Secret Service Theologian




"If the Father begat the Son, He who was begotten had a beginning of existence. So there was a time when the Son did not exist." Thus Arius argued; and when inexorable logic deduces error from premises that are deemed true, it behoves us to test our premises again by an appeal to Scripture. And it is not a matter of opinion, but of fact, that neither in respect of His "eternal Sonship," nor even of His human birth, does Holy Scripture ever speak of the Son as "begotten of the Father." And this is the more significant because the word is used so emphatically with reference to His resurrection from the dead. But, it will be asked, is He not called "the only begotten Son of God"? This question has been already answered (see p. 30 ante), and it only remains to notice a most deplorable and distressing inference that is based upon the misreading of the term. (This Appendix was not ready when the proofs were submitted to the Bishop of Durham. I have written on this subject with hesitation, but under a pressing sense of the need of dealing with it.) The time is near when "the Christian miracles" will be accepted as facts, but explained on natural principles; for the crassly stupid infidelity of the past is dying out. (Dr. Harnack's reference to miracles in "What is Christianity?" points to this.) I heard of a private meeting of medical men in London last winter at which it was gravely urged that a virgin birth was possible as a natural phenomenon! The Rationalist could thus admit that the Lord was born of a virgin, without admitting that He was "conceived of the Holy Ghost." Matt. i. 20 does not conflict with this statement.
The language of theology on this subject is popularly misconstrued to mean that at the Incarnation the Deity took the place of a husband to the Virgin Mary. In regard to such a mystery as the Incarnation our part is to keep to the very words of Holy Scripture; and the language of Scripture is unequivocal and plain. As to His human birth, the Lord was “the Seed of the Woman.” But it will be asked, how is that possible? The answer is supplied by Matthew i. 20 and Luke i. 35. The virgin birth was altogether miraculous; but if the popular belief were well founded, His birth would have been miraculous only in the sense of being unnatural.
Those who have learned to look for absolute accuracy in the language of Scripture will not fail to mark the angel’s words: “Therefore that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” That birth did not constitute Him Son of God, yet had it not been a virgin birth, Mary’s son could have had no possible claim to such a title.
The Rationalist trades upon the fact that the virgin birth has no place in the teaching of the Epistles. And Christians often fail to understand the omission. But the reason of it is plain. While the rejection of the virgin birth would undermine the faith, the acceptance of it (as Unitarianism abundantly proves) is compatible with denying the Deity of Christ, and His Deity is the foundation truth of Christianity. The truth of His Sonship as implied in the virgin birth is merged in the truth that He was the Son of God in a vastly higher sense; and, as we have seen, that great truth is in the warp and woof of every part of the New Testament.
But this is not all. Unless the Gospel narratives be altogether unreliable and worthless, it is certain that Mary’s firstborn was not the son of Joseph. The alternative to the virgin birth, therefore, would be that the Lord of Glory belonged to that unfortunate class which the divine law excluded from “the congregation of the Lord” (Deut. xxiii. 2); and this being so, it is amazing that any one could expect to find an assertion of it in the doctrinal teaching of the Epistles. The whole question of the virgin birth is settled and silenced by the truth of the Lord’s Deity. The word “firstborn” claims notice here. In its ordinary use prototokos means a woman’s first child, being a male. But Heb. xii. 23 gives proof that it acquired a figurative or spiritual significance, suggested by, but wholly apart from, its common meaning. For every individual in the particular company of the redeemed there designated is a “firstborn”; and it is clearly used as a title of special dignity and privilege. This being so, it would be ignorant and wrong to narrow its application to our Divine Lord by reference to the virgin birth, or to construe it as implying in any way a limitation of His Deity. The coincidence is striking that this word, like monogenes, occurs just nine times in Scripture. In Matt. i. 25 and Luke ii. 7, it is used in its ordinary acceptation, the inference being that Mary had other children. In Heb. xi. 28 it is used by way of historic reference; and Heb. xii. 23 I have already noticed. The other passages where it occurs are Rom. viii. 29, Col. i. 15, 18, Heb. i. 6, Rev. i. 5. In the sphere of creation the term “firstborn” can be applied to the Lord only as a title of dignity and glory. And this is presumably its significance in those passages also which relate to the resurrection. If there be any reference to the ordinary meaning of the word, it is noteworthy that the “order” indicated in 1 Cor. xv. 28 is priority of rank.


“WHAT does he mean?” some may ask in laying down the tenth chapter of this book. To explain my meaning, therefore, I take up at random four documents now before me.
The first is a syllabus of services in a certain West End church which is noted for a true ministry. And among the subjects of addresses announced, I here find “The Parables of Jesus,” and “Scenes in the Life of Jesus.” Lectures were recently announced under these same headings in a notorious “Hall of Science” in London. The profane infidel and the devout Christian thus agree in naming the Lord Jesus Christ in the same free and easy fashion.
The next is a theological work by a Professor in one of the principal Theological Colleges in America. The author is a devout and enlightened student of Scripture, and his book is of great merit and real value. The present volume, indeed, has benefited by help derived from it. But the manner in which it habitually uses “the simple name” might suggest that some infidel had got hold of the MS. and had struck out every title of reverence. It is “Jesus” everywhere. Only twenty times is the Lord named as “Jesus” in all the Epistles of the New Testament, and yet He is so named twenty-two times in the two concluding paragraphs of the last chapter of this book. The third is a publisher’s circular about a work entitled “Jesus according to St. Mark,” by a clergyman who is a Fellow of an Oxford College, and Examining Chaplain to a Bishop. “It endeavours to answer the question, What kind of person did St. Mark, or his, informant, St. Peter, think Jesus to be? Under the heads of ‘Jesus’ family and friends ‘Jesus’ way of life,’ ‘Jesus’ mind,’ ‘Jesus’ social outlook,’ ‘Jesus’ morality,’ and ‘Jesus’ religion,’ it approaches the final subject of ‘Jesus Himself.” Had the book been written by Tom Paine or Voltaire, the title and headings would have been the same, save that the “Saint” before the name of the Evangelist would probably have been omitted. “Jesus” always; but Saint Mark! Is it not plain that the “Jesus” of this deplorable book is the dead Buddha of the Rationalist? Could any one to whom our Lord Jesus Christ is a living person -” our great God and Saviour,” before whose judgment-seat we all shall stand - write of Him, or even think of Him, after this fashion? The last document in my list is a “book of piety” by an American writer who seems to be a persona graia on advanced evangelical platforms on both sides of the Atlantic. It is a deplorable book, the evil influence of which is all the greater because it is so subtle. It is fitted to promote a “Christ after the flesh” religion of a kind that charms the mere religionist, and deceives and corrupts even spiritual Christians - a religion which puts sentiment in place of faith, and the expression of that sentiment in the place of the divine revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Footnote - I am happy in the conviction that if I were in my grave, not even my own wife would write about me for publication after the fashion of this writer’s “Talks about Jesus.”)
Though a book of this kind enjoys a fleeting popularity because it panders to the desire of the natural man to bring “Jesus” down to his own level, it is happily short-lived. But it is otherwise with works such as find a place on the shelves of every theological library. And most of our recent theological literature is so definitely “run in a rationalistic mould,” that it is unwholesome reading for Christians. And this is true even of books written by men who pose as champions of orthodoxy. Here, e.g., is a typical sentence from the pen of one such: "Jesus was a very complex character." Can a man who writes thus have any real knowledge of the Lord before whom he has to stand in judgment? The historian who has true historical genius studies the records of the past in order to put himself back, as it were, into the life of the people of whom he writes, that he may be able to think as they thought and feel as they felt. And if we study the New Testament in this spirit, we shall realise in some measure the amazement and distress which any one of the early disciples would feel, if he returned to earth to-day, at finding that Christians constantly name the Lord of Glory after the example of the vagabond Jewish exorcists of the Acts. In his day, he would tell us, people declared themselves at once as unbelievers or disciples by the way in which they spoke of Him.
As proof that there can be nothing unseemly in speaking of the Lord as "Jesus," or "Jesus Christ," I it is often urged that many reverent and spiritual men habitually name Him thus. But were it not for this there would be no need to write upon the subject at all. And surely the question for us is not as to the habits and practices of Christian men, but as to the teaching of Scripture and the expressed will of the Lord Himself.
If the question is to be settled by the practice of Christians, it was settled in the days of the Fathers. Though here we should distinguish between "the Apostolic Fathers" and their successors. For writings such as Clement’s "Epistle to the Corinthians" and Polycarp’s "Epistle to the Philippians" definitely follow the New Testament tradition in the way they name the Lord; whereas later Patristic writings give proof that, in this as in other respects, the leaven was already working which (as Froude aptly expresses it somewhere) changed the religion of Christ into the Christian religion. In the Gospels, as already noticed, the Lord is named narratively as "Jesus" some 600 times, but never once in the Epistles. Eight times in Hebrews, and in eight passages in the Epistles of Paul, He is called by His personal name; and in every instance its occurrence indicates some doctrinal significance or special emphasis The following is the list of the passages in question. I will preface it merely by repeating that His disciples never spoke of Him to one another save as Master or Lord : -
Rom 3:26 - This is dealt with on p. 111 ante.
Rom. viii. 11. - Hers the emphatic reference to the humiliation appears plainly from the words which immediately follow.
2 Cor. iv. 5. - " Your servants for Jesus’ sake." This is perhaps the only passage in the Epistles that presents a difficulty. And such being the case, surely it ought to be explained on the same principle. It is certainly not for the sake of euphony or rhythm that in the same sentence the Apostle calls Him "Jesus" and "Christ Jesus the Lord."
2 Cor. iv. 10 - 14. - Here the emphatic contrast between "Jesus" and "the Lord Jesus" is evident. "The life of Jesus" is the life He lived on earth; the life of Christ would be the vital principle which He shares with His redeemed people.
EPH. iv. 21. - This is dealt with on p. 103 ante.
Phil.. ii. 10. - This is dealt with on p. 104 ante.
1 Thess. 1. 10. - He is named three times in the preceding verses as the Lord Jesus Christ; here, as Jesus, God’s Son, from heaven. It is not really a case in point. (Cf 1 John i. 7).
1 Thess. iv. 14. - The emphasis on the personal name is clear, and an intelligent exegesis of the passage will bring out its doctrinal significance. An excursus upon the subject here would be an undue digression, and the writer must take the liberty of referring to his book "The Way," p. 118 and App. II. Our versions here give exposition, not translation. The Greek reads, "If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also who were put to sleep through Jesus will God bring with Him." Which means that the Lord was the cause of their death; i.e. they were martyred because they were Christians. The words are not a doctrinal statement about the holy dead - that is the scope of verse 10 - but a message of comfort expressly from the Lord Himself’ (verse 15) about those for whom the Thessalonians were mourning. The popular phrase, "sleeping in Jesus" is not scriptural.

The words "another Jesus" in 2 Cor. xi. 4 have obviously no bearing on the present question. Neither have the words of 1 Cor. xii. 3 as they appear in the original. "Anathema Jesus" was presumably used by profane Jews; and the Apostle contrasts it with "Lord Jesus" - the mode in which the disciples addressed Him and spoke of Him.
The Revisers’ reading of Gal. vi. 17 exemplifies the importance of accuracy in the use of the Lord’s names. Their devotion to the three oldest MSS. - the layman’s usual blunder in giving undue weight to "direct" evidence - has here led to a deplorable perversion of the Apostle’s words.
"The stigmata of Jesus" must be explained (according to the well-known incident in the life of St. Francis of Assisi) as the wound-prints which "the Man of Sorrows" bore in His body. But however they may be interpreted, it seems incredible that such words could have been penned by the Apostle Paul. The meaning of his actual words - " the stigmata of the Lord Jesus " - is not doubtful. It was a practice with slave-owners to brand their slaves, and the scars of his sufferings for Christ’s sake were to him the brand-marks by which his Divine Master claimed him to be His devoted slave.
The passages in Hebrews are ii. 9, iv. 14, vi. 20, vii. 22, x. 19, xii. 2 and xiii. 12. (The R.V. adds iii. 1.)
Chapter iv 14 may be eliminated, for, as we have seen, "Jesus, the Son of God," was to the Israelite a title of the highest solemnity, connoting absolute Deity. And in ii. 9, vi. 20, xii. 2, and xiii. 12, the reference to the Lord’s humiliation and "witness unto death" is unmistakable. Chap. vi. 20 (" the forerunner ") may be bracketed with xii. 2; and vii. 22 with iv. 14.
These are the only passages in the Epistles of the New Testament in which the Lord is mentioned by His personal name. To use them as an excuse for the prevailing practice of naming Him with unholy familiarity is to bring Scripture into contempt, for a gulf separates even our most solemn utterances from the inspired language of Holy Scripture.
It is noteworthy that while "the simple name" is never used narratively in the Epistles, it is so used in the first chapter of Acts (verses 1, 14, and 16), which is in a sense the conclusion of the Third Gospel. And two or three other passages may seem to be in the same category, though perhaps they ought to be otherwise explained. It is also remarkable that in Acts i. 11, as in Rev. xiv. 12 and xix. 10, the Lord is thus designated by angels. And the Lord Himself used the name of His humiliation in arresting Saul of Tarsus (Acts ix. 5), as He does again in Rev. xxii. 16. What has been said of the use of the name "Jesus" in the Epistles applies with special force to the Apostolic preaching recorded in Acts; as, e.g., in ii. 82 and 36. And still greater emphasis attaches to "Jesus of Nazareth," as a name not only of humiliation, but of reproach (see p. 101 ante).
With reference to the few occurrences of "Jesus Christ" in Acts, the remarks offered on p. 105 ante apply with full force. The Lord is never thus named to Gentiles (for the R.V. omits viii. 37). I would here repeat the words quoted on a preceding page, that "the modern familiarity of use of the simple name Jesus has little authority in Apostolic usage." But in view of the foregoing analysis of Scripture, I would go further, and maintain that, to familiarity of use, the New Testament lends no sanction whatever. It is generally due to ignorance, indifference, or sheer carelessness. To call Him "Jesus" saves time and breath. Moreover, it is popular with hearers and readers - a Christ-after-the-flesh cult is always popular - and if we like it, what does it matter? HE is of no account whatever! To call a fellow-man by his personal name betokens great familiarity; and if there be Christians who have gained such a position with their Lord and Saviour, it is not for us to judge them. But we who claim no such place must not allow ourselves to be betrayed by their example into thoughts or modes of speech which His presence would rebuke and silence. If we really desire "to sanctify Christ in our hearts as Lord," we shall be careful and eager to own Him as Lord with our lips. And all influences that hinder the realisation of that desire are unwholesome, and we do well to shun them.
"Ye do show the Lord’s death till He come"(l Cor. xi. £6). In these words we have the faith and hope of Christianity; and no one who lets go any part of the truth they express has any right to the name of Christian. For to reject the hope of the Coming is as really a mark of apostasy as to deny the Atonement. And no spiritual Christian will need to be reminded of the significance of the word, the Lord’s death. "The death of Jesus" might mean merely the end of His earthly life in Judea long ago. This indeed is the ruling thought in the religion of Christendom, the crucifix being the symbol of it. But it is not through the slough of nineteen centuries of apostasy that we reach the Cross. Faith brings us into the presence of the Lord in His glory, and we rest upon His words - " I am He that liveth and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore" (Rev. i. 18). "We know that the Son of God is come" - that is the Christian’s past. "He is now at the right hand of God . . - for us " - that is his present. And as for the future, "We are looking for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ" (1 John v. 20; Rom. viii. 84; Phil. iii. 20).
Our hymn-books contain many a hymn which Christians would discard or alter if they knew what it meant "to sanctify Christ in their hearts as Lord." I take, for instance, the hymn beginning -

"Sweet Saviour, bless us era we go,"
with the refrain at the end of every verse -
"0 gentle Jesu, be our light."

Who is the Being whom people are taught to address in such terms and in such a manner? One moment’s intelligent thought will satisfy any one that he is not our risen and glorified Lord and Saviour. His personal name occurs many hundreds of times in the New Testament, but never once with an adjective. Not even in the days of, His humiliation did His chosen disciples ever address Him thus. The plain truth is that this "sweet, gentle Jesu" is a mere idol. The same tendency in human nature which leads some to worship a mythical Virgin Mary, declares itself in impersonating this mythical Jesus, who is an object of sentiment, and not of faith. And this tendency is so deep and general that in scores of hymns we find this utterly unchristian, "0 Jesus," when the rhythm of the verse is marred by it, and would be saved by the use of the Christian mode of address, "Lord Jesus." "Ye call Me Master and Lord, and YE SAY WELL."
These are His own words; and surely this is enough for the true disciple! A friend of mine tells of the death-bed words of a revered Christian minister by whom he himself was brought to the Lord. In response to the inquiry, "Safe in the arms of Jesus?" the old saint opened his eyes, and replied with a smile, "No, no; at His feet." It was the attitude of the beloved disciple in the Patmos vision. We should never allow a hymn-book to betray us into using words which we would not use if the Lord were present, or if we really believed that He was listening.

Safe in Jehovah's keeping,
Led by His glorious arm,
God is Himself my refuge,
- A present help from harm.
Fears may at times distress me,
Griefs may my soul annoy;
God is my strength and portion,
God my exceeding joy.
Safe in Jehovah’s keeping,
Safe in temptation’s hour,
Safe in the midst of perils,
Kept by Almighty power.
Safe when the tempest rages,
Safe though the night be long;
E’en when my sky is darkest
God is my strength and song.
Sure is Jehovah’s promise,
Nought can my hope assail;
Here is my soul’s sure anchor,
Entered within the veil.
Blest in His love eternal,
What can I want beside!
Safe through the blood that cleauseth,
Safe in the Christ that died.


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