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Chapter 4

DUTY, DOCTRINE AND DRAMA

  1963   and the Foretaste of 1964...

 

THE VICTORY IS THE LORD'S - THE SECOND DELIVERANCE
 

CANADIAN IRONY, AUSTRALIAN CAST IRON
and an OPERA outside the OPERA HOUSE

 

Before we come to the Sydney deliverance, which began the final routing of the assailants, first on the word of God and then on this particular servant of the Lord in that context, and the great New Zealand venture to which the Lord then assigned me, it is valuable to recall a little in the interval.

First, there was teaching in two Church schools. One was an Anglican one, under  a Bishop who indicated there was no need for him to keep to the 39 articles, and who had MASS in the school, even though that Anglican Standard has highly stringent condemnation of the practice*1.

Meanwhile,  the Headmaster was delightful and rapidly advanced me in the work intending to give me the highest level English literature course, before the Bishop intervened. I noted to this bishop the ironic fact that I was in basic agreement with the tenor of the Articles, whereas he, an Anglican was not. After pointing his fingers together, as if to make a tent, for some time, and knowing the keenness of the Headmaster for me to stay, he decided that if I did not come into disagreement with the Chaplain, or something of this kind which would shut my mouth in any instance where testimony should come to require it, then I could stay. My response involved the point that I could not sell my mouth, which was already committed to Jesus Christ. It was not as if I should be saying anything remarkable in this context, in view of my position vis-à-vis those 39 Articles, which in turn were keen on the Bible.

The closed mouth however was the episcopal desire; and to be sure I had consistently in the Classes kept to what the Bible declared in dealing with related topics. It would have, therefore, to open elsewhere, despite the 60% or so rise in salary, after the first year, and the most desirable place that was there.

How people can even GO to places where you cannot testify freely of Christ, or if they go, keep their mouths under virtual legal arrest in order to stay, is beyond me, as far as Christians are concerned. It is so much simpler, purer and better SIMPLY to do what we are told, and NEVER to be ashamed to testify of Christ (Luke 9:23-26). I well remember in the Victorian Education system, when I was considering some 'tent-making' supplement to the Ministry there, the effort to make me acknowledge that I THOUGHT the Bible was right, so that the objective character of the faith might be swallowed up in the sallow waters of subjectivity (Reason, Revelation and the Redeemer ).

I could not agree. Logic declares the answer (SMR), and while faith is the way to be saved in terms of the Biblical depiction, the Gospel, of Jesus Christ, truth is not dependent in the least on subjectivity. It is an objective occurrence and nothing else can even logically stand, but this same biblical testimony which it makes, and one seeks accurately at all times to reflect (cf. Barbs 6   -7, Swift Witness  6 and the three references above). The matter however proceeded.

The second school, in the context of moving on to the Canadian enterprise, was a Presbyterian one, where the 'liberal' approach of the very Principal who had led to my expulsion from the seminary, was held in the Headmaster's heart. Too late I found that that Principal had been the Headmaster's 'guiding star', and alas it showed. By the time I learned of this, I was already committed and so endured those two years. Two members of Presbytery would be sustaining my appeal to the General Assembly of Australia against exclusion from the Ministry of the Presbyterian Church. It was both a trial and a test, and if in this or that, I failed, as googly balls were bowled at me, and reckless seeming steps were taken by the Headmaster, yet the testimony stood, and was spread throughout school, to students and Staff alike.

Thus, this provided wonderful opportunities to give out the Gospel to the school, but there was a complete unreliability about the place, which disenabled the best results, and eventually a convulsion leading to the removal of 3 other members of the Staff, although I stayed.

It was not without relief that there came the next step, which came in Canada.

Through the mercies and faithfulness of the Lord, I was in 1962 called to preach in a country location in that nation, indeed in Prince Edward Island, of Ann of Green Gables fame (actually, I played on the golf course at that location!). In 1963, I arrived and before long had occasion to go to Toronto for a meeting of a central committee concerned about persons who might wish to enter the Ministry of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. There, interested that their ordination subscription would include an acknowledgement that they held to the teaching of the Westminster Confession, I stated that I was glad to find a body who BELIEVED in the infallibility of the Holy Scriptures, the Bible (as stated in that Confession).

It is to be noted that this was to acknowledge that the Committee members  meant what they said
when they themselves were ordained. They could do so only by indicating this to be their belief. To an amazement with which I was rapidly learning to live, they could not abide such a statement as mine. Reference to actual facts was far from safe.

Thus, however comic or gravely seduced they might be, I heard the cry - 'Divisive!' It was apparently divisive of me to note a fact, and to indicate that it was pleasant to have a result of it. So incredible was the concept there ruling, concerning theological integrity, the keeping of commitments, that it was a cardinal error to assume that they meant what they had vowed! It seemed almost to resemble someone calling on a household where the husband was known to be committing adultery, and unwittingly referring to fidelity in marriage, without oneself knowing how that particular marriage stood - or fell.

In this Toronto case, the 'household' was horrified at the gaffe. Gaffe or not, it was true that they were bound, and apparently equally true that they had cut the cords and were particularly sensitive to anyone who dared to remind them of it! The final confrontation of the Age of the Gospel of Jesus Christ CANNOT come, said Paul, before this great falling away (II Thessalonians 2). I was thus multiply a witness to it in denomination after denomination.

Such sincerity as I found in Toronto, therefore,  did not leave me spellbound! In later years, that Church went from more to even more theological disparity with the Bible, with suave kinds of seduction ruling in their seminary. It was perhaps as well, then,  that for this reason, the testimony of the Bible and of Christ (as usual), that  the matter could proceed no further.

Immediately it is good to add this. In the very next year, 1964,  there was a resounding and perfectly miraculous deliverance for me, back in Australia, in the very central assembly of the Presbyterians in that country! It is NEVER necessary to temporise or compromise with flesh; and standing firm in both nations, I was nevertheless able to proceed in 1964 to my Honours M.A. by thesis and oral examination in the University of Melbourne, and to victory in Sydney in the Church, by the very clear grace and marvellous interposition of the Lord, later in that same year.

As to the Toronto preliminary of 1963, and the committee members with their 'Divisive!" cry:
perhaps chafing in their own position, they wanted no recruits who would hold what they
themselves were supposed to hold, and evidently in good part, did not! The Canadian year however provided me with another Presbytery from that land which would back my movement into the Ministry, against the pre-conceptions and dodgings, animus and wanderings in Australia. The Lord was building the preliminaries for the Carmel, if you will. HE knows what He is doing, always does, always did and always will. It is so good to trust Him, for He is reliable.

Yet in all this one sees the impact of the mounting apostasy of the Age, precisely as predetermined by scripture, when itching ears will lead many astray, as if the ONE THING which is INTOLERABLE is what is written (II Timothy 4:3, cf. II Peter 2). It was thus predicted that SOUND DOCTRINE would be disparaged and declined, with an increasing inability to 'stand' it; and so I found. The intemperance of the hatred of having it rule was like that of having the Son of God rule in Israel of old. The servant can scarcely hope to be better than his Master, in the treatment by this world, for Christ was perfect, and every servant among mankind of His, is not.

How exciting, then, to see the word of God fulfilled in these ways by those who denied it! How ironic and what a privilege could readily on this earth come to me,  comparable with actually seeing the power of God in another way, standing behind the Niagara Falls and watching their mighty flow from intimate quarters.  The Sydney episode was a watershed for wisdom, and a display for delight in the Lord. As the chorus says, How good is the God we adore!

Before tracing this, however, it seems good to look at some of the points that arise about Presbyterian abuse of the Westminster Confession, alas, on the one hand binding it in effect as determinative of doctrine, instead of being as it requires in its own text, a help, and on the other, claiming to hold to it, even in substance, while actively rejecting the integrity of whole books of the Bible. What a see-saw, the word ignore sort of situation. It might even in some ways be comic, were it not utterly tragic.

 

Confessional Matters and the Word of God, through the Years

Australian Cast-Iron

In due course I was to learn of a good way of handling slackness and connivance against truth on the part of some at their ordination. Actually, it was the Presbyterian Church in America which had an interesting formulation here, and one which is sound, if only they would keep it: in effect it indicates that the Bible is infallible (separate question for affirmation), and the teaching, the system of doctrine in the Westminster Confession is Biblical. It is not of course comprehensive, as I pointed out to Presbytery when the time for the USA Ministry arrived; but it is sound.

One other Presbyter at that time (1967) emphatically agreed, Dr Gordon Clark of fame in the field of philosophy, being Chairman at his University in that field, and a famous author (see Three Anzas, One Answer Ch. 6).

It so happens that this formulation of the system in the Confession and the infallible scripture as sole and only ultimate basis works reasonably well as an approach.

The inadequate emphasis on love in the Westminster Confession is NOT a systematic failure, since the system is sound with or without it; and it operates coherently. The Biblical system of teaching, strictly so-called,  is well handled by the Confession. Unfortunately, unlike the case of the Presbyterian Church of Australia which at its advent in 1901, did better yet, this love of God was not adequately portrayed in the Westminster Confession. That love in its intensity and scope is pre-systematic: God so loved the world THAT ...  You can hold the system, but as seen in the PC in the USA (1903 Declaratory Statement) and later, it needs a supplement beyond the system, to cover the case.

Thus, whatever 'system' is unveiled, this love in logical sequence PRECEDES it; yet as to that same love,  its priority is vast. The PC of Australia wisely emphasised (past tense only) separately this love and cited it as necessary in its own so-called 'Declaratory Statement' from the time of its 1901 Union in this land. However even in this same, once so blessed Church, a 1991 General Assembly Statement ignores this and erroneously acts as if the Confession by itself had all covered, without any statement whatever. (Cf. The Biblical Workman Ch. 8 and Bible Translation 1, *3, 4, #41.)

The fact that this is contrary to the Declaratory Statement with which the Church was formed in the first place, is dismissed with just that peremptory assurance that Assembly majorities can so readily command. How often and how deeply we are reminded of our sinfulness, in order that we might seek sanctification and godliness with fresh vision and vigour. That is a message to any who slips: let the glimpse of the sinfulness of sin strengthen your backbone like tungsten steel.

How true it is, Blessed are the meek! and where more is this meekness needed than in dealing with, or rather being dealt with by, the word of the living God, not a poetic fable, not a pasture for kicking the heels, but what it declares, the thoughts of the living God for man, true and sufficient, just and bound. Meekness in reception, strength in propagation, truth in works, grace in action, godliness in all, this is the requirement.

It is therefore not at all surprising that we read in this same word of God, in Isaiah 66:2, that to this man will the Lord look, to him who is humble and of a contrite spirit, and who TREMBLES AT HIS WORD. You do not tremble at what you surgically alter, whether to plump out the chest or to remove what you deem fat! Small wonder also that Isaiah 8:20 tells us that if they do not speak according to the word in the book of the Lord, there is no light in them. What light is there in making light of the Light Himself! or in slighting  the product of His mouth, the fountain of His will, the expression of His thought (cf. Amos 4:13, Matthew 4:4)!

What then of life where the word of God is bound ? Some fret because of it, and seek to 'escape'. The II Timothy 4 case shows the prediction of this pathology reaching its heights in the period before the end of this Age. That is verified. It is now (cf. Answers to Questions Ch. 5). But consider this ...

If freedom in this comes from being bound, is it not the same in the body ? It is when the bowels are dissolved, or the heart is loosed that freedom is lost. Man is bound to the Lord, and to unbind Him or His word, which is His, is like having an open heart surgery in which by some error, the heart itself is removed. After all, salvation also is bound to the believer in Him according to His word, as in John 5:24, II Timothy 1:8ff., and is that not freedom itself, to be a child of the living God, furnished with eternal life and saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8)!

It is in fact rather difficult so much as to find one reference to this love in the Westminster Confession, that very love of God for those ultimately to be lost; but the case as shown above, is very different in the Bible. What then do we discover ? It is this. As to that subordinate standard, the Westminster Confession,  it is fine in system, but needs indeed what the PC of Australia (PCA)  gave it, a boost beyond the system, to bring in another facet of Biblical teaching. The historic stress on this feature, in the 1901 Presbyterian Union is just, capable and good; its 1991 Assembly treatment in effect deletes the specific addition by indicating there is nothing there. It ignores the 'sensitive conscience' for which advisedly and expressly the provision was brought in.

This unhistoric departure from the historic PCA constitutional emphasis is to be deplored, for it limits the love of God to a system of man, instead of expanding it to the direct statements of the Bible, a truth found not only in II Peter 3:9, but I Timothy 2:1-5 and many such places

(cf. Predestination and Freewill, The Kingdom of Heaven Ch.4,
Biblical Blessings
Ch.3,
Repent or Perish
Ch.1, esp. p. 18,
SMR Appendix B, pp. 1163A, *7,
The Merciful Might of the Majestic Messiah: Jesus
Ch. 5,
Anguish, Ecstasy and the Mastery of the Messiah
, Chs.   8,   9).

When scribal charms (cf. I Cor. 3) limit the word of God in its clear, unqualified and continual statements, there is trouble in the church, as Christ sharply witnessed to those so bound,  in the recorded event of Mark 7:7. It is the utmost of unwisdom and disproportion to be bound by man, one's peers, but the height of wisdom to be bound by God, one's Creator, who knows all, and in particular, always and altogether what He is doing. How great is His name and what joy to be bound to Him! The grandeur of His grace and the purity of His face, the liberties of assurance and the constraints of love all work together, as do all things for those who love God, those called according to His purpose.

Thus many are wrongly bound, and bind themselves to themselves, and others to them.

As to the word of God, however, it is not bound (II Timothy 2:9).

What makes that Confession so fine however, not least is this (Chs.XXXI, Part IV with XX, Part II): that it insists that no church council is to be obeyed as such, for many have erred; and that the Bible is the final criterion. Such forms of authority are always subjectible, the word of God ALONE being definitive; and any and all of them are always subject to rejection FROM the Bible, if they transgress in anything, this source, this word not of man but of God (cf. I Thessalonians 2:13, I Corinthians 2:9-13, Matthew 5:17ff.). It is not a case of showing this or that from the Confession, to obtain liberty, for that is the bondage of man; it is rather one of showing it from the Bible, and being helped from the Confession. To bind the word of man, in its systematics for resolution is to lose the liberty of God.

Theological Hitlers are not to be desired.

It is sad that now, in Australia, the Confessional humility is being lost in a repressive seeming word concerning it, as if the Union creators of the 1901 Constitution, in their Declaratory Statement,  had made quite unnecessary reference to the additional matters in the LIGHT of which the Confession was to be read, and provided quite unacceptable reference to the LIBERTY with which the Church was,  through this accommodating Statement,  to operate in matters of conscience.

Further, even the Confession itself refuses to used as a rule, but insists it is there as a help (XX,1 and XXXI, 4, for even synods and councils may not be given the place of rule). Helping is not ruling, and the abuse of the Confession in this augmentative manner in the Church, becomes thus multiple. There is no other final test but the word of God, and defiling it or adding, is simply to fail that test, faith defective, reason given dismissal. God is not susceptible to synthesis, nor is His word to pluses here or minuses here or there.

Indeed, if liberty was misused when the PCA gradually became apostate in the area 1935-1974, it was not by adding the love of God in the measure shown in the Declaratory Statement; but rather it was by illicitly subtracting large areas of the Bible itself without reason, warrant or integrity. THIS was not a freedom granted to ANY, for any reason or in any document, but dissembling and revolt, and long did it continue as a 1974 Victorian Church paper declared! naming some 40 years! Later, the Assembly in sad laxity making the Confession binding as such, in 1991, merely made a new way of damaging biblical liberty, this time by traditions (Mark 7:7). One extreme was replaced with the other, as in the days of Scribes and Pharisees.

In the Declaratory Statement, specified liberty was granted in understanding the scriptures, not in laying them waste by irreverential warfare on students, by false teaching or even as in my own case eviction, when an answer to assault on the Bible becoming open, it was used, and the assault on a whole book of the Bible shown to be illogical, and this without reply! And why ?  for there was none, the word of God, rock-like, smashing every smash hit of vagrant theology or philosophy. What then ? then student-removal replacing reason, the evil continued. Yet it was a privilege to attest the truth of the Bible with no answer to this, whatever the price, and the vindication of 1964 in the General Assembly of the PC of Australia amplified the testimony on that very occasion. So the Lord is good, was, is and will be (cf. II Timothy 4:8,17-18). HE never varies nor does His everlasting truth written, smitten or not. Just so, He Himself was resurrected in very body, smitten without success, only cruelty and unbelieving disdain which has cost peace in its reelings and dealings for millenia.

Where in practice the Bible does not have the manifest last word, and constitute the only basis for any final determination ALONE (helps being just that, not directions), then not only is Presbyterianism violated to the base, but Biblical Christianity as well. On this way, moreover is only irrationality. But what of the love of God ? What indeed!

The Declaratory Statement added to the Confession as the TERMS in which it is to be read (not vice versa) in the Constitution, does not remove the scope of biblical truth, but rectifies its emplacement.

In the 1991 debacle, instead, in terms of the love of God, it is as if ZERO liberty were an interpretation of ASSIGNED liberty, as in the Declaratory Statement. It is true that this liberty was not to be abused and the church was to safeguard this; but it would rather appear liberty here IS being abused by being equated with zero, the Confession itself coming to be REQUIRED UNLESS it could be shown from this man-made document, that this was not so! The Confession, if it could feel, would blush at this extravagance, for it excludes, as noted above, just such approaches! Violated is not only the word of God, the criterion, but the Constitution as well which REQUIRES the Confession to be read in terms of the Declaratory Statement.  Alas, when a good thing is found, how often some philosophy seeks to trash it. The philosophy, displaced, goes; but the damage may remain, except a heart for reform be found, as it should be.

So does confessionalism seek to eat up the church, even when an excellent Confession has to be mutilated, indeed mutated, to do it! Past all these reactions however, it is necessary, as Presbyterianism rightly holds, to put the Bible ABOVE all Confessions. How far removed is this from requiring one to show FROM the Confession that this or that is or is not  requisite, as the 1991 PC Australia required; but to the very contrary,  insistently are we assigned the position as subject to the word of God, to show FROM THE BIBLE that this or that IS required, or is not! The word of God is incomparably better than that of man.

Addition as here, to that word, is given short shrift in Proverbs 30:6 as in the things it portends, as in Revelation 22. Pluses and minuses, in practice, are perfidious and arrogant. Everything should be in its place, as are organs in the human body. Here man is before God and His word is over man.

These things are not small, and Spurgeon is one who has given no small sense of outrage at the dangers inherent in such additions (to the word of God). Thus in his sermon on Jacob and Esau he has much to say. This is treated in the Appendix I, drawn from Ch. 8 of Anguish, Ecstasy and the Mastery of the Messiah.

Alas, by such omissions of what the scripture contains, and additions of what it does not contain, in screening systems, grief comes, and aridity arrives. Soon the needs of one generation, in the warfare for Christ, become the assumed totality for another, so that the good work of one, being aggrandised, instead of being humbly used, is improperly elevated to the detriment of the word of God.

Did not Christ say it: in confrontation, He declared you are "making void the commandments by your traditions!" (Mark 7:13). On the contrary, it is the word of God which is to rule, and it rules the rules - Luke 6:46, Matthew 5:17-20. It is most fervently to be hoped that the PC of Australia will shed these chains, relatively recently fashioned - as if not satisfied with one bane, at its departure towards the laxities of liberalism, shamefully given absurd scope in the most sensitive training grounds of the Church,  it must create another, a bondage to man. Let it return to the Lord and to His word, and believe what it says, fashion what He says and follow Him and His word. It is not necessary to be a genius; the work is already done in the existing Constitution. It needs to be left unmolested by such 'adjustments' as have confined it, and the word of God alike.

Meanwhile, we come after the M.A. year of 1964, to the deliverance itself, in Sydney in 1964. Two things need to be noted before that dénouement.

 

THE VICTORY IS THE LORD'S - THE THIRD DELIVERANCE
 

Hunger in Canada and Biblical New Work for Honours M.A. in Australia

The first is something of a spiritual significance which is therefore germane to this account.

It was found that in the 1963 year in Canada, there was such a hunger for the word of God in some of the places, in the country, that it refreshed the heart. One could visit farms and find great interest, as if some medical specialist had come to test for a rampant heart disease.

It was my policy at one time there, to call and ask to see the young people (say 16 to 23 or so) and advise them solemnly that I was calling to ask them not to join the Church. This probably met with some surprise, but after a little I would continue ... "unless, of course, you are Christians." In that case, it would be delightful for them to join.

This led to a question. What IS a Christian ? They had little idea. Words like faith and repentance, regeneration in this context did not strike up an immediate rapport. They were as soil without seed. Perhaps one should add that they had had no minister for a few years, if I recall: perhaps 3.

Hence we held a Class to find out what it was to be a Christian (cf. SMR pp. 520ff.). This seemed to come to them like rain after drought, but it also generated, it seemed, a degree of amazement. Was this, all of this, actually THERE in a ... Church. Yes it was.

Some 17 then joined the Church, having shown an understanding and feeling it, and receiving on invitation the One about whom the Church is actually concerned, Jesus Christ, alive from the dead and as potent as ever. We did not skirt sin, but dealt with it; nor the atoning sacrifice to meet it, but focussed it and liberation from its clutches, and the cost of this grand victorious theme. One young man, a school teacher, came to make a beautiful announcement, which in similar circumstances I do not ever remember having heard. He declared: "I am not good enough!"

This was met through the loving Lord's grace, very simply. Are you good enough to be a sinner ? he was asked. He affirmed this with conviction. Are you bad enough to need the Saviour ? This too was incontestably true. Then, why not TAKE Him! was the third step for me to narrate! And I believe that he did, later joining the Church. Praise God for such realism.

Always in mind is the time when a snow storm started, and this Aussie decided not to let that phase him, but proceeded out to drive and visit, to get on with one's work. However experience grew.  In a very little the road lost itself in white and fences began to seem vague, as the covering grew. It became apparent that that Aussie could indeed set forth, in the fulness of Australian liberty; but where this would be, that would become an increasingly difficult question to answer.

The other occurrence for record occurred  on the way to preach, and on the hill preceding the target church, there was the slight problem of slithery, slippery, oozy mud - it may have been a Spring thing. Up this field-like road one proceeded, but the small, if lively car being driven did not gain the correct stability on both sides, so we went up at a 45 degree angle, or thereabouts, in a most interesting experience. The roads, when you have them in metal, can also leave a side part which having the underlying earth eroded, becomes just a crust, with result to be imagined.

But what of the spiritual erosion, and angular shift ?

Despite therefore the betrayal of Christ by many of the higher authorities, there was excellent opportunity for pastoral work. Yet the tragedy, sheer, colossally grievous, of the results of such departure by the official office holders was so great that one could well think of the lament of Christ for Jerusalem, and of Jeremiah's book of Lamentation.

Because of the obstruction of the Toronto group, who found in their official robes, that it was divisive for one to call on what was in their ordination vows, as a basis for talking together, it seemed necessary to the evangelical Minister with whom I was dealing in my assignments in Canada (the Clerk of the Maritime Synod, an estimable man), for me to return to Australia and 'have this thing out' - that is, the opposition of the Theological Education Authority.

Despite the Presbytery of Tasmania's support, a highly placed Minister in Prince Edward Island had questioned what had happened in Australia, and learning of it, did not forward the sending to Toronto re ordination. On the contrary, because of him,  it was passed on to the central authority as  'simpliciter', that is, with no particular endorsement. It was of great interest to learn later that this man who dressed in such formalistic refinement, and offered such obstruction to this work of the Lord, became diseased in something like a partial paralysis. The work however was not paralysed.

His obstruction could not stop what the Lord had planned, or the mission to which He had called. As it is written, let not man prevail against You! (II Chronicles 14:11).

In fact, the Lord forwarded it in yet another way. The Professor in the University of Melbourne, Chairman of the Department, who had been so keen on my pursuing Philosophy professionally, or internationally, or both, and had begged me to reconsider when I left for the Ministry, was still in Office. Writing to him, I found that my Westminster Degree with many Honours in it, taken with the result of an academic check by the University on Westminster made earlier for someone else, led to the conclusion: yes, I could take my M.A.. Moreover, my thought of taking it on the topic of the harmony of predestination and freewill, showing the harmonious uniqueness of the Bible, was accepted. If there was to be some confusion on this - for I had undertaken a work which was to be theoretical, not historical and it in fact kept to its domain - nevertheless, the work was allowed and it proceeded. (Eventually awarded Honours, it would permit Ph.D. work if desired.)  Instead, much later, a Th.D. thesis was completed as one pursued the demonstration of the truth in Christ Jesus.)

This meant that by the time of the 1964 Assembly in Sydney, to which our appeal for my reinstatement was going, I was well advanced on my M.A..

 

  THE VICTORY IS THE LORD'S - THE FOURTH DELIVERANCE

A CARMEL OF A KIND
 

THE MANNER OF THE LORD'S DELIVERANCE IS
OF HIS OWN CHOOSING: the SYDNEY OPERA

1964

One fascinating study remains. On my return from the USA in 1957, after various trials and vicissitudes, including School Teaching, and a period in Canada to which I had been invited to preach, eventually the time came when the exclusion which the princes of the church, with the professors, Jeremiah style, had visited on me, was to be challenged in the highest court of the Australian Presbyterian Church. It was Sydney, 1964. Would Harbour-land be hallowed in this, or would it be another Toronto ?

In this interim, as the year progressed, the Lord brought me into contact with  a very fine man, whose sense of equity, of justice, as indeed he proclaimed in the Assembly meeting itself, was greater than his sense of friendship for those who were acting amiss against me. He with two Presbyteries were witnesses, directly or indirectly on behalf of my cause. On the other side was the liberal establishment, then reigning in a not unusual way, in the enforced absence of opposition, at least to some extent, and certainly to my extent! Intimidation and exclusion alike were potent weapons, it seemed.

After all, if penalty attends opposition to opposition to the Bible, then such opposition as in my case, may not be heard in its ... absence.

However, now once more in the Lord's providence and grace, I was present. The Assembly was being given grounds by the 2 Presbyteries and the prominent pastor of the large Victorian congregation who was aiding the matter, for reviewing the exclusion zone in which the Theological Education Committee had placed me.

Question after question was put to me, until one dear Minister announced to the Assembly, that this person under review, myself, was flesh and blood and the trial was going on too long!

At this, I thought: Then there is heart left in the Assembly after all! It was delightful to hear something other than sadducaic sounding sophistication and superficiality, mockery and contempt. Bucking the Establishment for Christ is a long-historied affair, and it tends to have certain norms, which were duly displayed. One is about to be related.

One lawyer (literally so) asked if I still believed in the literal interpretation of all Scripture. Scorn seemed to drip from his legal lips, and a sardonic glance back to the 'audience' seemed ready to perform a surgical operation on the victim in the 'dock'.

However, the Lord was with me, and I had not merely no fear, but an amazing sense of repelling mockery with the power of the present Lord. After all, the promise was pled as in Luke 21:15). Thus I replied that this had never been the question: it did not turn on interpretation of the Bible. It was not about this topic, but another that the case was directed. That other point was this: was or was not the Bible was authoritative and infallible. THAT, I indicated, one would hope would be a view known to the elders, since it was, after all, to be found in the Westminster Confession, which was notable in their subordinate standard! The case had definite overtones reminiscent of the Toronto event! It seemed in this at least, to hold a similar spirit.

This point having been clarified, I proceeded. Despite this mistaken focus on what was not the issue, and since he asked this question about interpretation, irrelevant to the point at issue though it was: yes, I would answer it.

An English teacher, I said, I had occasion to interpret many literary documents. Do you know, I asked, that when I meet a metaphor, how I treat it ? Why, metaphorically! And I proceeded to trace various figures of speech which we all use on occasion, normally when it is perfectly clear to those whom we address, what is figure and what is fact.

In each case, I proceeded, I would interpret the figure according to its kind. That is the nature of symbolism and imagery: you use it when it is clear what it is, so there is no confusion. Such, I proceeded, is the richness of Holy Writ, that sometimes one comes upon a case when several figures of speech may be used simultaneously!

What then ? Then, I answered, one interprets each one, severally, after its kind! Again, often it is clear that the matter is to be taken literally: in that case, so is the interpretation, literal.

And may I, the divinely aided speech continued, add this piece of advice. When you are interpreting what is written, USE YOUR COMMON SENSE!

At that, and quite astonishingly, the Assembly with considerable force, applauded! It was quite an unusual experience in the rigours of 'the treatment'. It was decidedly pleasant to have the errant authorities at last operating in the light of common day.

What had been given was an answer to a trifling and misguided question; and in that answer, perhaps an element of sardonism appeared, the epitome of which would be Elijah's comments to the dancing priests of Baal on Mt Carmel!

This, however, was a just response to the years of folly which had been visited upon me, and at last allowed some clarification of the issues. Now in fact, we had carefully prayed before this Assembly, believing all the promises of God, that God would give me what to say, for this clearly was just such a case as was envisaged in Luke 21:15 or kindred passages.

Faithful is He who calls you who also will do it, says Paul (cf. I Thessalonians 5:24, Philippians 1:6); and faithful is His name! As He said, so He did! The answers came, on one occasion to my own amazement as if from nowhere; but they came. Glory be to the God of entire and utter faithfulness, as it was written for such a case, so it transpired. As always, He did what He said! This is a splendour of His simplicity for us redeemed sinners, that He does it.

Thus in one imbroglio, a question was put: Are all Presbyterian Ministers ordained of God ? asked one weighty worthy.

Now if anything ever seemed like a replica in spirit, of the assaults on the Lord from the quarter of the scribes and Pharisees, as expressed in Luke 11:53-54, this to my experience, was just such a thing. Let us heed it:

Nevertheless, there was a certain joy in His presence (I Peter 3:14, 4:14), in His sufficiency (II Cor. 4:1-3, 3:5): for "our sufficiency is of God", who for my sake and for that of all who are, were and would be Christians, had in Christ suffered such things, and that not once or twice! The servant is not greater than his Lord! If they did it to Him, they would not spare the mere servants! And so it was done... This had started with Class-room slander from a Principal who could not answer the reply to his explicit challenge to his class, that they should defend the Bible in the case of the book of Daniel, or else be guilty of intellectual dishonesty. His wrath substituted for an answer, though neither worthy nor weighty. Now the matter continued on the par course of contrivance.

Are they ? Are these Ministers ALL ordained of God ? The question quivered like a leaf in a storm.

As two professors joined in the quarry hunt, pressing the point, two elders (they may or may not have been Ministers of the Gospel), towards the back of the hundreds in voting attendance, were in the romp. Bouncing literally up and down in their seats, they decried: "Yes, or no! Yes or no!"

Into my mind and mouth almost if not entirely simultaneously came three little words.
"Jesus ordained Judas."

Luke 9:1-2 shows Judas with the rest being given "power and authority over all devils,
and to cure diseases."
Moreover "He sent them to preach the kingdom of God,
and to heal the sick."

Further, He told them, "Take nothing for your journey ... and whatever house you enter into,
there abide ... and whosoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city,
shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them"
(from Luke 9:2-4).

If that is not ordination, when it is the Lord who sends, what is ? If being chosen with 12 (Mark 3:19) and assigned specialised authority and power to work in His (physical) absence by His will and naming, if this be not it, where is it to be found ? If the Lord cannot ordain, what can men do!

These things being so, those 3 words stilled the chaotic seeming disturbance as if by a machine gun at the door.


The case ended.

The Assembly was stilled. It was to the heart, rather like the "Be muzzled!" or Be still! (Mark 4:39), addressed to the wind and waves BY THE LORD! What do we learn from this then, or to what does it give illustration ? He has delivered, He does deliver and He will deliver (II Corinthians 1:10), as Paul so beautifully announces it, and gloriously confirmed it:

"And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me
to His heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen"
-   II Timothy 4:18.

One seems to recall preaching on that at Westminster Seminary, in the midst of the restoration in which they played their blessed part, and of which this Sydney meeting was a culmination!

How can we adequately glorify such a Lord as this, who came and bore what we bear, and made a trail which we follow, and paid the price of entry, where we therefore on account of Him freely may come, to join with the martyrs and messengers of the covenant, in that glorious symphony of heart and spirit, the team of Christ! It is not necessary to be ordained, for that! However that was the question, and this was the answer. The three words fell and so did the noise.

If now, one had said: NO, not all Presbyterian Ministers are ordained by God, that trap would have surely snapped. How dare you insult the body to which you seek entry! If it had been: Yes, assuredly they are all ordained of God! then the snap might well have been: Then why did not you not believe your sanctified Professor when he imparted wisdom in his assault on the integrity of the entire book of Daniel! Many things might have been done, and the truth had to be said, but the need for victory without embroilment was enabled by the Lord, for my poor mind did no more invent the three words than did it invent the wind! HE DID IT.

Oh that this might enhance the courage of every heart of the many in many lands who in many ways, often with bruises and blood, must stand firm in the midst of the sinking, indeed the cavernous waters of deadly whirl-pools of subtle shame and inglorious treachery, indeed of twisted endeavours to overthrow Christian testimony from faithless friends like Judas, or fierce opponents like Herod, coming to admire but seeking to overthrow!

Down they go with wreckage of many a life, but the Lord enables in the midst of it all! The LORD IS OUR SUFFICIENCY (II Cor. 3:5), who are His!

·       "Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to think anything of ourselves,
but our sufficiency is of God."

·       NO GOOD THING does He withhold from those who walk uprightly,
and indeed such is His mercy that we read this dual deliverance and provision:

·       "What shall we say then, if God be for us, who shall be against us ? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things ? " (Romans 8:32).


Eventually it was over. The three of us on the platform, the eloquent orator who was at that time my pastor in Christ, the Presbytery representative from another State and myself, were there; and the 400 elders were on the floor; and the case was to be put.

Those in favour ... those against, came the call from the lace fronted and buckle-shoed Moderator, sitting on high, in the structure of the setting.

WOULD they allow me to resume the work of the ministry from which I had been cut off ? NO! said a loud-voiced segment. Yes! said some others. "DIVISION!" cried a number, and so it was arranged. The Assembly moved physically to two sides, and one colleague and supporter on the platform informed me that it looked about 3 to 1... in my favour! So the Lord enabled me to escape the false witness borne against me, and the failure of any witnesses to speak as necessary! Thus the LORD spoke Himself! After some time, and further adventures, and assaults, I was to go to New Zealand, to encounter a new opportunity to glorify the Lord in the midst of false doctrine and a falling church!

What a privilege it is to serve such a Lord as this; and how wonderful that the most powerful Being, and the most enthralling in the universe, is also the most glorious! How true is Isaiah 54:17:

" 'No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment,
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,
And their  righteousness is from Me,'
Says the Lord.' "

His vindication was wrought through many, in many places, several nations, and an international collaboration, wrought first by the Lord direct and then in people was orchestrated from above!

If like Jeremiah, that tender pastor (Jeremiah 17:15, 9:1ff., Lamentations), one has to challenge, does not a doctor have to amputate in war, and to inject in peace, when plague comes! Is it some kind of superior thing to shut the eyes to disease, and profit by it! and this disease of unbelief within the church which names the Lord, it is spiritual and thus even more deadly than the physical. The Lord is the great Physician and His cures come from His word and the work of His Spirit, and the work of His pastors is shown most clearly in Ezekiel 34:4ff. (by implication from condemned omissions) and 34:14, directly. Blessed are they who follow Him, sowing His word by all waters (cf. Isaiah 32:20). Blessed is the Lord who enables it, and sovereignly sends whom He will where He will as the testimony mounts to its final crescendo (cf. Revelation 12:11, 12:16-17).

To serve Him, what could compare, and that He is God is the magnificent thing, God in 3 Persons, who sends, is sent and who imparts savour: "Whom have I in heaven beside you, and there is none on earth desire beside you!" (Psalm 73:25). This is the ultimate; and all human relationships are merciful and often beautiful additions from that vast, grand and gracious source!

 

NOTE

*1


  Article 31 of the 39 Articles declares this.

 
  The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in the which it was commonly said that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables, and dangerous deceits.

The statement is just (cf. SMR pp. 1032-1088H, especially the last pages of this presentation) on the Mass.

For the rest, as in ancient Israel, the offering on the Day of Atonement was made on behalf of all, since all  were named Israel and the covenant was with that people; but it was quite irrelevant for any payment for sin,  cover for iniquity or place in pardon where it was not by faith accepted by someone of the people (as in Deuteronomy 29:14-21,cf. Isaiah 1, 29:13).

A cheque may be quite adequate for any recipient, but until received it does nothing to distribute wealth. Nothing it taken from the account. Thus in Romans 8:32, those for whom Christ is delivered up, not merely offered, have ALL THINGS. Rome makes Calvary virtually repetitive, whereas it is singularly singular, deity in human form dying once and once only; on the other hand, spray painting, as it were, with the blood of Christ, as if it covered those not only unregenerate, by ransom, but paid also for what has not and never will be acquired, makes it superficial. Many may speak and regard themselves as redeemed, but the redeemed are as inseparable from Christ as DNA from the body. It is written on them, and as I John 3 tells us, the new seed is theirs. As to the Lord, in such a case, "His seed remains in him." It cannot be excavated whether by machinery or otherwise!

Nothing can separate the believer, regenerate by the power of God, covered by the blood of Christ, from the love of God, and how Paul relishes the listing of what cannot secure the soul from its moorings, its construction and its Keeper (cf. Romans 8:36-38).

Straying in life and in making deep things superficial are complementary errors; some of which are found not only in individuals, but in some of their meanders, in nations.

It is as it always was for the general run of the nations, and the same applies  to  that spiritual nation of which Peter  speaks in I Peter 2:9-10 (cf. I Peter 1:7ff.), a matter of faith receiving its object, in Christ who now finally, utterly and once for all has fulfilled all, so that He  might give all the wonder of the covenant to those  who by faith receive Him (Hebrews 7-10, John 16:14-15), altogether (Luke 14), and not merely in notion.

The sacrificial requirements enmeshed pictorially in the law, and shown in blood, ended when "this He did once for all when He offered up Himself" - (Hebrews 7:27, 9:12, 10:10-14, John 10:17-18). Repetition as in mass, in this sacrificial sphere is insult both to the word of God and the achievement of Christ, and indeed, "without the shedding of blood there is no remission," (Hebrews 9:22 - cf. SMR ref. above, esp. as linked, at *9). Moreover, for any effect it must be applied (Hebrews 6:18-20, Exodus 12:22ff., Romans 3:22ff.). Blood trodden underfoot does not cover, but is itself covered by the foot.

The testimony concerning imputation of righteousness to faith (Romans 4:22-23, cf. 3:23-27) was not written, says Paul at  the  close of Romans 4, for Abraham alone (4:18), but "also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up on account of our offences, and was raised up for our justification."  As a RESULT to faith, "we have peace with God," as in Romans 5:1, "having been justified by faith,"
(cf. Romans 5:17-19, Philippians 3:20-21, Ephesians 1:5-13, John 10:27-28).

Thus 'many' are those for whom the effectual application of the blood of Christ relates, as in Matthew 26 at the Last Supper, and Isaiah 53. The 'we' in Isaiah is not only those whose sins are borne (v. 6), but equally those who by His stripes are actually healed. ALL the healed ones have had their sins borne by Him. Such is the teaching in this Chapter of the prophet.

Indeed, while many receive by faith what is then effectual for them, being foreknown; vast numbers do NOT, for which this opportunity being rejected, no more offering remains (Hebrews 10). As to the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, the application, is as I Peter 1:2 puts it, a matter of the elect, chosen beforehand, sanctified in the overall disposition of all things. Unbelief has no part in it (cf. Deuteronomy 29:18-22). 

Yes, a forthcoming obedience on the one hand and the sprinkling of the blood of Christ on the other, alike are part of the gracious inheritance God has given to them (Ephesians 1:11). We need constantly to be reminded, that it is not a lack of divine love which limits those foreknown as His, but as John 3:19 declares, their preference who reject and disbelieve Him (cf.  Secession from Supposition Ch. 7). As to His outgoing love, before all eventuation, before human history and election, it is that of this same Jesus, the exact representation of His Father, the case conclusive in Matthew 23:37 with Colossians 1:19, who mourned over Jerusalem. The results of this foreknowing may be cited by God at any time, and are not by any means the same as the grand scope of the desire of God as declared in Colossians and implied continually. Love baulks at mere use of force, and is chaste as I Corinthians 13 so wonderfully expounds.

All these things in the Bible are stated clearly, now here, in this setting, now there in that. To understand, it is always important never to short-circuit ANY of the word of God but to let each principle and each word stand, not to be redirected, but expressive of truth. When so taken in all its integrity, it all fits together gloriously, and indeed that is one of the testimonies to it!