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Reviews | Remember the Days of Old

Remember the Days of Old

Alfred Nicholls

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144 pages

Remember the Days of Old

The Testimony review (from October 1978)

Remember the Days of Old

IN THIS SERIES of articles, reprinted from the 1977 Christadelphian, each topic is considered against the background of the writings of the pioneers in the Truth. This is particularly worthwhile if it stimulates readers to turn and study the works of the past, overcoming the language barrier and learning to appreciate both the depth and clarity of their thought. Needless to say the only stimulus was to find the Truth by searching the Scriptures. Brother Alfred Nicholls emphasises that they were not expressing their own views on doctrine as a matter of personal opinion but setting forth what was written in the Word. Surely this is a very important principle to remember in these days of diverse interpretations on so many topics. Unfortunately these latter are often given in the spirit of “I’m right” and “Everyone else is wrong”, and the humility of the true Scriptural expositor is lost. In an early article the author writes: “Christadelphians from the beginning have been distinguished by their diligent personal study of the Scriptures and their devotion to the defence of the truths they read therein. To this day our distinctive view of certain matters – the unity of God, for example – sets us apart as a community, with the result that Christadelphian works will not be handled by even the most ecumenical of outside religious booksellers. How well is the tradition being maintained by us in this day, more plainly still an age of independence of thought, and emphasis upon sentiment and personal experience, an age of tolerance which blurs the edge of doctrine in favour of a union without unity? How valid is our claim to still be ‘the people of the Book’, devoted to its study, sharing the daily fellowship of reading, setting forth the Word as the basis of our teaching, diligently schooling the young in its content and meaning?”

Later returning to the subject of the unity of God he writes: “The doctrine of the Unity of God has always been a fundamental of the faith of the Christadelphians. So earnest has been our contention for this principle in opposition to the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity that our critics have often classed us with the Unitarians who deny the Divine Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ. They have in consequence regarded our community as ‘outside the main stream of Christian thought’.”

Another topic which engages Brother Nicholls’ attention is the growth in depth of knowledge of the pioneers. He points out that this was not a question of changing their views but developing them as the result of deeper study. This is an important concept to be borne in mind by those who like to quote from some of the earliest writings as giving the complete and mature views of the authors. Brother Nicholls gives the following quotation from Dr. Thomas: “What they regard as a denial of the faith, is neither more nor less than an enlargement of faith by an increased knowledge of the first principles of the Divine oracles believed. My faith has not been stinted in its growth. Seventeen years ago, I believed that ‘the dead are raised incorruptible’ and taught that in Elpis Israel. But when I wrote that work, my attention had not been drawn to the subject in its details. At that time, I strenuously affirmed the resurrection of the body as the only way to eternal life, in opposition to the dogma of immortality independent of resurrection by which both resurrection and judgement, two of the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, are abolished; and without which no system is worth a rush …”

A very worthwhile chapter is that entitled “Perfect through suffering”; in it he quotes from a letter to Brother Robert Roberts from Sister Lasius, daughter of Dr. Thomas. To give just a few lines: “That Jesus was constitutionally good and righteous there can be no doubt, but that he was incapable of sinning we do not believe. If this were so, there would have been no virtue or merit in withstanding temptation, consequently the temptation as recorded in the New Testament would have been a useless performance … From his mother he derived all the faculties, propensities, and instincts which belong to the nature of the first Adam – as it is written – ‘He took upon himself the nature of the seed of Abraham that sin might be condemned in the nature which had sinned; and also that he might be able to sympathise with our infirmities, and to succour those who are tempted, forasmuch as he also was compassed about with infirmity’.”

Another very important quotation is from an article on the Atonement by Brother Carter, which could well be kept in mind by those who are called upon to offer thanks for the Bread and Wine at our Breaking of Bread services: “The doctrine is often explained in ritual terms since the ritual of the Law was the Divine means of instruction to Israel concerning man’s relationship to God. But ritual language is not literal; we need to get the ideas foreshadowed by the ritual. To illustrate: we speak of the blood of Christ when we mean his offering, for his blood as a red fluid had no more efficacy for salvation than the blood of any other man; we speak of him as a slain lamb when by the word lamb we mean he was the antitype of the lambs from Abel’s offering onward throughout the whole period of the Law; by slain we do not think of the Jewish murderers but of the fact that his life was surrendered.” Brother Nicholls adds: “Surely then, looking back we can see the value of our heritage, and the importance of holding fast to the vital Scriptural principles which have always formed the foundation of our faith. Worldly fashions change and it is the nature of human thinking to change its emphasis, sometimes so dangerously as to deny the very principle it claims to defend.”

This is just a brief selection of the topics covered which are so well worth rereading to help us to be true to our Faith and balanced in our outlook.

H. J. SALTER

(Originally published in the October 1978 edition of The Testimony Magazine (pages 333-334), and is reproduced by kind permission.)

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