A Signal Deliverance: The Case of Adolphe Monod
Every one of the Lord’s people can echo the testimony of King David in Psalm 40:1-3:
I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God.
In the case of the 19th century French preacher, Adolphe Monod, the horrible pit from which the Lord rescued him was Arianism, the denial of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Reflecting later on his wretchedness in this pit, Monod confessed the rationalistic root of his heresy: ‘I wished to make religion for myself, instead of receiving it from God.’ In this article we shall trace his deliverance as detailed by Antoine Theron in his study of Monod’s spiritual journey in the Puritan Reformed Journal, Volume I, Number 1 (January 2009), pp. 78-93.
The chief external influence on Monod’s naturally unbelieving mind was the Company of Pastors of Geneva, where he trained for the ministry. To a man, these uncalled shepherds rejected the full-orbed biblical doctrines taught by John Calvin and his brethren three centuries earlier. In its place they administered what Martin Luther aptly terms ‘the sweet poison of false doctrine.’ They were scathingly satirized by Jean Jacques Rousseau when he wrote: ‘One asks the preachers of the Genevan church if Jesus Christ is God – and they do not dare to answer.’ They are, he added, ‘Arians and Socinians.’ Hendrik Algra bears out Rousseau’s sad diagnosis. Around 1820, he writes, the Geneva theologians ‘denied the Trinity and the divinity of Christ.’
Into this pit of poisonous snakes the Lord sent several godly men. The chief among them were the German Moravian Count Zinzendorf, the English Methodist Richard Wilcox and the Scottish lay preacher Robert Haldane. The last-mentioned in particular gained access for the truth to the divinity students’ hearts through his private lectures on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. In them he boldly proclaimed the very truths that their teachers denied, condemning as blasphemy the heresy that Christ was the first of all created beings. [This is the view held today by such Unitarians as Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and Christadelphians – Ed.]
The Spirit of God was already stirring a deep uneasiness in Monod at what he heard from his heretical teachers when this Spirit-led assault on the bulwarks of rationalism began to penetrate his mind. In 1825 he expressed his dissatisfaction with their failure to insist on man’s total depravity and consequent need for an entire change of nature, along with their equivocating references to the authority of Holy Scripture and the love of Christ in the work of redemption. Monod well describes their mode of handling the truth:
It is true that the pastors to whom I refer preach sometimes on these subjects, but even then it is more like a sort of concession to orthodoxy than like matters which they apply to themselves and wish to apply to their hearers: and they seem to acknowledge certain doctrines rather than to feel them.
Clearly, their preaching never touched his heart or conscience.
Despite his unease, Monod’s extrication from the pit was both gradual and painful. Sometime in 1826 he wrote: ‘the gospel is neither Arian nor orthodox; it decides nothing.’ But by 1829 he could no longer deny the need for a divine Saviour who could bear the wrath of God against sin and survive. On l9th April of that year he preached a sermon to his congregation in Lyons that uncompromisingly spelt out the truth that no-one can die in peace without accepting free pardon through the blood of the Son of God. This address set in motion a chain of events that issued in his dismissal from his pastorate. Evidently, his deliverance from the pit had angered the merely moral churchgoers, who neither saw nor felt that the deity of Christ was a burning issue of life or death. Believing reconciliation with God to be based on their own miserable righteousness, they could not bear to hear of it as based entirely on a righteousness wrought by another.
At Rest in the Deity of Christ
It may seem elementary to those who never experienced his struggle to state with Monod that ‘Jesus Christ is God, and yet Jesus Christ is man – really and truly man, truly and fully God.’ Yet this confession was the great turning-point in Monod’s spiritual pilgrimage. Once the light of Christ’s deity had dawned on his mind, he began, as he himself confessed, ‘to live in communion with Jesus Christ and in the peace of Jesus Christ, praying to him, waiting upon him, speaking to him, listening to him,’ and bearing ‘constant witness to him day and night.’ From now on, the divine Saviour ceased to be a speculative doctrine, and became a living reality, ‘the very basis of Christian life and practice.’ With additional light on the pre-existence of Christ – as Jehovah, the Lord God Almighty and the Eternal One – Monod could tell others: ‘This is what Jesus Christ is and what he is for me.’
During the closing years of his life and ministry he could affirm such truths as the following:
the entire gospel is summed up for us . . . in a single name: Jesus Christ.
we find a virtue that draws us to him as to the one whom we instinctively sense can alone bring us all the deliverance we need.
apart from this doctrine [i.e. of 1 Timothy 3:16 – ‘God was manifest in the flesh’] there is no Christian life, no Christian holiness, no Christian consolation, no Christian strength, no Christian death. It is the foundation of everything else.
As Monod became more intimately acquainted with suffering, particularly after being diagnosed with cancer in 1855, it was faith in the divine Substitute atoning for sin that sustained him. He told his family:
I am in peace. Jesus Christ; his sacrifice; the blood of his cross, is my only hope.
I would not shorten my sufferings, if it is good for me to suffer . . . All my desire is to be made like to Christ; and I know that sufferings, received with a mind like his, are a means of making us like him.
O wonder of grace! Sin is abolished; I no longer appear before God as a sinner. Jesus Christ ‘has been made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.’ I am clothed with his righteousness, as he clothed himself with my sin. God can no more condemn me than he can condemn his own Son: and I am before him as is his Beloved and anointed One. Faith in this sacrifice is my only hope.
What is his confession but an appropriation of that wondrous statement in Zechariah 9:11 – ‘As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth the prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water’?
Adolphe Monod’s journey from a theologically liberal rejection of the deity of Christ to the most intimate communion with him as his Lord and God was also a journey from wretchedness and distress to imperturbable peace and assurance. Only a week before passing out of this vale of tears into the heavenly city he prayed:
Oh! I give thee thanks that thou hast given me a Saviour. Without him, I confess, O my God, I would be irrevocably lost . . . But I have a Saviour, who has saved me freely by his shed blood, and I want it to be known that I rest wholly upon this shed blood.
Contemplating his imminent appearance in the eternal world before the judgment throne of God and the Lamb, he added: ‘I know certainly that he will be there, and I with him, and that he and I are so made one that he could never enter and leave me outside.’ What a ‘Farewell’ this is to the world he left behind! May we press forward following his example, leaning upon the Beloved as we come up out of this wilderness, until immediately after death we see him as he is, or witness ‘that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2:13).
John Brentnall is Editor of Peace and Truth, the magazine of the Sovereign Grace Union, from the 2014:3 edition of which the above is reprinted with permission.
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