A letter by the late Dr. Mulock.
“I BELIEVE the substance of all that Mr. [R. Pearsall Smith] has taught is true—that is, all that I can understand of his teaching, for it seems ill-digested and ill-expressed, and uncertain on many points.
The substance of it has been long held in theory by most instructed Christians and taught by those who are gathered to the name of the Lord alone as brethren in Christ.
That there is more power in His resurrection than we have ever known or recognized—much less used—for holy living, fruitful service, and calm peace and rest of heart, is most certainly believed amongst us, and that the Lord has used the children of God at-------, lately assembled, to remind and stir up the Church of God generally about it, I think cannot be doubted; but, just like everything human, the fly gets into the ointment. However, we must not throw away the good with the bad.
I find continually weak brethren are doing this, with regard to teaching, among ourselves—such as the teaching, so invaluable to the Church of God, of such men as Mr. Darby. To reject all that he has taught because of much that is evidently not of God (evidenced by its results more and more every day) is the act of a feeble mind that cannot discriminate.
Some notable things I mark in Mr. S-------'s teaching, and they have been remarked by others. He makes the standard of sinless perfection our own consciousness and not God's estimate, and strangely confounds sin, the evil principle within (which God takes chief notice of), with its fruits or results, sins in the life, which man can see and judge of. How blessed that the sin-offering is provided for sins of ignorance! And that it is not only "If I confess my sins" (1 John i. 9), but "if any man sin," &c.—in ignorance—(1 John ii. 1); and not only did He bear "our sins," but in Him, God condemned sin in the flesh (root, fruit, and branch).
Thus, root and fruits condemned are put out of God's sight by the Cross. But we are never to say we have no sin (root, or evil nature, or flesh) in us, or we should be deceiving ourselves, and the truth would not be in us (1 John i. 8).
Again, the free use made by Mr. S------- of dispensational truth, such as Luke i. 74, 75, which has so distinct an application to the Jews.
The ignorance of the mystery of the Church, and our hope (that purifying hope, the very motive for our practical sanctification), which is ever held out as the one object for the believer (and with the mercies of God seen in Romans i. to xi.), the great motive-power of a holy, obedient life and walk.
The wresting of Scripture from its context and original meaning, such as in 1 Cor. iv. 4, where Paul, by the Spirit, is not speaking at all of sinless perfection in the abstract, but from the context is evidently dealing with charges of ministerial or official unfaithfulness or delinquency.
Again and again, Mr. S------- makes Scriptures, which can apply only to perfection in glory, such as John xvii. 23, and only possible of attainment then and there, to apply to our attainment in this time and state. And, on the other hand, what is actually ours, such as union, imputed righteousness, and sanctification in Christ, our completeness in Him risen (which is the present and immediate possession of the new-born babe in Christ) is set down in much of this teaching as an attainment as we advance in the Divine life. Thus, the distinct things—the work of the Spirit in us, and the work of Christ for us; what is imparted to us, and what is imputed to us; our state and standing; our attainment and our completeness—are all huddled together in a promiscuous jumble, than which nothing can be more confusing to the young believer, or more calculated to unsettle those who are weak and unestablished in the faith.
We have triumph, because we are completely and eternally saved from the penalty of sin. We have conflict, because we are not yet saved from its presence (deliverance from its power is our happy privilege, and there is otherwise no triumph); but far different is this from holiness of heart or perfection.
We have triumph, because we are not in the flesh; we have conflict, because we have still the flesh in us. We have triumph, because God has judged and crucified that same flesh or old man; we have conflict, because we have daily and hourly to mortify it. We have triumph in the work of Christ for us; but we have conflict from the work of the Spirit in us.
Does Scripture teach that Christian conflict is between old life and new? Certainly not! but old life and the Spirit. "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit," &c, &c; not the old life against the new. The apostle plainly states, "Our old man is crucified with Christ, that the body of sin might he destroyed." The old nature in God's sight, and now to faith, came to its end on the Cross.