Modern Mystical Teachings
and the Word of God
Note to the reader (ca. 1950)
The first edition of this pamphlet appeared in 1922, and for along time has been out of print. As the years have passed,
however, the school of teaching, which we then examined briefly,
has proceeded to further extravagancies, and the assertion of
doctrines even more fundamentally false; so much so that a call
has come for its re-issue. This has involved considerable
additional matter, and the omission of some things that appeared
in the earlier edition. The omitted portions were considered of
lesser gravity, and for that reason only were expunged, so as to
avoid any large increase in size. All the extracts we cite are
taken from publications of the last 40 years, though a few have
only appeared very recently. The roots of this false teaching,
however, can be traced a good way further back than 40 years, to
a time when many brethren adopted the idea that God always has
one particular man for the moment, to whose utterances peculiar
value must be attributed. This idea soon reacted badly upon the
individual who was considered to be the teacher for the moment,
and in course of time he was incited to put forth novel things in
an unbalanced way. These unbalanced teachings were hailed as new
light by his followers. And so the process developed and enlarged
until the teacher for the moment became invested with almost
papal authority by his admirers. The evil fruits of this movement
are becoming increasingly plain. Teachings false to the vital
fundamentals of our holy faith are being promulgated, and the end
is not yet. Let us be warned. Scripture exhorts us to "shun
profane and vain babblings; for they will increase unto more
ungodliness" (2 Tim. 2: 16).
1. The Features that Characterize Mystical Teachings
First of all it may be well to define the term we use. What is
mysticism? It deals largely with ourselves, and our own state and
apprehension of the truth. It is occupied not with divine
realities themselves, but with how we become conscious of those
realities, and of the way they work out certain results in us.
The Word of God deals with the state of His saints. It throws
light upon the progressive work of the Spirit in our souls. All
this truth, which we speak of commonly as subjective, is of great
importance, and we do well to maintain it, firmly holding it in
its true connection with the great objective realities
themselves, since every action of the Spirit within us
subjectively is in strict accord with the objective reality by
which He works. Mysticism, however, does not preserve the
Scriptural order and balance as between these two sides of truth.
In its eyes the subjective side appears so great that the
objective realities are largely obscured. We say largely because
it does not deny God's revelation in Christ, nor the reality of
the work He accomplished for us, nor that which He will yet
accomplish for us at His coming again. It admits these things
theologically, and then relegates them into the background of the
picture in order that the foreground may be the more effectually
occupied with the Spirit's work within us. Consequently to the
mystic this subjective side of things becomes the only thing
worth consideration. The consciousness of the thing becomes in
his thoughts virtually the thing itself. He talks therefore
continually about his consciousness, his apprehension, his
experiences; which is only another way of saying he is wrapped up
in himself. He speaks of Christ, but views Him as the One, who
produces these impressions. Nor is this all. If people could be
found marked only by these characteristics, it is doubtful if the
term "mystic" could be properly applied to them. The
essence of mysticism lies in this, that the seat of authority is
transferred in the mind of the mystic from the external Word of
God to the spiritual consciousness - the "spiritual
man" - internal to themselves. Homage of quite an orthodox
kind may be verbally rendered to the Scriptures, and yet they may
be largely displaced. The spiritual conception of the mystic, who
flatters himself that he is indeed a spiritual man, are all
important to him. He soars above and beyond the Scripture. Its
letter he disdains, even if he does not speak against it. It has
little or no restraining effect upon the flights of his
imagination. He quotes it of course, but only as supporting or
illustrating or adorning his own conceptions of truth. His
conceptions become the primary thing on which the main emphasis
must be laid. Scripture must be interpreted in the light of those
conceptions, and its words become of secondary importance.
At the opposite pole to mysticism lies a cold orthodoxy devoid
of power. It is sadly possible to insist correctly on all the
great objective verities of the faith without much exercise of
conscience as to a positive entrance upon these realities in the
power of the Spirit of God. Truth may thus be stated and
Scripture correctly expounded without the warmth of the love of
the truth. In this frame of mind people seem to fear what is
subjective and experimental in ministry as though it in some way
robbed them of truth itself, instead of it being only calculated
to divest them of an easy-going mental acceptance of truth and of
the self-complacency which goes with it, and plunge them into
genuine exercise of heart before God. In all this tendency there
is something poor and shallow, and earnest souls are by it
Mysticism has about it an apparent profundity of thought and
utterance. It promises a far greater depth of understanding,
which is alluring, and especially to minds of a certain
contemplative type, fundamentally disposed towards introspection
and self-occupation. Though the present age is one of turmoil and
shallow reasoning, mysticism still makes its voice heard, and by
its very contrast offers certain attractions. Hence we believe a
few words of warning may be profitable, especially as its
ultimate tendencies have always been towards not only
indefiniteness of doctrine and statement, but to the maintenance
of teachings quite foreign to and astray from the Word of God. As
before, so again it has led to grave and fundamental error.
During past years books and magazines, wherein a certain form of
modern mysticism is expounded, have come into our hands. Some of
these are enumerated below, and any quotations from them in the
text will be referred to under the respective letter allotted to
each, so that space may be saved.
- The Body; Holding the Head, and Union. - J.T.
- How the Truth of the Assembly appeared in the Development of
God's Ways, etc. - J.T.
- Notes of Meetings in Chicago, January, 1919.
- The Believers' Friend, July, 1920.
- Mutual Comfort, 1920 volume.
- The Movements of the Testimony. - J.T.
- The Way. - J.T.
- Names of Divine Persons. - J.T.
- The Sonship of Christ. - J.T.
- Inscrutability. - J.T.
- Notes of Readings in New York, 1939. - J.T.
- The Testimony of Grace and Judgment.
- Words of Grace and Comfort.
In many of these initials appear indicating various speakers. As,
however, what is of importance and interest is not the speakers,
but the truth or falsity of the views expressed, we have omitted
many initials in the extracts quoted. We now proceed to deal with
some of their salient features.
The Eclipse of Objective Realities by One-Sided Subjective
Impressions Corresponding Therewith
This feature is very strongly emphasized. The great idea
running through these mystical publications is the ALL-importance
of the subjective as contrasted with the objective. This is
elaborated and reiterated in many ways with great expenditure of
words, consequently the only difficulty is to find it expressed
in sufficiently compact form for quotation.
The following is an example:-
"Many have the Spirit, and are in the body [of Christ] from
the divine side, but practical obligations here are not met, and
therefore the thing is null and void to such." (A. p. 4).
This is a pretty clear example of the teaching. The fact of
believers having the Spirit, and thus being baptized into one
body (1 Cor. 12: 13), is admitted. Yet it is admitted only to be
dismissed as "null and void" to all such as do not meet
their practical obligations here. On a previous page we are
enlightened as to what is meant by the phrase, "practical
"God commends Himself to us, that is His side, now what can
you be for God? So you take up the covenant, the righteous
requirements of the law are fulfilled in you; you begin at the
bottom." (A. p. 2 & 3).
Here the allusion is to Romans 8: 4, where God's triumph in
Christ is contrasted with the weakness of the law. The law could
neither produce that which it demanded, nor condemn the root
principle of sin, which was unrestrained by its demands. It could
only condemn the open acts of transgression, and curse the
transgressor. God, by the sacrifice of His own Son for sin, has
both condemned sin in the flesh, and secured the fulfilling of
the law's righteous demand in those walking, not according to
flesh, not even according to law, but according to Spirit. It
must be confessed with sorrow that many saints, who possess the
Spirit, walk but little according to Him, and are little troubled
as to their failure. This verse, however, states normal
Christianity. It must also be confessed that none of us, not even
the most spiritual, walk altogether according to Spirit, and thus
altogether fulfil what the law righteously demands.
The extract we have quoted gives us no quarter, inasmuch as
the statements are made dogmatically, and without qualification.
Have we met these practical obligations? Do we walk according to
Spirit, thus fulfilling the righteousness of the law? What can we
say? Have we happy experience of the delivering power of the
"Spirit of life in Christ Jesus"? Yes, thank God! Yet
alas! in many things we all offend, and we cannot flatter
ourselves that we have "met our obligations."
The author we have just quoted, however, wishes us to believe
that if we are not subjectively in thoroughgoing accord with the
objective reality, then to us the objective reality is "null
and void," i.e., nothing and empty, of neither force nor
meaning. Truly, as we have said, the objective reality
disappears, quite eclipsed by the overpowering importance of the
A little further on the author says:-
"I think we ought to be very simple about righteousness. The
Spirit enables us to fulfil every moral obligation. There is no
progress made in our souls unless these obligations are
fulfilled." (A. p. 11).
"The great point in Romans is the fulfilling of the
responsibilities of the creature - man - towards the
Creator." (A. p. 14).
These words emphasize his standpoint. Until we reach subjectively
the state he has in view, we are doomed to no progress, i.e., as
the context shows, to no entrance into "assembly truth"
as unfolded in other epistles. It is as if the subjective
knowledge of truth is divided into diverse spheres, which must be
completely passed through in a certain order, and we are left
with the impression that however we may be ourselves conscious of
failure, the speaker himself, at least, can lay claim to the
requisite subjective condition.
The second quotation shows that to him, the subjective effect
produced by the Gospel is the great point. On the contrary, we
venture to affirm that the great point in Romans is the
"Gospel of God," which brings God in, acting both in
righteousness and love for the deliverance of men from the grip
of evil, to be for His pleasure both now in the midst of a
groaning creation, and ultimately in a redeemed creation. The
subjective work of the Spirit comes in incidentally to this.
Yet again he says:-
"It is of the utmost importance that, if you take things
subjectively, we have nothing but what we have grown into, and
that is by the work of the Spirit. On the gift side you have
It is indeed by the work of the Spirit that we grow up into the
truth and possess it in power, but it is also true that no one is
a Christian at all, nor possesses the Spirit, unless the subject
of a mighty work of the same Spirit. Of the Spirit we are born
(John 3: 6-8). There is consequently about us an "inward
man" (Rom. 7: 22; 2 Cor. 4: 16). Through the Spirit there is
soul-purification "unto unfeigned love of the brethren"
(1 Pet. 1: 22). Indeed, "we live in the Spirit" (Gal.
5: 25) and upon this fact the exhortation to walk in the Spirit
is based. It is quite true therefore to say that we have nothing
apart from the work of the Spirit. It is not true that we have
nothing "but what we have grown into," for we have all
that which is the fruit of the Spirit's initial work before we
begin to grow at all. One might feel somewhat comforted by the
admission that on the gift side we have everything, save that one
remembers that we have just heard that apart from the proper
subjective response the objective reality becomes "null and
void". This last extract would lead us to suppose that the
great initial work of the Spirit in the soul is really nothing!
The "inward man" is something we have, rather than
something we are, - and yet our author says "we HAVE NOTHING
but what we have grown into."
Judging from previous experiences with this line of teaching, we
quite expect that our remarks would be met by some disclaimers,
and we suspect the author does not quite mean all he says. We can
only, however, deal with what he does say.
"Formative" with its variations is a much used word in
connection with the Spirit's work. For instance:-
"In John's epistles the saints are viewed as formed in the
divine nature." (A. p. 17).
"Having the Spirit is the very necessary equipment for
the formation of Christ, but it does not say [Rom. 8] that you
have been formed in Christ. Could persons have the Spirit and not
have Christ in them? They could; the Corinthians had not Christ
in them." (A. p.18).
"In Romans 8. . . Paul says, 'If Christ be in you,' and I
think if the Spirit of Christ is there you can say Christ is
there, but then it is of great importance for Christ to be
formed." (A. p. 107).
Here the "formation" of Christ is treated as a work of
the Spirit of an advanced character. You may have the Spirit, and
even Christ may be in you, since you have the Spirit of Christ,
without Christ being "formed" in you. As a sample case
the Corinthians are cited. They had not even Christ in them
according to this teaching, let alone Christ being formed in
In all this we have travelled grievously away from Scripture,
although on page 107 a little lower down we read:-
"The only way to arrive at the truth is from the way in
which Scripture presents it."
How does Scripture present it? We turn in the first instance to
the case of the Corinthians selected by our author to illustrate
his point. We read, "Know ye not your own selves, how that
Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (2 Cor.
13: 5). So Christ was in the Corinthians after all, as He is in
every true child of God. The only exception according to the
verse is the reprobate, the unconverted.
We turn to John's first epistle. There the saints are truly
"viewed as formed in the divine nature" but it is as
"born of God," so that "the babe" possesses
the nature as much as "the Father" in the family of God
(1 John 2: 12-29). Here again this teaching ignores the great
foundation work of the Spirit in order to attribute all its
effects to the subsequent operations of the Spirit in our hearts.
But what about Christ being formed in us? This expression occurs
but once in Scripture as follows:- "My little children, of
whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you"
(Gal. 4: 19). The Apostle's language here makes it certain that
to his mind, - and therefore in the mind of the Spirit -
"Christ formed in you" is an elementary thing. He stood
in doubt as to these Galatian saints, as he tells them in verse
20, and hence he was passing again through birth pangs of
soul-exercise over them - "until Christ be formed in
you." That accomplished, his birth pangs would end in
deliverance. The Scriptural presentation of this truth is such as
to place it amongst the elementary things that lie at the start.
If Christ be not formed in those who take the place of
Christians, an Apostle doubts if they are Christians at all! The
way this phrase, as to Christ being formed in us, is wrested from
its scriptural setting in these extracts is very mischievous.
Taking the plainest statements of objective truth and extracting
from them false subjective meaning is sadly noticeable in these
publications. Here are a few statements on the Epistle to the
"The Colossians were reconciled in their state. He would not
have said it ['you . . . now hath He reconciled'] of the
Colossians if it had not been true . . . He could not have said
that of the Corinthians for example." (C. p. 106).
"'If ye then be risen' -Yes, risen 'with' not 'in' . . . If
it were 'risen in Christ' it would be objective." (C. p.
"It does not read 'If ye have died in Christ' . . . . 'If ye
have been raised in the Christ.' That is the whole point of the
epistle, viz.. that they had arrived subjectively at the teaching
of the death of Christ. 'If ye have died with Christ.' " (C.
"Although Christ is prominent in Colossians, the work of the
Spirit is the main point." (C. p.130).
When the Apostle wrote, "You hath He reconciled" to the Colossians he was stating what is true of Christians as such, and not something only true because they were conscious of it, having arrived at it in their state. What proves this is that the succeeding verses show reconciliation to be in view of
Why that "if"?
Simply because the Apostle viewed them as
partaking of common Christian blessings - such as reconciliation
- but still he had an element of doubt as to some of them. Had
the Apostle meant "And you Colossians, having been brought
by the Spirit subjectively into the truth of reconciliation, are
reconciled," he could never have added that "if."
Further, if souls are not "subjectively" in
reconciliation they are not in the simple truth of the gospel. So
"joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have
now received the reconciliation" (Rom. 5: 11) is just proper
Christian state, lying at the beginning of things.
As to the distinction attempted between "with" and
"in," a glance at the passages involved shows that it
does not stand. For instance, Romans 6: 6 & 8, clearly refers
to what was accomplished objectively at the cross. According to
this theory it should read, "Our old man is crucified 'in'
Him" - "If we be dead 'in' Him." Yet in both cases
"with" is used. Indeed, we need not go outside
Colossians to see the falsity of the distinction. "If ye
then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are
above" (Col. 3: 1), i.e., since you are risen with Christ
let there be the subjective power of resurrection in practice.
"Risen with Him" (Col. 2: 12), is the reality on which
is founded an appeal to answer to it.
The statement as to the Spirit being the main point in Colossians
is a characteristic example of the way the letter of Scripture is
violated, under plea of extracting its spirit. The Spirit of God
indites an epistle in which He extols the glory and sufficiency
of Christ, the Head of the body, and mentions Himself but once,
and that incidentally. (Col. 1: 8). We, however, are told that we
are to understand that His main point is not what He speaks of,
but what he barely mentions. We refuse to believe that the Spirit
of God is marked by a singular inability to say what He means.
Does this speaker desire to convey that the Spirit wishes to hide
His meaning, whilst he feels himself possessed of that mystic
inner light which gives sight and penetration into its recesses?
We, too, desire to dig beneath the surface of Scripture and reach
the spirit of it. But then the spirit of the Holy Writings is not
some sublimated essence altogether distinct from the actual
words, but rather its spiritual drift and purpose as gathered
from the actual words. We can only find the spirit of what is
there in the letter, and not the spirit of what is NOT there.
This treatment of Scripture which we repudiate is all too
reminiscent of the light and airy way in which the "higher
critics" profess to discover two or more "Isaiahs"
in Isaiah. They have no real proof. They just assume they have
the critical insight enabling them to discover it, and then
trumpeting abroad their imagined discovery.
Belittling of Scripture in Favour of the Conceptions and
Impressions of "Spiritual Men"
Here lies, as we judge, the gravest part of the
teaching under review. This feature was visible in the extracts
we have quoted. It comes out more plainly in these we now proceed
"I would not be lawless as to the statements of Scripture
but I am not exactly governed by statements of Scripture. For
instance, I do not come to the Supper just because it is
Scriptural . . . . What I said was, that I would not be lawless
as to the statements of Scripture, but the unfolding of Scripture
is in the hands of spiritual men . . . . The point I am pressing
is this, that the Scripture can only be opened out by the Spirit
of God, and the spiritual man." (C. pp. 10, 11, 12).
"The mind of God is coming to us through spiritual men, not
exactly through Scripture. Everybody has the Scriptures, but the
mind of God is coming through spiritual men - men sowing to the
Spirit." (C. p. 31).
We have before now cast about in our mind for a sentence which
would aptly sum up in a few words the attitude of this modern
mysticism to the Word of God. Here we have found it in their own
words. The Word of God is not denied. Its inspiration is upheld.
Something from within its pages forms the text of every address,
or is the starting point of every reading, but here you have in a
nutshell the attitude which marks the exponents of this teaching,
though not all make so plain a statement as this:-
"I am not exactly governed by statements of Scripture."
The speaker, indeed the speakers, in the book we are now quoting
from, are marked by rather more definiteness and vigour of
expression. What is vaguely hinted at elsewhere is here presented
boldly. Not only is the attitude clearly defined, but the reason
for it is stated. The "spiritual man" is, we learn, the
great thing for the unfolding of Scripture. Everybody has the
Scriptures, but what we need is the mind of God, and that comes
to us, it is stated, "not exactly through Scripture,"
but "through spiritual men." Consequently, a little
further on we read:-
"I have sometimes said it is better to have one testimony in
actual life, than a whole city full of Bibles." (C. pp. 41,
There are, of course, elements of truth in all this. It is the
"spiritual" man, in contrast with the
"natural" man, who receives the things of God; and the
carnal believer is, in God's things, but a babe (1 Cor. 2 &
3). It is quite true, therefore, that only one who is spiritual
is likely to minister the Word and open up God's mind with power.
Yet plainly enough, the speaker here is carrying out his own
theory and we are getting from his lips, not Scripture, but a
peculiar and warped presentation of it. Not being just exactly
governed by statements of Scripture he feels free to give us his
own subjective impressions of Scripture, and we are left to
accept them as coming from one who is presumably a
But what does Scripture itself say? It reveals to us our Lord
Jesus Christ as absolutely governed by statements of Scripture
(e.g., see Luke 4: 1-13; John 19: 28), and Paul likewise, (Acts
23: 5). It shows us a Scripture statement being accepted as final
in the great apostolic council at Jerusalem (Acts 15: 15-19), and
thus governing, not merely a believer (even allowing that he is a
"spiritual man"!), but the whole Church of God.
But does Scripture say that the unfolding of Scripture is in the
hands of spiritual men? No. It speaks of gifts given from the
ascended Christ "for the perfecting of the saints, for the
work of the ministry" (Eph. 4: 11, 12). It indicates also
that elders, who were, perhaps, not exactly "teachers,"
might "labour in the word and doctrine" (1 Tim. 5: 17).
There is one Scripture which speaks of teaching amongst the
saints in a more general way, viz., Colossians 3: 16. But there
it is "teaching and admonishing one another." It is
evidently teaching of a homely and everyday sort in which all may
take some part. If we could speak of the unfolding of Scripture
being in anyone's hands it would be in those of teachers and
elders raised up of the Lord. We do not care, however, for the
phrase at all. It is too suggestive of the mental attitude
towards Scripture which we condemn. It infers that Scripture is
in our hands, and we manipulate it; whereas really it towers
above the greatest of teachers, and is supreme.
The theory that we are examining, however, is that the spiritual
man is one who "arrives at" the truth by the action of
the Spirit within him. There is the "formative work" of
which they speak, by which he reaches "certain ground"
in his soul. When coming to Scripture, he thinks he finds there
what he has reached by "spiritual formation" and then
he proceeds to put his conceptions and impressions into words.
The following extracts give the theory:-
"It is a good thing to have the form of doctrine, to have
the manner by which you arrive at things. I think that in the
history of our souls, we are sometimes on certain ground, and yet
we do not know the way we arrived there. Now doctrine gives you
that . . . He [the Apostle Paul] describes the state and how they
got there . . . You get there, and the teaching of the Epistle to
the Colossians establishes you . . . . They needed a spiritual
man to lead the way, to define the situation they had got
to." (C. pp. 121 , 122).
"John expects there is life in you, and that you will
understand what this thing means. John does not write to the
uninitiated-none of the Scriptures are written to such, John far
less so" (C. p. 99).
According to this, Scripture plays but a very secondary part. It
is quite subservient to this inward spiritual formation, this
"inner light" as we may call it, Scripture being mainly
of use as furnishing a suitable expression for it. The remarks on
the Epistle to the Colossians are supplemented by a reference to
John's gospel, which is quite remarkable in view of John's own
statement: "These are written, that ye might believe that
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing, ye might
have life through His name." (20: 31).
Our author tells us that John takes for granted that there is
life in you. John himself informs us that he writes in order that
his readers "might have life," through believing. Our
author says that none of the Scriptures are written to the
uninitiated; John far less so than others. John himself states
that he writes that his readers may believe that Jesus is the
Christ the Son of God, not because they so believed. The fact
really is, that, though the great mass of the New Testament
Scripture was truly written to and for believers, John's gospel
is the one book that avows as its object a purpose of world-wide
To ordinary readers, uninitiated into such teachings, these
quoted statements sound startling. Such would probably enquire,
Does our author wish us to understand that he knows the object of
John's writing better than John himself? or whether, on the other
hand, he is so liberated from to the letter of Scripture,
that he can ignore its statements in favour of his own
impressions and theories?
The latter is nearer the mark. He feels free to give that verse a
rendering to harmonize with what he considers its
"spirit". That free rendering in the words of another
of these instructors, is as follows:-
"The immediate occasion of this gospel [John's] was that the
saints might be believers in the Son . . . " (B. p. 62).
There was nothing incongruous in this speaker's mind in the
saints not being believers in the Son - believing in the Son
being at that time considered by these mystics a spiritual
attainment, which only some saints reach; nor anything
incongruous in saints not as yet having life through His name;
nor in this terribly incomplete belief and state of death marking
saints generally wherever saints were found - for John's gospel
is clearly not of local application like some of the epistles,
But John did not write that his readers might believe that
"Jesus Christ is the Son of God," as though they were
yet defective in their faith as to His essential glory, as though
while recognizing in Jesus the Messiah they had not risen to the
faith of His Deity. Surely not, but that they might believe that,
"Jesus IS the Christ, the Son of God." (John 20: 31).
So that if John really were addressing only "saints,"
these "saints" did not even believe that Jesus was the
Christ!! A truly preposterous proposition. Too preposterous,
apparently, even for the author of this remark, for he discreetly
omits the words from his quotation of the passage.
This is a sad example of how these modern mystics treat the Word
of God. Nor is this an isolated example, an exception to the
rule. The same attitude of mind persists, as seen in an example
taken from a publication dated a quarter of a century later.
"I venture to bring forward the word of God. I am not now
speaking of the Scriptures; of course, they are included. What
Paul is speaking about is the word of God; its living character
as spoken. The Scriptures, of course, are of supreme value, only
the word of God here is the mystery, which men ordinarily know
nothing of, whereas lovers of God and lovers of Christ make much
of the mystery." (F. p. 139).
"So I would urge the matter of the word of God, the
completeness of it; not merely the Scriptures, but the full
scheme that is in the mind of God, to include the whole scope of
the assembly and its working out in the service of God in these
last days . . . . There is nothing missing now as to the scheme
in the divine mind: made known in writing, but made known in
ministry. Ministry is effected by the Spirit of God in the power
of gift, and that is where the thing comes in for us; God is
opening it up to us through the number of brethren that are
capable of ministering, . . . . So the word of God is known in
its effectiveness. These meetings are a prime matter with God and
the Holy Spirit is down here. . . ." (F. p. 143)
The Scriptures are acknowledged as the Word of God in these
extracts. But according to their thoughts, a good deal more is
included. The ministry of capable brethren is included, and the
meetings where these capable brethren speak are considered to be
a prime matter with God and the Holy Spirit down here. In these
extracts there is a measure of what is true. The supreme value of
Scripture is acknowledged, yet there is great danger in the way
the Scriptures and the sayings of teachers are bracketed
We assert, on the contrary, that the God-breathed writings tower
far above all uninspired utterances, however spiritual the
brother who makes them may be.
The whole attitude of these teachers to the Scriptures was well
summed up as follows:-
"Does the strict interpretation of the passage [Col. 1: 12]
refer to the saints on earth, or in heaven? . . . . I am not
prepared for too strict an interpretation." (C. p. 69).
That is just it. In that case their thinking would have to be
subject to God's Word. As it is, their minds are left free to
move at the dictation of the inner light, and Scripture can be
used (sometimes quoted, and even misquoted), to adorn their
thinkings and wrap them round with an authority they would not
The Consequent Glorifying of a Priestly Caste, who come between an ordinary saint and the Lord.
Any thoughtful Christian, who has followed thus far, will by
now conclude that the drift of this teaching, and this treatment
of Scripture, must be in the direction of greatly magnifying the
importance and authority of the exponents of the teaching
themselves. The "inner light" becomes the great
authority, which involves, of course, that the real authority is
vested in those in whom the "inner light" is most
We now proceed to show that not only is this the case - and it
runs in a kind of sub-conscious strain, yet most clearly, through
all the utterances of this school, - but that it leads to a
special priesthood being assumed for the "spiritual
man" of whom so much is said. We read:-
"Where there are spiritual men in a meeting, there will be
sure to be some priest break the bread who will put the saints in
touch with Christ? . . . That is what the Supper is for in the
mind of the Lord . . ." (C. p. 16).
"When what was intended in the Supper has not been availed
of, the priest can bring in recovery and the Father be reached
just the same." (C. p. 17)
"Undoubtedly there is touch with Christ that the priest gets
that every Christian does not. The priest has His mind because
the priest has His life." (C, p. 20).
"You would discourage certain brothers taking part in the
morning meeting, then? . . . . Not a simple soul, but one that
habitually goes on with a thing. They are not subject nor
watching the priests . . . . They are just believers." (C.
"A great deal depends on the man that gives it [a hymn] out,
whether it is a simple brother or a priest." (C. p.55).
"All the saints will get great refreshment if you allow the
priests to take the lead." (C. p. 59).
The above extracts speak for themselves. The contrast drawn
between the "simple brother," or those that are
"just believers," or "the saints," and a
"priest" is unmistakable. It is again a carrying out of
what we have previously noticed, viz., the subjective
consciousness so magnified that it quite eclipses the reality
Yet amidst many such remarks as the foregoing, one or two words
are found which give a ray of hope that the reality of what God
has effected is not totally lost. We read for instance:-
"In the run of meetings, how many priests are there (that is
in priestly condition)?" (C. p. 16).
We welcome that little bracketed addition though it is ambiguous;
it may simply mean that the speaker's definition of "a
priest" is "one in priestly condition," a meaning
abundantly clear in all these extracts. On the other hand it may
indicate that he qualifies his usage of the word
"priest" by restricting its meaning in that way, and so
that he may recognize the possibility of using the term in a
larger sense. Our hope that this second sense may be his meaning
is slightly increased by the following:-
"Would it be possible to be a son and not a priest?. . . .
Yes, and No. Every man who has the Spirit has title to sonship,
and in the thought of God he is a son - 'Because ye are sons' . .
. . but to be consciously in sonship is a different thing."
(C. p. 85).
So it may be that he also admits that in the thought of God
every man who has the Spirit is a priest. Albeit, any
satisfaction we attempt to derive from this thought is largely
discounted by our remembrance of the first extract we gave,
wherein an authoritative exponent of this school assured us that
we may have the Spirit and be in certain things "from the
divine side," but that if we do not subjectively meet our
obligations these things become "null and void." So
that if these admissions were far clearer than they are, and
greatly multiplied in number, they would not really amount to
Further, it is quite clear that these "spiritual men,"
these "priests" hold in the minds of the speakers a
kind of mediatorial position; they act as mediums between the
simple or ordinary believer and Christ.
"What would mark a priest? . . . . A priest puts you into
touch with Christ?" (C. p. 4).
"Young souls who want to walk with me . . . . They might not
be able to explain things, possibly, but they get their eye on
that man [i.e., a priest]." (C. p. 20).
"I think if there is a divinely given form you had better
follow it. But as there is none, the next best thing we have is
spiritual men. You may think I am giving spiritual men too much
place, but I am not . . . . The best thing for me then is when a
brother, a priest, who knows what he is doing, gets up to pray or
give thanks, to follow him closely. I want to know how he
addresses Divine Persons, because he is in the life of Divine
Persons, and has the intelligence of what suits these
Persons." (C. p. 31).
"Why does not that soul grow? . . . They are not paying
attention to and learning from the priests." (C. p. 50).
"What you said about the brother giving thanks for the loaf
is encouraging. It is an honour to open the door for the Lord to
come in. . . . To join the saints, yes. . . . But if the Lord is
brought in the Supper, you have what follows on that. Before He
knows about it, the affection He finds there carries His spirit
right away, and He joins Himself to them. . . . . We do not want
doctrine, but if I were to break the loaf, do you know what I
would say before I arose? 'Lord help me to open the door for
Thee!' . . . . To open the door to let Him in as Head." (C.
pp. 89, 90, 91).
All these sad wanderings in fields of thought and speculation are
totally foreign to Scripture. In the speakers view, a
"priest" is one who "puts you in touch with
Christ," and consequently you "get your eye on"
him: failing a divinely given form as to approach to God in
prayer or worship, you "follow him closely," and
observe "how he addresses Divine Persons." You should
be "paying attention to, and learning from the
priests," for when a priest ministers at the actual breaking
of the loaf in the Lord's Supper, he "opens the door for the
Lord to come in." It is held apparently that the Lord does
not and cannot "come in" as Head except there be a
"priest" to open the door for Him, and except He
"come in" we do not partake of "the Supper,"
though it is freely conceded that we may "break bread."
The tendency to read into the Lord's Supper ideas not found in
Scripture still persists, for in much later publications we read
such as the following:-
"There is great need for careful analysis of the
Scriptures that treat of the Lord's Supper. One observes that the
idea of a memorial is hardly touched with many. We hear of the
Lord being remembered in His death, whereas the memorial is of
Christ in heaven, alive as He is now; it is to recall Him, to
bring Him back to mind." (F. p. 13).
"We find constant allusions in our statements to the Lord,
such as "to remember Thee in Thy death," whereas, it is
to remember Him, not anything He has done; not that that would be
belittled, but it is to remember Him . . . .
"Would it be right to say that the calling of Him to mind
brings before us Christ in glory? . . . Quite so. It is the Lord
in glory really; it is the Lord's supper, really a heavenly
matter." (F. pp. 24/27).
The above may be a sample of what we may hear, if we listen to
these "priests," but we prefer to adhere to the words
of Scripture. We have "the knowledge [not the remembrance]
of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:
6). The Lord Jesus instituted His Supper on the night in which He
was betrayed. He was not then in glory and the remembrance of
which He then spoke could have had no reference to that. The
broken loaf and the poured out cup were clearly symbols of His
death, and we are ever to remember Him where once He was. Nothing
can be clearer than His statement that the cup was to signify,
"My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for
the remission of sins." (Matt. 26: 28).
This is a very glaring instance of how the words of Scripture are
set aside in favour of the impressions of "spiritual
In another recent publication we find the following:-
"'We, being many, are one loaf, one body.' The bread being
alluded to in that way as referring to the saints would mean we
have to appropriate the saints. I am using the word appropriate
in the sense in which we would appropriate food. Hence the
question is raised, Are brethren worth appropriating? persons
nominally Christians, are they worth appropriating? are they
clean? In the types we have food that can be eaten; animals that
are clean and can be appropriated. Hence the word fellowship
implies that we appropriate one another." (G. p. 55).
Here 1 Corinthians 10: 17 is referred to by the speaker. If that
verse be read with care, it will be found to state that we, who
rightly partake of the cup and the loaf, are one bread -or, loaf
- that is, one body; and the sign, indicating that fact, is that
we all partake of the one loaf. The loaf is the symbol of the
holy body of our Lord, yielded up sacrificially in death for us
all, and of that alone. The oneness of the saints is set forth in
that they ALL PARTAKE of the ONE loaf.
We judge that the adjective that fits the extract we have just
quoted is - fantastic. Some may regard it as the utterance of a
"priest;" if so, it is an example of
But how immensely all this magnifies "the priest" in
question! What a wonderful person he must be! The speakers are
acutely conscious of it, for one of them remarks:-
"Somebody said to me 'I do not see much glory.' I see a lot
of glory about a priest in the morning meeting, and that is what
is coming out, - just that." (C . p . 129) .
Painful as it is, we beg our readers to pause and realize the
point to which we have travelled, that of seeing a lot of glory
about a "priest" who has so effectually officiated, as
they claim, at the Lord's Supper.
It is the same sad story! The supreme glory of the great Head, -
a living, bright objective Reality, - eclipsed by "a lot of
glory" about a man!
Yet all is perfectly consistent in their eyes. Thus the
priesthood of the saints is beclouded, and a special and limited
class of "priests," by whom ordinary believers can get
into touch with the Lord, is mentally created. What was veiled or
merely hinted at, has now been stated plainly.
As a Further Consequence a Vein of Self-occupation runs through all their Utterances.
It may not take the glaring form so visible in what we have
just considered. It may take the form of magnifying their own
particular company, or the yet far more plausible form of
magnifying the assembly as a subjective formation, in an
idealistic way. For instance:-
"We ought not to be content that we are an intelligent
company of Christians; there are a good many absent, and we ought
to miss them." (A. p. 108).
Here the speaker's own particular company is in question. But
"As sons they [i.e., those in the body] are formed in the
divine nature, and are intelligent; and they are associated with
Christ as wisdom in working out of every problem in the universe,
and they display Him, for they act exactly as He would. It is not
only that they do right things, but they do them as He would and
so they are His body." (A. p. 109).
"It is Christ's assembly, and competent to express
intelligently His mind for the universe . . . . A company capable
of intelligently giving the mind of God on any question that may
arise in the universe. It will be the highest court of appeal in
the coming age." (A. pp. 109, 110).
"The prayer in chap.1 [Eph.] is that we may know the will of
God and see the greatness of His power, but that in chapter 3 is
that we may be great ourselves." (A. p. 110).
"I look upon the assembly as being composed of spiritually
intelligent persons. What is the idea of an assembly if it is not
for counsel? You see He is Head over all things to it, not to the
body but to the assembly. But then the assembly is His body. It
has intelligence." (A. pp. 110, 111).
According to Scripture, the saints, who compose the assembly,
will have positions of authority and administration in the age to
come (1 Cor. 6: 2, 3). In them Christ is to be glorified and
admired (2 Thess. 1: 10), and as the heavenly city of Revelation
21, the assembly will be the light-bearer in that day. Hence
"the nations . . . . shall walk in the light of it: and the
kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it."
Yet the light is not the light of the church, "for the glory
of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof."
Yet the speaker in these extracts does not hesitate to go much
further, and tells us that of which Scripture knows nothing. The
"sons" will unquestionably be publicly associated with
Christ in that day, but these details as to that association
extending to "the working out of every problem in the
universe," or that assembly "intelligently giving the
mind of God on any question that may arise in the universe,"
and being "the highest court of appeal in the coming
age," we must accept (if indeed we do so at all) upon the
speaker's ipse dixit alone. Can the speaker have really given a
minute's quiet consideration to his own words? How could the
assembly be capable of giving God's mind on any question that may
arise in the universe, except it has a mind as big as God's? How
can it be the highest court of appeal in the coming age so long
as God exists? - Or does He abdicate His judicial position in its
favour? We have indeed "come unto . . . . the church of the
firstborn which are written in heaven" but not to the church
of the firstborn, as judge of all, as these teachings infer.
"But ye are come unto . . . . GOD, the Judge of all"
(Heb. 12: 22, 23). We prefer to leave the self-centred thoughts
of mysticism for the solid rock of Holy Scripture.
Again we read:-
"It is not exactly that you are dependent on the Head, nor
are you independent of Him, but you are dependent on that living
organism of which He is the Head, and in that you get the
treasures of wisdom and knowledge. . . And you feel it is a
living organism, you feel the living truth coming out, you are in
touch with the temple where the light is. The light is there, the
body is there, and the truth is coming out from the Head through
that living organism. The men through whom the light is coming
are in direct connection with the Head . . . . and you feel the
gain of being put in touch with the spirits of men that have been
moving in touch with the Head." (C. p. 112).
Previously it had been remarked:-
"Mary [John 20] was qualified for the greatest company on
earth. It goes without saying that the Christian company is the
greatest company in heaven, but it is the greatest on
earth." (C. p. 69).
"You feel how perfectly you act as under the influence of
Christ . . . . There is moral dignity. There is nothing like it
on earth." (C. p. 92).
Comment is hardly needed. The self-occupied, self-conscious, and
one must add, self-complacent strain, is not even hidden beneath
the surface, but is plainly visible. The speakers feel these
things; they feel how perfectly they act, and they are glad to
tell us so.
Speaking according to the Light derived from the work within
them, rather than from the Light of Scripture without, many
Fanciful and Extravagant Ideas are produced, and some that are
A number have come to light in the extracts already quoted. We
append further and worse examples with our comments.
"The point in Romans 8 is not only having the Spirit. I
think from this point of view the affections developed by the
Spirit are covenant affections. We have to distinguish between
covenant affections and family affections. I think covenant
relationships involve that we are equal to the obligations of the
contract entered into." (A. pp. 4 & 5).
This alludes to Romans 8: 4. The believer walking in the Spirit
fulfils those things the law righteously required of man. This is
spoken of as "a covenant," and these righteous
requirements are alluded to as "the obligations of the
contract entered into." This far-fetched idea is derived
from an attempt to make the giving of the law in Exodus a type of
the believer taking up certain obligations before God as a fruit
of being redeemed; and of this "type" Romans 8: 4 is
supposed to be the "anti- type." This once accepted,
you advance to the transference of the word "covenant"
from the "type" to the "antitype;" you
transmute the word "covenant" into a
"contract," and further you proceed to contemplate
"covenant affections" and "family
affections," and to differentiate between them; and in
result instead of a pyramid of truth broad-based on the
Scriptures of Truth, you have a pyramid of fancy, precariously
poised upon a very slender apex. But not only have you thus
travelled into regions of fanciful and extravagant ideas, but of
very serious and fundamental error. What is this contract as to
which the New Testament is silent? A covenant involves two
parties, as Galatians 3 tells us. A contract involves penalties
for its breach. 2 Corinthians 3: 6-18 sweeps away all these
unsteady theories. Obligations there are, resting upon the
believer as the result of grace bestowed, yet even so they do not
stand upon a legal or covenant basis. Christianity is not a
system of obligation ending in death and condemnation, but the
positive ministration of righteousness and of the Spirit.
Elsewhere this teacher says:-
"I believe in making resolutions. The Lord holds you to them
. . . . He calls you to your vow. You make a vow, and that vow is
valued according to Moses' valuation, according to the currency
of the sanctuary. In the book of Leviticus, chapter 27, God puts
a distinct value on your vow; . . . . He will discipline you if
you depart from the resolution, . . . The Lord loves you to go
forward and make your resolution; you owe it to Him to do that.
He did that on our behalf." (B. pp. 64, 65).
We most heartily believe in purpose of heart in the things of
God. We welcome all that stirs up our souls to the diligence of
which Peter speaks in his second epistle (ch. 1: 5), but we are
not going back to the Galatian error of "holiness by
law," even by so specious a route as that opened up to us
Another idea frequently appearing in these publications, is that
truth could not be ministered by the apostles except that the
state which the truth involves was already present in those to
whom they ministered. For instance:-
"There was a company formed there [Ephesus] in which Christ
was expressed. 'I have not shunned to declare unto you all the
counsel of God.' There were conditions at Ephesus which enabled
the Apostle to do that: to open up the counsels of God. He could
not do that at Corinth. There was not the state. Having that
state is necessary for the revelation of the truth." (B. p.
We have long recognized that the servant of Christ cannot really
minister truth from mere head knowledge. He must himself possess
it in power. Here, however, we are told that he cannot minister
truth, if his hearers do not already possess it in power.
Carry the idea a little further and you reach this travesty:-
"'I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.' A Man speaks from
heaven, owning the saints on earth as Himself; and He could do it
truthfully, because Stephen was like the Lord in that sense; he
acted entirely in the spirit of Christ, when he was put to death
. . . . James himself testifies 'Ye have condemned and killed the
just, and he doth not resist you.' So that the Lord can
truthfully own such people as Himself." (B. pp. 25, 26).
If this be true, then it would be untruthful if the Lord owned as
Himself those who fail to display the traits that characterize
Himself; which is only another way of saying that our place in
relation to the Lord is determined by what we are for Him; and
this is of course the exact principle of law, and not grace at
Two alternatives face those who come under the influence of
this teaching. Either they will be a prey to legality, earnestly
endeavouring to reach the state necessary if the truth is to be
ministered to them, - a state which is really only produced by
the Spirit through the very truth which is thus denied them; or
they will relieve their oppressed minds by dropping into the
habit of assuming they are in the state because they are able to
analyse matters, and speak about it with a certain easy
familiarity, and thus they will reduce all these mystical
teachings to the merest theories, quite unrelated to what is
their own real state before God. Either alternative is bad. The
second is the worse of the two.
These publications are full of extravagances of statement, which
have no Scripture support, and are sometimes in opposition to it.
For instance, alluding to John 20, we read:-
"Well, the testimony of resurrection has not gone out yet. .
. . . Do you mean it is not expounded? It may have gone out in
gospel testimony but not to the world. . . . Publicly? . . . . It
is known and enjoyed in the Supper . . . . It is only known to
affection." (C. p. 34).
What can one say to statements such as these ? Simply this: They
are NOT TRUE. The resurrection of Christ was the great theme of
Apostolic testimony to the world as recorded in Acts.
"Quickening is the climax of the work of God." (C.
Is it? Read Ephesians 2: 4-7 and see. According to these verses
God's work lifts us from death in sins to a seat in the
heavenlies in Christ Jesus, and quickening, far from being a
climax, is but the first step upwards. Again:-
"Is your thought that we do not need to wait for the
rapture? . . . My thought was this, that what will be enjoyed on
the morning of the rapture is ours to enjoy in the night of the
Lord's rejection.. I once heard a brother say we could have the
rapture every Lord's Day morning. . . . Is there not just this
difference between the morning meeting and the rapture? The
rapture is like a military call, whereas Eutychus, who was
recovered by an embrace, suggests the state for the Supper?"
(C. pp. 43-46).
Some of our readers who have not followed this kind of
teaching may be puzzled as to what all this really means. We cite
it as an example of that kind of fantastic application of
Scripture which may ultimately lead one almost anywhere. Again:-
"The Supper is the most real thing in the universe
today." (C. p. 57).
If this brother had contented himself with telling us that it was
the most real thing in the world, we should have demurred and
suggested that the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures were at least
as real. When, however, he quits the world and soars forth into
the spacious universe with his sweeping assertion, we simply do
not believe him, and deplore the intemperate character of an
utterance like this, though we recognize it is quite consistent
with his theory. Conscious of the movings of the "inner
light" and untrammelled by any exact interpretations of
Scripture, not exactly governed indeed by ITS statements, such
statements as these are easily accounted for.
We may remark here that as far as we noticed in this book from
which we are now quoting, the Lord's Supper is uniformly printed
with a capital 'S', and Scripture with a small 's'. Is this
intentional? If so, it is significant.
We now cull an extract from a different direction; the chapter
under discussion is 1 Corinthians 15:-
"The burial of Christ clears the ground entirely of the man
who was offensive to God in view of a new beginning for God; He
having in grace taken the place of man according to the flesh. It
reminds you in that way of 2 Samuel 21, where all the bodies of
the offenders had to be buried. . . . . Christ has died
vicariously, and was buried - has submerged the offending man -
'But now is Christ risen from the dead.' It suggests Genesis 6,
'The end of all flesh is come before Me.' All flesh was
submerged. If He was buried, all flesh was removed from before
the sight of God - nothing left of man according to the flesh. .
. . . There is no revival of that kind of man, so 'God giveth it
a body as it hath pleased Him.' It is a question now of
resurrection. . . . . Resurrection involves that what comes up
pleases God. The going down refers to what displeases, hence His
burial is part of His vicarious work, and the coming up is on
account of what He is." (D. pp. 193, 194).
Truth of a very important character is here being dealt with so
that the introduction of details based upon the writer's own
thoughts, and not stated in Scripture, is the more to be
We have only to turn to the Scripture which forms the basis of
these remarks to see that when the death of Christ is mentioned,
its vicarious character is made evident. He died "for our
sins" (v.3). He took them up in His death as our Vicar or
Substitute, but no such thought is attached to His burial. It is
simply "and that He was buried." Nor is such a thought
anywhere in Scripture connected with His burial. Nowhere is His
burial presented as "part of His vicarious work."
But we are said to be "buried with Him" in two passages
(Rom. 6: 4 and Col. 2: 12). Yet notice carefully how it is put.
"Buried with Him by baptism unto death." "Buried
with Him in baptism." In neither case, nor anywhere else,
does it say, "Buried with Him in His burial," as it
would if He were buried vicariously as is taught here. We do
reckon ourselves dead unto sin insomuch as He died to sin. His
death was our death for God and for faith; but then His death was
vicarious. His burial was not vicarious.
We further remark that when Scripture speaks of His death,
which was vicarious, and in which "sin in the flesh"
has been "condemned" (Rom. 8: 3), there is a certain
definiteness about its utterances very unlike the mystical
vagueness of the passage under review.
It is "our old man" that is crucified with Him. (Rom.
In dying "He died unto sin once." (Rom. 6: 10) .
It is "ye" [i.e., believers] who have become dead to
the law by the body of Christ." (Rom.7: 4)
"I am crucified with Christ." (Gal. 2: 20).
"The world is crucified unto me and I unto the world,"
(Gal. 6: 14),
"Ye [i.e., believers] are circumcised . . . . in the
circumcision of Christ." (Col. 2: 11).
Note that these statements are restricted to believers. It does
not say, "the old man," but "our old man,"
has been crucified. If it had said, "the old man," then
it might be maintained that everybody is "dead to the
law," "crucified with Christ," and "crucified
to the world." It would be introducing into this matter the
confusion of thought so frequently found in other circles between
propitiation and substitution when sins are in question. It does
say that "sin in the flesh" has been
"condemned," which involves, of course, the
condemnation of man in the flesh himself, - the condemnation of
the Adamic race. There, however, Scripture stops. To say that man
in the flesh is condemned in the cross of Christ is to state
important truth. To say as we read here, that Christ has
"taken the place of man according to the flesh," is to
say what Scripture does not say, and to open the door to false
inferences. We believers rejoice that Christ has taken our place,
for as a consequence we escape the judgment that belongs to our
place as sinners and get His place. The logical consequence of
Christ taking the place of man after the flesh would be, that man
after the flesh escapes the judgment that belongs to his place,
which is exactly what he does not do. The truth is that he is
condemned, inasmuch as sin is condemned, in the Cross.
One more thing we have to remark on this extract. It completely
ignores the facts on which the doctrine is based, a
characteristic error of mysticism. The doctrines of the gospel
are not mere theorizings, not the building of ideas which have no
foundation in fact. All those great Scriptural doctrines, we have
just quoted, are securely based upon the great FACT of Christ's
death. The doctrine springs out of the fact, and must be tested
by it. If a doctrine is advanced which purports to be based upon
Christ's death, but involving a falsification of His death, or
denying any of its details, then the doctrine stands condemned
ipso facto as false.
Now here is advanced the doctrine that the burial of Christ was
the putting out of sight from before God of what was offensive to
Him. The speaker makes it clear that in his mind Christ only thus
became - or perhaps we should say, His sacred body that was
buried became - offensive to God in a vicarious sense. This is a
statement serious enough, and fundamentally false.
On the cross Christ was "made sin for us, who knew no
sin." (2 Cor. 5: 21). Here the doctrine fits the fact, for
He was, though Himself perfect, treated as sin when He
vicariously stood in our place, and hence He was forsaken of God.
In His burial He was not buried vicariously for us as an
offensive thing even though perfectly holy Himself. This doctrine
does not appear in Scripture for the very simple reason that it
has no basis in FACT. The fact of His burial was that His sacred
body never saw corruption. This important fact is foretold in
Psalm 16, and quoted and enforced in Acts 2: 25-31 & 13:
35-37. Hence in keeping with this, though men appointed His grave
with the wicked and would have laid His body with those of the
two malefactors, God ordered otherwise, and "He was with the
rich in His death" (Isa. 53: 9). Every circumstance
connected with His burial suggests that which is the very
opposite of corruption.
Had corruption touched His body then there would have been a fact
upon which to rest the doctrine that in His burial what was
offensive was submerged, or that the "going down refers to
what displeases." The speaker makes his meaning clear by
referring to the burial by David of the putrid remains of Saul's
sons as recorded in 2 Samuel 21. He treats this as an
illustration of his subject, which "reminds" him of it.
Well, it may remind him "in that way" of the fanciful
doctrine he is enunciating, but it is as far removed from any
resemblance to the facts of Christ's burial as can possibly be.
The whole quotation is a sad illustration of how mysticism can
imperil the most important truth by dealing in imaginative
details which only mix error with it. There is then a double
danger. First that the error will be imbibed by those who
unthinkingly accept all that the teacher in question says, and
hence, even if still holding in the main to what is true, they
have to rest it upon an altogether insecure and imaginary
foundation. Secondly, it may lead others, who do enquire and test
what they read and hear, to reject not only these untenable
ideas, but also important truth which they are used to support.
The fact that man in the flesh is judicially condemned in the
cross of Christ; that consequently he now has no status before
God; and that the last Adam, the second Man, does abide before
God in His risen glory, and that we believers stand in the risen
Christ: - all this is truth of the last importance. How necessary
then to let it stand on its own proper Scriptural foundation, and
not imperil it by these mystical imaginings.
We now give a number of extracts which show that this modern
mysticism deals in unscriptural fashion not only with the work,
but also with the Person of Christ.
"Our Lord Jesus, though really Man, begotten of the Holy
Ghost, born of the divinely-overshadowed vessel, was uncreate,
though He entered His own creation, and His holy humanity had no
link with that of fallen man. As to His spirit, it was Himself -
the Son." (E. p. 172)
"And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour
with God and man. The omission of "in spirit" in verse
40 is important as confirming that His spirit was Himself
personally and could not be spoken of as in our case." (E.
With these words our author launches us into deep waters. It was
during the fourth century that one Apollinarius, in opposing the
Arians, who emphasized Christ's Manhood and denied His Deity,
formed the theory that in Christ the Word (Greek, Logos) took the
place of the rational element in man; or in other words that our
Lord assumed only a human body, and that the Divine nature in Him
took the place of the rational human soul or mind. By this he
hoped to meet the Arian heretics on their own ground, and give a
rational explanation of the otherwise inexplicable mystery of His
Here we have a twentieth-century attempt to solve this great and
precious mystery, and in result it is hardly distinguishable from
the speculations of Apollinarius of the fourth century.
Some of the readers of these words detected the speculative
element, and raised questions as to it; whereupon further
explanation is given, as follows:-
"Every soul that loves Him and bows to scripture would
surely admit that while in becoming flesh He changed His estate
He could not and did not change in any way His personality, and
still more would reject any suggestion that henceforth there
became embodied in Him two personalities. The thought is
abhorrent! Nor would any reverent soul assert that He received,
as we, a created spirit. Yet, HE HIMSELF, THE SON, became and
abides for ever really, actually Man, in all that holy manhood
involves. Having become Man how could His spirit be other than
human though never ceasing to be divine? for He brought into
manhood all that was perfect in manhood according to God. It was
surely as was said, Himself, for passing into death in Luke, He
commends His spirit to His Father. His death was a reality, as
His burial attests." (E. p. 279).
On the same page there is added a footnote, which says:-
"At the same time, to speak of Him having a human spirit
savours of dividing up what scripture does not, and might seem to
imply something added to Him."
At first sight these explanations appear to approximate more
closely to Scripture than the writer's original words. We are
thankful to read that "the Son became and abides for ever
really, actually Man, in all that holy manhood involves,"
since 1 Thessalonians 5: 23 makes it quite certain that holy
manhood involves the "whole spirit and soul and body."
The sentence that follows, though couched in the form of a
question, also has a pleasing sound about it, if read in a casual
way. If, however, we read it with greater care we soon become
conscious that it is strangely ambiguous.
The whole point turns, we must remember, upon a differentiation
between what is Divine and what is human, and no question as to
any other kind of spirit has been imported into the discussion.
The writer asks us how could Christ's spirit "be other than
human though never ceasing to be divine" - i.e., how could
it be other than human though never ceasing to be what is not
human! What strikes us as being really serious is the evident
effort by these ambiguous words to pacify minds that are alarmed,
or at least enquiring, by assuring them that in some obscure or
mystical sense, humanity can be connected with the spirit of our
blessed Lord, while at the same time stoutly maintaining his
theory as to the point in question, viz., that Christ's spirit
was "Himself - the Son" - as shown by the still later
sentence, and also the footnote, as quoted.
What then is the point at issue in these articles? Just this,
did our Lord in becoming Man assume a full and proper humanity,
or only in a modified and imperfect form? Proper humanity
involves spirit and soul and body as we have seen, and of these
the spirit comes first both in importance and in Scriptural
order. If He did not assume spirit as well as soul and body He
clearly was not man in a full and perfect sense.
Our author reasons somewhat as to this matter. He attempts to
render his own theory attractive by setting up, as a repulsive
background, other theories which may be even worse. We too do not
believe that our Lord "changed" His essential
personality, nor that in any sense His incarnation involved the
embodiment of two personalities in Him: still our rejection of
those ideas does not in any way dispose us to accept his
alternative. Nor do we feel inclined to follow his example and
mainly support our assertions by reasonings.
The whole matter is emphatically one which demands not reasoning
but absolute subjection to what is revealed in Scripture, and the
humble confession of ignorance where Scripture is silent.
Does Scripture afford us any light as to the way in which our
blessed Lord was pleased to assume humanity? It certainly does.
Our author has quoted one passage, and drawn a deduction in
favour of his own thoughts from the fact that the words, "in
spirit," in Luke 2: 40, are open to question as some old
manuscripts omit them. As to this, we have only to remark that
verse 52 of the same chapter affirms that "Jesus increased
in wisdom," and it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to
understand these words if He did not assume a human spirit in
becoming man, since wisdom is an attribute of spirit rather than
of soul or body. He was indeed Wisdom incarnate! and if, as our
author affirms, "His spirit was Himself," in what sense
could He grow in wisdom?
His deduction, however, such as it is, is based upon what
possibly should not be in Scripture. Shall we turn for a moment
to what is in Scripture? Our Lord Jesus uses these words,
"My spirit" (Luke 23: 46). "My soul" (Matt.
26: 38). "My body" (Matt. 26: 12), so that there can be
no question that He possessed all three. When however it is said
that though we may understand the third and even the second in an
ordinary sense, we must import an altogether different meaning
into the first, we must search a little further into the Word of
We will cite but three passages. The first occurs in Hebrews 2,
in a passage dealing directly and explicitly with the incarnation
of the Lord. The "children" given to Him of God being
"partakers of flesh and blood He also Himself likewise took
part of the same" (Ver. 14). Two words are used here, the
first being of stronger force than the second. We partake of
flesh and blood, i.e., we have it in common, for it is our
original condition. He "took part" of the same, for
originally He was otherwise and He assumed it, with a view, as
the context shows, to the accomplishment of death and the taking
up of the High Priestly place. Now it is just here that the
Spirit of God has granted us a little light as to what this
taking part of flesh and blood involved, and we have inspired
words which would seem to have been written in view of such
speculations as those we are considering:- "Wherefore in all
things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren"
The words we emphasize are these:- "IN ALL THINGS."
With this before us how can we accept our author's statements?
They may be plausible, and they may offer an explanation of what
is really beyond all explanation, but judged by this Scripture, -
THEY ARE NOT TRUE. If He was made like to His brethren in all
things, - sin apart, as chapter 4 shows - then clearly He was so
not only in body or in soul but in spirit too.
Hebrews 4: 15, corroborates and strengthens the testimony of the
above Scripture. In connection with His qualifications, on the
human side, for the High Priestly office, we read that He
"was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without
sin." Here there is one great exception to the general
statement. He was altogether apart from sin. This one exception
made, however, the statement is all-comprehensive. He was tempted
IN ALL POINTS. Historically the Gospels confirm this. Take for
example Luke's account of the temptation in the wilderness. There
the temptations are presented in ascending order: the first being
addressed especially to the body, the second to the soul, and the
third to the spirit. Indeed we are safe in saying that by far the
fiercest temptations are those which assail the spirit in man.
Our blessed Lord met them all, and triumphed in them all, in
perfect manhood. This blessed truth also is robbed of its glory
by these sad speculations.
We have one more passage to quote, 1 Corinthians 6: 17. "He
that is joined to the Lord is one spirit." The previous
verse shows that it is not exactly the Holy Spirit that is
alluded to here, for the term "one spirit" is in
contrast to "one body," though it is of course by the
Holy Spirit that we are one spirit with the Lord. Adopt the idea
advocated in these extracts and how near one comes to deifying
We may be asked of course how we explain the great wonder of
the incarnation, if we do not accept these explanations, which
have been offered? Our answer is very brief and simple. We do not
explain it at all. We thankfully accept what is revealed, and
desire prayerfully to weigh these revelations that we may arrive
at their meaning and discern what is involved in them, but we
dare not go beyond Scripture and trespass on forbidden ground.
Nor would the writer, we have been examining, have thus
trespassed, we fully believe, had he not been of this mystical
school. Being of it, however, he apparently feels himself
inwardly competent to travel into regions of which Scripture is
The extracts we have considered were taken from publications of
over 30 years ago. We now pass to teachings that were issued more
recently, and which display even worse features. Our quotations
must be of some length in order that the main features of the
teaching may be displayed.
"Luke clearly bases our Lord's sonship on the great divine
transaction of the incarnation. The angel says to Mary, 'The Holy
Spirit shall come upon thee, and power of the Highest overshadow
thee, wherefore the holy thing also which shall be born shall be
called Son of God.' The 'wherefore' links sonship with the
transaction of the Holy Spirit mentioned. Were He Son already,
this could be stated, and the passage would read, 'is Son of
God,' the 'wherefore' being unnecessary. These remarks apply in
measure also to John 1: 14, If the evangelist by the Spirit
wished to teach eternal sonship he could have said, 'He who was
Son became flesh, and so we contemplated Him in this relation
with His Father.' But Scripture contains no such statement."
(H. p. 16).
* * * * *
"The first direct presentation of sonship in John 1 is in
verse 18. . . . Verse 18 tells of the position of the
Only-begotten Son as declaring God. It is a position reached as
indicated by the preposition 'in' (the Greek, as is well-known,
meaning 'direction towards, motion to, on, or into,' etc., etc. -
Liddell and Scott) . . . . Some would remove this important
evidence against so-called eternal sonship by saying that this
preposition has not its ordinary meaning here. But why not? If we
bear in mind that in becoming flesh, Christ came under God's eye,
not only as His equal in Deity, but as Man, expressing all
loveliness, moral and personal, answering to eternal desire and
purpose, it is quite intelligible that the Spirit would convey
this in indicating, by the preposition He employs, that the Lord
had come into the bosom of the Father." (H. p. 17),
* * * * *
"In the light of these considerations, with many others that
could be mentioned, there cannot be a doubt in a subject mind
that the sonship of our Lord is contingent on His
* * * * *
"There is nothing in the Scripture here [John 5] to show the
preincarnate sonship of Christ. The chapter teaches the personal
equality of the Son with the Father, but also that, in sonship,
He has taken a place of inferiority in subjection to the
Father." (I. p. 3).
* * * * *
"Scripture teaches, as has been variously pointed out in
recent years, that while His Person remains unchanged, the
sonship of our Lord denotes subjection, and thus does not rightly
apply to Him viewed in preincarnate Deity, when He was eternally
in the form of God, which cannot imply subjection." (I. p.
* * * * *
"It may seem pious to attach names to Him as in absolute
Deity, but we cannot go beyond what is revealed. No true lover of
Christ will go beyond that. It may be done in ignorance, it has
been done in ignorance for centuries, but if the Spirit of God
challenges us as to it, and we disregard the challenge, it is
very serious . . . . So if there is a showing, a calling
attention to a thing by the Spirit, we can no longer plead
ignorance." (J. pp. 5, 6, 7)
* * * * *
"The designation 'The Word,' as characterizing One who
expressed the mind of God, obviously applies primarily to Christ
as Man, and hence precludes its application to Him as a title in
pre-incarnate Deity in the past." (J. p.7)
The author of these extracts has revived a false and heretical
idea, which in the past has afflicted the church. He clearly
asserts the Deity of Christ; indeed he advances this theory as to
His non-eternal Sonship because he supposes that to assert His
eternal Sonship would logically lead to a weakening of His Deity.
On the contrary we affirm that the denial of His eternal Sonship
will weaken the hold of believers upon His full and proper Deity,
and be likely eventually to lead to its abandonment. The present
generation, who imbibe this teaching, may hold to it; but what
about another generation, who may be found here - if our Lord
comes not - half a century later?
Our affirmation may seem severe. But we make it for this reason:
God has revealed Himself in a variety of ways through the ages,
but only in these last days, when He has spoken to us "in
Son," has He been revealed in Trinity. The Old Testament
gives indications of three Persons in the Godhead, by using the
word for God, Elohim, which is in the plural. Indications, yes;
but no revelation. In the New Testament the Trinity stands fully
revealed, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and ONLY thus.
Frequently we hear and read about the First, Second and Third
Persons of the Trinity, but they have never revealed Themselves
to us thus, and the use of such terms is decidedly open to
So the bare fact is this: if the One commonly spoken of as the
First Person only became the "Father," and the Second
Person only became the "Son," by reason of the
incarnation and the virgin birth, we have no real revelation at
all. In that case, in Father, Son and Spirit, we should only have
the knowledge of various parts assumed by the Divine Persons; of
what They were pleased to become, not what They really are. If we
have no Eternal Father and no Eternal Son, and no Eternal Spirit,
then the revelation of the Trinity is largely shorn of its glory.
What we had believed to be a glorious and all-illuminating Sun,
becomes pale and nebulous, and likely to be ignored in fifty
To put the matter in another way - if you tamper with the ONLY
revelation we have of God in Trinity, you can only maintain the
thought of the Trinity by substituting some other description,
which is the fruit of human thinking and not of Divine
revelation, or by claiming, as our author seems to do, that God,
as He really is, is not only inscrutable but unrevealable; which
means, we do not really know God at all.
These are preliminary remarks. Let us now scrutinize the above
extracts, and we shall see that the denial of our Lord's eternal
Sonship is based upon human reasoning to the effect that sonship
must of necessity signify subjection and even inferiority. That
reasoning being accepted as beyond question, every passage, that
on the surface seems to state or imply eternity of Sonship, must
be explained away.
It is worthy of note that the ancient Arian heresy, and its
modern revival under "Pastor" Russell and Judge
Rutherford and "Jehovah's Witnesses," had and has a
similar basis of reasoning. They avoid the supposed difficulty by
an even worse explanation: that the Son is not properly God, but
the first of all God's creatures, and the Creator of all else
beneath Him. Our simple statement is that neither this theory nor
that of our author is needed, for the difficulty lies only in
their false reasoning.
It has been remarked that truth as to unknown objects may reach
us either by resemblance or by analogies. Now man was originally
made in the likeness of God, but this likeness has been sadly
marred by the fall, and the true knowledge of God lost. As a
consequence men have groped after God and sought to attain some
knowledge of Him by resemblances or likenesses, and that to their
undoing. Hence we are warned against the attempt to liken God to
anything in such Scriptures as Isaiah 40: 18, 25; 46: 5-7. On the
other hand, the names "Father" and "Son," as
applied to the Godhead, are used in an analogical way; that is,
their meaning would have been lost upon us had we not known
something of the analogy of fatherhood and sonship in
relationships of this life.
But every analogy has limits which must not be exceeded. To
reason back from the human to the Divine, so as to impose upon
the Godhead limitations, which govern the human, is a gross
fallacy; a piece of false reasoning which vitiates the teaching
we have before us.
It is asserted that, "the sonship of our Lord denotes
subjection" and again that, "in Sonship, He has taken a
place of inferiority in subjection to the Father." It is
true of course that, coming into the world, the Son took a
subject place. But why attribute that subjection to His Sonship?
Amongst men a son is subject until he becomes of age; but even
so, it is quite incorrect to state that a father, as such, exists
before his son. The relations are correlative and simultaneous,
and the one cannot be either without or antecedent to the other,
though the individual, who becomes a father, is antecedent to his
Among men not infrequently a son turns out to be superior in mind
and action to his father. We are safe in saying that sonship does
not imply inferiority of fact and nature, but on the contrary
equality and identity of nature. Even if it did, we should have
to point out that the reality in the Godhead is far greater than
that which is used as an analogy, and not to be circumscribed by
it. Thus " King " is used of God, not because He is
just like a human sovereign, but because He has the original
Pattern of infinite and eternal royalty. Thus the relation of
"Father" and "Son" in the Godhead form the
original Pattern of such fatherhood and sonship as exist among
We have endeavoured to point out the fallacies underlying this
reasoning, but now let us emphasize that which is far more
weighty than any reasoning. We read in John 5: 18, that by the
very fact that Jesus said that God was His Father, He was
"making Himself equal with God." Doubtless the Jews
said this of Him, and wished to kill Him for it, but in this
verse it is not stated as an utterance of the Jews, but as a
statement of the Evangelist. It is not the Evangelist recording
what they said, whether right or wrong, but stating an historic
fact, and giving an inspired comment upon it. If a man was stoned
for picking up sticks on the Sabbath, it was certainly breaking
the Sabbath to command a man to pick up and carry his bed. This
the Lord deliberately did. And the assertion that God was His
Father was an assertion of equality and not of inferiority, as
claimed in these extracts. One word of Scripture is more weighty
than any amount of argument.
In the above extracts Luke 1: 35 is fastened upon as giving us
the true and complete explanation of the Sonship of our Lord. But
it is argued that the "wherefore" (in the A.V. it is
"therefore") links sonship with the action of the Holy
Spirit there mentioned, and that had He been Son already the
"wherefore" would have been omitted, and it would
simply have stated that He is Son of God. But notice, first, that
there was also the overshadowing of "the power of the
Highest;" and second, that it is "that holy thing which
shall be born" that is to be called Son of God. The august
Name is attached to "that holy thing" born of the
Virgin. Because of the marvellous miracle of the virgin birth the
designation Son of God belongs to Him even in His physical
manhood. This we all gladly confess. It is the effort to tie down
the name, "Son of God," to this; to evacuate it of all
meaning save this, that we strenuously resist. This also applies
to such a Scripture as Psalm 2: 7.
Then John 1: 14 & 18 are referred to, and as to the former
verse it is contended that if the Spirit had wished to teach
eternal Sonship it could have read, "He who was Son became
flesh, etc." It is then asserted that Scripture contains no
Is this true? Is there no such statement in Scripture as that
"He who was Son became flesh"? We ask our readers to
turn to Romans 1: 3. Read it in the A.V. or in Darby's New
Translation - as quoted from in these extracts - for the sense in
both is the same, to the effect that "according to the
flesh" or, as we often say, by incarnation, God's Son was
made [or came of] David's seed. Here is the exact truth, which,
it is asserted, Scripture does not contain. Not in the exact
words chosen by the speaker in the extracts, it is true; but in
the very words chosen by the Holy Spirit, which are much better.
That the Son of God by incarnation became Son of David is truth
Divinely stated. That a Person in the Godhead, who cannot be
named or described, became by incarnation the Son of God, is
simply human imagination and, what is worse, very serious error
of a most fundamental nature.
Notice further that it is denied that "The Word"
applies to Christ "as a title in pre-incarnate Deity in the
past." So we must not speak of Him as the Eternal Word; and
that in spite of what is written in John 1: 1, 2 & 14. To our
minds it seems perfectly plain that the Word, who was God, and
was with God in the beginning, became flesh and dwelt among us.
There is what He was, and what He became; and "The
Word" is what He ever was, and "flesh" what He
became. The statements are quite definite. Can they be avoided?
Yes, this denier of our Lord's eternal Sonship endeavours to
avoid them. It is said that "The Word" is just a title
by which the Lord Jesus became known among the early believers.
He argues that it was given to Him, or assumed by Him, in
becoming flesh, just as the title "king" is assumed
when a man takes an earthly throne. It is argued that if we say,
for instance, "When the king was a child . . . ," we do
not necessarily mean that he was king when he was a child. So
when Scripture says "In the beginning was the Word . . .
," we need not understand it to mean that He was the Word
then; only that He whom we now know as the Word existed then,
though unnamed and in a condition inscrutable to us.
Thus the plain force of these inspired words is explained away
and an exactly opposite meaning foisted upon them. The same
argument can be applied moreover in other directions. Take, for
instance, Romans 1: 3, which we have already referred to.
"Son of God" is what He was: "Son of David"
what He became. These mystics would reply, Yes, but Son of God is
only a title that He acquired in Manhood, and used after this
fashion without meaning that He really was Son of God before He
became Son of David. In the extracts quoted it is suggested that,
if the Spirit by the evangelist had wished to teach eternal
Sonship He could have said, "He, who was Son, became flesh .
. ." But supposing He had said this, what would have
prevented the author of this error saying, Yes, but since Son is
a title He acquired in Manhood, this only means that He, whom we
now know to have become the Son, was made flesh?
There would have been nothing to prevent this. This subtle and
dangerous argument could be used in many directions if it suited
anyone's purpose to do so, and a Scripture, expressly forbidding
the argument, would be needed; and even that might not suffice,
for an argument might be discovered to nullify the prohibition.
Now it is not God's way to hedge about His plain declarations
with clauses forbidding all possible misunderstandings. Alas!
there have always been teachers, "handling the word of God
deceitfully" (2 Cor. 4: 2); a very solemn consideration.
There are a few more points to notice: John 1: 18, for instance.
If our Lord only became the Son in incarnation, it was only then
that God became the Father. Hence the statement that being,
"in the bosom of the Father," indicated "a
position reached," and hence also the reasoning as to the
preposition translated "in." The point as to the
preposition is purely a matter of translation which must be left
in the hands of really competent scholars. The Liddell and Scott
lexicon deals with classical Greek, whereas the New Testament is
written in Hellenistic Greek, the language of Greek-speaking Jews
and the common people, the speech of the market place. Competent
translators agree with what we have in our Authorised Version.
The force of the preposition, we are told, is governed by the
It is not what our Lord became but what He abidingly is.
"Timeless duration," is the phrase used by an undoubted
Greek scholar. Moreover, it is not correct to speak of the
Father's bosom as a "position." God the Father is a
Spirit, and though corporeal expressions are used as to Him, the
words have a spiritual import. John 1: 18 signifies that the
only-begotten Son dwelt from all eternity in the full affections
of the Father, was the Sharer of every thought and purpose of His
heart, and hence was wholly competent to make Him known. He ever
was in the Father's bosom; He was in it while serving in Manhood
on earth; He is in it in His glorified Manhood today, and will be
in it for ever.
One word as to John 1: 14. The expression "Only-begotten of
the Father," and His "glory," coming in
parenthetically, only enhance the wonder and fulness of all that
was found in the Word become flesh. Now if
"Only-begotten" only referred to His incarnation, it
would be no enhancement of His glory, but rather the sign of His
humiliation, and simply a reiteration of what had just been
stated as to the Word becoming flesh. This is the first usage of
the term, "Only-begotten," and it shows its
significance as setting forth His supreme and infinite greatness
in the Deity.
The doctrine that distinguishes the Gospel of John is the Deity
of Jesus, coupled with the fact that in assuming Manhood He has
taken the subject place. The Gospel was written that we
"might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God
" (John 20: 31) - "Son of God" being, as we saw in
the fifth chapter, an assertion that He was equal with God, and
therefore God. If He only became Son of God by reason of the
virgin birth it is almost unthinkable that this Gospel, if
written to convince that He did become the Son of God, should not
mention the virgin birth.
A similar remark may be made as to Matthew 16: 16, 17. The
recognition of Him as "Son of the living God," is not
to be reached by "flesh and blood," though that was
what He took by the virgin birth. It is reached only by Divine
revelation, since that great Name connotes Deity and not
In this denial of the eternal Sonship, there appears to be an
element, if not of unreality, at any rate of strange
inconsistency. The denial was first uttered in 1929 and a few
years after the "Little Flock" Hymnbook was again
revised, so that all allusions to the eternal Sonship might be
eliminated from it. We open a copy of this revised edition, and
we find that the very first line of the first hymn is the
"Eternal King of those who reign,"
which is, "Eternal King of kings" slightly paraphrased,
a phrase that we do not find in Scripture. We read of God as
"the King eternal" (1 Tim. 1: 17), but if we speak with
care how can we attach eternity to the title, "King of
kings"? For a title it is, assumed when kings had come into
the realm of creation.
If it could be shown that kings have existed from eternity then
the first line of the hymnbook might be accepted as correct. The
Person, who is "King of kings," is indeed eternal, but
the title is one which clearly has reference to time when kings
existed, so that as to it we can rightly apply the argument,
which he wrongly applies to His sacred name, Son of God.
It strikes us as most extraordinary that a man, who put forth his
denial of eternal Sonship as being new light shown by the Spirit,
should sanction such an inconsistency in the very first line of
the hymnbook so meticulously purged of what they considered to be
a wrongful use of the adjective, eternal, as referring to the
Son. His "light" must indeed have turned to darkness
when he sanctioned this.
We close our remarks on this subject by saying that
"Son" is not a title but a name, as Matthew 28: 19
shows. In that verse "name" is in the singular, and
"Son" is a component part of that one great Name,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The Name Son is of most illustrious
renown. The incarnation was an act of infinite condescension. To
teach that His place of subjection is consequent upon His
becoming the Son is false teaching of the gravest kind. The truth
is that in becoming MAN He took the subject place, since
subjection is of the very essence of perfection in man. He was
made "a little lower than the angels," not by becoming
the Son, but by becoming Man, and that was, as another has said,
"the assumption of a rank in the scale of being
inconceivably more remote from His original glory, than is that
of the meanest reptile from the loftiest angelic
intelligence." It is incongruous to the highest degree that
so immense a stoop should originate a Name of most august import.
No! From eternity to eternity, He is the SON.
We now turn to another matter. Years after the launching of this
attack on our Lord's Sonship, there were reiterated teachings, as
might have been expected, which challenged the full completion on
the cross of His expiatory work.
Commenting on Genesis 3: 19:-
"The Lord had to go into the grave and enter into the full
extent of God's judgment on man. It is important to keep the
grave in mind as part of the vicarious sufferings of Christ in
connection with the judgment of God."
"I believe this type is to impress upon us how real the
Lord's death and burial were as atoning suffering." (K. p.
We have already given an extract in which this false idea
occurred years ago, but this reaffirms it in a more definite way.
To refute this false teaching, it will be quite sufficient to
quote the Lord's own words, uttered upon the cross a moment
before He delivered up His spirit "It is finished." In
claiming that burial and the grave were part of His atoning work,
and so that work was not finished as He died, the speaker commits
himself to a contradiction of our Lord's own words.
Again passing over some years we come to such extracts concerning
the Holy Spirit as the following:-
"So I come now to the finish; that is, to this matter of
singing in the wilderness at a certain time. It is a continuation
of what began in Exodus, 'Then sang Israel this song, Spring up,
O well, sing ye unto it.' The 'it' is something - the well - and
the well is a type of the Spirit, no less than that, and the
Spirit is in mind, in that sense in our song. He is a divine
Person, and He is worthy of our acclamation in that sense."
(F. p. 234).
* * * * *
"In dealing with the service of God and having part in it,
we are to have discernment, to have intelligence in it, so that
we know how to speak to God, to speak to Christ, to speak of the
Spirit, and even to speak to the Spirit, although it is very rare
in the Scriptures it is right, because Numbers 21: 17 says, 'Sing
unto it.' 'Rise up well! sing unto it.' The 'it' is an allusion
typically to the Spirit. Therefore, as knowing these things, we
know how to speak to the Father, know when to speak to Him, and
we know when to speak to the Son and how to speak to Him, and so
we may speak to the Spirit as a divine Person, equal with the
Father and the Son." (L. p. 253).
* * * * *
"The Lord is calling attention to the Holy Spirit in
faithful and devoted service, for the end is near, and the Spirit
has in mind that the assembly should go along with Him as Rebecca
went with the servant. It was a question of committing herself to
the servant . . . . and as she did so the servant took her on,
and I am sure if we will, in our minds and hearts, commit
ourselves to what the Lord is raising at the present time the
Spirit will help us. . . . . It is all a question of
sensitiveness and spirituality, and for that we need to do what
Paul did, 'I bow my knees to the Father,' he says. It was no
casual prayer but real genuine exercise, because the matter was
so urgent. If we go on these lines we shall find the Spirit will
serve us, and we shall be drawn out in our affections to Him, and
as moving forward we shall find liberty and power to address Him.
It is there in the Scriptures." (M. for May, 1949).
* * * * *
"Many things may seem new to us, but as the Lord is in what
is being said as to the personality of the Holy Spirit, as the
Spirit is in it, we may be sure that confirmation will come, and
if we are adjusted by the truth we shall be found in the current
of it, so that our words will, in fact, become the word of God
for the moment." (M. for July, 1949).
What is here advocated is not new, for in the prayers of
Christendom and in some of its hymns, the Holy Spirit has been
invoked. Christians, however, who have been observant of the way
Divine Persons are presented in Scripture, and of Their
respective functions, have always refrained from addressing the
Spirit. They have recognized that He is presented as the great
subjective Worker in us, rather than the objective Person set
We recognize that He dwells in the church as well as in the
individual believer: that in the church He is sovereign in His
manifestations and actions, according to 1 Corinthians 12 &
14. In both these chapters the Spirit is presented as operating
in the various members of the body, but not as the One addressed
by the members. So also in Philippians 3: 3, where the better
reading is that we "worship by the Spirit of God."
Uniformly in the New Testament we find the Holy Spirit presented
as the Power by which we worship and serve, and that as regards
both the Father and the Son, but not as Himself the Object of
worship or service or prayer.
In these extracts an attempt is made to support this wrong idea
by referring to the incidents of Genesis 24 and Numbers 21. We
quite believe that in both these Scriptures we have types of the
Spirit and His service, but the deductions made from these types
are unwarranted and far-fetched and destructive of the way the
Spirit comes before us in the full light of the New Testament.
Any direct Scripture support for this idea is not to be found,
and there is another display of that, which we saw much earlier
in this pamphlet, a subtle belittling of Scripture in favour of
the impressions of "spiritual men." We are to find
liberty and power to address the Spirit since, it is claimed, it
is all there in the Scriptures concerning Rebecca and the
servant; but even so, "it is all a question of sensitiveness
Scripture is not entirely dispensed with, but the main emphasis
is laid on "sensitiveness and spirituality," or, what
the speaker considers to be such. It comes to this: that if we
are spiritually sensitive we shall accept the teaching, and to
refuse it merely displays spiritual insensitiveness. Scripture is
relegated to the background in order that mystical impressions
may occupy the foreground.
The last extract of the four goes even further. The Spirit is
assumed to be in the teaching in question, and confirmation of
the teaching is expected, evidently by "spiritual
sensitiveness" rather than from the Scriptures. In result,
the words of those, who accept the teaching, will become
"the word of God for the moment." So apparently the
words of those who accept and propound the teaching are to be
regarded as on a par with the Holy Writings which have been given
by inspiration of God.
This kind of talk is false and serious beyond anything that we
can say. It comes dangerously near to that adding to the Divine
words that is strongly denounced in Revelation 22: 18.
Another recent sample of how Scripture is contradicted is the
"This dispensation is maintained by priesthood: The system
as we spoke of it, for it is a system, is maintained by Christ in
heaven. He is High Priest above, High Priest after the order of
Melchizedek, which denotes that He is a divine Person. On the
other hand, the system is maintained by the Holy Spirit here on
earth. . . . So that we may count on the maintenance of the
system until the end of the dispensation . . . . in the types, we
have allusions to Christ ceasing to be High Priest. 'The death of
the high priest which was anointed with the holy oil' is referred
to in Numbers 35. That is, a certain thing happens; it is the
termination of something. That would be so in the type, which
refers to the ordinary high priest in Israel, but now we are
speaking of Christ; not that He dies. He has died for sin once,
but now He lives for ever. The figure just means that He ceases
to be Priest." (G. p. 251).
It has long been recognized that the death of the high priest in
Israel, indicating a change in the priesthood, had a typical
significance. When it occurred in the case of the manslayer (Num.
35: 25) he was free and could safely leave the city of refuge. So
it will be for those "who have fled for refuge to lay hold
upon the hope set before us" (Heb. 6: 18). When Christ comes
forth from the heavenly sanctuary at His second advent He will
take on the full Melchisedec character and cease functioning
after the pattern of Aaron.
But though acting at present after the pattern of Aaron, as the
Epistle to the Hebrews shows, He never was of the order of Aaron,
which order is done away. He has been from the outset,
"called of God an High Priest after the order of
Melchisedec." Now the original mandate from the lips of
Jehovah ran thus: "Thou art a Priest for ever after the
order of Melchizedek" (Psa. 110: 4). If Jehovah has said
"a Priest FOR EVER," how solemn the responsibility of
the man who says, "He ceases to be Priest."
This is another example, and a glaring one, of how these mystical
teachers elevate their "spiritual sensibilities" and
"impressions," lowering thereby the Word of God to the
point of contradicting it.
Yet remarkably enough, the speaker from whom we have just quoted,
and from whom we have quoted a good deal, recently committed
himself to this:-
"I would here warn against novelties. I am ashamed and
alarmed at the novelties that are put out in readings and private
conversations without any effort to support them by
Scripture." (M. for July, 1946).
This is a most remarkable utterance, and that for two reasons.
First, because the speaker is known in the circles that follow
him as the great purveyor of what they deem to be "new
light," in other words, he has himself originated more of
"the novelties that are put out in readings" than any
other person. We are left wondering why he should now be ashamed
and alarmed about any such thing, unless it be that having helped
to set the fashion, he now wishes to curb his followers, who are
outdoing him in this line of things. We have long been ashamed
and alarmed at the novelties that have appeared in his printed
remarks, and even more so at the errors into which they have led
him. We could wish that there were some sign of repentance as to
what he himself has put out.
Second, the last clause strikes us as inferring that attitude to
the Holy Scriptures that we have been resisting. He is troubled
because those who are guilty of propounding these novelties make
no attempt to support them from Scripture. If that really be so,
his followers go further than he in their disregard for the Word
of God. But has it been a satisfactory proceeding when, after
putting out some novelty, the speaker has made an effort to
support it from Scripture? It has only led to "handling the
Word of God deceitfully," such as is reprobated in 2
Corinthians 4: 2.
We have glanced at a small amount of the printed matter put out
by this mystical school, and what have we found? Novel teachings
are put out, which overthrow what has previously been taught as
the Word of God - and the more they bear this character, the more
eagerly they seem to be welcomed - and then Scripture is searched
in the vain effort to find something to support them. That
something is usually thought to be found as fancy and reasoning
come into play. Is this the way we should handle the Word of God?
Are we to expound our "spiritual impressions," and then
twist Scripture to support them? Our answer to this question is
an emphatic - NO.
We take as ours the words of the Psalmist, and say, "How
precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God!" (Psalm 139:
17). They are infinitely preferable to our thoughts - even our
spiritual ones - and they are enshrined for us in the Holy
Scriptures. Hence that great closing word from the Apostle Paul,
"all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is
profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect
throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3: 15-17).
If we want teaching or need correction or instruction in
righteousness, to the Holy Writings we go, and there we get it.
To put out our thoughts, and then search Scripture in the effort
to support them, is a certain road into error and false teaching.
The road that leads to truth is that of having our thoughts
formed by the Word of God, while distrusting our own.
We refrain from making further quotations, though they might be
greatly multiplied. We have given ample to show the tendencies
and errors of this school of opinion. Their whole treatment of
Scripture shows that they scan it through glasses set at a
peculiar focus of their own. Anyone who has aimed at adjusting
his own thoughts by the Scriptures and thus, thinking God's
thoughts after Him, to have his own focal point set by the Word
of God, may well be puzzled at first by many of the things we
have quoted. This is because all their utterances are based upon
a reading of Scripture through glasses set at the
"subjective" focus, which makes all indefinite and hazy
and mysterious, and many details positively wrong.
After all the Word of God did not come out from us. It came unto
us only. Hence the really spiritual man neither originates nor
authenticates anything. He acknowledges that the Scriptures are
of binding importance as the commandments of the Lord. (See 1
Corinthians 14: 36, 37) This, we repeat, is the real spiritual
man according to Scripture. He absolutely bows to Scripture. How
different to the "spiritual man" of modern mysticism as
revealed in these writings.
A Brief Survey of the Teaching as a Whole, and of the Positive Testimony of the WORD OF GOD
Before closing we invite the reader to take a broad and
general survey of the field we have been traversing, so that we
may end with some definite impression of what is at stake, and of
what is truth as contrasted with mere imagination.
We observe that this teaching is nothing if not systematic. It is
in fact a highly elaborated system, which true to the very nature
of mysticism, keeps the thoughts of its votaries continually
revolving around themselves. At first sight all seems very novel
and original, but on closer inspection we find that the element
of novelty mainly lies in the language, and that the underlying
thoughts have very little originality about them. It is equally
true to say that the spirit which breathes through both thoughts
and language is that which is always found when systems or
schools of opinion are founded. Alas! that men who have had as
their birth-right so choice a setting forth of the full-orbed
truth of God should have descended to this unbalanced and
sectarian setting forth of one segment of the whole.
We do not write thus without some reason. As showing this, we
append some extracts, all of which were written years ago before
this particular school sprang into being. Each extract is from
the pen of one whose words are of great weight - the late J. N.
"The mystic never has rest, because he vainly seeks in man
what he ought to seek in God, who had accomplished all before he
ever thought about it. . . . . This is why the imagination plays
so great a part in mysticism, and Satan can so often deceive by
it, because the imagination and the heart of man are called into
play. I do not say that spiritual affections are never there: . .
. . but you will find him after all, occupied with the affections
and not with God Himself. It is the chief defect of mysticism. In
a word, I see it in an effort of the human heart, trying to
produce in itself something strong enough in the way of affection
to satisfy a heart awakened by the excellence of its object. .
Again in writing of a very definite perversion of truth which in
his day he had to encounter, he says:-
"This is one of the sad circumstances, as it strikes me, . .
. . important truths dealt with in so rash and daring a manner
and the authority of the teacher leant upon for them, and his
wildest notions put upon the level of certainty with
justification by faith; so that were his authority once shaken
there would be danger that no one would know what was certain. It
would be scepticism as to everything. So I have seen it with
Roman Catholics. . . . I may add from my own experience that most
decided legalism took the place of Christ and grace. . . . As to
the teaching I heard . . . the one undeviating object seemed to
be to teach differently from what brethren had taught . . . . As
at --- they treated what wonderfully blessed new light they had
got as to their church position, so here it was taught that, as
the brethren had first learnt brotherly unity and fellowship now
they had been, as fresh instruction, led to church order. This
church order was the authority of the teachers. . . . This came
to such a pitch in these quarters that one brother, on these
points being mooted, having urged that after all the Bereans were
more noble than those of Thessalonica, because they searched the
Scriptures whether these things were so, he was answered by a
young, and, as far as I know, very nice-hearted young man, who
was associated in the ministry there, that it was Jews searching
Jewish Scriptures, but that, now that God had raised up teachers
and given gifts, all that was changed, and they must listen to
the teachers . . . . "
At different times and in different connections, he also penned
"There are things which we enjoy by experience which are not
acquired by experience; every sealed believer is in Christ before
God, and his place is to know it (John 14), but there are those
who do not through imperfect teaching. . . . We take the place by
faith (beyond Jordan), but when taken we realize being in it by
the Holy Ghost; and this is experience. It is not based on
experience or progress in it. We are in it if in Christ."
"Christianity depends in its work on what it brings, not on
what it finds; our side and relationship to God by it, wholly on
what we find, not on what we bring. In a word, it is grace, not
man, though he be formed and led by it. Thank God it is."
"Universal consent is another form of the substitution of
man's authority for the Word of God, and the teaching of the
Spirit of God in and by the word, and the responsibility of each
saint to receive that word by such teaching; which alone
constitutes faith. . . . It is the judgment of men, be they ever
so many, and not the direct responsibility of the soul to God in
receiving the word; nor the direct operation of the Spirit of God
on the soul in respect of the word, which alone produces divine
faith. It is faith in men. . . . For the mass of saints it must
result in faith in the statements of the teacher, which is not
faith in God at all. It will always be connected with receiving
from teachers what they teach because God has raised them up . .
"If ministry is real it brings God directly to the
conscience through the Word, whereas that which is false stands
between God and the conscience."
These quotations bear as directly upon the points at issue as
though they had been written today, and we ask the reader
thoughtfully to consider them.
We believe that one of the worst features of the system of
teaching we have been reviewing is its tendency to bring in man
whether as a teacher or a "priest" between the
conscience of the "ordinary believer" and the Lord,
instead of bringing God directly to the conscience. It does
indeed put man and ministry between God and the conscience. In a
word, the whole system is, in effect, we judge, a highly
elaborate, though perhaps unconscious effort, to divert saints
from "holding the Head." (Col. 2: 18).
We now turn aside from the consideration of these teachings, for
the review of what is unscriptural is more or less negative, and
in conclusion we briefly summarize the positive testimony of the
Word of God.
Take, for instance, the Epistle to the Romans. The order is first
the objective setting forth of what God is, and has done for us
in Christ; then second that which is to be wrought in us
experimentally by the Spirit by way of response. Later in the
Epistle (chapter 12), we find exhortation, to the end that the
saints may be stirred and moved towards the fulfilment, in their
own cases, of all that which God purposes for them subjectively.
To what does the Apostle appeal? What is the lever calculated to
produce such mighty results? "I beseech you therefore,
brethren," he says, "by the mercies of God." All
that which God is objectively towards us is the lever, not what
we may be subjectively towards Him.
Do we therefore belittle the work of the Spirit of God carried on
progressively in the hearts of the saints? By no means. We
believe it to be a very important part of truth, and one of the
great objects of all true ministry, but at the same time we
recognize that it is clearly the complement to truth that is
In 1 Corinthians 2 we find that there are the things of God,
which no man knows, "but the Spirit of God," -
"things that are freely given to us of God." The Spirit
Himself is given to us, "that we may know the things that
are freely given to us of God." These wondrous things are
given. They are ours, blessed be God! And we are to know them,
not intellectually merely, but in spiritual power and enjoyment
by the Spirit of God.
The same presentation of truth meets us in Galatians 4: 6, 7.
"Ye are sons," said the Apostle, thus setting forth the
great objective fact, and he added, for that very reason,
"God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts,
crying Abba, Father." The Spirit gives not the relationship,
but the conscious response to the relationship. The Galatians had
made but little progress subjectively. Indeed they had as a whole
slipped back into legalism, and were "fallen from
grace." Still the Apostle does not hesitate to apply to
their hearts objective truth, and that twice over, saying not
only, "ye are sons," but also, "Wherefore thou art
no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God
through Christ." (Gal. 4: 7).
We pass from Galatians to Ephesians, and though a far more
exalted presentation of truth meets us here, yet we find the same
order; it is first, the calling of God, a thing wholly above and
outside of us; second, we find that we are to have the eyes of
our understanding enlightened, that we may know what is the hope
of His calling.
Lastly, we refer to the closing epistles - 2 Timothy; 2 Peter;
and 1 John. In each the last days are contemplated, and we are
confronted with just the same feature.
The Apostle Paul, in writing to Timothy, was addressing one who
beyond all contradiction was a "spiritual man." The
whole purpose of the Epistle is to lift the thoughts of Timothy
from himself to God's "purpose and grace, which was given us
in Christ Jesus before the world began;" by which purpose
and grace we have been saved and called with an holy calling.
That which is irrevocably and eternally established "in
Christ Jesus" characterizes the whole Epistle, as does also
the value of the God-breathed Scriptures. We may well speak of
"The impregnable rock of Holy Scripture." There is
nothing impregnable nor rock-like about the conceptions and
impressions of the "spiritual men," about whom we have
heard so much.
The Apostle Peter begins his second Epistle by referring to that
which has been bestowed upon us by God and by our Saviour Jesus
Christ. We "have obtained . . . precious faith." By His
Divine power there have been given unto us "all things that
pertain unto life and godliness;" and also "exceeding
great and precious promises." Here are glorious objective
facts, and upon that basis we are exhorted to the development of
a suited subjective state: to "add" to our faith
virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly
kindness, charity. Peter's ministry was a pastoral one, and he
closes by reminding us that the state and behaviour proper to the
faith of Christ is only produced in the power of those great
realities which the grace of God has bestowed.
The Apostle John from another standpoint witnesses to the same
truth. For him everything hinges upon the revelation that has
reached us from the beginning--from the incarnation of the Son of
God. Then the Father was revealed; then the life was manifested.
The manifestation was in a Person so objectively revealed that He
could be heard, seen and handled. Everything is to be tested by
that. The thing is now to be "true" not only "in
Him," but in us also (2: 8). The life in absolute fulness is
in Him: in us it is for the present modified by the fact that
still we have the flesh in us. But to tamper with that which came
out in its fulness in Him from the beginning is the spirit of
antichrist, as chapter 2 shows. In the Epistle there are many
references to what "we know." Yet the closing word is
to present the only One, who is the great Object for our hearts -
"This is the true God, and eternal life."
No wonder the Apostle's closing word is "Children, keep
yourselves from idols." An idol is anything that would
dethrone Christ in our hearts. Let us beware lest we make an idol
of a "spiritual man."
Many other Scriptures might be adduced. What is really needed is
to avoid making one's subjective impressions any kind of a
standard, to cease imputing to them any kind of authority. If we
have Divinely-given impressions well and good; let us be
thankful. Let us remember, however, that Scripture alone is the
infallible standard, and consequently that it alone will enable
us to test our impressions and determine whether they really
proceed from the Spirit of God, or whether they are but the fruit
of mere mentality.
May the Lord be pleased to own this small effort to contend for
the simplicity of the faith. We close with the following words of
another well-known servant of God:-
"Occupation with our state will never bring us one whit
nearer the Lord; it will only distress, enfeeble and enslave our
souls. Occupation with Christ will produce every moment
increasing conformity to His image. The true remedy therefore for
a bad state is Christ so completely filling our vision, Christ in
what He is and in what He has done, that self cannot be seen in
the light of His glory. State is not everything, but CHRIST IS
EVERYTHING: and in proportion as we learn this lesson will our
state meet His mind."