030-2 Decline and Fall
An Examination of the State of The Reformed Movement
(Containing also A Defense of "The Concert of the Trinity")
Charles D. Alexander
Written sometime during the 1960's
Cracks are appearing in the Reformed Movement of our time. All the signs of a steady disintegration are with us.
They are, in brief:

1. The rise of a new Calvinistic scholasticism;

2. Inability of our young men to preach convincingly or expound adequately;

3. The increasing tendency to be sidetracked to second or third rate issues;

4. Dangerous symptoms of turning aside to dabbling in charismatic ‘gifts’.


1. THE RISE OF A NEW CALVINISTIC SCHOLASTICISM.

In Great Britain, U.S.A. and Holland, men who display an impressive collection of qualifications, are writing or reviewing abstruse books which are acclaimed as marking an epoch or a new high watermark of relevance in current theology, although they are completely meaningless to ordinary Christians wrestling on the ground level with the true facts of life.

Young ministers, with or without the same intellectual facade, (Mr. Muggeridge, who ought to know, has recently spoken about ‘bogus degrees’) have eagerly added the new books to their shelves and are impressing themselves (if not their congregations) with the feeling that they are not behind the times, even though they cannot preach and their own future usefulness is in grave doubt.

They are in a Valley of Dry Bones, but there is unlikely to be any breath of the Spirit to animate their theology.

Theologies and commentaries are being sent out from the press, which, though thoroughly orthodox (Calvinistically speaking), are entirely scholastic in their treatment of divine themes, as though theology was a mental exercise among a higher rating of students. The language (some would say the jargon) used, is calculated to make the authors relevant among other scholars neither Reformed nor evangelical, and often positively rationalistic and atheistic.

Reformed Theology of that name, and which grew out of the Reformation stem as the most complete and satisfying presentation of truth in the understanding of the common people, the world has ever seen. We implore some of our younger men before it is too late, to consider seriously where the present tendencies may lead. They should look to their priorities and get back to first principles.

Then there is the attempted revival of the old-fashioned chiliasm of the 17th and 18th centuries. Chiliasm, for those not familiar with the term, is a word derived from the Thousand Years of Revelation 20 and is more familiarly known today as Millennialism. We use the former term as not being quite so calculated to stir up the emotions.

Our modern Reformed chiliasts are excellent men in themselves, and there is no doubting their enthusiasm. They have borrowed a term from former days which gives an aura of glittering attractiveness to their subject. It is, “THE LATTER DAY GLORY”.  This is calculated to do much more for the cause than such a dull term as, “Post Millennial.”

In the days of the Commonwealth, before the disaster of Cromwell’s premature death, the idea of the imminent dawn of the millennium seemed a very relevant possibility, and its survival after the Restoration, and more so after the Revolution of 1688 (William and Mary) was not surprising. Toplady in his own brilliant and eloquent style, during the 18th century revival, described in burning language this “Latter Day Glory” in an article (or sermon) which had only one defect - it ignored completely the awful collapse of 1,000 years of Christ's personal reign on earth into the Little-Season of Satan's Unloosing (Rev. 20) when at a flick of Satan's eye brows, the Golden Age disappears in worldwide apostasy (see note at bottom of this page).

Books, articles, and statements based on a surface exposition of Isaiah 11:9 are not to the purpose unless first a consistent principle of interpretation has been proved which relates the doctrine of the Kingdom of God in the Old Testament to the same doctrine in the New.

With what enthusiasm some of our men are girding themselves with those same Jewish interpretations against which Paul thundered and pleaded in the Epistle to the Galatians!

[Editing note: Items 2 & 3 were not so identified in the original; however the subjects are dealt with in items 1 & 4.]

4. DANGEROUS SYMPTOMS OF TURNING ASIDE TO CHARISMATIC GIFTS.

We have been distressed beyond measure in recent years to see the growing tendency in the Reformed Movement towards a revival of charismatic gifts - the supernatural gifts of tongues and healings and exorcisms. Some of the most distinguished names in Reformed Movement have been associated with this, and in consequence many have been overawed and are afraid to speak out. We have known Reformed conferences where all dissent on the matter has been steamrollered, and good men have preferred to remain silent rather than incur ignominy.

How far the rot has gone is clear from correspondence in our hands. A young and, highly intelligent pastor exercising a Reformed ministry, who has had a merciful deliverance from so-called “Pentecostalism”, writes:... “I went to a Ministers' Conference recently connected with the ... Movement which, as you probably know, is largely (whatever that may mean!) Reformed.... The whole time of the Conference was mainly devoted to the Baptism of the Spirit as a second blessing, the present need for spiritual gifts, and we even ended with a ‘waiting meeting’ - I was simply amazed at how thoroughly persuaded the majority of the ministers were on these matters...”

It seems tragic that one who has, through the impact of the Reformed doctrines, been delivered from ‘Pentecostalism’ and at great personal sacrifice; has left the prospects and security of a ministry in that quarter, behind him, should find himself facing the same issue in Reformed circles, this time encouraged by important names which weigh much with younger men.

Recent issues of an important Magazine belonging to the same Movement contained articles by a London exorcist, who has been introduced to the highest ‘reformed’ circles in the land. We have no doubt as to the personal integrity of this gentleman, but we also have no doubt as to his utter misconception on these matters. In the magazine in question he was allowed very wide scope to present his experience of casting our demons.

The following is an extract from a letter we have sent to the editor on the matter:

“What one is disturbed about is the printing of articles such as that written by A.N. which reflect only the dangerous and misleading aberrations of a pseudo-pentecostalism. I am afraid far too much has already been done in modern evangelicalism to standardise the idea that tongues, miracles and exorcisms are now to be accepted as part of the respectable, normality of the evangelical testimony today. A critical _reader would require nothing more than Mr. N's article to perceive the danger and delusion of this modern trend, though I hardly think that would have been your motive for printing it. Here we have a man claiming far more than is indicated in the New Testament. It has become fashionable now among our present-day, exorcists to give names to individual demons' and even in some cases actually to SEE them departing from the allegedly demon-possessed. I need not say how far this is from the New Testament. Mr. N. tells us of a ‘tense spiritual battle lasting five hours’ over a certain female when a demon  (aptly named Seducer) returned to the unfortunate lady bringing with him another seven whose names became known to the exorcist, though not to the reader. I read in the New Testament that demons were cast out at once in the name of the Risen Saviour.  One could give other names to the process described by your exorcist as lasting five hours. What, sir, do you make of such, expressions as these? –“There are details of an alarming nature which I hesitate to record...Twice have I had to leave my vestry because the presence of evil was so stifling and almost overwhelming.... On one occasion I had to ask a minister to leave my vestry because the discernment of the Holy Spirit revealed that he was pseudo....” This savours very much of the spiritual seance. There is also here a claim to a special kind of inspiration, if not infallibility, and this is common with our modern evangelical exorcists. And why, dear Sir, is it so often the case that females are the subjects of the exorcists’ attentions?  I am not in the least suggesting anything indelicate, but only pointing to a well-known characteristic of feminine nature where it is not regulated by a strong and well-balanced mind - the personalisation of certain psychological - or sinful - tendencies, which ought to be corrected by sound doctrine and Christian fellowship, not in the way which caters to the very feelings which are to be dealt with. Mrs.  X in the article referred to had known the exorcism of 47  (note the precise number) of demons from her ‘life’. Bluntly and baldly we are told she had been a prostitute, heroin addict, and ‘the victim of several abominable practices.’ Dear Sir, how credulous and how far from a sound mind (2 Tim 1:7) can we evangelicals get? The mental and moral dangers inherent in this sort of alleged exorcism practised upon unbalanced females who are at odds with their own sinful nature and find comfort and release by blaming their turpitude on 47 or more 'demons' over whom they have no control, should be self-evident to any sensible person, and that the affair should be publicised by you in a magazine which could be a real influence for healthy, strong, sober-minded evangelism, fills one with perplexity and utter sadness.”


FURTHER OBSERVATIONS.

Our experience is proving that the Reformed Movement is not only far from being immune to these errors, but there is within our gates an active purpose to introduce some modified form of ‘Pentecostalism’ no doubt to make up for the perplexity caused, in the minds of well-meaning persons through the absence of that 'revival" upon which all their evangelical hopes are set. The answer to that perplexity lies not in compromise with the extravagances of modern evangelicalism, but in a clear-sighted view of the truth regarding the revival craze. That the Reformed Movement should try to gather comfort in that field at the very moment when Arminian revivalism is at its lowest and most discreditable ebb is a very frustrating thing.

We beg our readers to reread our third Broadsheet on Pentecostalism, and our No. 7 on The Great Revival Fallacy.

That evangelicalism is near the very dregs of discredit in the matter of alleged charismatic gifts is patent from a missionary magazine now in our hands describing events in Indonesia. Here are some extracts.

“On four occasions there is indisputable evidence that before a communion service the Lord turned the water into wine. About six people have been raised from the dead....In one home a child who had been dead for six hours was prayed over by an illiterate peasant member of the team and was raised from the dead. Six such occurrences were reported.,....A police officer saw the church on fire with flames and smoke pouring into the sky. He called the Fire Brigade. When they got inside there was not a sign of smoke or flame, but on the floor they saw in great letters, ‘1966-1968’. They ran outside but the roof of the church was completely intact and there was not a sign of flame or smoke. This cast a terrific fear and awe over the village and they interpreted these numbers as being the two years in which special signs of God were going to be seen on the island.”

The alarming thing is that such prodigies can be retailed in any British missionary magazine in the expectation of their being believed. This is the age when even Reformed men can be relied upon to give these stories serious attention.

We were asked our opinion on the prodigies described above, and this was our reply:

“The retailing in the magazine you sent me, of alleged mass, conversions, healings, and even raising the dead, reveals a quite satanic delusion upon the minds of many. These reports bear in themselves the hallmark of dubiety. For instance we read,  ‘A Christian schoolteacher received the gift of healing ... thousands were healed and many converted.  Then tragedy struck; the ABUSE OF THE GIFTS led the leader into sin, the Spirit went from him and the witness stopped...,

Always the accent is on man. Most of our modern 'healers' are frauds or emotionalists as their records show. Their 'gifts' don't keep them from immorality (as the case above shows). It is not surprising to find them crash morally or just disappear from the scene and not be heard of again.

The numerous cases claimed of the raising of the dead in such places as Indonesia would be humorous were they not tragic. We are living in times when heart transplants and other fantastic surgeries are forcing upon the medical profession the acknowledgment that there is no clear definition of death. They have invented a new term to cover themselves in case of mistake. Thy now say a person is 'clinically dead' whatever that may mean. How they define death in Indonesia where there are few doctors and no questions asked, and anyone can pronounce a person dead, it is curious to think. It is easy enough to raise the dead when the dead are actually still alive, and the witnesses and operators are only ignorant, illiterate, and superstitious peasants. It is highly significant that these events are seldom claimed in a modern educated and sophisticated society. Where they have been claimed (even in England) I can never get an answer to my interrogation ‘Was there a death-certificate? What steps were taken afterwards to have the death certificate annulled and the person re-entered in the records at Somerset House as having begun to live the second time? What happened to the insurance claims? Why were questions not raised in Parliament and the Registrar General called to account?’

We fear we shall have to do battle in coming days to repel such errors even from our Calvinism, and we shall not increase our popularity by being proved right.”

THE CASE OF LORD OCHILTREE

We have had to withstand a barrage of hot opposition in ministerial sessions, over this question. One respected and highly intelligent minister bade us look up the: details of the miracle performed by John Welsh, the grandson of John Knox, when he raised young Lord Ochiltree from the dead.

We did so, from the very complete account in John Howie's “Scots Worthies”, and discovered that so far from John Welsh having raised the dead, he actually prevented a man from being buried alive, Lord Ochiltree was in a coma following the application of the crude surgery of the times when a man was bled: white under the illusion that the more blood was let out the more the disease was drained from his body. Everyone was for a funeral except John Welsh who kept his head and pleaded for time. He succeeded in getting the obsequies postponed long enough for the man to recover. Proof that Ochiltree was never dead is supplied unwittingly by John Howie who records that the doctor had sought to prove the young man dead by compressing his head with a cord and pinching his body in tender places. The lack of response proved to them that he was dead, but when Ochiltree came to himself again he complained of pains in the head and his tender parts, where the doctors had applied their tests. Proof enough that he never was dead, because you cannot injure a dead body so that feeling will be preserved when it comes to life again!

Anyway, John Howie was no witness of the affair because he wrote over a hundred years afterwards from hearsay reports. The alleged miracles and prophecies attributed to the brave Covenanter Sandy Peden fall into the same category. No contemporary records were kept in a time of frightful cruelty when public events preyed upon the minds of good men so that they were prepared to see divine signs where none existed, and forecasts of obvious events were turned into prophecies.

Of such stuff are the reports of miracles, ancient and modern, and the fact remains that there is no authenticated case of a miracle since apostolic times - and for good reason: miracles were the authentication of apostolic authority and witness (2 Cor. 12:12) in a time when God was rolling back the temporary structure of the Mosaic Law to make way for the Kingdom of God. The gifts were transmitted by apostolic hands or under direct apostolic ministry. They did not outlive the generation upon whom the last apostolic hands were laid. There are now no apostles and therefore no miracles.

We go further and declare that there is no Baptism of the Holy Ghost separate from regeneration. Those good Calvinists and other Reformed brethren who wish to assert otherwise had better produce miracles to convince themselves and us that they have got what they claim. The baptism of the Spirit is the inauguration of the New Covenant in the heart of the believer, and it belongs to the inaugural act of faith by which we enter into the Kingdom of God, as John7:39 clearly declares (see also John 3:5).

WE APPEAL TO OUR REFORMED BRETHREN EVERYWHERE TO HAVE DONE WITH THESE PUERILITIES AND GIVE A CLEAR AND DOWNRIGHT LEAD TO ALL OTHER IN THESE DAYS WHEN SATANIC DELUSION IS SO GREAT THAT IF IT WERE POSSIBLE THEY WOULD DECEIVE THE VERY ELECT.
IT PLEASES GOD BY THE FOOLISHNESS OF PREACHING TO SAVE THEM THAT BELIEVE. BY PREACHING ALONE THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS ESTABLISEED AND IT IS JUST THERE THAT OUR WEAKNESS LIES. IT IS THE HEIGHT OF FOLLY TO TURN ASIDE TO DISCREDITED PENTECOSTAL DEVICES, REVIVALISM, AND THE DOCTRINE OF ‘SOMETHING ADDED AFTER CONVERSION’ WHEN WE HAVE NOT EVEN MASTERED THE ART OF EXPOUNDING THE SCRIPTURES AS THEY CAN AND MUST BE EXPOUNDED.

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“THE CRY OF DERELICTION”

This brings us to the second important issue for which this Broadsheet is prepared. Our last Broadsheet on “The Concert of the Trinity” was an exposition of the so-called cry of dereliction on the Cross: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” and we were not surprised at the response. To many the point we made seemed strange. Some were kind enough to write for further information. A few were critical. Most were silent. It was evident, as we anticipated, that the low standards of exposition today had left most of us completely without light on one of the grandest declarations in the entire Scripture.

The exercise was attempted for several reasons. First, it was important beyond measure to assert in these days the undivided unity of the Godhead in the whole work of Creation, Providence and Redemption.

Secondly, we desired our friends to know that we have positive as well as critical ends to serve in the production of these writings. It is easy to pull down. It is a different thing to build up.

Thirdly, it seemed important that our brethren, especially our younger brethren in the ministry, should be exercised in the holy art of exposition of Holy Scripture, and learn to think deeply and mine at great depth for the treasures of divine truth.

Fourthly, we thought to make a beginning upon the exposure of shallow thinking and superficial interpretation of Holy Scripture by bringing our friends face to face with an aspect of total Bible Inspiration scarcely even named amongst us, whether we be Calvinist or Arminian: we mean, THE PROPHETIC NATURE OF HOLY SCRIPTURE IN ALL ITS PARTS.

Years ago the late Angus Mackay, Free Church minister of Kingussie (formerly of Canada) asked our opinion of the words of Christ in John 5:45-47, chiefly the meaning of the phrase, “He -  that is, Moses - wrote of me.” Does this mean that Moses wrote about Christ, or does it mean that and something far more?

In our youth and immaturity, we maintained that the phrase simply meant that Moses wrote about Christ. Mr. Mackay admitted that most of the commentators agreed on that meaning, and yet he adhered to his point that the meaning was far deeper, and gave the following in support:

1. Bishop Ryle felt the inadequacy of the former interpretation when he wrote: "There is probably a depth of meaning in the Pentateuch that has never yet been fully fathomed, We shall probably find at the last day that Christ was in many a chapter and many a verse, and yet we knew it not. There is a fullness in Scripture far beyond our conception."

2. Bengel is clearer when he says: “Nowhere did Moses not write of Christ.”

3. Dr. John (“Rabbi”) Duncan, in his rugged eloquence wrote: “The true Christology of the Old Testament is not to be sought merely in some isolated passages but as the pervading element of the whole book ...  those passages that have been selected as Messianic are but the culminating points of the rock whose foundations lie deep in the ocean of Old Testament Scripture, Herein is their infinite importance and solemnity, that they speak of Him with whom we have to do, or rather, He with whom we have to do speaks to us in them.”

From that moment our theology moved into a new and more vital stage. Our search led us directly to that most significantly named work, “The Christology of the Old Testament” by Dr. E. W. Hengstenberg of Berlin, and the Scriptures began to be unfolded in their prophetic depths. Dr. Rudolf Stier, most gentle and pious contemporary scholar of Hengstenberg, was added with his “Words of the Lord Jesus” to show us how “every act of Him who was the Word is both word and doctrine.”

We are far from slavishly following either of these great scholars but we do confess we have learned more from them, and better still, learned to think more deeply, than through any other source. We do not agree with Rudolf Stier on his very moving exposition of The Fourth Cry from the Cross, but we treat it with deepest respect; we do accept the interpretation of Dr, Hengstenberg, though strange to say we read neither of these men on the subject before we wrote the last Broadsheet.

It was in pursuit of the ends enumerated above that we asked our readers to consider with us the deep meaning of the so-called Cry of Dereliction. We regarded the exercise as a supreme example of how all the words of the Saviour are to be understood - from His first recorded utterance as a boy of twelve in the Temple (“Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?”) to the last recorded cry from the Cross ere "the throbbing brow and labouring breast grew still" - (“Father into thy hands I commend my spirit”). Always uppermost in His mind from the earliest dawn of human consciousness, was His INDIVISIBLE UNITY WITH THE FATHER. His first and last recorded utterances name the Father and His unique relationship to Him. As a boy in the Temple the Saviour announced His mission as being His Father's business. (Who told Him that God was His Father and not Joseph?). His last cry showed that He reposed on the Father's bosom in quiet and calm assurance that all had now been completed which He was given to do. When then was He forsaken by the Father? The cry of dereliction was uttered at the end of the three hours of darkness, and within, seconds of the last cry of calm repose.

One of our correspondents has tried to tell us that it was during the hours of darkness that He was forsaken, and that the darkness was the token of the ‘hiding of God’s face.’ Our correspondent admitted under pressure that this idea was only conjecture and surmise and had no scriptural proof. On such slender grounds do men compound a theory and then elevate it into a doctrine.

Our reply is that there is good scriptural ground for asserting that the three hours of darkness were a sign of Israel's rejection as a people. It was Israel that was being forsaken then, not the Eternal Son. Here are the words from Amos which the priests and scribes present at the Crucifixion could not be ignorant of, especially as the very time of day for the onset of the darkness was specified - noon, the sixth hour:

“And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day.” Amos 8:9.

The context shows clearly that the wicked and unbelieving nation of Israel was in view. The darkening of their day at high noon meant, in Bible figure, the removal of their privileges and their being handed over to judgment. The darkness at the cross was a prophetic darkness which was a sign to Israel of their rejection.

The dereliction theory simply won't stand up to the facts. If it were necessary for the purpose of atonement that the victim should be forsaken by God, the appropriate moment would have been at the consummation of the sacrifice, and not at some interim period. Yet at the consummation we find the Son reposing on the Father's bosom. When was He forsaken?

“But”, says another, “when the Father saw the Son bearing the guilt and sin of the world, He could not stand the sight, and had to turn away and hide His face.”

This is an appalling anthropomorphism (that is, likening the actions of God to the actings of a man). Sin has no visible, objective existence, and the transference of guilt to Christ was a legal act, not a moral one. In other words Christ was undefiled by sin; the sacrifice was holy, not polluted. Sin only exists in the will, and in the thoughts and intents of the heart, The holy, spotless Lamb of God was unpolluted by it, though He became the voluntary victim of the curse which sin had earned, ‘being made a curse for us’.

Isaiah declares that it was the Lord (that is, in this case, the Eternal Father) who laid upon Christ the iniquity of us all, and it would be a curious thing if the One who laid sin upon the Son immediately turned away in horror from the spectacle He had created in so doing.

The sacrifice was holy, the Victim was spotless, and untainted, let the whole world say what it will to the contrary. Being ‘made sin for us’ could never mean that He was defiled thereby, even by imputation. What He bore was the sentence of an. outraged Law, in perfect substitution for the guilty, but if we may say so reverently, the Son was never more lovely in the Father's sight than when He hung upon the tree, obedient to the Father’s will.

It was the work of the devil and his agents to inflict shame and suffering and death upon Christ, as Himself declared, “This is your hour and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53).

In the divine sovereignty the devil and his agents are but the hangmen of providence. Christ could not die but by the will of God, else His death were no atonement, but the devil and his retinue of executioners, though acting as the agents of providence, acted in that freedom to do evil which the vast wisdom of God has decreed. God employs evil to judge and destroy evil. There is no ‘second force’ in the universe to compete with the power of God; the will of God alone is supreme, and free to employ evil in the service of His providential purposes.

Hence Peter declared on the day of Pentecost, “Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God ye have taken and with wicked hands have crucified and slain”. (Acts 2:23)

Again the Church in its prayer in Acts 4 (verses 27 and 28) declares that Herod and Pilate and the gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together “to do what thy hand and counsel determined before to be done”.

In support of their contention that at the moment of Atonement God could not bear the sight of sin laid upon His Son, our friends quote Habakkuk 1:13: “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look-upon iniquity”. This is a classic example of the Biblical ignorance so common today. How many ever quote the whole of the text? The verse goes on to say, “Wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously?” The meaning of the text is that a righteous God cannot COUNTENANCE, or APPROVE of sin, and this forms the basis of the prophetic remonstrance: why should God appear to condone the actions of wicked men?

As to God actually ‘beholding’ iniquity, in the sense of requiring an account to be rendered for it, there is nothing surer in Holy Scripture. Psalm 90, verse 8: “Thou hast set our iniquities before thee our secret sins in the light of thy countenance”. Jeremiah 16:17, “Mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes”. See also the exposure of Israel’s sin in the eyes of God, described in Jeremiah 13:27.

We repeat our contention therefore that the “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” does not indicate an actual forsaking of the Victim. For how can God forsake God? Those who try to avoid the dilemma by saying that Christ suffered as Man upon the Cross and not as God, and it was His humanity that was forsaken, are guilty of the error of dividing the personality of Christ. It was through the eternal Spirit that He offered Himself without spot to God (Hebrews 9:14) and there is no room for a divided personality. He was, and ever shall be, God and remained so even in death and could not be divided from Himself.

“It is true,” says David Dickson (1583-1662), “the man Christ could no more be forsaken, in regard of the divine presence supporting Him, than the personal union of the two natures could be dissolved.”

This is well expressed by this great Scots divine, who goes on to say that what Christ was deprived of was the sense of the comfort of His own Godhead.

In this latter observation, however, we cannot wholly concur, for neither Dickson nor almost any other commentator, ancient or modern, has come to terms in this text with its wholly prophetic nature. The cry on the Cross cannot be reckoned with except as it was a deliberate quotation of Psalm 22 by its very author who spoke it in David a thousand years before in preparation for His own Passion, as a key
(to those who search diligently) to the meaning of His sacrifice but His cry was as little understood by the hearers round about the Cross (“He calleth for Elias; let us see whether Elias will come and save him”), as by the commentators ancient and modern, who might have been warned by the obtuseness of the Jews to look deeper into the words to find the meaning.

It will help our readers in this task they consider the special nature of all the Seven Sayings of the Cross - each one of which Christ uttered not for Himself but for us, that there might be a prophetic unfolding of the mystery of the atonement.

THE SEVEN SAYINGS OF THE CROSS

The PROPHETIC NATURE of the Seven Sayings is evident to all who take time to consider, and the Fourth (the 'cry of dereliction') is no exception. The first cry, “Father forgive them....” opens up the first principle of the atonement, by disclosing the doctrine of forgiveness through the High Priestly intercession of Christ (Heb. 7:25). The second cry, “This day thou shalt be with me in paradise”, reveals the raising of the sinner to the highest glory by the power of Christ's atonement and His coming into His Kingdom. The third, in which He bids the disciple and the mother to behold each other in a new and heavenly relationship shows how the people of God are committed into the care of the apostolic ministry proceeding from His atoning work.

Then came the three hours of darkness which signified the ringing down of the curtain upon the legal dispensation that the glorious light of the Eternal Covenant of Grace might be poured upon the earth. In rapid succession came the four concluding cries. These four belonged exclusively to Christ and the nature of His sufferings. The first of the four was the quotation of the first verse of Psalm 22, and was designed to intimate the entire mystery unfolded in that psalm, of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. The sufferings were not to be in vain. The cry AS OF ONE FORSAKEN was to be understood in the light of what followed both in the psalm itself and in the remaining sayings of the Cross. The answer to the cry was, in fact, “Thou art NOT forsaken; thou canst not be forsaken; thy cry is heard; thine obedience unto death is accepted; the promise made to thee in the Council of Peace before the world was, will be fulfilled in thy glorious resurrection. The grave will not hold thee; 'thou shalt ascend to the eternal throne; thou shalt reign in the midst of thy brethren the church, for the Kingdom is thine and thou shalt rule over all”.

The Sufferer in the Psalm gives the answer Himself, to the cry of verse 1.
See verse 24: “He hath NOT despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; NEITHER HATH HE HID HIS FACE FROM HIM, BUT WHEN HE CRIED UNTO HIM, HE HEARD”.

Hence, in this glorious affirmation of faith declared in Psalm 22, the divine Sufferer affirms that He will declare God's name to His brethren (verse 22, compare Hebrews 2:12) and in the midst of the redeemed church (congregation) He will lead the praise of the elect seed (v. 23).

“I have not forsaken thee”.

In confirmation of this interpretation we venture to introduce to our readers the following extract from Dr. Hengstenberg’s commentary on the 22nd Psalm: -

“The Psalm contains the prayer of a sufferer. It begins with the cry, ‘My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ and then shows, as it proceeds, HOW COMPLETELY ANOMALOUS IT WOULD BE if God, as all appearances seemed to show, intended to forsake him: ‘Thou art the holy and glorious One, in all time past the faithful deliverer of thy people (verses -5). In singular contrast to this stands my misery, my condition, to all appearance completely desperate, which loudly proclaims that thou hast forsaken me
(vs. 6-8) -- a contrast all the more singular, that thou hast manifested Thyself as my God from my early youth; so that the explanation of the difficulty cannot be found in this, that thou art not MY God as well as theirs (v. 9 -10)’.

“Having demonstrated how completely anomalous desertion would be, and having shown that to the inquiry, ‘Why hast thou forsaken me?’ there is but one answer, ‘I have NOT forsaken thee;’ the foundation is laid for the petition of verse 11 ‘Be not far from me’ .... The whole description of the trouble, verses
12-18, is directed to show, that it had come to the very last extremity with the sufferer; that now to be far away, that now not to help, would be thoroughly and completely to forsake; which according to verses
1-10 is impossible, inasmuch as it would involve God. in opposition to Himself ....

“The prayer which, after the last basis had been given to it (God cannot forsake, verses 1-10); He would forsake if He did not help now (verses 12-18); breaks out in an expanded form in verses 19-21, passes on at its conclusion to the confident assurance of an answer - a confidence which can never fail when built on such a solid foundation.”

Particular attention should be given to the fact that it was Christ, the Sufferer. Himself, who originally spoke the Psalm by inspiration through David, for from the beginning, before the world was, Christ was The Word. The Psalm did not grow out of David's own experience because it contains details which neither belonged to David nor to anyone else in the inspired history.  These details are startlingly fulfilled in the Crucifixion itself, and nowhere else (verses 7,8; 14, 16, 17, 18) and the sequel, the triumph of verses
22-31, belongs only to Christ.

David’s part was simply that of being baptised in the prophetic Spirit to utter words which he himself did not and could not understand (1 Pet. 1:10-11). The Lord Christ inspired these words in David so that the psalm would for ever stand as the key to the mystery of His sufferings. On the Cross He consciously quoted the first and last verses of the Psalm (“It is finished” is the Hebrew of the last sentence), not for Himself but for the hearers, even as all the Seven Words of the Cross served the same prophetic purpose of unfolding mysteries and revealing truth.

The Saviour could not have been unmindful of the fixity of that Divine Word of which He was Himself the author and the embodiment. He must always have anticipated the conditions described at the time of awful fulfillment. If He was in fact conscious of dereliction He must have been crying for Himself. If He was crying for Himself He must have forgotten His own Word - which is a blasphemy and unthinkable. There remains only one conclusion - He was quoting the Psalm for us that we might search and understand that He was in fact the Person to whom the prophecy referred, and that the outcome of His sufferings was as sure and fixed as were the sufferings themselves; that by thus contemplating the whole purpose and meaning of the Psalm we might come to a strong persuasion of the truth and rest in the comfort of His reconciling work.

At the same time the Psalm becomes an absolute testimony to the veracity, infallibility, and total inspiration of the Word, against all the attacks, and slanders of the enemy with which the minds of unbelieving men are deluded.

The anticipation through David, a thousand years before the event, of His own sufferings and the outcome of them, proves Christ's Eternal Sonship and true Godhead and sets the divine seal on the veracity, infallibility, and total inspiration and prophetic character of Holy Scripture.

To complete in brief the reference to the Seven Sayings, we point out that the ‘I thirst’ which followed the ‘cry of dereliction’ almost immediately, was as much imbued with the prophetical element as all the Sayings. Krummacher puts it well: “For what did He thirst? It was not only for earthly water that He languished, but for something greater, higher, and more essential. He longed, for the termination of His redeeming toil and the completion of his great work of mediation.”

The sixth cry, “It is finished” we have already shown was a quotation from the last verse of the Crucifixion Psalm (Ps. 22). The last cry, “Father into thy hands ....” was the cry of consummation. All was now finished, and the Son was about to return to the bosom of the Father. The last cry was a quotation from Psalm 31:5, and indicates that from beginning to end the Son was in control of His own fate, even as He had said, “I lay down my life - no man taketh it from me - I have power to lay it down, and power to take it again” (John 10:18).

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

THE FAILURE OF SCHOLASTICISM

It is because in the scholastic theorising of these days, this deep, prophetic import lying in all the works and words of the Son of Man is overlooked, if not spurned, that we have such disappointing commentaries as that of William Hendriksen of U.S.A. on the gospel of John. Hendriksen, of course, is only one of a series of modern evangelical commentators who exhibit the same frozen characteristics.

Hendriksen is a sound evangelical, and a Calvinist to boot, but we search-in vain for any depth of thought in his comments. To him it might be said as to many another, “Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep.”

For example, Hendriksen utterly falls to make anything of Christ’s words to the two disciples in John 1:46: “Come and see”. “The answer was better than could have been expected” is the only light this highly rated theologian can offer upon these momentous words of Christ, though he spends nearly a page on calculating what is meant by ‘the tenth hour’ in the same verse - and leaves even that question inconclusive. This is really banal.

The fact that Christ was quoting Holy Scripture seems to have been entirely overlooked. Yet the connection with Psalm 46: 8 (“Come, behold”) is plain to be seen, especially as the words are repeated by John in his vision of Revelation 6, four times. Look, and perceive, that here is a declaration of Christ's omnipotence. The disciples' question, “Where dwellest thou?” was not just a flattering inquiry. The Spirit of God was already stirring in their hearts in preparation for the great ministry of inspiration which at least one of the two (John) was destined to exercise. The first word ever to fall upon the ears of John from the lips of the Beloved and Only Begotten One were, “Whom seek ye.?” designed to draw attention to His own incomprehensible nature as God. The next word was “Come and see”, a deep and suggestive word designed to point out His true divinity, purpose, and Almightiness, as though He would say “I am your God - the God of Psalm 46, and my dwelling place is eternity” (Isaiah 57:15).

But Hendriksen perceives none of these things, and engages himself in the discussion of trifles. “Better than could have been expected!” O heaven, spare us from this tinkering with things eternal and divine! The rationalistic critics could do no worse.

Water into Wine.

Take the changing of the water into wine. Perhaps we should be glad that Hendriksen acclaims it without qualification as a true miracle, though we did not need to await his appraisal of this fact. But he has no light to throw upon the internal significance of the miracle. Nothing here (according to Hendriksen) but cold historic fact. Were his faculties so dimmed by his scholasticism that he could not see here the symbolism of the passing of the Old Covenant (the water) and the superiority of the New (the wine)? At least the fact that the water available was no ordinary supply, but “set there after the manner of the purifying of the Jews” (John 2:6) should have made him alert to something of surpassing significance, for John's careful note about the purpose of the water pointed directly to the operation of the Law and its inability to supply life and peace and joy.

“Don't Know”

On the interesting question why Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, Hendriksen has nothing to offer. “We just don't know why he came at night,” observes this scholar. The opinions he canvasses are noteworthy only in so far as they do not include the true one - that it was night for the people of the Law, of whom Nicodemus was the representative - a ruler of the Jews and a member of their supreme council, the Sanhedrin. God was assembling His witnesses at a vital period of history, to show in themselves and in all the surrounding circumstances, what was taking place in the unseen realm. This is what we mean by the Scriptures being prophetic.

Strange that Hendriksen in his huge five-page bibliography appended to his work on John, makes no mention of three of the most important commentaries in history, on the fourth gospel - those of Augustine, Hengstenberg and Stier. His reading is as defective as his perceptiveness.

Writing on the Ground.

How is it that Hendriksen can throw no light upon the action of the Lord in writing on the ground when the woman taken in sin was brought before Him? (John 8). Has he entirely overlooked the significance of Jeremiah 17:13? (“They that depart from me shall be written in the earth”).

Can he not perceive that once more (as throughout the history of Christ in the four Gospels) the Lord's actions and words, miracles and parables, are designed to show the passing of the old administration, and the bringing in of the new gospel kingdom? The writing in the earth was ' a terrible indictment of Israel's failure under the Law. It foreshadowed (according to Jeremiah) their overthrow and their eclipse. Yet our commentator can only tell us, “Jesus was so thoroughly shocked that for a long time he remained silent, simply scribbling figures or letters in the sand”. Could banality descend lower than this? When “Reformed” theologians betray such ignorance of the mind of the Spirit, it is small wonder that the men whom they introduce to the ministry are so ill-equipped for feeding the flock, of God.

Time and space fail, in the task of revealing the almost numberless examples from this author, proving our contention that all is not well with our Reformed movement today.

We have in mind, if God should permit, an exposure of the nefarious meddling which some of our best known Reformed writers have been guilty of in the treatment of the histories of the Old and New Testament. When we find Dr. Oswald T. Allis accusing Joseph of ‘youthful braggadocio’ in relating his prophetic dreams to his brethren, Mr. Pink repeating all the old slurs against the character of Elijah over his prophetic flight to Horeb, and others who do not even spare Mordecai from their invective.

(“He was a compromiser - he should have been with Ezra and Nehemiah in Palestine”), and so forth - we are moved to write a book entitled, “The Vultures! Feast”, showing how our respected commentators reduce the carcasses of the prophets to carrion.

We doubt if anyone will provide publishing facilities, but by the grace of God we design to get through, even though we be forced back on our own facilities and resources.

The Lord Help us!
Anathema - Maranatha.

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