The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 84
The Church of Christ.
14th September, 18—.
Dear Sir,—With reference to the objection you raised the other day to the statement made, "that Christ was born in His Church, and of a member of the Church," and your reply, that "the Church of Christ did not commence before the day of Pentecost," I would remark that, seeing we materially differ on the question, and as this is a matter of great importance, I hope you will forgive me for stating my views at some length. In order to make the matter clear I shall take the subject from the commencement, and draw your attention to the fact that the Church of page 50 Christ commenced when God commenced to extend pardon to man in the forgiveness of his sins; for I suppose you will agree with me that it is only in the name of Jesus that God can extend and man can obtain pardon in the forgiveness of his sins. And further, I shall have to draw your attention to the passage in Rev. xiii. 8, referring to the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Considering these two subjects—viz., That Christ was slain from the foundation of the world; and that the Church of Christ commenced when God commenced to extend pardon to man in the forgiveness of sins, will clear up the question at what time the Church of Christ commenced.
And now please notice : If Christ was slain from the foundation of the world, it follows that, in the same sense, Christ was born from the foundation of the world; as of course he could not be slain before he was born. This is, I am aware, a mysterious expression; still so are all God's ways, in His kingdom of grace, of a mysterious nature to our natural understanding, and even for an enlightened mind it requires in many cases a deep searching to understand them. It follows, further, that His Church commenced, as well as the forgiveness of man's sins, from the foundation of the world. In order to arrive at a clear understanding of this important subject, we shall have to glance (1.) at the creation of man; (2.) at his fall, which is often, even by good Christians, seriously misunderstood; and, (3.) at the judgment or sentence after his fall.
The Creation of Man.
We read in Genesis i. 26, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." Here we must consider that when God made man in His image, after His likeness, He was prepared to uphold man in the state he made him, although he should fall; for if God could not do this He would prove to be a weak and imperfect .Being. He would prove to be a Being without love to His mortal creature, whom He thus exposed to temptation for his ruin, whilst he was unable to render him the necessary assistance to set him upon his feet again, after he had fallen in the temptation to which he had been exposed. This would bring shame and contempt upon God before His host of holy angels, in the triumph of the devil and his angels; in fact it would be the overthrow of His Almighty Power, Majesty, and Kingdom, and cause the corruption of the whole universe. As God, however, knew what would happen when man should be tempted by Satan, there was held that great Council of God's Trinity (Tri-unity—Father. Son, and Holy Ghost); the object being to appoint a means by which man could and should be upheld, perfect as he was made, though he should fall. And how that mysterious fact was to be brought about, that God should uphold man in the state in which He created him, and that he should come out victorious at the trial of man by the devil, the angels even desire to look into (1 Peter i. 18).
In that great Council of "Tri-unity," the Son and the Holy Ghost were ordained and appointed to their respective offices by God the Most High before man was created, and thus all precautions were taken for his safety. The risk, on God's side, was very great, as we should judge. But God never makes a mistake, nor can He be baffled or entangled by the skill of the devil; what God undertakes He is sure to carry it out to perfection. Blessed, and well secured, is the man who puts his trust in God, though he may have to suffer for a while.
When man was formed of earth, "God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul" (Gen. ii. 7). Where God breathes. His breath is a substance—a substantial Life. Wherefore man's soul is not a created being, as some take it to be. Man's soul is a substance, and the life of God Himself; of His own nature and substance : and thus are we God's image and likeness, as far as it concerns our soul; and are "God's offspring," (Acts xvii. 28, 29,)—God's children, as a son is the offspring of his father; for if it were otherwise we could never become God's children. Hence it follows that man's soul is immortal, as God himself is immortal, without exception. Still there is a void in our heart, the seat of the soul, which cannot remain unoccupied, and that void God occupied before man fell, in order to rule man, and to supply all his spiritual wants with himself; but since the fall that void is occupied by the unclean spirit, who rules man by his unclean lusts, until man turns to God again, when he gets set free from that evil spirit, i.e. the devil (John viii. 36).
The Fall of Man.
To make this matter clear we shall advance some queries:—(1.) Did our first parents eat of the forbidden fruit because they were hungry ? If they felt in want there was abundance of provision provided for them in the garden. (2.) Did they eat of the fruit with intent to disobey God's command? That does not appear to have been the case either, looking at the protest of Eve against the persuasion of the serpent (Gen. iii. 2, 3). (3.) Why, then, did they eat of the fruit ? Because of their being carried captive by "lust:"—"And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food," that is, the lust of the flesh, "and that it was pleasant to the eyes," the lust of the eyes, "and a tree to be desired to make one wise," the pride of life, she took, &c. (verse 6). (4.) And whose production was that "lust ?" It was of the father of lust and lies, the Devil, (John viii. 44,) who by his subtle lies and deceit had bewitched them : "And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat" (verse 13).
Here, then, was the turning point for the worse, and the apparent victory of the devil, in which he and his host gloried, little thinking that their imaginary victory was their ruin. By believing the devil, in the serpent, our first parents indeed declared God to be a liar and deceiver. At the moment Eve inclined her ear to the persuasion of that old serpent, her heart turned from God, and of which that groat dragon, that old serpent called the Devil, and Satan (Rev. xii. 9) took possession, and thus our first parents became the subjects of the kingdom of darkness, of which he is the prince and ruler, and thus they became subject to his law of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; or as St. Paul calls it, in Romans vii. 21, 23, 25, "The law of sin and death," as well as the whole of their offspring. Thus the devil holds the whole human race as his subjects by right of conquest, upon the attack made upon our first parents. The devil, by his unclean "lust," acting like the poison of a serpent, forced our first parents to obey him contrary to God's command. "Lust," therefore, was and is the essence of sin; and, by the eating of the fruit, sin became manifest as the fruit or outcome of sin.
Further, we know from Scripture, as well as from personal experience, that a soul apart from God is dead—that is to say, it is without Godly life and spiritual support, as God predicted to Adam (Gen. ii. 17) would be the case, though the soul remains physically in nature and substance the same as God gave it. When our first parents had changed their Government so also was their provision changed. Instead of the bread of life and the water of life, supplied by God's presence in their heart and soul, they were now led under the delusion of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John ii. 16); in which the nourishment of their soul was as one eating and drinking in a dream, as we ourselves found when in our natural state and condition, until we awoke to find ourselves empty and miserable. It was then God stepped in and proclaimed the covenant of grace; for the covenant of works Adam had broken.
The Trial, and Sentence passed upon the Criminals.
When the devil had succeeded in causing man to fall from God, and had him under his control, he and his host of angels gloried in their success and triumph, and heaven was thrown into mourning, consternation, and expectation as to its final result. The devil and his servants have no reason to be glad and rejoice, as they usually are, when they have successfully carried out all the evils they can do : there is yet a judgment to come; and so it was in this case.
Man had now transgressed God's law', and upon this transgression it followed that God in justice was bound to curse man and to destroy him. But what would in that case have been the result ? Why this, that God would have appeared as a weak, imperfect, and contemptible Being; yea, more, he would have proved himself to be an impostor, liar, and deceiver; because upon inspection God had found and declared all his works to be "very good" (Gen. i. 31). Now Man, the principal of his creation, appeared to be bad; and so bad indeed that he had to curse and to destroy him. And to bring this about was, beyond doubt, the aim of the devil in his temptation of man. If such were the case, God had neither right nor page 52 power to pass sentence upon the devil, as the ringleader of the three criminals now before the bar of God's justice, because He himself, who was now the Judge, would be found to be an evildoer, and the wickedness of the devil would have abounded.
As a criminal, however, though the clearest evidence exists of his guilt, cannot be condemned before he has been tried before a tribunal of justice, even so our first parents, though their guilt was as clear as day, could not be condemned before they had been brought to trial; and that trial we read in Genesis iii., verse 10.
Here God commenced with his examination of Adam, as the responsible party, as the housefather of the family, consisting as yet of only two persons, "man and wife." And from Adam God, now only as their Judge, proceeded to Eve, and from her to the serpent, as the ringleader of the criminals. And now comes the critical point: God, as Judge in the case, was debarred by justice from showing any mercy. If, therefore, God had commenced to pass sentence upon Adam and his wife, he was bound in justice to curse and to destroy them, and thus the devil would have gained his point. God, however, commenced, as in justice should be the case, to pass sentence first upon the serpent, and in him upon the devil, as the ringleader and the principal criminal;* and, in his wisdom, included in his sentence the setting forth of the Mediator, or restorer of mankind, whom God placed in the stead of man, in opposition to the devil, to fight for man the battle with that great dragon. But, as man had his origin from God, being made in the image of God and in his likeness, he must be upheld perfect as he was made. It was therefore requisite that the Mediator who took man's place must be perfect as God is perfect, and must therefore be a person of the Godhead. Though the Mediator was appointed to his office in the Council of the "Tri-unity" previously held, before man was made, yet his appointment was of no effect unless he was proclaimed as such, publicly—by a Royal proclamation in favour of man, and in defiance of the devil—and that proclamation God made in these words: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. iii. 5). In that proclamation the Mediator was established in his office as the Saviour of mankind, to save man by suffering, and was placed in the stead of man and made King, against the devil, the Prince of darkness, and his kingdom, to destroy his works and his kingdom, man himself being placed in the background as good for nothing (John xv. 5). Hence the infallible truth, that he who amongst us thinks himself to be something only deceives himself (Gal. vi. 3). Oh! what has become of man, who had his origin of God, being the son of God ? (Luke iii. 38). He who would be as God has become as the devil; his heart "deceitful above all things and desperately wicked." (Jer. xvii. 9.)
Now notice : when God speaks, his words in such cases are actions; said and done is one with God. Here the covenant of grace was proclaimed and established, and the battle between the Mediator and the Serpent (devil) was, in God's sight, fought, and mankind redeemed; for with God is everything present; all is with God to-day.
Man's Recovery through Christ Jesus.
The Mediator being by proclamation established, God was now prepared to deal with Adam and Eve and their posterity as his children. He could now open page 53 his bowels of love to them as a Father, and, instead of cursing them as rebels, extend mercy and forgiveness to them, his mercy no more interfering with his justice. Here, then, in the setting forth by proclamation of the Mediator, lies the defeat of the devil, and the overthrow of his power, and God's victory over him, to the rejoicing of his host of holy angels and the salvation of man. In that Mediator, thus proclaimed, man appears before God as a child before his father, in defiance of the malice of the devil, and possessed of all the qualities required of him to perfection : for what the Mediator (Christ) is in himself, man is also in Christ—perfect, holy, righteous, even the righteousness of God (Col. i. 28; 1 Cor. i. 30); "there is therefore now' no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus" (Bom. viii. 1). But every man who refuses the intercession of the Mediator (Christ) is a cursed and condemned rebel, a wretch, a barren dry tree, fit only to be cut down like firewood at any time; and why he is spared is only because of the intercession of the Mediator: "Let him alone another year," in hope that he may turn from his wicked ways and be reconciled to God through the Mediator, who will then extend pardon to him and forgiveness of his sms.
Ever since the words were uttered, "The woman's seed shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel," God has dealt with man in mercy, through the Mediator, in spite of all the efforts of that old serpent the devil. With each and every one who believes or disbelieves God still pleads : "Seek ye my face "Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die" (Jer. xviii. 8). There is but one specified condition of acceptance. "obedience." And by that proclamation, and with the words which God spake, "I will put enmity," &c., Christ's mediatorship commenced, and his Church, and the fundamental truth, "Through grace ye are saved, by faith" was established. And in that sense also the woman's seed was born, and as a Lamb slain, from the foundation of the world (Rev. xiii. 8). The claim of that old Serpent, however, holds good upon each and every one who will not abandon his sins and accept Christ as Mediator, and to be ruled by him. The Lord said, his sheep hear his voice, and they follow him, &c. (John x. 3, 4).
Since that event the Church of Christ has been administered by his representatives or ambassadors, ordained and empowered by the Holy Ghost for that purpose, under various changes in form and outward appearance so as to arouse man's attention: whilst, however, the Church remained in substance the same, man's salvation being based upon mercy and forgivenesss, until Christ himself appeared on the stage of the world. And when he left this world he again established his representatives or ambassadors (2 Cor. v. 20) to administer the affairs of his Church in his apparent absence, until he shall appear again to judge the world.
We know that only in the name of Jesus is salvation to be found (Acts ix. 12). If, therefore, it should be accepted that the Church of Christ did not commence sooner than at the day of Pentecost, then would follow as a consequence that before that time no person was saved; for salvation in the name of Jesus can only be obtained in the ordinances of his Church. But we read in Revelation xiv. of the 144,000 shown to St. John in vision, following the Lamb (Christ) when standing on Mount Sion (in the offerings, &c.), before it was actually slain; and also as being sealed as saved ones before the Jewish dispensation closed (Rev. vii.) Also St. Paul reminds us, in Heb. xi., of a number of most substantial heroes of faith. It would mean, further, that the holy ordinances had been administered before the Church of Christ was established; for the Holy Ghost informs us by St. Paul, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter x., "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. And were all"—men, women, and children—"baptised unto Moses"—Christ's representative in his Church—"in the cloud and in the sea as the shadow or outward appearance, as the water in baptism. The cloud did nor rain upon them, nor did the sea make them wet; nevertheless it was a baptism in substance, by God's Word administered to them. "And did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink, for they drank of that spiritual Bock that followed them, And that Rock was Christ," in his Church—as we do in the holy sacrament of the Lord's Supper, if administered as it was instituted by him, and not being corrupted or misinterpreted by man's invention.
How sweetly sings the Spouse, and how comely responds her Beloved (Christ) page 54 in the Song of Solomon : (1.) Each soul individually; and, (2.) collectively as a body (Church). Blessed is he who can join in with David in his song, "The Lord is ray Shepherd," &c. And who was David's Shepherd, if not Christ ? In fact, examples too numerous to mention clearly show that the Church of Christ has existed through all ages, and that Christ's spiritual presence in his Church, unchanged, was, is, and shall be to the end of the world. We should always be careful not to be narrow-minded in these matters, by which we too often deprive ourselves of blessing.
The First Resurrection.
The erroneous opinions held by many, of the first resurrection, and the taking up of the saints to heaven before the final judgment, &c., seems to have its origin in what St. Paul says in 1 Thess. iv. 16, "And the dead in Christ shall rise first;" and also from a misunderstanding as to how' the millennium is to be constituted, and who are to be the inhabitants of the earth at that period. From what the Apostle says with regard to "the resurrection of the just," (verse 14 to 17,) it is quite clear that his intention is to comfort the Thessalonians, telling them not to sorrow about those who shall have fallen asleep previous to the coming of Christ, as if those, or some of them, might be overlooked or left behind. He points out that those shall be raised first, and, in company with those which are then in life, who in the twinkling of an eye shall be changed, shall be "caught up" together, &c. But this statement cannot possibly mean that this takes place separately, with an interval of a thousand years, or something like that, previously to the resurrection of the ungodly—far from it. For the words of Christ, recorded in Math. xxv. 32-33, distinctly indicate that the general judgment will take place at the time when He "comes in His glory." And this, compared with what our Lord declares in Math. xiii. 47-50, is shown to be the end of the world. And, speaking of this period, Paul says: He "shall judge the quick and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom" (1 Tim. iv., 1). Also, when referring to this "second time" of the Saviour's appearing, the Apostle links it immediately with the final judgment. (See Heb. ix. 27-28.) And, further, "For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. xiv. 10). Now, it is impossible to limit these references to the judgment, as affecting the persons of the righteous only; for it is said the "goats" and the "sheep" shall at one and the same time stand before Christ the Judge, there to be finally separated; and the "tares" shall be gathered from amongst the wheat——i.e., the angels shall gather out the godly from amongst the ungodly.
Some writers, commenting on the Millennium, try very hard to make us believe that the inhabitants of the earth during the Millennium will be the raised saints, who are termed "the first resurrection" (Rev. xx. 5, 6). Also, that Christ will be their King, and himself personally reign on earth during the specified thousand years.
That Christ should establish a kingdom on this old earth, which has been defiled with all sorts of filthiness, of which the inhabitants should be saints who have been raised from the dead; and also whilst there is still a heathen race of people existing, who, after the expiration of the specified thousand years of peace, inspired by Satan, and after his release from prison, shall compass "the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city," (Rev. xx. 7, 8, 9)—such an idea we declare to be fabulous in the extreme.
As we have shown elsewhere, the inhabitants of the Millennial Empire will be mortals such as we are. They will comprise, firstly, the Jews; not merely a remnant of them, but all the Jews, who will embrace the opportunity to return to their land by the confirmation of a covenant with that "prince," Antichrist, (Daniel ix. 27,) which he shall make with them, they having been converted after or in consequence of the destruction by Divine interposition of that prince and his army. (Ezekiel xxxix.) And, secondly, the Jews will be increased by the remnant of the Gentile Church returning from their place of safety, whither they fled for refuge during the persecution of Antichrist (Rev. xii. 14), which remnant will be incorporated into the Jewish nation. And their King will also be mortal, as themselves. and will be selected from amongst their own nation.
The raised saints will be a superior order of the priesthood, unchangeable by death during the millennial thousand years, in addition to the mortal priesthood page 55 described in Ezekiel. But Christ's kingdom, with the raised saints as its subjects, will be postponed until the new heaven and new earth is established (Rev. xxi).
That the second death shall have no power over those raised priests means that they shall not be raised like Lazarus and others, who were subject to die again; but these shall be finally raised to their glorified state, and will be withdrawn when the specified thousand years are finished. Satan being then loosed again out of his imprisonment.
* It would appear that the devil, in his first revolt against God, had not committed himself in such a manner as to be "cursed;" for God curses only once, and then acts upon that curse, unless it is removed in consequence of repentance and forgiveness; which repentance, with the devil, is out of the question. (True repentance is godly sorrow; but the repentance of the devil and his servants respecting their actions is merely regret, and a sorrow that the result is not worse.) This revolt consisted in the declaration of his independence, and his setting himself up as a prince and sovereign in opposition to God's sovereignty; and in contemplating this revolt ho became wicked. How, or in what way, that wicked change was effected we cannot know, any further than what is revealed by our Lord-namely, that "He abode not in the truth" (John viii. 44; Jude 6; 2 Peter ii. 4.) But, now, when he as an independent prince presumed to make an attack upon God's property, by inducing His children to revolt from their allegiance and to become his property, the devil committed a crime, for which he had to stand his trial before a criminal tribunal; and by the sentence passed upon him: Because thou hast done this thou art cursed," &c. (Gen. iii. 14), it would seem that his final doom was then sealed.