The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8
The Infidelity of Orthodoxy
The Infidelity of Orthodoxy.
Infinitely shocking to conscience and reason is the infidelity of orthodoxy concerning God's justice, mercy and truth, which all our orthodoxies are perpetually teaching. Nothing can be clearer than the doctrine both of Scripture and of the Church of page 308 England about the sufficiency and universal application of what is called the vicarious sacrifice or atonement for the sins of man, which was completed by the death of Christ upon the cross. The Baptist pointed him out at the beginning—" Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world."—(John i. 29.) There is no exception made here in exclusion of any sin in any portion of the world. You cannot honestly read part of the sin or part of the world. He came "that he, by the grace of God, should taste death for every man."—(Heb. ii. 9.) And in accordance with this the Church affirms in her second Article that: Christ" truly suffered, was sacrificed, dead and buried, to reconcile the Father to us, and to be a sacrifice not only for original guilt, but for all actual sins of men." In the 15th Article, again, the Church declares that Christ "Came to be the Lanb without spot, who, by the sacrifice of himself once made, should take away the sins of the world." More definitely, again, in the 31st Article, she lays it down, that" the offering of Christ one made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone." The emphatic word, and, in truth, the clearest word in all this, is satisfaction. If it is not a scriptural word it is, at least, quite easy to understand. Somebody is satisfied. "Who can this be but the Almighty Father, who sent His only Son to die and to male by his one oblation of himself a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world? God is satisfied : about what? Surely about the demands of his law, of his justice, and of the glory of his moral government, against mankind for their sins. He is satisfied with the suffering endured and with the penalty paid, by the Lamb without spot who, by the sacrifice of himself, came to take away the sin of the whole world. It was satisfaction paid to reconcile an angry God to mankind," satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual." Can there be any trick of ambiguity or priestcraft lurking in terms so plain as these? Is it too much to infer from these strong words, that every human being, however little he knows of the theory of this atonement, has a right to call God his reconciled Father, and a right to believe that if he forsakes his former sin and labours earnestly and honestly in what light he has to do or to suffer obediently the will of that leather, he will be accepted as that Father's forgiven child? You look at the preacher and the priest for a reply. That depends, quoth the oily preacher—that depends, says the wily priest—that depends, says the thundering Scotch doctor. I put the case first about this satisfaction for original sin thus: Thousands of infants under three days old, have died today; who can doubt that their Maker is perfectly satisfied with His Son's sacrifice for their birth-sin, or that their souls are saved? They are all damned, says the priest, damned to page 308 eternal fire for Adam's sin, unless they have had Christian baptism. I think it quite possible, says the preacher, that they are either all or part of them saved by the uncovenanted mercies of God. I am certain that they are all in hell, says the Scotchman, that are not baptised, because they have none of them been professors of the Christian religion. No man, woman, or child, who is not a professor of the Christian religion, can be saved by any means whatsoever, no matter how purely and faithfully he or she may walk by the precepts of any other religion, or may serve God and man by the light of nature. And the Scotchman proves his position by showing me this fiendish atrocity in the clearest words of human speech in that black manual of infidelity, the Westminster Confession, and by the unanswerable remark that a babe unbaptised is no professor of the Christian religion. Not by any means whatsoever! No room here for the sheltering cloak of invincible ignorance, which the Romanist may employ, nor for the uncovenanted mercies of God, as the milder Pharisees phrase it. Here is a deadlock of contradiction and infidelity. The full, perfect, and sufficient satisfaction has been made by the Son to the Father, who sent him down on purpose to make it, and who is satisfied that it has been made both for the original and actual sins of all the world—and yet neither the Father nor the Son can save from eternal hell a single one of those innocent babes, or of those virtuous and sincere Jews, Turks, Buddhists, Parsees, &c. They must all be damned, just as if Christ had never died; and Chunder Sen, with his church of pure monotheists, must burn for ever along with them ! And why is this? Because that priest and that Scotch doctor will have it so. Those Gods, the Father and the Son, ought both to have known better than either to arrange or to place on record that transaction of sufficient satisfaction for all mankind, just between their two selves, without the explicit authority and agency of the Church and the Kirk. The bills are worth nothing unless made payable to the Kirk's or Church's order; and the satisfaction is all waste-paper and waste blood, till the Kirk or Church has signed, sealed, and delivered it.
Let me now ask the reader who fully believes the teaching of our Church about this complete satisfaction to the Father by the one oblation of the Son for the sins of the whole world, how he thinks it becoming and reasonable to conceive of the intercourse between the Father and the Son on this great subject, both being adored as omniscient and unchangeable, true and faithful. I am pretty sure that, if he were a stranger to the popular notions about the intercession of Christ, the last conception he could possibly frame would be that of the Son pathetically and perpetually reminding the Father, by the exhibition of his wounds, about the satisfaction once for all completed; nor would he think it a becoming thing for any member of a congregation who believed in the universal application to human needs page 310 of that satisfaction, to offer passionate and irreverent appeals to the memory or the pitying mercy of either the Father or the Son, not as one of a Church, but with continued repetition of the—me—me. There is a deep infidelity in such a picturing of the bleeding advocate, and much spiritual pride in such a tone of the importunate self-asserting worshipper. The hymns of Wesley owe much of their poetic vigour to this pride and infidelity. For example, in Hymn 127, we read : "See where before the throne he stands, And pours the all-prevailing prayer! Points to his side, and lifts his hands, And shows that I am graven there! He ever lives for me to pray; He prays that I with him may reign : Amen to what my Lord doth say ! Jesus, thou canst not pray in vain." And in Hymn 168: "Jesus speaks and pleads his blood! He disarms the wrath of God! Now my Father's bowels move; Justice lingers into love. Kindled his relentings are; Me he now delights to spare; Cries, ' How can I give thee up ?' Let the lifted thunder drop. There for me the Saviour stands: Shows his wounds and spreads his hands ! God is love! I know, I feel; Jesus weeps and loves me still!" And again in Hymn 202 : "He ever lives above, For me to intercede, His all-redeeming love, His precious blood to plead : His blood atoned for all our race, And sprinkles now the throne of grace. Five bleeding wounds he bears, Received on Calvary: They pour effectual prayers, They strongly speak for me: ' Forgive him, O forgive,' they cry, 'Nor let that ransom'd sinner die!' The Father hears him pray, His dear anointed one; He cannot turn away The presence of his Son: His Spirit answers to the blood, And tells me I am born of God." Again in Hymn 627:" Entered the holy place above, Covered with meritorious scars, The token of his dying love, Our great High-pries: in glory bears; He pleads his passion on the tree, He shows himself to God for me."
The dramatic charm of these pictures is due to a dark infidel shadow thrown over the conception of the Father; who, after all the completeness of the satisfaction for all the sins original and actual of all mankind, is still prone to forget it, to kindle into fury and to resume his purpose of vengeance. The soul of the worshipper, trained by hymns like these, pays dearly for the consolation "that I am graven there," on the hands whose pleadings "disarms the wrath of God," by harbouring such dishonouring infiddity with respect to the Father's faithfulness and love. What: should we think of an earthly creditor who, having demanded and obtained from a self-sacrificing surety the most compete satisfaction of all his claims on a poor debtor, should still require to be pacified and prevented from smiting and tor-meeting that debtor by the continual entreaties of the generous friend who had both discharged the debt and received and handed to the debtor a perfect acquittal? It is a painful duty, but I may not shrink from the pain, to expose these conceptions page 311 of the popular orthodoxy of Ditheism in all their incongruous infidelity and canting pharisaism.
How are we to reconcile these two pictures of the communion between the Father and the Son? In one we see them accomplishing a solemn legal act, by which once for all the Father is reconciled to us men, by the most complete atonement and satisfaction, settled and accepted for ever for all the sins original and actual of all mankind; and this fact is stated to us both in Holy Scripture and in our church formularies without a hint of any sort about a reserve of anger or unkindness on the part of the Father towards any portion of mankind, by reason of which he yet requires to be propitiated, or reminded, or entreated for pity or mercy. In the other, the penitent sinner reads all his hope in a spectacle thus described : "Five bleeding wounds he bears, Received on Calvary: They pour effectual prayers, They strongly speak for me : ' Forgive him, O forgive,' they cry,' Nor let that ransom'd sinner die.' He ever lives above for me to intercede, His all redeeming love, His precious blood to plead." "Jesus speaks, and pleads his blood, He disarms the wrath of God; Kindled his relentings are, Me he now delights to spare; Cries, ' How can I give thee up?' Lets the lifted thunder drop." How can you hang up these two pictures, so that if one be God's revealed truth to man, the other shall not be its infidel and blasphemous contradiction?
There is no escape from this infidelity of puritan orthodoxy in the excuse of poetical license. We know well that everything stated in these hymns is every Sunday taught to the people in hundreds of pulpits in plain prose, as very facts now in heaven, and taught with exaggeration by many of our sensational soul-smiters and soul-savers. And in the preface to Wesley's hymns we read : "In these hymns there is nothing turgid or bombastic on the one hand, or low and creeping on the other. Here are no cant expressions, no words without meaning. Those who impute this to us know not what they say: We talk common sense both in prose and verse, and use no word but in a fixed and determinate sense." So that his book is in effect a little body of experimental and practical divinity.
But what are these priests about in their gaudy millinery? They are offering the sacrifice of the altar, their puppet-show parody on the grand atonement and satisfaction of Calvary once for all made and accepted for all more than 1800 years ago. This mass is forsooth a true propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead, one and the same with the sacrifice of the cross! This must be offered everywhere and continually, and impudently thrust into the faces of the Father and the Son, that the former may not perfidiously forget their compact and that the old wrath may not kindle again on the burning throne! Can unbelief and insult go farther against the faithfulness of God, and against the declaration of the churches about the one full, page 312 perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins if the whole world? Here is the perpetual outrage and flagrant infidelity of priestly orthodoxy! And still "my people will live it so !" They are taught to believe in a Devil-God—no wonder that they crowd to a Devil-worship !—T. P. Kirkman, M.A. F.R.S.