An Appeal to My Brethren.
(Questions raised by present exercise as to "Eternal Sonship.")
It cannot be questioned that a serious position has arisen amongst us, during the past three years, on account of teaching contrary to what we have held hitherto as vital truth, touching the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, whereby His Eternal Sonship is denied.
It is serious in several ways. First as regards the glory of the Lord: Secondly, as it affects the whole of God's people: Thirdly, as it affects those in immediate association with those, who teach and support it.
It is from this last standpoint that I feel constrained to ask a few questions, in order that we may all face the position, and see where we stand in relation to it.
My credentials for doing so are, that I was brought up amongst you from childhood. My heart was opened early to receive the Lord, and I was received amongst you soon after. Through grace I have sought to follow Him. In private study, I have found great help from the writings of J. N. Darby, J. G. Bellett, G. V. Wigram, W. Kelly, C. H. Macintosh, J. B. Stoney, F. E. Raven and others, who all without exception, held the "Eternal Sonship" of our Lord, and the eternity of "The Word" as "The Word."
Coming to more recent teachers I give the following extracts, which show that while they now take the lead in denying "Eternal Sonship," they once held and taught this vital truth.
"I am bold to say, with most profound reverence, that the salvation of a sinner, consistently with divine righteousness, was a work which taxed the utmost resources of God. To accomplish this the ETERNAL SON MUST BECOME A MAN in this world of sin, and must be lifted up upon the cross." "It is through and in a Person that we have all things: and that Person is the Son of the Father's love, the Creator of all things." (Caps ours.)
—C. A. C. in "A SURE FOUNDATION," pp. 48, 110.
"We learn first that the Son is the object of all the Father's counsels, and then we find that He is the Accomplisher of them all. 'By Whom also He made the worlds.' By the Son of the Father's love were created all things, the things in Heaven, etc., … all things have been created by Him and for Him, Col. 1:16. The universe exists by the creative power of the Son, it is through Him it has its being."
"THE SON ALONE COULD BRING INTO MANHOOD everything that was suitable to God, and establish it all in the gracious power of His kingdom." (Caps ours.)
—C. A. C. in "The Greatness of the Son," Heb. 1.
Now compare the above, which would be endorsed by persons sound in the faith the world over, with the following recent utterance:
"It is quite beside the mark to say that, 'the Father was the Father before the Lord Jesus was born into the world'."
— C.A.C's. "Remarks."
Can you avoid the conclusion that this sentence marks a grave departure from what was formerly held to be—as it indeed is—the truth?
Again we read:
"Who is the Servant, the Son, a free Man—one who can come down from Heaven and go up to Heaven. The SON came down from Heaven."
—"Sonship and Service," by J. T.
"The Holy Ghost lingers around the circumstances of the birth of Christ: the holiness of the scene repels the evil workings of man's mind and preserves the truth and the wonderful fact is established that the SON OF GOD BECAME A MAN." (Caps ours.)
"Words of Grace and Comfort," vol. i., J. T.
"THE SON BECOMES MAN in John: the Word was made flesh." (Caps ours.)
—"The more excellent Way," by J. T.
"Now as believing in the Son you have come to that which is permanent and immutable: but then it is also needful for us to see, and to be VERY CLEAR ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE SON BECAME MAN." … "Leaving out for the moment the ETERNAL RELATIONSHIP THAT EVER EXISTED BETWEEN THE FATHER AND THE SON, think of what it was for God to see here a Man, in the midst of men (where evil was continually) nothing but what was suitable to God." (Caps ours.)
—"The Spirit of the New Covenant," by J. T.
Compare these utterances with the following, to quote one sentence only, and ask yourself if you can reconcile them:
"You cannot give names to, or define relations between Divine Persons before Incarnation."
- J.T. at Barnet, 1929.
Who would have thought that the same brother, who now says this, gave expression to the above sound Scriptural statements?
If those who "build again the things they once destroyed" are "transgressors," what shall we say of those, who are now disallowing vital truth they once taught?
We would at this point observe that the prominence given to "Title" of late rather grates upon the ear. "SON" expresses RELATIONSHIP, and of course carries with it the thought of Fatherhood.
Before asking my questions, may I give the following extracts from the writings of these earlier brethren, which clearly show that they not only taught the blessedness of the eternal relationship of the Son with the Father, as the Eternal Son, but also emphasized the danger of denying this vital truth?
J. N. D. said:—
"The notion of Sonship in Christ only when incarnate is destructive of the very elementary joy of the Church, and ABHORRENT to all those who have communion by the Spirit in the truth." (Caps ours.)
W. K. said:—
"Under all changes, outwardly, He abode as from eternity, the only begotten Son in the bosom of the Father. Hence the Son being in this ineffable nearness of love, has declared not God only, but the Father."
—Introduction to the Gospels, Sec., John 1 referring to the Incarnation.
C. H. M. said:—
"Question the Eternal Sonship of Christ, and you open the floodgates to a devastating tide which may dash you to pieces upon the rocks."
F. E. R. said:—
"If a man intended to deny the Eternal Sonship of Christ, I should certainly not remain in fellowship with him."
J. N. D. Col. Writings, vol. xxv., p. 340.
"It was the Son that created in Heb. 1, and Col. 1, and as to being Son in the eternal state He says, 'I came forth from the Father and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father,' and you have no Father if you have no Son. If I do not know Him as Son when He came into the world, I have no mission from God at all … But there are persons who take it that Christ was only Son as come into the world. The positive answer is given to this in Heb. and Col. that by Him, the Son, the world was made … It is of immense import, because I have not the Father's love in sending the Son out of heaven, if I have not Him as Son before born into the world … I lose all that the Son is, if He is only so as incarnate, and you have lost all the love of the Father in sending the Son as well."
J. N. D. Synopsis, Colossians, Chap. 1.
"But the Son is also the name of the proper relationship of His glorious Person to the Father before the world was. It is in this character that He created all things. … In the Epistle to the Colossians that which is set before us is the proper glory of His Person as the Son before the world was. He is the Creator as Son. It is important to observe this.”
J. N. D. Synopsis, Luke, Chap. 1.—
"The Holy Thing which should be born of Mary should be called the Son of God. It is not here the doctrine of the eternal relationship of the Son with the Father. The Gospel of John, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and that to the Colossians establish this precious truth, and demonstrate its importance: but here it is that which was born by virtue of the miraculous conception, which on that ground is called Son of God. He had been the Son of the Father before the world was." (Page 316.)
Readings with F. E. R., 1902.—
"It is God coming out in love to take up the liabilities under which man was, hence the Son of God must needs become incarnate, so that all that lay upon man might be taken up in a Man, but it was the testimony of divine love." (Page 2.)
"Now Christ is the One in Whom all this is accomplished, all was dependent on the Son of God becoming Man." (Page 159.)
From a letter by F. E. R. on "The Eternal Sonship of Christ."—
"All hangs upon the truth of His Person. He was the Eternal Son, and the Eternal Son has become a Man. That is entirely beyond the grasp of the creature."
Lectures on Colossians by F. E. R. (Page 17.)—
"I would like to know the grace of His Person, and to maintain in my soul at the same time His own proper dignity and glory as the Eternal Son equal with the Father."
"Purpose and Power of God," by F. E. R.—
"The Son comes by incarnation into Manhood, and brings all the value of what He is into it, and then on the ground of redemption we come into it, i.e., Sonship. It shows the intimate connection between the Eternal Son and the Son become incarnate. We could not have come into Sonship save by the Son becoming Man.
"It is wonderful that the Eternal Son should become a Man, stepping outside the place of Godhead that there might be a company in association with Himself."
"He the Eternal Son had become Man, you cannot get to the bottom of that."
Readings and Addresses in U.S.A. with F. E. R.—
"It is important to apprehend the link between time and eternity in the fact of the Son having become incarnate. The Creator of the Universe has become a Man."
Notes of Lecture on Eph. 1, by G. V. W.—
"Observe first, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, and secondly the Father. If I say the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, I could also say He was the God of Israel or He is my God: but here it is the God and Father of the Son, not a Son by adoption or creation, but the only begotten in the bosom of the Father, before all worlds, possessor of a Being that never had a commencement … . In Adam I am in the old scene, and I get the new in Him Who is up there, Head of the New Creation, but if I say Father, that title brings what the Father was with the Son before all worlds. A creature mind cannot lay hold of the thought of a Being whose existence never had a beginning … . 'I am the only begotten Son of my Father: I who have been in His bosom from all eternity, know the heart of love and infinite fulness of the Father.'"
Letters on Subjects of Interest, by J. B. Stoney, vol. iii., p. 126.—
"God in His own nature loved the world, but the Son only could set forth that love. Hence the Son in His new place, commands and concentrates all the delight and satisfaction of God, and all things will be headed up in a Man, and that Man the Son of the Father, but in the eternal state still a Man, and not merely the Son with the Father as He was before the world was. His glory is not greater, but He has carried out the heart of God so fully, that He has the pre-eminence of every creature, and yet the glory He had with the Father before the world was, is greater than any conferred or acquired glory."
"The Son of God," by J. G. Bellett. Chap. i.
"I doubt not the Lord is called 'The Son of God' in different respects. He is so called as being born of the Virgin (Luke 1:35). He is such by divine decree, as in resurrection (Ps. 2:7: Acts 13:33). This is true, and remains true, though further revelation be made to us of His divine Sonship. He is the Son, and yet has obtained the Name of Son (Heb. 1:1-3). Matthew and Mark first notice His Sonship of God at His baptism. But John goes back further still, even to the immeasurable, unspeakable distance of eternity, and declares His Sonship 'in the the bosom of the Father.'"
"And there were, I doubt not, different apprehensions of Him, different measures of faith touching His Person, in those who called on Him. He Himself owns, for instance, the faith of the centurion, in apprehending His personal glory, to be beyond what He had found in Israel (Matt. 8: Luke 7). But all this in no wise affects what we hear of Him, that He was the Son 'in the bosom of the Father,' or that Eternal Life, which was with the Father 'and was manifested to us' (1 John 1).
"We must not, beloved, touch this precious mystery. We should fear to dim the light of that love in which our souls are invited to walk on their way to heaven. And what is a deeper and tenderer thought, if I may be bold to utter it we should fear to admit of any confession of faith (rather, indeed, of unbelief) that would defraud the divine bosom of its eternal, ineffable delights, and which would tell our God that He knew not a Father's joy in that bosom, as He opened it; and which would tell our Lord that He knew not a Son's joy in that bosom as He lay there from all eternity.
"I cannot join in this. If there are Persons in the Godhead, as we know there are, are we not to know also that there are relationships between them? Can we dispense with such a thought? Is there not revealed to faith, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit: the Son begotten, and the Spirit proceeding? Indeed there is. The Persons in that glory are not independent, but related. Nor is it beyond our measure to say that the great archetype of love, the blessed model or original of all relative affection, is found in that relationship.
"Can I be satisfied with the unbelieving thought that there are not Persons in the Godhead, and that Father, Son and Spirit are only different lights in which the One Person is presented? The substance of the Gospel would be destroyed by such a thought, and can I be satisfied with the unbelieving thought that these Persons are not related? The Love of the Gospel would be dimmed by such a thought.
"It was once asked me, Had the Father no bosom till the Babe was born in Bethlehem? Indeed, fully sure I am, as that enquiry suggests, He had from all eternity. The bosom of the Father was an eternal habitation, enjoyed by the Son, in the ineffable delight of the Father—'the hiding-place of love' as one has called it, of inexpressible love which is beyond glory: for glory may be revealed, this cannot.
"The soul may have remained unexercised about such thoughts as these, but the saints cannot admit their denial.”
"Lamb of God Thy Father's bosom
Ever was Thy dwelling place."
We trust the reader will refer to "The Son of God" by J. G. B. for further thoughts—most edifying they are—on this deeply important subject, but we cannot forbear quoting the following:—
"In the bosom of the Father He was. There lay the eternal life with the Father: God, and yet with God. … Deprive Him of the bosom of the Father from all eternity, and ask your soul if it has lost nothing in its apprehension and joy of this precious mystery, thus unfolded from everlasting to everlasting? I cannot understand a saint pleading for such a thing. Nor can I consent to join in any confession that tells my heavenly Father it was not His own Son He gave up for me. …
"I believe the divine reasonings in John's First Epistle suggest that the communion of the soul is affected by the view we take of the Son of God. For in that Epistle, love is manifested in the gift of the Son, and love is our dwelling-place. If, then, I judge that, when the Father gave the Son, it was only the gift of the Virgin's Seed, the atmosphere in which I dwell is lowered. But if I apprehend this gift to be the gift of the Son who lay in the Father's bosom from all eternity, my sense of the love rises, and hence, also the character of my dwelling-place. The communion of the soul is thus affected."
From these extracts it will be seen that Sonship in eternity was not the teaching of one or two, but of all these prominent teachers.
So vital was "Eternal Sonship" regarded years ago, that cases are on record of brothers being put away for denying it.
This, alas! has changed and we are now told that "Eternal Sonship" is erroneous, and that those who had fellowship in excommunicating any who denied "Eternal Sonship," are now themselves disallowing this great truth, and supporting those who refuse it.
Another serious change is the limiting of that great title "The Word" to incarnation. Statements such as the Word was "a title the apostles were pleased to call the Lord by," and "the Name He had acquired among the saints," seem to lack entirely Scriptural warrant. John 1:1, and John 1:14, standing in their majestic simplicity present an invincible barrier to such thoughts. Especially to those who press Luke 1-2, with little or no reference to John the danger is great.
With reference to what has been said as to "sent" implying a condition which is not one of absolute equality, and must therefore refer only to our Lord's commission in Manhood: we suggest that human thoughts must be ruled out as attaching to the word "sent." We read of the Holy Spirit as, He
"Whom the Father will send in My Name," and
"Whom I will send."
Surely we cannot think of the Spirit being inferior to the Father and the Son on account of having been "sent." He is the Same, invisible Person of the Godhead, now indwelling the Assembly on earth, but sent as by the Father and the Son in no way inferior to either the Father or the Son—but equal in every respect.
In connection with what has been said as to the Lord being sent only in Manhood: it is important to observe that this is not supported by the Greek.
If any have the idea that in becoming Man the Lord developed a filial love He never had before, we would point out that John 1:18, is absolutely against such a thought. He ever was in eternity, as on earth and ever will be, "The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father." One teacher points out:—
"Is in the bosom of the Father" The phrase (lit. 'The One being in the bosom') is almost equivalent to a title, and suggests a timeless, unoriginated, uninterrupted condition and relationship. 'The One being in the bosom' indicates a pre-existent and permanent position and relationship, uninterrupted in time."
Another Christian Scholar points out:
"Being (not becoming) in the bosom of the Father denotes much more than mere position 'in the bosom;' but relationship and oneness of being, the present participle as in Chap. 3:13, is used to signify essential truth without any particular regard to time."
Again it has been pointed out:
"No one has seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, WHO IS in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." (Ho on), the Being or Existing One is the peculiar Name of JEHOVAH in the O. T. as written in the Septuagint, and therefore familiar to the Jews and to John the writer of the Gospel."
It has been shown by more than one scholar recently that the preposition translated "in" (eis) in John 1:18, does not "always suppose motion," as has been stated. It is used in a number of passages in the New Testament where movement is out of the question: see Mark 10:19, "And in (eis) the house again they asked." Mark 1:39, "He preached in (eis) their synagogues," and many other instances.
Another gives the force of the word used in John 1:18, as "the interpenetration of Essence."
When the force of this preposition, as used in John 1:18 is grasped, it is clearly seen THERE IS SCRIPTURE FOR SONSHIP IN ETERNITY, even if this had been the only authority for making the assertion.
Together with the denial of “Eternal Sonship” we have to face the serious fact of the Revision of "The Little Flock" Hymn Book, to bring it into line with this "New Teaching." Particular attention is drawn to this, as some have not realised that THE WHOLE FELLOWSHIP, BY THE ADOPTION OF THIS NEW HYMN BOOK, HAS BEEN COMMITTED TO THE VIEWS EMBODIED THEREIN.
In spite of protests from those in fellowship, and indeed from every quarter, the use of the Revised Hymn Book is being enforced, thus making the acceptance of it a test of fellowship.
Those of us having conscientious objections to the New Hymn Book on account of the REVERSAL of what we all held firmly for many years, as to Sonship before incarnation, and the eternity of the Word, are being told that if we do not accept it we may step aside.
In the meeting I was in, certain brothers, in the absence of those not happy about the teaching and its enforcement in the New Hymn Book, decided on bringing it into use. The matter was not brought before the assembly or before the brothers as a whole.
Those of us, who could not endorse their unrighteous action have been "read out" as refusing light and truth.
In another meeting, where about half those in fellowship were not free to accept the teaching embodied in the New Hymn Book, one brother stated that the Book would come into use, and that those who did not accept it could step aside.
Another case I know of, a brother, who, while not accepting the doctrine, was notwithstanding going on outwardly with his brethren, was told that as "Glanton" laid claim to J. N. D. and his teaching, and they were going on with the "New" it would be better if he withdrew and went with them.
Yet another glaring case of intolerance, of which I have personal knowledge, has come under notice. An aged and godly brother, widely known, withdrew on account of the teaching. A fortnight later a charge of "Iniquity" was brought against him, his chief offence being that he rejects this false doctrine. So, for standing for the truth as to the Person of the Son of God, and refusing a system of teaching which falsifies the truth and obscures the glory of His Person, this beloved brother, after many years of service to those who have now dealt with him in discipline, finds himself the subject of animus and hostility. Rarely has such a case of cruelty and gross unrighteousness stained the pages of Brethren's history. Not only so, but he having definitely withdrawn, there was no jurisdiction over him.
It is thus painfully evident that there is no longer any liberty of conscience, as one has either to accept the teaching or leave.
Is it any wonder that many are perplexed? Some are trying to maintain what they have always believed, while others are seeking to go on with the "new light." Others while endeavouring to do so have unhappily lost liberty in thanksgiving, afraid of using expressions not in keeping with the "new light."
Many, again, have not heard of these things, as no questions have been raised in their local meetings. Others state quite openly that they do not understand the teaching, but if this brother says it, and that brother supports it, it must be right. At this point I may mention a remark (the kind that is often being made), that was recently made to me when I mentioned J. N. D. "Oh! leave out J. N. D. or any of them and see what Scripture says." This is most misleading and unjust, conveying the impression that J. N. D. was wrong in what he taught as to "Eternal Sonship," and that those who profess to have fresh light must be right. The plain sense of Scripture was what led J. N. D. and others to strongly affirm what is now disallowed.
What could be plainer than, "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world," and "The Word became flesh."
If there was no SON before the incarnation, there was certainly no FATHER: and "the Word" must have been "the Word" before incarnation to have "become flesh."
Still further, we meet with saints, who are going on under protest, waiting for something to develop, but are unhappy: in some cases really distressed.
Numbers are being persuaded to acquiesce on the plea that it is a serious thing to question what their leaders say.
Thus the greatest confusion prevails through this "new teaching" and its enforcement.
In Hebrews 13 (N.T.) we read, "Remember your leaders who have spoken to you the Word of God: and considering the issue of their conversation (manner of life), imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to-day, and to the ages to come. Be not carried away with various and strange doctrines."
In our day, we presume that "leaders" here would refer to such as J. N. D. and those who have followed, of whom we have no hesitancy in saying that they have "spoken to us the Word of God." These, we have seen, all upheld what is termed "Eternal Sonship." They were not only spiritually minded men, but certain of them were eminent scholars, with an intimate knowledge of the Greek language.
As the matter is so serious, affecting everyone, I suggest that we ask ourselves the following questions, and in the Lord's presence, with the Scriptures before us, see where we stand in regard to it. There is abundant evidence that there is not unity in regard to the teaching
(1) What was the source, we may first ask, of the tenacity with which these men of God held and taught this great truth "Eternal Sonship," and that of the eternity of "The Word?" Was it not the Scriptures of truth? They have not changed. To say that were they alive to-day, these stalwarts would reject what they held to be dearer than life, and accept this new teaching is groundless supposition to support a theory.
J. N. D. said:
"It is a happy thing to know that when we are grounded upon Word of God, the further light we receive NEVER OVERTHROWS THE OLD, but completes and makes it clearer." (Caps ours.)
Further light from God would never rob us of what millions upon millions, throughout the Christian era, have rejoiced in. God is too good to let the perception of vital truths depend upon intelligence. A brother said recently, "We are putting a premium upon intelligence."
At this point we would draw serious attention to what, has shocked many. In the "Believer's Friend" for August, 1932, on p. 220 we read, in reference to the cleansing of the Temple in Hezekiah's days as follows:—
"J. N. D. cleared out a good deal of uncleanness; he exposed a vast amount of corruption and evil that had come in in Christendom; he was raised up remarkably in that way, and had a special function, the Spirit of God allowing him to expose what was contrary to God, answering to the carrying away of the rubbish here, as well as bring in what was of Christ."
Then in order to illustrate this incident of the cleansing of the Temple, the writer says that
"This service continues; the saints are being relieved of defective thoughts in regard to the Person of Christ at the present time."
The writer cannot deny that he is referring to the refusal of "Eternal Sonship," and the suggestion is, that this great truth is "uncleanness" that must be "cleared out"; "corruption" that must be "exposed," and "rubbish" that needs "carrying away." Moreover this writer tells us that this service "will continue unto the end"—so apparently in his view, connected with those with whom he is in fellowship, there is still "uncleanness," "corruption" and "rubbish" to be dealt with. Furthermore, he adds,
"the rubbish was put in the brook Kedron where it would be removed in the Spirit's power."
Thus he not only suggests that "Eternal Sonship" is uncleanness and rubbish, but he claims that it is by the Spirit's power that this great truth is now being denied.
The gravity of this is enough to make one shudder,
I leave it with you to answer, whether this teaching makes clearer what your soul once enjoyed as to "Eternal Sonship."
(2) What would the words, sublimely simple, "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again I leave the world and go to the Father," convey to any mind on hearing them for the first time?
Is there not only one answer possible—that our blessed Lord was in the relationship of Son ere He left the Father's presence? It cannot be denied that if there was no Son in eternity, there was no Father. The terms are correlative. It matters little that we have not the term "Eternal Son" in Scripture if we have, the SON in ETERNITY there.
In the joy of that love which sent the Son from heaven, millions of Gospel testimonies have been rendered. This teaching will inevitably mean still less evangelizing.
Never, we believe, in the whole history of the Church has VITAL TRUTH been so lightly given up. The FOLLY of it is appalling.
(3) Does this teaching only affect those affirming and supporting it, or does it concern the whole Church of God?
(4) Does not the idea that this "new light" is something that has been reserved for our day, and communicated to one small section of the Church, savour of assumption as well as ignorance of history? There is nothing "new" about the denial of "Eternal Sonship." This great truth was denied in the 4th century. The heresy was again advanced, and ably refuted at the commencement of the last century. Moreover the denial of "Eternal Sonship" has of necessity always formed part of the creed of the "Arians," "Socinians" and "Unitarians"—though doubtless some go further and deny the Deity of Christ. After being contended for and maintained, in many cases at great suffering and loss, we are now calmly told that the doctrine of "Eternal Sonship" is only a part of the traditional orthodoxy of the last sixteen Centuries, which has to be overcome.
DEVELOPMENT of truth we can understand, but this teaching REVERSES what we have been previously taught and enjoyed.
The following weighty utterance would confirm this from a Reading given the same month that Mr. Stoney departed to be with Christ.
QUESTION: "May not the Spirit of God further develop truth recovered for us through our departed leaders?"
ANSWER: "What a little we know at the best, but let us hold fast what we do know. Oh, that all our dear brethren might remember that every development by the Spirit of God of the old lines of truth in the way of "present truth" must more deeply establish our souls in the truth He has already taught us. As another (J.B.S.) has said `Every growth in the tree adds to its first growth.'
In this restless age, these last days, it is for 'the faithful brethren in Christ' to cleave to 'the old paths.' How can we weary of old truth if we connect it with the Person of Christ? He never grows old. Christ is 'the Ancient of days,' and perennial freshness must rest on all that is linked with Himself."
(5) Can we really believe that of all the blessings we have received, the Spirit hid these thoughts from those, who defended the truth of the Person of Christ against attacks on His Sonship, and that such precious ministry of Christ as J. G. Bellett's "Son of God," which was used of God in his day to correct this very teaching, was error (one has described it as "poison") as certain advocates of this "new light" state?
(6) If this teaching affects the whole, how does it affect us individually?
(7) Does it satisfy the conscience to say, "Oh! I did not understand these things, and I shall just go on with it," or "It is not for me to question what is being taught: So and so supports it, so it must be right?" Can we allow others to decide for us what affects worship and the spring of our liberty Godwards? The reception of this "New Teaching" is a distinct LOSS, not gain, for it lessens our joy, and is a LOWERING of the soul's COMMUNION, as pointed out in the extracts from J. G. B. on page 10.
Does not the Lord Himself tell us not only to "Take heed HOW we hear," but to "Take heed WHAT we hear? Again we read, "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge." (1 Cor. 14:29.)
(8) Is it sufficient for us to say, "Oh! the great majority agree with it?" We invite particular attention to the following by J. N. D. the truth of which is, again before our eyes:
"When the Lord allows the sifting of a large body of people on a point of truth, THE GREATER NUMBER WILL ADOPT THE ERROR." (Caps ours.)
(9) Is it right to condemn those, whose consciences will not permit them to deny what they have held in affection, and who desire only to maintain the truth?
Is it righteous to accuse them of being "opposers," and to speak of them as attacking the truth, seeing they are only holding truth which those, who are now denying it, once held and taught?
Can you regard them as unfit for Christian fellowship the world over?
(10) Can a movement possibly be of God, or have His support, which denies liberty of conscience to brethren, by telling them that if they do not accept this teaching they must stand aside or be withdrawn from?
These are some of the questions I have been forced to face, leading me to pass through the bitterest experience of my life, not only in relation to the doctrine, but also as to the cruel way it is being enforced. With many others, in various parts of the country, I find myself, through the unrighteous action of those pressing this teaching upon us, outside their fellowship. Think of what this means to one, who has spent his life amongst the saints, now to lose it in that sense. I asked for prayerful discussion, but no, the doctrine must be accepted in order to remain in fellowship, on pain of excommunication. I am forced to have to say in consequence, that the Revised Hymn Book is a standing witness and seal that they have become a sect.
Thank God the fellowship remains, which He has called us into, "The fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." The links He has formed cannot be broken, and while we have been deprived of the outward privileges yet He remains faithful, and what we really hold, and enjoy in the power of affection with Himself, is not touched by all the changes here.
Surely "Light" and "Truth" from God would bear the imprint of its source, and find its expression in love, for "God is love." The very opposite is found in the carrying into effect of this teaching, as already proved by the instances quoted.
When I first heard of this "New Teaching," I felt intuitively there was not a right ring about it, and while I had never doubted the truth of "Eternal Sonship," I again looked into the Scriptures definitely dealing with the subject, turning particularly to the Gospel by John. I spent several months in agony of soul, praying all the time for light and guidance, realising what the issue might mean, as by this time pressure was being used to force the teaching. Try how I would to look at it from the point of view of the arguments used in its support, I was brought back again and again to such Scriptures as, "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again I leave the world and go to the Father." Even here we find the disciples exclaim, "Lo, now speakest Thou plainly and speakest no proverb … by this we believe that Thou camest forth from God."
Here let me ask you, my reader, did you ever arrive at any other thought from the simple reading of this verse, than that the Son came from the Father into this world?
Other Scriptures stood out in their simple yet profound beauty: "Now they have known and believed that I came out from Thee:" "The Father sent the Son:" "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son:" "God sent His only begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him:" "The Word became flesh:" etc.
While all kinds of explanations have been put upon these Scriptures to make them conform to the "new teaching," the more I pondered them, taking them to mean what they say, the more I have been confirmed in what I have ever held as to "Eternal Sonship."
It has been remarked recently, and I fully agree with it, "What perplexities we avoid by cleaving to the simple, yet infinitely profound, statements of Scripture." "I came down from Heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me:" "Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. And I knew that Thou hearest Me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that Thou hast sent Me." "O, Righteous Father the world has not known Thee: but I have known Thee and these have known that Thou hast sent Me."
Ponder these wonderful expressions, take them to mean what they say, and there is no perplexity or difficulty.
It will be seen that this has not been written with any party in view, as I belong to no party, but is an expression of the exercises of a soul, whose life has been spent among you, and who feels with genuine sorrow what is being brought in in these last days when Satan knows that his time is short as far as the Church is concerned. Thus the Lord's words to the Assembly in its last phase are, "I know thy works that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing: and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind and naked:" I know that this is often applied to Christendom, but how solemn if it be descriptive of ourselves!
I ask in all seriousness if it may not apply to the boastfulness so often heard, "We have the light," "We have the truth," "Where could you find hymns of worship like those in the New Book?" and many such like observations. With the Laodiceans their WORKS did not correspond to their boastful WORDS, and they were blind to their low condition, for the Lord has to say to them, "Anoint thine eyes with eyesalve that thou mayest see." One feels how searching it is to all our hearts, that what was claimed as riches only hid their true condition, as we read, "Thou KNOWEST NOT that thou art wretched and miserable, and poor and blind, and naked."
We cannot deny that lukewarmness—neither cold nor hot—marks many, and Christ is outside wherever this condition prevails.
Is it possible for us to be so indifferent as to say, "What difference does it make if I believe He was Son in time only, and you believe He was Son in eternity past, so long as we both believe the Person was there? Can it be that such lukewarmness marks us that but faint memories remain of the hours of "first love" when our hearts poured themselves out before Him in such expressions as,
"Son of God Thy Father's bosom
Ever was Thy dwelling place."
Can we now calmly say, "Oh! those were defective thoughts, He only knew that as Man here?" Can it be that instead of our contemplation of Him ever with the Father, and in the light of that wondrous stoop when all those uninterrupted affections were revealed by the expression of that eternal love of the Father in sending Him, and His coming into the world to do the will of Him, who sent Him from heaven, carrying our affections back with Himself into the Father's presence, we can only contemplate Him as in incarnation? Surely not. May we as individuals hear His voice and open the door, to have His assurance that He will come in and sup with us and we with Him. He encourages us to be overcomers in conditions of lukewarmness and blindness, promising that we shall sit with Him in His throne, even as He also overcame, and is set down with His Father in His throne.
Let us all then weigh everything in the light of His presence for it is with Him we have to do, and while no other foundation can be laid than that which is laid, we are told to take heed how we build thereon, for all will have to pass the Judgment Seat of Christ. The wood, hay and stubble will all be burned up, but the gold, silver and precious stones will remain for His everlasting praise and glory. Remember also His words, "I lay upon you none other burden but what ye have, hold fast till I come."
I close with drawing attention to the following warnings which have greatly impressed me.
"We may rest assured that anything like indifference where Christ is concerned, is most hateful to God. If doctrines be taught derogatory to the glory of His Person. … we are bound by every motive which could possibly act on our hearts to reject with stern decision such doctrines. Indifference or neutrality where the Son of God is concerned, is high treason in the judgment of the High Court of Heaven. The honour and glory of Christ must be more to us than all beside—reputation, property, family, friends, all must stand aside if the claims of Christ are involved."
(Notes on Deut. by C. H. M. Vol. ii., pp. 163, 4.)
This much used servant of God said, after passing through the first trouble among brethren about 90 years ago, when doctrines dishonouring to Christ were being taught, that the only way he got through was, by taking his eye off everything else and fixing it exclusively on ONE.
"If you remain in association with those who pervert or deny the truth, you lend your sanction to what they teach or hold. That which is contrary to the truth, whether it be in practice or in doctrine, must be dishonouring to the Lord, and those who maintain such things are without doubt vessels to dishonour."
"A Warning and an Appeal," by C. A. C.
"A wrong thought of God or Christ is an element which may develop into any amount of error."
—Reading with C. A. C., 1925.
Loyalty to CHRIST leaves no option but to dissociate from a community which has generally accepted doctrines (embodied in a Revised Hymn Book) which dishonour both the Son of God and the Scriptures of Truth.
To any, who find themselves in the same position as myself, I would say, "Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown." The "crown" appears to indicate the personal approval of Christ in recognition of faithfulness in holding fast what He has given to us. It is not easy to see how those who disallow essential truth, or those who continue with them, can have His approval from the time the disallowance begins.
A few words by a well-known writer were passed on to me recently for my encouragement, and I commend them to you,
"Every honest exercise, if it be for the time an agony, will be found in the end, the travail-pain of a new beatitude."
May the Lord awaken us all in view of His near return, and may we "contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints."
Yours affectionately in Christ,
24th October, 1932.
Made and printed in Scotland