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p18 Dear Mr Gordon, - I could see, without your telling me so, that you have been made up in the teaching of those who deny the immortality of the soul, and make those whom scripture calls "the offspring of God," a cleverer kind of brute. What you have quoted from my Geneva lectures I hold, as then, or still more, to be of all-importance. The coming of the Lord and the resurrection of the body was lost in the soul's going to heaven and that through the Platonists, and it was a sign of the ruin of the church. It made no such impression as you suppose on my hearers, for the immortality of the soul was not in question, was accepted as a recognised truth by them as by myself. I may say the contrary had never been heard of there. The first person who used the passage left out what guarded it, and I feared that I had exposed myself to the charge carelessly, no one doubting it when the lectures were given; but he had to confess he had it in his copy. I added in the next edition more, I think the quotations, but cannot now be quite sure; but that death was ceasing to exist, none of us dreamt of. Hence, too, there is nothing about eternal punishment; the point was that in the public teaching of the church, going to heaven had taken the place of the Lord's coming and the resurrection. When I began to preach these, fifty years ago, I was held to be I know not what - enthusiast or heretic - and I am thankful to have been the means of spreading it far and wide. The whole purport and character of the church was and largely still is clouded by this departure from the truth. In America men of standing in the professing church deny the resurrection altogether as to men, not perhaps as to Christ - though the apostle binds them together.

You give an interpretation of Luke 20 instead of receiving what is said. The Lord first speaks of the saints only, those who "shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from among the dead," "children of God, being the children of the resurrection." Then He says, even Moses shewed this at the bush: God is not "a God of the dead but of the living": and then lays the foundation of an absolute fact of which He had not spoken before at all: "For all live unto him." They have died as regards men, but as to God, wicked or saints, all live: it is not confined to saints, but it is so with every one. Before He had been speaking of the resurrection of the saints, and exclusively of that resurrection; now He declares that for God all live. He denies that death is the cessation of existence, and in an absolute and positive way. Nor is it exact to say it is of the question of resurrection God is speaking, in calling the things that are not as though they were. (Rom. 4:17) He is speaking of quickening Abraham's dead state so that he should be the father of many nations.

There is not a word of the sense you put into [the parable of] Dives and Lazarus in the passage. They were both Jews: it is the substitution of the unseen world for this. Abraham's bosom is a wholly Jewish thought. Hades was well known to them, and is found in the Old Testament in the term Sheol. But it is expressly and explicitly making the unseen world seen in a parabolic description; they both alike died. There is no thought of the cross opening the door to the Gentiles, or breaking down the middle wall of partition. The Lord says they are to hear Moses and the prophets, or one rising from the dead would have no effect. It is a mere effort to get rid of the plain testimony, that the soul subsists after death in the case both of wicked and of just. All live for God. The soul is unaffected by death as to existence, save that it is separated from the body. What was the gulf fixed between Jews and Gentiles by the change of dispensation? What had "thou in thy lifetime" to do with dispensations? It did do this as to Jews and Christianity, that there was an end of riches being a sign of God's favour, but it was not because of a change of dispensation, but that the truth of things came out in another scene, not in this. The purpose is as plain as possible to those who have not been perverted by this false doctrine. Luke 15 shews the grace that seeks and receives the sinner; then (Luke 16) the use grace makes of this world's goods; and then the veil is drawn to contrast the effect in that with the portion of selfishness in this world - "thy good things." The rich man had a fine funeral, but there it ended for this world. It is expressly declared that death does not reach to the soul. "Fear not them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do; but … him who after he has killed has power to cast into hell." Mortal is always confined to the body.

As regards the saints an intermediate state is taught as plainly as words can teach it: "To depart and to be with Christ which is far better": "Absent from the body and to be present with the Lord"; "To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise": the express object of which is to teach the blessedness of the intermediate state in contrast with Christ's coming in (not 'into') His kingdom. So Stephen, "Lord Jesus receive my spirit." The passages I have quoted before shew it as to all; and Peter tells us that the Lord knows how "to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished." Your reference to 1 Corinthians 15 is of no avail here, because it speaks of believers only in what you quote; they are "raised in glory." Nor will any bringing of it to 2 Corinthians 5 help you as to the plain statement there as to the saints, which is as plain as plain can be. He was thinking of dying, as chapter 1 shews; he was not wishing it, as weary of the trials, but looking for an eternal weight of glory, and through them; but having spoken of this as God's purpose, he speaks of what is man's portion through sin - death and judgment - and yet, having eternal life and the Spirit, is "always confident," even in view of death. Knowing that if absent from the body, which most assuredly is not resurrection, but the contrary, he would be present with his Lord, that to depart and to be with Christ is far better. He does not quite dislike the idea of death in the first paragraph, but merely says his desire was to be clothed upon, not unclothed, and contrasts it with groaning in this tabernacle, yet not so that he wanted to be rid of it, but to be clothed upon; and in verse 9 formally puts the two cases. I do not agree with you as to identity by the Spirit; I am not the Holy Ghost, nor is the Holy Ghost me. As dwelling in me they are distinguished; He bears witness with my spirit. (Rom. 8:16.) After all your turning about this passage, it remains that when you quit home you are with the Lord, and you are not the Holy Ghost. It just shews where error and our own thoughts drive us. It is not even true that Christ's neighbour on the cross had the Spirit. You confound the life begotten by the Spirit, and the Spirit itself, which dwelling in us, makes our bodies a temple.

As to the question of eternal punishment, the question is always really of the sense we have of the deserts of our own sin, and is inseparable from that of the immortality of the soul; as if I have one and am at enmity with God, I must be for ever miserable as shut out into outer darkness. But you have confounded, as is very common, law and gospel. The Gentiles have no law: "As many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law." So that all your system is wrong from beginning to end according to scripture. Further, it is never said Christ was substituted for all - it is "that he died for all." You confound the blood on the mercy-seat and the scape-goat: the Lord's lot, and the bearing of the sins of the people represented by the high priest. You will find no Scripture which speaks of bearing the sins of all, but carefully the contrary. The passage you quote from Exodus gives the principles of the government of Israel in contrast with atonement, which Moses talked of, and could not make, each person being to be blotted out for his own sin; and besides that, though forgiving their sin governmentally, declares that when He visited He would visit their sin upon them. All this is a misapprehension of scripture. In quoting "the lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world," you have confounded sin and sins: one a state in which we are by Adam's sin, and the other our own guilt, and which are carefully distinguished at the end of Hebrews 1. The effect of this work will not be complete till the new heavens and the new earth. They are equally distinguished in Romans as to the believer and as to the remedy: one, Christ dying for our sins; the other, our having died with Christ: our guilt the consequence of our own sins - our state the consequence of Adam's. You are all wrong as to making law the measure. It was the measure of human righteousness in a child of Adam. But what we have now is God's righteousness, and that without law. Nor is the blessing of Christianity though partially and darkly intimated (for of church blessings there is absolutely no hint, nor meant to be, but the contrary - see Eph. 3; Col. 1), to be found in the Old Testament. Life and incorruptibility are brought to light by the gospel. Nor is the law the measure of human sin, though it is of human righteousness; it is the rejection of Christ, who came when the law had been broken, which is so. "Having yet one Son he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son" - "but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father."

An immortal soul, hating God in grace, must be miserable. You say you consider that it is inconsistent with God's character to hide these terrible consequences of sin. You had better have looked at what is written (Gen. 3). He did then and there a great deal more than He had said. He told him of nothing but human sorrow and misery, and then death as a man on the earth: so in judging, he was to return to dust, and the woman to suffer in child-bearing. But He did a great deal more, giving in the judgment on Satan, what faith could rest on in hope. He drove out the man, and shut up the way of the tree of life - exclusion from God and what He had established, and no immortality here below. So that in saying that, you are charging God foolishly, and forgetting that when "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses" - come in grace - they rejected Him. Man under the gospel (in a general sense the world, for "there is no difference") is in a far worse state, though he may be redeemed out of it than when driven out of Paradise, and a final one if not born again and justified. I, as to the flesh, am at enmity with God. Further, if death be all the wages of sin (it is the wages assuredly, but it is falsely quoted as if it were ALL the wages of sin, and so you put it) then I pay the penalty for myself even as a Christian, and Christ need not have died for me, only given me a new life. Further, it is utterly false; for the whole consequences of our sins, save mere animal death (the penal arrest of man here) are after the judgment and the result of it. So that this whole view essential to your system is totally unscriptural and false. "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment."

I do say the system subverts the atonement. The theory is that we are animals, and they quote what is said in Genesis to shew that ruach (breath), and nephesh (soul), and ruach-chayim (breath of life), etc., were in animals. I admit it fully, man dies as an animal dies on the earth. God, they tell us, gives eternal life in Christ, but till then we have no immortal soul, but are simply a cleverer, more intellectual animal of superior intelligence. Now suppose God gives eternal life to an elephant or a dog, would a dog be responsible for what he had done before when he was a dog; would he have to repent? If not, neither have I. And what is the atonement for? A mere animal, for that is their theory, is not a responsible being - is not in this, in relationship with God - has never been tested as such - is not at enmity with God as man is in the flesh, so that he cannot please God: there is no law for him of which you say so much. The system falsifies man's whole relationship with God, on which all rests as to him from creation on. It is as degrading as it is false.

You will say, What scripture have you for saying animals are such? There are plenty, and the man who denies the difference debases himself to them; but suffice it to quote 2 Peter 2:12. But even Genesis 1 is enough: God had formed the whole creation, and having made it complete as such, God saw that it was good; so closes the history of the creation of animals, of whom God had said, "Let the earth bring forth," and it brought forth. Then God solemnly consults about setting a head over it, the image of Him that was to come; then forms his body first, and breathes into his nostrils the breath of life - making him in His own image and likeness. Thus He placed him in living relationship with Himself. He was His offspring in his created state, responsible, and his responsibility formally tested. Is this mere animal life? If it be as degrading as it is false, it is as false as it is degrading. No one denies man is an animal, a living soul; if you take his blood you take his life as you would a pig's. The question lies beyond that. We are not to fear them that kill the body but have no more that they can do. Animals do not want atonement, and I do: if I were only an animal, I do not. It makes animals responsible to God, and not mere "natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed," as scripture does; or man not so, if he is only an animal: and with responsibility, repentance and atonement disappear. I have confined myself to your statements. I add, scripture speaks of everlasting punishment. They use eternal life to prove we have nothing eternal till we have Christ, and then when eternal is applied to punishment, say it does not mean it. The simple answer to shew its normal meaning in the New Testament is, "the things which are seen are temporal, the things that are not seen are eternal." But the real question is, What does my sin deserve? The answer to this is the test of where a man is, and settles by divine teaching what scripture declares as to life and punishment.

Yours truly in the Lord.