The teacher by his word; being part two of Remarks on Dr. Manning's sermon at Belmont, Hereford.
J. N. Darby.
Nova Liguria, February, 1874.
Dr. Manning having corrected and published his sermon delivered at Belmont, the following notice of it is added as a second part to the reply already published to what appeared in the newspapers. The immediate occasion is now somewhat remote; but the principles are of abiding importance, and Dr. Manning's sermon is a suitable occasion to bring them under the eye of Christians.
Since the previous tract was written, Dr. Manning has revised the report of his sermon and had it published, so that there can be no question as to the authenticity of the statements contained in the pamphlet given out under his name. The principle is of course the same, the assertions equally unfounded, the reasons equally inconclusive. The desperate error of putting the church in the place of Christ is Dr. Manning's error; the unbelief hidden under his statements is the unbelief of the Roman system as of Dr. Manning himself; the contemptible arguments throw back their contemptibleness on their author.
Dr. Manning begins by telling us that in the middle ages mass would have been said in the cathedral of Hereford, and lights burning in the Ladye Chapel, and this because persons believed in the teaching of the church, that is, of the Roman clergy.
Of this there is no doubt. In the middle ages the worship of the mass existed, a flagrant denial of the efficacy of Christ's sacrifice once offered, and of the authority of the word of God, which declares there is no more offering for sin, when Christ had been offered once for all. The Roman clergy were, with all the rest of the priesthood, eminently responsible for this blasphemous and vain pretension of renewing Christ's sacrifice, in which, to be of any avail, Christ (as is taught in Hebrews 9:25-26) must often suffer. This horrible wickedness did exist, and the clergy are answerable for it. This much I admit: there would have been degradations of Christ's sacrifice as to its efficacy, and there would have been superstitious idolatrous worship of the Virgin Mary. Thus far I agree with Dr. Manning.
234 But what are the principles on which Dr. Manning would restore this? Let us see. "What I affirm is this," he says, "that the letter of the scripture without the voice of the church, through the perverseness of men, killeth; and that the letter of the scripture, with the living voice of that church, quickeneth"-that is, giveth life.
Now I remark first here, that the sermon and the Roman system put the church instead of Christ as the object of faith. What Christ was in the synagogue, the church is according to Dr. Manning; and he puts the church instead of the Spirit as the author and power of faith. The teaching of Dr. Manning in the first two pages (and it is the substance of the sermon's teaching) sets aside Christ and the Holy Ghost for the church. The word of God says, Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever; Dr. Manning, that the church is (page 15); that as Christ stood in the synagogue with the scriptures, so the church stands now. The word of God says it is the Spirit that quickeneth, and that Christ's words are spirit and life; Dr. Manning, that the letter of scripture without the church kills, but that with the living voice of the church it quickens. It is a frightful denial of scripture truth and Christianity to set up his church on their ruin. Such is the main thesis of Dr. Manning's tract. As proof, let us examine his arguments.
He says, "It is a self-evident fact," "true, admitted by every one, and impossible to deny, that the whole revelation of Christianity was preached and believed throughout the world before the New Testament was written." "This is a fact so certain, so self-evident, that no calm honest man, who gives himself time to consider it, can for a moment doubt it."
Now to call it self-evident is simply nonsense. No such facts can be self-evident. Why, or how, is it so? It is a matter of history and testimony. The testimony of the ancient historians and fathers of the church in some respects contradict it. They state that Matthew wrote his Gospel to leave it in Palestine before he went out to preach in the world. So far from being self-evident, the writings prove that most of them were written by their authors in the course of their service. For example, the Epistle to the Romans was written professedly before ever the apostle had been there; the Corinthians also, before he had been at Rome, but after he had been at Corinth; the Thessalonians, when he had just left Thessalonica, before he had begun his work at Corinth or Rome. Matthew's Gospel, if we are to believe the authority of the fathers, was written very early indeed, before there had been any preaching perhaps out of Palestine; John's very late indeed. It is not really the question to be settled. The question is, What place do the scriptures hold now? But the statement of Dr. Manning is neither certain nor admitted, and to say it is "self-evident" is impudent nonsense. Hard words, it may be said; but it is well to speak the truth sometimes.
235 But there is another point which makes the whole statement utterly irrelevant, and that as Dr. Manning's own statement shews.
The revelation was made to the apostles and prophets. The former especially went to the Jews and heathen, and preached the gospel to them. The church had nothing to say to it. If the church had pretended to have authority over the idolatrous heathen, or the unconverted Jews, they would have laughed at them, or perhaps put them in prison for their pains. It is "self-evident" that the church had no kind of authority, real or pretended, over the heathen or over the Jews. Those sent of God went and preached to them, and when the Spirit of God (wholly apart from the church, which in such case was not formed there, and had no authority over the unbelievers if it had begun to be formed) wrought through grace in the hearts of the hearers, there was faith produced, and the foundations of the church laid by the testimony being received. Dr. Manning's real meaning is that the clergy should have power in the church when it is formed, which is quite another point. We have known them too well.
But the baptized, he tells us, "received the full illumination of Christianity from the living voice of the apostles."
This is equally unfounded. It is confounding conversion to Christ with teaching and building up. When by preaching (not by the church or its authority) heathens had been converted, then the apostles and others, as Apollos, etc., proceeded to build them up in the truth and godliness of walk; and to this especially served the Epistles, as they do for believers now. That Christianity was preached and believed throughout the world before the New Testament was written is a mere fable, for it is not done yet. If in saying so it is merely meant that the gospel was no longer confined to Palestine, but had gone out among the Gentiles before the New Testament was written, no one denies it; but it was no interpretation of the church, no work of the church, no authority of the church, which did the work or gave power to do it.
236 First, the church had no authority with Pagans: they recognized it in no way. Individuals sent by God carried the revelation God had given them by the Holy Ghost, and carried the revelation of Christ where it had never been, where there was no church. And Paul boasts of this, that he did carry it where it was not known, and that he had what he preached, not from the church at Jerusalem, but from the Lord Himself. In every respect he boasts of what Dr. Manning says. (Rom. 15:20; 2 Cor. 10:14-15; Gal. 1 and 2.) And even as to the Jews, when he had preached at Berea the Jews there searched the scriptures to see if these things were so; therefore many of them believed, and they are called "noble" for doing so. But the church is nowhere referred to; the church had no authority; the church interpreted nothing: there was no church to do it. The church came into existence in each place by the labours of the apostles and others employed by God, who carried the revelation of His grace, and wholly without the church, by the word of God and by the operations of the Spirit of God. Grace wrought with the testimony of God, and by it the church came into existence.
But it is "self-evident" that the church could not interpret among the heathen, for it was not then in existence; and, according to Dr. Manning's own statement, the scriptures were not there to be interpreted, so that his whole argument is not worth one straw. In the case of the Jews at Berea, who had the scriptures, they studied them to see if the apostles were founded in what they said; while their church, if church it is to be called, rejected the Lord utterly, and would have hindered every one receiving Him if they could; but they searched the word for themselves, and by grace believed.
It is impossible to have anything more directly opposed to the facts and the truth than the statements of Dr. Manning. Dr. Milner, in his "End of Controversy," is obliged to own there was special grace for the heathen, as of course the church was nothing for them. I suppose he would have us believe that there is none for Christians, or that blessing came by grace and the Holy Ghost for heathens, but does not do so for Christians.
237 But it is not true that the whole revelation of God was communicated to Christians on their conversion. Not that anything was concealed, but they were not able to bear it; they were babes in Christ, and the apostles were "to give them meat in due season." It is not even true that the apostles received it all at once. Paul had revelations and communications from heaven all along his course. He tells the Corinthians that he could only feed them with milk, not with solid food, because of their carnal condition; 1 Cor. 3:1-2. The Hebrews were blamed because there was still need to teach them the first elements; Heb. 5.
All Dr. Manning's statements are mis-statements. But I repeat, because it is the main point, that nobody denies that the apostles and others went preaching the gospel to the heathen; but this is just the proof that the church (which the heathen did not acknowledge, and which did not exist where the messengers of Christ preached) had nothing whatever to do with the matter-interpreted nothing-for there was nothing yet to interpret. Dr. Manning insists that the New Testament did not exist yet. How then could the church interpret it? What is proved by this fact is that the word is brought home to the heart by the power of the Spirit of God, and by this they are drawn into the place of blessing so as, when gathered, to become the church. But the work is done without the church.
Am I not right in saying that Dr. Manning's argumentation is contemptible? The scriptures did come after the first work, as they may now as to individual souls. The preached word works in them, and they turn to the written word for "the certainty of the things" they believed, as stated in Luke's Gospel, "that thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed." Thus the written word gave the certainty when the instruction or the living voice had been there. It was not the instructor interpreting and giving living power to the word, but the word giving certainty as to what they had been instructed in.
Dr. Manning says (p. 8), "the divine teacher from whom the scriptures come is always in the midst of us (Christians). They love Him and interpret His writings in His presence and by His word." There is confusion of Christ and the Spirit here, but let that pass.
238 We have now to deal with the question of Christians and not of heathens. Did the church stand and interpret the scriptures when they were written to the faithful?
And here I must beg my reader to note the ambiguity of this word 'church,' and the false meaning hidden under it by all Romanists and those who follow their principles. The church is the assembly of God upon the earth, united to its Head, and the dwelling place of the Holy Ghost come down from heaven. This, though he would add a head on earth and a hierarchy uniting it, Dr. Manning would himself admit; at any rate it is true. How does this universal body on earth teach itself? Dr. Manning blasphemously says (p. 9), "the church is the interpretation of that book, just as Jesus Christ in the synagogue of Nazareth was the interpretation of the book of the prophet Esias in His own person." He adds (p. 10), that Christ "claimed also to be the interpreter of the same-so now the church." To say that the church is the interpretation of the scriptures is blasphemous nonsense, when it is put instead, and taking the place, of Christ as it is here, and distinct from being the interpreter. It is one subject spoken of there; but the revelation of the Father in Christ, redemption, salvation, the presence and operation of the Holy Ghost are primary objects of the New Testament; and to put the church in the place of Christ, as is expressly done here, is, I repeat, blasphemous nonsense.
But my subject now is the interpreter. Now does this whole, if you please, organized body (though I should deny historically Dr. Manning's statements as to this) interpret to and for itself? That is not what is either meant or said when Romanist teachers explain themselves. They mean and say the teaching part of the church, the clergy, which teaches all the rest. "The church" sounds very fine, teaches, etc.; but it is all clap-trap. It means, the clergy teach the church; and all are to submit to them.
Well now, what was the fact as to the scriptures? Dr. Manning says, There they were like Isaiah in the hand of the blessed Lord, and the church is now, instead of Him, the interpretation and the interpreter. What was the fact? The Gospels were written for the faithful-one, immediately for a certain Theophilus, that he might know the certainty of the things he had been instructed in. He had the instruction, and this was to make all quite certain to him. There is simply no interpreting church at all.
239 But the case of the Epistles is if possible clearer. The apostles wrote to churches and Christians; and these persons were to receive and abide by what they wrote-to receive them as "the commandments of the Lord"; those who did not heed the words of the apostles were to be noted and avoided. That is, the scriptures were the things addressed authoritatively and immediately to the body of ordinary Christians, and they were bound to receive, and believe, and obey, and act upon them, without an interpreter or any one who might pretend to come in between the authority of that written word and their souls. The scriptures bound them by apostolic authority, bound them directly, were the addresses of authority to the Christian people, who were bound to obey them and bow to them. In one place it is charged to be read to all the holy brethren. Any one coming in between these scriptures and the conscience of the Christian people, they receiving them, bowing to them, acting on them because they so came, would have been coming in between the apostles' (that is, divine) authority and the people who were bound to bow to them, and to receive their writings as addressed to them by that authority.
Such a case is recorded in the Third Epistle of John. This apostle wrote to the assembly, and Diotrephes stepped in to hinder the people from receiving and bowing to the epistle. John declares he will remember him and his prating words if he comes. If I send a letter of orders to my servants, he who steps in and takes the letter and does not allow it to reach directly and as my orders to them and addressed to them, is meddling not merely with the servants' rights (though, as regards the meddler, the servants being under the obligation to follow their master's orders, they had both a right and were bound to have them themselves because they were responsible to act on them as so sent to them), but he is meddling with the master's right and wisdom in sending it. It was sent to the servants, not to the meddler, and the servants are bound to take it; it was sent to them, and they are responsible. Now this is the place an interpreting clergy take. They meddle with God's rights, and impugn God's wisdom in sending these scriptures to the Christian people. They cannot take away the responsibility of these servants; they cannot deny that the scriptures, all save a very small part, were addressed to the Christian (of old to the Jewish) people by the inspired persons ordained of God.
240 It is important to see this clearly. Speaking of the Epistles, there was no church to explain; they were addressed directly to the church, no scriptures existing already as to which the church had to exercise such an office. The scriptures are the writings themselves, sent by inspired persons (that is, by God) to the persons who were to use them, exactly what they wanted; and these persons were bound to use and submit to them, and responsible for not doing so if they did not. The Epistles were the communication and divine wisdom of inspired teachers, the apostles, whom God had sent, addressed directly to the heart and conscience of the Christian people. In their very nature they were immediate addresses or treatises so to speak for all, and what concerned all. Three small epistles alone are an exception, though in these there is abundant instruction for all too. But then this is an additional proof of what I insist on. For the special servants of the Lord the apostle wrote to those servants themselves, for the people he wrote directly to the people. He had in no case the idea of putting his Epistles in the hands of one set of people to be used by them for another set. This is Dr. Manning's theory, putting to this end the church in the place of Christ in the synagogue.
Now Romanism and the clerical system have done this. These have taken the scriptures out of the hands of the Christian people, and given them what they liked; a deadly offence against God and His authority who sent them to the Christian people-heinous wickedness. And what has been the consequence? The dark ages-a state of things in what was called the church, which no horrors of heathenism ever equalled.
Let this be clearly understood, that nothing ever equalled the wickedness of what is called the church. The proofs are easily to be had in history, and that from churchmen. Ignorance of this truth is now used as a plea by these same clergy for not giving the scriptures to those to whom God sent them. If it be alleged that the fallen and corrupt state of the church makes it now undesirable so to give it, the answer is, God has graciously provided for us in this also. He has told us when the church was become utterly corrupt, as He declared it would do, we were to turn away from all this corruption and those who were in it, and turn to the scriptures which are "able to make the man of God wise unto salvation." In the case they now insist on, brought about by their own wickedness, those who have God's word know they are to turn from them and to the scriptures.
241 What is now the result of these facts as to this part of our subject, in reply to this wicked pretension of the church, that is, the clergy, holding the scriptures in their hand as authorized interpreters, according to the system of Dr. Manning?
First, as regards the heathen, the apostles and others preached to them. The church had nothing to interpret, and the heathen owned no church. Dr. Manning's system can have no possible application. The grace and Spirit of God did the work without any church.
As regards the Jews, there were the Old Testament scriptures, and the apostles appealed to them; but there was no church to interpret them authentically. The Jews owned neither nor apostles, but, when they were through grace well-disposed, searched the scriptures to see if these things were so. And many believed and judged the apostles true and became part of the church. But it is again the hearers in whom grace acts, and no thought of authoritative interpretation. As regards Christians, so far from the church being an interpreter of the scriptures for them, these scriptures themselves are what are sent to the Christians themselves as the direct and authoritative expression of the divine mind which they were to follow. When the church should have decayed, and have fallen into ungodly ways (as at present, when this system is urged), we are told to turn away from these ungodly formalists and have recourse to the scriptures.
And this last principle is most strikingly enforced in the churches of the Apocalypse, where, when Christ is judging the state of the churches, the individual saint is called upon to hear, not what the church says, but what the Spirit says to the churches, the judgment passed upon them by the Lord. The church is the subject of the judgment, and the individual Christian is to listen, IF HE HAVE EARS, individually, to what Christ judges of it-is bound to hear, for Christ speaks and calls him to hear. Every fact and every instruction that God has given is exactly the opposite of Dr. Manning's, which is not of God, but that corrupt work of the enemy, which has set aside the authority of what God has said.
242 No one denies that a more spiritual gifted person can help me in spiritual life and understanding; but he cannot take away my responsibility to God flowing from, and according to, the word which He has sent to me. The Spirit does dwell in the church. But it is even to babes in Christ that it is said, where designing false teachers sought to seduce them, "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things," 1 John 2:20, 27. Dr. Manning tells us that the church declares itself to be the interpreter as Christ did. Christ I believe; but why am I to believe the church when it speaks thus of itself? Not he who commendeth himself is approved, but he whom God commendeth.
But this gives rise to a preliminary question. Where is this church? Can he point it out to me? He will say Rome. But is Rome the whole church of God? I will answer with Jerome, referring to Rome, major orbis quam urbis. He tells us of a living organization with two heads, Christ in heaven, and the Pope on earth, the whole hierarchy of the church uniting it. But what does "living" mean? None of the hierarchy, they admit, are necessarily alive in Christ, neither is the Pope. Popes have been deposed for mortal sin; popes have been heretics; popes have been infidels; not one of this living organization is necessarily "living."
Besides, history makes known (nor are facts wanting now to confirm it, though not so glaring as before the Reformation) that this pretended living organization was the most vile, wicked, corrupt, immoral body that ever existed; sunk in profligacy of every and of the worst kind; cruel, persecuting, and ambitious, and notoriously worse than the heathen whom it supplanted. Is that the "living organization" of which Christ is the Head? It is impossible to defile one's pages with the habitual course of conduct of what Dr. Manning refers us to as taking the place of Christ, and as a living organization under Christ as its Head; and I speak on the authority of their own historians. Baronius, their great historian, a cardinal and a Jesuit, declares that for a century he cannot own those who filled the See of Rome as legitimate popes-put in, as they were, by the mistresses of the Marquis of Tuscany, and not chosen by the clergy or even approved by them. It is well people should know that never was any body of people on earth so depraved as Dr. Manning's "living organization"; and the human head on earth, at the head of the depravity, often fighting for this seat of power, and, if one turned another out, declaring all the consecrations and ordinations null and void, so that a book had to be written to shew there were still sacraments. All was in such confusion, and often two and even three popes at a time, and Europe divided as to who was the true one, each excommunicating the other and all that owned him.
243 There is no such history in the world for iniquity and confusion as that of Rome. I dare Dr. Manning to deny it, or, if bold enough to do it, to disprove it from history. Indeed the evil state of what is called the church began before Rome's supremacy, though it ripened under it. Let anyone read Salvian, "De gubernatione Dei," accounting for the judgment coming on the Roman empire, declaring that virtue was to be found among the heretics and heathen, and nowhere among Christians; Cyprian "De Pudicitia," or Chrysostom's "Two discourses on the Virgins," both shewing the extent of depravity already existing in what was afterwards matured in the Roman system, in the boasted holiness and real depravity of monks and nuns. The assistance of God the Holy Spirit is always with His church and people; but is that a reason for taking the chief leaders in debauchery and wickedness-and such were the popes and clergy, I defy denial-as the vessels of that Spirit to interpret the scriptures with authority as Christ did?
And now let us see, in passing, some of Dr. Manning's arguments. The New Testament was not the source whence Christianity was derived (p. 7). Fully admitted: it was derived from God through the revelation given to the apostles. But that is not the question. The question is, Are the writings of the apostles and the inspired instruments of the Holy Ghost, addressed to the Christian people at large, the best means of knowing what they taught, or Dr. Manning's interpretation of them, and that of other such persons who set themselves up to preach themselves and call themselves the church? Specially when the apostle declares that the professing church would become as bad as possible (2 Tim. 3), and that then the scriptures were the resource of the man of God.
Again he tells us (p. 9), "If we are compelled to depend upon the church for this knowledge that the scripture was ever written, and that these scriptures are the identical books which the apostle wrote-if we must depend for this upon the testimony of the church-where is the consistency of the man who says, I will take all this from you, but I refuse to accept from you the meaning of that book?" Supposing my banker keeps my will safe, and that the witnesses to it testify to its being the true will of the testator, therefore the banker and the witnesses are the only interpreters of the will? Now I do not admit Dr. Manning's principle or fact; but his argument is nonsense.
244 But further he tells us that this living organization is also before the apostle's mind when he says that when Jesus ascended into heaven, "He gave some apostles … for edifying of the body of Christ," which last he justly speaks of as the church (p. 14). But this upsets all his reasoning, for it is not the church which teaches or interprets, but which is taught and edified-the very point I have insisted on. And this distinction is very important; because "the church" carries with it an amazing idea of solemnity, authority, divine competency to hold a special place of authority, which is a mere lie of the author of lies. The church is edified. God's word has authority. God employs instruments and responsible instruments of His choice to edify it. The inspired teachers, whose teaching we have in the scriptures, had and have authority because they were inspired. Others are useful in the degree in which they hold fast to the word, and labour with the power of the Holy Ghost working with them. But they may, we are expressly told, build wood, hay, and stubble, and their work will be burned; as they have done and worse, so that it will be burned. There may be those, as popes and Romanist teachers, who labour to corrupt the church; they shall be destroyed. But this house of God does not edify but is edified. There is indeed a sense in which it edifies itself; but then it is by every member in its place "compacted together by that which every joint supplieth, making increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." But this more than ever destroys the false statements of Dr. Manning, because it is not the church which teaches.
Dr. Manning tells me that the church is the teacher and interpreter; he tells me that the church declares she does as Jesus did. But why am I to believe him or her if she have spoken otherwise than by such as He? That a corrupt body seeks and claims all power by her agents and ministers I know; but why am I to admit her claims, or believe what she says to me? As a Christian I believe Christ's person and words to be divine; I bow to them. But who is this excessively wicked body who claims the same attention and the same place? Dr. Manning quotes scriptures; he is obliged to do so with Protestants; but in these there is not a word of it, but the contrary. Inspired apostles and other ministers edify and teach the church, and teach the people themselves directly, and he produces no passage to shew that the church teaches. He says the church says she does, and has authority for it: I know her instruments and favourers say so. But when some unknown body claims this authority over my soul, whose eternal interests are concerned in it, I must have some proof that they have such title, and know who and what they are. When I read the scriptures which were addressed to the people, and which Dr. Manning admits, I find all the contrary. The apostles, by their very scriptures, which he tells us are a dead letter without the church to interpret, were living power by grace to the church itself, who read them without any interpreting church at all.
245 The whole system is a denial of the Holy Spirit. Dr. Manning tells us he could not convert a Unitarian when he used the scriptures. No, the work of the Holy Ghost was needed. His system sees infidelity growing up round it in a frightful way. Well, he has the church now, his living interpreter: why does he not stop it? He has got all he wants, but he cannot stop it. The church can, with all its pretensions, do no more than Dr. Manning could when young. It requires grace and the power of the Holy Ghost. History tells us that "the church" had another way of checking evil-burning people's bodies when it could not convert their souls. There was such a thing as the Inquisition, regretted perhaps still by many, and which will, if possible, doubtless be put in use again. It roots up some tares, it may be, but a great deal of wheat with them; but this is no matter if "the church" has power. Christ has forbidden it; He will do that work in harvest; but that is no matter: the authority of "the church" is maintained. It was long before the Protestants unlearned what ages had accustomed man to; the heart of man loves the exercise of power when he has got it; but "it shall not be so among you." It is a falsehood that flies in the face of all the facts of scripture and the history of Christianity that, without the interpretation of the church, the scripture is no longer the word of life. The preached word was such by the power of the Holy Ghost to heathens; the written word was such by the Holy Ghost to Christians. In neither case had the church anything to do with it. In the latter case it was written to the church or Christian people. Woe be to them if they did not understand and bow! Woe will be to the saints now who do not do so.
246 But little remains to add, unless I wrote a treatise on Romanism. When Dr. Manning says, "bring the whole Catholic world to one interpretation of scripture"; in the first place, the Catholic world has not got the scripture, but only what the priest teaches. But further, it is wholly untrue, unless by the brazen-faced pretension that Romanism is the whole Catholic world, whereas it is the smaller half of it; and, even so, half the men in it, or more, are infidels, despising the priests from their hearts, even if willing to go with the crowd, and a large body of conscientious men have recently quitted it because it flies in the face of history and truth. Why is the Pope so bitterly complaining of the evil days they are fallen on, if all is so smooth, and what he calls the one true interpretation of scripture universally received?
Dr. Manning tells us that the church is founded on Peter. His church may be, but not the church of God. "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid," says Paul, "which is Jesus Christ." But again the testimony of Dr. Manning has to be dealt with. He quotes "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church," but leaves out that this is said when Peter had just confessed Christ to be the Son of the living God. And Dr. Manning knows the weightiest Fathers apply the passage to Christ. Augustine refers to the question, and says he has used it as Dr. Manning does; but then says it is referred to Christ, and people may take it the other way. Dr. Manning also knows that "rock" and Peter do not agree. I know that it is said in Syriac the difficulty does not exist. But we have it-the church of Dr. Manning's phases has it-in Greek and not in Syriac, and in Greek it is impossible to apply it to Peter; and this Dr. Manning knows as well as I do, but does not say.
He refers to "this is my body," as all Romanists do. But literally it could not be Christ's body, for He was then in the body, and He did not hold His body in His own hand. He does not say will be, but "is." But further, it was not, and could not be, His body, either as it was then or as it is now. Not as it was then, for He had not died-had not shed His blood; whereas in instituting the Supper He speaks equally of His blood shed, and eating His flesh and drinking His blood refers necessarily to a Christ who has died, as the bread come down from heaven does to a Christ incarnate. It is not in the very essence and substance of its meaning, Christ as He was, for His death and blood-shedding are shewn forth in it. It is not Christ as He is now, for He is in glory, not in death and blood-shedding. This is all finished and over. There is no such Christ in existence as that which is figured in the Lord's supper. It is His body when He is dead, His blood when it is shed. We shew forth His death (1 Cor. 1:26); and He says, "this is my blood which is shed for you," hence taken apart from the body. But He was not dead then, He is not dead now: a Christ in the state of death does not exist. If the Roman doctrine is held, there is no redemption, for, as an excuse for not giving the cup to the people, they allege what is called the doctrine of concomitancy; that the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ are all in each species (in this case the bread as we should say). Now if the blood be in the body not shed, there is no redemption accomplished. Such is the profit of "church" teaching.
247 But scripture incessantly speaks as it does here: "This cup is the new testament in my blood," "I am the door," "I am the true vine," "I am the bread of life," "It is the Lord's passover." It is the common way of expressing the representation of a thing in the figure, and perfectly intelligible. A child would understand if another said to it in their play, "You are my horse." The "church" has corrupted this as all else, and made the blessed memorial of Christ's work of redemption and love a sacrament of non-redemption; for if the blood be in the body, it is not shed: redemption is not accomplished.
I have spoken in my previous tract of confession to a priest pretending to be inculcated in the words, "Whose sins ye forgive, they are forgiven," of which, or any confession, save to one another, they say not a word. In the case of Corinth we have an example of this forgiveness. The sin was notorious, judged by the apostle alone, and needed no confession; and he calls upon the assembly to put the guilty person out. Afterwards, the assembly having been faithful, the apostle in a second letter urges them to confirm their love to him again, and declares that what they forgive he forgives; 2 Cor. 2:5-10. The assembly, moreover, forgives as much as the apostle. Indeed the power of binding and loosing is continued in Matthew 18, not to any personal successors of the apostles, for they had none, but to the assembly, two or three gathered together in Christ's name-an important fact to observe in these days.
248 I have an historical mistake to correct in my previous tract, where it is stated that Chrysostom suppressed the office of confessor which had been established at Constantinople. It was Nectarius, his predecessor, who did so. Chrysostom exhorts abundantly to confess to God only, but Nectarius had suppressed the office of general confessor. I can only repeat here that the statement of Dr. Manning he must know to be false; at least I can hardly suppose him to be so ignorant of church history as not to know it. The facts I have given in my former tract.
Dr. Manning refers to James 5:14 for extreme unction. It is really wearying to follow step by step the impudent way these doctors seek to impose on souls. The Roman doctrine is that extreme unction "abstergit reliquias peccatorum," wipes away the remains of sin. What they go to burn in purgatory for after would be hard to tell; but that is the pretended effect; and if a man gets up again and eats and drinks, its efficacy is gone. If in a dying state again, he must be anointed again.
Now in James the prayer of faith saves the sick, the discipline is removed; and if sins have been the occasion of the chastisement, they are forgiven in the holy government of God. In a word the anointing of James was connected with the recovery of the sick and taking off the affliction by which they were chastened, and the extreme unction of Romanists is given only when this is supposed to be impossible, and, if he does recover and this discipline is removed, is worth nothing at all.
Nothing can be more sad than the rampant infidelity which prevails, and which Romanism and hollow clericalism have more than anything contributed to produce; for when religious profession sinks below the level of common or natural conscience, it produces infidelity. As to that which is produced, neither the profession nor the infidelity has anything to do with real faith, faith in God's word, and by it in the Father and in the Son. But religions, as a profession, wear out. Old heathenism did, and infidelity supplanted it; Brahminism is wearing out in India, and again infidelity supplants it. What is truth? says Pilate. Romanism had done this for professing Christendom. At the Reformation God's word brought in faith in the word in large districts. Now all is worn out as a system, and infidelity believes nothing. Christianity met the case when Grecian and Roman heathenism had lost their hold. When Romanism had made Christian profession worse than heathenism, the Reformation partially met the case. Now judgment only and the coming of the Son of man awaits professing Christendom.
249 But it is not true that Rome has not varied in saying this is inspired, this is not. Rome for three centuries and more did not receive the Epistle to the Hebrews; and Rome receives the Apocrypha now, books which her own doctors in former ages rejected as not inspired, and which are not found in the Hebrew.
Two great principles remain for the sincere Christian. It is positively revealed (2 Tim. 3), that the church would fail and become as bad as heathenism; and the Christian is directed to turn away from the evil and turn to the scriptures, and Christ (Rev. 2 and 3) is revealed as judging the state of the churches, and the individual is called to listen to what He says as to judging the churches; so that the church cannot have authority over the Christian, for he is called to listen to Christ judging it.
Secondly, listening to the apostles themselves is made a test of the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. "He that is of God," says the apostle John, "heareth us, and he that is not of God heareth not us." Now it is admitted by all that we have what they have said in their Epistles. I am bound therefore to listen to the scriptures, or I am not of God. And this responsibility rests on the individual Christian, and He cannot escape it. He that is of God listens to what the apostles have said.
Further, it is alleged that, in listening to what Fathers and traditions say, we must be more likely to have the truth, as they were nearer to the source. But we have the source itself, that is, what the inspired teachers themselves have taught. It is not what (as Tertullian says) is prius, or earlier, must be truer. Paul says, that after his decease, grievous wolves and perverse men would arise. But the word of scripture is express: "Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father." What we read in scripture is certainly from the beginning; what we read or hear elsewhere certainly is not; it may or may not be confirmed to it, but it is not from the beginning, so that I can judge by it. I have to judge if it is. He that is of God heareth us. And the reason is obvious. Those teachers are, what they tell us is, divinely inspired; what is said by other teachers is not.
250 Finally we do need the grace of the Holy Spirit to use the scriptures; but it is said to the babes in Christ to guard them against the seductions of false doctrines, "Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things," and "the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." Not that there may not be teachers; John was teaching them this. But when there is a question of seducing teachers, the weakest saint is referred to what was from the beginning, the apostle's own teaching, and assured that they, the weakest, had the Holy Spirit, and that thus by His grace and the scriptures, or what was "from the beginning," the apostle's own and inspired teaching, they would be kept from error and seduction, and so only.
Such is the divine safeguard in the last days.