Extracts From Letters of J.N.D.: The Proper Subject of Gospel Testimony and Its Presentation

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He had been written to as to the proper subject of gospel testimony, and the manner of its presentation.
There cannot be a more important subject, in every aspect, than that you refer to. The simpler we put Christ's dying for our sins the better. All these great truths are facts, in which I admire the wisdom of God, as the simplest can thus understand them (through grace), and the strongest intellects must bow, and take them as such. When we inquire- and people inquire about everything now- there are depths in it which none of us can fathom.
The full claim of God against sinners is, that they should serve Him according to the relationship they stand in towards Him of creatures in the knowledge of good and evil- "The man is become as one of us, knowing good and evil." He was bound to own God and his neighbor in everything due to them, and that as far as covetous lusts in his heart. Of this, even when man was not under it, the law was the perfect measure. But then, in fact, things went a great deal farther, because there were dealings of men and dealings of God, both of which brought out what man was, and imposed new obligations. Man did not like to retain God in his knowledge, and does not, when he knew Him as God, as he did in Noah's time, he set up devils to worship, and degraded himself below the nature of man.
Now judgment is according to works, God taking account of the degree of light in pronouncing the judgment (see Luke 12); but judgment is according to works, and that is eternal exclusion from God's presence, whatever degree there may be in actual infliction of punishment. But there is a great deal more behind. The mind of the flesh is enmity against God, wholly and always, besides breaking through obligations, and leads to our doing this. Man was driven out of God's presence at the beginning, and, besides future judgment for works, finds, when his eye is open, that he is lost now; though this be concealed from those walking by sight, when the veil of sense and the show of this world is gone, he finds it is forever.
Now, though the law proved this to the divinely-taught mind, its grand proof was in the rejection of Christ: "He shall convince the world of sin [not of sins, also true], because they believe not on me." Up to the flood, the first world, it was- but with testimony from God—man left to himself, and God was obliged to bring in the flood. Then, after it, government came in with Noah; promise in Abraham: law in Moses; prophets; and lastly Christ; that is, dealings of God with men, a complete system of probation, which ended in the proof that he not only would not obey, but had no cloak for his sin, and had seen and hated God in grace- "have seen and hated both me and my Father." Hence it is said, "Now once in the end of the world," and so the Lord, "Now is the judgment of this world;" and Stephen, after reciting the call of promise in Abraham, declares, You have not kept the law, have repelled and persecuted the prophets, killed the Just One, do always resist the Holy Ghost. Then man's history ended. He was not only guilty, subject to judgment, but his mind was proved to be enmity against God. This is not sins, but sin, man not judged, but lost already, while judgment, which is not yet come, is according to works.
Now, Christ was just personally exactly the opposite of this, He loved the Father, and was obedient. But this was Himself, and always. But He had a work to do according to the ever-abounding love of God; He died for our sins, according to the scriptures, and if a man believe in Him, his sins are gone, forgiven, and blotted out, the guilt and responsibility met. But when we look into the work of the cross we see more than this. He glorified God there, and when made sin. This was a wonderful mystery; a perfect victim, spotless before God, perfect in obedience, in absolute self-surrender, perfect in love to His Father, perfect in His love to us, able, as a divine Person, to sustain the weight of God's glory in the place of sin, that is, as made sin for us, not only in the likeness of sinful flesh, but for sin. "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him; if God be glorified in him, God shall glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him," and Christ, as man, is in glory at the right hand of God.
As the meat-offering, He was fully tested by the fire of God's judgment in death, and was only a sweet savor; in the burnt-offering He was a sweet savor to God, but it was positive propitiation, or atonement, as glorifying God in righteousness, love, majesty, and everything He was in the place of sin, as for sin; as the sin-offering He bore our sins, but that was not a sweet savor, though the fat was burnt on the altar. Christ was thus the Lord's lot, as well as the people's lot. The bearing of our sins cleared the responsibility incurred, the guilt. This is true of His people; and the blood upon the mercy-seat has perfectly glorified God in all that He is, and laid the foundation for the accomplishing the counsels of God, which were before the responsibility even existed. God's love provided the Lamb, and God's righteousness required the propitiation; and by the cross alone the righteousness, and love, and majesty of God are secured, and what He is made known. The Son of man must be lifted up, and the Son of God is given.
As regards the epoch of completing the work, it is clear that, as the wages of sin is death, He must die to complete that; but there was a far deeper truth in what that involved, and it was equally important that the drinking of the cup of God's forsaking should be over, because He was to give up His own spirit in peacefulness to God, as He did, laying it down of Himself when all was finished. The forsaking of God was of its own, and the deepest character of the sufferings of the blessed Lord. This He felt anticipatingly in Gethsemane, when He was not outwardly suffering, but it cannot be separated from death, because it bore the character of divine judgment against sin, and not an accident, so to speak, of mortality. But it is not in itself judgment, that is, the judgment to come. It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment; but all possible suffering combined against Christ-betrayal, abandonment, and denial: the bulls of Bashan and dogs came against Him, and the power of Satan in death, the power of darkness, and His beloved people assisting. This led up on the appeal in it to God (Psa. 22), to the sense of being in it forsaken of God. He was heard from the horns of the unicorns; when all was finished He gave up His own spirit, commending it to His Father, crying with a loud voice, and actually died.
I can only rapidly trace in a few words what presents itself to my mind in this, that there is nothing like- in the history of heaven and earth, that in which Christ could present a motive to His Father to love Him: "Therefore doth my Father love me." All is looked at as a whole; for the blood and water came from a Christ already dead, and must have done so to be of any avail. (Compare 1 John 5)
But, I repeat: the more simply, in our work with souls, we put the blessed Lord's dying for our sins, the better; but to have a solid and deep work, we must know ourselves, and sin as well as sins- what we are in flesh, as well as what we have done (see from Rom. 5:1212Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (Romans 5:12) on), but this goes on to our being crucified with Him, which is another truth. The Lord be praised for His goodness to you. Good He ever is.1871. J. N. D.