The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8
Jesus the Mediator Between god and Man
Jesus the Mediator Between god and Man.
Sir,—I am a subscriber to your Free Press and am often much pleased with it. It has a good many readers here. I have much sympathy with the cause of Religious Reform in which you are engaged, although I cannot go your length in exposing the shortcomings of the Bible. In saying this I must admit that the defects in that volume are many and serious—I mean in the Old Testament. Still I do feel conscientious scruples about being able to draw the line between the true and the false, knowing my own incapacity to judge, and fearing that by misjudging I might lead others astray. True to my own self, I think for myself, and if I am wrong I cannot help it. I wish others to please themselves. Tales like that of the Apple in Eden page 190 Jonah and the Whale, and Samson and the Jawbone, I most seriously suspect: in fact I do not credit them, and I think it is of no moment to anybody whether these stories are true or not, or whether they believe them or do not. It is a matter of moonshine to my mind at any rate. I cannot but admire your attempt to purge the Scriptures of indisputable errors: yet, as a Christian, I base my faith on the teachings of the New Testament, and willingly make a present to the Jews of the Old.
One reason which weighs powerfully with me for resorting to Scripture in the present instance is that the doctrine of the Trinity is scripturally untenable; that Unitarian ism, in other words, pervades the very volume which is generally considered to teach the opposite.
One question which, before all others, must be settled in the mind, is that which Christ put to His disciples, "Whom say ye that I am?" Notwithstanding that we have an answer given, times innumerable, in the New Testament, it is still necessary to put the question again, even at this late hour of the day, and press upon an incredulous community the acceptance of the plain, intelligible reply given by Peter, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." This simple truth being lost sight of in the teachings of popular Christianity, owing to the conjectures and opinions of men being superadded thereto and resulting in a confusion of ideas, the Mediatorial work of Christ has been converted into something most inexplicable, the very mysterious bearings of which, we are told, form evidence of its truthfulness, and we are cautioned not to attempt to pry into it.
To prove the Trinity, by cutting out a few short passages of Scripture and declining to read them along with the context, is not only to read in utter defiance of the rule adopted in all other cases, but it is dishonest and sinful, inasmuch as it seeks to find what evidently is not meant, and refuses to admit what evidently is. Let us examine the best of these passages :—
John x. "I and my Father are one." Pray, one what? We are not told that it is one person or one God, and we cannot accept a conjecture of this kind as a basis of an important doctrine. We ask for proofs, and want no conjectures. The context demands that the passage be understood, "I and my Father are as one." But Paul and Christ himself have placed this beyond dispute;—they have expressly said the meaning of the phrase is not oneness of being or essence, but oneness of purpose or character. 1 Cor. iii. Paul who planteth and Apollos who watereth are one. This does not mean that these two persons were one person. The sense is the same as conveyed by—" They twain (man and wife) shall be one flesh," or as one flesh. Again, John xvii., Christ prays to His Father that all his disciples might be one, "even as we are one." Here is indisputable proof.
John i. "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God." The correct rendering of the last clause is, "And the Word was of God, or in God or a God." He was "In the beginning" or when God made heaven and earth and before; but how long in the previous eternity it is none of our business to inquire. We see that the most delicate examination of this proof is its destruction.
Romans ix. "Christ, who is over all, God blessed for ever." The question here is, whether the comma should be before or after the word "God." If after, this may be a shadow of an argument, but is the comma inspired, and is its position the same? A doctrine founded upon a comma !
Hebrews i. "Unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever." A doctrine founded upon the letter "O!" It should read, "in God."
Revelations xxii. "I am Alpha and Omega" This is a quotation from the vision of Saint John, to interpret which satisfactorily the greatest scholars confess themselves unable. Why not give us plain proofs from such a volume of plain, intelligible teaching as is contained in the previous part, of the book? It is of no use to offer conjectures. He is Alpha and Omega of the Church and the Worlds.
John xii. "He that seeth me seeth Him that sent me." We are asked to page 191 read the passage thus:—"I am He that sent me." This will riot do. Is there no plain teaching at all in such a large volume as the New Testament?
A careful examination of these passages, and many others which are supposed to favor the same views, leads to the conclusion that these are no proofs at all—that they will not bear interpretation by the established rules of interpretation—that, when they are taken as component parts of the chapters in which they are given, they, one and all, read the opposite way. If it were allowable to cut out passages and read them by themselves, in defiance of the surrounding matter, it would be the easiest thing possible to bring out incredible doctrines, never meant. For instance, Transubstantiation would sink into comparative innocence before the literal rendering of John vi. 51—58. The reader must see the absolute necessity of consistency in studying Scripture. The Bible, like the kaleidoscope, may be made, by turning and turning, to reflect images as various as you please.
Truth is always consistent with itself, and all known facts. That God and Christ are two distinct persons is proved to a logical demonstration by the scriptural expression which forms the heading of this paper. The simple word "Between" ought to be sufficient of itself to shut out all controversy.
The most extravagant opinions ever set up have always had a basis of some kind, real or pretended. The Trinitarian fabric rests upon a something too, and we see what that something is. Now measure the breadth and examine the solidity of the foundation, and see whether it is a rock—"the Rock of Ages"—or a shifting point—a dubious, hazy something, having neither dimensions nor substance. Let us take the evidence, such as it is, for and against, and cast it into the scales and weigh it. There must be an overwhelming preponderance in either scale.
Appearances are often wholly deceptive. Sophistry in letters is what gilding is in metallurgy. Examination is fatal to either. The dexterous reasoner may invent a plausible argument to make it appear to superficial understandings that "God manifest in the flesh" means actually "Jehovah incarnate;" but no amount of talent can hide that this must be sophistry, inasmuch as he who prayed "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," could not have been his own Father, to whom he prayed. Again, Christ says "I ascend unto my Father and your Father—to my God and to your God," a man would now a days be thought beside himself to maintain that these two Beings were the same Being. If then they are not the same, they are different. They are either the one or the other, and nothing but either sophistry or wilful misrepresentation is able to confound them.
In passing from the Scriptures to the volume of Nature, we should not allow our inability to fathom the Universe and its Author to shake our confidence in the little we do know of both. Although the mind were indefinitely enlarged, confidence in much that we know, beginning with self-evident natural principles, instead of being weakened, would only be strengthened the more. Truth is truth, independently of time, place, capacity, or person. No discoveries will upset Euclid or Scripture. The key of knowledge has been lying about, but mankind have been slow to discover its usefulness in revealing the accessible Unknown. The better we can read the unwritten Word in nature and nature's laws, the more harmony will be found between that and the other work of God. In the scientific world, a few of the simplest of truths, from their extreme simplicity long treated as being practically valueless, have led to works which have revolutionised the face of the earth. Even so in the religious world, some of the simplest natural principles, or laws of God, unimportant-looking in their very littleness, may work out a similar good. By extending the range of our thoughts to the universe around us, we may hope to catch better, brighter, holier, more ennobling, glimpses of Jehovah, than by confining our gaze to one particular limited portion of His works. Not that we, worms of the dust, may know God. He dwells in light inaccessible beyond the veil, which mortal man dare not lift and live, yet we may, by the legitimate and extended page 192 use of our faculties, come to detect errors in our own minds and in the language we employ in speaking of Him. For this reason are we authorised to bring a human creed to be tried both by the volume of Nature and Scripture—for this reason do I appeal to natural to confirm revealed truth.
Taking a leaf of that volume, are we not as certain as we are of our existence—
1st. That no two beings can be the same being, e.g., is it not nonsense to say, "the Governor's son is the Governor himself?" Two distinct natures are union, not identity. If a thing is not the same it is different, and vice versa. If Father and Son are the same being there is no Son. Take any chapter in the New Testament, substituting Son for Father and Father for Son, and read it. Or, if it makes any difference, transpose the word God and Son of God, or God and Christ, wherever they occur, and read it. If the pre-existent Christ is the Son of God, that is a fiat denial that he is God, and if he is God himself, that again is a flat denial that he is the Son of God.
2nd. That, where only one object is concerned, there can be no equality? To maintain that they are but one Being is to deny all those passages of Holy Writ, which ascribe to the Son a (constituted) equality with the Father.
3rd. That the terms Father and Son cannot imply coeval being, but priority and subsequence?
4th. That, if there be one Infinite, there is not a second? If the Saviour on the cross was "perfect God and perfect man," the Intercessor now, and Judge (appointed) hereafter, is which?—the humanity born of Mary—a man! and the pre-existent Son of God disappears! Infinity, upon this hypothesis, resolves itself into "perfect humanity!"
Lastly, because a thing is possible is no proof that it happened. That God might become incarnate, no one is so insane as to dispute, but did He? Had He not a purpose for sending another instead?
The necessity for reformation, then, how urgent! But let us seek reformation indirectly, by seeking restoration in the first place. Let us make a fresh start; error has assumed too many phases to be successfully met by a direct appeal. Let us discard all human creeds, founding upon the Bible, and it alone; and, by struggling for restoration, reformation will follow as an unavoidable consequence;—the partition walls, separating the worshippers of God, will crumble gradually away of themselves, and we shall then verily have one fold and one Shepherd.
W. C., Dunedin, N. Z.