J. N. Darby.
I recognize that this writing is calculated to produce serious thoughts; but it is as marking coming judgment. As a judgment of the state of things, the writer is sadly right; but he has not got a step beyond the conventionalities of the church of England. The testimony of Christianity is in its effects; but of Christianity itself he is wholly ignorant. His highest idea is asceticism, and fine Gothic buildings, when he comes to the positive side.
But if I take the precepts of Christianity, he lives not in them, but in his own natural thoughts. It is just as much a precept of Christianity - "when thou prayest, enter into thy closet and shut to thy door," and that on the deepest moral ground, as to be separate from the world, not in a chancel with the door open. "The Most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands." "They that worship God must worship in spirit and in truth." It is equally a precept, "when thou fastest, be not of a sad countenance, anoint thy head and wash thy face, that thou appear not unto men to fast." All this inward part of Christianity is gone; nay, the opposite is required to win the world to believe.
But there is more. We cannot too fully recognize that the friendship of the world is enmity against God; and he that will be the friend of the world is the enemy of God. We are crucified to the world and the world to us. But Christianity and consequently conscience and heart are both wanting. It is, humanly speaking, a just satire (though it is, say they, "an ill bird that fouls its own nest"); let us hope the end shews some conscience. But Christianity is not a satire; it is grace. See the difference: "For many walk of whom I told you before, and now tell you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, who glory in their shame, who mind earthly things. But our conversation is in heaven, from whence we look for the Saviour."
The two great pillars of Christianity are wanting, John 3:3, "Ye must be born again," and verse 16, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life." There is no new inward life, no love of God.
293 The man, to use the strong Irish expression, is "to make his soul" by asceticism and praying in agony in a cathedral where anybody that likes may see him. No trace of love in God, no need of another and divinely given life in Christ - no trace of either is found in the book. This is so true, that it is not merely that the world hated Christ (which is most true, because He testified of it that the works thereof were evil - light came in so that all without exception were condemned); but he makes Christ hate the world! I read, "I beseech you therefore by the mercies of God, that ye yield your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your intelligent service; and be ye not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." In this book the mercies of God are wholly unknown; nonconformity to the world is insisted on by the heathen mind and natural conscience; transformed by the renewing of your mind is wholly ignored. Now nonconformity to the world, without the other too, is the pharisaism he says the Saviour came to judge. The picture of highest good is being scorned by the world, like Christ. Good in God, or in Christ, never crosses his mind. It is imitation: I know what it is. Earnest men may try it, when they have no knowledge of God or redemption, and be driven, under grace, to know they need a Saviour. He has no idea but of one lying stretched at the foot of the cross, loving Him with a love all the world can see. God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, then making Him to be sin for us, he knows not at all. "He took upon Him human flesh that we might know for certain how human creatures ought to live, who died on the cross to win for us the power to imitate His brave contempt," etc.
But further his statement as to heathenism is false. See Romans 1, where the apostle only touches on the mountain tops of the evil, hiding justly in the dark shade what grew in baleful luxuriance beneath. He denies positively in terms the apostle's statement in Romans 1:19-20; and his argument as to a final cause is wholly illogical. We cannot help believing causation; that is, when we see an existing thing expressing a thought, we believe there must be one who has caused it. Consequently we cannot know God, because He exists without a cause. We know that He must be; but what makes us do so shews we cannot know Himself.
294 I need not say, the Christian is not of the world. As such, Christ is all to him; and all he does he is to do positively in the name of Christ. This only is to live; but it is because he is bought with a price, he knows and feels he is Christ's, and Christ is in him in the power of life.
The man has never lived with true Christians, any more than he knows a Saviour God. It is a sad and solemn picture; but he has known nothing beyond it. The infidel world can attack evil: with that he falls in, putting the right side in a heathen's mouth, ashamed to quote scripture himself. His statements as to this are quite untrue. "The Bible as a primary instructor tells me nothing about God whatever." "The Bible is of no use without an interpreter." And what is the result? Miserable labour to get heaven, and, instead of fox-hunting and society, he gives species of insects, the number of botanic genera, architecture, music, painting, poetry, which may be consecrated to Him, as stone buildings prove; and we must have good music (as well as distinguish a beetle from a cockroach) and an active life. Redemption, spirituality, and Christ being really all, and the real service of love, are alike unknown to him. Where these are really known, it may rouse careless souls; and that is well. I believe a Christian is to live Christ and nothing else. As to the scene this writer describes and is in, and the correctness of which, as a systematic whole, he assumes as a matter of course, the believer has learned already from scripture (2 Tim. 3), that "in the last days perilous times shall come, men shall be lovers of their own selves … having the form of godliness and denying the power of it: from such turn away."
The writer has with rude hand torn the veil from his own sphere of life, but has substituted nothing which supposes good in God, and labours through fear of hell to make peace, if he can at last, with a righteous Judge, glad to win heaven by suffering and despising the world like Christ. Mind and natural conscience have judged, as an infidel can, of inconsistency with profession, in conformity to a world which is enmity against God; but there is a total ignorance of God revealed in Christ, of redemption and Christianity. This is for him a "distinct revelation of God's will," but no revelation of God.
295 It is an Edomite's attack on Jerusalem, not a Jeremiah's sorrow; and he has not faith enough in Christ to know there is something behind and beyond all this. I only hope it may act on the consciences of some to shew them the utter incompatibility between Christianity and the world. But it will do this with those who know Christ's love. He would only make despair, monks, Pharisees, and hypocrites. He has no motive but winning heaven by labour, and a piety which shews itself to the world, and would honour God with a Jewish temple (which God has set aside), not with a Christian heart. A member of what he despises and reviles, he is much more infected with infidelity than he is aware of