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    February 5, 1885

    “An Appeal for the Study of the Hebrew Scriptures” The Signs of the Times 11, 6, p. 84.

    THE following tribute to the value of the Old Testament, we extract from an address by Prof. W. H. Woolery (Disciple), delivered before the Adelphian Society of Bethany College, West Virginia, Dec. 13, 1884, and printed in the Christian Standard (Disciple), January 10, 1885. We agree with the editor of the Standard, that is “deserves attention, not merely as a plea for the study of Hebrew, but for its manly advocacy of the Old Testament Scriptures as essential to a proper understanding of the New.” In view of the fact that in the last quarter of a century there has been no more bitter opponents of the Old Testament than the Disciple Church, it is a “manly advocacy of the Old Testament Scriptures.” And because of this, and because of the endorsement of the leading paper of the denomination, we think it deserves particular attention, and we are glad to publish from this source such statements as, “The ten commandments are neggets of gold,” etc. We commend to all, and especially to the members of the Disciple Church, the careful perusal of the address.SITI February 5, 1885, page 84.1

    A. T. J.

    “Protestantism, or Not?” The Signs of the Times 11, 6, pp. 89, 90.

    BEARING in mind the principles of Protestantism, scriptural and historical, as presented in last week’s issue, we proceed with the inquiry, whether the churches which are professedly Protestant are really Protestant or not. Of course we cannot take up and consider the different denominations one by one; that would be an endless task. There are, however, certain tenets which are held by all Protestant Christendom and upon which they can be brought to the test once for all. We shall choose two of these, which are held so nearly universally that as a matter of fact there are but two denominations which stand as exceptions to each, and only one of these two denominations stands as an exception to both points of doctrine. These two tenets are of special importance, because they are to be the main subjects of controversy until the consummation. Moreover, in the discussion of these two is involved all the doctrine that pertains to the salvation of men.SITI February 5, 1885, page 89.1

    The first of these is, The unconditional immortality of man, or, an otherwise expressed, The immortality of the soul. Although this doctrine is so nearly universally believed by Protestants, and held by them of such vast importance, yet so far is it from being believed and maintained in accordance with Protestant principles, it is held in defiance of them. Remember, “the Bible and the Bible alone” is the rule of Protestants. “The word of God, the whole word of God, and nothing but the word of God,” is the Protestant motto. Therefore the Protestants to consistently hold the immortality of the soul, the doctrine must be plainly declared in the Bible, it must be the word of God, and must be upheld by the whole word of God.SITI February 5, 1885, page 89.2

    Webster defines immortal, “exempt from liability to die.” “One exempt from death.” The unconditional immortality of man therefore is the doctrine that man is not liable to die, that man is exempt from death. But every person who has ever read the Bible at all knows full well that such an idea is in direct opposition to that book from beginning to end. “All have sinned.” “The wages of sin is death.” “Death passed upon all men.” “In Adam all die.” It is not necessary to multiply passages to sustain a truth that is so plain. The force of the Scriptures is evaded, however, by the subterfuge that these statements refer to the body, and not to the soul at all; but that this is only a subterfuge, and a very poor one, appears instantly by the fact that the Scriptures speak thus emphatically of the soul, whatever may be claimed for it. “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4. “He hath poured out his soul unto death.” Isaiah 53:12. “All they that go down to the dust shall bow before him; and none can keep alive his own soul.” Psalm 22:29. Again, so far is the Bible from attributing immortality to man that it states directly the contrary. “Shall mortal man be more just than God.” Job 4:17. “O Lord thou art our God; let not mortal man prevail against thee.” 2 Chronicles 14:11, margin. So that in whatever form the unconditional immortality of man may be held, it is equally contradictory to the word of God.SITI February 5, 1885, page 89.3

    The doctrine of the immortality of the soul cannot be found in the Bible. It cannot be held in harmony with the Bible as it is. This is plain from the few texts already cited, and these could be multiplied to the whole extent of the word of God. And those who advocate the doctrine, do so at the expense of every principle of Protestantism. Instead of shaping the doctrine by the Bible, they make the Bible conform to the doctrine. The language of the Bible is forced into channels where that of no other book would be allowed to go. Words when found in the Bible are made to mean exactly contrary to what they mean when found in any other place in human language. And all to sustain the dogma of the immortality of the soul. But that is just where this method of interpretation belongs. It was the introduction of this doctrine into the Christian church, that created the necessity for this scheme of interpretation. The one man who, more than any other, is responsible for it was Origen, who lived from A.D. 184 to 253. Says Mosheim:—SITI February 5, 1885, page 89.4

    “The Christian doctors who had applied themselves to the study of letters and philosophy, soon abandoned the frequented paths and wandered in the devious wilds of fancy. The Egyptians [Alexandrians] distinguished themselves in this new method of explaining the truth.... Origen was at the head of this speculative tribe. This great man, enchanted by the charms of the Platonic philosophy, set it up as the test of all religion, and imagined that the reasons of each doctrine were to be found in that favorite philosophy, and their nature and extent to be determined by it.... He alleged that it was not in their literal force and import that the true meanings of the sacred writers were to be sought, but in a mysterious and hidden sense.... In this devious path he displays the most ingenious strokes of fancy, though generally at the expense of truth, whose divine simplicity is rarely discernible through the cobweb of allegory. Origen expresses himself in the following manner: ‘The source of many evils lies in adhering to the carnal or external part of Scripture. Those who do so shall not attain to the kingdom of God. The Scriptures are of little use to those who understand them as they are written.’ But the philosophy which this great man embraced with such zeal was one of the sources of his delusion. He could not find in the Bible the opinions he had adopted, as long as he interpreted that sacred book according to its literal sense.”—Church History, century 2, part 2, chap. 5, paragraphs 1, 5.SITI February 5, 1885, page 89.5

    There is exposed the secret of the whole matter. “He could not find in the Bible the opinions he had adopted.” What were these opinions? He was “enchanted by the charms of the Platonic philosophy.” And that was the immortality of the soul. Now in Plato’s discussion of the nature of the soul he maintains that it is imperishable, indestructible, immortal, deathless, etc., etc. But the Bible, speaking of wicked men, says they shall “die,” “they shall utterly perish,” their “end is destruction,” that man is “mortal,” etc. It is not at all strange therefore that Origen could not find in the Bible the opinions he had adopted, because these opinions, and the statements of the Bible, are as entirely opposites as it is possible for things to be. And so, not finding any support in the Scriptures for this doctrine, he invented a scheme by which he could find not only that, but whatever he wanted. That is, to give a meaning to the Bible language directly opposite to what it says. And Origen’s method of interpretation is perpetuated to this day by those who attempt to maintain, by the Scriptures, the immortality of the soul. However, this is not strange, because, as the doctrine was dependent wholly upon this scheme of interpretation for its birth into the Christian church, so, without that scheme, it could not live there for a day.SITI February 5, 1885, page 89.6

    We have a most pertinent illustration of this subject in a late discussion by the Congregational Club, of San Francisco, as reported in the San Francisco Call of Jan. 20, 1885:—SITI February 5, 1885, page 89.7

    “Rev. Prof. Mooar, of the Pacific Theological Seminary, opened the discussion upon the question of ‘Conditional Immortality,’ ... and showed that there was no sufficient ground in Scripture for the position that immortality is a special gift, granted only to believers, while others are annihilated.”SITI February 5, 1885, page 89.8

    Let us read a few texts: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life.” John 3:16, 36. “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life.” John 6:40. “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life.” 1 John 5:12. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23. Now if these scriptures do not show positively that everlasting life, immortality, is the “gift of God” to those alone “who believe” on the Son, we should like the reverend professor to tell us what they do show. More, if the Lord wanted to tell men that those who believe on Christ shall have everlasting life, and that those who do not believe on him shall not have life, but shall perish; if he wanted to tell them that those who have the Son have life, and those who have not the Son of God have not life; if he wanted to tell men that eternal life is a gift from him through Christ, will Professor Mooar please convey to us some idea of the way in which it could be done more plainly than it is done in the words above quoted?SITI February 5, 1885, page 89.9

    But how does the Professor avoid the plain statements of these texts? Why, just as Origen did before him, in the same cause, he “objected to the canon of interpretation” that the “Scripture must be taken in its most literal and obvious sense.” And “Professor Benton agreed with Dr. Mooar .. though there were not a few passages which, literally interpreted, would seem to support that view.” So the Scriptures, literally interpreted, i.e., taken as they read, will not admit of unconditional immortality, therefore they must not be taken in their plain, “obvious” meaning, but must be taken in a mystical sense, in a hidden meaning, which none but reverend professors and theological leaders of thought, can know or understand. Where is there any real difference between this and the theory of the papal church? The papacy says the Scriptures are mysterious, that they have mystical meanings, that they are not to be literally interpreted, and that none but the priests, those who are educated for that purpose, can interpret them correctly, and that therefore the common people have no business to read the Bible. These so-called Protestants say, Oh, yes, give the common people the Bible; let them read it; howbeit they will fall into great error, because it is not to be taken in its “most literal and obvious sense.” If between these there is any advantage it certainly appears to be in favor of the papal church, for it has at least the merit of consistency.SITI February 5, 1885, page 89.10

    The fundamental principle, the foundation-stone, of Protestantism is that—SITI February 5, 1885, page 89.11

    “The Bible is not to be interpreted and use according to tradition, or use and wont [custom], but to be explained by means of itself, its own language and connection.”SITI February 5, 1885, page 89.12

    But we have seen that the language that is used to express and explain the immortality of the soul, is not the language of the Bible; that in support of this doctrine the Bible is not “explained by means of itself,” but by means of the doctrine, and contrary to itself; and that so the “sufficiency of the Scripture” is virtually denied; and as is well expressed by McClintock and Strong, “Those who deny its [the Scripture’s] sufficiency, are not in principle Protestants.” Therefore from all these considerations it is inevitable that all who maintain the immortality of the soul are not Protestants.SITI February 5, 1885, page 90.1

    ALONZO T. JONES.

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