“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” — Isaiah 8:20.
Young christian. — Good morning, my aged friend, Evangelist. I am glad to see you, as I am thinking of joining the Salvation Army, and I should be very thankful of your judgment on this matter. I really desire to do the will of God; and especially I do wish to obtain the holiness they preach of so much.
Evangelist. — If I can, by the help of the Holy Spirit, aid you in reference to such a serious step, it will give me the greatest pleasure. What are their doctrines? What do they say of Christ? Do they teach you to believe implicitly His blessed words? Do they teach justification by faith? Do they believe in His finished work? Do they believe in the eternal redemption of all believers by His blood? Do they believe what Jesus says about eternal life? Do they believe the grace of God, the free, unmerited favour of God? Do they teach you to obey Christ? Do they believe the Lord Jesus, as to the necessity of the new birth?
Y. C. You astonish me, to ask such questions; surely they believe and teach all these, or it would be a bad look-out for me to join them. But here is the very book; see you! “The Doctrines and Discipline of the Salvation Army.” By the General. Head-quarters.
E. — That is the very book that will answer all these questions. Well, sit you down, and take the book in your hand; and I will sit down, with God’s word in my hand; and let us calmly, in the fear of the Lord, examine all these questions. Now read on, until we come to these important, vital questions.
Y. C. — Read section 1: “God.” Section 2: “Jesus Christ is God.” Section 3: “The fall: How we became sinners.” Have you anything to say as to all this?
E. — I am thankful to hear very much you have read. So far, I judge, even Roman Catholics would agree: indeed all Christians. The true divinity of Christ is of great, of all, importance, and also the true personality and Godhead of the Holy Ghost; only, if you look at page 3, the Holy Ghost is spoken of as an object of worship. I do not find that in the scriptures. What is your next section on?
Y. C. — Redemption is the next, page 15. I will read on. “1. What is the meaning of redemption? Redemption means to redeem, or deliver, from bondage by sacrifice. To get out of pawn by payment of a price. So Christ seeks to redeem our souls from the claims of the broken law and from sin, and Satan, and hell, by the payment of His own blood.” Is not this strictly according to scripture?
E. — I have not so read it. What I read is this: “but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” There is a great difference between Christ seeking to redeem us, and having obtained eternal redemption for us. My soul rests on the blessed fact that He came to do the Father’s will; and He has done it, never to be repeated. “Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with the blood of others,” &c. Yes, the work is done, the will of God is done: “By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” He is not seeking to do it. “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God.” It may well suit Rome to say He is seeking to do it, and thus make way, by-and-by, for the sacrifice of the Mass, in which He seems to be seeking to redeem us. No, He is not now seeking to redeem — the work is finished; He has sat down. According to Rome, it is not finished, but is repeated, or continued, in the sacrifice of the Mass. I am anxious we should see distinctly to which side the Salvation Army leans — to Rome, or to the finished work of Christ, unchanging and immutable. Yes, “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” Read Hebrews 9, 10. May I ask, Do you find anything in the writings of the Army about eternal redemption, or being “perfected for ever”?
Y. C. — No, I cannot say that I do. But surely they fully accept the truth of the finished work of Christ! I will read on. 2. “What does God seek to accomplish for our race in the work of redemption?” Does the scripture speak of the redemption of our race, that is, all men?
E. — Certainly not. Only we must remember the difference between being bought and redeemed. A slave may be bought, and still be a slave. But to be redeemed, is to be not only bought, but actually brought out of slavery into freedom. Redemption of the race is again the doctrine of Rome, not of the scriptures. As the propitiation, Christ died for the world. God is glorified in proclaiming pardon to all (Rom. 3:22), “unto all, and upon all, them that believe . . . being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3:24.) Who are these — the race? Are they justified? “In whom we have [the saints in Christ at Colosse] redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Col. 1:14; Eph. 1:7.) Can the race say this? Can any unconverted man say that he has redemption through the blood of Christ?
Y. C. — No, I see that: if all the world were redeemed, all would be delivered from the slavery of sin, and it is plain they are not. It seems almost to make redemption nothing to say the race is redeemed. It is a most blessed thing for a believer to know that he has eternal redemption. Somehow, I think I should not like to give that up. But what is this (page 16)? 6. “What is the meaning of the word Atonement” “The word means ‘at-one-ment,‘ and it signifies the way which Jesus Christ opened, in order that God aid man, now separated by sin, may be re-united, and made one again.” Is this so? It sounds strange.
E. — This is remarkable. Why it is the very doctrine of Rome again. I have just been reading it in Dr. Döllinger, perhaps the clearest writer the Church of Rome has. It really sets aside true expiation for sin. The word ‘atonement’ is never found in the New Testament, except once, and that is a mistranslation. (Rom. 5:11.) We could not receive the atonement, but we do receive its effect — reconciliation. I could understand it, if a Roman Catholic had written this; but surely the writer knows that ‘at-one-ment’ is English, and that the Hebrew word is caphar. It is found ninety-eight times in the Old Testament. Get your Hebrew Concordance and find me one single instance where it can mean ‘at-one-ment,’ or union of two persons, as God and man: It means, “to cover;” hence it is used in the covering of the ark. (Gen. 32:20.) But in its connections, as you may see in Exodus and Leviticus, it can only mean real expiation for sin; types of the expiatory death of Jesus putting away our sins — covering them by that death, to be seen no more. All these types were needed, to show the infinite value of that expiation. It is Christ on the cross, forsaken of God. See Daniel 9:24: “To make reconciliation [the same word as is translated “atonement” elsewhere in the Old Testament] for iniquity.” Can this possibly mean ‘at-one-ment’? And so in many other cases. We are reconciled, brought back to God, as the effect of the atonement. But this is not sinful man at one with God; but his sins, borne in awful judgment on the cross, once.
Y. C. — But there are many scriptures quoted, and if the Army believes them, they must hold expiation.
E. — That looks so, but do you not see the false definition? ‘at-one-ment’ perverts every passage, as these scriptures do not mean that at all; just as the redemption of the race perverts its true meaning for those who are believers. There are many precious scriptures quoted, and much truth also, but so mixed up, exactly as it is in the records of the Council of Trent, and by Roman Catholic writers. I am astonished at the similarity in some cases.
Y. C. — Well, to return (see page 19). Why, a number of scriptures are given to prove that Christ is the Redeemer of the race! How are these perverted? I will read a few — those passages which are quoted of Christ as being the Redeemer of the race: — “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things,” &c. (1 Pet. 1:18-19.) “For ye are bought with a price.” (1 Cor. 6:20.) “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” (Eph. 1:7.) “Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28;) “ For thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people.” (Rev. 5:9.)
E. — Is it not most careless, or wilful misapplication of scripture, to say that these scriptures speak of the redemption of the race? Clearly each text, and its context, speaks of believers only — the church of God redeemed out of the race. And this is a specimen of the utter carelessness, or ignorance, with which the word of God is dealt with. No intelligent Christian will doubt for a moment that, by the propitiatory death of Christ, God was so glorified as to sin, that the mercy-seat was opened to the whole world, and pardon proclaimed, through Jesus, to every creature. But not one scripture can be found that speaks distinctly of substitution for sins, or redemption, that does not strictly refer only to believers. Read carefully Isaiah 53:5, 6, 8, 11, 12; Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 15:3; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 1:3; 9:27, 28, and many others. Indeed, could there be worse confusion than to speak of the church of God as the human race? No doubt this is the principle on which Rome acts, and all who copy Rome. Hence the whole population is regarded as the church; not so by the word of God.
Y. C — Then, if I understand you, through the death of Jesus pardon is preached to all, and all who believe are surely pardoned and justified; and they only can say, “We have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins;” and they alone compose the church.
E. — Certainly; search through each epistle, and see if this is not so. Well, we now come to
Election (page 27).
Will you read through this article. It is exactly as might be expected, just what a Romanist would write, word for word, except those awful words you read (page 34). Surely no Romanist would go so far. “We know He (God) hates sin, and we believe that He is doing His utmost to get people saved from committing it; and we know also that He fails, because He has such a wretched, cowardly set of soldiers to fight for Him. With true soldiers, and plenty of them, we have every reason to conclude that He would soon drive sin out of the world. Let us help Him.” I solemnly ask, Is this holy reverence of God, or is it dreadful profanity? God is represented as a poor thing, that fails to do what He wants to do, for want of a better army. And are you going to join this profanity? No wonder that the writer should sneer at Election, and mix it up with the supposed human doctrine of reprobation, which the evangelists, that he most opposes, do not teach. I do not feel it would be profitable to follow him in these perversions of holy scripture on this subject.
Y. C. — But what do evangelical Christians teach on this subject — what do you believe?
E. All that God has spoken — both that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16); and also that “God hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world,” &c. (Eph. 1:4.) The Arminian seems to believe only one of these truths; the Calvinist only the other; but, as a Christian, I surely believe both. As I have lately written a tract on “Election,” I would refer you to that small pamphlet. The gospel supper was ample, and all were invited, but all refused. Then infinite, sovereign grace compels some, even the most hell-deserving, to come in. Oh, the riches of His grace!
Y. C. — We will now read section 8, page 38 — The Holy Ghost.
E. — Do you not observe the same mistake again? It is to the race, not to the church; indeed the writer seems entirely ignorant of what Jesus said, when He promised to send the Holy Ghost — “Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him.” (John 14:17.) Neither does he seem to have the least idea that the Holy Ghost came, consequent on the finished work of redemption, to form the church, the body of Christ, on earth. (John 7:39; Acts 2:1-4; 1 Cor. 12:13.) “For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body.” But, my young friend are you willing to give all this up?
Y. C. — Well, I must confess there is very much I do not yet understand as to the distinction between the church and the race, or world; and also as to the Holy Ghost.
X — I do not doubt that; but is that any reason why you should turn your back on the word of God, and plunge into such ignorance of its truths as this book displays?
Y. C. — But let us now come to a foundation question. I see we have omitted section 6 — “The Finished Work of Christ” — page 24. I will read it.
E. — Indeed the finished work of Christ — my precious Saviour, Jesus — is what my soul rests upon, for time and for eternity — my only foundation. Take away this, and I have nothing. “It is finished.” Jesus said it, and bowed His head, and gave up the Ghost. Yes, so finished is that work the Father gave Him to do, that He, “When he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Heb. 1:3.) Yes, “Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures.” (1 Cor. 15:1.) God hath raised Him from the dead, in proof that His work is finished; so that He is raised for our justification. (See Rom. 4:24, 25.) And God says, “their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” Read Hebrews 10:12-17. But as Rome throws a doubt on all this, I shall not be surprised if the writer does the same thing. With Rome, Christ offered an imperfect sacrifice, that still needed man’s penance, and the repeated, or continued, sacrifices of the Mass. But read on.
Y. C. — I am almost ashamed to read such words, they really do seem to throw a slight on the finished work of Christ. 1. “You will sometimes hear people talk about the finished work of Christ. What is meant by it? That Christ, when He died on the cross, put Himself in the place of the sinner, and bore the exact amount of punishment which he deserved, thus actually paying the debt that the sinner owed divine justice. And if the sinner will only believe this, he is for ever free from the claims of the law, and can never be brought into condemnation, either here or hereafter. Is this so? We think not.” Well, I must say, this seems to me dreadful.
E. — These words do not truthfully represent, the way in which the gospel is preached; or, if evangelists use the paying of a debt, it is used to illustrate our sins. Forgiveness of sins is preached to sinners: “Through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by him all that believe are justified from all things,” &c. (Acts 13:38, 39); stripped of such words as merely throw dust in the eyes, such as the “exact amount of punishment,” words which no Christian should use of the infinite atonement of Christ. Let us, then, put it thus: I, as a sinner, deserving to be cast into hell, believe that God laid all my sins on Jesus; that He bare them in His own body on the tree; that for my sake, bearing my iniquities, He was forsaken of God. He bore the whole judgment and wrath of God due to me, in my stead. My sins were all transferred to Him, as in figure the sins of Israel were all transferred to the goat on the day of atonement. (Lev. 16.) I am sure that God has accepted that one infinite sacrifice, in that He has raised up Jesus from the dead for the express purpose of my justification. Did He thus put Himself in my place on the cross? Is this so? The writer answers, “We think not.” I do not believe him, nor all his Romish reasons for saying, “We think not.” Believing God, I have peace with God. Believing the writer, I should sink into Romish darkness and despair. I say Romish, for there is not an argument used here on these foundation points that is not to be found in the records of the Council of Trent, or other Romish works.
There is not a Jesuit in England that will not be delighted thus to see the finished work of Christ set aside. Once receive the blessed testimony of scripture, that the believer is for ever perfected by the one infinite sacrifice of Christ, and the Church of Rome and the Salvation Army crumble to the dust. Again, I ask, will you give up the finished work of Christ to join the Salvation Army? I do not pursue the reasons why they reject the doctrine of “the literal payment of the sinner’s debt;” or, in other words, the very real substitution of Christ for my sins. It is enough for me that it is the only scriptural foundation for my salvation.
Y. C. — Well, it is indeed terrible to set aside the real substitution of Christ for our sins, call them debts, or what you like; and certainly this is so. And yet, you see, on page 26 they speak of their “correct view of the atonement,” that the sacrifice of Christ “did make it possible for the love and pity of God to flow out to man, by forgiving all those who repent, and return in confidence to Him,” &c. And they still say, further, “The alone ground, or merit, of our salvation, from first to last, is to be ascribed to the love of God, as displayed in the work and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”
E. — All this looks very fair, but, as with Rome, it is entirely neutralised by other deadly errors. The sacrifice of Christ is said to be of infinite value; and then, instead of presenting the believer for ever perfected, as Hebrews 10, as we have seen, it reduces His sacrifice to the lowest possible value. It just, or barely, along with man’s repentance, makes it possible for God to save the believer. It is the exact opposite of Hebrews 9, 10. Then, again, the love of God, displayed in the sacrifice of Christ is not in scripture the alone ground, or merit, of our salvation; it is that atoning death, not merely displaying the love, but meeting also all the righteous claims of God on both our sin and sins! It is the mixture of truth with error that makes these doctrines so dangerous. You will see this, if we read
Conditions of Salvation.
Y. C. — I will do so. Page 43.
E. — Is not much of this in direct contrast with scripture? And does not the writer take distinct side with Rome, and reject the blessed truth of justification by faith, as restored at the Reformation?
Is not repentance put as the condition, or price, of salvation? Repentance is first; the blood of Christ, second (page 45): “A thorough repentance brings a complete forgiveness.” (Page 47.) Thus repentance leads to the goodness of God and a man believing he has repented enough, may then believe he is saved; if thorough, God will forgive him. By this device of Satan, millions are kept in uncertainty.
Y. C. — But did not the apostles preach the same way?
E. — No, the very opposite. They taught that it is the goodness of God that leadeth to repentance. (Rom. 2:4.) Did Peter preach repentance first, or the goodness of God in sending Jesus — His death and resurrection? He preached that God had raised up from the dead that same Jesus whom they had rejected and crucified. “God hath made that same Jesus both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2.) The Holy Ghost used this to convict them of the dreadful sin they had committed; and they said, “What shall we do?” After this repentance comes in its true place, or order. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost . . . Then, they that gladly received his word were baptised.” Now, is not this the order? The earth rejected Christ — the dead, risen, and ascended Saviour — first. Then the Holy Ghost, convicting of sin; this leads to repentance and confession of Christ in baptism. But their repentance was evidently a complete change of mind, and a judging of themselves, and all they had done: this will produce self-abhorrence, but also an entire change of mind about God. On the one hand, there was their own wickedness, which they looked at with horror; on the other, God’s goodness in their forgiveness, which filled their hearts with gladness. But all this was not through feelings of their own, but by receiving his word. As Peter says, long after this: “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God,” &c. (1 Pet. 1:23.)
Y. C. — I never thought before of the order and place of repentance. Is the same order always observed by the apostles?
E. — Invariably it is so. Christ is preached first. “Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” (Acts 8:5.) And what wondrous effects were produced by that preaching! And mark, it is the one sinner who had professed to believe the gospel that is commanded to repent of his wickedness. So Philip to the eunuch: he “opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached Jesus.” He did not begin by preaching repentance as the price of salvation. So in Paul’s conversion, Christ reveals Himself to him; repentance followed, no doubt. So to Cornelius and his company; Peter preaches Jesus to them, and then says, “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43.) Yet this is expressly declared to be how God granted to these Gentiles repentance unto life. (Chap. 11:18.) Surely this is conclusive. Read also carefully Paul’s celebrated preaching at Antioch. (Acts 13.) Again it is God sent Jesus — His rejection, death, and resurrection; then forgiveness of sins proclaimed to all, and all that believe declared to be justified from all things. (Vers. 38, 39.) Compare also his preaching at Philippi. (Chap. 16:14, to the end.) Did he tell the jailer, that before he could preach Jesus to him, or forgiveness of sins, he must re pent first? No doubt he did repent, but the message from God was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” But in chapter 17:2, 3, the manner of Paul’s preaching is distinctly named. Is it not reasoning with them out of the scriptures? — “Opening and alleging that Christ must needs have suffered, and have risen from the dead; and that this Jesus [Saviour] whom I preach unto you is Christ.” “And some of them believed.” If we would see the effect of this manner of preaching Christ, we only need to read 1 Thessalonians 1. See what repentance — what a change of mind! — “Turned to God from idols, to serve the living God; and to wait for his Son from heaven.”
Y. C. — But do you mean that Paul did not preach repentance?
E. — Far from it. See the very chapter before us, He says to Athenian worshippers of idols, “but now God commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” (Chap. 17:30.) But please notice, is this the beginning, or the end, of this discourse? Is it put as cause, or effect? Before he announces God’s command to men to repent, he had so fully preached the gospel, as usual, that they said, “He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods; because he preached unto them [repentance? No, but first] Jesus and the resurrection.”
Yes, this is the divine order — Jesus and the resurrection; forgiveness of sins through Jesus then God’s command to all men to repent.
Y. C. — But what would you make of the great commission of Christ, in Luke 24:45-47? Were not the apostles to preach repentance and remission of sins among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem?
E. — I am thankful you have referred me to that scripture. If we follow this order, all is right; if we reverse it, as Rome and the Army by placing penance, or the penitent form, first, then all is wrong, as we shall be sure to try to rest in the sufficiency of our penance, or repentance, first, in order to believe in Christ. Now mark the order — it is the risen Christ that speaks: “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day.” This is the first part of the commission — to show to souls what is written as to the necessity of the death; and not only the death, but the resurrection, of Jesus from the dead. This the Army never does first. Then the second part is — “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations,” &c. Let this order be observed, and then we cannot press true repentance and forgiveness too much. But as Rome denies the free grace of God, by putting penance the first, as a condition of the favour of God; so the Army puts the penance, or penitent form. The result is, their faith rests, first, in their repentance; then, secondly, in the blood of Jesus Christ. Thus they say, “The faith that saves a sinner speaks in this wise: God has promised to forgive those that repent, and come to Him, through the blood of Jesus Christ His Son. I repent, and come to Him, trusting only to the blood of Jesus Christ for mercy,” &c. I repent: this is the foundation; all that is said of Christ comes on this, or after this. And mark, this is not merely defended in a sentence or two; but perhaps there is not a more able or bitter denial of the free grace of God, in print, than an article bearing the name of Mrs. Booth: “Dealing with an Anxious Soul.” She speaks of the bitter consequences of directing a soul to Christ, as having paid their debt, and done everything for them. The conditions of salvation now are just the same as under law, the forsaking of all evil, turning the face toward God, and intensely desiring His favour and love, as to be willing to give up all evil, as a condition of attaining it. That Christ only “did His own work, not mine . . . but I nowhere read that He repented, and turned to God, and did works meet for repentance, and believed so for me. This He commands every soul to do for itself, or perish.” (Pages 76, 77.) Eternal salvation, is wrought on the cross, is entirely ignored. “And until a soul is willing to let Him save it from sin, He cannot save it.”
Mark Mrs. Booth’s “Conditions of Salvation: ” “Observe here what a deal has to be done in the soul before it can receive forgiveness of sins. Its eyes must be opened — to what? Its own sinfulness, and danger, and misery. Then, under the sight of this, it must be turned right round from the embrace or desire of evil, to the embrace or desire of righteousness (though yet powerless to do, it must choose and desire righteousness). The attitude of the will must change with respect to evil and good. It must turn round from the one to the other in purpose and desire. Then it must be turned from committal to the power of Satan unto God. It must abjure Satan as its rightful sovereign, and at least will to put itself under the power of God — and all this in order that it may receive forgiveness of sins.”
Y. C. — But does not all this take place at the new birth?
E. — Truly it does, The Holy Spirit using the preaching of Christ, as we find in the Acts and epistles. But mark the difference. The scriptures make all this the effect of the gospel by the Spirit. Mrs. Booth makes it the work of the dead sinner, and she actually adds, “This is made an absolute condition of its receiving forgiveness of sins.” (Page 80.) Further, in her attack on justification by faith, she says, “Therefore, when Paul speaks of faith only being necessary to a sinner’s justification, he must always assume that these conditions are complied with.” And when a soul is turned from darkness to light, then it is to be the privilege and joy to point him to the Lamb of God!! And we are to beware of the opposite of this, as, “with this untempered slime of the old serpent half the superstructure of the professing church is joined together.” (Page 79.) I can only understand this article as hatred to the gospel of the free grace of God. But to return to your book — “Doctrines of the Salvation Army.”
Y. C. — Yes, I shall be glad if you will turn to page 46. You have expressed the thought that these doctrines are essentially the same as those of Rome. Can you prove it?
E. — If you look carefully at that page, you find three-fourths to be sugar, that the deadly poison of Rome, at the bottom, may be swallowed unperceived. In No. 13, the death of Christ is the only ground of faith for a sinner before God. Very sweet, and also its answer. Then (No. 14) what is the meaning, of the passage, “faith is counted [or] imputed to him for righteousness”? (Rom. 4:5, 22.) I suppose few Protestants would care to object to the answer: “These expressions simply mean that, being without any righteousness in which to appear before God, He accepts our faith in Christ instead. That is, that as God treated Christ as the sinner for our sakes, so He treats those who believe on Him as though they were righteous, for His sake.” This is not, however, as scripture puts this great question. In this explanation it is something of our own — “our faith” — that God accepts. In the word it is not so; but God has accepted Christ, and the work He has accomplished; and it is believing that. It is believing, in this case, not Christ, but believing God, “that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” It is thus we are justified, or accounted, reckoned, righteous before God; and on this ground we have peace. (Rom. 4:24, 25.) God raising Christ from the dead for our justification, is a very different thing from accepting our faith.
Y. C. — That is very important. If Christ was raised from the dead for our justification, it is strange that that is entirely omitted in their doctrine. But now for the poison.
E. — You will now read No. 15, page 46. “Is there not another higher meaning than this? Yes. These, (Rom. 5:5), and kindred passages also teach that faith is counted for righteousness, because it is God’s means of making us actually righteous. In this sense we are justified, that is, made just by faith.”
This is the exact doctrine of Rome: “The sole formal cause is the justice (righteousness) of God; not that by which He Himself is just, but that by which He maketh us just.” (Council of Trent, sess. 6., chap. 7.) Thus the doctrine of the Army and of Rome is identical. Now compare this with Romans 3:19-24. Here we are all guilty; and the righteousness of God is what He is, through and by the redemption and propitiation of Christ. God is righteous in justifying us freely, not by any conditions imposed on us, but by His free, unmerited favour. “Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3:24.) Could there be a more flat contradiction to the word of God? The scripture says the righteousness of God is what He is, and how He is just, and the Justifier. Rome and the Army say the opposite. It is not what God is, but what we are, “made just.” And mark, everything in Rome and the Army rests on this setting aside the true doctrine of justification by faith.
Y. C. — You surprise me. Do you mean to say that they deny that beautiful definition of justification in the Thirty-nine Articles?
E. — Entirely. There it is truly said, “We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith,” &c. They say we are made just, and if you read Romans 4 you will see which is the truth, not one word about our being made just. There is a singular audacity in this book of doctrine. Scripture is quoted to prove the very opposite of its plain meaning. Study carefully this text, which is said to mean, “We are justified, that is, made just.” “But to him that worketh not, but believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” Then read the full proof of this. Abraham and David believed God. Faith was reckoned for righteousness. Abraham believed the promise of God. Righteousness was reckoned unto him. We believe the promise of God has been fulfilled. We believe God has raised up from the dead the very One, Jesus our Lord, “who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” Righteousness is reckoned to us — that is, we are accounted righteous before God. This being the case, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus faith rests in God, through the finished work of Christ. Nothing of the kind, say Rome and the Army; and they practically set aside this blessed truth, so fully set forth in this scripture, by teaching it is not at all what Christ is to us, but God’s way of actually making us righteous. In this sense we are justified, not made just by faith. Thus the eye of faith is directed to self, as the higher meaning of justification. But the absurdity of this doctrine will be seen in the next section.
The Forgiveness of Sins (page 47).
Y. C. — I will read it.
1. “What is justification? The act wherein God, for Christ’s sake, pardons our sins, and receives us into His favour. 2. Do pardon and justification mean the same blessing? Yes, always in the Bible, when used in reference to our salvation,” &c.
E. — Here, observe, all is confusion, and contradiction to what has gone before. Is forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake the same as being made actually righteous, made just, by faith? Neither is it at all true that pardon and justification always mean the same thing, as stated here. Justification includes pardon, but goes beyond it. Read how David describes it: “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.” But is that all? No; he goes on: “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” (Rom. 4:7, 8.) And again, what is justification of life? (Rom. 5:18.) Though our life has been forfeited through sin, as explained in verse 12, yet now we have another life, a justified life, even the eternal life of the risen Christ — the same life as that risen Man seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high; and to every believer, looked at as in Him, there is no condemnation. In Him, nothing to forgive, nothing to condemn. (Rom. 8:1.) Justification reaches up to that point. It must be perfect, for whatever is of God must be perfect, and it is God that justifieth. Oh, the riches of His grace — free, unmerited grace! I shall not be surprised to find in this book, as with Rome, that justification is an imperfect thing, and may greatly be improved by our own holiness just as we find it in the Council of Trent.
Y. C. — But do we not fail? May not a believer, in a moment of temptation, even commit sin.
E. — Indeed he may; that we know, as to our walk, to our deep sorrow. But the question is this: Has that sin still to be condemned, judged on us; or has it been judged, condemned, and borne by Jesus, our propitiation? Our justification is of God. The risen Christ is our righteousness — nothing can ever touch that. As to our walk and communion, and our Father’s discipline, we need constant confession and forgiveness; and, through the intercession of our Advocate with the Father, this will always be the case, if we sin. (1 John 2:1, 2.) But this must not be confounded with the believer’s complete justification in the risen Christ. How little the difference between these two things is understood — our acceptance in Christ, and our walking acceptably to Him!
Y. C. — What, in a word, is the difference, then, on the subject of salvation between the Army and the word of God?
E. — The scriptures represent the grace of God bringing salvation to all men, and grace teaches godliness, &c. (Titus 2:11, 12.) The Army teaches, as we have seen, an act of their own will, their own repentance brings salvation. “A thorough repentance brings a complete forgiveness.” (Page 47.)
Y. C. — Well, I hope to search the scripture’s on this most important subject. I will now read the section on Conversion, page 49. Do you think they are sound and scriptural as to the new birth?
E. — I am compelled, in faithfulness, to say, on the new birth they are most unsound; indeed, though they quote the very scriptures that speak of it, yet they misunderstand, or misapply, them. With them, as with Rome, again, there is no new birth, no real new creation, but a change of the old man. “He makes him a new creature.” “It is like being made over again; like becoming a new creature; like being born again . . . It is very imperfect.” “Regeneration is the change of our nature . . . is a change in our character,” &c. Yet all, bear in mind, very imperfect, sin still left hanging about the soul. (Page 50.)
Y. C. — Well, what, then, is the scripture truth as to this foundation doctrine of the new birth?
E. — We will take the very first scripture they quote. (2 Cor. 5:17.) “Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold all things are become new.” And notice the next words, which they do not quote — “and all things are of God.” Is this like being made over again &c., and very imperfect? It is charging imperfection on God! for whatever the new birth, or new creation, is, it is wholly of God. If I take an old watch to the first firm in Liverpool, and I say, I want a new watch; and they, instead of this, make the old watch up over again and give it a new start, if even a new cover; that would be the old made over again. They might give it a good polish, but would that be wholly a new watch, a new creation, or the old thing, still very imperfect? It might be like a new one, like the new birth, as they say. Would it not be a disgrace to the firm? Is it not, then, a disgrace to any man thus to misrepresent God? The new birth is that which is born of the Spirit. Is that imperfect? It is not the old watch made over again, the flesh made over again. Read the words of Jesus: “That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit.” (John 3:6.) Not a thought of the flesh being changed, but an entirely new birth of the Spirit. A new heart, as in the scripture plainly referred to. (Ezek. 36:26.) And so, in 2 Corinthians 5, is it the old watch made over again? The old things are passed away, like an old watch that will not go, and behold, all things are become new; and all things are of God. No; the patchwork, the imperfect work, of the Army, being like a new creation is utterly false. It is the old watch made over again, that will not go. But the most serious thing is, that it so dishonours God. Can He do that which is imperfect? It is God who has begotten us again. (1 Peter 1:3.) And again, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.” (Chap. 5:23.) Satan may say, “Do not believe it is of God, and so incorruptible. No, it is corruptible, imperfect, sin hangs about it, and you may soon loose it.” Am I to believe Satan? God forbid. The new creation, or new birth, is of God, and therefore perfect. “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” (James 1:18.) It is not the will of the flesh, the will of man, turning itself to God; it is not of man, and imperfect. No, the sons of God are those “which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of many but of God.” (John 1:13.)
Indeed, the patchwork, like being born again of the Army, is as opposed to scripture as darkness is to light. It is darkness; and I grant, how great and how common in this day is that darkness! How few in this day hold the true scriptural doctrine, that the new birth is not the improvement of the old nature, the flesh, but a wholly new creation, and that of God; and therefore the child partakes of the divine nature. One would think that every Christian would see that the child always has the nature of the parent. How fully this is brought out in John’s first epistle (chap. 3:9): “Whosoever is born of God, doth not commit sin [or practise sin]; for his seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” This could have positively no meaning whatever, if the new birth is not of God, but of man’s will, and therefore imperfect. But, oh, how blessed, looked at as the new creation, wholly of God, born of God, having the divine nature. What a motive for holiness is here given! The Father is holy — it would surely be blasphemy to say He could practise sin. Thus, as born of Him, we have His nature, and as such cannot practise sin; and therefore, they who practise sin are not born of God. Many other scriptures show the believer to be a responsible person, who has yet to contend with the flesh in him, and to gain the victory through faith.
Y. C. — That just brings us to the question I desire to be clear upon above all others — “holiness,” as taught by the Salvation Army. But perhaps, before we enter upon it, we might stop here for the present. I should like prayerfully to consider all you have brought before me. It certainly seems very serious to put repentance before Christ, and forgiveness of sins and faith — the very reverse of scripture; and then to explain away true justification by faith in God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. According to this, a sinner is only justified so far as he is actually righteous. And then to say that the new birth, or new creation, is “very imperfect.” It certainly seems like taking away all that is essentially christian on these points. I am therefore most anxious to know if their teaching on holiness is scriptural, or not.
E. — As to all that has come before us, I only ask you to compare the doctrine of the Army with the word of God, even with the texts they themselves quote, or misquote. I have said I will not go over their profane way of handling the scriptures on Election. The same method of perversion would enable them to prove anything, or disprove every truth of God’s holy word. For the present, then, farewell. In our next conversation, if the Lord will, we will compare their teaching on “Holiness” with the word of God. We hope also, to examine other doctrines — such as their denial of the two natures, or the fact of the old nature remaining in the believer; eternal life as the present possession of the believer, &c. In all things may our God give us, by the Holy Ghost, unfeigned subjection to His word.
Evangelist. — Good morning, my young friend. I hope you have well and prayerfully considered the great truths on which we conversed lately — especially the important truths of justification by faith, the finished work of Christ, and the true doctrine of the new birth. I do not forget your desire for holiness, and that was your chief object in thinking to join the Salvation Army; but I am sure, if we have not right views of these foundation truths, we shall never have right thoughts of holiness.
Young Christian. — I am glad to have the opportunity of freely conversing with you again; and more so, because I see your object is not to attack the Salvation Army, but to defend the truth from the attacks of the Army.
E. — It is exactly so. I assure you I desire, by the help of the Lord, to keep you from the fatal mistakes and false teaching of the Army on almost every revealed truth. Then let us understand: I trust you have believed God, as we have seen in Romans 4:24, 25; Acts 13:38, 39, and that you know you are, on the testimony of God, justified from all things; and being justified, accounted righteous before God, you have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Have these glad tidings been applied to your soul by the Holy Ghost?
Y. C. — Yes, yes, bless God, they have, or I should not be a Christian — should I?
E. — Quite true. Then it would not be a light matter for you to give up simple faith in the finished work of Christ; His actual, infinite substitution for your very sins, and His actual resurrection for your justification. For my part I rest on this for eternity.
Y. C. — And so do I; and I am sure God, as you said, is my Justifier, and therefore my justification is perfect. Oh, what blessed peace!
E. — I rejoice to hear you thus speak. My reason for asking these questions is this: it is no use going on to the question of Holiness, or Sanctification, until you are quite sure you are a saved Christian. This being settled, and quite sure, then the first, or next, question is this: What is a Christian — holy, or unholy?
Y. C. — What is that? Holy, or unholy? I want to be holy in my walk.
E. — Surely you do, and so does every Christian. But I will illustrate what I mean. You say, I am quite sure I am an Englishman — I was born, as to my nationality an Englishman. But could you then say, I am most anxious to be an Englishman; I am thinking of joining some society to be an Englishman? Or take another illustration. A man says, I know with certainty that I am a soldier — I know the day I was enlisted; I wear the uniform: but, oh, I do so long to be a soldier. Would not the desire to be an Englishman, or a soldier, be a total mistake? If the one said, I long to acquit myself as an Englishman; or, I wish, said the other, to be an efficient soldier of Her Majesty’s army — very, very good. This, my young friend, was the mistake of the early earnest Jesuits. This is the mistake of the Salvation Army. They do not know what a Christian is; they are like the man longing to be a soldier, when he is one. They first charge God with effecting a very imperfect work in regeneration. (Page 50.) They then try to ridicule the scriptural doctrine of the two natures (pages 51 to 56); and then, from page 59 to 91, they tell you what Holiness, or Sanctification, is, and how it is to be obtained. The whole thing is as great a mistake as the soldier seeking how he may get to be a soldier.
Y. C. — I do assure you this is very new to me; do try to make it as plain as you can. Is not a Christian called to be holy?
E. — Just as a soldier is called to be an efficient soldier. But he must be, and is, a soldier by calling or enlistment first. Just as the Englishman is called to act — as an Englishman; but he must be an Englishman first by birth or adoption. Let us now turn to scripture. We will take the apostleship of Paul to explain this matter. “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.” (Rom. 1:1.) Do you notice the words, “to be,” are in italics; that is, they are not in the original. The literal translation is this — “an apostle by calling,” just like the soldier, “a soldier by enlistment, or calling.” Paul was not enlisted by the Lord to attain to apostleship at some future time, but he was there and then constituted an apostle. Surely he was called to act as such. Now look at Romans 1:7: “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called [to be] saints,” &c. It is the same here in the original; that is, just as with Paul being an apostle by calling — not called to attain to it; so here they were saints, “holy ones,” — for that is the meaning of “saints” — by calling. Thus, then when God calls or separates a sinner to Himself, He constitutes him there and then a holy one by that very act of separation. An Englishman, then, is so by birth. A Christian is holy by the new birth. In neither case is this a matter of attainment; and you will find the same truth in many other scriptures. “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.” It should be, “saints (holy ones), by calling.” This must be so, as they are sanctified in Christ Jesus. (1 Cor. 1:2.) “With all the saints [holy ones] which are in all Achaia.” (2 Cor. 1:1.) “To the holy ones which are at Ephesus.” So at Philippi, at Colosse, &c.
Y. C. — I begin to see it. They — that is, all Christians — are looked at as in Christ. Tell me, is this perfection in which they stand as sanctified in Christ Jesus so complete as to fit them for heaven? And is this true of all Christians?
E. — It is written, “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Col. 1:12.) “And you . . . hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy, and unblameable, and unreprovable in his sight.” (Vers. 21, 22.) “And ye are complete in him.” (Chap. 2:10.) Such is the standing of every regenerate soul in Christ, although the General calls it “very imperfect.” The dying thief did not find it very imperfect, “To-day,” says Jesus to him, “shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
Y. C. — What is the difference, then, between the scriptures and the Salvation Army?
E. — In the scriptures all Christians are born of God, and are made the partakers of the divine nature. And because they are born of God, they must have a standard of walk, or practical holiness, suited to their new holy nature. With the Army, both the nature and the standard is imperfect. We have seen, regeneration, though of God, is very imperfect, they say. And now I ask you to read their standard of holiness. (Page 63.)
Y. C. — I will begin with this question:
“What is sinless perfection? Such a state as that of Adam before his fall, wherein, he being a perfect creature, was enabled to render a perfect obedience to the perfect law of God.
Is it possible to attain to sinless perfection in this life? No! An imperfect creature cannot perfectly obey a perfect law, and man being imperfect, both in body and in mind, is plainly unable to keep the perfect law of God.
Does God require obedience to a law, the keeping of which He knows to be utterly impossible? No. We cannot imagine a benevolent Being requiring from us that which is impossible, and then condemning us for not doing it, &c.
What, then, is the law that He expects us to keep?
The law of love, as laid down and described by Jesus Christ, when He said, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart;’ or, in other words, love and serve God according to your knowledge and ability, and He will be satisfied.” (Page 63.)
E. — I ask you, did you ever read anything more contrary to scripture than this? And this the vaunted holiness of the Army! God is too good to expect anybody to keep the law. Yes, a standard lower than the law. What would the apostle James say to this? And a man doing the best he could, and God would be satisfied? Would he not say, If he offend in one point, he is guilty of all? (James 2:10.) The finished work of Christ is thus set aside, that which presents the believer holy and unblameable before God. And what have you instead of this? — a man doing his best, and God will be satisfied! Dare you trust your salvation to such teaching as this?
Y. C. — Indeed I dare not. But tell me, since the Christian is born of God, and has the nature of God his Father, and is meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, what is his standard of practical holiness?
E. — Turn with me to a few scriptures, and you will see that the standard to a Christian who is born of God is far higher than the law. In Matthew 5 you will find the standard of the law fully explained, up to verse 43. Then the Lord Jesus says, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,” &c . . . “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just, and on the unjust.” Thus grace is seen to be a much higher standard than law. The law was a righteous rule for man in the flesh, but grace is the display of the Father. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Oh, compare this with God not even expecting man to keep the law, but doing the best he can, and God will be satisfied! Again, “As obedient children . . . But as He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy, for I am holy; and if ye call on the Father,” &c. (1 Pet. 1:14-16.) “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ, also hath loved us.” (Eph. 5:1.) Look where you will, it is the relationship that gives the responsibility and the standard of obedience. And the power for that holy obedience is the Holy Ghost dwelling in us. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:2-4.)
Surely it is not worth while to wade through all this reasoning how to obtain this sanctification; such a holiness, that is even below the standard of the law, is not worth having.
Y. C. — But whilst they take so low a standard here — the lowest I over heard of, except the Jesuits — yet they speak in other parts as if sanctification meant the very eradication of sin from the old nature. Do they not quote very blessed scriptures?
E. — The scriptures are surely all right; but it is what they say about them that is all wrong. Their doctrine is the restoration of man to his Adam state. As in many places, page 77 is occupied in showing how man may get back to that state. They seem to have no knowledge of the infinitely superior place the believer has in Christ. (See Eph. 1:1-12.)
You will also notice that most scriptures they quote, as describing a sanctification to be attained to is the sanctified condition of all believers, such as Romans 6:6-11; Ephesians 5:25-27. Do not these scriptures describe the blessed position of all believers? Are not all believers addressed, “Elect of God, holy and beloved”? and every exhortation to practical holiness is on the ground that they “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.” (Col. 3:9-12.)
Y. C. — But would you not say that the Holy Ghost is a seal, or witness, to our devotedness and perfect love to God?
E. — Nowhere in scripture. No, He is a witness of the finished work of Christ, and that by it we are for ever perfected. (Heb. 10:12-15.) If I, then, seek for the Holy Spirit to bear witness to my self-righteousness, or my devotedness, I must set aside the infinite and eternal value of the one sacrifice of Christ. And this is the tendency of all this self-occupancy, called entire sanctification. And finding, when thus occupied with self, still much imperfection — indeed, nothing else in the flesh — then, as we have seen, the standard of holiness must be lowered — yes, even below the law!
Y. C. — Really it would seem as if the whole thing was a system of error. A very imperfect regeneration; an imperfect justification; the finished, infinite, all-sufficient work of Christ set aside; and, as with Rome, only justified as far as we are made just. But now, granted that the scripture doctrine is the opposite of all this — born of God; partakers of the divine nature; reckoned righteous before God, through our Lord Jesus Christ by faith, by grace, and not by works; sealed by the Holy Ghost, He dwelling in us what should be the character of our obedience?
E. — Just that to which we are sanctified, or set apart: “Elect, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience, and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus.” (1 Pet. 1:2.) Thus the Spirit separates us, all believers, to the obedience of Christ. Now the obedience of Christ, surely, was not like the obedience of the Army, to a lower standard than the law: it was the obedience of delight to do, the will of God; not merely doing the will of God, but delighting to do it. And, oh, what that will involve! Is this your standard of holiness — delighting to do the will of the Father, your Father? You may live to have three children. Let us say, John delights to do your will, you are so dear to him. James barely does your will, because of your authority. Peter says it is a matter of indifference, and yet is constantly talking of his great goodness, devotedness, and sacrifice. Now which is most like the obedience of our blessed Lord? And which is most unlike Him?
Y. C. — Certainly John is most like Jesus, in all His delight of heart to His Father’s will, and Peter most unlike Him. But what has this to do with the Salvation Army? Do they not teach the most implicit obedience?
E. — Yes, they teach in these books sent to me unquestioning, absolute obedience. But to whom — to Christ, or to the General? If the General orders a sanctified officer from one place to another, he must instantly obey. If he orders him to a town, he must not preach until he gets orders from head-quarters. He or she must not marry without the consent of the General. Obedience to this man must be absolute, exactly after the model of the Jesuits. But with all this talk about entire sanctification, or holiness, what is the measure of obedience to be rendered by the Army to Christ in His word? I crave your attention to that question. No one who reads with reverence the word of God can question that baptism is commanded by the Lord.
Now mark section 26. “3. Does the Army consider Baptism as a duty that must be performed?
Decidedly not. The Army only considers one baptism essential to salvation, and that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” Think of this, dear young Christian. Are you to obey Christ? “Decidedly not.” You are to act as the Army considers, treating Christ with indifference! If this be their holiness, the less of it you have the better.
Y. C. — You must misunderstand them. How could any person having the least pretension to Christianity speak in this manner? Can you give another instance of such disrespect for Christ?
E. — I am sorry to say the whole thing is in direct opposition to the express teaching of Christ. Did He not forbid His disciples to act as the kingdoms of this world, in taking the place of lordship over one another? Jesus said, “It shall not be so among you.” The General says it shall be so, and obedience to this unscriptural, forbidden lordship over a vast Army shall be a great fruit of your entire sanctification. Here you have pages of instruction of obedience to the antichristian lordship of the General.
Now we will compare this with the way the Lord’s dying request is treated. Was there not one request, above all others, that our precious Jesus gave, a few hours before He died for our sins? Oh, how tender the love that said, “Do, this in remembrance of me.” Now read section 26. 8. “What is the teaching of the Army on the subject of the Lord’s Supper?
When such an ordinance is helpful to the faith of our soldiers, we recommend its adoption.” Is there anything in print to surpass this for wickedness? The audacity for a mere man to tell his soldiers that when it is helpful to obey Christ, he recommends them to do it!”
“ 7. Is the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper essential to membership of the Army, or salvation? Certainly not,” &c. Put this plainly. Is loving obedience to the tender request of Jesus necessary to membership in the Army? Certainly not! Is it not evident, with such awful principles as these, the quotation of scriptures that speak of real holiness is only a blind?
Y. C. — I must say that is dreadful; and, just think, I was about to join all this. How different from the obedience of Christ! That is a precious thought, or rather scripture. It is beautiful to have Christ as our copy and example. But now, tell me, do we not often fail? Nay, in our obedience, do we ever come up to our copy? Like a child writing a copy, can we say we are like Him, then, if we fail?
E. — Oh, how perfect is the word of God! You notice, we are not only sanctified by the Spirit unto obedience of Christ, but also unto the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. The heart delights in holiness, delights to do the will of Christ. But we fail; and mark, as the sprinkled blood of the type was on the mercy-seat a year, so the blood of Jesus, sprinkled on the mercy-seat, is ever there; and we know, that our failings and sins were met by that blood. Yes if we are in the light, we know that the blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin.
Y. C. — I am glad you refer to that scripture. Does it mean, if we sin, the blood cleanses us again; or does it mean a certain class of holy persons, and the blood of Christ has eradicated all sin from them, even from their flesh, or old nature?
E. — Let us read it carefully. Mark, it does not say, if we sin, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7.) Clearly it is not a question of cleansing us afresh if we sin — that thought is not in the text at all; but if we are in the light of God, this fact is then known in happy fellowship. The glorious characteristic of the blood of Jesus Christ, is, that all sin is gone, that is, is not imputed to us. The very next verse proves it cannot mean that sin is eradicated from our old nature. It is, however, judged, even the sin of our nature, so as never to be reckoned to us; as is distinctly taught in Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21. But you will see the Spirit distinctly guards against the false doctrine of our having sin eradicated from our nature, in the very next verse: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”
Y. C. — I will read you what is said (page 86) on this very verse. He describes the folly of those who believe their sins were imputed to Christ — then says, “By this they mean that, no matter how worldly, selfish, or even devilish, they may actually be, their sins were so dealt with by Christ, that they are not imputed to them, and that, therefore, while full of sin, they are without sin.
Actually, this doctrine is known as perfection in Christ; and it states that when God looks at His children, He looks at them through His Son, and cannot, or does not, or will not, see their sins . . . Now John says in this text, to those who hold these views [mark, he says John says], ‘If any man say he has no sin, when he is actually committing sin . . . he is deceiving himself, and the truth is not in him.’”
E. — It is very sad for me to have to ask, but really is not this intentional perversion of scripture? John says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” The writer knew that the beloved John did not practise sin every day, as the result of believing the love of God in giving His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. No, John declares that such as practise sin are of the devil. Yet John does say, If we say we are without sin. But the writer does not scruple to alter the text of holy scripture, and make John say, “If any man say he has no sin, he deceives himself,” &c. I do not remember reading a more shocking perversion of scripture. It is a difficulty which none of the teachers of this doctrine can get over — that John should put himself in this place. Surely any Christian who knows the plague of his own heart will say the same thing. The whole passage is a most deadly attack on the solemn truth that our sins were borne by Jesus. He implies that to believe this, is to lead people to practise sin. It is the charge the haters of the grace of God have ever made.
Y. C. — I certainly can have no confidence in the reasonings of a man that can pervert scripture in that manner. It is quite plain now, that, whilst our sins are cleansed, so as never to be laid to our charge, by the blood of Jesus once shed, once sprinkled; yet, if we boast of ourselves as though we had no sin left to watch against in our old nature, it is simply to deceive ourselves. I am afraid I am taking up too much time. But there is just one more subject I should like us to look at, and that is Eternal Life — eternal life as the gift of God. Can it be possessed here now in this world? The preachers of the gospel I have heard always told me that Jesus meant what He said. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting [eternal] life.” “He that believeth on the Son, hath eternal life.” (John 3:16-36.) Then, again, Jesus speaks so plainly and assuringly: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24.) Over and over again Jesus says so. (John 6:47.) “And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish,” &c. (Chap. 10:28.) He says to the Father, “As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.” (John 17:2.) And the Holy Ghost tells us, that to doubt this word of God is to make Him a liar. “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son, hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life.” (1 John 5:10-13.)
E. — Well, all this is plain enough, is it not? Jesus assures us of all this. How can we doubt the blessed fact? And mark, it is whilst He is away that He says, “because I live, ye shall live also.” (John 14:19.) “The gift of God is eternal life.” Yes, it is His gift, in free, unmerited grace. We do not deserve it, or merit it, but we have it on the double testimony — the word Jesus, and the record of God; and all is written that we may know we have eternal life. The life of the risen Jesus must be eternal, and He is the eternal life we have. But does the Army deny this?
Y. C. — Well, will you look at section 22? What do you think this means? “and that He gives these faithful followers eternal life when this short life is over, and that they shall never perish.
God may agree to give eternal life to those who are His sheep, who are faithful, who persevere.”
E. — I see it is most sad; the true grace of God is entirely set aside, and the record of God is entirely denied; as John says, they make God a liar by denying the present possession of eternal life. Nothing can be more blessed than to believe Jesus, and thus know that we have not a life that may be lost, or perish, in a day; but eternal life. And they try to make it appear that those who do believe God, think that by believing they perform an act that secures to them eternal life. This is not so. For instance, if you, out of pure kindness, give a poor man a hundred pound note, and you assure him its value is a hundred pounds — he believes your word. Would his believing you be the performing of an act that secured the note, and its value? It is true he believes you once and for ever, and begins to enjoy it. It is also true, that if he did not believe you, but some one persuaded him it was a fictitious note, he would then have rejected it. I know many who call themselves Christians would try to persuade you, so to speak, that the note was not worth half so much as it says. They would say, No, it is not eternal life; that you may have in heaven, if you deserve it by faithfulness. Jesus says it is eternal; they say it is not, it is only temporal, and may be lost at any time.
Y. C. — Stay; I think I have seen a tract, written by an Admiral for the Army, sent out from head-quarters, in which eternal life is spoken of as fictitious life!
E. — Is it possible? I never heard of such a thing; it is often explained away, to the great loss of souls. But let us look at your tract.
Y. C. — Here is the tract: “An Answer to a Question by Admiral Fishbourne.” (Page 7.) He says, “The greatest crimes and sins that have scandalised the reformed church, have been enacted under cover of this fictitious eternal life.” Again, speaking of “tens of thousands . . . who are living in gross sin, seeking to shelter themselves under the idea of this fictitious eternal life.” (Page 13.)
E. — Let me read the connection. It seems that the Admiral feels quite sure that those who believe the record of God, and the words of Jesus, and know that they have eternal life, which he calls fictitious eternal life, live in gross sin. Now, even amongst Christians, there are comparatively few that fully believe Jesus as to this one point, and know that they have eternal life. And I would ask the Admiral, did he ever know one that was living in gross sin that enjoyed the blessed certainty that he had eternal life? Oh, let us flee from these defiling errors, and cling, in childlike simplicity, to the teaching and words of Christ: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath eternal life.” Blessed Jesus, I rest on Thy precious words. I do not think there would be any profit in following further the various wanderings of the Army’s doctrine — their setting aside all that God has been pleased to restore to His people, in these days, as to the coming of the Lord Jesus to take His saints, &c. If the Lord will, you will find papers in “Things New and Old” 1884. on the connection there is between true practical holiness and the second coming of Christ, as connected in scripture. I know it is often said the Army is doing a great deal of good, and many souls are converted through them. I can only say, I have made many inquiries, and have not found them, but who would limit the grace of God with them, or in Rome? Outward reformation there may be, but can the soul rest on that? Was there not this amongst the Jesuits? Indeed, there is a great similarity between them, both in doctrine and practice. After three hundred years, they have succeeded in filling the country again with flags, and banners, and processions. And where have the Romanists opposed them? It is a vast confederacy under military organisation, and may one day prove itself a powerful ally of Rome.
Y. C. — I can only thank you for pointing out to me these great and dangerous errors, but more especially for leading me to Christ. I do desire to know more and more of that “obedience of Christ;” to delight to do the will of God, and ever to rest in the finished work of Christ, whoever may set it aside. To think that I was about to give up the only sure foundation! I thank God for His deliverance. C. S.