Proposal to Abstain From the Lord's Supper; Sufferings of Christ

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I am glad to have got your note, for with the sincere affection I have for you, I was uneasy about you. I do not believe in general, nor in any, that but for N.'s errors, there would have been the least uneasiness as to my statements as regards the blessed Lord. But there has been a diligent effort to bring the character of Mr. N.'s doctrine, and a wrong to the Lord, upon them, from what source and in what spirit, God will judge. I will endeavor to answer you as plainly as I can. I was told only a day or two ago, what I had quite forgotten, of this saying there are two kinds of suffering to the exclusion of a third. Of course, there is an apparent contradiction. But the third class I excluded, as your own note states, was "the subjection of Christ to the wrath of God previous to the cross, as Christ being under wrath would be found in the epistles," &c. All this I fully hold still. I reject, as I always rejected, the doctrine of Christ being born, as man, or as Israel, subject to wrath from the state or position He was in, or His ever getting into a state or position in which He was subject to it Himself, or suffered for it as being Himself in that position or state-that is, as liable to it. Even in atonement He was not liable to it, but made sin for others. And there is where the essential contradiction and opposition between my doctrine-scriptural doctrine-and Mr. N.'s is. It is not a question of time, as enemies of the truth have said, it is a difference of what Christ and Christ's place was. I hold to this more strongly, at any rate more intelligently, than ever.
But when I referred to the tract " Observations," while this expression, "exclusion of a third kind," is there, in view of this, I found what I have called a third kind, stated in nearly the same terms, only under the head of the second kind, and thus less defined. Have the kindness to read the pages 64, 65 ["Collected Writings," vol. xv. pp. 144-146] of my "Observations," which I have now looked at in consequence of your note (I had wholly forgotten the contents of the tract). You will find all this very doctrine diligently used against Mr. N.'s and far more fully explained than I had the least idea off. You will find a series of explanations of Psalms, where they are more applied to Christ than even I should now, following still the influence of much current theology. I light on page 40 [" Collected Writings," vol. xv. p. 109], "Christ then does enter in spirit into this sorrow of the remnant fully; but it is not His relation to God as due to Him as associated with the people." Now I still reject in the same way, not only any sin in Christ, but any relationship to God save of perfect delight, excepting the forsaking for atonement, of course, though there perfectly acceptable in Himself—never as to His work more so.
I will state how people have been misled in a moment as to my last tract. See again the note on page 52. ["Collected Writings," vol. xv. p. 127.] Now whether this be called a third kind of suffering, or classed under the second head, rejecting another and blasphemous kind attributed to Him, is really very little matter; it is a question of accuracy of form and analysis; but these kinds of sufferings are quite as fully gone into in the tract brought up against me, taken, as a reader of scripture must take them, for granted; and then it is elaborately shown that they afford no handle for Mr. N.'s doctrine, but the contrary. That by which the minds of some have been misled is that in the tract on the sufferings, I have described the state of the remnant, and shown the analogy of an upright soul under law, to show what in them, Christ had to help and succor them in, and how the circumstances He passed through enabled Him to do it; and this has been used to say, Christ was in the place Himself. He did suffer it, "in all their afflictions he was afflicted;" He did enter into their sorrows, but that, which is perfectly scriptural, does not put Him into the state which brought in the suffering; and that was Mr. N.'s doctrine, and made a false Christ.
When Christ healed, it is said, "He bore our sorrows and carried our sicknesses;" was He therefore sick? or is scripture wrong? He who puts Christ in that state has a false Christ.
He who denies Christ's entering into our sorrows and sufferings, in order to succor-not to atone-loses half the blessing of what He is, and takes away a large part of His glory. There is the special entering into the sorrows of the remnant. But I have fully stated how He could. He was actually going forward towards wrath, which He did actually undergo; they are dreading it as having deserved it, though because He did, they will never undergo it: they were under the oppression of the Gentiles; so was He-the wickedness of apostate Israel; so was He-the betrayal or denial of friends; so was He. But these were of course circumstances. I do see in scripture that there was the cutting off of Messiah, and the rejection-for the time wholly-as to their former condition of God's beloved people, which His soul deeply entered into. That which was on Israel was governmental wrath; He did fully enter into it, but not because He was in the state that government applied to. This is expressly guarded in the tract on the sufferings, where the third kind is spoken of, in the passage T. Ryan purposely left out.
I am satisfied that a dead set is made against the truth of Christ's real sufferings, by the attempt to confound what I have said with Mr. N.'s blasphemy, to which it is the direct opposite. People have laid hold of His meeting wrath and indignation, and changed it to under indignation and wrath, and even said personally under it, where in the same sentence it is said, "Nor is it His expiatory work" (namely, the particular view of Psa. 102, which I believe to be quite just), "though that which wrought it is here-the indignation and wrath. It is Himself, His own being cut off as man." Now I ask, in the smiting-where the indignation and wrath which wrought atonement were—is there no sorrow in this Psalm, besides indignation and wrath in atonement? His strength had been weakened in His journey, His days shortened. He bad prayed not to be cut off in the midst of His days-and this connected with God's arising and having mercy on Zion: was this real? The thought of atonement, of that one dreadful cup, is weakened, if we confound it with all these other sufferings, though they led to it, as in Psa. 22, but are there contrasted with it. If you identify them with atonement, you play into the hands of those who deny its real character and efficacy, and (I judge) blaspheme Christ's name. If you deny them, you pull down the truth, the most blessed truth of Christ's true sorrows, of His learning obedience by the things that He suffered, of that sorrow which above all touches the heart and makes us know His perfectness, who could say beyond any Jeremiah, "Was ever sorrow like unto my sorrow?" I have no wish to lose this. I have no intention to mix it up with the one solemn act of atonement which it led to. I think all this an effort of the enemy to injure souls. I am sure the upright and humble will escape, and many have already got blessing by weighing these sufferings more.
As regards the New Testament, I say distinctly that a special time of entering into these sorrows (personally, if my enemies like the word) is marked out. "His hour was not yet come": Luke 22:3535And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. (Luke 22:35), &c. clearly shows this change; and it is said at the beginning of that gospel, Satan departed from Him for a season. So Luke 22:52, 5352Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? 53When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness. (Luke 22:52‑53). I may (though I do not believe it) be forced to give up my brethren, whatever sorrow it may be, but I will not (with God's help) give up the sorrows and the sufferings of my most gracious Lord. I will not falsify them by mixing them up with atonement, though that may be comparatively a less evil. The only difficulty that I know of for our minds, is the mixture of that which is distinguished in Psa. 22, between the expectation of the cross-His meeting, as I have said, indignation and wrath-and the wickedness of Jews. and Gentiles, and Satan's power of darkness pressed on Him in circumstances, and the power of death. All was converging to the cross; there was the actual smiting, but it culminated in that which is yet clearly distinguished in Psa. 22-the forsaking of God, when sought as an answer to it. Now I cannot confound these; I cannot deny either.
I believe if souls had been seeking edification, and not listening to those who as instruments of evil were seeking mischief, they would have found edification and real blessing, even in my poor writings, with, I dare say, many a thing immaturely expressed, and where immaturely conceived, would have been corrected by grace and mature christian minds.
I find in "The Sufferings": " All this exercise Christ entered into, so as to be able to help them. ' This poor man cried,' &c., when He was upon this earth, the power of Gentile evil was there; the apostate wickedness of the priestly rulers of Israel" and so on,... "pressed upon the spirit of any intelligent saint, if such there were, as in the last days. It was not now in these last scenes of Christ's life, the manifestation of the Lord in grace to Israel, the revelation of the Father's name to the few given to Jesus out of the world, but the endurance of Israel's own case under the government of Jehovah, when guilty and rejecting their own mercies, yet with the sense a holy soul wrapped up in Israel's blessings would have of such a state before the judgment of God; not made a curse and drinking the cup, but the sense of it under God's government and Satan's power." Now this concentrates, I suppose, the doctrine. But would any fair mind think I meant, when Christ was enduring this in His soul (and which was not merely suffering reproach when declaring righteousness in the congregation) -when I speak of it as "pressing upon the spirit"-that He was guilty, and rejecting His own mercies? for that is what I say He was entering into-Israel's case. It is said to be the sense a holy soul would have of such a state. Is that saying He was in it-or saying He was not, but entered into it, with death and judgment withal as the consequence of it before His soul, meeting (as it is said elsewhere) indignation and wrath? But this being atonement it is a different thing from merely suffering reproach from men, though there was plenty of that too: His hour was come, and while the cup loomed on His blessed soul and spirit, all the causes of it (even as to Israel) pressed upon Him, and Satan's power (the prince of this world) was there.
Could Paul wish himself accursed from Christ for his brethren, and Moses to be blotted out of Jehovah's book, and did the blessed Lord feel nothing for the beloved people of God, whose children He would have so often gathered? Was He not tried by all this? Did He not pass through the trial? Ask your own heart in reading scripture. I have said He passed through it with God-the opposite to being in the state which brought it, or Himself being under indignation and wrath as to His state before He drank the cup. If once people saw that entering into it was the very opposite of being in it, all would be clear. Mr. N. may use the words "entering into it" for aught I know, but he makes Him to enter into it by birth, namely, to take the place and state to which it applied. What I have taught in the "Observations" and "Sufferings" is exactly the opposite.
You have not given the pages of your passages: I can only take them up as best I can. I have, page 26 ["Collected Writings," vol. vii. p. 289], "Christ passed through all these kinds of suffering, only the last of course as Himself a perfect being, to learn it for others," so that the difference of state is carefully guarded. I find "all this exercise Christ entered into, so as to be able to help them"-this I have already explained. I do not find, "passing through these exercises," as you say. Where the last phrase I have quoted occurs, I have spoken of its being the sense a holy soul would have of it. The most equivocal expression you have not noticed, but then it is accompanied by "into which Christ is entered for them," so that it is fully explained in the passage. The root of your whole mistake is, taking what I have said was the state of those to help whom Christ suffered, as Christ's state. This I do not in the tract do. If you read page 54 [" Collected Writings," vol. vii. p. 332], you will see this fully entered on. The passage which you say pains you, is that I find which I have quoted as concentrating the doctrine. But it is expressly there said, "the sense a holy soul wrapped up in Israel's blessing would have of such a state before the judgment of God." Was not Christ there with the judgment of God before Him? Was not Satan using death as darkness, sorrow, and terror? What else was Gethsemane? Did not God's judgment sanction the pressure of it on the soul? It was just His constant and unfailing perfectness never to take it otherwise. It was not the time of the manifestation of the Lord in grace to Israel: His hour was come. The gospel expressly, as I have said, contrasts that time and His life. It is stated to be the sense of the cup already on His soul. Did He not endure it in the sense a holy soul would have of the state? I believe He did enter as a holy soul into the full distress of it. The denial of the truth of Christ's suffering being tempted, I think a fatal evil. I believe there is a great deal of it going. It was a holy soul-no temptation, I need not say, from within-but as led by everything in which God's glory and our blessing was concerned.
I believe He died for the nation as a distinct purpose. I believe Israel is the scene of God's government as contrasted with the absolute gift of eternal life in redemption. Into the sorrows connected with that I believe He did enter, and (though doubtless often anticipating it) especially when His hour came. I believe that He learned obedience by the things that He suffered. I believe His holy soul when thus rejected, when He was reckoned with the transgressors, did enter in profound sorrow into the state of God's beloved people which had caused it. I believe Satan used it in Gethsemane to hinder His going through with it, and thus the full extent of the cup itself can e before Him: that, blessed be His name, He preferred going through it all to turning aside and having twelve legions of angels, and not fulfill scripture; and the scriptures He fulfilled then were those of the Old Testament, not of the New. These give me the blessed points of the full work, and the history of the facts in which He did accomplish them. I believe He suffered in all this, endured it in His soul. I believe all was before Him that was between God and man, and God and Israel too; the former our special part, but the latter profitable to know. His holy soul was with God in it, save as forsaken in atonement, but His spirit fully entering into it. So I have stated.
I think if people would give themselves the trouble of reading my tracts through, and waiting to be taught of God, they would find, perhaps what was not always clear till it was explained, yet edification, and not a stumbling-block. I dread greatly the setting aside Christ's real sufferings. The only point remains which has been objected to, and in which scripture is clearly with me, not with my enemies-the whole scene from the passover to His death being one, while there are two distinct parts of it. On the cross He was actually smitten and drank the cup; but the shadow and effect of this was cast upon all the preceding hours-as to Him, in holy trial, but in communion, yet bringing all before Him, and all to a test in others, in triumph on one side and desertion on the other. The coming cup gave its shadow and character to all that was passing, though it was not the cup. "Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered"-they were scattered in fact before the cross. "Now is the Son of man glorified." "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." "Let this cup pass from me," &c. Yet clearly He was not then drinking it, but in spirit He was entering into it with God.
No: I do not seek to pry into what is beyond me, but no soul shall deprive me of blessed and fruitful meditations on my Lord's sufferings. I may be obliged, as I said, to give up brethren, but I prefer following Him even in thought. I did offer, or more, stated I should not go to communion, to leave them free from the pressure, and to take away wholly the wretched using of letting me in, to loosen judgment as to Mr. N.'s being shut out. They would not hear of it, so I left it there. I am quite ready, if they cannot stand the pressure of what I consider to be pure wickedness (though honest souls have been troubled by it), to do so still; but if they are prepared, I shall not give up the truth—even if they are not, I do not separate from them.
Yours affectionately.
The one point on which there might be difficulty is the bringing in the smiting, which in act took place on the cross, over the whole period from the supper. This might have been explained (it is at the end of my tract), but for fair minds is no ground of difficulty or objection. Scripture does so fully, "All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, Smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad." They were scattered before the time of smiting was there. "But now," He said unto them, "he that hath a purse let him take it." And the Lord's discourse in John, "Now is the Son of man glorified." The whole tenor of the gospel is thus to take the smiting as come—the scene, as the scene of smiting.
June 18th, 1866.