His Days and His Ways
A Continuation of the Book as a Biography
CHAPTER FORTY: “Resurrectional Responsibility”.
The phrase at the head of this chapter indicates yet another controversy, and one obviously related to “the time of the end.” IN one sense it would seem strange that the atmosphere of the truth should be thus beclouded with controversy; but the sense of strangeness vanishes when we look back to the life of Christ upon earth, and to the times of th apostles. It was controversy all the time; and we are apostolically warned that it will be so to the end.
Looking back over the files of The Christadelphian to complete the last few years of this biography, I notice a dream that has come true, and “a nightmare” at that. In the editorial for January, 1892, brother Roberts refers to a book that created a sensation at the time and was, I believe, suppressed. Here is a sentence or two: --
“A terrible book has intensified the nightmare horror of actual events (Russian Famine, Jewish Persecutions, etc.), Caesar’s Column, as the counterpart to Mr. Bellamy’s optimistic Looking Backwards, has prepared a wide circle of readers for the most appalling anticipations as to the course of social events, --anticipations sufficiently founded on probability to scare sleep from all pillows where the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, has not penetrated to the sleepers.”
Caesar’s Column in conclusion, among other things pictured the bombing of a city by “demon,” air-ships; and in the familiar Zeppelin raids of 1915, 1916, the dream has in this particular come true. The social revolution remains to be revealed, but everyone can see that it is coming. Well, “the time of the dead,” was to be in “a time of trouble such as never was”; so that the conditions are favourable. And it is not inharmonious that at such a time the minds of men, and of Christadelphians in particular, should be providentially directed to the question of “Resurrectional Responsibility.”
In the early part of 1893 there was another course of four lectures by brother Roberts in the Town Hall (“City Hall” then, but the usage has returned to “The Town Hall,” though Birmingham remains a “city” as it was “Ordained and Declared by Letters Patent” in 1889). The subject was “The Return of Christ to the Earth,” and there were crowded audiences. It was brother Roberts’s last big testimony in Birmingham, and was a worthy finale. The first lecture, on the witness of history to Christ, was a very telling piece of evidence, and was very highly appreciated by the brethren and interested friends. Even now, nearly twenty-five years afterwards, one sometimes hears it referred to.
During this year there began to be allusions in The Christadelphian to the question of Resurrectional Responsibility, and next year (1894) an article by brother F.G. Jannaway, under the title “Repent” (March, p. 111), indicated that there was trouble in London on the subject. And so there was. The late J.J. Andrew, a highly esteemed brother of many years’ standing in the truth, who had been a prominent figure at the Fraternal Gathering in 1872, had become possessed of the extraordinary idea that none but the baptized could possibly be raised from the dead for punishment. There was no disagreement as concerning the righteous; but his terrible thesis stated in its extremest form in his own words was this:
--“Those who are outside (Christ’s) redemptive work cannot come forth. They are in Adam; Christ has never ‘bought’ them. They never come within the scope of his blood; and therefore he is not their Lord to judge them.” In other words, a man might with perfect impunity reject the gospel and commit every kind of wickedness, without fear of facing resurrection and condemnation so long as he diligently kept “outside Christ’s redemptive work”; that is, was not “baptized into Christ”! The was argued out at length in a pamphlet entitled The Blood of the Covenant, one of the most dangerous pieces of sophistry ever encountered by the present writer.
Brother Roberts was once more dismayed at the prospect. He immediately wrote a pamphlet in reply, entitled The Resurrection to Condemnation: Who will come forth to it? In which he emphasised the scriptural and reasonable doctrine that the coming of the light of God’s truth is the ground of condemnation of those who reject it (John 3:18-21); and that God will “require” of men a reason why they “would not hearken” unto His words in the mouth of Christ (Deut. 18:18,19).
There had been some haziness of perception with regard to this matter among Christadelphians, and divergent views were tolerated for many years; but when such a thesis as that above defined was forced upon the community by a leading brother, the time for toleration was past. It was for a little while hoped that further strife and division might be avoided, but this proved to be impossible. There was the usual crop of pamphlets and strife, the establishment of another rival magazine, and the twenty years and more that have since elapsed have not sufficed to eliminate all traces of the trouble. But, as in the case of previous controversies, the subject is much better understood now, and the testimony much more faithfully delivered.
In July this year (1894) there appeared the first of a series of chapters on The Law of Moses, which proved to be the last work of brother Roberts. The last chapter appeared in The Christadelphian for April, 1898, only a few months before his death, and an index in manuscript was among the papers found by the present writer when he took charge of the belongings of the deceased. The book was published in 1899, and is still in circulation. Thus the stress of controversy and other very adverse circumstances did not fatally obstruct the work of the truth; but the last few years of our author’s life must have been an arduous and sorrowful experience.
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