W. T. Turpin. [1890?]
In a paper issued from Tunbridge Wells, dated August 6th, there are four statements of doctrines, framed by those who have allied themselves with the present sad secession; and an attempt is made by quotations mostly from private letters, and Scripture, to establish the charge of heresy brought against the writer of these letters. Let us soberly and with the help of God's Spirit review these statements.
1st. The denial of the personality of the "eternal life." It is not said what is meant by "the personality of eternal life," but it is very clear that so far from separating eternal life from Christ's Person, the writer of the letters positively asserts it, for he says, "Scripture does not say that eternal life is Christ, but that Christ is eternal life." How could he more plainly set forth the very truth of Scripture, than by this expression? It is, therefore hard to conceive how any impartial person could frame such a charge as that a brother denied this, when in the words of scripture, he positively asserts what scripture teaches. Then in the column of scripture given as authority for rejecting this so-called heresy, it is striking to see how that every passage quoted establishes in so many words the statement that "Christ is eternal life," and not one passage asserts what is implied in the statement of the seceders. I have alluded to the expression "the personality of eternal life," a term not to be found in scripture, but used by those who are most active in their efforts to establish a charge of heresy and blasphemy, and who have gone beyond scripture in thus making eternal life an essential name of the blessed Son, as if eternal life and deity were identical;
He who was God, God over all blessed ever more, was also eternal life; "He is the true God and eternal life" is decided testimony against their manner of treating eternal life. Again, the charge that eternal life is separated from Christ's Person, is further refuted by the extract from the letter of June 10th, namely, "I believe that Christ risen and glorified is the full expression of eternal life according to the counsels of God." Is not the Scripture doctrine as to eternal life plainly asserted and set forth in this sentence?
2nd. "The denial that Christ was that eternal life, which was with the Father before the world was." This is the second charge, and an extract is given from a private letter of March 6th in proof. Now I have obtained a copy of that letter, and I find that the sentence is quoted as ending with a full stop, as if the subject were there concluded; but in the letter it is not so at all, for it goes on to say, "that the eternal life was with the Father, scripture says, and I have no doubt whatever that the reference is to the Son." Is not this a sad proof of evil construction? And that which makes it worse, is thus dealing with a private letter, which is not within the reach of all as is the case with a printed statement. The upright heart will shrink from such an attempt to fix a charge of heresy on a brother by partial quotations like this. Further, the writer says, with respect to this extract from his letter of March 6th, that the expression, "Christ having been the eternal life with the Father before the world was," were not his words at all, but those of another, and that in that letter of March 6th he was remarking on them. Yet in this paper I am now reviewing, as well as in others of a similar nature which have lately been poured upon us, the writers all seem to be under a common influence and both quote and suppress in a way that saddens the heart.
The way in which "Christ" and the "Son" are used in the present controversy, reminds one of the American doctrine of five or more years ago, then resisted by W. J. L. and others; in page 96 of "Life and Propitiation," we read: "Mr. G. states that in the same sense in which Paul affirms that we have life in Christ, John affirms that it is in the Son. Is the sense the same? Does not every Christian feel in reading the passages quoted that Christ and the Son are by no means interchangeable expressions? The apostle says, in Galatians 2:20, that the life he lived in the flesh was by faith in the Son of God; but does he say the Son of God lives in me? Or could it be said the Son of God is formed us? (Gal. 4:19.) Every Christian would resent such an idea. In Colossians 3:4 we find that "Christ is our life," but where is it said in this way that the Son is our life? And where again is it stated of eternal life as characterising it, 'this life is in Christ'? This idea of parallelism betrays the whole system, destroying the precious distinctions of the written word."
3rd. "The denial that eternal life was manifested to the world in the person of Christ." The passage quoted from the printed letter of Dec. 24th, 1889, does not in any way establish this charge. In that letter the subject of eternal life is treated of in an aspect in which it assuredly is set forth in scripture; the limitation of the subject by those who have seceded, is one of the main causes of their misapprehension, and becoming thereby, I grieve to say it, false accusers. That eternal life was manifested in the world in the person of the ever blessed Son of God is denied by no one; but to assert that it was manifested to the unbelieving world is assuredly going beyond what is stated in scripture. In the column of scripture given as establishing the charge of heresy under this head, one is amazed at the use made of scripture and the attempt to force its meaning in order to prove what we fear we must call a foregone conclusion; not one passage quoted states that eternal life was manifested to the world. In the first scripture, namely, "the life was manifested," it is added "and we have seen, and bear witness, and report to you the eternal life, which was with the Father, and has been manifested to us." Now why has this part of the verse been left out? Is it not evident that this sets forth the scope of the manifestation to? Let me ask who are the "we" and "us" who are here said to have seen and to whom the eternal life has been manifested? Is it the world? Will the framers of these four charges have the boldness to assert it is?
If I quote from the writings of our beloved brother, Mr. Darby, it is not in any sense as bringing him forth either directly or indirectly as an authority, Scripture and Scripture alone is that; but I do so simply to shew that if the charge of heresy be made in relation to the sentence here quoted from the printed letter of Dec. 24th, then it lies equally against his writings, which have been current for years past. In "Notes and Comments," Vol. ii., p. 386, he says:
"In a word, as it was hearing the word and keeping the word which was the sowing of the Son of man, so it was not manifestation to men, but veiled, and manifested to be the person (though men ought to have known Him) only to those whose eyes were opened by His word to see Him through the Father's grace."
I would commend to the notice of my readers an article in Part XIV. of "Notes and Comments on Scripture," page 214, entitled "Appearing, Manifestation, and Presence." The value of each word is given by Mr. Darby in detail. As to appearing, he says, "This word is appearance, not revelation as coming forth from being concealed, though necessarily in nature opposed, but the fact of being seen or visible." As to manifestation, he says, "To manifest or bring to light. Manifest is in contrast with being previously hidden, though in existence, though known to be so. It is applied to us only when our life is said to be hid with Christ in God." "Phaneroo, brings to light, and is applied to sin. That which makes all things manifest is light, for all things that can be reproved are made manifest by the light." Are not our brethren confounding appearing and manifestation?
But there is another point of cardinal importance brought out in the manner the scriptures are quoted under this third charge. There appears to be no spiritual intelligence at all in the way they are all mingled together. This is very plainly seen in the quotation which follows the one on which we have been commenting. "The life was the light of men" follows "the life was manifested." These two are placed together, as if they meant the same thing, and the contrast is thus entirely lost of the place which the Christian has in virtue of redemption, and the position of the world on the presentation of Christ, and His being merely in it. This contrast is very strikingly brought out as follows: "Note the remarkable contrast between John 1:5, 'The light shines in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not' and 1 John 2:8, 'The darkness passes and the true light already shines.' We get the full character of the living Christ in the presence of men brought in by redemption after the Lord's death. In life He was the light of men, but men were darkness, opposite in nature and the Light did not dispel the darkness at all. It remained as before, darkness, and did not comprehend the light. But redemption came in — there was a new state of things — Christ had overcome the power of darkness, and brought a new condition of men in resurrection into existence, and vivified according to the power and place of this life, which was in the light as God was in the light, and had left the darkness and the whole scene and power of it where it was, behind, the other side of the cross. Thus those who had received Him, had received light in life in their souls, cleansed by the blood, they walked in the light, and were light. It was not the strange phenomenon of light shining and darkness remaining; but the darkness was passing, and already the light shone as light, not in darkness merely. This is an immense change indeed. It is then easy to see how this connects itself with "which thing is true in Him and in you." It shews the relative place of the gospel and epistle very clearly, and more, it shews very powerfully the difference between Christ's position and witness on earth, and the light brought in after redemption was wrought, and He was risen. It is a very important comparison." ("Notes and Comments on Scripture," Part XVIII., pp. 117, 118.)
Again in pp. 113 and 114 of same, we find: "The comparison of John 1 and 1 John 1; 2:1, 2 is full of interest. In John 1, the life is the light of men, but darkness comprehends it not. In 1 John 1 they have seen, looked upon, and handled of the Word of life, and shew the eternal life which was with the Father and manifested to them; through the Word made flesh become a word of life to them they have fellowship with the Father and the Son — the names of grace. Then instead of the light shining in darkness and the darkness not comprehending it, they are in the light as God is in the light, where responsibility and test comes in."
This will shew how entirely the distinctive character of the gospel and epistle, is destroyed by the way the passages are put together in the paper we are reviewing. Further, it will also shew how many now in their intense zeal to prove a brother a heretic, are positively false themselves as to scripture testimony and truth, for what can be more clear than that surely without knowing it they are pressing one part of Scripture to deny another part? Is it not said, "The light shines in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." Now this latter solemn truth is entirely lost sight of or denied in the paper under consideration; there was no power in man to receive this blessed light, there was the very opposition of nature, as another has blessedly written: "They saw no beauty in Him to desire Him. In that which was nothing else than the exhibition of the divine nature in itself, it was impossible to go further. In natural things, if there is light, there is no more darkness; but in the moral world it is not so; the light, that which is pure in itself, and manifests everything, is there, and it is not perceived who is there. "Is not this the carpenter's son?" "It thou knewest who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink." "If this man were a prophet" — it is a definite judgment, pronouncing Him not to be a prophet, when God is there, and shews Himself as such. . . . This is an unknown field for man: it is the truth, and man is in a state of falsehood, as he is without God, and he understands nothing here. God is light; and when He is manifested such as He is, but adapted to man, man's state is such that nothing responds to this manifestation. If the conscience, which is from God, is reached, the hatred of the will is awakened." "Notes on Gospel of John," p. 11.
Now in contrast with all this stands out verses 12, 13 of , John 1, and of such, it is also truly said, "the exterior revelation of the light in the word was accompanied by a quickening power of God, which gave it a vital reality in the soul, in forming the incorruptible seed of God. As life Christ was there. The man was born of God." Ibid, p. 14.
4th. "The denial that eternal life is communicated to the believer at new birth." The charge of heresy or false doctrine framed under this head is not established either by the quotations from the private letter of March 6th or the printed letter of March 21st, still less do the scriptures quoted prove it. It is said in the private letter of March 6th that Scripture does not "Speak of our having eternal life imparted to us." What is meant by this is, that in so speaking, as many do, the mediatorial position of the Son, as man, in whom eternal life is given us is either denied or left out; Scripture says, "He that hath the Son hath life." "God has given to us eternal life and this life is in his Son. This is very forcibly set forth in the following: "Not in the first Adam but in 'his Son'; not in man, nor by his works, nor any means whatever; it is God's gift. 'He hath given.' And not properly and intrinsically in us, it is in His Son; and even when we are quickened, the life is not looked at as in us." — ("Lectures on Epistles of John," by J. N. D., pp. 112, 113.)
There is another truth of deep moment to which attention may well be called here, by reason of the way in which it appears to be now either ignored or abandoned, viz., that by which Christians are "connected with this scene of blessedness that belongs to the Father," or as has been said "they live in another world that belongs to the Father."
The Scripture which sets forth how this is, runs thus, "This is he that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not by water only but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that bears witness, for the Spirit is the truth." (1 John 5:6, 7.) This is the threefold witness rendered to this gift of life eternal. "The point is, that eternal life is not found in the first Adam, but in the second; the witnesses to this are the water, the blood, and the Spirit. You want purifying to have eternal life; you will get it nowhere but in death, and in that of Christ in grace. You want expiation, and the blood of Christ makes that; you want the Holy Ghost. Christ is not only dead, but glorified, and the Spirit is given, the witness that there is no life in the first Adam but in the Son. His power is found in that which marks the total breach of the first man with God and of God with him, save in sovereign mercy. In the epistle, John is shewing that moral cleansing will not be enough. The Spirit is named first when God applies it. The Word is the instrument, but it is by death itself. You must have cleansing but the cleansing is death. The water coming forth from the side is purity; and you can have purity by death only, and by His death." How well it is said: "The word of God being applied to man as a child of Adam could not purify him. Christ coming into the world by that put man to the test; and man was God's enemy, and therefore there was no mending him at all. It then became a question of redemption, of blood as well as water, and that life was in the Son; not in the first Adam but in the second. . . . And that is the reason why He says, You must eat the flesh and drink the blood. If you do not take Him as a dead Christ, you have nothing, for that cleansing came out of a dead Christ. It is death to the old thing, and a new life entirely, is brought in." ("Notes on 1st John," pp. 77, 78.)
In saying that "new birth of itself does not conduct into heavenly relationship and blessing," the writer of the letter of March 21st is no heretic. It is important to observe how he uses the words "of itself; the scriptures quoted as to believing, eating His flesh, and drinking His blood, all bear him out, instead of the contrary. It is quite true that "the new birth and the cross are both absolutely necessary for our salvation, but the second going further than that which was necessary according to the nature even of God and introducing us into heavenly things." "No doubt this new birth is in any case necessary, subjectively, even that we may see the kingdom and enjoy it, much more, that we may enjoy heavenly things in the presence of God. But as the passage speaks of the new birth, it does not treat of the heavenly glory for this the cross must be brought in also." — (See "Notes on Gospel of John," p. 32.)
As further testimony in this direction, I would quote from a tract just issued by Morrish, entitled "Scripture Queries and Answers on New Birth and Eternal Life," from the Bible Treasury, January 1, 1867. The question is thus put: "What is the bearing of the new birth in John 3:3-6 as compared with eternal life? (Ver. 15, 16)." The answer given is as follows: "It is to be remarked that in John 3 not eternal life but simply the kingdom of God is connected with being born again: this is necessary for it. We get a nature suited to have to say to God in whatever way. It is the Spirit's work. A nature capable of knowing Him. Eternal life is connected with heavenly things and the lifting up of the Son of man who is Son of God. This shews us what eternal life is, it is wholly in Christ (compare 1 John 1) and to us through the incarnation and necessarily also the death of the Lord Jesus (compare John 6:35-58.) It is in Him and promised to us before the world was, but brought into man by the incarnation (for He was in heaven) and we into its place and condition through His blessed death, resurrection and ascension (compare John 6:62.) Then we come into its proper place by redemption and in resurrection; for redemption in the full sense brings us into heaven."
It is not a little remarkable that five years ago, W. J. L., thus wrote on the subject of eternal life, in reply to the doctrines of F. W. G.: "When the communication of it is first spoken of, in John 3:14, 15, it is introduced by the cross — the necessity of the Son of man being lifted up; and that after the Lord had first intimated His going up to heaven — having come down from it — and had stated that what He had to speak of were 'heavenly things,' distinctly and positively contrasted with 'earthly things ' — even those of the new covenant, when Christ will reign over the earth. And yet to have part in these, man must be 'born again;' shewing plainly', too, that
if we use 'born again,' as being the same thing, as 'eternal life' — the distinction between the earthly and heavenly things is blotted out. Surely man has to be born again to have part in the 'heavenly things,' but in this case the life given of God is 'eternal life,' as John developes it." — "Life and Propitiation, an examination of certain 'New Doctrines.'" By W. J. Lowe. Page 72. The italics are the author's.
Also in page 73, he writes: "We have seen, too, that the effective communication of 'the eternal life,' the life that is characterised by the Holy Ghost (John 4, 7) pre-supposes in principle the Lord's death, and His actual place in glory, as Son of man in heaven, 'ascended up where He was before.'"
Again in page 75: "And now we find in the scriptures the eternal life, as communicated, so bound up with what is now seen by faith in the Lord's Person and place, that a soul which simply receives the truth finds itself placed upon a rock that nothing can touch, and nothing can shake. It has not merely received a doctrine, it finds itself in presence of a divine fact in all its length and breadth and height and depth, and eternal meaning, and a divine Person in whom it is all realised."
Also in page 76: "Life for us, then, is based upon the cross. The Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, from the Father — by Jesus who is exalted and glorified with Him — makes it good in our souls, giving us both the knowledge and the enjoyment of it."
Page 84. "May the Lord preserve us, too, from losing sight of the fact, that when the revelation of eternal life is made to us in the Person of the Son, then is made known also the presence of the Holy Ghost upon earth, consequent upon accomplished redemption, and upon the Lord's taking His place as Son of man in glory; and then not merely as the power and source of knowledge, but as also characterising the life communicated as we have already seen."
Page 87: "Is there one single scripture which applies the possession of 'eternal life' to those of whom it is not equally true, that they are living stones of the church and members of the body of Christ? Christ's actual place in glory as Son of God and Son of man, in virtue of His death, is the foundation of both these things. (Eph. 1)" If this is true, does new birth 'of itself,' conduct into heavenly relationship and blessing?
Page 88. "The important thing then for us to learn is how 'eternal life,' as a present possession from God is spoken of in the scripture. And when we come to examine it there, we are struck by the way in which knowledge is insisted on in the writings of John." (The italics are the author's.)
Before bringing this paper or review to a close, I would venture to give a rather long extract from the writings of beloved Mr. Darby, and I do so simply, and only to set forth a principle of the very first importance, seen also everywhere in scripture, but which now seems in danger of being abandoned even by those who at one time professed to own it.
In a paper, entitled "An examination of the statements made in the 'Thoughts on the Apocalypse,' by B. W. Newton; and an inquiry how far they accord with scripture," Collected Writings, Vol. VIII., p. 39-41, we find the following note:
"There is a very deeply and fundamentally false principle running through all the author's reasonings on the point. I mean this, that if life be there, inasmuch as it is always of God, or divine life, it is always essentially the same, whatever official distinctions there may be as to dispensation. Now, as to the possession of life by man, it must be holy in the principle of its nature, obedient and have God for its object. So far it must be fundamentally the same. But this makes man the end and essential object of all this. Then these things, man having life, may be termed official distinctions (though even so, it is most sad to say that those things by which God acts peculiarly on His saints are mere official differences) I do not think a spiritual, holy mind that loves Christ can help being shocked at being told that that possession of the Comforter, which made it expedient that Christ should go away — which guides him into all truth — gives him communion with the Father and the Son — which is an unction by which he knows all things, the things freely given to him of God, yea, the deep things of God — which enables him to cry, Abba, Father — by which the love of God is shed abroad in his heart, and by which he knows that he is one with Christ, in Him, and He in him — that all this is a mere official distinction. But the truth is, this principle shuts God out of the matter, in making the difference as to man, the end. These differences of dispensation are the displays of God's glory; and therefore of all importance and most essential, because a positive part of His glory. The law maintains His majesty and title to claim obedience, as the gospel displays His grace, and gave the obedience of a child. To say that the breaking down the middle wall of partition, and the accomplishment of the glorious work by which it was effected, produced only an official difference, because man had life, and man was forgiven, or forborne with in view of it, is to say that the display of God's glory was an unessential thing; the display of all His glorious wisdom, power, and love, in that mighty work which stands alone in heaven and earth, the object of angels' research. Was it unessential to them, who found scarce even an official difference, though doubtless it affected their position, to see Him who had created them, nailed to the tree in that mighty and solitary hour, which stands aloof from all before and after? Let us only remember that dispensations are the necessary displays of God's glory, and we shall soon feel where we are brought by what makes mere official difference out of them. Besides the difference is very great indeed as to man. It is everything to his present affections, as to his life. Because God puts forth power, power too, which works in man through faith, according to the display he makes of himself. And therefore the whole life in its working, in its recognition of God, is formed on this dispensational display. And this is the field of responsibility too. Thus if God reveals Himself to Abraham as Almighty, Abraham is to live and walk in the power of that name. And so of the promises given to him. Israel is to dwell in the land as the redeemed people of the Lord — their affections, ways, responsibility, and happiness flowing from what God was to them as having placed them there. So to us — the presence of the Holy Ghost Himself being the great distinguishing fact with the knowledge He affords. Because all this is what faith ought to act upon, and the life which we live in the flesh we live by faith, for the just shall live by faith. Hence the Lord does not hesitate to say, This is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. That could not have been the life of those before. Had they then not life? Nay, but it could not be stated in that way — their life was not that; and to undo these differences is to make a life without affections, character, responsibility, in a word, without faith you cannot do it; for to us to believe is to live. The more you succeed in levelling them to one thing, the more you succeed in stifling divine affections, and active human responsibility (destroying, as far as may be, divine communion, and frustrating divine grace), the more the glory and energy of faith is null, and hence God's glory in us."
There is another passage in the same volume (pp. 173, 174), which I would here quote along with the one already given, because of its deep importance as truth, and its intimate bearing on the present controversy.
"The life and spiritual energy of a saint depends on his faith in what is proper to his own dispensation. This is so true, that if he only believed what belonged to the last, it would not be life to him; it has ceased to be the test of faith to him. To Abraham faith in Almighty God was living faith: is this (though living faith surely owns it) what living faith consists in now? A Jew, not owning Jehovah would have failed from the covenant. And it is true of power, too. If the Holy Ghost be not fully owned, if the proper heavenly place of the church be not fully owned, no general idea of salvation, however true, will give the power, nor form and guide for Christ's glory those who neglect the former. What is special to the dispensation is the power and testimony of the dispensations, and not what is said to be common to all." (The italics are mine.)
I must now draw to a close my review, already too long; I have endeavoured, the Lord is my witness, not to use an offensive word, as well as to avoid everything of a personal nature; I too believe that vital truth, fundamental truth, is in question, and statements such as I have been commenting upon, prove beyond doubt how very far this has been let go by some, and never known by others; our brethren who have brought about the present sorrowful division, are in direct opposition to all that distinctively characterises the christian position as revealed in scripture, and recovered for us from thence, being set forth in the writings of beloved servants of Christ gone to their rest. Further than this, the very fact of our being gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is now abandoned, by some, for agreement with, or rejection of, the views and expositions of teachers by others, as I am now told, under the plea that all is now gone of a corporate character, and that individual action alone remains. Alas! how soon the most earnest can be turned aside, and give up faith in Christ and His truth. And how solemn to see the clever wile of the enemy in accomplishing this, a well laid spiritual snare, which, while seemingly making Christ's name and glory the object of vindication, in reality is using that for the purpose of undermining truth most blessedly connected with Himself in heaven, and distinctive of the position of the Christian in Him there.
Let me not for a moment be misunderstood, far be the thought from my heart to charge those who have caused this schism with what they have most severely and hardly charged others with, they have not hesitated even to assign motives, as if there were no care for Christ save amongst themselves, and no conscience except their own; I believe them to be entirely mistaken and in some instances utterly blinded, and I am assured, some will yet see it. The heart that truly loves and adores His blessed Person, Who is very God and very Man, has at least this solace in present sorrow, that any zeal for Him and the glories of His Person, even though under the mistaken and blinded idea, that He was assailed, is akin to what it feels toward Himself in its holiest affections; it has, I say, this, while it mourns over those deluded and deceived by the enemy under such a holy plea.
W. T. Turpin.
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