A Scriptural Examination of Certain Articles in Religious Creeds.

By John G. Marshall, Halifax (Nova Scotia):

printed by William Macnab, 11, Prince Street; 1872.

1873 269 Mr. M. need not have hesitated for a moment as to the source of the so-called creed of "Brethren's" views. It was drawn up by one outside in the most hostile spirit: some of the alleged doctrines being contradicted by the widely published writings of their leading men, and the few which are true being set in a very different light.

1. — If Mr. M. desires to know what is held as to the church of God, he can find it fully in tracts or volumes devoted to the statement of that subject. It is the christian assembly, viewed both as God's habitation and as Christ's body, though hypocrites or self-deceived might enter it; and it is now in a broken anomalous state through ancient corruption and modern denominationalism.

2. — "Brethren" do not and never did pretend to reconstitute that church. On the contrary they blame others for assuming to restore it, and most of all, such as indulge in the highest claims as Irvingites, etc. They avowedly own true members of Christ in and even outside all orthodox sects; but for themselves, while confessedly a mere and feeble remnant, they take their stand on the old foundation not merely for Christianity but for gathering together, worship, ministry, and discipline — in short for all church work, as well as for individual exercise of gift.

3 — "Brethren" believe with all protestants that the old historic bodies are opposed to God's word and Spirit, and have lost all rightful claims to be accounted of God's church save for judgment; but without charging the orthodox sects of protestantism with apostasy, infidelity; or socinianism, however much individuals may be tainted with their evils, they do hold that the principle of sects is at issue with God's word and Spirit, and therefore off the true ground of His church as being sects.

4. — No denomination even professes to own the personal presence of the Spirit sent down at Pentecost, as in the early church; and consequently there is no such thing in modern Christendom as the assembly waiting on God and open to the sovereign action of the Spirit in its midst. But "Brethren" fully believe that the Holy Spirit blesses the word read and preached, and may guide much that is said and done by all their brethren in public as well as private. For themselves, however, they have faith in God's assembly, according to His word and Spirit, and repudiate as unscriptural and sectarian the notion of any but the "one body" as a present church principle of action.

5. — Mr. M. had better search and see whether the apostle does not guide "Brethren" in affirming that the Christian is not under law in Romans vi., Galatians 5 (latter part), 2 Corinthians iii., 1 Timothy i. 9, and many other places of the New Testament. It is untrue that in any of these scriptures the question is about justification. Not so; it is a question of walk, or a rule of life. The apostle is most explicit, and had to guard the truth against attacks similar to those now levelled at "Brethren." We are under grace, not law; and Christ revealed in all the word of God is the true and full guide of the life He has given us, not the law which was given by Moses, excellent as it is, but excellent as a rule of death and condemnation, not of christian walk or worship. Matthew 5 does not contradict the apostle, nor do "Brethren" anything here but seek subjection to the Lord personally or through His servant. For they hold that the Lord did not destroy the law or the prophets but fulfil; and they neither break one of the least commandments nor teach men so, but contrariwise do and teach then by the grace of God. In every way "Brethren" hold that Christianity establishes law. For first there never was such honour put on its sanction as when the Lord suffered death on the cross; and this is the point in the end of Romans iii., where faith is shown to act thus; secondly, in Romans viii. 4, we learn that the practical result is as real as the doctrine of the cross to faith, for the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in those that walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit, as all Christians are called to do. Yet that righteous requirement of the law is thus fulfilled, by our being under not the law but grace, nor yet by the law's death (as the Authorized Version has it, following a bad rending in the received text) but by our death to it. Being born of God, we love; otherwise we have not seen or known Him. But if we love God and our neighbour, we fulfil the law, for love is the fulfilling of the law, and for us there is none other. Mr. M.'s controversy is therefore with St. Paul; and no Christians really value the sermon on the Mount more than "Brethren," if so much. indeed it is strange and humbling that godly men should feel otherwise; for the word of God is plain, and so are the facts before every eye.

6. — "Brethren" do not go so far as Mr. J. Wesley, who, if I am not greatly mistaken, ventured to call Christ's imputed righteousness through law-keeping "imputed nonsense." This I do not believe, but on the contrary, that the imputation of righteousness (in opposition to inherent righteousness) is a precious truth of God. Only scripture teaches that Christ, not His keeping of the law, is our righteousness, and that we are made it in Him risen and glorified, not that He made it for us before He died for our sins. Hence the doctrine of Paul, as different from Harvey on the one side as from Wesley on the other, is God's righteousness revealed to faith in the gospel, divine righteousness in justifying the believer in Jesus according to all the efficacy and glorious effects of redemption. Mr. M. thinks that "Brethren" very properly reject the notion of imputing Christ's active righteousness, lint that they are wrong in supposing the Lord requires no righteousness on their part. Here he quite mistakes; for "Brethren" insist on the necessity of practical righteousness in believers, but they justly teach that our standing before God for justification is Christ, not their own work. Does Mr. M. not know this? If he does, he cannot deny that "Brethren" are sound on this great head of christian truth; if he does not, he must be ignorant even of the elements of the gospel. It is false and bad to say, as he does, that no righteousness or holiness of the Christian could be required, if all in Christ is now and for ever imputed to him by God. For scripture asserts both against Mr. M. "The very learned divine," of whom he speaks as if he were an authority in doctrine, knows next to nothing of the place the resurrection of Christ holds in St. Paul's writings as bearing on the believer now. It is not merely a proof of the accomplishment of His work, but marks the character of the acceptance of the believer and of the new life given to him in Christ.

7. — It is false that "Brethren" say nothing of the practical holiness to which the believer is called after justification: none insist on so high a standard as they do according to scripture. All Mr. M.'s citations, therefore, are in blank ignorance of what "Brethren" hold and say. But Christ only is our righteousness before God. This is quite consistent with being called to manifest the fruit of righteousness, which is by Jesus Christ, before men. Mr. M. does not in the least understand Galatians 5:5, which in no way denies that we are now justified by faith, but proves that we have to wait, not for righteousness, but for the hope of righteousness (that is, for glory by-and-by). "Brethren" are not responsible for the wicked Antinomianism which Wesley censured; but Mr. M. is rot justified in imputing to them what they uniformly condemn. He acquits "Brethren" of denying that Christ during His life suffered actually and really for and with His people.

8. — As to the Spirit, Mr. M: needs to learn. Luke xi. directs the disciples to ask for the Spirit to be given before the Pentecostal gift; what about afterwards? To be quickened of the Spirit is not to have Him given. Whether the poet who sings of the Spirit quitting the believer knows better than "Brethren," who teach that when given He abides for ever, ought to be no question for him who receives the Lord's word in John xiv. The utter confusion of Mr. M.'s mind as to John xx. and Acts ii. is indescribable: no "Brethren" hold what he imagines. He should inquire before he judges.

9. — So far as to the church, Mr. M. is too uninformed to understand the question; for no one doubts that Abraham and all other Old Testament believers were as much saints and of God's household as Christians. He has no right thoughts as to the body of Christ, the church. By the "prophets" in Ephesians ii. is not meant Old Testament prophets, but those of the New, who therefore follow the apostles. Compare also Ephesians iii. "now unto his holy apostles and prophets." Further, the true sense is "every family" in verse 14, not "the whole," so that the argument tells in the opposite direction. No one doubts about all being in the kingdom by Him, or in heaven; but all this is distinct from the relationship of Christ's body as scripture teaches it. The "learned theologian," who says that saints and angels make but one family, cannot have weighed the Greek here, or the Bible throughout its invariable testimony. St. Paul says "family;" but he has pasa patria, every family, leaving room for many, certainly not one only. Hebrews xi. 40, too, distinguishes instead of confounding "us" and "them."

10. — Mr. M. admires the zeal of "Brethren" for the Lord's day, as distinct from the Jewish sabbath. Few are so candid as our friend here.

11. — Mr. M. does not understand what "Brethren" hold as to the distinction of gifts (as evangelists, pastors, and teachers) from local charges (as elders and deacons). They do say that for a congregation to choose a pastor is unscriptural; and Mr. M. cannot produce even the appearance of a text for it. They thoroughly own that apostles, or apostolic delegates, legitimately chose elders. 2 Timothy ii. 2 he does not understand any better than "Brethren's" tracts; for the text speaks, not of appointment or ordination, but of committing to other faithful men the truth we have ourselves learnt. This "Brethren" seek to do daily.

12. — There is no ground to suppose that the prayer given to the disciples was used formally after the descent of the Spirit. It was given expressly for closet use individually before they could ask the Father in the name of' Christ. This last character of prayer has well nigh dropt out of the church, if we may judge by printed prayers; and I believe the extemporaneous prayers of' dissenters are no better in this respect. They do not express, one more than another, the proper desires of God's children in the enjoyment of their real relationship, "as He is, in this world." Nor can he wonder who considers how "calves of gold," the work and arrangements of men, have so long interfered with the place of Him who is sent down from heaven to act in the church, while we are waiting for the Lord's return.