Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

The General Assembly enjoin Mr Smith to avoid for the future statements and expressions such as have given occasion to these proceedings, and they seriously and affectionately admonish him to cherish henceforward a deeper sense of the humility and caution which it becomes the preachers of the Word to manifest in delivering instruction to the flock of Jesus Christ,"

Dr Rainy also read an addition to the motion which he would move, if it were the mind of the Assembly that be should do so. The addition was to the effect of condemping the publication of the volume “ The Sermon on the Mount," but declaring it to be unnecessary to take any steps in regard to it, believing that Mr Smith had published it without adverting to the impropriety of publishing what had been censured by the Presbytery. This addition, however, Dr Rainy did not move.

Rev. Mr MACGREGOR of Paisley said, I have much pleasure in seconding the motion of Dr Rainy. It is already appearing that our Synod was wisely guided in resolving to refer the case for judgment: it would have been worth all the trouble, with reference to matters so important, to have had so noble a speech as we have listened to, addressed to so noble an audience. After apologising and accounting for his absence from the bar in the morning, Mr M. proceeded :

It has been rightly stated from the bar, that the hinge of the case is in the question of fact :-Has Mr Smith repudiated the errors originally found in his sermons by the Presbytery, regarding the authority of Old Testament Scripture, and the perfection and perpetual obligation of the Old Testament moral law? And this question I find answered in the fourth and last statement of Mr Smith to the Presbytery. In their answers to reasons of dissent, the Presbytery say that that statement was not received by them till after a certain motion had been tabled and advocated by Dr Buchanan. But this allegation is merely ad hominem. It is irrelevant to the dissent and complaint. For the statement had been received before the Presbytery adopted the resolution dissented from. It therefore was a competent ground of dissent against that judgment. It therefore now is a competent ground for us to proceed in review of that judgment. And I say that the statement brings Mr Smith before us in the act of publicly repudiating at last the two errors which the Presbytery found in his discourses at the first.

The more general part of the statement, with reference to the Old Testament Scripture, is perfectly and conclusively clear : in the light of previous proceedings, no intelligent man could honestly make that statemeut if he did not in his heart believe the catholic doctrine of our Confesion on the point. The more special part of the statement, with reference to the Old Testament moral law, is not so perfectly clear and unambiguous. Its terms, in strict logio, are susceptible of an interpretation at variance with the catholic doctrine of our Confession on this point; and if Mr Smith had been a dishonest man, capable of using words for the purpose of concealing his mind under pretence of revealing it, then be might have been suspected of having here left himself an open back-dour through which, at some future time, he might slink into the heresy of affirming, either that the Old Testament revelation of moral law is imperfect, or that the Decalogue is not a code of moral laws binda -ing all men in all ages and nations. But we are bound to regard our Christian brother as a gentleman, incapable of the baseness of a white lie. We are bound to accept his statements in the sense which, in the circumstances, they are manifestly fitted and intended to convey. I therefore regard Mr Smith as here, too, formally accepting the catholic doctrine of our Confession ; and I hold that his fourth and last statement brings him before us in the act of repudiating the two errors which the Presbytery repeatedly and unanimously found him to have preached.

I am very thankful to be able to rest in this conclusion ; for if Mr Smith had not repudiated those errors, his position would have been exceedingly grave, both for him and for us; for the doctrines which the Presbytery originally found him to have impugned are of real and vital importance. That they are so in the estimation of our Church, is shown by the fact that they have a place in her Confession, among those articles of Christian faith which, in her estimation, all Christian Churches are bound to maintain, and all Christian ministers are bound to proclaim and defend. And this opinion is not peculiar to our Church, or to the Puritan Churches, or to the Reformation Churches : it is the common opinion of the whole Christian world: the doctrines in question have the same place in the creeds and confessions of the Churches in general, Romanist and Protestant alike. And the Catholic Church has not drifted into this opinion by any inadvertency or accident, but has been led to embrace it and cherish it by a long and varied experience of its soundness.

Thus in the experience of the modern Church, before the doctrines were inscribed on our Confession, the matter of them both had been thoroughly sifted through generations of controversy, between Socinians on the one hand and Christians on the other. No Scripture argument has been recently alleged against them that was not advanced by Socinians and repelled and exploded by Christians, no end of times, hundreds of years ago. For example, Mr Smith has affirmed, against the doctrines in question, that the Lord Jesus in the New Testament is and must be a legislator, revealing a new law, as if this had been an unquestionable matter of course. But in fact this is but one form of stating the Socinian position as opposed to the orthodox. Under one aspect, the Socinian position was, that Christ in the New Testament is a legislator, revealing a new law; while the Christian position was that He is not and cannot be a legislator in the New Testament, because the old law is perfect, His work of legislation is completed in the Old Testament. Again, Christians went on for generations challenging Socinians to produce from the New Testament one atom of moral legislation that is not given in the Old. And one reason why this point was so long and keenly contested on both sides is this, that on both sides it was felt and confessed that the maintainance of this point is vitally important for the defence of the whole Christian system, as opposed to the Socinian system. The Socinian system made Christ to be merely a Reformer, reforming our life by revealing a new law. The Christian system, on the other hand, made him to be a Redeemer, redeeming our lives by fulfilling the old law, for us on the cross, and in us by His Spirit. And thus, in the experience of the modern Church the doctrines are vitally important, not only in themselves, but also and specially as bulwarks of the whole Christian system of redemption by Christ, as opposed to the Socinian system of mere reformation by Christ.

So, too, iu the experience of the ancient Church. The doctrines now in

question were the hinge of her grand debate with Manicheans within her borders. Marcion and others anticipated the Socinian premises, that the Old Testament moral law is imperfect, that the Old Testament Scriptnre is not for Christians a rule of faith and life. And from these premises they deduced the Manichean conclusion, that there are two gods, one evil and malignant, the other good and benignant ; that the Old Testament Creator is not the same deity as the New Testament Redeemer, but is an unclean, malignant demon, from whose tyranny the Redeemer has come to set us free. And thus, in the experience of the ancient Church as in that of the modern, the doctrines now in question have been found to be vitally important, not only in themselves, but as bulwarks in defence of the whole evangelical system of religion.

The same experience is being repeated in our day and land. Britain there is now in progress a sort of Sadducean revival. In England it presents some aspects of striking resemblance to the ancient Manicheism, particularly in its hatred of the Old Testament; while in

Scotland it conforms to the type of that moderatism which is but an• other name for practical Socinianism. And both in Scotland and in

England the movement against the heart of our religion is characterised by a preliminary assault against the doctrines now in question as its outposts. Thus in England, a deist, pretending to be a Christian bishop, has openly assailed the fundamental part of Old Testament Scripture ; while in Scotland, some moderates, pretending to be evangelical ministers, have openly or covertly assailed the Old Testament law, in whole or in part. And even in Scotland we are beginning to learn the lesson of history, that an assault on any one part of that law will lead to a rejection of the law as a whole, and that he who rejects the Old Testament moral law cannot consistently stop short of rejecting the Old Testament Scripture which reveals it.

It is therefore a very grave offence in any Christian teacher to impugn those doctrines. Yet they were impugned in the sermons of Mr Smith. I wonder that any one should have doubted whether the sermous contain an assault on those doctrines. For, in fact, they contain nothing else. The assault on those doctrines is the very spirit of the life of the sermons ; so that, if the assault be withdrawn, the sermons will collapse into a mere heap of meaningless words, or at best into a cento of disjointed truisms. The assault pervades the sermons all through, consciously or unconsciously, in root, and stem, and branches.

The root of the whole is found in Mr Smith's exegesis of his text. I do not wonder that Professor Douglas, a man who fears God and trembles at His word, regards that exegesis with a feeling approaching to horror. For the exegesis represents the Son of God as saying in ove breath what He unsays in the next. The text begins with a very solemn warning of Christ against thinking that He bas "come to destroy the law or the propbets." But Mr Smith's exegesis represents Him as going on to say in tbe vext breath that He has come, in effect, to destroy them both in their essence. For “the law” is nothing unless it be a rule of life ; and “the prophets" are nothing unless they be a rule of faith : while Mr Smith's position is, that the Old Testament law no longer binds men to do wbat it commands, and that the Old Testament Scripture does not bind men to believe what it says as true on the authority of God. This account of Mr Smith's exegesis is established by his own words in ex

L

[ocr errors]

pounding his text. And it is amply confirmed by the argumentative process through which he endeavours to establish his view. His argument is this:- The “fulfilment” must be the same in effect with reference to the moral law as with reference to the ceremonial. But with reference to the ceremonial law, the fulfilment is in effect annulment or abrogation. Therefore, with reference to the moral law of the Old Testament, the fulfilment is equivalent to annulment. Now, what annulment is, is to be learned from the case of the ceremonial law. In that case, the abrogation of the law means that Christians are not bound to do what is commanded by it. And thus Mr Smith's whole argumentative process is pointless, unless he mean to show that the Old Testament moral law is abrogated, in the sense of no longer binding men to obey it.

The stem is constituted by the two illustrations to which Professor Douglas has referred. Dr Douglas represents these illustrations as unfortunate. They are unfortunate only because the preacher was previously unfortunate. For they are perfectly fitted for their purpose, to make plain what the preacher really means. The one of them applies to the Old Testament Scripture in general; and represents it as a lamp light, very valuable in the night, but superseded in the daytime by the sun—that sun being constituted by the New Testament Scripture. This illustration shows that the doctrine of the sermons is contradictory of ours; for according to our doctrine, the Sun, the completed light, the fully manifested mind of God, is not in the New Testament exclusively, nor in any one part of Scripture exclusively, but in the whole Scripture, Old Testament and New Testament alike. The other illustration applies more particularly to the moral law of the Old Testament; and represents it as the rough draught of a will, while the will itself is constituted by some new revelation of moral law in the New Testament Scripture. But this, again, shows that the doctrine of the sermons is contradictory of ours; for according to our doctrine, the Old Testament moral law is the will itself, like the body of an Act of Parliament, declaring the whole mind of the legislator ; while the New Testament Scripture in its bearing on the law is as the "interpretation clause" of that Act, not adding anything to what is contained in the body of the Act, but only enabling us to see what is the true import and due application of what is cou. tained in that body.

The branches are constituted by his subsidiary arguments from Scripture and other sources. I will not now speak of his allusion to the philosophy of the subject, and the history of Christian thought on the subject, except to say that, in my estimation, they show that the author of the sermons had need of instruction rather than censure. I will now call attention only to some samples of his subsidiary arguments from Scripture.

For example, there is his appeal to the lex talionis—“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Mr Smith has complained of the use made of this ap. peal, after he has fallen from it. Now, if the question had been, What is Mr Smith's present opinion of the lex talionis, the complaint would have been rational." But the question is, What is the meaning of the sermons ? What was the author's state of mind when he preached them? And to this question, the fact of his appeal is as relevant as though he had still maintained that the lex talionis is part of the Old Testament moral law. The purpose of his appeal was to show that one part of the Old Testament

moral law is now ascertained to be immoral; and the fact of his having had such a purpose in his preaching shows that the doctrine of his sermons is at variance at least with the doctrine of the perfection of that law.

Again, he appealed to “ the two great commandments," as if in giving these Christ had formally superseded the Old Testament moral law. He here showed very astonishing ignorance of the letter of God's word. For if only he had looked at the contents of the New Testament passages in which those “ two great commandments” occur, he would have seen that they are there giveu, not as superseding that law, but as expressing the substance and spirit of it; and are thus given, not only by Christ, but also by a Jewish lawyer, avowedly in answer to the question, “ What is written in the law? How readest thou ?" And if he had consulted the margin of his Bible, he would have found that the “two great commandments," so far from being peculiar to New Testament Scripture, are there quoted terbatim from Moses in the Old. But the present question is, What did

he mean by making that mistaken appeal ? And the answer is, he meant • to show that the Old Testament law is in fact superseded by another law in the New Testament.

Once more, I find traces of the same sentiment in his statements. In one of them, for instance, he says that the Old Testament does not reveal" the moral duty of missions.” Now this, on the face of it, is nonsense. A moral law as such is founded wholly in nature ; but missions, like the gospel, are founded wholly in grace; so that to speak of “ the moral duty of missions” is really to talk nonsense, to perpetrate a virtual self-contradiction in terms. Again, in the only sense which the statement can have been intended to convey, it is grossly untrue. For to Abraham and his seed it was revealed from the beginning, that in them all the families of the earth should be blessed ; provision was made for the reception of Gentile proselytes into the Church even under the old dispensation; and that whole dispensation was under one aspect, a long curriculum of education to the Church as a missionary institute, preparing her to go forth, as she did go forth, in the fulness of time, under her glorified Christ, for the subjugation of the world to God by the gospel. But here, again, the question is, What was the purpose of Mr Smith in making that nonsensical statement? And again the answer is : His only conceivable purpose was, to show that the Old Testament revelation of moral law is imperfect.

I am thoroughly persuaded that the two doctrines now in question, bave been assailed in the sermons throughout. And I am therefore very thankful to find tbat the two errors first found in the sermons have been repudiated by Mr Smith; for the doctrines not only have an important place in the bistory of Christian thought, they have a place not less important in Christian faith and life. Do you, for example, deny the perfection of the Old Testament moral law? Then in the first place, whatever may be your intention, you cast a shade of grave doubt on the moral perfection of the Old Testament legislator, pointing to the Manichean conclusion that he is a devil; and at the same time cast a shade of doubt on the perfection of the redeeming work of Christ, so far as that consisted in His fulfilling the law for us and in us. Second, you reject the only thing in Scripture that so much as appears to be a directory of detailed moral duty; for there is no sucb directory in the New Testament. And

« ÎnapoiContinuați »