A brief notice of a tract entitled "Remarks on the Seventh Chapter of Daniel"

J. N. Darby.

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I am glad of an opportunity of taking up the subject of the following brief notice in an instance which precludes all question of personal feeling or opposition - in which my remarks must be evidently divested of it to every upright mind - the writer, on whose statement I comment, having fully, I believe, embraced a wrong doctrinal system, but having never, as far as I know, departed from Christian kindness, or given any possible occasion to myself to do so. His statement of what the church is, in his remarks on Daniel 7, distinctly shews that total and entire rejection or ignorance of its true calling, as presented in the New Testament, which characterises the system he has embraced. I take this occasion of earnestly drawing the attention of saints to it. It is as follows: -

"In Romans 9:24, we read, concerning the saints of God, 'us whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles.' In Romans 11:24, we read of 'their own olive tree' (Israel's), as being that into which Gentile believers are graffed. Now I believe, that if we would give a scriptural definition of the church of God, we should say that they are Abraham's seed. If we would define the church as it now exists upon this earth, from the time of Christ's first coming, resurrection, and ascension, to His second coming, we should say, that they are a body of believing Jews, during the time that the nation at large is under blindness, with whom God, in sovereign and marvellous grace, has associated believing Gentiles, making all one body, joint-heirs, etc. Thus, although on every side we see many Gentiles professing or holding the faith of Jesus, and very few Jews, we must not forget that at Pentecost the gathered company was entirely Jewish as to nation: hopes, thoughts, and glory, were opened to them beyond those of their nation: they were instructed to look upwards to a risen Messiah waiting at God's right hand, till His foes should have been made His footstool (Acts 2:33-35); they were told of blessing, while their nation was in blindness (v. 40); and they heard of judgment as necessarily preceding Israel's earthly blessing: but still they were Jews; and most gradual was the opening to them of the possibility of Gentiles sharing in the new fellowship, hopes, and glory, which they learned to be their true portion. Gentiles were one by one brought into this believing body; and thus we see the meaning of the words, 'us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles.' Whatever the church on earth may seem to us now to be, it is still, as to its constituent parts, a company of Jews, partakers of grace, amongst whom God has brought in certain Gentiles."

379 Such is the account of the church! I trust that, at any rate, it may never be made a subject of reproach again, that the Pentecostal church is said to be Jewish. Now compare the statements of Paul's epistles, the whole of Ephesians and Colossians for example, and see if the idea of the church there given be "a company of Jews . . . amongst whom God has brought in certain Gentiles." Take Colossians 3:9-11: "Ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian,, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all and in all." Can there be a plainer denial in terms of the statement of the writer of the tract on Daniel 7? Is it possible that anyone who had really believed this, and understood it by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, should say, "If we would define the church as it now exists upon this earth, from the time of Christ's first coming, resurrection, and ascension, to His second coming, that they are a body of believing Jews," etc.?

Nor is it merely an isolated passage in Colossians in which the opposite statement to the writer's is declared in express terms by the Holy Ghost. Ephesians 2 is a full development of the doctrine itself, connecting it with the great principles of eternal truth, the Jew being a sinner and child of wrath as well as the Gentile: and both, previously near or afar off, as it might be, as to earthly administration, were brought nigh in the true sense, and made one new man in one body, both being reconciled to God in one body by the cross. That is, not that Gentiles were brought into a company of Jews, but that Jews and Gentiles were alike brought out of the position they were previously in, into a new body in Christ, where there was neither Jew nor Greek.

380 But it will, perhaps, be alleged that the writer of the tract speaks of the church as it now exists on earth. Truly so: and I press attention to this circumstance, because it is the denial of the real character of the unity of the body, in which there is neither Jew nor Greek, on earth. His statement might leave it to be gathered that there would or might be such a unity in heaven, such a body there, where patriarchs, Jewish saints, and Christians would be found. It would not exclude this; but as existing now on earth, between Christ's first coming and second, it does not enter into the definition of the church. There "they are a body of believing Jews," etc. Now this is the important point. In the system laid down in this tract, place is left for unity in heaven, such a unity, perhaps, as may include all saints from the beginning to the end of time: but as regards the period of this dispensation on earth, they are always "a body of believing Jews."

Hence, in other statements on this subject, Paul is said to speak of unity in heaven; while, on the other hand, Ephesians 2:19, "fellowship of the saints" is used as meaning the association of the New Testament saints with those of the Old already recognised. That is to say, the doctrine of the epistles to the Colossians and to the Ephesians* (according to which there is neither Jew nor Greek, but both have been brought nigh in one new man in one body, through the power of the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven) is excluded from all application to earth, and from special application to the time from Christ's first coming to the second. But I go farther than this; and I add, that Romans 11, which is declared to afford special instruction as to what the church is (nay, to supply the materials of scripturally defining it), does not apply to the church at** all properly as such: so entirely has this system mistaken the teaching of the word of God on the subject. Indeed, the being Abraham's seed is only a consequence to us of our being in the church.

{*So also Galatians 3:27.}

{**Great handle is made of this expression, as if, because any passage did not apply to the church as such, it was not for it. But this is the weakest idea possible. Instruction as to the Father's glory, as to Christ's millennial earthly glory, is for, but not about, the church. So instruction as to individual justification does not apply to the church as such, though the members of it in its fullest sense possess it; and it is for them. The church, as such, is not the subject treated of, although deeply concerned in it and affected by it as a dispensation.}

381 But first as to Romans 11. The epistle to the Romans does not treat properly of the doctrine of the church (that is, of the gathering of the assembly), but of the justification of the saints who compose it, connected with their spiritual life; and this applies to all saints in any possible circumstances, though the strain of reasoning adapted itself of course to those in which the apostle found himself. This closes, in the full amount of the blessedness of such, in chapter 8. But the apostle's doctrine on the subject having brought out the equal admission of Jews and Gentiles, the question of the faithfulness of God to His distinctive promises to the Jews naturally arose. To meet this, in chapter 9, he alleges the sovereignty of God, and that "Abraham's seed" did not impart, by absolute descent, the possession of privilege, for that then Ishmael and Esau should have shared it (whereas, in both cases, there was an election) - in a word, that, in conferring special favours, God had not abrogated His sovereignty; and that now He was pleased, according to it, to call Gentiles as well as Jews. In chapter 10 He shews that the nation had stumbled at the stumbling-stone; and that this disobedience of Israel, and testimony to others, had been prophesied of.

The question then arises, Had God cast off His people [Israel]? No. The gifts and calling of God were never repented of. Three proofs of this are given, by which also the administration of the promises on earth is explained. First, there is an election now. Next, the fall, by which salvation came to the Gentiles, was to provoke Israel to jealousy-therefore not to cast them off. Thirdly, the Redeemer would come to Zion, and turn away ungodliness from Jacob; when it would not be an election as now called, nor a provoking of some to jealousy by the call of the Gentiles on the fall of the nation, but all Israel (i.e., as a nation or body) would be saved: for God's gifts and calling were without repentance.

Now this was the order of the administration of promises on earth, and not the calling of the church, according to the mystery hidden from ages and generations, though the church came into this administration of the promises in the character of Gentiles* in contrast with Jews in a special way. This is evident to any spiritual mind on considering the statement: but that it is so, that it is not the doctrine of the church which is here considered, is quite clear from the consideration of the following points. By the church, I mean, now, the heavenly body united to Christ on high, and manifested on earth by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.

{*So that, if we would be indeed exact as to the arguing of this chapter, it rather intimates a Gentile character being attached to the nominal possessors of the promises, as we know has been the case, though it recalls to the original constitution, or rather Abrahamic promises, which set the Jews first: for the branches might in result be all Gentile, yet still they had been graffed into that root wherein the Jews had the first place in administration. But then in the church, according to its heavenly character, this had no sort of place.}

382 First, the Jews were natural branches, and the olive tree was their own olive tree. This clearly was not the church; no one was naturally in it. Even the unbelieving ones were in the olive tree and had to be broken off, so that they never formed part of the church gathered by faith, though they had ostensibly of the olive tree. Now unbelieving Jews formed, in no sense or way, a part of branch even of what the author of the tract describes the church to be; but they did of the olive tree; yet it was of that olive, existing long before, that the good branches continued a part. Nor, further, if they were living members of the church of God, could they be broken off. Nor are Gentiles graffed into the church in place of Jews: in the account we have of the church in Ephesians, both are brought in together into one new man. Next, the Gentiles, looked at as members of this body, could not be cut off; and still more would it be impossible to say that the Jewish branches, broken off through unbelief, could be graffed in again.

Considered as the earthly administration of promises, nothing is more simple. The Jews, as a nation, had been the depositaries of them. Then the unbelievers were broken off, and the election continued in them with clearer and better apprehensions. Gentiles became, at the same time, the depositaries of these promises in their administration here below. This system, being unfaithful, would be cut off; and the Jews will be received again to be the depositaries of them in yet another condition, but which, note, will not then be the church either. Proofs might be multiplied from the chapter; but these must suffice for any spiritual mind. But the painful conclusion is forced upon us, that the church, by this system, is reduced to the mere earthly administration of promises, or else is excluded from the earth; and what is affirmed to be its scriptural definition entirely excludes the doctrine of Ephesians and Colossians.

383 This is a very serious point. It is a denial of the true scriptural doctrine of the church of God, and deprives us (unawares to the author, no doubt) of our own proper place, and blessing, and privilege, in union with Christ our exalted Head. Further, I have stated that we are Abraham's seed in consequence of being in the church. This is plainly shewn from Galatians 3, where the apostle presses that Christ is the only seed of Abraham, "and to thy seed, which is Christ." His, therefore, are the promises. If, therefore, we be Christ's, then are we Abraham's seed. That is, Christ having taken up alone in His own Person all the promises, we come in, if united to Him, into the inheritance of them. We are Abraham's seed, because we belong to the church (that is, are united to Christ as our Head). But the union of the church with Christ is much more than this.

There is another statement in this paragraph, which imports a great deal, though probably it attracts little attention; but it confirms what has been alleged of the entire exclusion of the special instruction of Paul's epistles on the doctrine of the church - I mean the following: "If we would define the church as it now exists upon this earth, from the time of Christ's first coming, resurrection, and ascension, to His second coming," etc. Now, were it merely "Christ's first coming to His second," it would not have called for remark, as expressing merely the general period. But here there is intentional precision, and the epochs are distinctly designated, "first coming, resurrection, ascension"; so that the definition of the church as it now exists is carefully applied to them all. That is, that the definition of the church,* as it now exists, is as applicable to the disciples during Christ's ministry, after His resurrection and before His ascension, and after the last event, as it is to their state after the descent of the Holy Ghost; which last important event is wholly excluded from forming any epoch in the existence of the church. Hence, too, naturally enough, the author continues: "We should say, they are a body of believing Jews."

{*And the term "church," otherwise than as it now exists, implied to be applicable to an entirely other state of things.}

384 Now, if I take up the account given of the church in the Ephesians, is it possible to reconcile it with this? What is there described and defined as the church is a state of things impossible to exist before the death and resurrection of Christ as its basis, and the presence of the Holy Ghost as its formative and maintaining power. Any definition we could give of it according to Ephesians supposes these two things. The Spirit of God there treats Jew and Gentile as alike children of wrath, speaks of the middle wall of partition as broken down by the cross of Jesus, the actual exaltation of Jesus above all principality and power, and we to be raised and exalted with Him, and both Jew and Gentile reconciled in one new man, in one body by the cross, and "builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit," so that there is one body and one Spirit; and declares, consequently, that "now unto principalities and powers in heavenly places is made known by the church the manifold wisdom of God." Moreover, while (by its union with its Head as the heavenly ascended man), heavenly, it exists now upon earth, and "increaseth with the increase of God," by "that which every joint supplieth." It is where, as we learn in the Galatians, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, but all are one in Christ Jesus."* There is no single idea presented by the Holy Ghost in the account of what the church is, which is not negatived and neutralised by the statement we are considering. The Holy Ghost, come down from heaven, unites it to its glorified Head there, and thus it exists on earth; while it is heavenly, belonging to, and witnessing the character of, that place where it will be displayed in glory, and where its Head, whence it derives its being and power by the Holy Ghost, actually is.

{*It is somewhat singular, and shews the extreme prepossession of mind and blinding effect of this system, that the passage of scripture in which we are said to be Abraham's seed (Gal. 3:29) is preceded by a statement of the Holy Ghost, that we have "put on Christ," that "there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free," etc., but we are all "one in Christ Jesus." In the writer's statement we are declared to be Abraham's seed, and a body of believing Jews, Gentiles being associated by grace. I would beg the reader to compare the passage in Galatians with the writer's statement (pp. 38, 39 of the tract).}

There are two great truths dependent on this doctrine: the church united to Christ in glory accomplished hereafter; and meanwhile, as far as existing or developed on earth, the habitation of God through the Spirit. This is its calling, of which it is to walk worthy - a calling clearly impossible in its very nature, till the descent of the Holy Ghost made it such a habitation. The truth is, the whole basis of the system here commented on is an absolute ignorance of the doctrine and calling of the church of God as given in Scripture - an ignorance not difficult to be borne with as such - we have all been in it; but, when imposed as light and truth, to the condemnation of the instructions of God's own word, it has to be met, not so much by defending what is in Scripture as if it were one's own opinion, as by exposing distinctly that the claim set up to instruct and enlighten is at best ignorance, and too often fighting against the plain and blessed truth of God.

385 I have not a complaint to make against the writer of this tract on Daniel 7, but everything kind and gracious to acknowledge personally in manner; but, having set himself forward here to propagate this system, his writings come under review as upholding it.

There is much, I judge, in reading the tract, unfounded; and I have seldom read so much assertion without proof; but it is not my object to comment on more than this very important passage.

Reaching round the sea more or less by conquests, has nothing whatever to do with rising out of the sea. The whole idea is a plain fallacy.

I see no similarity in the Son of man coming to the Ancient of days, and the rod of His power being sent out of Zion, though one may depend on the other.

No reason is given why we are to avoid considering verses 13 and 14, as subsequent to the destruction of the beast. It may be true; and I by no means resist it; but all is without proof. Bringing to the Ancient of days to receive the kingdom is not, as is recognised, His coming in clouds; nor is there any proof that it immediately precedes. The statement that the making His foes His footstool is accomplished by God before they are set as a footstool under Christ's feet, which takes place by the investiture, is one which has not the smallest possible pretence of Scripture to warrant it, and is, indeed, contrary to the evident force of Psalm 110, which does not speak at all of accomplishing the making the foes a footstool, and then subsequently putting them under Christ's feet or investing Christ with the power to crush them: not such a thought is found in Scripture in any part of it. Nor is it shewn that the Ancient of days coming, and the Ancient of days sitting in verse 9, are the same thing.

386 The writer seems to be unaware, that eminent writers on prophecy have taken Nebuchadnezzar's madness as a mystic time. He treats it as such nonsense as to disprove the whole system. It may be wrong, but cannot be assumed to be nonsense in this way. Mr. Faber thinks it so right that, if my memory serves me, he makes it the groundwork of all his computations.

I will add, that in page 37, association with Christ in the kingdom-glory is spoken of as an intimation of union and Christ's death and resurrection as that in which it is brought out. I notice this, not to oppose it, though it is extremely ambiguous, but as shewing how union with Christ exalted by the Holy Ghost is everywhere left out.

My object here, however, is not to comment on these statements, but to rest on the one point - to draw the attention of the saints of God to what the real view of the church which is maintained by this system is: that is, that the real blessed union of the church with Christ exalted, by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, is entirely denied or unknown. I am satisfied that, to a really spiritual intelligent mind, the simple reading of the passage I comment on would be more effectual than any argument. What I have added may only awaken attention in comparing it with Scripture, and shew what it is sought to reduce us to. There may be a unity in heaven in which, as far as appears, all saints of all times will be found; but "the church, as it now exists on earth, is a company of believing Jews, with Gentiles added"; and this applies to Christ's first coming, resurrection, and ascension. Now, that the saints will all be gathered into everlasting blessedness, as partaking of Christ as their life, and redeemed by His blood, according to the counsels of God, and conformed to the image of His Son, is owned. It has been attempted to be charged on those who hold just views of the church that they denied this, or that it was not founded on the blood of Christ as to some, or on wrong views of the life by which they lived. Most unfoundedly. They are all redeemed by blood, and all quickened with divine life.

But the doctrine insisted on is this: That, Christ having broken down the middle wall of partition by His death, and ascended up on high and sat down on the right hand of God, and thus presented the full efficacy of His work in the presence of God, the Holy Ghost has come down and united together believers in one body, thus united to Christ as one body; which body is in Scripture designated the church or assembly of God, and is His habitation through the Spirit. In this, as founded on the risen and exalted Saviour, and united to Him, as seen on high, by the Holy Ghost, there is neither Jew nor Greek. Christ, so exalted, is entirely above these distinctions. Jew or Greek are alike brought nigh as having been children of wrath, by the blood of that cross by which the middle wall of partition has been broken down. To make the church a company of believing Jews with Gentiles added to them, and Abraham's seed their proper definition, entirely shuts out this divine teaching; because the position given to the church in Ephesians entirely precludes their being looked at as Jews; and the character of "Abraham's seed" comes in merely to shew they are true heirs of promise, because they are Christ's, who is the Seed of Abraham and Heir of the promises. But, most clearly, this is altogether the lower ground on which to speak of Christ, in comparison with His glorious exaltation at the right hand of God, on which the church as such is founded.

387 Further, it is equally evident, that the church as one body existing on earth, though heavenly in privilege and character, takes its place consequent on the work of the cross, the exaltation of Jesus to the right hand of God, and the coming down of the Holy Ghost. No one can read the Ephesians attentively without seeing this. Hence, to give any definition of the church which implies its existence (other than in the counsels of God), which speaks of its existence on earth during the life of Christ on earth, or previous to His exaltation and the descent of the Holy Ghost, denies its nature and sets aside its character. The church, as we are taught in the Ephesians, is the one body, formed and maintained by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, consequent on the exaltation of Christ to the right hand of God. I add no further comment, having stated the doctrine of the word as presented in the epistles, and compared the statement of this tract with it. If this system be admitted, the saints are deprived of their proper and blessed privileges, and the view of their present condition, as compared with their calling, will be equally enfeebled and set aside. Abraham's seed we are individually, whatever the condition of the church, and believing Jews or added Gentiles, whether we walk in unity or have the power of the Spirit or not.

[END OF PROPHETIC - VOL. 3.]