of the flesh was enmity against God, then God’s righteousness is revealed without law (the Greek reads “apart from law”), the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ. Man’s probation as to the history of it, on the ground of getting good by any means from him, was over. Now, says Christ, is the judgment of this world. Hence it was Christ cursed the fig-tree never to bear fruit. Hence it is that it is said “now once in the end of the world [the consummation of ages], he hath appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
When I say the probation is over, it is not that man is not yet dealt with as to receiving the gospel. Of course he is; but what can be made of man in the flesh? It has been tried, and it is not now the question whether he can succeed in making out righteousness for the day of judgment, but, receiving the truth, find out that he is already lost, and righteousness and salvation and indeed glory his as believing in Christ. As a person under probation, he knows he is a lost sinner, and finds a new life, a perfect salvation, and divine righteousness in Christ. Now all this clearly shews the place of the law between the promise and the coming of the Seed to whom the promise was made, and how we are created again in Christ Jesus unto good works. It is no longer the law requiring human righteousness from flesh to prove what it is, but a new creature and the power of the Spirit leading us in the path in which Christ walked. We are sons and to walk as God’s dear children, to put on, as the elect of God holy and beloved, bowels of mercies —the whole character and walk of Christ.
I will now take notice of Mr. Marshall’s remarks.
In the first place Mr. Marshall’s statements make quite plain that if we are under the law at all we are under it not merely as a rule of life but as a question of righteousness or condemnation. He says expressly of a believer, if he act contrary to the law (p. 10), he would then have come under its condemning power; so, on the same page, if a believer “acts contrary to the law, what then? Will not the law take hold of him and condemn him? “Thus all pretension that it is a rule of life but not the way of righteousness, failure under it bringing a curse, is wholly set aside. If I am told there is a remedy in looking to Christ; so there was in the prescriptions of the law. We have not advanced a tittle. Only remember, reader, that it is for this cause the apostle says “as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.” If you are on this ground, you are at this moment, according to your theory, under the curse. And this is all true if we are under the law at all.
People talk of not taking it for this, but taking it for that. Who are you to deal with the law and testimony of God thus? It takes you, as God has declared it should if you are under it, and curses you. The curse comes with it, and sin revives when it comes. Mr. Marshall is right: it lays hold of a man and condemns him. And, if “As many as are of its works,” they are all cursed. And Christ does not step in to weaken its authority. He bore its curse and delivered us from the law, but He cannot be made a curse for us now, and if it comes on us there is no way left of getting it off us. If it be a rule of life, then righteousness comes by it and Christ is dead in vain.
But let us see what Mr. Marshall has to say of it even as a rule of life. If it be God’s rule of life, it must be a perfect one. Indeed a rule that is not a perfect one is pure mischief and deception. But what is Mr. M.’s account? “Christ enlarges it,” that is, it is not perfect but has to be enlarged. Suppose I have to enlarge a measure to be honest in what I give; is my first measure right? Thus I must have the law enlarged to go right, a strange rule. But further: “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat; all, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do.” Here then we have a clear, positive, and definite rule. All, and whatsoever they bid you, is to be done. “Of course,” continues Mr. Marshall (p. 9), “He only meant such parts of the moral law as were in accordance with His new dispensation; and nearly all parts of it are in such accordance.” Here is a strange rule for me. Nearly all of it is right, God’s rule, mind; and I am to judge, by my estimate of the new dispensation, what is not. I am not to find it enlarged, but to pare it off as I see it is consistent with my position. But how can this be called a rule?
Now these remarks prove to me that Mr. Marshall is an honest man. He sees that you cannot reconcile Christianity and the rule Christians are, on this system, to live by; and he honestly says so. But then all becomes “nearly all,” and whatsoever is not is cast overboard; and the rule is no rule at all, enlarged in one place and pared down in another by some other which is not given to us at all. Surely this is not establishing law.
The text universally alleged to put us under the law is, “I am not come to destroy the law and the prophets, I am not come to destroy but to fulfil.” Now what Christ’s fulfilling the law has to do with putting me under it I never could understand. I should have thought that it would have rather been the contrary, and, if fulfilled, there was an end of the matter. Thus He fulfilled the sacrifices, and the rather as He speaks of the prophets, which gives to the word “fulfil,” used as it is as to both, a force quite different from that sought to be made of it. It is a mere fancy, let me add here, that a Christian cannot use every word of Scripture for profit, law and all, without (that is) putting him under law. All that happened to Israel is written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the world are come, but that does not put us in the place they were in. All that reveals God to me, His mind, His will, His ways, is profitable to me, is light, without putting me in the place of those of whom I read.
But there is another consideration to be referred to here, the sermon on the Mount. This, blessed as is the instruction contained in it, was before the cross which judicially closed the relationship of the Jews with God, breaking down the middle wall of partition. We have no hint of redemption in it from beginning to end, nor of the relationship in which men should stand to God by it. It gives, and gives most blessedly, the characters which were fitted to enter the kingdom of heaven just going to be set up. Now that kingdom was not yet set up, but announced as immediately to be so. Nor do I for a moment imply that they were to give up the character necessary in order to enter as soon as they had got into it. It would be absurd. But what it does is to give the characters suited to the kingdom, not to shew the effect of its being set up by the rejection and cross of Jesus. It is not the law, nor is it the gospel. Christ could not preach His death and resurrection as an accomplished ground of salvation. It is to disciples, though in the audience of all, that no man might mistake the true character of the kingdom, nor of those who were to get into it. That and the revelation of the Father’s name are the subjects of the discourse. The law and the prophets were until John; since that the kingdom of heaven was preached, and every man passed into it. The gospel of the death and resurrection of Christ could not be preached, though long before and now prophesied of. The preaching was that they might receive Him, not crucify Him.
Nor is the sermon on the Mount, as is stated, in a large degree portions of the moral law. Two commandments are referred to which are the two abiding characteristics of sin since before the flood, corruption and violence, lust and murder. None other are alluded to, sabbath or any other. And if it were to prove the law a perfect rule, how could it be written to them of old time so-and-so was said, referring to law, but I say unto you, and so teach them quite differently? The whole idea is a delusion. That those who then broke the least commandment and taught men so were not fit for the kingdom is clearly stated, but that is all, and nothing about the law subsisting after Christ’s death. Unless it be in temporal things there is no grace, no blood-shedding to cleanse, no redemption to deliver. The kingdom being just at hand the character suited to an entrance into it is given. Israel was on his way with the Lord to judgment, and if they did not come to an agreement, they would be delivered up; and so they have been. It is not grace to sinners, but righteousness demanded to be fit to enter, that is, such a walk and spirit as is set forth in the sermon. Charging scribes and Pharisees who were under it with making void the law has nothing to do with putting Christians under it after Christ has died.
As to establish the law as a system, Christ clearly did not. “He taketh away the first that he may establish the second.” He is the end of the law for righteousness. We establish law, for that is the real force of the word, in the highest and only scriptural way. They that have sinned under it will be judged by it, unless indeed redeemed out of that state. Christ’s bearing the curse of the law established its authority, as nought else could do, but did not leave the guilty under it.
The mistake made is this. Many things contained in the law, all in the moral law as usually understood—say Christ’s two great commandments, and the ten commandments ^not now discussing the sabbath which belonged to the old creation, the Lord’s day to the new)—were obligations before the law and are obligations under Christ. But from the law, that is, the enforcement of these obligations by the authority of God binding them on man as his righteousness by a rule of life (and that only is law), or pronouncing a curse on them if they did not keep it, from that (that is, from law) we are wholly and in every shape and way delivered, dead to it. It is adultery, to use the image of Romans 7, to have to say to it, to call ourselves Christians, if we are not absolutely from under its authority. I learn how God viewed evil and good from it, I can learn to support true ministers from what is said of oxen, but the law is not binding on me. I learn more of Christ’s sacrifice in detail from Leviticus and other places than from the Gospels; yet I have nothing whatever to say to the law as to them, I am not under it. So of moral obligations—I learn in the law that God abhorred stealing, but it is not because under the law that I do not steal. All the word of God is mine and written for my instruction, yet for all that I am not under law, but a Christian who has died with Christ on the cross and am not in the flesh to which law applied, I am dead to the law by the body of Christ.
In vain it is alleged that this is only as a covenant of works. The law is nothing else but a covenant of works. Mr. Marshall has shewn it in his remarks already commented on. Mr. Wesley, it seems, admits (p. 12) that Christ is the end of the law in the true sense; then let us have done with it. He has adopted, he tells us, every point of it (nearly all Mr. M. says). What he has adopted, if it be so, let us learn from him. “This is my beloved Son, hear him”; and Moses and Elias disappear. His teaching will suffice by itself in such things.
As Mr. M. is content with what he has found in “Brethren “as to the Lord’s day, I should have nothing to say on that head. I take it up here only in its connection with the law. With the insisting on the godly enjoyment and observance of the Lord’s day, which he approvingly quotes, I entirely agree; but as the sabbath and change from the seventh to the first day of the week is closely connected with the question of law, I will treat this point also for a moment. A Christian recognises the first day of the week, not the seventh. Why so? The law we hold absolutely gone as to the Christian (not by enfeebling its authority where it applies, for Christ bore its curse and men who have sinned under it will be judged by it, but) because we have died from under it. Now what was the Sabbath? God’s rest in the first creation. We do not belong to it—our bodies do; hence a day of rest is a blessing for man toiling through the fall. But this did not make it a matter of eternal obligation, but the Son of man Lord of it: an expression in itself quite inapplicable to a moral obligation. The sabbath was God’s rest in the old creation. In that creation God cannot rest now. Hence the Lord beautifully and blessedly says, when maliciously charged with breaking it, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” They wrought in grace in a world of sin, but could not rest in it.
Now the Lord took man up on the footing of the old creation, and as undetermined whether he could find God’s rest on the ground of his own responsibility. Hence the day of rest belonging to that was given and imposed upon him, as all the rest, as a matter of law. Death and life were set before him. Now he is known to be dead in sins. Under that system man failed. I believe that the millennium will be in a certain sense the accomplishment of that day, but on that I do not enter here. But Christ’s cross closed for the spiritual mind the old creation and the old covenant. He gave Himself for our sins to redeem us from this present evil world. His resurrection began redeemed man’s history on a new footing, on which innocent Adam never was, any more than sinful man: a state based, not on responsibility in which there might be failure, but on a work whose value could never change; a state which was a proof of accomplished redemption by an accepted work.
Thus the first day of the week, that is, the day of Christ’s resurrection, became the sign and witness of rest for us. We begin work with it, that is, with redemption in Christ, not end with it, though in fact we shall not fully rest till we are risen. Still, through Christ’s resurrection we have rest for our souls, and it is a pledge of the full rest of God into which a promise is left of entering. This entering into the rest of God is the compendium of the fullest blessing of His people; for He rests in holiness and perfected glory and love, and will rest in it when He has His people there, and all answers to His own nature, and His love is satisfied. But this is for us in resurrection and through the resurrection of Christ; and as the seventh day was the symbolical rest under the law because God had rested from the works of the first creation, and made additionally obligatory under the law in connection with redemption out of Egypt, and strictly enforced under pain of death; so for us the first day of the week is the witness of a better redemption and a better rest.
The Lord met the disciples the first day of the week, and again the following; the first day of the week the disciples came together to break bread, the first day were to lay by for the poor as God had prospered them, and in Revelation John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, when it had already definitely acquired its name. It is not a seventh day, as if we worked when God rested, and rested when God worked. It is not the Fourth Commandment, for we are in no way under the law, but the blessed liberty of rest to serve God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ..
Besides being a boon in itself to toiling man, Jehovah gave His sabbath to Israel as a sign between Him and them, a mark of God’s people; Ezek. 20:12,20. Nor is any new institution established in the law (as the setting up of the tabernacle, the manna, or other special things) without the sabbath being specially enforced. It was a sign of their being God’s people, though in fact they never really, any more than Adam, entered into God’s rest (Heb. 4); there remains a rest. But this has ceased: they are no longer God’s people unless in promise for the future, when they will have their rest by grace.
Hence the Lord never has to say to the sabbath in the Gospels but as slighting it. It is a singular fact that, as in the law it is repeatedly and rigorously enforced, in the Gospels it is studiously made light of. The Son of man was Lord of it. He recognises it as existing under the law, but makes use of and acts on it as above it, makes the man carry his bed on it and the like. The old covenant was passing away, and we having died in Christ are not to be judged in respect of sabbaths. Yet for the same reason I hold the Lord’s day as a blessed privilege conferred and to be observed for the Lord’s service, as “the Lord’s day”; and I do not doubt we may, in our little measure, be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, however that may be our privilege at all times.
And let the reader remark that there are many things binding, not as law but the divine good pleasure. I do not pray by law, nor read the word by law, nor praise God by law; yet I should be unhappy and be guilty if I did not. A father’s will is a law to a loving child, if he has not given a formal order. But I may add here I am not afraid of the word “commandment.” It is a wholesome word because it involves obedience. Christ could say, As my Father has given me commandment, so I do, and this as regards His work on the cross, His highest act of love. Did I do everything in itself right, nothing would be yet right, if obedience were wanting in it. “Lo! I come to do thy will”; and we are sanctified to the obedience of Christ. It is as to this the word “commandment” has its wholesome place. But we cannot be under law without being under a covenant of works, and that Mr. Marshall’s pamphlet shews as we have seen.
I come now to the question of righteousness, which connects itself pretty closely with that of law. Mr. Marshall has not quite understood Brethren’s views on this. I know not whether I shall succeed in making them clear. Scripture never speaks of the righteousness of Christ, though of course He was in every sense perpetually righteous, but (1) of man’s or legal righteousness, man being what he ought to be towards God and his neighbour, of which the law was the measure, or (2) of God’s righteousness, what He is in Himself manifested in the display of His own consistency with Himself, and that judicially in respect of Christ and through Him of us. Righteousness is practically recognising the claim of another, claim in the sense of what is due to him. With God, as the source and measure of all claim, it is what is due to Himself. This may be as to the creature what is due to God, according to the place He has put the creature in, the creature’s duty; and law was of this the perfect expression enforced by the authority of God, and sanctioned by the penalty of a curse. In this consistency with God’s will man wholly failed; not only that, but God came in Christ, reconciling the world, not imputing their failures, and man rejected Him. Man’s moral history was over. Not only God had turned him out of paradise because of sin, but, as far as he was concerned, he had turned God out of the world when He had come into it in mercy.
The Second man comes on the scene. Now our probation was in the first, God’s purposes were in the Second. And both these come out into light through the work of Christ, perfect when fully proved. He meets our failure as the sin-bearer for us, and lays the foundation of God’s accomplishment of His purposes of glory in the same work. This is our portion. Had man even kept the law, it did not give him a title to be in the glory of the Son of God; but we are predestinated to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He may be the firstborn among many brethren. We have borne the image of the earthly, and we shall bear the image of the Heavenly. We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Now Christ in His death glorified God as to all that He is, and that where God had been dishonoured, in the very place of sin. Man’s enmity, Satan’s power, death, the curse or wrath of God, all met there, and He in love and obedience there, as made sin. There it was obedience was perfected, God’s righteous judgment against sin fully displayed and endured in the forsaking of God, yet God’s perfect love to sinners displayed in the same act, God’s majesty maintained in the sufferings of Christ, His truth, and all that was needed, that His purpose of bringing sons unto glory might be accomplished. God was glorified in the Son of man, and man was set at the right hand of God. All that God’s glory could claim as against sin, and for the accomplishment of His purposes according to that glory, all that could make it good, and that as only could be done where sin was; all that could glorify God, and, blessed be His name, to the glory of God by us, was accomplished; and righteousness, God’s righteousness, what was due to His consistency with Himself, set Christ at His right hand as man, for Christ suffering as man had realised that glory and made it good at all cost to Himself. (See John 13:31, 32; chap. 17:4, 5; chap. 16:10.) God, having all in this work that was due to the claims of His own glory, acted righteously, did what was the necessary consequence according to that glory, and glorified Christ with Himself. “I have glorified thee on the earth “(there where it was needed, and nothing but Christ made sin in the perfection of obedience and love to His Father could do it), “and now glorify thou me with thine own self”; and man entered into the glory of God righteously—this, besides Christ’s bearing our sins in His own body on the tree. He was Jehovah’s lot and the people’s lot.
Much blessed instruction is connected with this, but I confine myself to righteousness. The testimony to the world is that there is none righteous, no not one; but there is righteousness in this, that Christ has gone to the Father, and the world will not see Him any more (that is as then come in grace), until He comes in judgment. Through this work the believer is justified from all his sins, for Christ has borne them and suffered the penalty. God is just (righteous), and as such the Justifier of him that believes in Jesus—justifies the ungodly, and whom He justifies them He also glorifies. Grace reigns through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord. He is made unto us righteousness, and we the righteousness of God in Him. He is before God the ground and measure of our place before God, and His righteousness displayed in putting us there, while all is grace towards us. He is gone to our Father and His Father, our God and His God, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
And now a word as to “imputed righteousness.” No such term is in Scripture, but imputing righteousness, of which the sense is wholly different in English, and a different word employed in Greek. Imputing righteousness is simply counting or reckoning us righteous. Imputed righteousness is a certain valuable sum put over to our account. Thus in Philemon: “If he owe thee anything, put that to my account.”60 And so “sin is not imputed where there is no law.” You cannot put that specific act as a transgression to the man’s account, because, when there is no law, it has not been forbidden, as it could be under the law in Israel, though the reign of death proved they were sinners and lost. Now this and the passage in Philemon are the only places where this word is used. But imputing righteousness used some eleven times is, as the Thirty-nine Articles justly state, simply accounting the man righteous. But, whatever the blessed fruits of divine life or of the Spirit, which there surely will be where that life and the Spirit are, and be the proof that it is really there, still, if God justifieth the ungodly, and that it is to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, that faith is imputed for righteousness, it is evident that it is not because of what a man is himself, but of another, that he is accounted righteous. “By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” And mark the difference. We are not accounted righteous according to the poor measure of the fruits which we produce, with the defects which may accompany them, but according to the measure of Christ’s work, in which He has borne our sins on the one hand, and perfectly glorified God, when made sin, on the other; the former represented by the sin-offering in Leviticus, and the other by the burnt-offering, or, in another aspect when both were parts of one sin-offering, by the blood on the mercy-seat, and the sins of the people laid on the head of the scapegoat.
Now Mr. Marshall’s system contradicts itself. “The Brethren,” he says, “are quite in accordance with Scripture in holding that a believer is justified solely on the ground of the Lord Jesus Christ’s atonement and satisfaction for his sins; and that so believing his faith is imputed to him for righteousness, and that he is thus justified and accepted of God.” Now, that a true Christian is made partaker of the divine nature having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust, that he is to cleanse himself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord, that he is not his own but bought with a price, and to live wholly to Him who has died for him and risen again, as a thousand passages testify, cannot be too earnestly pressed on the Christian. It is of vital importance and daily need. That is not the question, at any rate it is no question with me. The question is this, our righteousness before God. But Mr. M. says (p. 16) “if all a believer’s righteousness, at present and in the future, are in Christ alone, why were all those cited exhortations and commands?” If a believer is justified as Mr. M. says, solely on the ground of Christ’s atonement and satisfaction, and that his faith is imputed for righteousness, they cannot be for righteousness to be accepted of God, for how then is it solely by Christ’s work? But I answer, not to make our righteousness, but for consistency and growth in the place he is set in, to grow up to Him who is the Head in all things, to glorify Christ as he ought, to be able to enjoy God. We are accepted in the Beloved. See how it is said in John 14: “In that day ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” By the Holy Ghost dwelling in me, I know I am in Christ, consequently perfectly accepted of God; that is not my responsibility but my place, but this cannot be without Christ being in me. They go together; and there is my responsibility now, namely, to shew forth the life of Christ, of Christ who is my life, in everything—that Christ should be all to me as He is in all that have received the Spirit, and that all I do I should do in His name. My objection is, not that men should press holiness, but that they should make righteousness out of it when Christ is made unto us righteousness.
As to the phrase, “we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith,” it teaches the contrary of what Mr. M. supposes. It is not righteousness we are waiting for, but the hope of righteousness; we are made the righteousness of God in Him (Christ), and then wait for glory which belongs to that righteousness. Christ is made to us righteousness; by One man’s obedience the many are made righteous; and the objection to this, that we may then continue in sin, is not met by putting us under law or giving uncertainty as to righteousness, but by shewing (Rom. 6) that righteousness involves death to sin. I cannot have one without the other, and so live to God. It is a sad thing if a Christian never can know he is accepted; and if he was not righteous somehow, he assuredly could not. The scripture shews us it is in Christ we are justified, that is, accounted or held for righteousness, as Mr. M. admits, solely on the ground of Christ’s atonement. Otherwise, if we cannot so stand before God, no peace, no joy, no bright hope of glory; for this belongs to the righteous. But He has made peace by the blood of the cross, and we are accepted in the Beloved. It is well that a simple principle should be realised by Christians—that duties flow from the place we are already in; and if I am in a place in which I always must be, as a child with its parents, it only makes the duty perpetual, and this is always the measure and principle of duty. Destroy the relation, and the duty ceases.
I have treated the main questions at issue, and which are of importance to every soul. I only add that, in one aspect all Christians are sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints called and set apart to God by the power of the Holy Ghost; in another they follow after holiness, and, beholding the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, are changed into the same image from glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord. They know that when He shall appear they shall be like Him, for they shall see Him as He is, and having this hope in Him they purify themselves as He is pure.
As regards the church or assembly, the question is not at all if Abraham was not justified by faith through Christ’s work, nor whether he will be in glory, nor whether he was more or less faithful than any of us. There were those more or less faithful then. There are more and less faithful now. The question is what place God set the Old Testament saints in, and where He has set us. Now I believe God has set us in a better place, because, after speaking of the faith by which all those elders obtained a good report, it is declared God had reserved some better thing for us; Heb. n. It is a mistake to think that there may not be in God’s sovereign wisdom a better place in which some are set. Among them that were born of women there has not arisen a greater than John the Baptist. Who more faithful, or separated to God than he, filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb? Yet the least in the kingdom of heaven Was to be greater than he. What a privilege that of the disciples to have the Lord with them, the long and earnest desire of prophets and righteous men! Yet for these very same persons it was expedient that He should go, for then they would receive the Holy Ghost. Under the law the Holy Ghost signified, that the way into the holiest was not made .manifest, now we have boldness to enter into the holiest. The veil is rent.
But our business is to shew that the church did not exist. “Church” is an unhappy word, because nobody knows what it means. Say “assembly,” and all is plain. Every gathering together of people is an assembly, but God’s assembly is a distinct thing. Now Adam or any individual saint could not be an assembly. This is clear. Israel was an assembly, and in a certain sense God’s assembly; but in every way the opposite of God’s assembly now. It was by birth of the race of Jacob: a Gentile as such could not belong to it; it was a nation, not a gathering by testimony and calling. The Gospel of John makes the difference. Christ “died for that nation, but not for that nation only, but to gather together in one the children of God which were scattered abroad.” The fact of their being children of God did not make them an assembly, but their gathering together into one. But another element characterises God’s assembly, God’s dwelling amongst them. Now this He does not do with man but on the ground of accomplished redemption. He did not dwell with Adam in his innocence, nor with Abraham and others; but as soon as He had brought out Israel by accomplished redemption, though then an outward one, then He came and dwelt among them, as it is written, “And they shall know that I am Jehovah their God that brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them,” Exod. 29:49.
Let us come to the direct proofs of the different positions of the New Testament and Old Testament saints. The Lord’s own declaration should suffice: “On this rock I will build my church.” The confession that He personally, Jesus, was the Son of the living God—this could not be before. Looking for a Messiah with true faith, for the promised Seed, was before, and was surely saving faith: but that Jesus was the Son of the living God could not be before Jesus. And hence the Lord says, “I will build “: not that He had been long building, when in truth in that state as a man He did not yet subsist.
We have two aspects of the church. It is Christ’s body, and the habitation of God by the Spirit. Neither could possibly have existed before Pentecost. First, till Christ ascended, there was no head in heaven for the body to be united to. You would have had a body without a head. Ephesians 1 and 2 declare that we are raised with and seated in heavenly places in Christ “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… 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.”
Thus it is distinctly the raised and ascended man that is made head of the body, and set over all things. There was no such man till the ascension, and thus union loses all its reality, the church all true existence, where it is set up by man’s imagination before Pentecost. “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.” We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. All suppose the man Christ, and Christ ascended when union is spoken of, and that is union by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Further, till after the ascension, the Holy Ghost did not come down to form the church and dwell in it. In 1 Corinthians 12 we read, “by one Spirit we are all baptised into one body.” They were, as we are expressly taught in the Acts, baptised with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost; Acts 1. So John, “He it is that baptiseth with the Holy Ghost,” John 1. Now the Lord says, “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come; but if I go away, I will send him unto you.” I must here notice and correct a mistake. Mr. M. urges that Christ’s breathing on the disciples saying,” Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” was the giving of the Comforter, not the day of Pentecost; but John’s Gospel is explicit. It was from Christ risen; as God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, so the Lord breathed on them that they might have the power of life by the Holy Ghost. But this was not sending the Holy Ghost.
We read, in John 7, the Holy Ghost was not yet (given) because that Jesus was not yet glorified. We read explicitly (John 14:16), I will pray the Father and He will give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; and verse 26, But the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, which the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, etc.; and chapter 15:26, But when the Comforter is come whom I will send unto you from the Father, the Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of me. So chapter 16:7-15. These passages leave no question as to the Comforter being sent down from on high when Jesus had gone up, sent down by the Father in His name, and by Him from the Father. Hence we know we are sons, and the Spirit has revealed the things freely given to us of God, and the disciples were enabled to give all that the Holy Ghost led them to give of Christ’s life here below. Hence Christ received the Holy Ghost afresh when He went up, to communicate it (Acts 2:33), which identifies the Comforter also with what was given at Pentecost, though gifts may be distinct power, but here the Holy Ghost distributes to every man severally as He will; 1 Cor. 12:11.
It is a mistake of Mr. Marshall’s to take the breathing on them the day of His resurrection, for His sending the Comforter from the Father after He had gone away. He must, He tells us Himself, go away in order to send Him; John 16:7.
At all events we learn from 1 Corinthians 12 that it was that coming of the Holy Ghost which is called baptism, which we know (Acts 1:5, answering to John 1:33) to have been the day of Pentecost which forms the church, the one body of Christ here below, whereby the gathered saints become withal the habitation of God through the Spirit. Thus the facts that the risen and ascended Christ is Head, and that the descent of the Holy Ghost forms the body, make it impossible for the church to have existed before Pentecost.
Another and lower ground of reasoning, though perhaps more palpable to some, alike shews the impossibility of the church’s existing before the cross. Jew and Gentile could not be united in one. The Jew was bound strictly to keep up the middle wall of partition. The church is formed by its being thrown down, Christ thereupon forming in Himself one new man; Eph. 2:14-16. The church was formed through the throwing down of that which Judaism was bound to keep up. It could not exist until Judaism was ended. Hence, too, in Hebrews 12 we have “the church of the firstborn which are written in heaven,” and “the spirits of just men made perfect,” as a distinct class (v. 23). The truth is that the bringing in the Old Testament saints into the church is only dropping the whole proper blessing of the church itself. The teaching of Scripture as to it is wholly lost.
Saints may be individually blest and saved, though that truth is darkened, but a body united to a head in heaven is entirely out of sight. Thus Mr. Marshall diligently argues that, as we are Abraham’s seed, Abraham must have been in the church. “Of one seed,” he says in concluding, “or church.” But the seed are individuals, sons of God and heirs of God; which has nothing to do with being the body of a man who is in heaven, or builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. A man’s bride and body is another idea from being children of a father. Viewed as children of God, we are Christ’s brethren, not His body.
Mr. Marshall is mistaken, as many others, as to the prophets in Ephesians 2 being Old Testament prophets. The Greek sufficiently shews in Ephesians 2 that they are New Testament prophets; but chapter 3:5 shews without question to any reader that they are New Testament prophets in contrast with all of old time. (Compare chap. 4:12.)
Mr. Marshall again refers to the expression “the whole family in heaven and earth.” Now I have not the least doubt that the only true rendering is “every61 family,” which upsets the argument altogether, in contrast with Amos 3:1, 2. But the whole argument rests on the fallacy, even taking it as it stands in English, that a family is a body—the family of God is the body of Christ glorified. Thus, “surely all the members of a family may be said to belong to it” has no force in any way, because members of a family have nothing to do with members of His body. It is a relationship with God and the Father, and not with Christ, save so far as they are brethren— an individual place. Mr. Marshall’s tract sees nothing of these differences.
The judgment and song in Revelation 15 do not even apply to the church at all. Nor is relationship with the Father introduced into the Revelation. The nearest approach to it is chapter 14 when God is called Christ’s Father. The Book describes the government of God Almighty, and not even sons with a Father. The saints old and new are seen on thrones, but the body of Christ is not spoken of, nor the saints belonging to the church, or even to the Old Testament, seen on earth at all. Taking union on the lowest ground, mere gathering here, Christ gave Himself “to gather together in one the children of God which were scattered abroad.” Even here (and it is not the unity of the body), being a child of God is one thing, and gathered together is another.
As to judging of the equity of putting them there, with the comparative merits of individuals we have nothing to do, nor has it with the question. We must see what Scripture states. Now I say, that not only the church did not exist, but it was not, even prophetically, revealed in the Old Testament— formed no part of promise or prophecy.
In Romans 16:25, it is said “according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began, but is now made manifest.”62 Again in Ephesians 3:5, “which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body.” Again in verse 9, “the mystery which from the beginning of the world was hid in God; to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.” “The mystery which hath been hid from ages and generations, but now is made manifest to his saints,” Col. 1:26. We have thus the distinct and repeated declaration that the mystery of the church not only could not exist while the Jews were a separate people, and bound to be so, but was not revealed. The revelation that there was no difference between the Jew and the Greek would have overturned the whole fabric by its base.
Let me urge Mr. Marshall to read, not the writings of Brethren, but the Bible, and see if the church is not a wholly new thing, consequent on the exaltation of Christ to the right hand of God, and that it could not by any possibility have existed before; and not to confound the promise of a coming Saviour, received by faith, with membership of Christ’s body, when He is exalted to be Head over all things to His body, the church; nor to think it impossible, because of the grace given to Abraham, that God may have “reserved some better thing for us.”
I will add a few words on ordination. Mr. Marshall cites a number of passages in which Paul exhorts Timothy as to his ministry, stirring up the gift which was in him. Most admirable exhortations assuredly, for indeed they are of the Spirit of God Himself, though we speak of Paul; but they have nothing to do with the ordination of ministers. But Mr. Marshall misquotes the only material citation. Timothy had been ordained, he tells us, by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Scripture does not say “by,” but “with”; and, when we see what Paul says elsewhere, we see the importance of the difference. The whole sentence is “the gift which was given thee by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” Now here we find the real force of the matter: a gift was given, a very different thing from ordination; and elsewhere we find more information as to it, 2 Timothy 1:6,” the gift that is in thee by the putting on of my hands.” A man was personally marked out by prophecy (as we see in the case of Paul and Barnabas, Acts 13, and again at Antioch), and then Paul laid his hands on Timothy and conferred a gift, which was the privilege of the apostles; as we see Paul and John going down to Samaria, and so conferring it, and Simon wanting to buy the power.
Now I freely admit that the presbytery also accompanied this by the laying on of their hands, as a testimony to Timothy, just as in Acts 13:3: an act interpreted in chapter 14:26, and repeated again in chapter 15:40. But the substance of the act was the conferring the Holy Ghost with a careful changing of the word, which has escaped Mr. M.’s notice. Hence in the Episcopal church, in which the officiating prelate professes to give the Holy Ghost, the laying on of his hands is ordered to be accompanied by that of other priests, but no one ascribes ordination to them but to the prelate.
The difference between eldership and gifts is clearly established in every respect in Scripture. It was desirable that an elder should be apt to teach; still it was said “especially those who labour in the word and doctrine,” so that some did not, and in their episcopal work—for they were all bishops, that is, in their service as overseers of the flock, he was to be able “to exhort and convince gainsayers, holding fast” (if he had no special conferred gift of teaching on which he had to wait, Rom. 12) “the faithful word as he had been taught.” He is even here contrasted with a teacher, and is to use in his service what he had learned, to stop people’s mouths. Elders were appointed in every city (Titus 1:5, compare Acts 14:23), aptness to teach being a desirable qualification; but eldership was no gift at all. It is to be presumed hands were laid upon them, though it is never positively said so; but it was the common use in every signification of blessing, approved and commended to the Lord, used with the sick, used by prophets, or the church as to apostles, and, as Timothy was to lay hands suddenly on no man, it may be very well presumed he did so on elders. It is a mercy it is never said, or we should have apostolic succession. And it is not ever said.
But let us see on what a totally different footing gifts stand. First the Lord when He goes away gives talents to His servants, and they are bound to use them without other authority. He who had not sufficient trust in the Lord to do so was a wicked and slothful servant. Then I find the fact, “they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word,” and afterward (Acts 11) “the hand of the Lord was with them.” I find Peter giving directions as to this, “As every man has received the gift, so let him minister the same, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God,” 1 Pet. 4:10. In Romans 12:6, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith, or ministry, let us wait on our ministering, or he that teacheth on teaching,” etc. So in 1 Corinthians 12 it is elaborately stated that they had their gifts according to the dividing of the Spirit as He would, making one one member in the body, another another, and wherever a man was he was that member. So if Apollos taught at Ephesus, he taught at Corinth when there, and Silas and Judas at Antioch, and so on, and in 1 Corinthians 14 directions are given as to the use of gifts, when they were not to be used, how many were to speak, etc., that all might be to common edification, concluding by saying, “for ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and that all may be comforted.” The women were to keep silence in the assemblies, it was not permitted them to speak, it was a shame for them to speak in the assembly. So persons (2 John) who went about preaching were to be judged by their doctrine. Then we get a warning in James not to be many masters (teachers), shewing by the moral warning that ordination to do it had no place.
Finally, in the important passage in Ephesians 4 it is referred to gifts from Christ on high, when He fills all things in the power of redemption. Five permanent and regular gifts are mentioned, of which two had been declared to be the foundation, which is not laying now. Pastors, teachers, and evangelists remain, sadly hindered by the state of the church, still they remain. In addition to this we have “the increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part.” The difference of this and 1 Corinthians 12 is worthy of note. There it was mere power, by the Spirit of God, which might be, and was, abused; here it is what Christ, who cannot but be faithful to His own body, gives till all grow up to Him who is the Head. There, being by the present Holy Ghost, you have tongues, miracles, healings, etc., but there is no “till we all come “as there is in Ephesians 4; on the contrary it is “as he will.” We may have lost a great deal, but the principle of Scripture is as plain as possible.
Of ordination as connected with these gifts we have nothing, unless that apostles could confer the Holy Ghost and gift by laying on of hands. Committing doctrine to faithful men, which may be done in any age if one be capable to do it, has nothing to do with conferring official authority, and that is what ordaining means in modern language. And this is why “ordain” is objectionable, because it conveys a distinct meaning in modern language, which Scripture does not warrant. The English version is intentionally unfaithful in this. In Acts 1 it has “must one be ordained,” where there is no word at all. It is simply “must one be a witness.” In Acts 14 it is “they chose for them,” and they have put “ordained them,” and in Titus “ordain elders” when it is simply “establish.” This was not without intention.
The other passages which Mr. M. quotes prove rather the contrary of what he cites them for, as 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13. Why call upon people to know those that laboured among them, and love them for their works’ sake, if they could not help knowing them as their own ordained ministers? Their work was the ground of knowing and valuing them, and a very just one. Hebrews 13:7 has really nothing to do with it (these were dead, and, knowing their end, they were to follow their faith), verse 17 has; but here their work is again the ground: there is no hint of appointment.
When Mr. M. speaks of the hundreds of thousands of churches which need ministers, he is assuming the whole system of modern churches, of which there is not a trace in Scripture. Men have made the churches, and so they must make ministers for them, whether God has made them or not. Such a church as Paul wrote to does not exist in Christendom; and if he were to address a letter as he then did, no one would get it. “No one,” Mr. M. adds, “ever knew or heard of any such direct divine appointment since the time of the apostle Paul!” Just so. In Scripture such are found as we have seen. And he told us that, after his decease, from without and within ruin would come; and it has. But these would become the perilous times of the last days, for which we have directions in 2 Timothy 3, and more detailedly in 2 Timothy 2. In chapter 3 we have our resource, knowing from whom we have learned, the inspired teachers, and generally the Scriptures, that which was from the beginning; 1 John 2:24.
But Mr. M. has just told what has been, I may say, our desire, certainly mine—to go straight back to the time of the apostle Paul, that is, to the Scriptures, the written word of God; for there only we have His ways and directions. I admit it has never been done since then. The mystery of iniquity was already at work. We have returned to that which was at the beginning, conscious that much has been lost, but persuaded that Christ can never fail His church, and that He will give it needed care and blessing, and gifts to minister to it till all are come. We may fail in our faithfulness, but not the blessed Lord in His love, nor in what is really needed. But however feebly, Mr. M.’s is just the true account of what those commonly called the Brethren have done. They have gone back to Paul’s time, that is, to the word of God.
57 Not “that being dead”—see the margin of the Bible. Were it as in the English authorised text, the law itself would be dead.
58 2 Corinthians 3. I say if grace be there, because Moses’ face did not shine till God had made goodness pass before him.
59 I do not speak of physical laws here, as is evident, though it may be said then, only the obligation is compulsory, impressed by the Creator’s power.
60 [elloga (or ei) verse 18, ellogeitai (Rom. 5:13); whereas logizomai is the word used for imputing, counting, reckoning righteous.—Ed.]
61 It is pasa patria, not pasa e patria.
62 The words are plain enough— “kept secret since the world began.” Lest any should be puzzled, I add here that “by the scriptures of the prophets” is really “by prophetic scriptures according … made known to all nations.” At any rate the mystery was kept secret in all bygone ages.