A Letter on the Great Truths of Christianity - by A.E. Myles
THE GREAT TRUTHS OF CHRISTIANITY
In asking your consideration of the subject of this letter, I seek help from God, as having no selfish motive, but only a very true and real desire that you may find the source of eternal happiness in the great and glorious Person in whom my faith rests. I write as one who has obtained mercy, and who knows that the surpassing mercy which has reached such as myself can reach any man.
We have often given many hours to the consideration of some business problem so that it is not unreasonable to devote time to the question of our eternal security and happiness. None of us can afford to make a mistake in a matter of such importance.
Much that I shall say will be opposed to what is accredited in the religious and scientific world, and it may cut across cherished thoughts in your own minds, but I feel sure you will give earnest consideration to what I present. My expectation that it may reach and win your hearts for Christ is in God, before whom I shall pray unceasingly for your blessing.
It may perhaps be well to set out, in simple terms, the basis of Christian belief as I understand it.
(1) God, the Creator, in His being, thoughts and ways, is greater than man His creature, as the heavens are higher than the earth. He is beyond all investigation or research. "Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not. Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him ? who will say unto him, What doest thou?" (Job 9:11, 12). The creature cannot comprehend the Creator. If God is to be known, it can only be by revelation, for God sovereignly and of His own pleasure makes Himself known in the way of His choice, that is, in grace which is in and through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
(2) The Scriptures are the word of God, given to men by direct inspiration, and having all the authority of a direct communication from God, they are able to make us " wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus."
(3) The Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God. In His own Person and Being, He was, is, and ever will be, God. He, a divine Person, became a man in order to work out redemption, meet man's need, and reveal God to men. His death is the basis of God's approach to men in grace, and apart from His death and faith in His name, there is no way of approach to God, and no way of salvation for men.
(4) Man is now a fallen creature. He was not so created, but by listening to the devil he came under the power of sin and became a fallen creature. The children of Adam inherit a sinful nature and repeat the sins of their first parents : as such, they must come under the righteous judgment of a holy God.
I make these simple statements as the ground of what I present to you. The great truths of Christianity are not presented to man's intellect for investigation, they are preached for the acceptance of faith. They cannot be proved by man's natural powers. If they could be so proved faith would not enter into it. Faith is not reasoning [faith, of course, does not contravene logic and reality - the Lord says, "Come now, let us reason together, saith Jehovah: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool - Isaiah 1:18 - Editor], it is not sight; it believes God, no matter what may be seen. " Without faith it is impossible to please him : for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him," Heb. 11 : 6. Here, at the very threshold of the way of blessing, all men, learned or unlearned, rich or poor, are put upon a common platform. Yet many of the learned men of today, both religious and scientific, are virtually saying,' We will believe God as and when we prove Him, and when we prove Him and accept Him the common and unlearned can do the same.' Such an attitude is a denial of faith, and a claim that man is as great as God.
In presenting, therefore, what cuts at the root of modern beliefs, I am comforted and emboldened by the words of Paul, " For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ," 2 Cor. 10 : 4, 5.
Practically every truth I have stated is commonly denied in the world. Men proudly say it is because they have become enlightened; but another explanation is found in the word of God: " It was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ," Jude 3, 4. And again, " But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them ... and many shall follow their pernicious ways," 2 Peter 2 : 1, 2. And yet again, " For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness," 2 Cor. 11 : 13-15.
I ask you to consider the possibility—to me a real truth—that Christianity, as we now see it publicly, has been deliberately corrupted by the powers of evil, so that men should be deceived and Christ humiliated. However, my purpose is not to enter into the detail of what I believe to be false, but rather to set forth what I believe to be true.
I will now seek to open up the basic teaching of Christianity, as it deals with the question of man's standing before God, taking my instruction, not from the corrupted, lifeless profession which has made the things of God nauseous in the sight of many sober, thinking men, but from the incorruptible word of God. For the sake of clarity I will deal with the paragraphs as numbered.
(1) If there is a God, as my faith, hope, peace and love most strenuously affirm, He must be the final Arbiter of the universe. His word must rule. His desires must eventually triumph. Though in grace He may wait for thousands of years, faith remembers that " one day is with the Lord as a thousand years." If He tolerates enemies it must be to make them serve His ends. He allowed men to crucify Christ, not because He had no power to interfere, but because it was in accordance with His own plan that Christ should die. If He undertakes to bless man, His creature, the blessing must transcend any happiness or pleasure which can be found apart from Him, and must be eternal, because He is the eternal God. All this accompanies the very idea of a Supreme Being, the Creator. As God's creature I must have to say to Him, to answer for my life, and for the way I have treated His Son as presented to me in the gospel, and all this, not in the light of men's corrupted standards, but in the light of God's requirements and standards.
In view of this, my first inquiry is, What kind of a God have I to meet ? Men largely, even in enlightened England, set up a god of their own imagination. They accredit their god with whatever characteristics they please. A new religion, or a new set of beliefs, however fantastic a departure from the truth, can be started any day and find ready acceptance. Wherein does all this differ from the heathen, who without any of the so-called benefits of civilisation, make a god of wood or stone, of whatever form pleases him? If God be God, supreme, omnipotent, desirous in grace of having man, His creature, near to Him, surely you would look for some overture, some movement on His part that would definitely yet simply convey to men what God is like. I confidently assert that we have a revelation from God which clearly shows His nature, attributes and disposition, towards His sinful creatures. That revelation has been given to men by the only One who could speak with knowledge and authority about God, the blessed Son of God Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ. He, though coming in manhood's lowly form, was God. That revelation is the foundation of every hope for men. In it the nature of God is revealed as love, and accompanying that is the divine attribute of righteousness.
God's love is holy. There is no standard amongst men by which the holiness of God can be measured, but there is a manifestation of it in the cross of Christ. I quote from Psalm 22, where the inner feelings and sufferings of Christ are prophetically unfolded: " My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ? . . . O my God, I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not . . . but thou art holy." Here the universe witnessed the supreme sight of a holy, sinless Man forsaken by a holy God; a Man who never in thought, word or deed had sinned against God, but being there as the sin-bearer, bearing the holy judgment of God, the blessed Son of God is forsaken, His cry unheard, because God was holy. He cannot even look upon sin. His standards cannot vary. They are fixed by no caprice; they exist because of what God is. May I say, reverently, God is bounded by what He is. The Scriptures say, " It was impossible for God to lie," Heb. 6:18. This is not that He chooses to speak truth, but that it is impossible for God to do otherwise because of who He is and what He is. If we have any thought that God is moved by the impulse of the moment in regard to moral issues, as an earthly despot might be, we should never know from day to day where we stood, but the knowledge that God is holy, righteous, and moves on fixed, unchanging, yet revealed principles, gives a sense of eternal security to all who have believed in the Saviour, His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
God demands righteousness from men. Being a righteous God, could He do less ? But He demands it so that the absence of it should be recognised. When such is the case, God does not lower His standards to meet the need, but the death of Christ enables a righteous God to impute righteousness where faith accepts Christ as righteousness. It is in the light of God's standard I find myself a sinner, having come short of the glory of God. By men's standards I may be no worse than most, and a bit better than some, but men's standards are corrupted, God's are unchanging and pure. So the revelation of God shows me, first, what God is, and then, as a consequence, what I am. I stand exposed in the holy light of God, where God stands revealed. I, as a sinner, am unable to fulfil my obligations, as it is written, " There is none righteous, no, not one," but where I am exposed in all my need, God is revealed as prepared to meet that need through " the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe," Rom. 3 : 22.
(2) I now turn to the section which refers to the place the Holy Scriptures have in this wondrous scheme. No feature of Christianity has been so " successfully " attacked as the Bible. Of necessity what is written is open to every attack, and so great is the enemy's success that it is rare to meet an educated person who accepts the Scriptures as the word of God. The Bible is prized for its literary merits, and classed along with other books which are equally valued. But if the Bible is the word of God it should be accepted as authoritative. If it is only a sham it should be burned—there is no intermediate point. Protestantism in particular is responsible for opening the door to infidelity and unbelief in the Scriptures. What is the effect upon the simple, when the great leaders publicly avow their unbelief, when all their efforts are towards accommodating Christianity to the present world system ? The end of Protestantism is seen in Revelation 3 : 14-22, where lukewarmness and indifference to Christ is exposed as nauseous to God. Roman Catholicism, on the other hand, has hidden the Scriptures, and substituted for the authority of God's word the edicts of their leader, thereby putting him in the place given to Christ alone. Yet the public position is rapidly working up to this : that of all accredited, so-called Christian bodies, only the Catholics profess and enforce the fundamental doctrines of the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, and the fall of man. I do not speak of individuals in these systems, for there are many who have faith in Christ.
There are certain proofs of the inspiration of the Scriptures which are clear to faith. The Bible perfectly describes me. It tells me I am a sinner. It shows me how unfit I am for the presence of God. No one but God could afford to tell me the naked truth about myself. What philosopher could afford to do it ? Even if a man were sincere, he could only work from man's standard of measurement, whereas the eye of God penetrates to the centre of my soul and exposes me. Yet the exposure is not punitive, it is in view of meeting my desperate need. If God took up things punitively with the children of Adam, who could stand? The Scriptures unfold the way to forgiveness and salvation as it is in Christ Jesus, and my heart has found rest in believing. In them I see one harmonious thought, presented through many writers, and over long periods of time. From the very beginning they point to Christ. They foretell His coming hundreds of years prior to the event; they foretell His death; they show the reason for the present position of the Jew; they explain the presence of death; they tell of a future day of blessing when Christ shall reign over the earth.
I find, too, the heart of God revealed, and His righteousness maintained. The discoveries of science, wonderful as they are, do not tell me anything about the heart of God. The scriptures do not foretell the progress of science and invention, they deal with moral things. Philosophers may say they are incomplete; so they are to them, for they look for what is not there. First, they assume to fix what should be there, and then deny the inspiration of the word because it is not there. The geologists say their deductions conflict with the statements of the Bible, but they differ from each other by thousands of years in their own deductions! The so-called higher critics, christian in profession, have bit by bit denied the greater part of the sacred writings, but none of these things deceive or weigh with me. The Lord has them all in derision. I see God in His word has used language, figures of speech and examples, as understood by men in that day. God would not confound men by speaking of what was not generally known; He spoke to simple persons. He has always addressed such. " Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world ?" (1 Cor. i: 20).
The Lord Jesus, as God manifest in flesh, knew all things; no feature of science was hidden from Him, the Creator of worlds, yet what He laboured for was that men should know God. His desires for men were that they should have eternal life, and every detail of the divine plan and the way into life is unfolded in the words of Jesus. God in His word deals with important things, not the detail of creation, or the laws which move the universe [Of course, the Bible treats of these realities; but, the thrust is to address moral issues and a provided salvation - Editor]. All that, great as it is in itself, is relatively small, it is the work of His hand, perfect and wonderful, but what is linked with His affections must of necessity be the greatest thing the creature can know. One great proof of the truth is that men in all ages who have walked before God have learned to trust and love Him. That men should fear God is understandable, but that they should love Him in response to His love is beyond understanding. Abraham was called the friend of God, He learned that God could raise the dead. To the believer death is not a calamity, for resurrection into a condition of life which is beyond death is the hope of all who know God. I reverence the Scriptures ; and as I prayerfully study them, I find fresh features of such surpassing blessedness that I could only accredit them to God.
(3) I turn now to speak with holy reverence of the Person of Christ, for I worship, as God over all, the blessed Person who in manhood " loved me, and gave himself for me." I marvel at the grace of His stoop to manhood. I think of Him, the holy, sinless One, moving about in this sin-stained world, amidst all the terrible consequences of sin, feeling and beholding all that lay between God and man, and then, as the final act of His short earthly path, offering Himself a ransom for all, yes, even for those who crucified Him! It is rare today to find a person who believes all that the Scriptures say of Him. Some deny His deity, some His manhood, some believe He was only a mythical figure, some believe He was God but not man. Some would cause His name to perish, some use it only to give point to an oath, or to adorn a wanton jest. If the Lord Jesus is not now and for ever a man, then I can have no link with God, can never know nearness to God, for God is a spirit. I need the Man Christ Jesus to represent me, to support me for ever in the presence of God, to succour me now in my weakness, to speak to, to walk with, a real, living Man. Yet if the Lord Jesus is not God, how could He have solved the great question of good and evil according to God ? meeting the holy nature of God in so doing, and establishing a righteous basis for setting forth Jesus—" a propitiation [or mercy-seat] through faith in his blood." Deny the deity of Jesus and the whole fabric of Christianity is destroyed, and faith and hope cease.
It was by man that sin entered into the world, and if Christ is to die for sinners it must be as man. Yet that Person is in His own Being God, and it is who and what He is that gives value and worth to His death, that makes it morally possible and just that His death should open the way of salvation for millions of men. There is no thought so stupendous, so utterly beyond comprehension as that He should die for the creature's sin. As believing that He is the Son of God, the whole plan of redemption becomes reasonable. Deny any attribute or glory of Christ, and it becomes unreasonable.
There it stands as God's own way of dealing with the situation of the sinner's need. It is for acceptance or refusal, not for alteration or amendment. It is God's way, God's plan, God's Son. He will not receive men on any other ground: " There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." People talk about seeking God in their own way. Does not such language slight the sacrifice of Christ and deny to God the right to indicate the way that glorifies Him ? Such are like Cain of old, who offered the fruit of his own toil and was rejected, whereas Abel offered a lamb, a figure of the worth of Jesus as going into death, and he was accepted. Scripture is full of such figures, beginning with Adam, who when he sinned was clothed by God in a coat of skin, figure of covering based on the death of Christ.
(4) My last numbered section is a most important one, for if the fall of man is denied, there is no need of a Saviour, and all that I have spoken of ceases to be of momentous importance. If man has not forfeited all rights through sin, then he is able to ask for justice. But if this were so, why did Christ die, and why does man die ? The testimony that runs through the Bible is that the first man, Adam, fell through disobedience and involved his race in that fall. "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned," Rom. 5 : 12. Every child of Adam is born in sin, that is their condition in the light of God. They are begotten of sinful parents, and before their history has progressed far they commit sins. To recognise this means blessing, because God has provided a way whereby my sinful state and my sins are divinely dealt with. It was by "one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. . . . But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord," Rom. 5 : 19-21. In every age God has accepted any man who in honesty of heart and as recognising his sinful condition, has sought Him after the appointed way. The trouble is that men seek other sources of help, such as their own efforts. There is an active enemy, the tempter, who will whisper every lie into the ears of those who do not listen to God. All who hear God have the remedy put before them, that the situation has been met without impugning the character of God, or denying that man is a sinner. The whole fabric stands together, and God is pledged to save " all that come unto him " by Jesus Christ.
Death is an ever-present witness that sin is a terrible thing in the sight of God. It is an awful reality for the unsaved to contemplate leaving all that they love, to pass out of the world where Satan has deceived them, into eternity to face God in judgment. How much better to come under the shelter of the blood of Jesus, to be cleansed now from the sins of a lifetime, and to be established in such favour as to be beyond the imputation of sin. " Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity," Psalm 32 : 1, 2.
My final remarks will be on the question of faith. Is it possible that faith in Christ can bring a sinful man into the known favour of God ? Can he be absolutely assured, not merely hope, that his sins are forgiven and his eternal happiness secured ? The word of God assures me that it is so. My purged conscience adds to this witness. My joy in God and love for Christ confirm it. I have seen it in others more brightly and fully than in myself. I was once privileged to see a dear woman in Scotland who had lain in bed for fifty-one years. Her circumstances were poor, her suffering was great. Shut off from all that would make life worth living to a worldling, she had found full satisfaction in Christ. Full of happiness and joy, she was waiting till He who died for her called her to Himself.
You may say it seems a small thing to accept only what another has done—yet it is the only way that leaves all the glory to Christ. To say, I will do the best I can and trust Christ for the rest is to displace Christ from the glorious preeminence that He occupies as the accomplisher of redemption. Could we expect to secure God's favour in such a way ? If I or any other could add anything to the work of Christ, then would the glory be divided. Why not leave the glory to Him as the One who did it alone ? His work is accepted by God—surely the final test—as a complete answer to the sins and the sinful state of all who believe in Him. God delights to receive and honour the man who honours His dear Son by trusting in His finished work.
" Let one in his innocence glory,
Another in work he has done,
Thy blood is my claim and my tital,
Beside it, O Lord, I have none."
I trust I have not wearied you by the length of my letter. If volume is a witness, it will prove that I have your welfare at heart. If, with your keen, analytical minds, you undertake to pull this letter to pieces, you could do it, but you would only destroy my feeble words. God remains. His word accomplishes His purpose, and His house shall be filled.
While you read, and I trust ponder, I shall pray. I have no hope in argument, no desire to convince without converting, but I have great hope in God and in the subduing power of His grace. That you, with all your loved ones, may find eternal joy in God is the earnest desire of
Your sincere well-wisher,
A. E. Myles