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First Principles

By Isaac Errett


      "I was glad to learn, from a recent number of the Christian Standard, that you propose to give a course of essays on what your people call "First Principles." Permit me to express the hope that you will begin soon, and that you will not forget your promise to make them plain and easy to be understood. I assure you there is great need of plain and simple instruction on these important subjects. I have, perhaps, no right to obtrude on you my own spiritual troubles and perplexities, but it may be a help to many others, troubled in the same way, if I tell you some of my difficulties and thereby direct your pen to their removal.

      Please tell me, then:

      1. Is it true that the disciples deny the Old Testament?

      2. If so, on what grounds?

      3. If not, how can you make anything clear and consistent out of the heterogeneous assemblage of books called the Bible? Is the gospel in Genesis and Judges and Ezekiel and Romans and Revelation? How are the mysteries of this strange book to be unlocked"?
      --"AN INQUIRER" in the Christian Standard.   

      AM obliged to "An Inquirer" for his frank statement and questions. It will give me pleasure to assist you, if possible, to a better comprehension of the plan of salvation, as developed in the Bible. I shall not, perhaps, enter upon the solution of your difficulties with as much appearance of [424] system as you expect to find. But, with an eye to the difficulties of others, as well as those which you mention, I shall hope, in a plain and easy method, to render help to honest and anxious inquirers.

      May I ask you, first of all, to read the New Testament more carefully? The very fact of a new testament, will or covenant should arrest your attention. If a new will or covenant is now in force, and the old one has passed away, as Paul affirms (Heb. viii:13), it will be at once apparent to you that your fate is not immediately involved in the contents of former wills or covenants; and that, however interesting or valuable the study of former testaments may be, an understanding of them is not vital to your interests. Not Genesis, nor Judges, nor Ezekiel, can make known to you the will of God toward you, if there is a new testament. In saying this, we do not deny the inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures, but affirm it; for we can not with propriety talk of a new testament as divine, without implying that the old testament, which it supersedes, was from the same source. If a man makes two wills, the fact that only the latter is now authoritative does not certainly imply that the former was not from the same hand. Paul says: "We know that what the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law" (Rom. iii:19). But to Christians he says: "Ye are not under the law, but under grace" (Rom. vi:15).

      Moreover, if there is a new testament, and, as [425] Paul says, a testament is only of force after the testator's death (Heb. ix:16, 17), it is evident that you must not only come away from--the Old Testament, but from the four Gospels likewise, before you can learn what there is for you in this will. It was not of force until after Jesus died, and rose again; and it passed into the hands of His executors, the twelve apostles, and was by them opened and announced after it had been sealed with His blood, and after the Holy Spirit came down from heaven, to guide them into all truth in announcing and interpreting it. You must learn the will, therefore, either from what the Lord told them He had put in it (Matt. xxviii:18-20), or from the will itself, as unfolded and announced by these executors, after they received the Spirit (Acts ii).

      That the Old Testament is not absolutely necessary to acquaint you with the way of salvation may be learned from the fact that these apostles went into Gentile lands with the new testament or covenant, and made Christians of thousands who knew nothing about the former testament. Read the Book of Acts entire. This was not because the Old Testament was not from God--for when they preached to Jews, who had the Old Testament, they took their Scriptures and preached Jesus to them. But the fact that Gentiles were made Christians by the Gospel, without leading them through the Old Testament proves that the way of salvation can be learned from the Gospel without the law. [426]

      Yet we recognize the inspiration of the Jewish Scriptures, and we will endeavor to show you that, while they are not authoritative with us, they form an essential part of the development of the plan of human redemption.

      We called your attention above to certain considerations to convince you that the Old Testament was no longer in force; that the will of God for you and for me, and for all now living, is to be sought in the New Testament--in that testament which was not of force until Jesus died and rose again, but which, ever since the executors or "ministers of the New Testament" opened it on the day of Pentecost succeeding the resurrection of Jesus (Acts ii), has been to all nations the will of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. At the same time we sought to show that while the facts prove that then authority of the Old Testament has ceased, they prove the inspiration of the Old Testament writings. We need enter into no labored argument to prove this. Assuming the divine mission of Jesus, his teachings settle the question. He affirmed that "all things must be fulfilled which are written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms concerning me," (Luke xxiv:44). He thus recognizes the three general divisions under which the Jews comprehended all their Scriptures. The law contained the five books of Moses. The prophets embraced the writings of the former prophets, as they were termed, the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings; and the latter [427] prophets, or those which are generally called now the prophetical books, with the exception of Daniel. The hagiorapha, or holy writings, comprehended Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Canticles, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the two books of Chronicles. We say that our Lord in acknowledging these as the Scriptures, out of which His own divine mission was to be proved, asserts their inspiration.

      We are aware that your mind is confused at this point; and you are not alone. You will ask, if inspired, why not of authority? They are of authority as witnesses of the Christ, but not of authority as a law to us.

      "Is God, then, capricious--making one set of Scriptures, and then setting them aside--making one testament, and then, like a man who changes his mind, destroying that will, and making a new one that pleases him better?"

      Not at all. To rid your mind of confusion, you must learn one important truth--that the development of the plan of human redemption was gradual--progressive. The law of progressive development seems to pervade the universe. Science reveals it in the physical universe in the structure of worlds. We need not be surprised, therefore, to, find it in the moral universe, in the government of rational natures. We may readily conceive the idea of worlds of matter rising into instant perfection, by omnipotent energy; but we can not understand how mere [428] omnipotence can control mind into instant submission. Rational beings must be plied with motive; they must be brought themselves to choose the right. This is not accomplished by physical force. It must come by conviction, persuasion, conversion. But to take a race, which, in the perverted exercise of its freedom, is drifting away from God, into atheism and utter lawlessness, and prepare them to be saved--to come under the control of such a Lord and Saviour as Jesus is--was not the work of a day, or a year, or a century. We are sometimes asked:

      "Why did not Jesus come as soon as man sinned? Why delay for four thousand years? Why set up institutions and laws that must in the end be abrogated? Why cumber the plan of salvation with a testament that has to be taken away as imperfect I" And this we take to be your difficulty. We reply The fact that God did not instantly reveal a complete plan of salvation, but took four thousand years to develop it, proves that there were difficulties in the way which required a gradual unfolding of His purposes. We may not be able fully to enter into the reasons for this. But there are some reasons for it which we may at least partially understand.

      1. Men must learn the odiousness and curse of sin, and the ruin which it inevitably works, before they are even willing to be saved from it. This can only be learned by experience--our own experience, or that of others. Time had to be given, therefore, for the accumulation of sinful experiences. [429]

      2. Men had to learn that they could not save themselves from sin. This is a hard lesson. The pride of the human heart does not easily give way. When the prodigal had wasted his substance in riotous living, his pride would not let him return until he had made the most desperate efforts to retrieve his fortunes. Not until he reached the point of utter despair of his own efforts, through a succession of most humiliating failures, was he willing to arise and go to his father. This is but a picture of human nature--of the race. It required time, therefore, for a succession of human experiments in government and religion.

      3. A sinful condition of the human soul does not allow of immediate intercourse with God. Sin erects fearful barriers between man and God. God can only reveal Himself at a distance. It required a patient succession of revelations, therefore, to overcome the ignorance of God into which sin plunged the race, and prepare mankind for a full revelation of the divine nature and character.

      These are some of the reasons why the salvation of God was not immediately revealed in its fullness.

      Let us seek an illustration. A father has seven sons. They grow rebellious on his bands. He could force them into instant subjection, but that would not suit his purpose. He recognizes the rational nature they possess, and knows that they can not attain the true dignity of their being, so as to possess [430] a worthy manhood, unless they are persuaded to be good. He will not, then, employ force, except as corrective, until all other means have failed, and they become hopelessly incorrigible. Then he may be compelled to cast them off entirely. Meanwhile he seeks to govern them firmly, but kindly; bearing with their perverseness, rewarding them for obedience, and punishing them with more or less severity; as he finds necessary for his authority and their good. Still his kindness is spurned, and his authority condemned.

      His boys, as they grow up, become more restive under authority, and more stubbornly bent on pursuing their own ways. There is one expedient left set them adrift; throw them on their own resources. They will learn, perhaps, in the school of experience, lessons dearly bought, but which they will learn in no other way. Nothing: but experience, it is evident; will take the conceit out of them. So he lets them go every one his own way. But as he has ulterior purposes of grace in letting them go--as he means to hold himself in readiness to receive them when they shall desire to return--he does not entirely abandon them even now. He retains one at home and makes him the depository of his counsels, and the recipient of peculiar favors, that through him he may still be able to operate indirectly on the absent prodigals, and hold them by the invisible chain of his providence until the"' fullness of time" for their penitential restoration. They are all equally guilty, [431] and his election of any one over the rest to fill this place in his own house is purely a matter of grace.

      He chooses the one who will best suit his purpose, appoints him his patrimony, and establishes with him paternal relations of peculiar tenderness, while the rest are away on their wild career of experiment. But he elects him not for his own sake mere, but for the sake of the lost sons, that they, through him, may yet be brought back. Thus in all their wanderings they are still watched, and often influenced unknown to themselves. Even the son who stays at home is borne with in many wrongs, for the sake of his influence over them. And when the time comes that they are weary of their vain experiments, and begin to think of returning to their father's house, he is ready, through his son, to communicate his willingness to receive them, and reinstate them in his favor.

      Let the first part of this illustration answer for God's dealings with our race during the first two thousand years, during what is called the patriarchal age. Then, when the nations "did not like to retain God in their knowledge, He gave them up to a reprobate mind," and abandoned them to their own devices. But He chose Abraham, and the nation springing from him through Isaac and Jacob, to stay at home, and to be to Him a peculiar people above all people on the face of the earth. He made a testament or covenant for them, but not alone for their [432] own sakes; it was for the sake of the prodigal children who had gone from home, that through this nation He might keep watch and ward over them for their final reconciliation. These nations experimented in government, philosophy and religion for two thousand years, and failure was heaped on failure until, footsore in their wanderings, and heartsick in their failures--all their substance wasted in riotous living--they began to think of their Father's house, and were ready to listen to overtures. Then, "in the fullness of time," Jesus came, and the Gospel was published to the nations.

      That the Jewish nation served this purpose, and that they were elected to their position with a view to accomplish such a purpose, is evident from numerous Scriptures. Their location is a geographical center, whence light could successfully radiate--their slavery in Egypt, the center of learning and of idolatry--their connection with Tyre and Sidon, and other great sources of commercial influence--their captivity in Babylon, and their dispersion among the nations, are among the prominent facts that indicate the ulterior purposes of Jehovah in making them His own people and giving them His law and counsel. See Ex. ix:16; xv:13-17; xxxii:11-13; Josh. ii:9-11, and the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Daniel. All the nations formed a school, rebellious though they were; and the Jews were the blackboard on which God wrote His lessons and wrought out His problems. [433] Hence, in this progressive development, we have three successive dispensations:

      1. Patriarchal.
      2. Jewish.      
      3. Christian.

      1. The Family.
      2. The State.
      3. The Church.

      1. Domestic.
      2. National.
      3. Ecumenical.3. Gospel.

      1. Theophany.
      2. Law.
      3. Gospel.

      The first period was marked by a vindication of the being and providence of God, in opposition to the atheism into which the posterity of Cain were drifting. He that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Its revelations were in personal manifestations of Deity and in special rewards and punishments.

      The second was marked by a vindication of the unity of God, in opposition to the idolatries into which the nations were wandering. Its revelations unfolded the truth, justice and holiness of the one living and true God.

      The third was marked by the incarnation--the vindication of Jesus as the Son of God, in opposition to all human schemes of salvation and all human lordship over the soul of man. Its revelations unfold the condescension, mercy and love of God in Christ. Thus we have God revealed.

      "The law (the type) came by Moses, the grace and the truth (reality) came by Jesus Christ" (John i:17). We reach the summit of these purposes when we hear Jesus announcing--"All authority is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go, therefore, disciple the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

      Did you ever visit a printing-office? If so, you have been impressed with the fact that the "art preservative of all arts" has, to the uninitiated, many mysteries. As you looked on the types scattered with rapid hand, here and there, in various boxes, apparently without regard to order--then "set up" in the composing-stick, transferred to galleys, "made up" in the "form," and "locked up" in the "chase," ready for the pressman--you could scarcely catch a gleam of intelligence as to the mode by which thought is made visible on paper. Perhaps, looking over the form when made up, you might gather from the cuts and the headings and the catch-lines some faint outline of the leading thoughts meant to be conveyed. But if you undertook to read the intelligence through the types, you would find it a very difficult task. But when the types make their impression on paper, and you see the antitypes on the printed sheet, you read without difficulty. You learn that in all the apparent confusion and mystery of typesetting, intelligent mind has been marshaling the types into order, according [435] to "copy," so that the printed sheet exhibits the very thoughts and words contained in the copy that lay before the printer on his case. No blind chance could have brought the types together thus into an orderly arrangement, so as to make words, sentences, paragraphs, and complete essays. Their intelligent utterances prove that they were arranged by design--by intelligence working according to pattern or "copy" placed in the compositor's hands.

      Equally confused and mysterious to you is the Old Testament. Moses was, so to speak, a printer. God furnished him a font of type, and gave him "copy." "See that thou make all things according to the pattern shown thee in the mount" (Ex. xxv:40). Moses set up the tabernacle and the Jewish worship according to copy. But you can not read it, except in dim outline--here and there a heading or a picture furnishing an obscure idea of what is intended. But in the New Testament--the Gospel--the impression is worked off, as the printers say; and you have the antitype, which, like the printed sheet, is plain reading.

      You must view the Old Testament; therefore, from the Christian standpoint, and all is clear. The Old Testament is a system of types, figures, symbols. It is practical religion, adapted to the childhood of the race. It presented to the eye, in symbol, the outlines of the great truths of redemption, and in its typical worship familiarized the minds of men with the ideas of sin, of sacrifice, of pardon, of [436] righteousness and sanctification, of rewards and punishments; but in such an imperfect way as to leave the constant impression of incompleteness, accompanied with the promise of better things to come. Thus, as Paul says (Gal. iii:24), "The law was (not is) our schoolmaster (paidagogos), to bring us unto Christ." The pedagogue was the child-tender, to whom children were committed to be led to exercise, to be conducted to and from school, to be superintended, and sometimes to be taught some of their first lessons. Such offices did the law perform dealing with men in a state of tutelage; but, adds Paul, "now that faith has come, we are no longer under a pedagogue." The law was introduced for certain purposes, "until the promised seed (the Messiah) should come."

      From all that has been said before, we gather up the main designs of the former dispensations, and learn the uses of the Old Testament Scriptures.

      1. They contain a historic development of the purpose of God to redeem a sinful race. Here we learn the kingdom of God to be, according to the Saviour's teaching, of gradual development. "First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear" (Mark iv:28).

      2. They present a record of the moral government of the world--showing how the events of time were strung on a single thread that stretched along the ages: that thread was the purpose of God to prepare the race for the coming of the Redeemer. [437] The rise and fall of kingdoms and empires, as well as the election and reprobation of individuals; and the captivities of the tribes of Israel and Judah, as well as their establishment in the land of Judaea, were all arranged and overruled for this one purpose.

      3. They reveal the will of God, as addressed to patriarchs and Jews--not His will in reference to us,

      4. They contain the types and prophecies of the coming salvation; and are; therefore, a great storehouse of evidence for the divinity of the New Testament, for they hold; locked up in permanent forms, the types of gospel truth and gospel blessings. "Christ is the end of the law to the believer." "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."

      5. As moral principles are immutable and eternal, it follows that many most valuable and precious lessons of truth, righteousness and piety stand on the pages of the Old Testament, which are of equal application to persons under all dispensations. Hence "the things that were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope" (Rom. xv:4).

      6. Its developments of human nature and character are of priceless value. The severe and terrible truthfulness with which the Holy Spirit records the lives of men and women--the virtues of the bad and the vices of the good being all daguerreotyped in the light of truth, without apology, defense, explanation, encomium or even exclamation--render it the only [438] genuine gallery of portraits of human character. No uninspired biographies or autobiographies can stand in comparison. The awful, but divine, impartiality of perfect truth renders the Old Testament, merely as a record of human nature, entirely unique and invaluable.

      But a book of authority, to teach us what to do, it is not. The Gospel is not found in it, except in type and promise--precisely.: the forms in which it can not have authority. The spirit, genius, laws, ordinances, promises and threatenings of the Gospel are not found on its pages, except as an adumbrative and preparatory system contains in it the germs of all that is afterward to burst into full life. The pedagogue performed his full office, not in teaching the world salvation, but in leading the world to Christ for salvation. The very last injunction in the Old Testament is: "Remember ye the law of Moses, my servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments" (Mal. iv:4). It was the law of Moses--not of CHRIST; for all Israel--not for all nations.

      In closing the discussion of the Old Testament I must anticipate an objection which will probably rise in your mind. If God is perfect, and all His works are perfect, how could He be the author of an imperfect system? Does it not derogate from the honor and perfection of Deity--to speak of a system of His own devising: "inferior," "imperfect," "shadowy," etc.? Everything that God creates is perfect [439] for its own ends. The night is as perfect as the day, for its own uses; but we do not dishonor God by calling the one darkness and the other light. The moon is as perfect as the sun; but it is no dishonor to God to say that the sun is brighter than the moon. The child is as perfect, it may be, as man; but it is perfect as a child. It is no dishonor to the child to say that the man is larger, stronger, wiser. So was the law perfect as a pedagogue, as a moon, as a type. For its own use it was perfect. But its object was not to teach the way of salvation, nor to give life. And we do the law no dishonor when we say that the gospel is a better revelation--that the "New Testament" has a "better mediator;" contains "better promises," and is indeed a "better covenant."

      Classification of Books of the New Testament

      Having glanced at the Old Testament writings, and hastily traced the progressive development of the divine purpose in the redemption of our race, we have learned enough to establish us in the conviction that those writings do not contain a law for use--that their authority has passed away. The same God who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke to the fathers by the prophets, has, in these last days, spoken to us by His Son. We come, then, to what is called the New Testament. And you ask if this is, from first to last, a book of authority; and if we may find everywhere in its pages a knowledge of salvation and of duty? We are [440] compelled to answer, No. What is called the New Testament is made up, as you are aware, of a number of documents, written at different times, by different persons, with different objects in view. There is no difficulty in reaching this conclusion. A careful reading of the documents will enable anyone of ordinary intelligence to classify them in such a way as to give a proper order of succession to the different writings, and a character of completeness to the whole.

      1. He will find four biographies, written by different authors, and to different classes of persons, but all having the same definite object in view--to exhibit the incarnation, life, character and mission of the Son of God, the Saviour of men. They embrace what is necessary to be known of Jesus, from His birth to His resurrection and ascension. They are written with the avowed object of furnishing the materials of a life-giving faith in the Son of God. "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" (John xx:31). These records wind up with a revelation of the grand purpose of the mission of Jesus, to furnish salvation for the race; and an announcement of a coming Spirit of truth, under whose guidance chosen men should bear the offer of this salvation to all the world.

      2. He will find a succeeding book of history, called Acts of the Apostles, taking up the narrative of events where the first four books left it, and [441] proceeding to give a history of the preaching of the gospel and its results; a narrative of this salvation offered and accepted--showing how sinners were converted into Christians, being saved from their sins and brought into the Church of Christ. This is to you, let me say, in your present condition, the most important book in the Bible. It shows the Gospel, as preached to Jews, Samaritans, Gentiles; to kings, princes, nobles, philosophers, religionists, infidels, slaves and barbarians; to good and bad, rich and poor, learned and ignorant. It may surprise you to find that the original, inspired preachers of the Gospel did not keep their hearers at the base of Sinai, where you have been for a lifetime deafened by the thunders of the law; and that they never said one word about regeneration being a miracle; in fact, that there is not one sermon, in all that are reported, about regeneration! But, you will find here precisely how the Gospel was preached,, and how the guilty were led to the fountain of mercy for salvation.

      3. He will find a cluster of epistles, addressed to saved persons--to Christians--to give them a knowledge of the duties, dangers, trials and hopes of Christian life; epistles which correct the errors, and reveal the perils, of the Christian; give the instruction, and unfold the motives, necessary to furnish him to all good works.

      4. He will find a book of peculiar and imposing symbols, largely concealing and partially revealing [442] the fortunes of the church through successive ages--symbols meant alike to conceal and to reveal--a kind of dark-lantern to be carried by the Christian pilgrim, throwing no light out to the world, but to be used as occasion serves, by the believer, to throw light ahead on his pathway and cheer him with the coming triumph and glory.

      So, then, we have this classification of the New Testament writings:

      1. Biographical.
      2. Historical.
      3. Epistolary.
      4. Prophetical.

      1. Christ in person.
      2. Christ in the gospel.
      3. Christ in his people.
      4. Christ in providence.

      1. Christ, as the Apostle of the Father, working out a scheme of salvation.

      2. Christ, as Lord and Saviour, tendering a perfect salvation to the sinful.

      3. Christ, as Head of the church, reigning in and over his people.

      4. Christ, as Sovereign over all things. Controlling events of ages for final triumph of his truth.

      So that we go to the four Gospels to learn of the Saviour, to the Acts, to learn how to be saved; to the Epistles, to learn how the saved ought to live; and to the Apocalypse, to learn the fortunes of the church and the destiny of its faithful members.

      We wish now to speak more particularly of the first four books of the New Testament. [443]

      Design of the Biographical Books. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.--We have just given a classification of the writings of the New Testament, the object of which was to show that the documents contained in that volume were not all written for the same purpose. This is of more importance than, at first sight, it may seem to be. It was only the other day we read an editorial designed to prove that baptism is not for the remissions of sins. The editor quoted, with a triumphant air, the following Scripture:

      "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (I John i:9).

      We remember having read the same answer to the inquiry of an anxious sinner on a placard issued by the Young Men's Christian Association of Detroit, and posted up at the entrance of their rooms. Now, when you reflect that John's first epistle was not addressed to the unconverted, but to Christians, and that he is stating to Christians how they may obtain forgiveness, you will at once see the deception practiced in such an application of this Scripture. With equal propriety might we apply to Christians the language of Peter to a throng of rebel suppliants for mercy:

      "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins."

      But the editor aforesaid, not content with one misapplication, sought to fortify his false position [444] by another Scripture: "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved For with the heart man believeth unto righteous the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. x:9, 10).

      Now, this language, although occurring in an epistle addressed to Christian, is evidently meant to express the condition of salvation offered to a sinful world. This the context clearly shows. But the perversion here consists in making the penitent sinner's confession of the Lord Jesus equivalent to the penitent Christian's confession of his sins. So you see how important it is to note to whom the Scriptures are addressed, and for what purpose any passage that may be under consideration was written.

      We have already shown that the Old Testament does not contain an authoritative announcement of the Gospel. We now call your attention to the fact that the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were not written as an authoritative announcement of the terms of salvation. They reveal the Saviour rather than the salvation--what He did to bring salvation to us, rather than what we are to do to make the salvation ours. True, before these records close, the terms of salvation are announced; but it is not the design--the main scope--of the writings to treat of these. They furnish, as before stated, the material, of a life-giving faith. They make known to us the Saviour. They reveal His character and His [445] work. They make us familiar alike with his teachings and example, and give us a broad and firm basis for faith, hope and love, in a knowledge of his human sympathy and his divine power, his labors of love, his sacrifice for sin, his resurrection from the dead, and ascension to glory. Hence Luke sets forth his design in writing to be, "that thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou has been instructed" concerning Jesus Christ.

      But, all this while, the law of Moses remains in force. Let us call your attention to a few significant facts, which it is important to keep in mind, in the study of these four books.

      1. Jesus was a Jew, "born under the law," and subject to the law. He did not allow his own work to do dishonor in any way, to the living authority of the law of Moses. He came not "to destroy the law, or the prophets: but to fulfill." Matt.v:17, 18.

      2. He taught his disciples to observe the law, and receive the instructions of its authorized expounders. "The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. All, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do. Matt. xxiii:2, 3.

      3. His own personal mission was to the Jews only. Matt. xv:24.

      4. The twelve and the seventy whom he sent out, were limited to the Jews in their mission. Matt. x:5; Luke x:1.

      5. When Moses and Elijah--the great law-giver and law-restorer--laid down their honors at his feet, [446] and the voice of the Father announced the transfer of authority to Jesus, saying, "This is my beloved Son; hear ye him," those who were cognizant of the fact were forbidden to make it known until after the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. See Matt. xvii:1-9. It is most evident, therefore, that the authority of Moses was not to cease, and the authority of the Messiah was not to be proclaimed, until after His resurrection.

      6. He taught His disciples that He must go away to receive His kingdom. Luke xix:12.

      7. His church was not yet established. Matt. xvi:18.

      It was after His resurrection that He claimed "all authority in heaven and earth." Matt. xxviii:18. But He forbade the assertion or annunciation of that authority until He should ascend to heaven and send down the Holy Spirit to guide His apostles into all truth. Luke xxiv:49; John xvi:13.

      We cannot avoid the conclusion, therefore, that the terms of salvation through Jesus Christ have yet to be announced with authority. The succeeding Book of Acts will inform us of this announcement.

      It remains to be said that these four Gospels are of the most vital importance to us. They reveal the Saviour Himself, and present to us the divine foundation of faith and hope. Here is "God manifest in the flesh"; no longer hidden in a pavilion of darkness, with a benighted world groping vainly after Him; [447] nor proclaiming His presence in earthquake and tempest and thunder and lightning, as at Sinai "the great and the dreadful God"; but dwelling among us in the tabernacle of our own humanity--in us and of us; looking out upon us with human eyes, ministering to us with human hand, weeping human tears in sorrow and sympathy over our woes, binding up our wounds, healing our diseases, with human lips speaking counsels of heavenly wisdom and grace, and bearing our nature in His arms of divinity through all its conflicts, sorrows and tribulations, nay, even through the helplessness of death, to final triumph and immortal bliss!

      Here are the demonstrations of God's power and willingness to save. We need no longer doubt either His love or His ability--we need no longer remain ignorant of His gracious design in behalf of our guilty and dying race. Here is the great Sacrifice--the Lamb of God--bearing away the sins of the world. Here are the culminations alike of love and of justice, in the voluntary death, for our sins, of the sinless One, "that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life." Here is also the destruction of death's awful dominion, and the up-springing of life from the grave. Life and immortality are brought clearly to light.

      Ah! you may have doubts about human theories of regeneration, and be confused by the contradictory teachings of sects in theology; but can you not [448] understand Jesus Christ? Rather, can you, with an honest heart, fail to understand Him? Do you doubt that He is the Son of God--that He has life in Himself--that He gave His life for you--that He is stronger than death--that He lives in heaven a Prince and a Saviour, to grant repentance and re mission of sins? Do you not love Him? Has your heart never been touched by His gentle words of pity and mercy? Has He sorrowed and toiled and wept, and died, in vain? Do not His tears and blood plead mightily with you? Have not His searching words of counsel and reproof convicted you of sin, made you ashamed of your transgressions? And when He has shown you a father, with open arms, running to embrace with love the returning prodigal, have you not felt that you, too, could say, "I will arise and go to my Father?"

      And yet you have been waiting for a miracle to regenerate you! Rest assured that if you believe in the Son of God, and for His sake can turn away from sin and rebellion, and make it your pleasure to do His will, you may be at once admitted to the full joys of His salvation. We are to receive Jesus, believe in Jesus, love Jesus, serve Jesus--not a theoretical, philosophical or theological Jesus, but the living, personal, loving holy Jesus of the New Testament; and all the regeneration the heart can know is in being led to receive His teachings, trust His sacrifice, accept His authority, and enjoy the purifying and ennobling influences of His love. [449]

      "I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth in me might not abide in darkness, but have the light of life." "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him; and we will come to him, and make our abode with him." Thus all the treasures of saving grace and redeeming love come to us through faith and obedience. We have settled the greatest question of life when we have decided that Jesus is able to save and is worthy to rule us. It but remains to learn what He would have us do, and heartily accept and obey it. The four Gospels settle the first point. The Acts of the Apostles will guide us to the second. Before we leave the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John--for testimonies they are to be believed, not laws to be obeyed; facts and principles to enlighten us concerning the coming kingdom, and not statutes and ordinances to regulate Christian life--we must invite you to consider the different missions which these books unfold.

      1. The mission of John the Baptist. 2. The mission of. Jesus. 3. The mission of the twelve. 4. The mission of the seventy. 5. The mission of the Holy Spirit. 6. The mission of the apostles. These six missions are all unfolded to view in these four books. A proper comprehension of them will do much to prepare us to understand the gospel of salvation.

      There are three questions concerning all these missionaries (for a missionary is one sent upon a mission) which it is necessary to ask: [450]

      1. By whom sent?
      2. To whom sent?
      3. For what purpose sent?

      Let us briefly consider these questions in reference to these different missions.

      1. JOHN THE BAPTIST. A. By whom was he sent? Answer: "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John." John i:6. A. To whom was he sent. Answer: "Behold, I send you (Jews) Elijah the prophet." Mal. iv:5. See also Matt. xvii 12, 13. B. For what purpose sent? Answer: To prepare the way of the Lord, by turning the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers: to proclaim the coming of the kingdom, and to introduce the King. See Mal. iv:6; Matt. iii:1-3; John i:29-34, and iii:25-33.

      Not here, then, do we find a mission, world-embracing, in which our salvation is apprehensible. The mission of John is a preparatory work.

      2. JESUS OF NAZARETH. A. By whom sent? Answer: The "Father hath sent me." John v:36. B. To whom sent? Answer: "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Matt. xv:24. C. For what purpose sent? Answer: "I am come a light into the world, that he that believeth in me may not abide in darkness." John xii:46. "The Son of man is come to seek and to save the lost." Luke xix:10. "To this end was I born, and for this purpose came I into the world, that I might bear witness unto the truth." John xviii:37. "He [451] shall save his people from their sins." Matt. i:21. As we are not Jews, this personal mission of Jesus was not to us. It is still a preparatory work.

      3. THE TWELVE IN THEIR FIRST MISSION, AND THE SEVENTY. A. By whom sent? Answer: "Behold I send you," said Jesus. Matt. x:16; Luke x:3. B. To whom sent? Answer: "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. " Matt. v:5, 6; Luke x:1. C. For what purpose sent? Answer: "As you go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matt. x:7; Luke x:9.

      Evidently this, too, is a preparatory work.

      4. THE HOLY SPIRIT. A. By whom was this divine Missionary sent? Answer: "But the Advocate, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name." John xiv:26; xvi:7. B. To whom sent? Answer: To the Apostles. "Whom the world can not receive." John xiv:17. "I will send him unto you (apostles)." John xvi:7. C. For what purpose sent? Answer: "When he is come (to you, my apostles), he will convince the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment." John xvi:8. "He will guide you (apostles) into all truth." Verse 13. "He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." Verse 14.

      Now, as the "world cannot receive" this Spirit, and as the promise is to send the Spirit to the apostles, and not to the world, that the world, through [452] the apostles, might be convinced of sin, righteous and judgment, it is evident that sinners are not immediately interested in this mission. It, too, is preparatory. We come then, lastly, to

      5. THE SECOND MISSION OF THE TWELVE. A. By whom sent? Jesus says, "All authority in heaven and earth is given unto me. Go ye, therefore." Matt. xxviii: 18, 19. B. To whom sent? Answer: "All nations." Matt. xxviii:19. "All the world--every creature." Mark xvi:15. C. For what purpose sent? Answer: "Preach the gospel to every creature." Mark xvi:15. "Disciple all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world," Matt. xxviii:19, 20. "Repentance and remission of sins shall be preached in my name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. But tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high." Luke xxiv:47-49. "Receive ye the Holy Spirit: whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." John xx:22, 23. "I give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Matt. xvi:19.

      Here, then, is a mission which does immediately [453] concern us; for it embraces "all the world"--"every creature," down to the "end of the world." It is a mission which has salvation in it--the remission of sins; and "all things" which saved people are to be taught to do. It has the HOLY SPIRIT in it; for the Spirit is promised to the apostles to guide their preaching and teaching. It has CHRIST in it; for the Gospel of Christ is put in their keeping, and the Spirit is promised to take the things of Christ and show unto them. It has all of the Old Testament in it that concerns our salvation; for the Lord "opened their understandings, that they might understand the (Jewish) scriptures, to prepare them to preach the gospel." Luke xxiv:45-48. So that all of the Old Testament, and of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, needful for our conversion and salvation, is comprehended in this mission of the apostles. It wants but the coming of the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth, and then we shall have found our point of rest; we can sit at their feet and learn the way of salvation.

      Acts of Apostles. Day of Pentecost

      We have traced the progressive developments of the purposes of God through the Patriarchal and Jewish dispensations. We have watched the fingerboards along the way, all pointing forward to something better yet to be revealed. We have sought an answer to the question, "Wherefore, then, serveth the law?" and have, we trust, at least to some extent, [454] recovered your mind from confusion as to the design and purpose of the Old Testament. We have also become acquainted with the object of the four narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and have seen John the Baptist, Jesus, the twelve, and the seventy, all pointing forward to a coming kingdom, not far in the future, whose treasures of salvation should be unlocked to a perishing world as soon as Jesus should receive His authority, and the Holy Spirit should descend from heaven to endow the chosen ambassadors for their glorious mission. The last charge of the Lord to His apostles was, "Tarry ye in Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high." Acts i:1-5.

      This brings us to the day of Pentecost and its most significant developments, as narrated in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. Here we reach our point of rest. Here is the grand culmination of the scheme of salvation. Here is the setting up of the kingdom. Here is seen "the little stone cut out of the mountain without hands," which Nebuchadnezzar saw, and which is yet to become a great mountain and fill the whole earth. Here is the "Fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ."

      We may well afford to linger here a little while, and survey the sacred ground, and endeavor to take in the greatness and grandeur of the events which transpired on that memorable day of Pentecost.

      You are, perhaps, aware that the Jewish feast of Pentecost, observed fifty days from the Passover [455] feast, Lev. xxiii:15, 16, was the feast of harvest, Ex. xxiii:16, when the first-fruits of the wheat harvest were waved before the Lord, Lev. xxiii:17, the earnest of the harvest soon to be gathered in. In later times, it was also observed, though, so far as we know, without divine authority, in commemoration of the giving of the law. This special day of Pentecost which we are now contemplating is possessed of peculiar significance, in view of these facts; for now the "first-fruits" from humanity's white fields are to be offered to God, and the converts of this day are to be but the earnest of the mighty in-gathering. Now, also, the new law is to be promulgated from Mt. Zion, and the "word of the Lord" is to "go forth from Jerusalem."

      Let us, in this place, mention some of the reasons why this Pentecostal occasion has special significance.

      1. This is the first time that Jesus is heard from, after His ascension. Condemned on earth by the highest ecclesiastical and civil tribunals known in the land, as worthy of death, He appealed His case to the Supreme Court, and carried up His cause "to him who judgeth righteously"--to Him who is higher than the highest, before whose dread bar Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate must appear to be judged, and from whose decisions there is no appeal.

      On this day we receive tidings, by the divine Spirit-messenger, of the result of the final trial. The unrighteous decisions of the lower courts have been [456] reversed. He who was condemned for blasphemy, because He said, "I am the Son of God," is owned in heaven as the Son of God, and all the angels are commanded to worship Him. He who was condemned for treason because He said He was a King, is exalted in heaven to the throne of the universe, to reign until all His enemies are subdued. As the authority of Jesus could not be proclaimed until the scandal of these legal decisions was removed, this day furnishes the first opportunity for the inauguration of His reign; for this day He is "justified by the Spirit," and the glorious tidings are announced that "God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ."

      2. This is the day the Holy Spirit begins His mission for the conversion of the world. All through the four Gospels we are reminded of the superior interest attaching to the coming dispensation of the Spirit. John pointed the people away from his baptism to a coming baptism in the Holy Spirit of far greater import. Jesus said to the people, "If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink. He that believeth on me, from his inner self shall flow rivers of living water. But this he spoke of the Spirit, which those who believed in him were about to receive; for the Holy Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet been glorified. John vii:37-39. The time has now come, then, when, in the fullest sense of an earthly salvation, the thirsty may come and drink; for Jesus has been glorified, and [457] the Holy Spirit has been given. Please read John, chapters xiv, xv, xvi. You will there learn the importance of the mission of the Spirit, and how impossible it was that the apostles could proceed to open the will of the Lord Jesus, or accomplish any of their ambassadorial functions, until the Spirit came to "guide them into all truth."

      3. This day we reach the fulfillment of most important prophecies concerning the dispensation of grace. Please read carefully Isa. ii:1-5; Mic. iv:1-3; Ps. cx. All these point forward to the "last days" of the Jewish economy, when a law shall go forth from Zion and a word of the Lord from Jerusalem, so powerful, revolutionizing and regenerative as entirely to transform human society. The time and the place of beginning are both distinctly marked, and are realized on this day of Pentecost.

      4. This day furnishes the first announcement of a complete gospel of salvation. All hitherto had been but the promise of a salvation yet to be revealed. "The gospel" is declared by Paul to be, in its essential facts, the death of Christ for our sins, His burial, and resurrection from the dead, for our justification. I Cor. xv:1-4. You will see at a glance that this gospel, "by which we are saved," as Paul affirms, could not be preached as a perfected gospel until after the resurrection of Jesus. Here, then, we have the first complete Gospel sermon ever preached in the ears of man. Now for the first time can it be said, "All things are ready; come to the wedding." [458]

      5. This day is promulgated the first law ever issued in the name of Jesus Christ. This may startle you. But it is true. The first law ever issued in the name, or by the authority, of Jesus Christ, was published on this day, in these words: "Repent, and be baptized every, one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Repentance had been commanded before, but not by the authority of Jesus Christ; baptism had been enjoined before, but not in this name; remission of sins had been preached before, but not by this authority. It is a new law of pardon from a new authority.

      6. This day Peter, for the first time, uses the "keys of the kingdom of heaven," Matt. xvi:19, and binds and loosens according to the will of Christ.

      Here, therefore, we may learn the terms of entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Why will men puzzle themselves over the enigmatical language of John iii:1-5, and perpetually appeal, for authority, to a private conversation with Nicodemus, at a time when, for many reasons, Jesus veiled his instructions in parables, when we have here the terms of entrance into the kingdom announced by authority, in unfigurative terms, in the literal and positive language of law.

      7. The law of pardon announced this day was to be the law of pardon for all nations and all time.

      Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: [459] and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Luke xxiv:46, 47. "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." Acts ii:38. Thus they began at Jerusalem to preach, and thus they were to preach to all nations, not only for that age, but for all ages; for the promise to them, in fulfilling this commission, is, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." [460]

      New Testament Christianity, ed. Z. T. Sweeney. Vol. III. Columbus, IN: New Testament Christianity Book Fund, Inc., 1930. Pp. 424-460.

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