INQUIRE OF THE FORMER AGE
[The following writings are from The Disciple Vol. 1, No. 3 January, 1954, pp51-66 and pp.73-80.]
has been remarked above that the Enemy of all truth has always studied to
confuse good men upon the two great subjects of the
It soon transpired that two of the most learned and powerful men in that notable group (J. N. Darby and B. W. Newton) held divergent views. They agreed upon such major matters as that the kingdom of God could not be established on earth until the return of the King; that His return to the earth would be preceded by the rise and reign of the Antichrist and the persecution of the godly by him; that his destruction, the deliverance of the godly, the overthrow of Gentile world rule, the reinstatement of the Jewish people as the chief nation on earth - would all attend this descent of Christ to the earth. And they both expected that the descent of the Lord would effect a resurrection of dead saints and be accompanied by a rapture of the living.
They differed however upon the subordinate question of whether that removal of the church to heaven by resurrection and rapture would be before the rise of Antichrist or at the close of his reign. As their respective views upon prophecy became systematized, this divergence developed other differences, and in the course of some ten years these close friends had become estranged, brotherly concord failed, and out of the original minor disagreement there grew contention and division, bitterness and strife. "The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention before there be quarrelling" (Prov. 17: 14).
After this most lamentable controversy had passed its climax, Tregelles wrote in 1849 that
You appear to be so perfectly aware that the opposition to Mr. Newton arose entirely from his prophetic views being disliked by Mr. Darby that I need not insist on the point. Out of this sprang all the charges against Mr. Newton, and the endeavour to condemn him on every possible ground. Had he accorded with Mr. Darby on prophecy, we should never have heard his voice raised against him as to ministry or church order, his writings would not have been scrutinized with severity in order to glean matter of accusation (Three Letters, 71).
statement was written while Darby was alive to contradict it, and it seems to
have been justified. Only it should be added that
This unhappy contention presently extended among the assemblies of Christians they influenced. It is not our present purpose to pursue this history. We remark only that here again is felt the breath of that Spirit that now worketh for the obscuring of truth. For many onlookers the whole topic of prophecy was prejudiced, as being apparently a cause of contention.
This so lamentable and ungodly spirit has, alas, persisted; dogmatism and intolerence have too much marked the advocates of these systems of interpretation, especially that initiated by Darby. One ponders ruefully what might have been the happy results had those two great scholars and Christians continued in the original brotherly search and inquiry, until the reasons for divergence had become evident and the reconciling factors apparent. "The sons of this age are for their generation wiser than the sons of light" (Luke 16: 8). Scientists faced by contradictions in theory or experiment would set themselves to discover errors in theory or mistakes in practice, and thus seek harmony and progress. Why was it otherwise with those searchers into the meaning of God's Word? One can but attribute this finally to the subtle unperceived influence upon their spirits of the great Deceiver. If the spirit of a Christian deteriorates, so that love is chilled, and its daughters humility, patience, forbearance decline, then it is easy for the Enemy to blind the mind and stiffen the will into antagonism. Thenceforth it becomes possible to love what one honestly thinks to be truth, and which may be truth, more than one loves the brother who differs in opinion; whereupon subtle reasons are found to justify strife, such as the duty to contend for the faith or to safeguard fellow-saints from error. But not even right steps can be taken aright if brotherly love has declined. "Let all that ye do be done in love" (I Cor. 16: 14).
As Darby's views and prophetic scheme mightily prevailed and have very widely dominated evangelical thought, it may be helpful to examine some of his basic grounds, especially as his system is the foundation of the notes of the widely accepted Scofield Bible.
Kelly was another fine scholar. He came
into the Movement in the early forties.
It is said that a tutor at
It is this passage* which twenty years ago [i.e. from 1850 when he wrote] made me understand the rapture of the saints before - perhaps a considerable time before - the day of the Lord (that is, before the judgment of the living).
[* 2 Thes. 2: 1, 2, which Darby (New Translation) renders: "Now we beg you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that ye he not soon shaken in mind, nor troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as (if it were) by us, as that the day of the Lord is present."]
shows that by 1830, in the middle period of the gatherings at Powerscourt House, Darby had reached the conclusion that
the rapture of the church would be before, and perhaps a considerable time
before, the advent of the Lord to judge the wicked alive on the earth at His
seems that Darby was in part right, in part wrong. In the statement quoted he does not say what
in the passage cited showed him that the removal of the church must precede the
coming of Christ to the earth for judgment, and he only hints at the reason in his
Synopsis written some years later.
The hint is that the saints are to appear with Christ
when He comes in glory and therefore must have been taken to Him in
advance. But with this
But Darby's programme of the End days required, or was developed to require, that the removal of the church must be before the End days set in; that is, that the parousia must extend over at least the seven years of the supremacy of Antichrist, that is, the Seventieth Seven of Daniel's prophecy (Daniel 9); and, in this early statement quoted, he speaks of "the rapture of the saints before - perhaps a considerable time before - the day of the Lord." I have looked steadily, repeatedly, I hope dispassionately at 2 Thes. 2: 1, 2, and I fail to see the slightest hint in the words used as to the length of the interval, i.e. of the parousia. Yet Darby says that the passage gave him ground to think that the interval might be "considerable." But this he ought to have tested, and have proved, if possible, from other passages. It looks as if it was the assumption of this idea that was the point where his thinking on this subject was subtly side-tracked. From the very next verse it is plain that the event mentioned in verses 1 and 2 cannot take place "except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition."
the other hand,
On this matter Kelly, in the paper mentioned (22) wrote words that ought still to be pondered by supporters of his and Darby's views, as well as by others. He said:
Granted the great truth of His coming for the saints in sovereign grace before they follow Him from heaven for His overwhelming judgments on the earth, the interval is quite secondary; but this too can only be learned satisfactorily from scripture. Surely acrimony might well be spared in searching into such a detail, though of no small interest and importance.
Supporters of Darby's scheme assert that the coming of Christ for the church before the End days is taught in 1 Thes. 4 and 1 Cor. 15. These are the chief passages they use. Thus the late W. E. Vine, at a meeting in Exeter in 1918, at which I was present, when arguing for that early advent, said that the prophetic parables of the Lord and the book of Revelation are hard to understand, but that these two passages are simple, and we do well to base our beliefs on the plain scriptures rather than the difficult. This is a tacit admission that the view in question is not found in the chief prophetic portions of the New Testament, the Gospels and the Revelation. Yet in fact the two passages cited yield no light whatever as to whether the events they mention are to take place before the Tribulation under Antichrist or after it. The relation of time between the two events is not alluded to even remotely.
From the first the advocates of that pre-Tribulation coming of the Lord were faced with the formidable facts that the only coming of Christ known to the Gospels and the Revelation is accompanied by power and great glory, being as brilliant and visible as a flash of lightning, and that these portions of Scripture do not speak of a pre-Tribulation coming of Christ. The attempt to meet this obstacle involved various assumptions; for example:
The pure assumption that whereas in Revelation 3.
the churches are seen on earth, in chapter 4
they are regarded as caught up to heaven in the person of John, and as seen
enthroned there in the twenty-four Elders, who are assumed to be representative
of the glorified saints. In my treatise
on that book (chapter V) this is examined in full detail, and it is proved (I
venture to think conclusively) that the Elders do not "represent" any
one, but are simply the twenty-four senior angelic rulers of the universe. Kelly's learned exposition of that book, as
far as it affects the
2. Inasmuch as the coming of the Lord is presented in the Gospels and the Revelation as public and open, it was unavoidable that the supposed pre-Tribulation coming, not being mentioned, should be a secret event, not known to the world.
In 1864 Dr. Tregelles, who, as above noted, was one of those earliest students of prophecy and acquainted intimately with the whole of the developments now being reviewed, published his discussion The Hope of Christ's Second Coming. On page 35 he stated that the theory of a secret coming of Christ was first brought forward about the year 1832, which means that it was introduced during the period of the Powerscourt meetings. In a footnote he added:
I am not aware that there was any definite teaching that there would be a secret rapture of the church at a secret coming, until this was given forth as an "utterance" in Mr. Irving's Church, from what was there received as being the voice of the Spirit. But whether any one ever asserted such a thing or not, it was from that supposed revelation that the modern doctrine and the modern phraseology respecting it arose. It came not from Holy Scripture, but from that which falsely pretended to be the Spirit of God, while not owning the true doctrine of our Lord's incarnation in the same flesh and blood as His brethren, but without taint of sin.
Baxter's Narrative of Facts concerning the Irvingite movement throws some light on this. It was in August 1831 that he himself first fell under the "power" energizing that movement (chapter iii.); but he mentions that some time before this his sister had "heard several utterances from Miss E. C. [the chief prophetess among the Irvingites] in which she most emphatically pronounced that Christ would come at an hour when even His own people would not be looking for Him - that the time of His coming would not be known to His own people." Certainly that would be a secret coming.
It is therefore clear that in the Irvingite circle emphasis had been laid upon the secrecy of the Coming before it had been advanced in the other circle. Tregelles was very well read in Christian literature, ancient and modern, and he had a phenomenal memory. As therefore he had no recollection of having read of this doctrine it is probable that it was not advanced before the Irvingite days. Yet too much must not be made of this, for (1) it is the cunning of seducing spirits to commingle truth with error, and so to confuse the former and commend the latter. Thus a demon-inspired utterance may contain an element of truth. (2) No evidence is available that any of the Powerscourt circle took the idea of a secret rapture from the Irvingite utterances, no evidence beyond Tregelles's assertion, and for this he gives no proofs. Yet even if it was from them that this idea was taken, no more can be said than that they ought to have tested it very thoroughly from Scripture.
In his paper before quoted William Kelly repudiated with indignation the suggestion Tregelles made. But Kelly was not in the circle till some years after the Powerscourt time and he may not have known how the idea first arose. In any case he laboured in vain to repudiate Tregelles, for his argument was directed to prove only that the doctrine of the rapture of the saints was held before the Irvingite days, and that the word had been used in that sense by accredited English writers. But Tregelles had not questioned this. He was far too well informed to have challenged it. It was of a secret rapture that he wrote, the word being in italics. This issue Kelly merely avoided, though the italicized word is in the extract he gives from Tregelles. He did not deny the assertion that the idea of a secret rapture originated in the Irvingite circle, nor did he offer any other account of its origin.
These two examples from two such trained minds illustrate how the statements of the best scholars need to be scrutinized. Tregelles implies more than the fact he mentions fully warrants, and Kelly argues beside the point. This is the more to be noted because it has been, and is, deplorably common for the rank and file to accept unhesitatingly, and to repeat very positively, whatever some revered leader may assert. But as a Bishop said to his clergy, "Remember, brethren, that none of you is infallible, not even the youngest of you."
At this point Kelly gives a piece of information not, I think, otherwise available. Speaking of Darby's statement above quoted as to the meaning he saw in 2Thes. 2: 1, 2, Kelly added (pages 6 and 8) that during a visit to Plymouth in the summer of 1845, Mr. B. W. Newton told me that, many years before, Mr. Darby wrote to him a letter in which he said that a suggestion was made to him by Mr. T. Tweedy (a spiritual man and most devoted ex-clergyman amongst the Irish brethren) which to his mind quite cleared up the difficulty previously felt on this very question ... It was new, however, to hear that Mr. Tweedy ... was the one who first suggested, as a decisive proof from scripture, 2 Thes. 2: 1, 2.
there seems another instance of the need to watch strictly what good and able
men say. The first statement that of
In any case this suggestion, whatever it was, did not come to Darby as a personal illumination through meditating upon Scripture but from another believer. It did, however, suffice to settle for him a matter before in doubt, and it reached him at the time when the formidable difficulty stated had to be faced, namely, that the Gospels and the Revelation know nothing of a secret coming of Christ and a secret rapture of the saints. This idea involved another basic assumption, namely:
3. That the reason why the three Synoptic Gospels and the Revelation do not even hint at this secret event is that they are not addressed to believers as Christians, but as Jews. Whoever first suggested this idea (and I have sometimes wondered whether this was what Tweedy proposed to Darby), it is absolutely basic to Darby's whole scheme; and it came in, not as a result of direct and careful exegesis of the New Testament, as a truth itself discoverable there, but as an expedient to resolve a difficulty to a dispensational scheme then being formulated. It was not a notion lying clearly in Scripture, only long overlooked, but was a human explanation to dispose of an awkward fact.
The subject will not be argued here at length, the present object being simply to glean lessons from the original years in which these subjects were investigated in modern times, and this is one of the facts which emerge.
Of necessity much else developed from this assumption, such as that:
(a) There is to be in the last days a remnant of Jews who
will believe in Jesus as Messiah, after the church has been removed. Of such a
company we find no word in Scripture, though it does picture a small remnant of
that people who in those times will fear the God of Israel and be called upon
to keep the law of Moses (Isa. 1: 9; Rom. 9: 27, 29; Mal. 4: 4-6: etc.). But the very fact that they will be under the
law of Moses shows that they will not have reached the
liberty that is in Christ. To these are wrongly applied passages which
speak of "saints" as holding "the faith of Jesus" (e.g., Rev. 14: 12).
It is not until the nations
(b) It has to be assumed that the Lord, when addressing His apostles, spoke to them as representing that supposed believing remnant. Yet He knew perfectly well that He had chosen them out of and separated them from the world, the Jewish world that had rejected Him as much as from the Gentile world that would do so (John 17.). And He knew that they were the men who were to lay the foundation of that new society, the church, that He had told them He would build, and would be its most distinguished members. In the whole of their writings is there a hint that they looked upon themselves as connected with a Jewish company of the End days?
(c) From this theory it followed that the Sermon on the Mount, and other precepts and commandments of the Lord given when on earth, do not apply directly to Christians, but only by way of indirect application. The effect of this has been adverse to discipleship, as was foretold from the first by those who rejected Darby's views on this matter. Yet the final direction of the Lord ere He ascended was that the apostles were to make disciples and teach them to observe all things whatsoever He had commanded themselves to do (Mat. 28: 18-20). Their epistles, by their use of Christ's sayings, show that they did this.
(d) To avoid this plain command the theory required the further advance that the direction to spread the gospel, with other commands involved, such as baptism and the Lord's Supper, are not for observance in this age, but for that Jewish remnant when they engage (as is supposed) in the work of evangelizing the nations in the End days.
These ramifications of this dispensational scheme were not developed fully by its first exponents. This was done logically and to the bitter end by E. W. Bullinger, the outcome being that only Paul's prison epistles belong properly to the church, and all the rest of the New Testament, like the Old Testament, is "Jewish."
It is of spiritual significance and importance that the falsity of this line of teaching was exposed about the time it had become widely spread, and by one who never mentioned it. In the Bampton Lectures for 1864 T. D. Bernard showed conclusively that all the teachings of the apostles were rooted in, and, by the instruction of the Spirit, grew out of germinal sayings by Christ when He was with them. This is the antithesis of the dispensational division of the New Testament propagated by Darby and perfected by Bullinger. When, in my hearing, that learned Christian Jew, David Baron, was asked his opinion of Bullinger's views he replied: "It has been my endeavour to unify the Word of God, not to divide it."
The scheme may be tested by one single passage, with which the whole Bible is in accord. It is alleged that the parousia will commence with a secret pre-tribulation coming of Christ for His church, to be known at the time by them only; but that the epiphany, the public outshining of His glory, will be at the manifestation of that glory before all men. It has been taught that the former is that for which Christians are to look as their true expectation. Yet Paul, who is supposed to be the one who first received the revelation of that pre-tribulation rapture, is the very one who declares that the "blessed hope" of the church is "the epiphany [the shining forth] of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ" (Tit. 2: 13).
in the scheme are such further assertions as that the church is "above dispensations" (whatever that may mean),
and is so peculiarly the object of grace that it would be wholly inconsistent
for it to have to endure the great tribulation of the End days. Yet it has been permitted to experience the indescrible horrors of the persecutions under the Roman
Emperors, the Inquisition, the Boxers in
has been mentioned above that one of the
subjects discussed at Powerscourt House was whether
the promises of God to the church are conditional. It would have been interesting to know the
answers. At least some of those present were
distinctly Calvinistic in theology. They
held firmly to the truth that the salvation from wrath granted to the
believer in Christ is eternal and so non-forfeitable. Their tendency was to apply this to all
post-conversion privileges also.
Within the area of the church glorified they allowed for
differences of reward according to merit, but the principle of reward must not
be extended beyond this. In
The idea conveyed by the term "sovereign" is that the grace of God is absolute, unfettered, and that the privileges it grants are free of conditions or limit. Where is this term or an equivalent found in the New Testament? It is not there. The grace of God is not unfettered. It is conditioned and balanced by His other attribute of righteousness. It is blessedly true that "grace reigns," but it is not the rule of an absolute autocrat in disregard of all other considerations. Rom. 5: 21 shows this by saying "grace reigns through righteousness." Grace cannot do ought not consistent with righteousness.
Grace must confer upon the guilty [unregenerate] a righteousness which can be recognized by the righteous judge of all the earth. This grace does through the atoning work of Christ. Grace must also produce in the justified a [personal] righteousness such as a holy God can acknowledge and reward. This grace does by forming in the believer the character of Christ, by His dwelling in the heart. Now the sinner may refuse to accept the grace that would grant him righteousness in Christ; in which case he cannot obtain that saving benefit. Likewise may the [regenerate] believer thwart that inward work by which the [Holy] Spirit would develop in him the character of Christ; in which case he will fall short of what the grace of God would have made him and conferred upon him. Very true are Tauler's words that, when God gives the crowns, He will not crown us, He will only crown Christ in us, for Christ alone is worthy of a crown. Thus grace is conditioned not as to what it is willing to confer, but by what we are willing to secure. In the whole range of its blessed activities it must work through righteousness. The term "sovereign grace" blurs the distinctness of this truth.
common mistake was adopted that the Lord had taught, that the apostles had
believed and taught, and that Christians in general had accepted, that His
return might be at any moment. It has been urged that he cannot be
looking for the Lord who holds that events must take place first. It is asserted
that Scripture puts no events as to precede that supposed secret
rapture, for the church is "outside prophecy." And when it is replied that Christ very
distinctly told His disciples that "when ye see these things [of
which He had been speaking] coming to pass, know ye
[*See the website]
How could they have done so seeing that the Lord expressly told them that His absence would be long (Mat. 15: 19; Luke 19: 12), and that Peter had to live to be an old man and then die? (John 21: 18, 19). In that Dissertation it is shown that the New Testament use of the terms "to look for ... to wait for" most certainly do allow the thought of events intervening before the event expected.
Hero worship is dangerous. Subjection of mind to one teacher, acceptance of a scheme of thought without searching into its principles and details, contention for a school of interpretation, are barriers to progress in knowledge. A good hen will find scraps on even a waste-heap. A keen-eyed spiritual botanist will detect a fair flower of truth among rank weeds of error. The true student gleans in all fields and gathers a large sheaf. Careful scrutiny of the differing lines of teaching here reviewed discerns truth in each and mistakes in all. Each looked from a different standpoint and saw features of the landscape others missed, and none saw the whole prospect. Had they patiently and quietly continued their joint survey their maps might presently have been made to correspond, instead of showing divergent features and roads.
mentioned above, Darby was right in holding the parousia to be a period, but wrong in placing its commencement before
they were right (and
The key to the perplexities that baffled those earlier inquirers, and over which, alas, they separated and fought, is a moral key. The hope of our Lord's return is intended to sanctify us and so to fit us for the inheritance by faith in Him (Acts 26: 18). "Every one that hath this hope set on him purifieth himself, even as He is pure" (1 John 3: 3). "Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind, be sober, and set your hope perfectly [undividedly] upon the favour that is being brought unto you at the apocalypse [unveiling, not a secret affair] of Jesus Christ ... [and] like as He who hath called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living: because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy" (1 Pet. 1: 13-16).
Therefore at every point teaching may be tested by its moral tendency and effect. This rules out such opinions as that the claims and commands of the Lord, as given in the Gospels, do not apply to Christians; or that the warnings addressed to disciples by Him or the apostles do not apply to regenerate persons. Such views do not serve to sanctify but tend rather to carelessness of heart and ways. By their fruits they are known. Many who have held those views have, indeed, acted as if they denied them, and have lived in fact according to scriptures they in theory held to be "Jewish." God be praised for this inconsistency. But it is not to be denied that many of those who most vigorously contended for such opinions have brought forth the bitter fruits of a controversial spirit, of opposition to any views but their own being taught, and of schism among the people of God. If there be found in us that "true humiliation of soul before God" for which Groves longed, then shall we be patient and forbearing with those who differ from us; and then, as to matters in which such humble souls may be otherwise minded, this also shall God reveal unto us (Phil. 3: 15.). And this He is even now doing among the lowly in heart.
In the enthusiasm engendered at that time by the great hope of our beloved Lord's return, it was presently suggested that the intense renewed interest therein of that period was the fulfilment of the cry to the Ten Virgins "Behold, the Bridegroom! Come ye forth to meet Him" (Mat. 25: 6). The only comment needed is that, in that case, the foolish virgins have had a sufficiently long time, a century and a half, in which to buy the oil needed! Yet the unwarranted notion is still maintained by people who do not reflect for themselves, but merely repeat accepted assertions.
William Kelly inquired as to the world for which he might make a fortune. This points to another vital feature of those early searchers for truth, even that they were prepared to pay whatever price was involved in securing and using it. Many of them were in a position to pay what the natural man regards as a high price. Some of them could forego high prospects in the academic world. Others could surrender social position, style, and comfort. Mr. Parnell (later Lord Congleton), with an income of £1,200 a year (say £6,000 now) lived at one time in a house rented at £12 a year. It was a common feature that their houses were furnished and ordered in a style that would not deter the poorer brethren from visiting them happily. Maybe that sometimes they went to an extreme in this, but the principle was of love.
N. Groves gave up a dental practice with an income of £1,500 a year, as then
valued. He and his wife gave away a
fortune of £10,000 which came to them, and went to
C. Chapman knew at his conversion that pride would be his besetting sin, so he
was trained for the bar, where he had excellent prospects, his sister's husband
being Chief justice of
examples show that those men were prepared to "buy"
the "wine and milk" of Immanuel's land
(Isa. 55: 1).
On this diet they became "nourished in the
words of the faith," even the "healthful
words, the words of the Lord Jesus, and the teaching which is according to
godliness" (I Tim. 4: 6; 6: 3: 2 Tim. 1: 13).
Being thus healthy and strong they could toil and endure. They gave heed
to the words of the Lord from heaven: "I counsel
thee to buy of Me gold refined by fire, that thou mayest become rich" (Rev.
3: 18). They became rich, so rich that they had abundance to give to the needy
in soul, and through them the whole
This could not have been had they been unwilling to pay the price. The law rules still. There are today brethren of talents and learning who yet are not rich and do not enrich others. They discover in the treasury of the Word nothing fresh. Why is this? Is it for the reason that they are like some of whom Wesley wrote, that they had sundry excellent qualities, but "most unfortunately they know everything and therefore they learn nothing?" or is it that they are not willing to pay the price?
Yet those earlier leaders, whatever the price they had paid, would have said with a still earlier man of social position, learning, and leisure, Paul the apostle of Jesus Christ, "What things were gains to me, these have I counted loss for Christ. Yea, verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse" (Phil. 3: 7, 8). A woman throws away lightly the household refuse, nor thinks she has done ought noteworthy. The disciple's earthly price is nothing; the heavenly gain is infinite, enjoyed now and hereafter.
English clergyman told me that he had been on holiday in the
At the Reformation God gave to faithful men the message needed for that period. They brought out of the treasury of the Word things new and fitted to that time. They, too, endured a great fight of afflictions but were good soldiers of Christ Jesus. Presently they enshrined and limited their message by entombing it in Creeds and Confessions. They have been followed by a race of scribes mostly content to repeat what their first leaders taught, peddling their wares, with but seldom one who had a message direct from God.
The teachers of a century ago likewise were shown in the Word things new to that generation, things which disturbed the Ecclesiastical mind. Those truths were the message needed to meet the then state of the church. They spread them fearlessly and vigorously, paying the regular price for being men with a message from God for their times. They too, in this respect, were good soldiers of Christ Jesus.
Today their followers are mostly scribes, peddling their wares, repeating the same ideas in much the same phrases, but without a fresh message from God to meet present needs. They bring forth nothing new out of the Word, and commonly they resist and persecute any one who does so. History repeats itself. What is now greatly needed from God is teachers with some message or messages for the present times; men who can throw fresh light on the truths already held and can bring to light truths or phases of truth not yet recognized. The need is for teachers who can search the conscience of the comfortable and worldly-minded, and lead the people of God forward. These also will be hated and opposed by their carnally-minded brethren and will need the courage of the good soldier of Christ Jesus. They, too, must pay the price, make the sacrifices, incur the losses incidental to soldiering. The Lord has many servants few soldiers. Seven thousand still worship Him; few Elijah's fight for Him.
True are the words of Thomas a Kempis:
Jesus has now many lovers of His heavenly kingdom but few bearers of His cross. He finds many companions of His table but few of His fasts. Many follow Jesus as far as the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the chalice of His passion. *
[*See end of next section.]
May the Lord in His mercy give again to His church messengers with a message, soldiers with stamina, warriors who will lead others to victory, conquerors who, even though they die in His battles, shall sit down with Him in His throne. Is the reader prepared to be one of them?
SELECTIVE RESURRECTION AND RAPTURE IN RELATION TO THE ETERNAL SECURITY OF THE REGENERATE,
IN connection with the study of truth, and of prophecy in particular, I have more than once commended in print the following remarks by Dr. Robert Daly. They were written in 1838 and are found on page 9. of the Preface to The Letters and Papers of Viscountess Powerscourt. He said:
I consider the whole
Therefore all sober and fair examination of a subject is to be welcomed, from whatever side it proceeds. But it can only be deplored when controversialists endeavour to create prejudice by unwarranted assertions. For at least one hundred and twenty years there have been serious and competent students of the Word of God who have believed it to be the clear teaching of Scripture that the honour of reigning with the Lord in His [millennial] kingdom is a privilege not guaranteed to every child of God, though it is offered to each such in this age. This involves that sharing in the raptures or the first resurrection, which will remove to the heavenly regions those who are to reign there with Christ, while open to all believers is not assured to all, but to those only "who are accounted worthy to attain to that [the Millennial] age and the resurrection which is from among the dead" (Luke 20: 35). We consider that this view alone answers to the many conditional statements of Scripture and also supplies both needful stimulus to holy living and check against the abuse of the grace which provides such a great prospect.
Upon so important a theme concentrated examination is needful and helpful, but there are some who seek to discredit the doctrine by alleging that it negatives the truth of the eternal salvation of those who are born of God through faith in the Son of God and His atoning work. No accredited teacher of the view in question will admit this, for it is of the essence of our view that we emphasize heavily the contrast between life eternal as a free gift and sharing the [millennial] glory of Christ as a reward. The assertion serves to give some very greatly needed body and weight to their opposition, for without it there would be no warrant for alleging that the doctrine impinges upon the faith of the gospel [of grace without our works]. The fact that it is found necessary to use this makeweight is silent testimony that the view is consistent with the faith.
The sure way to rebut this unjustified allegation is to oppose to it the following statements by leading persons who have advocated the doctrine of Selective Rapture and Resurrection.
The great theme of the return of the Lord Jesus was studied afresh by godly persons from about the year 1825, and it was generally held that all believers alive at the time of the event and all the dead of this Christian age who had life in Christ would be rapt or raised to share the [millennial] kingdom and glory of the Lord. But there were some of the earliest of those students who doubted this last opinion and thought that the high honour of reigning with Christ was contingent upon faithfulness to Him in this life. But in those early years such divergence of opinion was never regarded as challenging the faith or as imperilling fellowship or as restricting public ministry. There was then too much theological knowledge, balanced judgment, and above all too much brotherly love to hinder friendly discussion.
upon this subject are on record by
Upon the matter of the eternal security of the regenerate Lady Powerscourt wrote:
Death has left its sting in the humanity of Christ, and has no more power to harm his child. Christ's victory over the grave is his people's ... Omnipotent love must fail before one of his sheep can perish: for, says Christ, "none shall pluck my sheep out of my hand." "I and my Father are one"; therefore we may boldly say, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me." Letters and Papers, 285.
What one who held the views in question regarded as the basis and character of [eternal] salvation is seen in these words of A. N. Groves:
0, what a blessed passage is that in Rom 5. "If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved by His life." Yet the more I feel of this assurance of such unmerited love, the more hateful sin appears in all shapes, and the more my soul desires entire devotedness to the whole will of God, and conformity to my gracious Lord.
Is it not a sweet fruit of unconditional salvation that it has taught the soul to esteem God's will concerning all things to be right? Imperfect obedience to the divine will can only be, I conceive, the fruit of imperfect love. (Memoir of A. N. Groves, 189,234).
The expressions are to be noted: "assurance ... such unmerited love ... unconditional salvation," and this as the basis of holiness of life.
R. C. Chapman wrote:
How, great the blessing - redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of the grace of God. Let us but keep this in view, this perfect eternal redemption, and all is well. Then has patience her perfect work, and we submit to the hand of God, not because we cannot resist, but because God is love and is our Heavenly Father.
What think you of Christ then, my dear Sister? I know your answer. He is altogether lovely. He is now sitting for us at the right hand of God, and the stability of His throne is our strong foundation. (Selected Letters, 2, 3.)
Moreover, my soul, know thou the day makes haste to come when that which is in part shall be done away; this body of death is not for ever; but the workmanship of the Spirit of Christ shall endure for ever; for the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended." (Hymns and Meditations, 166, 167.)
Here also note the expressions "eternal redemption strong foundation ... shall endure for ever."
on to the middle of the last century the chief exponent of these views in
question was the learned Robert Govett, M.A., of
The intentions of Almighty power and wisdom must needs be fulfilled. Satan with his angels and evil men are against us, and would gladly destroy. But all opposition will not avail to frustrate the salvation of God's providing. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, are engaged our behalf. Here is our security that we shall enjoy eternal life (page 376).
The believer then, made a son of God by the love of God in Christ, shall certainly attain at last the glory of eternal life (page 551).
the latter part of the last century and the beginning of this a
With His most solemn formula the Lord introduces this wondrous and gracious revelation, that, at the moment when we receive His word, and believe the testimony which His Father has given concerning Him, we have crossed the boundary which separates life from death - aye, and have done so before the awful judgment throne is set up between them. In that instant, by the word of His power, by that mighty working whereby He is able to subject all things to Himself, a germ of immortality has passed into our being, which - like all the gifts and callings of God - when once given, can never be withdrawn ... Such being the case, how could we ever perish? How could God sanction so great a waste as the destruction of those whom He has created anew in Christ Jesus, and made perfect in Him! ... True, then, were the words of the Lord when He said: "Whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die." And true, also, the words of the Apostle: "And this is the record, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life, is in His Son. He that bath the Son hath the life: he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life." The first, then, of the three mighty acts is a resurrection of the spirit, or the spiritual resurrection, which involves everlasting life, and is identical with the new birth, or the new creation in Christ Jesus. It is an absolute and undeserved gift from God, and can only be obtained as such.
D. M. Panton, B.A., Editor of The Dawn, followed
Mr. Govett in his ministry at
It is the joy and wonder of God's Grace that all saving merit in our Lord's life and death becomes ours on simple faith: "for by grace have ye been saved THROUGH FAITH; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory" (Eph. 2: 8, 9). A sinner's works, so far from saving him, have actually to be repented of - "REPENTENCE from dead WORKS" (Heb. 6: 1): - for "the FREE GIFT of God" - unfettered therefore by any obligation on the part of the Giver, and thus completely severed from our merit "is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6: 23). We thus draw eternal life solely from the Son of God. "God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son HATH THE LIFE; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life" (1 John 5: 11, 12). Eternal life thus rests for ever on simple, saving faith, which produces immediate regeneration, incorporation into Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, and indefectible life. "He that believeth on the Son hath EVERLASTING life" (John 3: 36).
These unequivocal utterances might suffice to show that the leading advocates of Selective Rapture and Resurrection have declared plainly that the eternal security of the believer in Christ is emphatically part of their teaching. Here I should much prefer to leave the matter, but it is the case that at the present time I myself am the principal writer upon the same side, and it is to nullify as far as possible my writings and influence that present criticisms are mainly directed. It is the more regrettable that writers of today should bring the complaint that the doctrine in question negatives the doctrine of eternal security, for they are acquainted with my writings and must know that I have declared emphatically my conviction of the eternal security of the regenerate. I ask the un-biassed reader to ponder these three statements from three of my books on these subjects.
On pages 14, 15 of Firsjruits and Harvest it is said that
It is at this point that the "ifs" of the Word of God come in, and are so solemn and significant. Whenever the matter is that of the pardon of sin, the justifying of the guilty, the gift of eternal life, Scripture ever speaks positively and unconditionally. The sinner is "justified freely by God's grace," and "the free gift of God is eternal life" (Rom. 3: 24; 6; 23), in which places the word "free" means free of conditions, not only of payment. Eternal life therefore is what is called in law an absolute gift, in contrast to a conditional gift. The latter may be forfeited if the condition is not fulfilled – [i.e., being justified freely by God’s grace]; the former is irrevocable. But as soon as the sinner has by faith entered into this standing before God, then the Word begins at once to speak to him with "Ifs." From this point and forward every privilege is conditional. One of my present critics wrote a long attack upon my treatise The Revelation of Jesus Christ. He had therefore read the following very definite avowal on pages 14 and 15 in the Preface:
This book is written by one who is thoroughly persuaded that the teaching of Scripture is that no justified and regenerate persons can ever be finally lost. Devout and learned men have held the opposite; and they support that view by many solemn passages, such as John 15, Heb. 6, and others. In my Firstborn Sons, Their Rights and Risks I have endeavoured to show that these portions of the Word are harmonious with the belief that no person once saved can be lost eternally, but that they do contain a searching warning message to the child of God, especially as regards the millennial kingdom. It is upon this line that some parts of Revelation are here expounded; but I must ask once and for all that the reader, when he comes to these passages, will remember that it has been here avowed in advance that salvation from the lake of fire, once secured by faith in the precious blood of Christ, is unforfeitable.
Yet in spite of this avowal my critic alleged and alleges that my views contradict the truth of eternal security. Present critics know well that two years ago I issued an extended commentary entitled The Epistle to the Hebrews. This sets forth at length the privileges that grace grants to the obedience of faith and also the penalties incurred by godlessness in [regenerate] believers. Now at the very heart of this exposition there is a special discussion to prove the eternal security of all the regenerate. It occupies nearly six pages of small type and runs to over 3,000 words. The concluding sentence reads:
Happy indeed is he who, as touching his status as righteous before God, sees Christ to be his all, for thus will he be assured that his judical acceptance by God is necessarily as eternal as the righteousness of his Surety.
It is greatly to be desired that in future critics will be honest enough to acknowledge that those they oppose believe as they do upon this matter, seeing that the proofs of this are here made public.
example of the criticism deprecated may be found in a recent discussion
entitled Who Will Go when the Lord Comes? by W.
R. Lewis and E. W. Rogers. It is issued
from the office of "Echoes of Service,"
There fell into the hands of one of the writers recently a book in which was the following: "The initial condition upon which man may aspire to this beatific vision is the atoning work of the Redeemer ... But the final condition for realizing in fact that which the atonement has made possible is set before us in the clause ... "Pursue the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord" ... The eternal security of the believer depends solely upon the sovereign grace of God. It is altogether independent of works. It is "not of works lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2: 9). Salvation is effected alone through the work of Christ on the Cross, and His resurrection, appropriated by faith, applied to the believer by the Holy Spirit. To this nothing can be added."
It is to be observed:
1. That no references are given to any books in which it is said the doctrines rejected are taught, not even to the one quoted; so that readers are precluded from testing either the quotation or its context.
The reader is left to assume with the writers that what the writer quoted meant
by "this beatific vision" is the same
as the "eternal security of the believer,"
that is, "salvation," as it is added,
"Their future salvation is no contingency." The rest of their book follows this
assumption, and on it is based the charge that, according to the writer and
others, "salvation" is not by grace
alone but is "by the work of
The writer cited was dealing with Heb. 12: 14: "Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord." In the paragraphs just immediately preceding the words quoted he showed that "the Lord" in this verse is not Christ, because every eye shall see Him at one time of judgment or another, according to Rev. 1: 7: Phil. 2: 10, 11; John 5: 22. He added that, "It is therefore to some face to face vision of God the Father that our clause refers," and he cited numerous passages in support. This therefore was "the beatific vision" which he considered this scripture to make conditional upon sanctification. In the very paragraph quoted he made this unmistakably clear by describing "the beatific vision" as "the fullest and highest bliss possible through the blood of Jesus, even this supernal vision of the face and presence of Him Who before was personally inaccessible to man."
Early in the same chapter the writer had stated clearly his belief as to the standing and security of the believer. He dealt with the words of Heb. 12: 24: "Ye have come unto the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better than that of Abel," and said:
No matter what is the privilege now known, or hereafter to be gained, all our standing and hope is based upon the atonement of Calvary ... And to all eternity, and in whatever height of glory we may reign on Mount Zion, we shall discover our security to stand in that eternal redemption.
“I stand upon His merit:
I know no other stand,
Not e'en where glory dwelleth
In Immanuel's land."
Even these critics will surely acknowledge that some privileges and rewards attached to [eternal] salvation may be lost without imperilling [that] salvation, and the writer was dealing with the vision of God the Father as the highest of these possibilities. It was only by disregarding his plain definition and the whole context that his term "the beatific vision" was made to seem equivalent to "salvation" and thereupon the unjust charge formulated that he taught that salvation depends upon grace and law, faith and works. Thus the critics gravely perverted his teaching, created an entirely false issue, and completely misled their readers.
The book in question (now out of print) is my Firstborn Sons, Their Rights and Risks, pages 75-77, 65, 66.
1. Rest in the Lord
ABOVE all and in all do thou, my soul, rest in the Lord always, for He Himself is the eternal Rest of His saints. Grant me 0 most sweet and loving Jesus, to rest in Thee above every creature, above all health and beauty, above all glory and honour, above all power and dignity, above all knowledge and subtilty, above all riches and arts, above all joy and exultation, above all fame and praise, above all sweetness and consolation, above all hope and promise, above all desert and desire, above all gifts and presents which Thou art able to bestow or infuse, above all joy and gladness which the mind is capable of receiving and feeling; finally, above angels and archangels, and above all the host of heaven, above all things visible and invisible, and above all that falls short of Thyself, 0 Thou, my God! For indeed, my heart cannot truly rest, nor be entirely contented, unless it finds its rest in Thee, and mounts above all gifts and above all creatures.
- THOMAS A KEMPIS.
tells the Thessalonian believers (2 Thess. 1: 5) that
rather than their sufferings be punishment from God,
they were "a manifest token of the righteous
judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the
- Christian Life.
3. Undreamed Possibilities
What is so wonderful, so unique in the Christian life is that in every believer there are such undreamed of possibilities. On the human plane we are so hopeless and helpless. Our friends assess us at our true value. They know our weaknesses, our deficiencies, our limited capacity, how few are our talents, how puny our possibilities. They have sized us up so clearly, sometimes so cruelly. But when a child of God steps out in faith and on God, and discovers the secret of taking hold of God, of taking Him at His Word by faith, then a new factor is introduced which confounds all calculations, and nullifies all estimates.
- DR. NORTHCOTE DECK.