The Spirit of Marcionism Lives On

If once we detach the New Testament from the Old Testament, there is not a single heresy that will not find something to say for itself, perhaps more than we may be able to handle. Let us carry what we hear to the Old Testament and if it exactly tallies with the Old Testament, we may be sure it is a right interpretation of the New Testament and if otherwise it must be false because the mind and will of God can never vary, disagree with or contradict itself. By taking different text here and there in the New Testament, and separating them from their reference to and connection with the Old Testament, many heresies have arisen; as Arianism, Socinianism, Marcionism, Dispensationalism and many others have. Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures. The Scriptures that the Bereans (Acts xvii. 11) were told to search must have been the scriptures of the Old Testament; no others, if written, could then have come to their hands; but they compared the New testament as preached by Paul with that of the Old Testament of Moses and the Prophets. That they might judge whether the things he declared to them were of divine authority, answerable to revelations that preceded by the Mind and Will of God or not.

This is said in respects to the whole and not any particular doctrine.. The Doctrine of the Trinity in unity, the incarnation, birth, life, teaching, miracles, suffering, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, glorification, intercession of Christ, together with every other doctrine of Christ and those things that bear toward salvation of mankind. When I compare these things with what is contained in the Old Testament, to which the New Testament so often refers for their truth, I then can not suppose them to be false.

Therefore, when we compare the New Testament with the Old Testament, we may be assured that it is as impossible to be false. When therefore I hear of a doctrine as taught in the New Testament, I am certain, if it be true, it must be in accord and harmony with the Scriptures of the Old Testament. If I find it does not exactly tally with what I find there, I am certain it is false, and must arise from some misconception or some misinterpretation of the passage where it is supposed to be found.

The gospel is the best comment upon the law, and the law is the best expositor of the gospel: they are like a pair of indentures, they answer in every part: their harmony is wonderful, and is of itself a conviction.

In John 5 Christ tells us – “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?”

Ignatius Epistle to Philadelphia, c8.introduces a believer saying – nifi invenero in antiquis (vaticiniis) Evangelio non credo: which Ignatius heartily assents to as well, “What I do not find in Moses and the Prophets, I’ll not believe in the gospel.” Ignatius continues “But there is no danger of this, no hazard of being put to such a trail; for certainly the New Testament saith none other than Moses and the Prophets did say and that should come to pass.”

“ They thereupon imagine a discrepancy, if not a contradiction, between them, and adopt the mischievous conclusion that the two Testaments contain different codes of Christian ethics. This notion, it is to be feared, has a general prevalency. What is more common than to hear Christians, who should be well informed, and who profess full reverence for the inspiration of the whole Scriptures, speak of the morality of the Old Testament, of the Hebrew saint, of the prophet, as harsh, austere, and forbiddening, while that of the New Testament, of Jesus, and of the Christian is sweet and forgiving?

All these notions are of Socinian or rationalistic origin, and are incompatible with an honest belief in the actual inspiration of the Scriptures. … But if “All Scripture (the apostle means the Old Testament) is theopneustic,” if “holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” to “lead them into all truth,” then a real discrepancy between them is impossible; for all truths must be harmonious among themselves. … The same view commends itself irresistibly to the plain mind from this fact, that Jesus Christ, not to add the apostles, suspended the truth of his mission and doctrine on the infallibility and holiness of the Old Testament. His appeal is ever to them. He cites Moses and the prophets as though he thought their testimony must be the end of strife. Now, if they are not inspired and true, it follows irresistibly that Jesus Christ was either mistaken or he was dishonest. Absit impietas. In either case, he is no Redeemer for us. And, indeed, the former alternative of this dilemma is inadmissible for one who claimed, as he did, an infallible knowledge of himself, a preexistence of the era of Abraham and the prophets and the authority of the Messiah by whose Spirit those prophets spoke, So that, if the Old Testament were imperfect, Jesus of Nazareth would stand convicted of criminal attempts of imposture.” -Robert Lewis Dabney, Presbyterian Minister

The continuity of scripture must be stressed. Gospel and Law are not mutually exclusive. We are to obey the command of the scriptures to believe but we are also to love and obey God’s law and meditate upon it night and day. The continuity of scripture must be stressed. To sacrifice Gospel or Law is to sacrifice the whole of Scripture. Antinomianism and Legalism must always be avoided. To place a dichotomy between Gospel and Law is to place a false dichotomy.

Westminster divine Anthony Burgess, taught us how the law and gospel ‘sweetly comply’ together “Of Admonition, to take heed how we vilifie or contemne this Law of God … What, shall we revile that which is God’s great mercy to a people? Because the Jews and Papists do abuse the Law, and the works of it to justification, shall it not therefore have its proper place and dignity? Take heed therefore of such phrases, An Old-Testament-spirit, and, His Sermon is nothing but an explication of the Law: For it ought much to rejoyce thee, to hear that pure and excellent image of Gods holiness opened. How mayest thou delight to have that purity enjoyned, which will make thee loath thy self, prize Christ and Grace more, and be a quick goad to all holiness? And if you say, Here is nothing of Christ all this while: I answer That is false, as is to be proved, if the Law be not taken very strictly: And besides, the Law and the Gospel are not to be severed, but they mutually put a fresh relish and taste upon each other. And shall no mercy be esteemed, but what is the Gospel? Thou art thankfull for temporall mercies, and yet they are not the Gospel; but this is a spiritual mercy.” -Anthony Burgess, Vindiciae legis

As a friend recently said to me, “It is pretty simple for me now. Unless someone loves the Old Testament as much as they do the New Testament they are dispensationalist whether they acknowledge it or not. This includes the New Covenant Theologians, who are still ultimately dispensationalists when everything is said and done.


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