Are the Newman Street Teachers (Catholic Apostolic) Sent of God? 6

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WE have already seen that the promise of the baptism by which the ministry was to be rendered so effectual (the period of which had already commenced) failed; but this is not the point I dwell on now. Considerably the greater part of the three years and a half of spiritual ministry are now elapsed; and the baptism by fire, instead of being an introduction to the power of the ministry, is now to be a perfecting of the body called out to be the full corn in the ear, whereupon they are, when all perfected, to be caught up to the Lord: so that not only did the prophecy fail, but the promises themselves are quite different from what they originally were.
And here let me add a contradiction in the promises even now made.
One statement they make is, that they are not at present, but to be, as a body, the full corn in the ear. First, the seed sown originally, then the long stalk of apostasy, and then, at last—which is themselves—the full corn in the ear (like the seed, Christ), for whom this baptism by fire is reserved. And when thus ripe, immediately He putteth in the sickle because the harvest is come, so that it is an awful and even fatal delusion to reject them.
Now, they also state that they are the 144,000 mentioned in Rev. 14 redeemed from the earth to sing a new song, which nobody else could learn but they; that they will not be in the judgments and the trouble under Antichrist and the beast; but that others will be saved through all these judgments and be in the harvest.
Now, I do not agree in either interpretation, but they cannot both be true. The full ear of corn cannot be ripe, and immediately the sickle be put in because the harvest is come, and also they be entirely excepted from it, and their distinction be that they will not be in the harvest at all. And it is to be observed, that between the 144,000 and the harvest, instead of immediately, there is the everlasting gospel to every nation, and people, and tongue, and language—another angel of Babylon fallen—another with warning against worshipping the beast—another of special blessing for the dead dying in the Lord—and then, after all this, the harvest, which, according to the other interpretation, was come on the ripening of them, who, on this interpretation, are the 144,000 who have been out of the way so long before.
It may be said of them who teach these things they may err; they do not say they are infallible, though the spirit that sends them is. Of its teaching we have spoken. But these are the promises, and expectations, and interpretations, by which they induce people to hear them, as especially sent by God; and their promises and expectations are themselves contradictory to one another. Who then can rely on them?
If it be asked, how then do Christians come to be deceived? I answer, by departing from the word. Beautiful things are said by these people, very attractive expressions and persuasive teaching: people are not aware of the things behind, Men perhaps of strong reasoning powers, addressed to persons not humbly and settledly taught and grounded in scripture, and persons impressed at the time, and not comparing what is said at different times, and disobediently receiving the spirit without trying it.
These great promises are held out, and solemn warnings and threatenings, if it be not received, given; and people are told they are rejecting God. Departure from the word, and want of humility and spirituality, have been the occasion, as far as I have seen, of persons who, we had trusted, were Christians, falling into it.
The very teachers may be often unaware of the extent the system goes to. The writer of this knows, that those thoroughly initiated into the system have mocked at the doctrine and idea of substitution in Christ's sacrifice. It does not follow that all are brought to this pitch, though one taught of God, and having his senses exercised to discern good and evil will most clearly see it involved in their very first principles. I will state it in the language in which Mr. Irving himself taught it, without saying that the teachers here, at any rate, are involved so deeply in it. The consequence is obvious on the doctrine of the sinful human nature; but I state it, to show it is no arbitrary charging a consequence not drawn by others. Mr. Irving says, “The man who will put a fiction, whether legal or theological, a make-believe, into his idea of God, I have done with: he who will make God consider a person that which he is not, and act towards him as that which he is not, I have done with. Either Christ was in the condition of the sinner, was in that form of being towards which it is God's eternal law to act as he acted towards Christ, or he is not. If he was, then the point at issue is ceded; for that is what I am contending for. If he was not, and God treated him as if he had been so; if that is the meaning of their imputation or substitution, or by whatever name they call it, away with it from my theology forever.” And again, “It is no reconciliation of individuals, but a reconciliation of human nature. It is not thine, it is not mine, it is not Christ's, but it is the common unity of our being.”
And I must add, however I may indulge a hope that one of the teachers here may not be so deeply, as being more recently, involved in the doctrines of Newman Street, that he did not seek to join himself to this party, till he had learned somewhere to use the language of “the fiction of imputed righteousness;” and had published a tract, the object of which was to show that the Spirit never dwelt in us individually; and that, therefore, we had only to look for it according to the manner it was in Newman Street.
It may be well to add, that cases similar to the one before us, have occurred before, specially about 700 years ago, in which were tongues, prophecies, and more wonders than even now; but the prophecies failing in like manner; reasons given for the non-fulfillment of signs, the very opposite of all their hopes and prophecies taking place, and the whole thing came to an end; many Christians misled by it, and even more prayer, power, preaching, apparent piety, and good conduct, accompanying it. It closed (though not given up by all, for reasons for the failure were published), by a positive testimony that a given person would be raised from the dead on such a-day. They went in full expectation of it, but the dead man was not raised at all. But, while it lasted, the influence was wider and more powerful than this has been; and the language, warnings, threats, and promises, just the very ditto of those now used.
It came to nothing. Here I close the ground on which a simple mind will reject it. I add a few observations only, not meaning now to discuss the whole subject. It seems to me there are two great motives which the evil one could have in misleading us in such a manner—first, to discredit the testimony concerning the coming of the Lord, which he cannot like, for it ends all his present power; and, secondly, to frighten the saints from looking continually for the Spirit of God, believing that He dwells in and amongst them, for fear of such consequences, or alarmed by such circumstances as these. If he did either of these, he gains great advantage over the saints. But neither rests on their testimony, but on the word of God: and two cautions I would give as to this. We find terrifying by the near approach of the day of the Lord to be part of the craft of the enemy, in 2 Thess. 2; and one way of its being done was “by spirit.” It was presented in a way calculated to trouble and confuse them.
The Spirit of the Lord never makes it the subject of terror to Christian saints, but of great joy and comfort to them—telling them it shall not overtake them as a thief—as walking in patience, separate from evil, it is the day of their comfort, and joy, and gladness, the time of their rest, when their conflicts will be over, and they will enter into the joy of their Lord, the day when they will see Christ with joy. This is a marked difference. Whenever the day of the Lord as instant and impending is brought to terrify a Christian, give no heed to that spirit or teacher. The undoubted apostle beseeches us not. And now, observe, how or by what does he beseech us? Is it by the promise of an extraordinary presence or gift, or baptism of the Spirit which is to secure us? Not at all. He beseeches them “by the coming of the Lord, and our gathering together unto him,” by which we shall be not in the day as a day of terror, but up above with Him, and appearing with Him.
Not a word about the special and extraordinary or restored presence of the Spirit; but there is of signs and wonders accompanying evil, from which they were entirely secure, and only they who had received the love of the truth—chosen to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth. Nor is there in any part of the New Testament any reference to any restored or extraordinary presence of the Spirit, as the security of the saints in the latter day. All the Newman Street promises, and the expectations they hold out, are founded on the Spirit's being restored to the church. This is a fallacious promise, there being none such; but it is accompanied with a denial, as indeed the terms and declared hopes and gifts express, that the Comforter is with us, and abideth in us, as given to the church.
In order to receive their promises of its being restored, we must set out with a denial that He dwells with us and in us. Now, the express promise of the Lord, as contrasted with His personal stay upon earth was, that it should abide with us forever. We must, therefore, deny the Holy Spirit, and the promise, and word of God, if we take their promise of its restoration. If we deny that we have the Spirit, we cannot expect to be kept from the deceits of the enemy. But this is not all; for it makes God a liar, Who says, “abideth forever,” and turns our unfaithfulness in using the gift (which we have, indeed, with shame to acknowledge) into a charge of unfaithfulness in God, in holding to His word, “abide with you forever.” “Let God be true, and every man a liar.”
Thus, while it turns away the mind to something as a hope, even the gift and baptism of the Spirit (which is not what the apostle does, but the coming of the Lord, as that which shall take us out of the day), it leads us, in giving us this false hope, to deny it as a present reality; thus leading us to deny the very Spirit it professes to give, while the word of God, which professed He should “abide forever,” is made naught of. How cunningly does the enemy weave his web! To supply the deficiency of New Testament promise, new and fanciful interpretations of the Old are introduced, and the statements of what the church was in the apostle's time produced, to show (but most falsely, I believe) what it must be now. As example of the former I bring this Isa. 40 ver. 1, is the restoration of the apostles now; ver. 3 of Prophets; ver. 9 of Evangelists; ver. 11 of Pastors. As to the latter, I would refer to Rom. 11:2222Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. (Romans 11:22). “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: to them which fell, severity; but toward thee (i.e. the Gentiles taking the place of the Jewish branches), goodness if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” This does not look like a promise of restoration.
As to the figure, baptism of the Holy Ghost, I apprehend it rather would show that it could be but once to the church, which took place, we know, at the day of Pentecost. Any extraordinary visitation after the Jews are brought back, I do not enter upon here, as not my subject; I mean not to deny this, but this is not the place for it.
I will only add, further, that the apostle Paul, or the Spirit of God, speaking of the perilous times in the last days, gives also as the security, continuing in the things learned, and the scriptures able to make wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. So to the elders from Ephesus, He commends them to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, &c. So Peter, in an Epistle treating of apostasy, writes, that they may have these things always in remembrance. So Jude writes, and exhorts to contend for the faith once delivered. In none is any extraordinary restoration of the Spirit adverted to, as the guard or security against delusion; while in John, the actual indwelling of the Spirit in all Christians, and individually, is repeatedly insisted upon as a great distinguishing point against being seduced. Now the spirit amongst them calls knowing what is written, and keeping it in remembrance, knowing it in the flesh; and they deny the actual indwelling of the Spirit, so as that God thereby dwells in us. They upset or deny the securities God has given.
As to the test which they have so frequently applied to try, as they allege, the spirits, it is a mistranslation which, however comparatively immaterial in ordinary times, shows how little they could have been led by the Spirit, when the whole trial of the work rested on this, and they had a mistranslation which affected the whole test in the most material way. “Whosoever confesses [that] Jesus Christ [is] come in the flesh.” Leave out the two marked words and you have the sentence. The apostle, in the Epistle, had been opening out the whole value, power, and import of the Incarnation, and then stated the Spirit given us, as a distinctive means of knowledge that the Lord was abiding in us. But then, says he, aware of the danger, do not believe every spirit—try them; and he then gives various notes of them who are of God, and specially this, to try the spirits, the acknowledging Jesus Christ come in the flesh. Devils owned abundantly that He was come in the flesh, but they never owned Him, which makes an amazing difference in the matter. The government of a country would own that a pretender was landed, but they would not own him. A rebel might own, when he could not help it, that the king was come, but it was another thing to own him: this made a loyal subject.
It is, then, owning Jesus as revealed, as incarnate, and made known by the Spirit of God, not merely owning that He is come. This the Spirit amongst them had not at all done, but quite the contrary. It has sanctioned doctrine injuring the person of Christ: doctrine, part of the statement of which was, that the generation of Christ was nothing more than the implantation of that Holy Ghost-life, in the members of His human nature, which is implanted in us by regeneration. Now, this is just the opposite of the test here given. It militates against the whole truth of the Incarnation. The language also that Christ was clothed upon with a human nature bristling with sin, like the quills of a porcupine, which, therefore, must either have been distinct from Himself, or sin must have been in Him, again militates against it. And this doctrine it was, Mr. Irving says, which this spirit was sent to witness to, and there was not the subject of its witness till this was taught. So that if this be no true account of the Word made flesh, of Jesus the Son of God incarnate, then does the test subvert the whole thing, the authority of the spirit, not establish it. With them the test became a sanction of the sinful humanity of Christ. This failing—the taking it might prove evil, not good; and accordingly, the test was put by the chief authority in one of their churches in England, and taken fully by one who was afterward proved by them to speak by an evil spirit, and confessed it.
One reference only remains. By the power, the presence of the Spirit is declared to be the security against being in the hour of temptation which shall come on all the world — this restored form of the Spirit, which was to be greater amongst them than the endowments of the twelve apostles. Now, I read thus in the word of God: “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and. no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and has kept my word and has not denied my name. . . . Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world, to try them which dwell upon the earth.” There is not a word about the Spirit, but it is what the Spirit says. It says not great gifts and endowments, but a little strength. It says not of itself—the extraordinary presence of its restored power, but “hast kept my word—hast not denied my name—kept the word of my patience.” Can anything be more opposite to the hopes and promises held out? Here, it is this spirit which promises that it will be the security to those who trust in it in the hour of temptation which shall come on the world; but I read, that keeping the word is the security. See Rev. 3:1010Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. (Revelation 3:10).
What then? Keep in communion with the Lord, cleave to Christ in spirit, leaning entirely upon Him. Hold fast by the word. Give no heed to doctrines which would bring Christ in any wise into the state of a sinner, except vicariously, a sinless substitute for us (that, cling to fast). But try the spirit, if need come of it, not by what they who receive them say of them, but by what they, the spirits, have already said and done. And do not receive them till you have ascertained this; for false prophets, perhaps I may say many, are gone out elsewhere, and in a little measure here. You are acting in disobedience if you do not act thus, and therefore cannot expect to be kept; for as to the appearance of the thing, Satan can transform himself into an angel of light. One word more: be not terrified if they say, Take care that you do not reject God. First ascertain if it be God; as to this, I have given you some evidence here. Nor if they say, Take care if it be the Holy Ghost, you do not call it Satan; it must be one or the other—leave them to settle that. Ascertain if it be God, or His truth; and if not, reject it, whatever it be: and be in nothing terrified by them. Simply by the help of God (as bound to do by His word, or you act in direct disobedience to Him), try the spirits by what they have said or done, before you listen to them. Listening first, and. trying after, is no way, if they have already testified to anything. It is not by the spirit directly, which they profess to speak when sent, but that they came by the authority of it. The point to be ascertained is therefore their authority; and this must be seen by what the spirit has said and done, by which they are sent. Look to that, and take and hold fast the word of God already known. J. N. D.