as to the Human Nature and Relationships of the Lord Jesus Christ?
by W. Trotter.
Publishers: James Nisbet, London, J. B. Rowe, Plymouth.
One word of explanation as to the origin of the following papers, is due to the reader. They are no volunteer attack of mine, upon the system against which they are directed. I was unexpectedly brought into contact with it, in the prosecution of my daily service to the Lord, in the sphere in which He has been pleased to place me. Having been led to write certain letters on the subject of Mr. N.'s doctrines, to one whose soul was being exercised respecting them; those letters were forwarded by a third party to him. He wrote a letter in reply, the whole of which is given, with strictures upon each paragraph, in the second part of this pamphlet. Mr. N.'s letter was not printed by him; but he sent a copy of it for the use of a congregation in the west of England; and a glance, moreover, at the contents of the letter, will satisfy the reader, that it is not at all of a private character. It is Mr. N.'s latest defence of, and apology for, his published writings on the subject in debate; and as such I felt it to be the fairest course to him, to give the whole of his letter, rather than extracts from it.
Finding that other souls are exercised on these subjects, and being fully satisfied that many, who are doubtless God's children, are still led away by the doctrines in question, without fully understanding what they are, and what they involve; I have been induced for their sakes, to send the following papers to the press.
May I ask of God's dear people, to implore his blessing on this feeble effort? And may He graciously use it to the deliverance of many souls, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake.
W. Trotter. York, August 17th, 1850.
I would just add, that in the second part of this pamphlet, the successive paragraphs of Mr. N.'s letter, are distinguished from the strictures upon them, as well as from extracts from his other writings, by inverted commas.
What are Mr. Newton's present Doctrines as to the Human Nature and Relationships of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Circumstances as much unsought as unanticipated by me, having afresh forced upon me the above inquiry, the following sheets exhibit the form in which it has been prosecuted, as well as the results to which it has conducted me. I began by reading again the paper in the second edition of the Christian Witness, in which his unsoundness first appeared. I then re-read his retractation of this doctrine, or of part of it, sent forth in 1847. I next gave a serious perusal to his Letter on the Humanity, in which he details the legitimate results of the doctrine he had retracted, but re-affirms the principles of the two tracts, which, at the date of his retractation, he withdrew for reconsideration. Last of all, I reperused these tracts, to compare their statements with those of the paper in the Witness; Mr. N. having affirmed in the Letter on the Humanity, that these two tracts are free from the unsound doctrine contained in that paper. The inquiry and results are as follow: I have added an examination of Mr. N.'s recent letter to -, -, giving throughout, first, his statements; then, my replies. The whole of the letter is thus examined.
God grant to the reader a willingness to know the truth.
In the introduction to the paper entitled "Doctrines of the Church in Newman Street considered;" which introduction was prefixed to the original article, in the second edition of the Christian Witness, Mr. N. says, "In order to form a scriptural judgment on these things, it is needful to consider attentively, the state in which we, as the descendants of Adam, are placed before God. There are three particulars which mark our condition as sinners before Him: — First, original, or vicarious guilt, imputed (or reckoned) to us on account of the transgression of our first parents, of which the 5th chapter of the Romans treats. Secondly, original sin, or indwelling corruption. And, thirdly, actual transgression."
The distinction between imputed transgression, and indwelling corruption, Mr. N. proceeds to illustrate as follows: "The children of an exile in Siberia, though innocent of rebellion themselves, might yet be involved in all the penalties of their parent, and be punished for, and on account of him. Even so, the one transgression of Adam in the garden, exposes all his posterity to be treated by God as transgressors, on account of him. The penalty of death would still have impended over them, even though they could have been born pure as angels in themselves."
But instead of being born thus pure, Mr. N. goes on to remark, that all Adam's natural descendants derive from him a corrupted nature; and thirdly, that in such, we have besides, "multiplied personal transgressions, — the foolish thought, and word, and action: and he that offendeth in one point is guilty of all."
Then comes the statement as to our blessed Lord. "The Lord Jesus was as free from indwelling sin, as from actual transgression; yet, nevertheless, He was a member (so to speak) of the exiled family, and was therefore born subject to their penalties. But He was made under the law; and being essentially holy, He was able to fulfil the law, and so to rise above the penalties to which He had become subject on account of Adam's guilt. He was able to enter into life by keeping the commandments; and the very same law which had been death to every other, was unto Him life, even as it is written, "If there could have been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law." On account of our sinful flesh, to us the law was weak; but strong unto Him, because He had no sinful flesh, but was essentially the Holy One. He learned obedience in the midst of suffering, and was proved to be the righteous One who might have entered into life by Himself alone, but who preferred to lay down His life that He might take it again, that so, through the knowledge of Him, many might be justified."
Having thus introduced the subject, the writer proceeds. "All that the soul of a saint recognizes as true in the writings of Mr. Irving, respecting Christ being in 'that condition of being and region of existence which is proper to a sinner,' will be found to be altogether comprised in the fact of His being born under the curse of the exiled family, vicariously incurred. But He rose out of this 'region' through the power of his own inherent holiness; and therefore never would have come 'into that experience into God's action which is proper for a sinner,' unless He had chosen to abide it for the sake of others."
All this is very plain. The writer attributes neither indwelling corruption, nor actual transgression, to our Lord, but he does attribute to him, "original or vicarious guilt." He says that "He was a member (so to speak) of the exiled family, and was therefore born subject to their penalties." Christ is said by the writer, to have been "in that condition of being and region of existence which is proper to a sinner" in the sense of His having been "born under the curse of the exiled family, vicariously incurred;" and it is said that "He rose out of that region through the power of His own inherent holiness." The expression "vicariously incurred" has always, to my own soul, abated the grievousness of this doctrine as then held and taught by Mr. N. But on once more reading the whole paper, it becomes a question with me, whether the words just quoted, "vicariously incurred" mean any thing more than what he defines at the outset, as the first particular in our condition as sinners before God. This, he states to be "original, or vicarious guilt, imputed (or reckoned) to us, on account of the transgression of our first parent, of which the 5th chapter of the Romans treats." If this be the sense in which he afterwards says, Christ was" born under the curse of the exiled family, vicariously incurred," it makes his views appear more consistent (in evil, alas!) throughout. But if they be understood in the ordinary sense of the word "vicarious" we shall still see how he alters this in his later publications.
The paper from which the above passages are extracted, was published in 1835, or early in 1836; — and it is important to bear in mind that the doctrine stated in those passages, was the one held by Mr. N., till near the date of is retractation, Nov. 26th, 1847. He says, (page 5 of that document, — "Statement and Acknowledgment, etc.") "Recent circumstances having necessitated a careful review of the whole subject, I have been led, etc." It is clear from this, that during the whole period from 1835 or 6, to 1847, his views as to our blessed Lord, were those above stated; and it was during this period that his ideas respecting the sufferings of Christ, and the interpretation of the Psalms, etc., became matured; and to those views which are still held by him, he gave expression first, in the Lecture on Psalm 6, and further in his two tracts, "Remarks and Observations." Did those views receive no tinge from the doctrine, according to his own confession, held by the writer while they were being formed and matured? Was it possible that on a subject so connected with this doctrine, his views could be uninfluenced by it, during the very period in which it was held by him as the truth of God? Let any one judge whose eyes are not blinded by prejudice, whether those views on the sufferings of Christ were not the genuine fruit of the doctrine, or rather part and parcel of the doctrine, first stated as above, in the second edition of the Christian Witness.
The extracts already given, are from the preface to the article. But in the body of the article itself, we have the following. "But in the treatise above referred to, (one of Irving's, it is stated that these sufferings were not inflicted upon Him because He was considered that which, really He was not, viz., a sinner; in other words, that He was not punished exclusively for our sins, but because of that condition of being into which He had come. Now, (says Mr. N.) it is fully allowed, as has been stated in the preface, that He was born into 'our condition of being,' in the sense of being born out of Paradise. And also, that He exposed Himself to the danger of receiving all the punishment which followed upon the imputation of Adam's offence; but though exposed to it, yet He rose above it all, because He was by birth the Holy One, made under the law; who did not, as we, find it weak through the flesh, but effectually ordained unto life, because His flesh was holy. 'This do, and thou shalt live,' was unto Him, a word of delivering power. So far, therefore, from His having been punished on account of the condition of being into which He had come; He would not have been punished at all, unless He had freely chosen, whilst standing as the 'justified One' to offer atonement to the Father, and to become the substitute and sin-bearer of all who believe in His name." The doctrine, as further stated here, is, (1) That Christ was born into our condition of being. (2) That he exposed himself to the danger* of receiving all the punishment following upon the imputation of Adam's offence. (3) That he rose above it all, because he was by birth, the Holy One, made under the law. (4) That "this do, and thou shalt live," was to him a word of delivering power. (5) That therefore He was not punished at all because of the condition of being into which he had come. And (6) That he would not have been punished at all, unless he had freely chosen, whilst standing as the 'justified One' (by his obedience to the law, as above, I suppose) to offer atonement, and become our substitute. That is, in short, as plainly as words can express it, that Christ had to be justified by his obedience to the law, from the imputation of Adam's offence, under which (according to the writer) He was born, before he could offer himself in atonement for others. The question as to whether any one born under this imputation could justify himself from it, is one that must be considered in its place.
*The italics are Mr. N.'s.
I would take no further notice at present of Mr. N.'s tracts on the sufferings of Christ, than again to call to mind that they were written prior to his renunciation, (at least openly) of any part of the doctrine already stated. The first, as is well known, was not published by Mr. N., but consisted of Notes of a Lecture delivered by him, and published, with strictures on it, by Mr. Harris. The horror which was caused in the souls of many by these Notes, led Mr. N. to publish his two tracts, "Remarks" and "Observations," in the preface to the latter of which, the writer says, "this tract and another which has been already published will, I trust, sufficiently show what my doctrines really are, they will show to what I object, and what I avow in the notes." The date of this is September 1, 1847. It was nearly three months after this, viz., Nov. 26th, 1847, that a short tract was issued, signed by Mr. N., purporting to be a retractation of the doctrine taught in the extracts already given. He first describes the controversy which arose about Irvingism, and how he sought to meet its false doctrines in the paper on Newman-street, in the first edition of the Christian Witness. He then proceeds. "To this it was objected, that we, in a sense, deified the humanity of Jesus, and virtually denied that He was really man. Many passages were quoted by the defenders of Mr. Irving's doctrine, to prove that Jesus was not only man, but man in weakness, that He had a mortal body, unlike to that which Adam first had in Paradise; and they added that the cause of His body being mortal was, that sin (as they said) inhered in it."
"In order to meet this," he further says, "it was felt to be a solemn duty to endeavour to own, as far as possible, the truth that might be mingled with the error, and to seek to disentangle it from its evil connections. It was on this account that I wrote a preface, and made some additions to the paper above referred to; and in an attempt to meet as far as possible the minds of others, I have gone too far, and myself transgressed by overstepping the bounds of truth."
"In allowing," Mr. N. proceeds, "that the Lord Jesus had a body different from that of Adam in Paradise, I was right. I was right also in saying that inherent corruption is not the originating cause of mortality, but the one sin of Adam, — 'by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin;' I was right also in stating that the Lord Jesus partook of certain consequences of Adam's sin, of which the being possessed of a mortal body was one."
"It was this that first introduced Rom. 5 into the controversy, as showing that death of the body resulted from that which one man had done; and if due care had been taken to discriminate between the mode in which the consequences of Adam's transgression reached mankind through federal headship, and the manner in which the Lord Jesus took certain of those consequences upon Himself, but not through federal headship, the error which I now have to confess, would have been avoided."
Further on, the writer says, "my error in this resulted in my holding that the Lord Jesus, while perfectly free from all, even the slightest taint of sin, either original or actual, yet was under Adam, as a federal head, and thus was exposed by his position to the imputation of Adam's guilt, as is taught respecting mankind in the 5th of Romans.
Now what is taught respecting mankind in the 5th of Romans is this; — "that through the offence of one many are dead:" v. 15; that "the judgment was by one to condemnation" v. 16 that "by one man's offence death reigned by one" v. 17 that "by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation:" v. 18, that "by one man's disobedience many were made sinners;" v. 19. This is what is taught respecting mankind in the 5th of Romans; and it was under this that Mr. N.'s doctrine represented our blessed Lord as being placed.
"Recent circumstances," he goes on to say, "having necessitated a careful review of the whole subject, I have been led, as I have above stated, to see that I was distinctly in error in holding that the Lord came by birth under any imputation of guilt or the consequences of such imputation. I see that results altogether contrary to christian doctrine are involved in, and may fairly be deduced from this error, which I now desire explicitly to renounce; and I desire to acknowledge my error in having thus held and taught on this subject; and I hereby withdraw all statements of mine, whether in print or in any other form, in which this error or any of its fruits may be found."
It will have to be considered anon whether the Notes of the Lecture on Ps. 6, and the two tracts on the sufferings of Christ, are not full of the "fruits" of this error. Suffice it for the present once more to recall the fact that they were written while the author of them held, or at least, a good while before he renounced the error above confessed. All he says of them in his retractation is, "with regard to the two tracts recently published by myself on 'the sufferings of Christ,' I also request that they may be withdrawn for reconsideration." The result of this reconsideration we have in "a Letter on subjects connected with the Lord's humanity." In it the writer says, p. 15, "such then are my principles, and I may add the principles on which my two recent tracts are based;" and he goes on to assert their general soundness; that is, he re-affirms the principles of the two tracts he had withdrawn for reconsideration, and not only does he re-affirm, he vindicates them, and insists upon them. On pages 30, 32, he specifies the results altogether contrary to christian doctrine involved in, and fairly to be deduced from, the error which he had confessed in Nov., 1847. He enumerates them, however, not to confess himself covered with shame, and unable to lift up his head, for having held and taught a doctrine from which such consequences inevitably follow. One might have expected this. But no; he specifies those results of the false doctrine he held, to show that his tracts written while he held it, are clear from any such deductions. Let us look at the results, however, as stated by himself, leaving out for the present, his reasonings to clear his tracts. The tracts I have not yet gone into here at all. All I have done thus far is to give, 1st, the doctrine itself in Mr. N.'s own words; 2nd, his confession of his having held it, and his account of the way in which he was led into it. Hear now, his own statement of the legitimate results of this doctrine that "Christ was under Adam as a federal head." It is as follows:
"Federal imputation of sin places him who is under it in the same relation to God as the person who has originally sinned; and all the consequences of that sin, past, present, and to come, rest on the person under imputation, and cannot be removed except through redemption. He is under a load from which he can never be relieved, even for one moment, either here or hereafter, except through redemption."
"He who is under federal imputation of sin is exposed, and that not by voluntary election, but by involuntary necessity to all the consequences of sin and that for ever. There can in such case be no partial exposure — no exposure to some, and not to others."
"Again, he who is under imputation, must also be in moral distance from God."
"He who is under imputation could never (unless through that capacity of action which God only has through redemption,) be visited by any mercy, or receive any relief from God. If therefore Christ had been under imputation, seeing that there was no redemption through which he could have been regarded, he never could have received one blessing from the hand of God."
"He who is under imputation could have no personal position before God, which God could acknowledge in blessing."
"He who is under imputation could never for one moment occupy a relative position. so as to suffer exclusively because of others; for his own personal position would merit suffering."
"He who is under imputation could never work out a righteousness for others."
Here are Mr. N.'s own words. Now think of any one who had held and taught, that Christ "was under Adam as a federal head;" who, while he held this doctrine, delivered lectures, and published tracts, on subjects closely allied to this, to say the least; who, having been obliged to confess that he had held and taught this doctrine; now publishes a pamphlet in which he details its legitimate results; think, I say, of any one under such circumstances, enumerating seven such conclusions as the above, NOT to take on himself the shame of having held and taught the doctrine which involves them; but to shield his tracts from the charge of having maintained the doctrine, by affirming that they do not contain these seven deductions from it! "The real doctrine of imputation therefore," he says. "is at utter variance with the radical principle of the tracts." "Nor is it possible that the REAL doctrine of imputation could be held by any Christian who understood what it involved." The writer was never charged with holding all the consequences of this doctrine. He was charged with holding the doctrine itself, and this he was obliged, however reluctantly to confess. He was also charged with delivering lectures, and writing tracts in which statements were made involving the same consequences as this doctrine of federal imputation. In the very paper (that on Newman-street) in which he taught the doctrine of federal imputation of Adam's sin to our Lord, he taught the opposite of some of those very deductions which he now says legitimately flow from it. Does this self contradiction prove that he did not hold the doctrine? No such thing. He had to confess, as we have seen, that he did hold it; and if he had never confessed it at all, the proof of the fact is such as cannot be gainsayed. Then as to the tracts. He says of this and that result of the doctrine of imputation, that they are not to be found in the tracts, but that the tracts teach the opposite. This is just as true of the paper on Newman-street, as of the tracts, and yet the former of these confessedly contains the doctrine. Alas! for the writer who could seek to shield himself and his publications from the shame of having taught a doctrine which he confesses no Christian could hold who understood what it involved, and which he confesses to have held himself, by endeavouring to show that he had not followed it out to all its blasphemous consequences, and taught these as well! Enough, one would suppose, to have taught the doctrine that confessedly involves these; enough it surely ought to have been, to have so bowed down the soul of the writer, as to have made a thought of self-vindication the very last thought he could entertain.
And now as to the tracts. I begin with the Notes of the Lecture on Psalm 6. And when we bear in mind that the Author published two tracts, "Remarks," and "Observations," on purpose to show "to what he objected and what he avowed in the Notes," it will be evident that so long as nothing is quoted which was disclaimed by him in these tracts, it is as fair to quote from the Notes as from any of his own publications. First of all then, what is Psalm 6 itself?
"O Lord rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak; O Lord heal me; for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore vexed; but thou, O Lord, how long! Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: O save me for thy mercies sake. For in death there is no remembrance of thee; in the grave who shall give thee thanks. I am weary with my groaning: all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears. Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies. Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity: for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer. Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed; let them return and be ashamed suddenly."
On this Psalm, Mr. N. is reported in the Notes to have said, (and I know not of his having anywhere disclaimed this) "But another interesting and important question is, the manner in which Christ was personally chastened and afflicted, whilst the servant of God in the earth; for it was not merely the sufferings he had, because his soul entered into the condition of things around him, but there was quite another question (mark this, reader,) the relation of God to him whilst thus suffering. For a person to he suffering here, because he serves God is one thing, but the relation of that person to God, and what he is immediately receiving from his hand while serving him is another; and it is this which the sixth Psalm and many others open to us. They describe the hand of God stretched out as rebuking in anger and chastening in hot displeasure, AND REMEMBER THIS IS NOT THE SCENE ON THE CROSS." Is it not stated here as plainly as possible, (1) that the subject treated of is, God's relation to Christ, and Christ's relation to God? (2) That this is what the sixth Psalm opens to us — that it describes the hand of God stretched out as rebuking in anger etc. (3) That this is not the scene on the cross. And to impress this upon his hearers, we are told in the same paragraph "in this Psalm Christ is not at all standing in the place of sacrifice for sin."
In the Letter on the humanity, where he is describing the legitimate results of the doctrine of federal imputation, Mr. N. mentions as the first of these, that "federal imputation of sin places him who is under it in the same relation to God as the person who has already sinned." What now is the relation to God in which he represents Christ as placed in the passage just cited? And what is God's relation to Him represented to be? They are both represented to be of such a nature as to expose him to the hand of God stretched out as rebuking in anger and chastening in hot displeasure.
So that here, at least, we have, if not the doctrine of Christ's subjection to the federal imputation of Adam's sin, one of its consequences as stated by Mr. N. himself. And here let me ask, if Christ's relation to God, and God's relation to Christ, were such as to subject Christ to anger and hot displeasure on the part of God, how was this to be averted? Is God angry except with sin? Does He chasten in hot displeasure except for departure from Himself? And if Christ "not at all as standing in the place of sacrifice for sin" was subject to such inflictions, how was He to be released from His subjection to them? How, save by redemption? And who was to be His redeemer? Alas! alas! the notes bring us to the same point as the paper on Newman-street in the Witness. Nay worse: for while the paper on Newman-street says "vicariously incurred" (whatever that may have been intended to mean) the notes say distinctly, that in this relation of Christ to God, and of God to Christ, he, "Christ, is not at all standing in the place of sacrifice for sin."
But again, it is said, page 11 of the notes. "The next question is, how did he suffer? The moment He came into the world, He was a part of mankind in it; He was born a man: therefore in that sense became a part of the human family. If He had been born in Paradise, He would not have found sorrow by becoming a part of it, but being born out of it, and seeing He was born into the world, under the curse; it brought Him under all the sorrow and affliction which pertain to the human family, as such."
"Supposing," he proceeds, "we belonged to a family which was banished to a distant land, and there subject to every hardship and sorrow, and we were to go and form a part of that family; we must of course drink of the same cup, and partake of their sufferings: this was what Christ did. I do not refer to what were called his vicarious sufferings, but to His partaking of the circumstances of the woe and sorrow of the human family, and not only of the human family generally, but of a particular part of it, of Israel, etc." Here it is distinctly affirmed, (1) that Christ suffered, because the moment He came into the world, He was a part of mankind — a part of the human family. (2) That He was born into the world under the curse, and so brought under all the sorrow and affliction, which pertain to the human family, as such. Besides, we have (3) an illustration of the ground on which Christ suffered, as nearly as possible identical with that employed in the paper in the Witness, to show the distinction between imputed transgression, and indwelling corruption. Then (4) the speaker distinctly avows here, that he does not refer to what are called the vicarious sufferings of Christ.
Again, page 15 of the notes, we are told, that "He heard (John the Baptist's word) with a wise and attentive ear, and came to be baptized, because He was one with Israel; was in their condition, one of wrath from God."
I am aware that in chap. 2 of "Observations" as also on page 11 of "Remarks," the writer seeks to distinguish between "the wrath of God," as it might fall on such a person as Jehoshaphat, to whom it was said, (2 Chr. 19:2.) "therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord," and the same expression as used elsewhere of the doom of the finally impenitent. In the Remarks, page 11, he tells us that "on the cross, He (Christ) endured wrath, infinite wrath; not wrath in chastisement, but wrath in vengeance." But then, I would remark in the first place — that in the notes we have a distinction made, quite opposite in its bearing. "We are chastened, but not in displeasure. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten;" there is SOMETHING DISSIMILAR in that; it comes to us as under the dealing of LOVE, and THAT makes a wide difference." Notes, p. 19. But even if the full benefit of the distinction between "wrath in chastisement" and "wrath in vengeance," be allowed to the writer, of what avail is it? Does wrath of either kind come on any except for sin? Can wrath of either kind be averted, except through redemption? Was Jesus under wrath of either kind, save as our substitute? If so, how could he save by redemption, and that the writer allows would have been impossible for him, be freed therefrom? Let it be borne in mind that according to Mr. N., it is Christ's relation to God, and God's relation to Christ, which subjected him to chastening in wrath, to anger, and to hot displeasure.
And then as to the question of how he is represented to have come into this place of suffering under the hand of God, in wrath and hot displeasure; turn to page 9 of Observations. "And is it a new doctrine that Jesus by His birth became obnoxious, that is, exposed to all the sinless penalties of fallen man? I do not say that they all fell upon Him. Some did not. He was exposed, for example, because of His relation to Adam, to that sentence of death, that had been pronounced on the whole family of man. Relatively, He was exposed to that curse; personally, He evidenced His title to freedom from it, and His title to life, by keeping that law of which it had been said, 'this do, and thou shalt live.' And if He was exposed to the doom of man, was He not equally exposed to all the sinless penalties that had fallen upon Israel, as dwelling under Sinai? I do not say that they all fell upon Him. Some did, others did not. But He was not on this account accursed." No, nor did you say that he was accursed, when you distinctly held and taught, that he was under the federal headship of Adam, and so exposed to the imputation of his guilt. Your denying then, that personally he was accursed, did not prevent you holding a principle, from which this inevitably flowed. Nor does your disclaiming such a thought, in the passage just quoted, clear the passage from the imputation of teaching what involves it. Let us look at the passage more particularly.
It teaches (1) that Jesus by his birth became obnoxious to all the sinless penalties of fallen man. (2) That, as an example, he was exposed, because of his relation to Adam to that sentence of death, that had been pronounced on the whole family of man. So that, according to the writer, death is one of the sinless penalties. (3) That relatively, (i. e. because of his relation to Adam,) he was exposed to that curse; though, just as is taught in the paper on Newman-street, he evidenced his title to freedom from it, by keeping the law. (4) That if he was exposed to the doom of man, (are sinless penalties the doom of man?) he was equally exposed to all the sinless penalties that had fallen upon Israel. Such is the plain, unmistakeable doctrine of the passage before us.
I am well aware of its being urged that the use of the term "sinless penalties," limits the meaning of such passages. But what is the meaning of the expression? We have no scripture to guide us to the meaning of it, for it is not a scripture expression. It is one of the author's own terms. Turn to a dictionary for the words, and what do you find? The first that comes to my hand gives the sense of the words thus; "Sinless, exempt from sin." "Penalty, punishment, censure, judicial infliction." The phrase "sinless penalties," is therefore, strictly speaking, a paradox. To our blessed Lord, as being himself perfectly sinless, and yet as standing in our stead on the cross, receiving the "punishment, censure, judicial infliction," due to our sins, it might perhaps be applied. Even here however, it would not be strictly proper. Though sinless himself, it was for sin, as standing in the stead of sinners, that he was punished. But it is not to the cross, but to other sufferings of our Lord distinct from the cross, and prior to it, that Mr. N. applies the phrase. I can only conceive of three senses in which the writer can use the term "sinless penalties." First, he may mean that the act of inflicting those penalties is a sinless one. If this be his meaning, I can only say with another, that in this sense "damnation is not a sinful thing, it is very righteous." But, secondly, he may mean that Christ's endurance of these penalties was unattended by any personal sin on his part — that he who suffered was sinless. But this is just as true of the cross; he was personally sinless there, when suffering the full penalty of our sins. Besides, Mr. N. as strongly asserted the personal sinlessness of Christ, when he held the doctrine that Adam's guilt was imputed to him, as now. Thirdly, the only other use he can intend to make of the expression is to distinguish between the sufferings of Christ on the cross, where, though absolutely sinless in himself, he took our place and endured what was due to our sins, and those sufferings which he is said by the writer to have endured during his life, because of his relation to Adam, But what can be the effect of this, except to delude? Does God inflict any penalties, except on account of sin? Are not the curse upon the ground and the death of the body as truly on account of sin as eternal damnation? The writer distinctly includes the death of the body among those "sinless penalties," and gives it as an example of what he means by the phrase. "He was exposed for example, because of His relation to Adam to that sentence of death, that had been pronounced on the whole family of man." And was it as a "sinless penalty" that sentence of death came upon all men. So far from this, the apostle proves the universality of sin by the universality of death. "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all for that all have sinned." This is what Mr. N. used to put our Lord under, in plain terms applying it to him. And where the difference is between this and the doctrine of the passage I am considering, (page 9, Observations) I am utterly at a loss to perceive.
I am quite aware that in the Letter on the humanity, page 29, Mr. N. says, "the tracts speak of relation to Adam, but they do not speak of federal relation to Adam." Here let me say, the word "federal" no more occurs in scripture than the phrase "sinless penalties." But the writer allows that the subject of federal relationship between Adam and his offspring is treated of in the fifth of Romans. This is the chapter to which he used to refer as illustrative of our Lord's position under Adam. He refers to it in the paper on Newman-street. But now what does the fifth of Romans teach as to what the writer terms "federal relation to Adam" I will exhibit for facility of comparison, the teaching of the fifth of Romans as to all the rest of Adam's offspring, and Mr. N.'s teaching on page 9, Observations, as to our blessed Lord.
FIFTH of ROMANS.
"By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin,
and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned."
Mr. N.'S OBS. PAGE 9.
"He (Jesus) was exposed, for example, because of His relation to Adam
to that sentence of death that had been pronounced on the whole family of man."
FIFTH of ROMANS.
"By one man's offence death reigned by one."
Mr. N.'S OBS. PAGE 9.
"Relatively, He (Jesus) was exposed to that curse."
FIFTH of ROMANS.
"By the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation."
Mr. N.'S OBS. PAGE 9.
"And if He (Jesus) was exposed to the doom of man,
was He not equally exposed etc.?"
I am not ignorant of the fact that there is a further statement in Rom. 5, which the writer used to apply to our blessed Lord, and which I suppose he would not now: viz., "as by one man's disobedience many were made (or constituted, as he used to render it) sinners." This, he would not now say of Jesus. But let me ask, what is death, as a penalty but the wages of sin? How can there be liability to death where there is no sin either actual, indwelling, or imputed? What relation to Adam is there spoken of in scripture which could make any one "because of" it, exposed to the sentence of death, save the federal relation? Where is the scripture to show that a person might be in such a relation to Adam as to be "because of" it, exposed to the sentence of death pronounced on the whole family of man — exposed to that curse — exposed to the doom of man, — and yet not be in federal relation to Adam? The distinction is a pure invention of the writer to screen his character, and at the same time maintain his doctrine — between which, and that of federal imputation which he has repudiated, there is not any distinction supported by a single passage of scripture, or by a single consideration to commend it to the unbiassed spiritual judgment of any one. A relation to Adam which exposes a person to the sentence of death — to that curse — to the doom of man, is what christians have always understood by federal relationship, and is the relationship treated of in the fifth of Romans.
The several pleas urged by the writer of these tracts to show that they cannot contain any thing subversive of the faith; or, in other words, that the doctrine they teach on the above subject is accompanied by such other statements as to make the whole innoxious, have been already examined by others. A passing notice of the principal points may still not be out of place here.
1. The writer maintains that he cannot be unsound in the faith, because he teaches among other doctrines, that of atonement, of substitution. Now I am not aware that he has ever been charged with denying this. He was charged with holding a doctrine, which, could it have been true, would have shown our Lord to be incapable of making atonement. He confesses now that he did hold such a doctrine, but that he did not draw this deduction from it: and it is well known that he taught the doctrine of atonement in the very paper on Newman-street, which contains the heresy I refer to. His entertaining the doctrine of atonement then did not hinder him from holding a view completely subversive of it, if followed out to its consequences. Neither can his maintaining the doctrine of atonement now disprove the charge still brought against him, that he still holds what, if true, would show the blessed Lord Jesus to have been unfit for the great work of atonement.
2. His strong and oft repeated assertions of the personal sinlessness of Christ, no more prove that the writer is sound in the faith than what I have just considered. He made the same assertions when he did hold what he now confesses to be untrue, and if carried out to its consequences, blasphemous and heretical.
3. His distinctions between the personal and relative positions of Christ, are really worth no more than the pleas already noticed. Page 23 of the Letter on the Humanity, — he says, and that, too, where he is specially labouring to make this point clear: "The personal position of the Lord Jesus, and that which was due thereunto, may perhaps be best judged of, by considering His relation to the Father before the world was. It was a relation of unchanging and unchangeable perfectness. As God and as the Eternal Son of the Father, He had an unalterable title to all blessing — a title which neither incarnation, nor the cross could change." Thus far all is true, and what all christians agree in. There has never been any question, that I am aware of, between the writer and others as to this. But he proceeds.
"In heaven the circumstances or position* of the Son, had been in accordance with that which was due to Him. He was there seen standing in all the excellency of his personal position, and until He took flesh He was receiving all that was due to that position." Now the whole question between the writer and orthodox Christians, is, as to the position assumed when he took flesh. The asserted excellency and perfectness of his personal position, before the world was, or, after his incarnation, — says nothing to the question. This, he says, and rightly, did not change, even at the cross. He would have said all this when he held the imputation to Christ of Adam's guilt. The question is, as to the new position assumed, when he took flesh. As to this, the writer goes on to say, "But when it pleased Him to assume flesh, instead of assuming it under circumstances, which would have been in accordance with that which was due to His personal position; He assumed it in a condition of weakness etc., which was not in accordance with the blessedness due to His personal position. This, therefore may be said to be the assumption of a relative position; because He voluntarily forewent that which was due to His personal position, and placed Himself under circumstances of weakness and sorrow; which only pertained to Him so long as He was pleased to continue in a certain relation to those, with whom He had chosen thus to associate Himself."
*Another has noticed the confusion here in the use of the word "position." Let the reader inquire each time it is used, — in what sense?
But here let us pause a little, and inquire, (1) Who were those with whom he chose thus to associate himself? According to the writer's oft-repeated statements, — the family of man, and the nation of Israel. (2) What was that relation to these parties, which he was pleased to assume? It was such a relation to Adam, as exposed him to that sentence of death that had been pronounced on the whole family of man. (3) What was the relation to God, which he then entered on? His personal position was that of the Eternal Son, with an unalterable title to all blessing. But we are told, he forewent that which was due to his personal position, and at his incarnation assumed a relative position. Relative to whom? Not Adam merely, nor man, nor Israel. What was the relation to God, which then commenced? "For a person to be suffering here, because He serves God, (says the writer) is one thing, but the relation of that person to God, and what he immediately receives from His hand while serving Him, is another; and it is this which the sixth Psalm an many others open to us. They describe the hand of God stretched out as rebuking in anger, and chastening in hot displeasure." Notes, page 7. (4) These then, are the "circumstances of weakness and sorrow, which only pertained to Him so long as He was pleased to continue in a certain relation to those, with whom He had thus chosen to associate Himself," But how could this be? If the relations to Adam, man, and Israel, which Christ assumed at his incarnation, had the effect of placing him in a relation to God, and God in a relation to him, which subjected him to "the sentence of death" — "the curse" "the doom of man," and which brought him under "rebuking in anger, and chastening in hot displeasure" from the hand of God himself; how could it be matter of choice with him, whether he would continue in this relative position he had assumed? If the position he had assumed, call it relative or what else you may please, was one of being under "sentence of death" exposed to that "curse" - "exposed to the doom of man," and that not substitutionally; it was one in which he could not but continue. God suspends the "sentence of death" — "the curse" — and "the doom of man," unjustly over no one. If this was Christ's relation to God, and God's relation to Christ, "because of His relation to Adam," then there must have been in his relation to Adam, that which justly exposed him to the sentence of death — the curse — the doom of man. And does it need to be proved to any one, that a person justly exposed to the sentence of death, the curse, the doom of man; and that not in the stead of others; can neither deliver himself from these inflictions, or endure them in the place of others?
There is a passage in the Letter on the Humanity, pages 27 and 28, which I must be excused for saying, does produce the worst fears in my mind, that the writer knew when he wrote it, that he was misrepresenting the facts of the case. It begins thus, "It has also been said, that the tracts teach that it was necessary for the Lord Jesus to free Himself from this relative position, or to extricate Himself from its circumstances, before He was fit to be the Lamb slain. But the tracts teach no such thing. They expressly teach that He was always fit to be the sacrifice, and therefore, seeing there was always fitness, there could be no unfitness to be delivered from. What they state, is, that He 'evidenced' His title to life, by His keeping the Law; and they teach that this was necessary by the appointment of God, — not essentially necessary. They state also that the relative position of suffering which he held, was one out of which 'He was able' to extricate, and from which He 'proved' that he could extricate Himself by His own perfect obedience."
Now as to this passage, I do not deny that the writer's later tracts teach, as he says, that Christ was always fit to be a sacrifice; and that when certain statements in the earlier tracts were objected to, he explained them in the later ones, (as he here says) to mean that certain things were necessary by the appointment of God, not essentially. But what I would solemnly urge is this, that both in the earlier and later tracts there are passages which teach that Christ had to extricate himself from the relative position in question and from its circumstances ere he made atonement for others. The original statement was (and I do not refer to it here as proof of what I say, but that it may be compared with the subsequent statements,) that though Christ was exposed to the danger of receiving all the punishment which followed upon the imputation of Adam's offence, that "though exposed to it, yet he rose above it all," — not that he was able to do it — or evidenced that he could — but that actually "he rose above it all;" that "this do, and thou shalt live, was to him a word of delivering power." In short, that being born under the curse of the exiled family "He rose out of this, region through the power of his own inherent holiness, and therefore (mark that word) never would have come into that experience of God's action which is proper for a sinner, unless he had chosen to abide it for the sake of others." Paper on Newman-street. Now what is the doctrine of the Notes? They define the period at which he did, according to the writer, rise out of this region. Speaking of the ministry of John the Baptist, he says, "Here was a door opened to Israel at once, they might come and be forgiven; so He was glad to hear that word; He heard it with a wise and attentive ear, and came to be baptised because He was one with Israel, was in their condition, one of wrath from God; consequently, when He was baptised, He took new ground; but Israel would not take it, He stood alone nearly, and the moment He took that ground, the Holy Spirit was sent down, God's seal was set upon Him, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."
All this is fully repeated and defended in the "Remarks etc." It is more carefully worded indeed, but the doctrine is all there. Let it be remembered that the question is whether the writer teaches in these tracts, that "it was necessary for the Lord Jesus to free Himself from the relative position" He had assumed, and "from its circumstances" ere He became the sacrifice for sin! Also, whether they only teach that "the relative position of suffering which He held was one out of which 'He was able' to extricate Himself, and from which He 'proved' that He could extricate Himself, by His own perfect obedience?" or, on the other hand, that he did actually, as originally taught, rise out of this region and its circumstances. Now turn to "Remarks" page 18 to 24. On page 18, the writer is distinguishing between the personal and relative position of our Lord. "The bosom of the Father was essentially His place as the Eternal Son; yet He was not hereby delivered from the most bitter experiences of human anguish. His being that which we read of in the first of John did not prevent Him from feeling and saying, I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up; while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted; thy fierce wrath goeth over me, thy terrors have cut me off. They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together, (Ps. 88:15, 17.") This, according to the writer, was Christ's relative position, and these were his circumstances.
"It was, (he proceeds) as I believe, after many years of sorrowful experience in the midst of transgressing Israel, had thus (observe this) passed over the head of the Lord Jesus, that a great intervention of Divine mercy on behalf of that people occurred. This was by the mission of John the Baptist, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. It opened an opportunity for Israel to confess; to quit the place in which they had been standing; a place already visited, and yet more severely threatened by the curse of the broken law, and to take new ground before their God. The Lord Jesus welcomed that message; He heard it with a wise and understanding ear. He had, indeed, no sins of His own to confess: (no that is not the question,) but the sins of the nation in the midst of which He had placed Himself, and of which He formed a part, were countless as the sand upon the sea shore. He did, therefore, what Israel ought to have done, but which they would not do, (i.e., He quitted the place in which He, with them, had been standing, and took new ground before God:) He confessed and humbled Himself before heaven and before men, and received the baptism of repentance, not as the substitute of Israel, for it was on the cross alone He took the vicarious place; but as one of them, and doing as a righteous Israelite though alone, what they ought nationally and individually to have done; and God owned His obedience in thus fulfilling all righteousness. The heavens were opened over His head; Himself owned as the beloved Son, and anointed as the servant of God with the Holy Ghost and with power."
Such is the statement of the writer. Until then, Christ's being what we read of in the first of John did not hinder him from feeling and saying, I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up, thy fierce wrath goeth over me. Until his baptism, that was his relative position — his relation to God — not indeed because of his own sins, for it is admitted that he had none — but because "he formed a part of" Israel, whose sins were countless as the sand. The ministry of John opened to Israel a door by which they might "quit the place in which they" — and Christ as a part of them — "had been standing," and "take new ground before their God." They would not do this, but he, Christ, did not as their substitute, "but as one of them;" and so instead of the continuance of wrath and terror from God, such as he had endured till then, the heavens were opened over his head, and he was owned and anointed of God. But the writer proceeds.
"This was indeed, a separate and a peculiar place." He had quitted, as Israel might have done, the place in which he had been standing, and had taken new ground before God. What is this but the old doctrine of rising out of the region of being into which He was born? And see what follows; "doubtless, he might have retained, if He had so pleased, that separate place for ever; but how then could the scriptures have been fulfilled? He might have left Israel in their iniquities, and stood for ever separate in his own integrity; but then Israel would have been lost, etc., and this could not be. He had come to be obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Now let any one compare this with the paper on Newman-street, and remember that when the above was written, the author had not renounced any part of the doctrines of the paper on Newman-street, and let him say whether the drift of the one be not identical with that of the other. Is there not in both (1) exposure to wrath, (2) a rising out of, or deliverance from this by virtue of His obedience: and (3) instead of the "retaining this separate place," the going again under wrath — now substitutionally — in the stead of others? And now what shall be said to the author's disclaiming of any such doctrine as taught in the tracts, in the passage already quoted from page 27 of the Letter on the humanity
The writer proceeds, in the passage under consideration, Remarks, page 20, to describe the joy to our Lord which ensued on the transition from wrath and terror to being owned and anointed of God. Then, on page 21, he carefully distinguishes between substitution, which he rightly limits to the cross, and the identification with Israel which he says was expressed in the act of His being baptised. He then observes, page 22, "the period of His baptism may be considered the great turning point in the life of the Lord Jesus," and proceeds to illustrate the difference between the preceding and succeeding periods by the "difference between Sinai, the mount of blackness, and Zion, the mountain of light, and grace, and blessing." We then get the following, statement, "And as if in token of this great change in His dispensational relations, for I anxiously repeat, that there was no change in Him personally, heaven which had not before been opened over Him, was opened over His head, and the Holy Ghost descended and abode upon Him. He stood in a new position, etc." Now the whole question is as to those very relations. Mr. N. affirms in the passage, page 27, of the Letter on the humanity, that "they — the tracts state also that the relative position of suffering, which He held, was one out of which 'He was able' to extricate Himself, and from which He 'proved' that He could extricate Himself by His perfect obedience." But the passage we have been examining in one of these tracts states a great deal more. It states that a transition actually took place. That he quitted the place in which He had been standing, and took new ground before God. That He had stood in a place where wrath and terror were what He received from God, and this position the writer illustrates by Sinai, the mountain of fire, and blackness, and tempest. The new ground he took at his baptism, he compares to Zion, the mountain of light, and grace, and blessing, and says that "in token of this great change in His dispensational "relations" though there was no change personally, "heaven was opened over His head," and "He stood in a new position." This "new position" — this "separate and peculiar place" we are told, "He might have retained" — but "then, how could the scriptures have been fulfilled? He had come to be obedient to death, even the death of the cross." Where the difference is in principle, between this and the doctrine as originally propounded in the paper on Newman-street, I am at a loss to understand.
Should it be alleged that though this passage does affirm that a great change took place in the relations to God, of the Lord Jesus, at his baptism; yet there is no statement that such a change was needed, that it is not said, He had to undergo this transition, — I admit it, at once, as to this passage. But I turn to another in the same tract, where the necessity of such a transition is affirmed, though inconsistently enough, it is there said to be, not at his baptism, but at his death. I have myself supposed, that in writing the passage I am about to quote, — the truth must have flashed upon the mind of the author, that really nothing less than death could extricate any one from such a position as that in which he represents our Lord to have been placed for the first thirty years of his life; and so he passes over his baptism, and fixes the moment of this mighty transition at his death, forgetting, however, that if his death were needed for this, it is impossible it could avail for others. Forgetting also, that even the death of one standing in such relations to God as he describes, could not avail; no, not for himself. I refer to pages 31, 32, of "Remarks," etc., We have the first distinction "between the person and the dispensational, or relative positions of our Lord." The former, as in passages already quoted is his sonship and Godhead. "But yet," the writer says, "during his ministry on earth, He stood in a place dispensationally lower than that into which He has now brought us His church. Man was yet in his distance from God. There was as yet no glorified humanity on the right hand of the throne of God. The mighty power whereby God raised Jesus from the dead, and set Him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, was not yet put forth. The Spirit had not yet become the present unfolder and seal, (though He might be the prophetic testifier) of these things." All this, I suppose, beginning at "There was as yet, etc.," is intended to distinguish our place, — the place of the church. But Christ's place, the writer says, was lower than this. What was his place? "Man was yet in his distance from God." Now proceed. "And Jesus, as man, was associated with this place of distance in which man in the flesh was; and He had through obedience, to find His way to that point where God could meet Him, as having finished His appointed work, — glorify Him and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places; and that point was death, — death on the cross, death under the wrath of God Was it then Christ's association as man, with man's place of distance from God, which made it needful for him, through obedience to find his way to that point where God could meet him, viz. death under wrath? Where then is substitution? And what can we think of a writer, who, having penned and never recalled a passage like the above, could still coolly write the exculpatory passage quoted from pages 27, 28, of the Letter on the Humanity?
There is but one passage more I would notice in this part of my observations. It occurs in Mr. N.'s recantation of his error, as to placing Christ under the federal headship of Adam. "Many passages were quoted," he says, by the Irvingites, "to prove that Jesus was not only man, but man in weakness; that he had a mortal body, unlike to that which Adam first had in Paradise; and they added that the cause of his body being mortal, was that sin (as they said) inhered in it."
Now before proceeding to the words on which I am wishful to comment, let us understand the meaning of the words we use. Mr. N. says here, that the Irvingites affirmed that Christ had a mortal body, unlike to that which Adam first had in Paradise. Adam had a body, I suppose, in Paradise nor am I aware that any one has imagined that he brought any other body out of Paradise, than that which was originally formed out of the dust of the earth, and placed in Paradise. His body was not immortal before he fell, if by immortal be meant, incapable of death. It did actually die. So that in the sense of its being capable of death, — of its being possible that it should die, — Adam's body was mortal before he fell. In what other sense was it mortal afterwards? In what sense are our bodies mortal? Clearly in this sense, that they are under the necessity of dying, Sentence of death was pronounced on Adam's body when he had sinned, and it was that sentence, under which we are all born, that placed his and our bodies not in a capacity of dying merely, (that was the state of his before) but under the necessity of dying. There can but be these two senses of the word mortal. In the one sense, that of capacity of dying, both Christ's body, and Adam's in innocence, were mortal. Both did die, thus proving that they could. But Adam's body was under no necessity of dying before he fell. Nor was Christ's. Else, how could he say, "I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No one (see the Greek) taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." But now mark Mr. N.'s words. "In allowing that the Lord Jesus had a body different from that of Adam in Paradise, I was right. I was right also in stating that the Lord Jesus partook of certain consequences of Adam's sin, of which the being possessed of a mortal body was one."
Now if there be one thing more plainly revealed in scripture than another, it is that "the wages of sin is death." "By one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." Exposure to death, the being under the necessity of dying, mortality in that sense, there cannot be, apart from sin either inherent or imputed. To say that there could, would be to impute to God the injustice of placing the party concerned under a sentence which had not been deserved. Besides, who is it that is spoken of as having had "the power of death?" "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their life time subject to bondage." Now what does our Lord say? "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me." Could he have said this, had Satan, who had the power of death been able to find in him mortality in the sense of being under the necessity of dying, as we are. It avails nothing to say that his personal glory as the Son, and the appointment and power of God his Father, infallibly preserved his life till he was made sin and thus died as a sacrifice. The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. In me. It is not he hath nothing in my Divinity — nothing in my character — nothing in my soul. If Satan could have found in the body of our Lord what Mr. N. asserts was there, our Lord could not have said "findeth nothing in me." Nay, Satan, in that case, would have found all that he could desire. He would have found in the body of our Lord a necessity for dying, which would have effectually hindered his voluntarily laying down a life on which Satan had no claim, over which death had no power — it being "impossible that he should be holden of it;" thus setting aside all the power of the enemy, destroying him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivering from their bondage, them who through fear of death had been all their life time subject thereunto.
Remarks on Mr. Newton's Letter to --. [July 11th 1850.]
"If it could be of any real service to you for me to toil through the long letters of accusation, I trust I would not refuse; but I cannot see that any advantage could result from doing it. Any definite question on any of my own authorised statements, or on scripture, or any interrogation as to what I do or do not believe, I am quite willing to answer; but I assure you all my days would be spent in "perverse disputings," if I were to follow out from time to time, the crooked reasonings of my enemies, who seem to have no greater pleasure than "to strive to entangle me in my words, or prove me to be in any thing wrong, showing certainly very little disposition to "hope all things."
"There are some subjects, which from their very nature, do not admit of being treated of in language, which the ingenuity of the caviller cannot instantly misrepresent and pervert. If I had said, "that hour knoweth not the Son" my enemies would instantly have declared that I denied Christ to be God, because God must know every thing. If I had said that the Lord submitted to the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, they would immediately have declared that I represented him as a sinner who needed remission of sins. If I had said that Christ was "in the likeness of sinful flesh," they would have insisted on attaching a moral instead of a physical sense to the expression, and would have declared that I ascribed sin to the Lord Jesus."
Ans. I do not doubt that whatever the writer says on these subjects is viewed with more suspicion than the statements of others, and with more than at one time attached to his own. But whence has this arisen? Has he not assuredly taught what he himself confesses to be erroneous, and if followed out to its consequences, blasphemous and heretical? And have not his confession of this, and his subsequent writings, been characterised by such a jealousy over his own reputation, as to beget a well grounded fear that he is much more inclined to spare his errors than to sacrifice his reputation by confessing them? Can he wonder that all he says should be rigorously examined? Had he made full and open confession of his error in such sort as to satisfy his brethren that his soul was really humbled before God on account of it, he would not have had to utter such complainings as the above.
"If I had said that the Lord submitted to the baptism of repentance, for the remission of sins." — Who has said this? Not scripture. We are told in scripture that he submitted to what was in the case of all others the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. But in his case, it is explained that it was the fulfilling of righteousness. "John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptised of thee, and comest thou to me? and Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." Then he suffered him.
"There are therefore many reasons why the controversy must be given up as hopeless. Even if my opponents did not wrest my words from their context, and pervert their meaning; yet it is very evident that they do not receive the primary declarations of Scripture as to the person and work of the Son of God. Some deny that he had a body of flesh like ours, sin excepted; — others disbelieve that he had strictly a human soul; — others declare that it is heresy to say that his human nature was as distinct from the Divine as the gold was from the wood in the boards of the tabernacle — others regret the statements of Bishop Pearson as heresy, because they secretly believe that something divine commingled with the human nature of the Lord — others reject the thought of vicarious suffering even on the cross; — others virtually deny it by representing Christ as "becoming sin" or brought into the actual condition of the sinner on the Cross, instead of being judicially treated as if sin on our account."
Ans. It is no new thing for a person charged with unsoundness in the faith, to endeavour to create a diversion in his own favour by retorting the charge on his accusers. Still, considering who Mr. N.'s opponents have been, and the well known sentiments of the principal of them, it goes far to stamp unsoundness on Mr. N.'s views to hear him say of them as above — "they do not receive the primary declarations of Scripture as to the person and work of the Son of God." As to what he charges on his opponents, Mr. N. gives no names, quotes no words. As to the two first charges, I have never heard of any who hold any such thoughts. With regard to the third, we may well ask, where is the scripture which distinctly authorises the statement as to the wood and gold in the boards of the tabernacle? "No one knoweth the Son but the Father," ought, as it appears to me to repress such thoughts. Bishop Pearson's thought has been already weighed, and saints must judge. Great names add nothing to the force of truth, and can give no real sanction to error. As for any who reject the doctrine of vicarious suffering on the cross, woe to them! Gal. 1:8, 9. The statement that some virtually deny it, is directed against Mr. Harris and others, myself included, and will be weighed anon.
"How could any one who rejects the primary truths of prophecy, expect to understand the Revelation? much less can any who are heretical on the primary truths which concern the Lord, understand any thing revealed in the Psalms respecting Him. He, for example, who believes that Christ was in unfallen Adamic humanity, and not "in the likeness of sinful flesh," can surely understand nothing in the Psalms aright. Therefore it is worse than useless to argue about them, until the previous points are settled. He who is unable to explain the reason of Christ's baptism, will be equally unable to comprehend the Psalms."
Ans. Then was Christ in fallen humanity? Is this what the writer understands by the scripture statement, that he was sent "in the likeness of sinful flesh?" Christ himself explains the reason of his own baptism. Not as the writer, who says that in it he quitted the place in which he had been standing — one of wrath from God — and took new ground before God, in token of which heaven was opened over his head; but simply "for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." Would that his words contented us,
I do not doubt that it would be much more agreeable to the writer to engage those whom he calls his opponents in abstract discussions on what he terms "the previous points," than to have his own printed statements on the Psalms, compared with each other and compared with scripture. But the question is not so much whether his opponents understand the Psalms — we all have need to learn; — as, whether he has not so interpreted many of the Psalms as to teach deadly heresy? But then he says;
"Moreover any one who makes this a question of heresy as regards me, must be incapacitated either by prejudice or by ignorance from entering on the consideration of the question — because I have always in the most unequivocal language averred that ALL the sufferings of the Lord, from the cradle to the tomb, were sacrificial, and fell on Him entirely because He was working out, in the appointed way, the redemption of His people."
Ans. I suppose ninety-nine persons out of a hundred reading this, would understand the writer to say that he had always averred in the most unequivocal language that ALL the sufferings of Christ were vicarious or expiatory. i.e., they would understand the word sacrificial which he uses, in this sense. But is this the sense in which he uses it? If it was, I don't know how many passages of his tracts might be brought in flat contradiction to the above statement. But this is just a specimen of the sort of "unequivocal language" employed by the writer. The word "sacrificial" may be understood in the sense in which we speak of the death of Christ as a sacrifice — "to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" — or it may be understood in the way in which his whole life, all his active obedience, was a sacrifice; and in which sense though in a subordinate way, we are exhorted to present our bodies "a living sacrifice." The writer does not hold that ALL the sufferings which Christ received direct from the hand of God, were sacrificial in the sense of atoning or substitutional. He maintains that at least until Christ was thirty years of age, he was enduring from the hand of God "rebuking in anger and chastening in hot displeasure," not substitutionally, but as the result of his relation to God, and God's relation to him, because of his relation to Adam and to Israel. Now the whole question is this — if Christ's relation to God, and God's relation to Christ, because of his (Christ's) relation to Adam and to Israel were such as to expose him (Christ) to rebuking in wrath, and chastening in hot displeasure, — if they were such as to expose him to the sentence of death — to that curse — to the doom of man — to the inflictions that had fallen on Israel — how could he either in life or death present any sacrifice acceptable to God?
"If my statements had been ambiguous on this point — if I did not distinctly assert that ALL His sufferings were solely on behalf of His people, and none on His own account in any sort whatsoever — there might have been some excuse for the charge of heresy; but to say of sufferings that He incurred of His own voluntary will, as the Redeemer, that such sufferings could unfit Him to be the Redeemer, is a contradiction in terms. How could He be at the same moment, by the Father's appointment engaged in the work of redemption — and be unfitted by what He was so doing or suffering, for the work of redemption?"
Ans. When the writer held the doctrine that Christ was "under Adam as a federal head," did he not aver in the same sense as he now does that all Christ suffered was sacrificial? Did he not believe that of his own voluntary will, Christ entered on that relationship to Adam, and that all the while he stood in that relationship to Adam, he was working out in the appointed way, the redemption of his people? And yet is it not now the writer's judgment that if any such relationship to Adam had really existed, it would have rendered Christ unfit to be a sacrifice — that it would have unfitted him to be the Redeemer? Why then should it be impossible for others to perceive the same inconsistency in the writer still? What impossibility is there in Mr. N. holding that certain relations existed between God and Christ, because of Christ's relation to Adam and Israel, which, if they had really existed, would have as surely unfitted him for the work of redemption, is the federal relation which Mr. N. once held was sustained by Christ to Adam, and which he now admits would have unfitted our Lord to be a sacrifice? The writer's inconsistency in maintaining all the while, that in the very sufferings which he says flowed from these relations, he (Christ) was engaged in the work of redemption, cannot in any wise affect the conclusion that these relations and their consequent sufferings did unfit him for that work.
"I must repeat, therefore, that any one, who overlooking the heretical statements of my opponents, consents to raise a charge of heresy on a question of this kind, is morally incapacitated from entering into the question at all. Such an one is trebly guilty — under the profession of being zealous for the truth, he refuses to recognize heresy where it really is — he strives to make an accusation of heresy out of statements which by their very nature should have rendered such a charge impossible — and lastly by false accusation, he divides and scatters the church of God."
Ans. The modesty of this statement in view of all that the author has written, renders remark upon it superfluous.
"The first of this series of letters contains I suppose the substance of all the others. The writer maintains that Christ did not suffer any thing under the hand of God, until the cross. In that case, He never suffered sweat of the brow — weakness of body — the scorching of the sun — the biting of the cold — the fury of the storm — the cravings of hunger — the oppression of the Gentiles — in a word, He received from God's hand, only what Adam received in Paradise. Am I asked to believe this? or am I to believe, that although all these things did fall on Christ, yet that none of them were the result of the operation of the hand of God? Am I to believe that God had left the world to itself, and that He had introduced no governmental arrangements into it? Am I asked to believe this — in other words, to become a deist?
Ans. No, you are not, and you know you are not. As to what the real difference is between your thoughts on these things and the doctrine of the letter you are commenting on, we shall see what it is ere long. First, let us hear your next paragraph.
"Indeed all this is wicked trifling, not only with the word of God, but with facts plain and palpable to the eyes of men. Was not Christ in unparadisiacal circumstances? Did not those unparadisiacal circumstances come from God? And were they not the consequence of Adam's having sinned? Will any one really dare to say that Christ did not suffer under governmental arrangements of God — which governmental arrangements were the consequence of Adam's sin?"
Ans. All this indignation, real or assumed, is, as any one may perceive, against a phantom of the writer's imagination. It is not directed against any thing that his opponents have said, but only against certain deductions of his own from what they have said. Because his doctrine that Christ was suffering under the hand of God for the first thirty years of his life, not hunger, thirst, weariness, etc. — as you would suppose from the above — but wrath, indignation, and hot displeasure; — because this doctrine of the author's is objected to, he would have it understood that those who object to it deny that Christ suffered from hunger, thirst, weariness and the like. But is there no alternative save these two conclusions? The paragraph last quoted would seem to imply this; and it is in fact so constructed as to induce the unsuspecting reader quietly to acquiesce in the whole of Mr. N.'s doctrine, while he supposes that he is only giving his assent to self-evident truths; the real question being silently assumed instead of being stated as the point at issue. Separately, each question has to be answered in the affirmative; but for want of a fourth, when an affirmative answer has been obtained to these three, Mr. N. assumes that his point is proved, and intends his reader to conclude so too. But let us look at this. Mr. N. asks;
1. "Was not Christ in unparadisiacal circumstances?" Ans. Yes, in unparadisiacal circumstances he was; but not in any relationship to God less acceptable than was that of Adam in paradise, before he fell. Adam by creation was the son of God. See Luke 3:38. Jesus, as man, by miraculous, divine conception, was the Son of God also. See Luke 1:35. His relation to God, therefore, as man, was not unparadisiacal, though his circumstances were.
2. "Did not those unparadisiacal circumstances come from God?" Undoubtedly they did. To Adam and all his natural descendants, they came from God as the expression of his holy, righteous displeasure against sin. "So he (God) drove out the man." To Christ, because of the entirely different relation existing between him as man and God, these circumstances came from God's hands to be by him endured, as a part of that service of love, in which it was his meat and drink to do his Father's will, and glorify him on the earth; besides being his appointed path to that blessed office he now fills as "a merciful and faithful high priest; for in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted." Heb. 2:10-17.
3. "And were they not the consequence of Adam's having sinned?" Undoubtedly they were; and all men save Christ, endured them as such. To him they only came as the consequence of Adam's sin, in the sense in which his whole mission and work were occasioned by it. The grace of God took occasion from the foreseen sin of Adam, and its results, to prepare from before the foundation of the world, the whole work of redemption; and in consequence, Christ came and suffered both in life, and to death. In no other way did "unparadisiacal circumstances" come on Christ, as the consequence of Adam's having sinned. They come on us as expressive of God's displeasure against Adam's sin, under the imputation of which we are all born.
4. There is a fourth question which it is well to consider. Was there any thing in Christ's relation to Adam, to bring him into such a relation to God, and God into such a relation to him, — as to make these "unparadisiacal circumstances" the necessary result of these relations? This is what the writer holds, and has taught plainly enough in all his tracts on these subjects; and he would have the reader, in giving an affirmative answer to the three questions he proposes, quietly to acquiesce in an affirmative answer to this fourth question as well.
I would notice here, a letter from one of Mr. N.'s fellow-labourers, Mr. Offord, in which the same stratagem is used. In employing the word stratagem, I do not mean that the writer consciously seeks to deceive. But the reader must judge of the fallacy involved, when he sees his words. They are as follow:
"The Scriptures teach various things as to man's condition, or rather conditions.
1st. — Moral, as depraved.
2nd — Physical, as marred by the fall.
3rd. — Circumstantial, as placed in a groaning creation.
In each and all differing from man in Paradise, as
1st. — Undepraved.
2nd. — Unmarred.
3rd. — Untroubled.
Or in Paradise, it was,
1st. — Innocence.
2nd. — Physical Beauty.
3rd. — Pleasantness of circumstances.
Now it is,
1st. — Depravity.
2nd — Infirmity.
3rd — Thorns and thistles."
Now in all this laboured statement of the contrast between fallen and unfallen man, the point on which this whole controversy hinges, is left out. That is, man's relationship to God. Mr. Newton's original statement as to this was sound. "There are three particulars," he says, "which mark our condition as sinners before God. First, original, or vicarious guilt, imputed, (or reckoned) to us on account of the transgression of our first parent. Secondly, original sin, or indwelling corruption. And, thirdly, actual transgression." Now the first of these is left out, in Mr. Offords statement. Depravity, infirmity, thorns, and thistles, are given as the opposites of innocence, beauty, and pleasantness of circumstances; but the whole question of relationship to him, who first placed man in Paradise, and then because of sin, drove him out, is omitted and passed by. The reason is obvious. The imputation of Adam's guilt to Christ, once held by Mr. N., is now repudiated by him. But he still holds that Christ's relation to God, and God's relation to Christ, because of Christ's relation to Adam, brought Christ into the place of enduring the consequences of Adam's sin; liability, or exposure to death, at any rate, included. He and his disciples, however, find it much easier to press what is self-evident; viz., that Christ endured the common sorrows of human life; and that these come from God's hand, and (as to all others, I should say,) were the fruits or consequences of Adam's sin, than openly to discuss the question of what Christ's relations to God, and to Adam were; which, as they say, subjected him to these sufferings. But that, is the real question, however it may be kept out of sight.
To return, however, to Mr. Newton's letter.
"Besides, did not Christ suffer in Gethsemane? Will any one say that the sorrowfulness unto death, that there fell upon Christ, was not appointed of God. These letters say, that He never suffered, or could suffer any thing under the hand of God, except on the cross. They had better say at once, that God erred when He commanded the meat-offering to be scorched first, before it was burned on the altar."
Ans. There was not a step in all the lifetime of our blessed Lord, on earth, which had not been appointed of God. Neither was there a single pang which he endured, that came not upon him by the permission of his Father; but all this touches not the question of relationship to God; and whether prior to the cross, he ever stood in any relationship to God, which involved him in penal necessity of suffering. The meat-offering was a sacrifice of sweet smelling savour.
"And when we examine the ground on which this rejection of the living sufferings of Christ is based, what is it? It is this - that one so suffering must be "as" those for whom he suffers. This would be heresy indeed."
Ans. This is a very important statement, — incorrect indeed, as a representation of what the letters contain, on which the writer is remarking; but still most important in its bearing, on what the writer has himself said. This I shall point out, ere long. For the present I content myself with saying, that the letters in question, oppose Mr. Newton's doctrine as to the living sufferings of Christ, because that doctrine is, that Christ endured those sufferings, not "for" man, and "for" Israel, in the sense of substitution or atonement, but with man, and with Israel, in a common relationship with them to God.
Be it remembered, however, that the writer here declares, that to say, Christ was "as" those for whom He suffered, "would be heresy indeed."
"If that were so, then Christ when suffering in the place of others on the cross, must have become, "as" they, i.e. — His relation to God would have become altogether the same as their relation to God. If it be true, that one who suffers under the governmental arrangements of God, because of His voluntary association with those who are under those governmental arrangements, does thereby necessarily become "as" they; then much more must One, who stands strictly in the place of others, in order to receive what is due to their sins, become "as" they. In one of my earliest tracts, I pointed out this, as being in reality the doctrine of my opponents; though I then thought it was confusion of mind merely. They hold that Christ on the cross, was "as" those for whom He suffered — in other words, that He "became sin," or was found "in the actual condition of the sinner" — and when one of them was recently asked whether Christ had on the cross, the experiences of a sinner, a hesitating answer was returned. The scripture says that Christ became flesh, but it does not say that He became sin. It says that God made Him who knew no sin, sin for us; that is, that He judicially treated Him, as if He were sin: but to say, that He was "as" sin, or "as" those for whom He suffered, is to place Him in the actual condition of a sinner. In that case He must have been when on the cross in moral distance from God, — and must have been hateful to God. Consequently, He never could have made atonement, — He would have become sin; He would have become "as" those for whom He suffered; instead of being treated as if sin, for us." "Christ neither on the cross, nor in life, became "as" those for whom He suffered. It is the utterly false view of the cross held by my opponents, which leads them to their wrong conclusion, as to His sufferings in life. A holy one retaining his holiness, but becoming a substitute, and bearing wrath due to the unholy; is a very different thing from the holy one becoming "as" the unholy. In the latter case there could be no substitution."
Ans. One single remark upsets this whole train of reasoning, as also that in one of his earlier tracts here referred to by Mr. Newton. The passage he refers to, is in Observations, pages 50-52; where he represents Mr. Harris, as having used words which imply that there (on the cross,) His personal relation to God changed." Mr. N. as though very jealous for the glory of Christ, exclaims, "Surely the personal relation of Jesus to God never changed." Of course not; and Mr. N. well knows that neither Mr. Harris, nor the letters commented on, in his letter to -, affirm any such thing. The one remark which shows the fallacy of his whole reasoning, is this. The saying that it was as our substitute — in our stead — that Christ suffered the wrath of God upon the cross, does of itself sufficiently and entirely distinguish between his own individual, essential relations to God, and that relation to him, which he, as our Substitute, there assumed. But to say, as Mr. Newton does, — that Christ endured wrath and vengeance from God, through a great part of his life here not as substituted for, but - as associated with us, - identifies his condition before God, and his relation to God, with ours, instead of distinguishing between the one and the other. It would be very convenient for Mr. N., I have no doubt, to get his readers to place Christ's suffering for us in substitution on the cross in one category with his alleged suffering for us as identified with us through life; but he himself has too carefully taught us the difference, when he felt at liberty to speak out on those subjects, for us to confound them now. "So different is the place of a substitute for sinners, — from the place of suffering amongst sinners." These are Mr. N.'s words, "Remarks," page 11; and the italics are his own as well.
To the two following paragraphs in Mr. N.'s letter, I would call especial attention. He says
"I wish you to observe that the word "as" which I have used so frequently, throughout these observations, is taken from the first of the letters you have sent me, where the writer is pleased to say — "That according to Mr. Newton's views, Christ was Himself as one of the human family and as an Israelite in the condition of the human family, and of Israel, — in that condition before God." Mr. Newton begs to say that the whole argument of his tracts from beginning to end, — is to that Christ was not as one of the human family, and not as an Israelite.
"It is not I who say that Christ was "as" others before God, either in life or in death; it is my opponents who say, that He became "as" others in death and arguing backwards from the cross say that because His suffering under the hand of God there made Him "as" others, that therefore His suffering under the hand of God, previously must have made Him "AS" others. Consequently, they continue, He never suffered under the hand of God before the cross, — for if He did, He must have been "as" a sinner before the cross, and therefore unfit for a sacrifice. Why if He had become "as" a sinner on the cross, He could not have been a sacrifice."
The sentence of which Mr. N. has here copied a part from my letter is as follows. I give it, with the underlined words, just as they stand in my letter. "That, in Mr. N.'s views, which if true, would have disqualified our Lord for making atonement, — is, that according to those views, he was himself, as one of the human family, and as an Israelite, in the condition of the human family, and of Israel. In that condition before God; not substitutionally; that we all agree He was on the cross." These are my words, and those immediately following are. "Mr. N. says, He was in it by association, not substitution, all his life." Any one may see, that by omitting the first part of the sentence, not giving the underlining of certain words, and laying all the stress upon the word "as" which is not underlined at all, Mr. N. represents me as making that word the hinge of the controversy. I have not much reason to complain of this, as we shall see, I simply notice it as an inaccuracy of the writer. I had used the word "as" in an explanatory way; Mr. N. represents me as using it affirmatively. Strictly speaking, the words "as one of the human family and as an Israelite" in my letter form a parenthesis, though not enclosed in brackets. The sense is complete without them. In affirming that Mr. N. represents our Lord to be in a certain condition, I introduce, by way of explanation, that it is of him "as a man and an Israelite" that he affirms this. Any one may see the difference between this, and representing Mr. N. as affirming of Christ, that he was "as a man, and as an Israelite." But this only by the way.
On Mr. N.'s own ground, what does he say to the following passages? He quotes my words, that "according to Mr. Newton's views, Christ was himself, as one of the human family and as an Israelite, in the condition of the human family and of Israel, — in that condition before God" — and then says, "Mr. Newton begs to say, that the whole argument of his tracts, from beginning to end, is to show that Christ was not as one of the human family and not "an Israelite." Now, Mr. Newton, what say you to the following statements? Whose are they?
"The moment He (Christ,) came into the world, He was a part of mankind, in it, — He was born a man; therefore in that sense became a part of the human family. If He had been born in Paradise, He would not have found sorrow, by becoming a part of it; but being born out of it, and seeing He was born into the world under the curse; it brought Him under all the sorrow and affliction which pertain to the human family "as" such." Notes, p. 11.
"So Jesus became obnoxious to the wrath of God, the moment He came into the world; accordingly, we find many of the Psalms speaking of this, — 'From my youth up, I suffer thy terrors with a troubled mind, etc.' Psalms which do not apply to the cross, or to the period of His manifested service. but which speak of Him "AS" a man living amongst other men, with the terrors of God compassing Him about." Notes, p. 12.
"And if these and similar passages in the word of God, were less distinct than they are, — yet, surely, the same reasons that would lead us to admit, that He suffered under certain inflictions, which the hand of God had laid on Man "AS" man; would go far to show that if there were any analogous inflictions on Israel, He would be exposed to those inflictions as well." Remarks, page 8.
"And if it be asked, — was then the Lord Jesus subjected during His life, to all the inflictions that were due to man "AS" man, and to Israel "AS" Israel? I answer, no! To be obnoxious, that is, — exposed to certain things, is a different thing from actually enduring them." Remarks, p. 8. (Note here, — He was obnoxious, i.e., exposed to all, though He did not actually endure all, for reasons assigned.)
"And, secondly, when we remember that Jesus had no feeble or imperfect estimate of the place in which Israel stood; that He indeed truly saw it standing with all the terrors of that mountain arrayed against it, where there which man had sunk, and yet more into which Israel had sunk in His sight." Remarks, pp. 1, 2.
"Labour, sorrow, etc., were not circumstances fortuitously connected with the human family; they were inflictions in displeasure, from the hand of God, and under these inflictions, because He was a man, Jesus was found." Rem. p. 4.
"To be obnoxious, that is, — exposed to certain things, is a different thing from actually enduring them. His faith, His prayer, His obedience, — all contributed to preserve Him from many things, to which He was by His relative position exposed, and by which He was threatened. This I do maintain, that He lived long after the Lamentations of Jeremiah had marked the condition, into which Israel had begun to sink; and were still more deeply sinking every day: and that therefore He suffered, suffered under inflictions from God." Rem. pp. 8, 9.
Observe here, that as another has remarked, this cannot be Christ's appreciation of the state of others — He is, Himself represented as exposed by His relative position to a great deal which does not come upon Him; but that still He therefore suffered — suffered under inflictions from God.
"Since He was not until the cross punished substitutionally, why was it that He was chastened at all? How could it be but because He was made experimentally to prove the reality of that condition into which others but more especially Israel, had sunk themselves, by their disobedience; a condition out of which He was able to extricate Himself, etc.," Rem. p. 12. Mr. N. says in this letter to - - "appreciation of soul is the sense in which I have used the word 'experience."' Can any one credit this in view of the passage just considered? By His relative position He was exposed, it is said, to much that He did not suffer. Was that exposure, appreciation of soul too? Did not His "experience" of what He did suffer and His exposure to what He did not, both flow, according to Mr. N., from the same source, viz., His relative position? How then could he use the word experience in the sense of appreciation?
"And is it a new doctrine that Jesus by his birth became obnoxious, that is, exposed to all the sinless penalties of fallen man? And if he was exposed to the doom of man, was he not equally exposed to all the sinless penalties that had fallen upon Israel as dwelling under Sinai?" Observations, p. 9.
But I forbear. To quote all, would be to transcribe the greater part of the tracts. Enough has been given to show (1) that if my use of the word "AS" will bear the construction Mr. Newton puts upon it, he is by the evidence of fourteen distinct passages from his writings convicted of "heresy." "This," he says, "would be heresy indeed." (2.) By the evidence of these fourteen passages and a number more, I have fully proved that Mr. N. teaches, that "Christ was Himself as one of the human family and as an Israelite, in the condition of the human family and of Israel. In that condition before God." I have not inferred, as he says I do, that one suffering for others must be "AS" they. I have given fourteen passages in which he, Mr. Newton, SAYS Christ was "AS" a man and "AS" an Israelite; i. e., if my words quoted by him have any such force. In all these passages he uses the word "AS" in the same way in which it is used in the passage he quotes from my letter. But what is more important, I have proved my account of his doctrine correct by a number of other statements, some of them giving it in terms, and none of them depending for their sense - on the word "AS" to which Mr. N. attaches so much force.
I must now proceed with his letter to --
"When God judicially visited Christ with damnatory wrath upon the cross, as if He had been sin — the personal relation of Christ to Him, was that of the obedient One fulfilling His Father's will. He was even on the cross, the offering of a sweet smelling savour; and God loved Him and delighted in Him whilst He was, (because vindicating the holiness of His law) bruising Him."
Ans. "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again," does indeed give us one view of the cross. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" gives us another. Could he have used this latter cry, except as standing in our stead? Yet in what does it differ from Ps. 88:14, "Lord, why castest thou of my soul, why hidest thou thy face from me?" Yet this is a Psalm which Mr. N. says he believes should be taken as a whole to refer to a period previous to the cross. Obs. p. 73.
"When the Lord had placed Himself under the earthly governmental arrangements of God which were bearing afflictively on Israel and on men; He was neither "AS" other men in God's sight: nor was He treated by God as if He were in their condition. For example, He had sustainments which they knew not of — heaven was opened over His head — and He was continually visited with proofs that He was the One in whom the Father delighted. So far therefore from being "as" others, He was not even treated as if He were in the condition of others until the cross. Nevertheless there was not a sinless suffering to which He was not exposed even as they."
Ans. If he was neither "as" others nor treated "as if" in others' condition when the eighty-eighth Psalm applied to him, what was he? "Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves." Were these "sinless sufferings?" Then besides, be it remembered, that "the sentence of death" is not only included by Mr. N. in "sinless penalties," or "sufferings," as he has it here, but is given by him as an. example of what those penalties are, (Obs. p. 9.) and in the light of this, let the above statement be pondered — "Nevertheless there was not a sinless suffering to which he was not exposed even "AS they." How were they exposed to the sentence of death?" Even "AS" they, the writer says, so was Christ, in the very letter, yea, in the very paragraph, in which he is disclaiming the doctrine that Christ was "AS" they either in life or death. Alas!
"A legislature may appoint laws for a house in which lepers are immured; but the legislature would not regard him as a leper who went voluntarily to dwell with the lepers and to serve them, though he might be subjected "to the same rigorous laws."
"The legislature might confine convicts to dark mines, and appoint to them many hardships. If I choose to go and dwell in these mines and submit to these hardships, I should of course suffer under the appointment of the legislature; — but the legislature would not regard me "as" one of those with whom I was associated. It would fully recognise my distinctness, and might, if it pleased, openly prove that it recognised that distinctness. Sufferings in association, do not make us "as" those with whom we suffer."
Ans. Do they not? Then what means the following statement? "If we suppose an evil and rebellious family banished by an emperor to some distant and inclement region, and there subjected by law to many hardships and privations, and threatened, unless reclaimed, with yet severer sufferings, we should easily understand that this family was not only banished, but under inflictions also from the law of him who banished them. And if the son of the emperor in pity and because it pleased him to fulfil a known desire of his father, were to banish himself for an appointed season into that distant land and become one of that exiled family, so as even to bear their name, and were to drink of their cup of misery, we should regard him not only "AS" one of the banished, but "AS" one suffering also under the penalties which the law of his father had imposed on the banished ones, with whom he had thus placed himself in association." Obs. page 8. What are we to think when conflicting statements and counter illustrations meet us at every turn? How can one avoid the conclusion that the tracts were written under the influence of a doctrine which had been held by the writer for ten or twelve years then, at all events; that this doctrine gave its own colouring to the statements in the tracts; but that now the doctrine being given up and yet the tracts maintained, the writer is involved in this inextricable confusion and endless self-contradiction by his anxiety to maintain his character and consistency. Would that at last he might be led earnestly to carry out his own words as to the doctrine referred to, — "I hereby withdraw all statements of mine, whether in print or in any other form, in which this error or any of its fruits may be found." Statement, page 5.
"Again, suppose I were to place twenty lamps side by side — one of them having an inextinguishable flame, fed by peculiar oil — and suppose I were to pour upon them all such a blaze of heavenly light as should extinguish all save the one that had the inextinguishable flame — should I say it was "as" the other lamps, because placed in the same circumstances, and subjected to the same trial. Or suppose I were to bring on these lamps mists of darkness, in which no earthly light would burn — but the one lamp which had the unquenchable flame, continued to burn on in its brightness, should I say it was "as" the other lamps, though placed in the same circumstances."
"The whole argument of my tracts, I repeat, has been to show this — to show that the Lord Jesus was never 'as' others in the sight of God — that although He brought Himself as near as a sinless One could into the very circumstances in which men and Israel stood, yet that He was not "as" they, nor regarded by God "as" they. Although this is the whole argument of my tracts I am now deliberately told that I teach that the Lord Jesus was "as" others.
Ans. Yes, and you have now been furnished with fourteen verbatim extracts from your writings in which you do teach this — in which you use the word "as" in the very, way, in which it is used in the passage you so vehemently complain of. But let me entreat your attention, if this should ever meet your eye, to another passage, in which, you do indeed assert Christ's distinctness from others in these his alleged sufferings; but assert it — how? As in the illustration above — of the twenty lamps? No, but to show that besides suffering as a man, and as an Israelite, he suffered as neither man nor Israel has done, or can do in this world. The words are as follow.
"But we should, form a very inadequate conception of the living experiences of the Lord Jesus, if in addition to the sufferings which flowed spontaneously as it were, from the condition of man and of Israel, we did not also recognise a yet more close and searching dealing of God with His servant, whereby His sensitive and perfect soul was made to feel in a manner inconceivable to us, the reality of the circumstances around Him. How should we feel, imperfect as our sensibilities are, if God, according to the power of His own holiness, were to, press upon the apprehensions of our souls a truthful sense, of the present and future condition of ruined man? And what relations were there, either of Israel or of man, that Jesus was not caused to estimate thus, And here it is that all illustration fails. We may say, that a king's son, a beloved son, goes to share the cup of a banished family. We may use this and similar illustrations, which are true and serviceable so far as they go, but they fall short in this that they do not exhibit that personal (mark this) exercise from God which constituted, one great distinctive feature in the living sufferings of Jesus. His servants, such for example as St. Paul, may follow their master in drinking in their more feeble measure of the cup of others' woe, they may suffer much with others and for the sake of others, they may also have exercises of spirit; but no one excepting Jesus ever had his soul exercised in the same manner (for the dispensation was one of law) nor with the same intensity — the intensity of truth. The Lord Jesus was as much alone in His living estimate under God's hand of the circumstances of human life here, as in enduring wrath upon the cross. He who before He was made flesh had known all the heights of uncreated and eternal glory, was also, when here, made to estimate according to the sensibilities of that nature which He had taken, the (to us) inconceivable distance, of humanity from God. And when thus exercised, though personally holy and beloved, He was made to feel that His association with those thus standing in the fearfulness of their distance from God was a real thing, and that it was so regarded by God. His was no mere pretended, imaginary association." Obs. p. p. 31, 36.
So that all these illustrations as to lepers and convicts and lamps, exiled families and Emperor's sons, as well as all the references to Elijah, Daniel, Jeremiah and others, as associated with Israel's condition, fail to bring out fully the author's thought. There was one point which could not be illustrated; "the rebuking in wrath and chastening in hot displeasure" from the hand of God himself — God pressing these things on the apprehensions of his soul according to his own power and holiness, and causing him to feel as a part of that which was exposed to the judgments of his heavy hand — God's fierce wrath going over him, and his terrors cutting him off — for this no illustration could be found. But this is the writer's idea of what Christ received direct from God's hand for the first thirty years of his life — not without intermission indeed, but still so as to give its character to that period of his life. Any one therefore, who supposes that in the diluted statements of the Letter on the humanity, and the illustrations used in this letter to — he has got an adequate view of what the writer holds on these subjects, is utterly mistaken. There is one point according to his own avowal which baffles all attempts at illustration: and that one, as any one may perceive who reads the Notes, Remarks, and Observations, is the point on which Mr. N. most strenuously insists, for the interpretation of the Psalms. It is not only that because of his relation to Adam and Israel, Christ stood in such a relation to God and God in such a relation to Christ as to expose him to the doom of man and the doom of Israel, but also that God dealt with him according to these relations, causing him to feel what is expressed in Psalms 6, 38, 88, 102 etc., and that mark, not substitutionally — not in our stead — but as by birth associated with us. This is the doctrine of the tracts.
"I do not therefore feel it requisite to read all the letters, because I am quite sure that what I have said meets the point of the question. If there be any question which you would like to put to me definitely, — I should be happy to answer it."
"Christ had a human, sensitive, though sinless body; He had also a human, sensitive, though sinless soul; — in both He was exercised in life, and in death. His bodily trials were greater than those of others, for He had not where to lay His head: the inward trial was unequalled, because He had to consider and appreciate in His soul, the condition of men and of His is people before God. 'Appreciation of soul' is the sense in which, I have used the word 'experience.'"
"In these appreciations of soul, He was not "as" others. The presence of evil they could not appreciate as He, because they had a tendency toward it, and because they lacked His sensitiveness and His knowledge of God; the absence of good, they could not appreciate for the same reasons. Therefore in the experiences of His soul, as well as in the ways of His steps, He was utterly unlike other men."
Ans. All this has been already met. One only question would I ask further here. If appreciation of soul be the sense in which the author uses the word "experience" — how would he distinguish that from "His soul entering into the condition of things around Him?" I should have supposed that was His "appreciation of soul." But he carefully distinguishes this from the sufferings of which he specially treats in the tracts. "It was not merely the sufferings He had, because His soul entered into the condition of things around Him, — but there was quite another question; the relation of God to Him, whilst thus suffering." Notes, p. 7. So also in the Observations, p. 42. "It has not been my object to speak much of those sufferings, which flowed spontaneously, as it were, from His own sensitive and perfect nature. I have desired chiefly to consider His sufferings, and His exercises under the hand of God, — arising from His association with man, and with Israel; whilst drinking of their living cup of woe." Surely there is more than 'appreciation of soul' meant here.
"You will find also, that they who are now my adversaries, did not even while my friends, distinguish between the nature of the Lord and His character. They were always confusing between the two, and I have no doubt, thought and said therefore, many things that were erroneous. The character of our Lord always had divine traits blended with it. He thought, spoke, and acted, as one who was divine as well as human. In His natures, there was distinctness; in His character, combination."
Ans. God grant us rather to bow our heads, and worship in the presence of Him, who is the object of heaven's homage, as well as the centre of heaven's joy, than to be nicely and accurately defining what appertains to his natures, and what to his character. "No man knoweth the Son, but the Father," — is surely a word of deep and solemn significance.
"It should be remembered too, that though it was not competent for the Holy One on the cross, to ask that the stroke might be removed; (for it was necessary that He should suffer to the full) yet whilst under the governmental arrangements of God in life, — it was quite competent to Him to ask, indeed it was God's will that He should ask that many a sorrow should be averted. Whenever it was right to ask that they should be averted, — He did ask, and they were averted. This explains many of the Psalms."
Ans. Undoubtedly, while on the cross it was not competent for Christ to ask that the stroke might be averted. But was it not that this stroke might be averted, that this cup might pass, — that he besought his Father, (yet in perfect, unqualified submission,) while in the garden? And are we told of any other cup, from which he prayed that he might be delivered? It has been one's deep joy to think of Jesus, as the One who never thought of himself, or asked to be spared a single pang, — but went, and that voluntarily, into all the depths of our sorrows, in holy sympathy; until he came, indeed, to the closing scene; and then, because He was the Holy One, he could not but shrink (yet without the least exercise of his own will,) from that forsaking of God, and hiding of his face, and enduring of his wrath, — which he had to endure. Yes, had to endure! The cup could not pass; and, oh! to see him as he meekly asks, "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" Blessed Jesus! It was the cup charged with what was due to our sins. May our souls know more of that love of thine, which truly passeth knowledge!
"There is no greater sign of our advancing into darkness, than when we consent to blot out part of the word of God, because we cannot comprehend it."
Ans. No; but there are other dark signs, as well as this. "Intruding into those things which he hath not seen," and "professing themselves to be wise" were both indications of departure from God, — the sorrowful sequel of which, we are but too well aware of. The dark ages of Christendom followed on the one, — even as all the abominations of heathenism flowed from the other. The Lord keep us, however, from shutting our eyes to any part of his word.
"If what these letters say, is true, — the 102nd Psalm is false. That Psalm is quoted of Christ, and declares that He did suffer from God during life."
Ans. This is indeed a heavy charge. The Lord is witness, — I would neither hear nor answer it lightly. Still, after looking to Him, and reading, and re-reading, Ps. 102, I can see no ground for the charge; I can see in it no proof that the indignation and wrath there spoken of came upon our Lord, till he hung on the cross. That he was always a sufferer, — the sufferer, — I have never questioned. And, that amongst the many causes of his sorrows, there was one burden which pressed heavily upon him, — perhaps more so than any other; I mean the anticipation of the closing scene, — I have never doubted this either. We have several intimations that this was so in the New Testament. We are there told also that "in the days of His flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death, he was heard in that he feared." V. 24, of this Psalm is obviously a cry of this description, — as analogous to "If it be possible, let this cup pass," as can well be conceived. Nor do I see either inconsistency, or irreverence, in supposing that this was his utterance, after the sorrowfulness unto death had come upon him. We know that that hour was preceded by the brightest foreshadowings of his glory. The feast at Bethany, where Lazarus risen from the dead, was seated with him at table; the hosannas which rung the air as he entered Jerusalem, — and then the inquiring of the Greeks after him, — drew from him, as we find in John 12, the exclamation, "The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified." But even there, in the gospel which reveals him specially in the fulness of his divine, essential glory, as God, and as the Son of the Father; this anticipation of the given, official glory, which awaited him, — immediately yields to the thought of what intervened. "Now is my soul troubled" is almost his next utterance to that already cited. And can we see nothing here to shed light on such a verse as the 10th verse, in the Psalm we are considering. "Thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down," seems to be but the expression of that sense of the glory that was his portion, and which we find him dwelling upon, in John 12, but dwelling upon only, to turn from it, — to that unutterable depth to which he must descend, ere that glory be reached. While in all the former part of this Psalm, he retraces his path of sorrow, — a path rendered in great measure what it was, by the continual anticipation of this hour, and of its close. "For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping; because of thine indignation and wrath: for thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down," bears thus a simple and unforced meaning, — a meaning which brings its own tale of the sorrow and love of Jesus to our hearts; and which involves no such consequences as the idea, that all His lifetime, or for the greater part, he was actually withering under the manifested and inflicted wrath, and indignation of God; and that, too, not as our substitute, enduring it in our stead, — but by association with us, who were its suited and guilty objects.
I give not the above, however, as feeling that I have certainly the mind of the Lord. I should be thankful for light, either to confirm or correct the thought, as to the precise era of this precious utterance of the heart of our Beloved. The principle of interpretation I could not doubt for a moment is the correct one; the application of it I leave to the spiritual judgment of those more taught in the word. This much, at least, I feel; that I have neither any desire, nor any motive for desiring, to "blot out" this precious portion of God's holy word. Nor is there a word in it, that I cannot look full in the face on the principles of the Letter Mr. N. comments upon and of this, which I must now hasten to draw to a close. Mr. N. says, however —
"When persons thus begin to sacrifice truth, they feel happier, lighter, and more free from perplexity, just because they are receiving what they do understand and rejecting what they do not understand. Faith, which has to combine truths, and often to receive apparent inconsistencies, ceases to be in action; and it becomes merely an act of the mind, taking one part of truth, and rejecting the other. No doubt the path seems one of clearer light, more peaceful and more smooth; and Satan strives to make it appear so. Nor is it these Psalms only, that are thus virtually cancelled. The same difficulty is felt respecting the baptism of the Lord, — His suffering in Gethsemane, — His being made perfect through sufferings, (not suffering.) The type also of the scorched meat-offering, and various other scriptures are equally rejected."
Ans. Faith receives all the truths which God has revealed in his word. Combining truths, however, is far oftener the work of man's mind. The circumstance of those who renounce Mr. N.'s doctrines, and return to the simple faith of Christ, "feeling happier, lighter, and more free from perplexity," may be accounted for, in a widely different way from the above. But such generally need no witness to them, of whence their joy comes.
"We have to receive not a Christ, whom our own imaginations have formed, but the Christ described in the scriptures. What has one of the most marked features of apostate christianity been? Why, a deification of the humanity of Christ, especially in life. Look at every picture of Him you ever saw. Is He represented, as having His visage more marred than any man, — and His form more than the sons of men? As one in whom there was no form or comeliness, — or is He represented in a kind of superhuman humanity? What title have they, who reject the description of the 102nd Psalm, and who say it did not beseem Christ to suffer any thing under God's hand before the cross; what title have such to think, that they would not be stumbled at Him, — if they now saw Him in the flesh; suffering under the many influences, which are now bearing afflictively on human life? Their consciences would tell them, that such influences are not fortuitous, but from God, — they would say, or be disposed to say He, therefore, who is plainly suffering under them, cannot be the Holy One of God. This was where Israel stumbled. To confess "Jesus Christ come in the flesh" is a different thing from what some imagine."
"But I would not say more at present. If you have any definite question, further to put, it will give me much pleasure to reply. I retain the letters till then."
Ans. This closes the communication. On the last paragraph but one, I have a remark or two to make. A few years ago, Mr. N. wrote and published to the world, a volume containing the following statement. "But there is yet another character of power, which the Church is to exercise in the glory. Admission into the counsels of God, is represented by the throned elders, — omniscient power of superintendence, by the seven spirits; but the execution of the will of God, and the omnipotent power, necessary to such execution, is also committed to the redeemed." Thoughts on the Apocalypse, p. 51. Now think of the person who wrote this, — speaking of "the deification of the humanity of Jesus," as one of the most marked features of the apostacy. Nothing to my own soul, so marks the power and delusion of the enemy, as this degrading of the humanity of Christ, along with what is really the "deification" of the saints. It is not a thought of man's unassisted reason; and assuredly it is not what God has taught. The source of it, however solemn the reflection, is obvious enough.
Then as to Israel. Israel's thought of Christ, was just that of the writer; viz., that he was stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted, — yet not substitutionally. Isa. 53, shows us plainly enough, that the remembrance of this will break the hearts of the repenting remnant of Israel, by and bye. "Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows": they have learned the secret of his suffering now: but "yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted." That is what overwhelms their hearts with grief. They have learned now, how it was, He suffered. "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him: and with His stripes we are healed."
Popish pictures of the blessed One are sad enough; but who that has a spirit-taught estimate of Jesus, could think of representing him, "as one in whom there was no form or comeliness?" That is, the estimate of him, formed by unbelieving Jews. Sad as are the popish pictures of him which we commonly see, there is in the very halo with which they surround his head, — the witness that he is owned as possessor of a glory, which could not otherwise be represented to the eye. It is not that I would justify these things at all. I have no doubt, they mislead. But how a believer could represent Him as without form and comeliness, — who is to all believers, "the chiefest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely," I cannot understand. The very marring of his visage, is beauty in the eye of the believer; but to represent it would be the last thought of his heart.
I have done. I simply close by recalling to mind, that the question between Mr. N., and orthodox Christians, is this. Whether Christ because of his relation to Adam, and to Israel, stood in such a relation to God, and God to him, — as placed him under sentence of death, — that curse, — the doom of man, — and the inflictions of God's displeasure which had fallen on Israel. Mr. N. has affirmed this, and used the most subtle reasonings in palliation and support of it. He may seek to explain away his statements, and put the fairest construction upon them; but that will never satisfy the conscience that cares for Christ and his glory. "He that covereth his sins, shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh, shall have mercy." Had Mr. N.'s retractation of the expression, "federal headship," as applied to the relation of Adam to Christ, been the genuine fruit of the Spirit, — he would have seen his tracts to be full of doctrine which had sprung from this, or formed part and parcel of it; and he would have wished nothing as to his tracts, but that they might be destroyed and buried in everlasting oblivion; and instead of still assuming to be a guardian of the faith, and able to draw nice distinctions on abstract, difficult subjects, he would not have known where to hide his head. The Lord grant that he may yet know what it is to humble himself, under the mighty hand of God.