Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 15, 1949

"'The Body Of This Death"


It is a basic assumption of modernism that the human species is constantly improving—improving physically, mentally, and morally. This naive fancy is a logical byproduct of the doctrine of evolution. All modernist preachers assume that man can, by his own efforts, so elevate and ennoble his character that eventually he can completely conquer what is called "sin".

In contrast to this fatuous optimism is the agonizing word of Paul, who recognized man's tragic helplessness under the power of sin. All man's efforts at self-improvement, all his prodigious endeavor cannot avail. When he would do good, evil is ever present; the good that he would, he does not; the evil that he hates, he practices. Seeing clearly how cruel and how complete is man's bondage to sin, Paul says, "I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death ?" (Rom. 7:22-24)

Ignatius wrote to the Smyrnaeans that whosoever denied the humanity of Christ was as "one who carries a corpse." It is quite possible that the language of Paul, "the body of this death", and the language of Ignatius, "carries a corpse", both hark back to one of the cruelest and most gruesome forms of torture ever devised—the horrible chaining to a corpse device used by some of the oriental tyrants.

It was the practice of certain despots of the east to inflict this type of execution on those whom they suspected of plotting against them. The condemned man was chained tightly to the rotting body of a corpse, arm to arm, limb to limb, body to body, face to face. In this dreadful and awful condition he was allowed to remain so long as life continued in his body. Being given food and water, he sometimes lived for days, until the stench from the decaying corpse brought such nausea as to produce either insanity or death. The victim was helpless. He could not free himself, and no friend dared attempt his rescue. The "body of death" to which he was bound could be neither escaped nor ignored. Truly, he might cry, "0, wretched man that I am!"

Whether this was in Paul's mind when he wrote "the body of this death" or not, it is certainly an apt illustration of man's helplessness to break the power of sin. He is held in an inexorable grip. All the good works of all men of all ages cannot forgive, cannot remove, cannot atone for one single sin. No good resolutions, no determination of the will, no excess of good works can ever overcome the power of the devil.

It is Christ, and he alone, who can bring deliverance. That is the glorious, triumphant declaration of Paul almost in the same breath in which he laments his wretchedness. "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" And then immediately, "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Man cannot conquer sin. He had as well recognize that fact. Only Christ is stronger than Satan. The only way for man to break the power of sin is for him to turn to Christ in obedience to his way or plan. By his death on the cross, Jesus provided the remedy for sin; by our baptism into that death we appropriate that power to our own needs. The man who is not baptized into Christ will go into eternity still bound to "the body of this death", condemned eternally to that bondage.

The philosophy of the modernists (and do not forget that they are now beginning to make their appearance among the churches of the Lord) is epitomized in that blasphemous words of William Earnest Henley in his pagan verse, "Invictus", in which he thanks "whatever gods there be for my unconquerable soul!" Unconquerable, indeed! The very man who wrote those lines was a weak and abject victim to his own lusts and passions; his soul was conquered by the enemy with so little effort that his vain swelling words seem almost laughable, They sound like the defiant boastings of a very small and very vain and very foolish little boy.

It were well for our modernistic preachers to recognize man's helplessness. Their vain and empty boastings of man's invincibility are simply stupid. Man is not invincible; man is not unconquerable. Man is a hopeless derelict, utterly helpless except as he is rescued through the power of Christ.

The preaching of baptism for the remission of sins is still in order. So long as man exists, and so long as sin is real, there will be no other power, no other substitute which can take the place of the blood of Christ, And it is by baptism that we are "baptized into his death", not by good works, not by pious expressions of devotion, not by service to humanity. "Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."

—F. Y. T.


Philsophic Morphine

Dr. W. S. Saddler, a well-known psychiatrist, relates the following incident out of his own experience: A woman who was a neighbor fell into a state of hysteria and fell into the hands of a Christian Science practitioner and was cured. Later a beautiful daughter of this woman contracted diphtheria, and the mother placed her confidence in the same remedy which had relieved her hysteria. When it was too late, Dr. Saddler was called to administer anti-toxin. After the death of the daughter, the mother went insane, and this was followed by the insanity of the father. Christian Science can relieve hysteria, but it cannot cure diphtheria. Dr. Saddler calls Christian Science a "philosophic morphine." It is real remedy for an imaginary disease and an imaginary remedy for a real disease. —Christian Advocate