Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review of Louis Gaussen's "Theopneusty."

This volume is, hands-down, the best I have ever read on the subject of Plenary Inspiration. Gaussen has done the Church an inestimable service with this book. It should be required reading for seminary students at any and every level. Much of the theological tomfoolery rampant in American evangelicalism would lose traction if ministers were conversant in the arguments of this book.

Highlights of the book are his handling of the standard objections to Inspiration, his discussion of the relation between the Bible and science, and the treatment of textual criticism.

With regard to the first, he makes mincemeat out of the objection that Inspiration is diminished because we have translations. His response, put simply, is that anyone who knows the original languages proficiently can critique a translation. The translations we have today have been edited and revised many times by language scholars who are all competent in the original languages and can easily spot errors in each others' work. Inspiration, on the other hand, gets one shot. Either the book in inspired by God when the prophet or apostle pens it, or it is not. There is no committee or panel of experts on inspiration who can pool their collective knowledge and assess the quality of the prophet/apostle's work and revise it to attain inerrant status.

In an unusual departure from a normal presentation of a case, Gaussen tackles all of the objections to Plenary Inspiration before he presents a positive case for it. This is actually quite effective, because the reader is not constantly thinking, “What about ______?” One is free to concentrate on the positive case without the distraction of questions in the back of one's mind.

Gaussen also does a great job dealing with the question of science and Scripture. His position is quite simple: Science changes and develops with advances in technology and new discoveries. Scripture does not change because it is the infallible, inerrant Word of the unchanging God. Therefore, Gaussen always places Scripture above science. He warns about the danger of modifying one's view of Scripture based on the latest scientific discoveries and theories, by showing the follies of otherwise reputable scholars of the past whose work is easy to discount for this very reason. Greek and Roman natural histories treat mythological creatures such as the phoenix and the Antipodes as if they were real. What do we say about theologians who appealed to the accounts of such creatures in the interest of the Christian faith? It is embarrassing, of course, and we'd much rather pretend that this never happened. Every such instance in the past is due to the author placing too much confidence in the science of his day and re-interpreting Scripture in the light of such “consensus” knowledge. We are equally foolish to do the same. By taking this tack, Gaussen has protected his volume from aging. His arguments are as valid today as they were in the 1850's.

The treatment of textual criticism is worth the price of admission. Gaussen warns, that while the textual critic does the Church a great service when he works within proper bounds. He admonishes that the textual critic is a “historian, not a conjurer.”

Although Gaussen cites many important Patristic sources in defense of Plenary Inspiration, he refuses to place much weight there, choosing rather to rely on the testimony of Scripture. In fact, he goes so far as to say that this is the ONLY way in which Plenary Inspiration is to be proven. If one were inclined to object that this is begging the question, Gaussen is quick to respond, “There would be a begging of the question, if, to prove that that the Scriptures are inspired, we should invoke their own testimony, as if they were inspired.” But, he notes that this is not what he is doing. He is considering Scripture, firstly, as a historical document worthy of respect by reason of its authenticity. By recourse to its pages, we find out what Jesus believed and taught, just like we search for what Socrates taught by reading Plato. Now, throughout the Bible we find declarations that the whole system of it religion is based upon a miraculous intervention of God in revealing its history and doctrines. This leaves no third option. We either relegate all Scripture to the realm of the mythological, or acknowledge that if what it narrates is true, it is inspired. There is nothing in this line of reasoning that can be called begging the question.

He concludes by asserting that there are only two religions in the world: One that places the Bible above everything, and one which places something else above the Bible. One position believes that all the written word is inspired of God, even to a single iota or tittle; the Scriptures cannot be broken. The other position employs human judges of the word of God. Whether it be science, tradition, human reason, or some new ostensible 'revelation,' it places something above the Bible. At bottom, this is the source of all false religion. Whether it be Judaism with its Targums and Talmud, Islam with its Quran, Romanism with its tradition and 'infallible Pope, Mormonism with its golden tablets and magic glasses, liberal theology with its denial of the miraculous elements of Scripture, or Pentecostalism with its never-ending series of dreams, visions, words of prophecy, and tongues, - in every case, we find a human judge feeling himself competent to sit in judgment of that which claims to be the inspired Word of God.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Louis Gaussen on Textual Criticism

"Let Sacred Criticism be a Historian, not a Conjuror"

We value highly, for the church of God, every labor which makes her understand a passage better; yes, were it only one passage, one single word of the holy Scriptures. But when you pass on to crude hypotheses; when you embrace a thousand conjectures concerning the sacred writers, to make their word depend on the hazard of their presumed circumstances, instead of regarding their circumstances as prepared and chosen of God in reference to their ministry; when you subordinate the nature, the abundance or brevity of these instructions to more of less fortunate concurrence of their ignorance or of their recollections; - this is to degrade inspiration, and to bring down the character of the word of God; it is to lay deep the foundations of infidelity; it is to forget that 'men of God spake as the were moved (φερόμενοι) by the Holy Ghost, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth” (2 Peter 1:21; 1 Corinthians 2:13)

It has been asked, “Did the Evangelists read each others writings?” And what is that to me, if they were all 'moved by the Holy Ghost;' and if, like the Thessalonians, I receive their book, 'not as the word of man, but as it is, in truth, the word of God.' Let this question be proposed in its place, it may be entirely innocent; but it is so no longer when it is discussed as it has been, and when so much importance is attached to it. Can the solution of it throw light on one single passage of the sacred books, and establish their truths more firmly? We do not believe that it can.

When we hear it asked whether St. John had read the Gospels of the other three; if St. Mark and St. Luke had read the Gospel of St. Matthew before writing their own; when we hear it asked whether the Evangelists did anything more than describe with discernment the most important portions of oral traditions; when we see great volumes written upon these questions, to attack or defend these systems, as if faith and even science were truly interested in it, and as if the answers were very important to the Christian Church; when we hear it affirmed that the first three Evangelists had consulted some original document now lost; Greek, according to some; Hebrew, according to others; when we see men plunging still farther into this romantic field; when we see them reaching the complicated drama of the Bishop of Landaff (Herbert Marsh - aku), with his first Hebrew historical document, his second Hebrew dogmatic document, his third Greek document, (a translation of the first); then his documents of the second class, formed by the translation of Luke, and Mark, and Matthew, which finally reduces the sources to seven, without counting three others, peculiar to St. Luke and St. Mark; or even, again, when we see Mr. Veysie in England, and Dr. Gieseler in Germany, deriving either the first three Gospels, of the four Gospels from apocryphal histories previously circulated among the Christian churches; when we see the first of these Doctors determining that Mark has copied them with a more literal exactness than Luke, on account, they say, of his ignorance of the Greek; while Matthew's Gospel, written at first in Hebrew, must, doubtless, have been translated afterward into Greek by a person who modified it to make it correspond with Mark and Luke, and, finally, gave it to us as we have it; when we see these systems exhibited, not in a few phrases in the indulgence of a light curiosity, but so many and such great volumes written upon them as if they involved the interests of the kingdom of God; Oh! we must say it, we feel, in the view of all such science, a sentiment profoundly painful. But, after all, is that science? Is judicial astrology a science? No; and these men are no longer philosophers: they have abandoned facts; they prophesy the history of the past; they are, alas! the astrologers of theology.”

Louis Gaussen, “Theopneusty, or The Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures,” (Sacred Criticism, A Historian, Section II)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Louis Gaussen On So-called "Trivial" Details in Scripture

Yet we must say before going any farther: we almost blush to defend the word of God under this form; and we feel for this species of apology, a kind of conscientious disgust. Is it entirely proper; and can we give ourselves to it without irreverence? Care must be take at all times, as to the manner of defending the things of God; lest we imitate the imprudence of Uzzah, who reached out his hand to hold up the ark of God, because the oxen had slipped. The wrath of God, we are told, burned against his indiscretion (2 Samuel 6:6-7). if it is well understood on both sides, that a word is in the canon of the oracles of God, why defend it as worthy of Him, by human reasons? You might; without doubt, defend it against unbelievers; but with men who recognize the divinity of the Scriptures, is it not to wrong the word; is it not to take a false position, and touch the ark as Uzzah did? If this word should present itself to our eyes as a root out of dry ground; were it without any charm; were there neither form nor comeliness, nor anything in it to make it desirable, still ought you to venerate it and expect everything for it, from Him who has given it. Is it not then to fail of your duty to Him; to attempt when He speaks, to prove by argument, the respect which is His due? Should I not be ashamed, when my Savior and my God has been showed me, rising from supper, taking a basin, girding Himself with a napkin, and coming to wash the feet of His disciples; should I not be ashamed to set myself to proving, that, in spite of all that, His is still the Christ! Ah; I would rather adore Him more than ever! But it is so; the majesty of the Scriptures will stoop even to us. Do you see it there rising from the table, laying aside its robe, putting on the dress of a servant, and kneeling before sinners to wash their feet? 'If I do not wash thee, thou hast no part with me.' Is it not then, in this very humiliation that it reveals itself with the greatest charm, as the voice of the humiliated Word? Could we mistake it and could we rank ourselves for an instant by the side of those who do not know it?

It seems to us, that there is no arrogance comparable to that of a man, who, recognizing the Bible as a book of God, pretends after all, to assay it with his hand; to separate the pure from its impure, the inspired from the uninspired, God from ma. It is to overthrow all the foundations of faith; it is to make it no more a belief in God, but a belief in man. It ought then to be enough for us that a chapter or word makes part of the Scriptures, to induce us to believe it divinely good; for God has pronounced upon it, as upon the creation: 'I have seen everything that I have made, and behold, all is good.' We will never then say, I find this word admirable, therefore it is of God; and still less, I do not see its utility, therefore it is of man. God preserve us from it! But we will say, it is in the Scriptures; then it is from God. It is from God; then it is useful, it is wise, it is admirable; if I do not see it such yet, the fault is in me alone.”

Loiuis Gaussen, Theopneusty, or the Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, pp 243-245

Friday, September 18, 2015

Resolving Chronological Obscurities in Scripture

"When passages are obscure, as to their chronology, great care must be taken not to reconcile them by imputing faults to the inspired book. Wherefore, if sometimes it happens that we cannot account for the .number of the years, we must simply avow our ignorance, and consider that the Scriptures are expressed with so much conciseness, that it is not possible for us always to discover at what epoch we must commence such and such a computation. It very often happens that in the histories of the kings of Judah and Israel, the respective numbers of their years cannot be easily reconciled ; but these difficulties are explained and justified in many ways.
1. The same year, commenced by one of the two, and finished by the other, is attributed to both.
2. Often the sons reigned with their fathers for several years; which are imputed sometimes to one and sometimes to the other.
3. There were often interregnums which the Scriptures attribute sometimes to the predecessors, sometimes to the successors.
4. Finally, it sometimes happens that certain years in which oppressive and profane princes reigned, are regarded as not having existed, and are not counted."
Peter Martyr, Commentary on 2 Kings 13:17, and 1 Kings 15:1

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

It Is Scripture Itself , Not The Authors, That Are The Subjects Of Inspiration

“This miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit had not for its object the sacred writers, who were only his instruments, and who were soon to pass away; but its object was the sacred books themselves, which were destined to reveal to the Church from age to age, the immutable counsels of God.
“The influence which was exercised upon these men, and of which they themselves were conscious in very different degrees, has never been defined to us. Nothing authorizes us to explain it. The Scriptures themselves have never presented to us its mode or its measure as an object of study. They speak of it always incidentally; they never connect our piety with it. That alone which they propose as the object of our faith is the inspiration of their word; is the divinity of their books; between these they make no difference.
“Their word, say they, is theopneustic; their books are of God, whether they recount the mysteries of a past anterior to the creation, or those of a future posterior to the return of the Son of Man; the eternal counsels of the most High, the secrets of the human heart, or the deep things of God; whether they give utterance to their own emotions or record their own recollections, relate contemporaneous events, copy genealogies or make extracts from inspired documents; their writings are inspired; their statements are directed by heaven; it is always God who speaks, who relates, ordains or reveals by their mouth, and who, to accomplish it, employs their personality in different degrees. For 'the Spirit of the Lord was upon them, and his word upon their tongue.' And if it is always the word of man, because it is always men who utter it, it is likewise always the word of God, for it is always God that superintends, guides and employs them. They give their narrations, their doctrines, or their precepts, 'not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth.' And it is thus that God has constituted himself not only the voucher of all these facts, the author of all these ordinances, and the revealer of all these truths, but that also he has caused them to be given to the Church in the precise order, measure and terms which he has judged most conducive to his heavenly design.” 
Louis Gaussen (1790 – 1863), Theopneusty; or, The Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, English edition of 1843, pages 34-35

Friday, September 11, 2015

Moloch Worship

Moloch Worship
A. Cleveland Coxe

A physician of highly respectable position, has lately sent me several of his own contributions to one of our newspapers, from which I extract the following paragraphs:

"It is related that when the Huguenot Mother, Perrotine Massy, and her two daughters were burned at the stake, one of the latter was delivered of a child in the very midst of the fiery furnace, which rolled out of it alive and almost unscathed. A bystander picked up the child, thus miraculously saved, but was ordered by the bailiff, Helier Gosselin, to throw it back into the flames that it might be consumed with its heretic mother."

This happened in the isle of Guernsey, under Queen Mary the Bloody.

"One cannot read such a recital as this without a shudder of horror; it outrages every sympathy and sensibility of our nature, and we feel like doubting, almost, its veracity. Judging of a Helier Gosselin after our own standard of virtue, we are compelled to the belief that either himself and the class to which he belonged were exceptional beings of different moral mould from the mass of humanity, or else that human nature must have settled into a sad state of degeneracy in the times of Mary Tudor, from which, happily, it has since elevated itself.

"But is this conclusion correct? What if we state that today,— in our very midst,—in the bosom of the Church, within those circles of society where the tenderer attributes of human sympathy are most cherished and cultivated; within the closer and dearer limits of the family and the fireside, crimes are committed, daily and hourly, that rival the savage brutality of Gosselin!

"Gosselin did not believe that he was committing a crime; on the contrary, he no doubt supposed that he was fulfilling a stern religious duty, so much the more meritorious as it was costly to his moral sentiments."

After arguing that no such excuse can be found for another class of child-murderers, the writer adds:

"The terrible fact exists, the bloody work goes on day by day, the cruel actors in it are taken by the hand, public conscience sleeps, the law looks blandly on, and society felicitates itself upon its moral progress and high religious standard.

"Then the crime must be so skillfully covered up that it never sees the light; that old and well-established law of events which forces crime to the surface where it must be discovered, has ceased to act!

"Wrong again. No general fact is better or more universally known than that of the existence of this crime; there are few members of any community who could not point the finger at someone who is guilty of it; proposals and means to its commission are boldly advertised throughout the country; knowledge of these means are retailed from one to another in every grade of society; the guilty even boast of their guilt, and laugh at the timid fears of those whose consciences still feebly restrain them from yielding to these examples of evil.

"It will have been divined what crime is alluded to; there is but one .that could exist under such conditions, and that is murder of the unborn human offspring —willful destruction of the existence created by God for an undying soul; a flying in the face of the Creator by despatching to Him, untimely, a witness that shall live to confront the murderer in the day of judgment.

"Murder is always murder, whether it consist in the destruction of the apparently formless ovum, or the full grown man. In either instance the organic animal life, concurrent with the spiritual, has been arrested in its progress; a specific creation, endowed with all its attributes of immortal as well as mortal existence has been destroyed, so far as it is destructible, and the perpetrator of the deed has taken upon himself the responsibility of sending a soul back to God who gave it. There is a social difference; society and human relationships miss the murdered child or man, and do not miss the unborn child which has never yet taken its place among them, but that is all; there is no difference in the accountability to God for the destruction of a work which is His from the beginning. The Psalmist says:

My bones are not hid from thee, though I be made secretly, and fashioned beneath in the earth.
Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being imperfect; and in thy book were all my members written;”
Which day by day were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.—Ps. cxxxix.

"If then this crime is so prevalent, so widely known, and so horrible and bloody in its character, how does it come about that it should be tolerated and tacitly ignored in a civilized and Christian community? Wherein consists the fatal errour that renders either its commisson or toleration possible in a land where lesser crimes are so vigorously frowned down and punished?

"The basis, the ultimate element of this error lies, as the present writer believes, in a mistaken popular notion that denies both spiritual and animal life to the foetus, at least up to quite an advanced period of gestation. This notion has governed and does govern, even now, the laws of the land, as well as popular opinion. It seems strange that the simple thought that the germ not interfered with would in time become a man, should not have carried with it a deeper sense of the importance of that germ and of its intimate relations with spiritual life. Suffice it to say here, that no physiologist doubts at the present day, that the relations of the ovum an instant old to the immortal life of a newly created soul, are the same as those of a man who has reached the allotted three-score-years-and-ten, so far as the facts of the existence and individuality of that soul are concerned.

"But the fallacy, the opposite to this doctrine, naturally carries with it the popular impression that to destroy the unformed child, is a mere peccadillo, the furthest possible removed from such a terrible crime as murder. Add to this facility for the accomplishment of such a design; familiarity, which always softens the hideous aspect of crime; the force of example; laxity of the law; moral carelessnes, an educating of the mind, so to speak, to the admission of such guilty deeds as a sort of matter of course, and we have the state of things which actually exists.

"It is difficult to state how extensively practiced is this murderous habit. It would be safe to say, perhaps, that unborn generations have been lessened of late nearly one-half by criminal interference with the laws of nature.”

From another journal I extract the following alarming statements:

"The report of Dr. Harris, the Register of Vital Statistics in New York, speaks volumes and furnishes food for earnest reflection. The returns of births in the city of New York, during the six months ending Sept. 30, 1866, show 5,745 births, of which 868 were children of native parents, 3,246 were of foreign parentage, 398 had foreign fathers only, 339 had foreign mothers only, and the parentage of 894 was not stated. This shows a total of 3,983 children of foreign parentage born during that period, while only 868 full-blooded natives were ushered into this world. The Doctor asserts that the returns are manifestly incorrect, but remarks that the tables show a decided preponderance of children of foreign parentage. In Brooklyn, 1,991 births were registered; 776 were children of native parents; 807 of foreign; 213 had foreign fathers; 137 had foreign mothers, and the parentage of 37 was not stated. This shows a total of 1,157 children of foreign parentage born in Brooklyn, and as decided a preponderance as in New York. The Doctor thus shows how many babies have come into the world, and their parentage, but unfortunately the records do not show the condition of the parents—if they did, what a tale would be told of city life! Our New York correspondent recently copied an extract from Dr. Harris's report, in which he referred to the crime of child murder, and asserted that the bureau should have returns of from 27,000 to 30,000 births in New York annually, and half as many in Kings Co., that is unless marriage is a farce and child murder more frequent than he believed it to be. According to the best calculation which can be made of the births last year we do not believe that the records will show 12,000 in New York, and yet the Doctor insists that by the laws of social progress there should have been at least 27,000. If these figures be correct what has become of the absent 15,000 babes? The still-births will perhaps number 2,000, leaving 13,000 to be accounted for. The great question is where have they gone to? The Doctor's figures may be exaggerated, but diminish them as we may we cannot escape the fact that thousands of children are sacrificed yearly.

"It is a subject of common remark that rich people have small families; the middle classes do not overburden themselves with 'olive branches'; but the poorer classes are literally 'fruitful and multiplying.’ The returns themselves show more than four foreign births to one native, and everybody knows that the foreigners are to a great extent among the poorer classes. The poor do not have children because they can better afford them than the rich, but the latter do not have them because they consider it unfashionable; they do not care to have the trouble of rearing their offspring and, not only themselves but the less wealthy classes, find no difficulty in getting rid of the children during the periods of gestation, when such a process may be considered comparatively safe. This is a bold assertion, but one that will be borne out by the facts if ever they can be collected.

"A glance at a morning journal published in New York shows no less than thirty advertisements of persons who, ‘for a consideration.’ will 'remove obstructions, from whatever cause.’ Few of our newspapers are free from these advertisements, so that those who l run may read.

"Dr. Harris knows that did not the 'oath of Hippocrates' forbid, physicians could reveal tales of this crime which would startle the community and assist him to account for infants, more or less, which his theories say should have made their entree into this wicked world every year."

My late Pastoral calls forth from a Boston editor, a very kind notice, which he follows up in the following vigorous language:

"For nearly two years we have been speaking as much and as strongly as we dared, probably more than was accept able to our readers, on the dreadful theme. The thought of it has been to us literally an infinite and inexpressible sorrow; we could not shake it off; it has haunted us like a stifling, hideous dream. The crime has at length grown to such monstrous proportions, that no human language can suffice to describe it. Why, all the other sins and horrors of our land put together, our recent slavery, our late civil war, and all the drunkenness, and even the enormous curse of frauds, robberies, burglaries, incendiarisms, and murders, which we are now going through,—all these rolled into one lump, do not equal the mass of shocking and inhuman depravity which the American people are guilty of in this one particular. Our whole social and domestic life and being are suffering and wasting away under the 'deep damnation' of it. Nearly all our walks of fashion, wealth, position, respectability, and even of piety, or what passes for such, are full of it. Our Protestant Churches are cursed, we sometimes fear, beyond the hope and the possibility of redemption, by the horrible impiety of it.

"Some strange, diabolical visitation seems to have well-nigh burnt the conscience all out of our people on this point. Even our religion has lost its guarding and protective efficacy in this most sacred and most awful province of morality, which is indeed the very holy of holies of humanity itself. The devoutest members of our Churches, or those who seem such, rush into the secret house of life, and turn it into a Moloch shrine, without even the slightest twinges of compunction or remorse. Protestant Christians of the first circles even boast of their sacrifices to that dreadful devil, and freely encourage others in the hideous and hellish worship.

"Surely, then, it is high time that the Protestant Clergy should cease their eternal wranglings about orthodoxy and doctrinal righteousness, and begin to think of those living, practical duties and virtues on which the very life of humanity depends. They ought, long before now, to have addressed themselves most seriously to grappling and struggling with this monstrous evil. They will have enough to do, we can tell them, to preach a conscience into their people in this matter; for the task is indeed hardly less than to 'create a soul under the ribs of death.' If they cannot blow and feed into a strong flame the few faint embers of moral life that yet live in this behalf, then, most assuredly, their candle-stick will soon be removed out of its place; and the sooner the better. Indeed, that the light of reason and conscience and religion should have so far gone out, under their teachings, in this most vital point, is such a mixture of crime and blunder as we do not well see how they can survive. It almost looks as if not merely one, but all the screws were loose in their cause. It is in marriage and motherhood that the very life of the whole thing is centered. To fail in this is to fail utterly. What saves us here, will needs have, and will deserve to have, possession of the ground. Without this, our doctrinal virtues, and 'vital pieties' are the starkest shams, and putting faith in them is the steepest of heresies.  If Protestantism cannot serve us in this behalf, then the days of Protestantism are numbered, and it cannot hasten too swiftly into its grave."

I have selected this from a large number of similar specimens of journalism, because, while it gives such a strong confirmation to my own words, it adopts, from beginning to end, the Jesuit's hint that Protestantism is to be credited with these immoralities. I am no admirer of Sectarian Protestantism, for the whole Reformation owes its arrest and its apparent defeat, to the divisions of the Reformed and to the Sectarian bodies which disfigure and enfeeble modern Protestantism. But, I assert that, with all their faults, Protestant nations are, almost everywhere, comparatively pure, in their social life, if they be contrasted with those nations in which Romanism is supreme. In a word—compare the Northern and Middle States of America, with Brazil, with Mexico, with Italy, with Spain. We are bad enough, but, thank God, the ministers of religion are not our leaders in shameless vice; they do not live in lewdness; they do not afford a spectacle of every form of sensuality and licentiousness, and seduce women and children into the vilest forms of life-long captivity to sin. That such is the moral condition of many Romish countries is too well known to require elaborate illustration; but a public document, lately issued by the government of Brazil, openly sustains these charges, and asserts that the morals of the people cannot be elevated, while their priests afford them an almost universal example of dissolute living.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Christianity Without Christ (Part 4)

Christianity without Christ
by Charles Hodge (1823-1886)
Originally published in the Princeton Review, April 1876 (Vol. 5, Issue 18).
The doctrine which makes benevolence, the desire or purpose to promote the happiness not of our fellow-men merely, but of being in general, or all beings, logically, and often actually, results essentially in the same thing. All religion, all moral excellence consists in benevolence, Our only obligation is so to act as to promote the greatest good. This is the motive and the end of obedience. According to the New Testament, the motive to obedience is the love of Christ, the rule of obedience is the will of Christ, and its end the glory of Christ. Every Christian is benevolent; but his benevolence does not make him a Christian; his Christianity makes him benevolent. Throughout all ages the men who have labored most and suffered most for the good of others, have been Christians — men animated and controlled by Christ's love to them, and by their love to Christ. It is evident that the spiritual life — the inward religious state — of the man to whom it is Christ to live, is very different from that of the man who lives for the happiness of the universe. A man might thus live if there were no Christ.
Another form of religion in which Christ fails to occupy his proper position, is that which assumes God to be merely a moral governor, of infinite power and benevolence. Being infinitely benevolent, he desires the well being of his kingdom. To forgive sin without some suitable manifestation of his disapprobation of sin, would be inconsistent with a wise benevolence. Christ makes that manifestation in his sufferings and death. Then he retires; henceforth we have nothing to do with him; we have to deal with God on the principles of natural religion; we must submit to his authority, obey his commandments, and expect to be rewarded, not merely according to, but for, our works. Christ merits nothing for us, we are not to look to him for sanctification, or any other blessing. All he has done, or does, is to make it consistent with the benevolence of God to forgive sin. Forgiveness of sin, therefore, is the only benefit which God bestows on us on account of Christ.
This theory changes everything. Men me rebellious subjects. It is now consistent in God to forgive them. He calls on them to submit, to lay down their arms, then he is free to deal with them as though they had never sinned. They must merit, not forgiveness — for that is granted on account of what Christ has done — but the reward promised to obedience; justification is simply pardon. Conversion is that change which takes place in a man when he ceases to be selfish, and becomes benevolent; ceases making his own happiness the end of his life, and determines to seek the happiness of the universe. The essence of faith is love, i.e., benevolence. It is hard to see, according to this theory, in what sense Christ is our prophet, priest, and king; how He is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; what is meant by our being in him as the branch is in the vine; or, what our Lord meant when He said, "without me, ye can do nothing;" what was in Paul's mind when he said, it is Christ for me to live, "it is not I that live, but Christ liveth in me," and so on to the end. This is a different kind of religion from that which we find in the Bible and in the experience of the church. As the religion (in the subjective sense of the word) is different, so is the preaching different, and so are the modes of dealing with sinners, and of promoting reformation among men. Some go so far as to hold, that there can be morality without religion; men are exhorted to be moral bemuse it is right, because it will promote their own welfare, and make them respected and useful. They we to become morally good by a process of moral culture, by suppressing evil feelings and cherishing such as are good ones, by abstaining from what is wrong and doing what is right.
Others take the higher ground of theism, or of natural religion, and bring in considerations drawn from our relation to God as an infinitely perfect being, our creator and preserver and father, who has rightful authority over us, who has prescribed the rule of duty, and who rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked.
All this is true and good in its place. But it is like persuading the blind to see and the deaf to hew. This is not the gospel. Christ is the only Saviour from sin, the only source of holiness, or of spiritual life. The first step in salvation from sin is our reconciliation to God. The reconciliation is effected by the expiation made by the death of Christ (Rom. 5:10). It is his blood, and his blood alone, that cleanses from sin. As long as men arc under the law, they bring forth fruit unto death; it is only when freed from the law, freed from its inexorable demand of perfect obedience and from its awful penalty, that they bring forth fruit unto God (Rom. 7:4-6). Christ delivered us from the law as demanding perfect obedience, by being made under the law, and fulfilling all righteousness for us; and he redeems us from the curse of the law, by being made a curse for us — dying the just for the unjust, and bearing our sins in his own body on the tree. Being thus reconciled unto God by his death, we are saved by his life. He sends the Holy Spirit to impart to us spiritual life, and transforms us more and more into his own image. The Spirit reveals to us the glory of Christ and his infinite love. He makes us feel not only that we owe everything to him, but that he himself is everything to us — our present joy and our everlasting portion — our all in all. Thus every other motive to obedience is absorbed and sublimated into love to Christ and zeal for his glory. His people become like him, and as he went about doing good, so do they. All this of course, is folly to the Greek. God, however, has determined by the foolishness of preaching to save them who believe. Pulmonary consumption is more destructive of human life than the plague. So Christianity without Christ, in all its forms, the phthisis of the church, is more to be dreaded than skepticism, whether scientific or philosophical. The only remedy is preaching Christ, as did the apostles.
Two important facts are to be home in mind. First, the inward religious life of men, as well as their character. and conduct, am determined by their doctrinal opinions. Even the Edinburgh Review, years ago, said, "The character of an age is determined by the theology of that age." Therefore, any system of doctrine which assigns to Christ a lower position than that which he occupies in the New Testament, must, in a like degree, lower the standard of Christianity — that is, the religious life of those calling themselves Christians. Second, nevertheless, it is equally true that men are more governed by their practical than by their speculative convictions. The idealist does not feel and act on his belief that the external world has no real existence. In like manner, the religious life of men is often determined more by the plain teaching of the Scriptures and by the common faith of the church than by their theological theories. Hence, men have often more of Christ in their religion than in their theology. It is, however, of the last importance to remember, that sound doctrine is, under God, our only security for true religion and pure morals. If we forsake the truth, God forsakes us.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Christianity Without Christ (Part 3)

Christianity without Christ
by Charles Hodge (1823-1886)
Originally published in the Princeton Review, April 1876 (Vol. 5, Issue 18).
The experience of one Christian is the experience of all. This is the conscious bond of their union. The hymns which live through all ages, are hymns of praise to Christ. All Protestants can join with St. Bernard, when he says: "Jesus, the very thought of Thee, With sweetness fills my breast; But sweeter far Thy face to see, And in Thy presence rest. When once Thou visitest the heart, Then light begins to shine, Then earthly vanities depart; Then kindles love divine. Jesus, our only joy be Thou, As Thou our prize shalt be; Jesus, be Thou our glory now, And through eternity." "JESUS, OUR BEING'S HOPE AND END." They can also join with that other Bernard, who says of heaven: "The Lamb is all thy splendor, The Crucified thy praise, His laud and benediction, His ransomed people raise." What is true of the Christianity of the mediaeval saints, is true of believers now. Toplady's hymn "Rock of Ages, cleft for me," finds a response in every Christian heart, So does his hymn... "Compared with Christ, in all besides, No comeliness I see; The one thing needful, clearest Lord, Is to be one with Thee." "Thyself bestow; for Thee alone, I absolutely pray." "Less than Thyself will not suffice, My comfort to restore: More than Thyself I cannot have; And Thou canst give no more." Cowper expresses the hopes and feelings of every believer in his hymn, "There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from Immanuel's veins; And sinners Plunged beneath that flood, Lose all their guilty stains."
Every Christian can join with Newton in saying, "How sweet the name of Jesus sounds, In a believer's cars; It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds, And drives away his team. It makes the wounded spirit whole, And calms the troubled breast; 'Tis manna to the hungry soul, And to the weary rest." "He is a rock, a shield, a hiding-place, a never-failing treasury." "Jesus, my Shepherd, Husband, Friend, My Prophet, Priest, and King, My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End, Accept the praise I bring." "When I see Thee as Thou art, I'll praise Thee as I ought." In like manner, Keble makes Christ everything to the believer. "Sun of my soul, Thou Saviour dear, It is not night, if Thou be near." "Abide with me from morn to eve, For without Thee, I cannot. live; Abide with me when night is nigh; For without Thee, I dare not die." "Come near to bless-us when we wake, Ere through the world our way we take; Till, in the ocean of Thy love, We lose ourselves in heaven above."
Wesley's hymn, "Jesus, lover of my soul," is on the lips of every English- speaking Christian. All look up to him as a guide, as their refuge, their trust, their only source of strength, as their all, more than a1l — as the source of spiritual and eternal life. In another hymn he says: "I thirst, I pine, I die to prove, The wonders of redeeming love, The love of Christ to me. Thy only love do I require; Nothing on earth beneath desire, Nothing in heaven above. Let earth, and heaven, and all things go, Give me Thy only love to know, Give me Thy only love." Again, "Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing, My dear Redeemer's praise, The glories of my God and 'King, The triumphs of his grace," etc., etc. So Dr, Watts, "Dearest of all the names above, My Jesus and my God." "Till God in human flesh I see, My thoughts no comfort find." "But, if Immanuel's face appear, My hope, my joy begins." "Jesus, my God, Thy blood alone, Has power sufficient to atone; Thy blood can make me white as snow; No Jewish type could cleanse me so." 'To the dear fountain of Thy blood, Incarnate God I fly, There let me wash my guilty soul From sins of deepest dye." "A guilty, weak, and helpless worm, On Thy kind arms I fail, Be Thou my strength and righteousness, My Jesus and my all." Volumes might be filled with such proofs of what Christianity is in the hearts of Christians. It will be observed, it is not mainly Christ as a teacher, as an example, nor even as the expiator of our sins — it is not mainly what He has done that is rendered thus prominent; but what He is. He is God clothed in our nature, ever with 'us, ever in us — our life, our present joy, our everlasting portion; the one to whom we owe everything, from whom we derive everything, who loves us with a love that is peculiar, exclusive (that is, such a, he entertains for no other class of beings), and unspeakable.
In painful contrast with the Christianity of the Bible and of the church, there is a kind of religion, very prevalent and very influential, calling itself Christianity, which may be properly designated Christianity without Christ. It might be all that it is, though Christ had never appeared, or, at least, although our relation to him were entirely different from what it really is.
The lowest form of this kind of religion is that which assumes Christ to be a mere man, or, at most, merely a creature. Then, of course, He cannot be an object of adoration, of supreme love, of trust, and of devotion. The difference is absolute between the inward religious state of those who regard Christ as a creature, and that of those who regard him as God. If the one be true religion, the other is impiety.
It The second form of this religion admits of higher views of the person of Christ, but it reduces Christianity to. benevolence. And by benevolence is often meant nothing more than philanthropy. The gospel is made to consist in the inculcation of the command, Love your neighbor as yourself. All who approximately do this are called Christians. Hence it is mid, that if all records concerning Christ should be blotted out of existence, his religion could be evolved out of our own nature.
And hence, too, an avowed atheist is told, that if he sits up all night with a sick child, he is a Christian, whatever he may think. A popular poem — popular because of the sentiment which it teaches — represents the recording angel as placing at the head of those who love God, the name of the man who could only say; "Write me as one who loves my fellow-men." The love of our fellow-men is thus made the highest form of religion. This is below even natural religion. It ignores God as well as Christ. Yet this is the doctrine which we find, variously sugared over and combined, in poetry, in novels, in magazines, and even in religious journals.

The Dangers of Unrebuked Vice

It is something that sin be not without rebuke. Even if we cannot, immediately, apply the remedy, it is something gained if Christians cry out against the pestilence and give alarm to souls, against the "superfluity of naughtiness," and the "overflowings of ungodliness." It is something that, at least, "our eyes gush out with water, because men keep not God's law." For if our youth grow up amid the scenes of shame and the open licentiousness of our days, without hearing any remonstrance, or being warned that such things are wicked and hateful to the Most High, the result may be easily foreseen.

They will breathe the atmosphere of vice, till their own habits are formed in corruption: and our civilization will sink to a still lower stage of dissolute living. Then, the carcass will be ready for the birds of prey, to which, in righteous retribution, God will give it over for destruction.

A. Cleveland Coxe, Moral Reforms, Suggested in a Pastoral Letter, 1869

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Christianity WIthout Christ (Part 2)

Christianity without Christ
by Charles Hodge (1823-1886)
Originally published in the Princeton Review, April 1876 (Vol. 5, Issue 18).
It does not need to be proved that Jehovah was the God of the Hebrews; the object of their worship, of their love, gratitude, and trust. They recognized him as their absolute and rightful sovereign, whose authority extended over their inward As well as their outward life. On him they were dependent, .And to him they were responsible. His favor was their life, and they could say, "Whom have we in heaven but thee, and there is none on earth we desire beside thee."
As little does it require proof that Christ is the God of Christians. In the New Testament all divine titles are given to him. He is called God, the true God, the great God, God over all, Jehovah. He is declared to be almighty, omnipresent, immutable, and eternal. He created heaven and earth; all things visible and invisible were made by him and for him, and by him all things consist. He upholds all things by the word of his power. This divine person became flesh; he was found in fashion as a man, and in the form of a servant. Having been born of a woman, he was made under the law, and fulfilled all righteousness. He redeemed us from the come of the law by .being made a come for us. He bore our sins in his own body ,on the tree. He died the just for the unjust, to bring us unto God, and having died for our offenses, and risen again for our .justification, has ascended to heaven, where lie is seated on the right hand of God, all power in heaven and earth being committed to his hands, and where he ever lives to make intercession for his people. This Christ, God and man, in two distinct natures and one person forever, was to the writers of the New Testament all and in all. He was; their wisdom; from him they derived all their knowledge of divine things, and to his teaching they implicitly submitted. He was their righteousness; renouncing all dependence on their own righteousness, they trusted exclusively on the merit of his obedience and death for their acceptance with God. He was their sanctification. Their spiritual life was derived from him and sustained by him. They were in him as the branch is in the vine, or the members in the body, so that it was not they who lived, but Christ who lived in them. Without him they could do nothing; they could no more bring forth the fruits of holy living separated from him than a branch can bear fruit when separated from the vine, nor than the body can live when separated from the head. They felt themselves to be in him in such a sense, that what he did, they did. They died with him. They rose with him. What he is, they become. What he has, they receive, all in their measure — that is, as much as they can hold. They are filled with the fullness of God in Him.
This being so, it follows, of course, that Christ was to them the object of divine worship and of all the religious affections, of adoration, of supreme love, of trust, of submission, of devotion He was their absolute sovereign and proprietor by the double right of creation and redemption. Love to him was the motive, his Will the rule, his glory the end of their obedience. it It was Christ for them to live. Living or dying, they were the Lord's. They enforced all moral duties out of regard to him; wives were to obey their husbands, children their parents, servants their masters, for Christ's sake. Christians were commanded not to utter a contaminating word in a brother's ear because he belonged to Christ; they endeavored to preserve their personal purity, because their bodies were the members of Christ. The blessedness of heaven in their view consisted in being with Christ, in beholding his glory, enjoying his love, in being like him, and in being devoted to his services. It is a simple fact, that such was the Christianity of the writers of the New Testament Their religious life terminated on Christ, and was determined by their relation to him. He was their God, their Saviour, their prophet, priest, and king; they depended on his righteousness for their justification; they looked to him for sanctification. He was their life, their way, their end. If they lived, it was for him; if they died, it was that they might be with him. They did not attempt to reform or to save me, on the principles of natural religion, or by a process of moral culture. These had their place, but they are inadequate and absorbed in a higher moral power. Paul, in writing to Titus, speaking of Christians before their conversion, says: "They were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving diverse lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating me another. But after the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy, he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that, being justified by grace, we should be heirs according to the promise, of eternal life." They, therefore, labored for the reformation and salvation of men, by going everywhere preaching Christ as the only Saviour from sin.
What Christianity was in the hearts of the apostles, it has been in the hearts of Christians of all ages, and in all parts of the world. Of this, every Christian has the evidence in his own experience. Christ is to him both God and man-God manifest in the flesh; God surrounded by the rainbow of humanity, which softens, diversifies, and beautifies his rays. Christ he worships, trusts, loves, and obey,. Christ is his wisdom, his righteousness, his sanctification, his redemption. Christ is ever near him, so that he can be spoken to, appealed to, and communed with; a present help in every time of need Christ is the Christian's portion for time and for eternity. With Christ he has everything, and without him he has nothing.

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