Christ V. Spiritualism.
A Word to Believers in the Lord Jesus.
As the terrible and seductive doctrines of Spiritualism have at length been proclaimed in our midst, in a way too plain to be mistaken, I have felt impelled to offer the following remarks, in order, with the Divine blessing, to render some slight help to any of my fellow Christians who may have been troubled, or it may be even shaken, by the specious arguments which have been so sedulously used in its favour.
I am the more led to this by the fact of my having found, in my intercourse with those around me, that this is by no means an unlikely result, or one which might be expected to occur in very exceptional cases only. To my grief and amazement I have found many, both old and young, who, while professing to be Christians, not only have thought it no great evil, or dishonour to the Lord's name, to have attended the lectures lately delivered by Mr James Smith in this city upon the subject of Spiritualism, but who, after having done so, yet fail to perceive the true tendency of these lectures as aiming a fatal blow to the very ground-work upon which their profession of Christianity is based: a blow so thorough that to suppose the possible identity of Christianity and Spiritualism is as absurd as to suppose the identity of good and evil, of light and darkness, or of life and death.
This utter incongruity between the two has, however, been denied by Mr. Smith, who would have us to understand that inasmuch as Christianity and Spiritualism alike page 2 profess to lead up to the one true God as the object of worship and obedience, that therefore they are compatible in their spirit and essence; and that Christianity needs only to be stripped of the incrustations with which human tradition has surrounded it in order to be found in perfect harmony with the teaching? of Spiritualism.
That I am correct in the above statement is plain from the fact that in Mr. Smith's first letter in reply to Dr. Copland he speaks of the pith of Christianity as found in the 37th and three following verses of Matthew 22nd, and in Christ's Sermon on the Mount; and that this, as a Divine rule for human conduct, is precisely similar to that which is constantly enforced by his "teachers" from the spirit world, who, he tells us in another letter, are "Incessantly inculcating boundless love of our heavenly Father, boundless admiration of His wisdom, boundless trust in His providence, and implicit obedience to His law." And in the same letter Mr Smith says, apparently presuming upon the acquiescence, not only of Dr Copland, but also of Christians generally to its truth, that these two Commandments, viz., of love to God and love to my neighbour, are "The very pillars which support the whole edifice of the Christian religion." It is this great and fundamental error which I desire to expose to view; for I venture to say that upon this—viz., the understanding of what the foundation of Christianity really is—the whole question at issue will be found to rest. I assert, then, and would establish my assertion from Scripture—first, that the basis of Christianity consists in belief in the person of Jesus as the Christ, i.e., the sent one, of God; and, second, its superstructure consists in submission to Christ's words, and in following him. This superstructure cannot exist except upon the proper foundation. Thus I read, in proof of the page 3 first statement, "In him was life." "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life : and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life." Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life." "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom He hath sent." "If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins "I am the bread of life." "I am the living bread which came down from heaven." "I am the resurrection and the life." Because I live, ye shall live also." "As the Father hath life in himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in himself." "He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent him." And I also read, in proof of my second statement :—"If any man will come after me let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed." If ye love me, keep my commandments." He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me." "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you."
From these and numerous other passages which I doubt not will suggest themselves to the reader, I take my stand, and claim to be recognised as a Christian, not because I believe that all the law and the prophets hang upon the two commandments respecting love to God and love to my neighbour—although this be perfectly true—but because I believe in Jems as him whom "God sent into the world to save sinners." Believing in him—in Jesus Christ—I am assured from his own mouth that I "have everlasting life"—that I have "passed from death unto life." I am assured that I am as much one with him as he is "one with the Father"; and I am taught to wait for the fulfilment of his page 4 promise "that he will come again and receive me unto himself." While, then, it is God the Father who is now my Father, whom I worship, whom I love, whom I adore, it is Christ the Son on whom I believe, on whom I rest, and for whom I wait, for he is My Life. This is my claim to being a Christian—a Christ's-Man. Say, dear reader, is this yours?
I would now proceed further, and press upon my readers the following, viz., that belief in Jesus as the Christ of God necessitates the acknowledgment that the Scriptures of the Old Testament are what they profess to be—the authoritative Word of God. I must acknowledge the authority of these, because of the declarations concerning Jesus Christ made by those who wrote his life, and to whom we are indebted for all that we know concerning him. The words "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets" are too well known as occurring in connection with so many of the incidents mentioned in his life to require more than an allusion to them. But what do they prove, if not this, that the writers of Christ's life wish to show that Christ himself was the one to whom these old scriptures refer? And on this Christ's words are explicit. He says, in his sermon on the Mount, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law and the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled." And, again, "Search the Scriptures * * for they are they that testify of me."
Yet further; Christ is constantly quoting from Scripture, and doing so in every case as giving his divine sanction to its authority. Thus he resists Satan, not with words as from himself, but with words which he could preface with the decisive declaration "It is written." Thus also he page 5 teaches the objectors to his eating with sinners, in the words, "Go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice"; quoting from Hosea. Thus he instructs the multitude concerning John, "This is he of whom it is written, Behold I send my messenger before thy face, to prepare thy way before thee." Here he quotes from Malachi. Thus, too, he admonishes the Pharisees who had made the commandments of God of none effect by their tradition, by quoting from Exodus and Deuteronomy the well-known commands, "Honor thy father and thy mother; and he that curseth father or mother, let him die the death." And so, also, to the same individuals, who were tempting him by a question respecting the putting away a wife, he replied in the words "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh"; here quoting from the 1st and 2nd chapters of Genesis. I fear to multiply instances; let it suffice to say that in the recorded sayings of Jesus we find direct quotations from nearly every one of the Old Testament books.
I would now ask any candid reader, does not all this show that Christ acknowledged, and that he inculcated the acknowledgment upon others, that the Old Testament Scriptures were indeed authoritative, and that in all their teachings? Their histories he refers to again and again, and confirms them by so doing; their doctrines he expounds and enforces; their prophetic teachings he declares culminate in himself, for so he taught his disciples, saying, "O fools and slow of heart, to believe all that the prophets have spoken! And, beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the page 6 things concerning himself." "These are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me." "And he said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third clay, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations." Let me ask, was he wrong? If so, then was he the greatest impostor that ever breathed, the New Testament the most dire deception that has ever been foisted upon mankind, and Christianity the most monstrous absurdity and contradiction. The subterfuge that Christ spoke many things that were not strictly true unwittingly, will not avail; for this as much precludes his right to say concerning himself "I am the truth," as if he were from first to last a liar and a deceiver. The whole of his life is cither intensely true or intensely false; if the first, then everything must be believed; if the second, then nothing can be believed,—and there is no middle ground possible.
But now a step further. I would assert that belief in Jesus, as the Christ of God, necessitates the rejection, as a foundation for faith, of all other communications whatever, whether they be the writings of men, or the professed communications of angels or spirits : as, indeed' Pauls says in his solemn word to the Galatians, "Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed."
I read in Scripture thus : "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." He, then, the declarer of the Father, involved in the Old Testament and evolved in the page 7 New, must be my study and the object of my faith; for that same revealer of the Father and declarer of the truth tells me, that "This is life eternal that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." Eternal life, therefore, according to Jesus, does not consist in my knowledge of God's works in creation, but in my knowledge of God himself; and he further tells me that "No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him." God's works in nature, wondrous though they are, and all the stupendous laws which govern them, these were not the subjects which Jesus dwelt upon when on earth, although none could have taught concerning them as he could, seeing that "without him was not anything made that was made." But of these he spake not. He came as "the Word" to unfold the Father's mind, and as the "servant" to carry out the Father's counsels. In him, then, we see the Father and in him alone; and as the Scriptures alone reveal him, and as he alone reveals the Father, and as it is in the knowledge of the Father that I have life, therefore it is that on these Scriptures I can repose my faith as the authoritative revelation of God, and upon nothing else. Bnd to guard me against the very delusion into which Mr Smith has fallen, I read in Deuteronomy as follows: "There shall not be found among you . . a consulter with familiar spirits . . . or a necromancer, for all that do these these things are an abomination unto the Lord .... The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet . . . and he shall speak all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass that whosoever will not hearken unto the words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him." This One has come and has spoken. Our answer to Mr. Smith, then, is, that as Christians we must page 8 reject, as a foundation for faith, not only what Mr. Smith may say as of himself, but also what he may say as under the influence of what the Bible calls, however Mr. Smith may designate it, "a familiar spirit." Like Mr. Smith with his inspiring spirit, so ought we to do with the Word of God, the Bible. Mr. Smith throws the responsibility of all his astounding assertions off himself and on to his "familiar"; and so, as Christians, we cast all the responsibility of our rejection of his statements and our condemnation of his whole theory upon the distinct and blessed declaration of Christ Jesus our Lord, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me."
It was the writer's wish that the above, in a much condensed form, should have appeared amongst the correspondence in the 'Daily Times' some days prior to Mr. Smith's leaving Dunedin for Australia. It was sent in to that journal, but was not considered suitable.
Only one aspect of this subject—though there are many others—has been touched upon; the object in view being to point out to the simplest believer in the Lord Jesus that in his childlike faith in Him he has a perfect "shield," wherewith he shall "be able to quench all the fiery darts of the Wicked One."
Dunedin, May 18, 1872.
Mills, Dick and Co., Printers, Stafford street, Dunedin.