I first encountered Rabbi Duncan a few years ago, via his (famous?) statement to a congregant who was reluctant to partake of the Supper because of her sin; “Take it, woman, it’s for sinners!” was his exhortation.
Rev. Prof. John Duncan was not actually a Rabbi, but a 19th century Scottish pastor and theologian, who earned that nickname because of his reputation as a Hebrew scholar, and passion for the Jewish people.
So when I was browsing the church library this morning, and came across a volume titled The Life of Rabbi Duncan (first published 1872), I took a peek, and found a chapter of “Miscellaneous Sayings.” He’s got quite a few gems, so I thought I’d share some:
Here he takes “damning with faint praise” to a new level, describing some pastor named Robertson:
Robertson believed that Christ did something or other, which, somehow or other, had some connexion or other with salvation.
This next I found to be an interesting glimpse into a discussion of death before the Fall (I think…)
that is rash theorizing of Delitzsch’s about the palaeontological animals suffering death for the devil’s sin. A brute’s death can never be penal. Where there is no conscience there can be nothing penal. It is strange how far grotesque speculation carries some men.
A few about Plato, and common grace:
Platonism is the grandest effort of the unaided mind of main; but truth, according to Plato’s loftiest conceptions, was only an abstraction, a thing (to kalon kagathon). Revelation introduces us to One who can say, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.” Platonism has to do with it — Christianity with Him.
The Christian Fathers found salvation only in Christ; but they had a bleeding heart for Plato, whose philosophy one of them called ‘a sigh for Christ.’
My heart bleeds when I think of Plato. God keeps in the consciences of men a knowledge and feeling of obligation to moral law, in some much more than others. And so such heathen philosophers were God’s scavengers to keep God’s prison-house clean — ‘My prison-house is not to be allowed to be so dirty as you would make it.’
Here’s a couple good ones about Arminianism and (Hyper-)Calvinism:
Hyper-Calvinism is all house and no door; Arminianism is all door and no house.
The Hyper-Calvinist is more consistent than the Arminian. Calvinism and Pelagianism are the only consistent systems. Arminianism is utterly inconsistent and irrational. I have talked with many Wesleyan Methodists, and I have generally found that they have no objection to being dealt with on the principles of Calvinism; but they are somehow jealous for the ultimate destiny of the universe on these principles. I think their concession of more consequence than their reservation.
On the knowledge possessed by OT saints:
We must not unsaint the Old Testament saints, but we must not make Pentecostal Christians of them.
Sin and the curse:
Sin is the infinitely horrible, the Curse is the infinitely terrible, and salvation from that horrible is not enough without salvation from that terrible, while deliverance from that terrible is impossible without salvation from that horrible.
Men don’t realize that ‘the curse of the Law’ is blessed. By the curse of the law overlapping it, sin had a right to hold the sinner while he is under the ban of the Empire. But then, the sin itself is cursed; and our depravity, whence the sin proceeds, is divinely removable. It is irremovable but for the curse of the Law — the curse upon the sin. That ‘but for’ is an important addition. That we should be saved and our sins also is an impossibility; consequently the plan of our salvation must combine the destruction of our sin and the salvation of our persons, and both together. Sin, by being condemned, loses the power which the law gave it to hold us, and so the ‘sin shall not have dominion over us’.
Inspiration of the Apostolic Writings:
It is a grand evidence for the inspiration of the Apostles, that the theology of the post-Apostolic fathers is so puerile. That cannot be accounted for on any other principle than the inspiration of the Apostles. God created the world, and infant philosophy began; God created the Bible, and infant theology began.
And finally, my favorite, an anecdote from his family:
[To his grandson] “You are a little sinner” Miss R.: “He is not responsible.” (He was nine months old.) “He is responsible, but I hope he has a Sponsor.”