Secret Service Theologian



"O THE depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!"
(Romans 11:33) Such was the burst of praise that rose from the heart of the inspired Apostle as he realized that the seeming failure of all that Hebrew prophets had foretold of blessing upon earth at the coming of Messiah had been made the occasion of a new revelation, which should lead up to the fulfillment of all their God-breathed words.
"The seeming failure," I say advisedly. For though theologians have written "The enlargement of the Church" over such Scriptures as Isaiah 54, 60, 66, no sane and sensible person will pretend that there exists today, or has ever existed in the past, a condition of things on earth that could be accepted as the fulfillment of these prophecies. And to suppose that such a condition of things will result from the influences at work in the present economy betokens sheer blindness and folly. The time has come for plain speaking on this subject. "Clear the decks," is the first order given when a warship prepares for action. And the vagaries of old-fashioned "orthodox" exegesis are top-hamper that grievously embarrasses the defence of Holy Scripture in these days when its Divine authority is so virulently attacked. As the inspired Apostle declared at Pentecost, "the times of the restitution of all things" — or, in other words, the times when all things will be put right — are the burden of Hebrew prophecy from Moses to Malachi, (Acts 3:19) and the fulfillment of these prophecies awaits the return of Christ.
The fact is plain to all who will use their brains that the condition of Christendom, and of the world at large, differs essentially from what is portrayed and promised in the visions of the Hebrew Seers. But these "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost," (2 Peter 1:21) and no word of God can fail. No lapse of time affects it; for in His sight a thousand years are as a forgotten yesterday, or as a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:4) Thus it is that He would teach us that time is but a law of human thought, and that eternity is His domain.
Therefore, while unbelief dismisses these prophecies as old-world classics, the Christian accepts them as divine - the Word of God, "which liveth and abideth for ever." And this being so, chronology has no bearing on the vital question here at issue. For we are "not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." (2 Peter 3:8) "Today is the third day since these things were done," was the despairing lament of the disciples on the road to Emmaus; but their unbelief brought upon them the Lord’s rebuke, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken." And when the skeptical pundits would shake our faith by reminding us that the prophets’ words are still unfulfilled after the lapse of well-nigh three thousand years, we exclaim, "Three thousand years! Then today is the third day since these things were spoken!"
Spiritual discernment and ordinary intelligence are needed in the study of Holy Scripture. Spirituality is the prime essential, for spiritual truths are spiritually discerned; but common sense, to use the popular phrase, will generally save us from the follies of false exegesis. And false exegesis, I repeat, affords a vantage-ground for skeptical attacks on Scripture. To give an illustration of this, extremely apt in the circumstances of the day, I will quote a passage from Professor Tyndall’s famous address on "Science and Man." Referring to the "Angels’ Song," he exclaimed, "Look to the East at the present moment, as a comment on the promise of peace on earth and good will toward men. The promise is a dream ruined by the experience of eighteen centuries." The answer to this taunt is full and clear. The great birth in Bethlehem heralded the fulfillment of all that God had promised of blessing to the world. "The times of the restitution of all things," to quote the Apostle Peter’s words again, were to come with the advent of Christ. And now "the Coming One" had come. Why then were not the promised blessings realized? Why, but because of His rejection. "His own received Him not," and "the world knew Him not." The Christ was crucified on Calvary. And when the Apostles were divinely commissioned to proclaim to His murderers that a national repentance would bring Him back to earth, with the fulfillment of every blessing of which their prophets spoke, the response made by that guilty people was to persecute the ministers of this great reconciliation and hound them to death. But it may be asked, Has the sin of man changed the purposes of God? Most assuredly not. But, on account of that sin, the fulfillment of the Divine purposes his been postponed.
This then is the answer which Scripture gives to the skeptic’s taunt. But very different are the conflicting answers which "old-fashioned orthodoxy" offers. For some would have us believe that "the millennium" will result from the preaching of the Gospel in the present dispensation. And by others we are told that all we have to look for is "the end of the world," when the Lord will come to take His people to Himself, and judgment fire will engulf this sin cursed earth. The former view was popular in the early days of the nineteenth-century revival; but in the present state of Christendom in general, and of the Churches of the Reformation in particular, anyone who clings to it today must be either a mystic or a fossil And if the other view be accepted, the closing words of the 11th of Romans must be dismissed as the wildest rhapsody; for the unsearchable judgments of Divine wisdom and knowledge are thus made to find their realization in a pandemonium to be followed by a bonfire.(1)
This "spiritualizing," as it is called, of the Hebrew Scriptures has given the Jew a fair ground for rejecting the Christian’s appeal to the Messianic prophecies. And thus, as Adolf Saphir says with sorrow, "It is out of the arsenal of the orthodox that the weapons have been taken with which the very fundamental truths of the Gospel have been assailed." And he goes on to show how "this spiritualistic interpretation paved the way for Rationalism and Neology."
Let us then be done with it once for all; and rejecting absolutely the popular canon of exegesis, that Holy Scripture never says what it means, and never means what it says, let us learn with humility and reverence to accept all the Divine words at their face value. When the Lord declared that not a jot or tittle of the law shall fail of its fulfillment, He was speaking, not of the decalogue, but, as the context indicates, of the Hebrew Scriptures as a whole. Remembering, then, that these Scriptures are the Word of Him with whom both the past and the future are a living present, let us read them with the settled conviction that every promise, and every prophecy, relating to earth and the earthly people must be fulfilled as definitely as were the seemingly unbelievable prophecies and promises about the birth and death of Christ.
But on this subject our theology, so far from reflecting "the wisdom and knowledge of God," partakes of the ignorance and the errors of the Patristic theologians. Plain words, I repeat, are needed here. For the writings of the Latin Fathers afford a vantage-ground both for Romish attacks upon the citadel of Divine truth, and for the insidious efforts of German skepticism to undermine its very foundations. It is noteworthy that though the writers of the New Testament, one and all, were men who, like Timothy, had known the Hebrew Scriptures from infancy,1 the Patristic theologians were converts from Paganism. And having regard to their comparative want of acquaintance with the Old Testament, it is not strange, perhaps, that in the then condition of the Jewish people, crushed apparently beyond hope of recovery by the judgments that had overwhelmed them, the belief prevailed that God had "cast away His people whom He foreknew." But it is both strange and sad that such a belief should still survive in these enlightened days of ours. In proof that it does survive, appeal might be made to many a standard work; but for my present purpose it will suffice to quote the following sentence from the prolific pen of a writer of the highest repute as a popular theologian: "The divine and steady light of history first made clear to the Church that our Lord’s prophetic warnings as to His return applied primarily to the close of the Jewish dispensation, and the winding up of all the past, and the inauguration of the last great aeon of God’s dealings with mankind."2
If we are to recover truth which the Church, in its incipient apostasy, lost through following the human light of history, we must seek it by "the Divine and steady light" of Holy Writ. And that light will make clear to us that, like many another Scripture, the promise to Abraham has a twofold aspect. It pointed to Christ and the redemption of Calvary; but it still awaits its secondary fulfillment through the agency of the covenant people. "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." (Genesis 22:18.)3 The spiritually intelligent Bible student accepts that promise as the Word of the Lord, that endureth for ever, and he knows that it will be literally fulfilled. And he knows also, that this Christian dispensation is not "the last great aeon of God’s dealings with mankind," but rather a beginning of what, in His unsearchable counsels, He has in store for the blessing of this sin-blighted world.
That glorious vista of future blessing, which filled so large a place in the visions of the Hebrew Seers, was but the unfolding of the prophecy of the sacred calendar. For the Passover is only the first of the great Festivals which typify the harvest of redemption. This present dispensation with its sheaf of the first-fruits,4 the true, the heavenly Church, is to be followed by the Feast of Pentecost, when Israel reunited - the two wave loaves of the typical ritual - will be restored to Divine favour. And beyond these spring-time festivals there comes the harvest-home of redemption upon earth, in the fulfillment of the great Feast of Tabernacles, when unnumbered multitudes of the saved shall know and serve the Lord. This is no "cunningly devised fable," no mere dream of a visionary; it is a summary of what Scripture plainly teaches. And, rejecting the unworthy figment that earth is merely a recruiting-ground for heaven, to be given up to fire when the Church has been safely garnered, faith looks out with joy upon this glorious vista of the future, when the Abrahamic promise shall receive complete fulfillment, and Christ "shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied."
It is in this spirit and on these principles that the present inquiry shall proceed. And the nature and scope of the inquiry may be stated thus - "What light does Scripture throw upon the abnormal condition of things on earth during this age, when "the people of the covenant" are in rejection?" And what are the distinctive truths of Christianity, or, in other words, the special "mystery" truths of the New Testament revelation? As this word "mystery" will occur again and again in the following pages, it may be well to explain that it is here employed in its Scriptural acceptation, as signifying "not a thing unintelligible, but what lies hidden and secret till made known by the revelation of God."5 Or as Dr. Sanday gives it, "something which up to the time of the Apostles had remained secret, but had then been made known by Divine intervention."
Chapter Three

Literature | Photos | Links | Home