Imágenes de páginas

tal, and that he never can experience a cessation of being. Resurrection, therefore, means but little in such a view. It is no recovery to life, no re-endowment with the preroga- tives and opportunities lost in death. And yet if Scripture is plain on any point, it is on this—that man rises again to another life beyond the grave only because Christ arose. St. Paul declares flatly that if Christ be not risen, even Christians—they that have fallen asleep in Christ—are perished. His use of the word "perished" here is not a doubtful one. He does not mean to say that such are left to a hopeless eternity of misery, but that they have ceased to be. No other meaning is possible when he says that without resurrection-hope, we might as well eat, drink and be merry, for to-morrow we die. It is, therefore, because so many have ceased to attach to death its true significance that they have lost the true meaning and hope of resurrection as essentially a recovery. It is a crime against humanity in our modern eschatology that it has robbed it of its true Easter joy. It has stripped the gospel of its large human hopes by converting God's redemption of the race to another life beyond the grave into a provision for perpetuating the existence of the bulk of mankind in endless torment. Why raise men out of death, which is the wages of their sin—its true and fixed penalty—if there be no beneficent purpose in their resurrection?


Undoubtedly the main obstacle in the way of Christians receiving the full gospel of the resurrection is the many intimations of Scripture that this life is decisive of destiny.

These will not suffer them to admit that where there has been failure in this life, there can be any blessing in the provision of another life beyond the grave.

We are not disposed to conceal the force of the many passages which teach the decisiveness of this present life. On the contrary we have uniformly taught that the Christian has a crown to gain which he can only gain here and' now, and that before the sinner there is a destruction to be shunned which can only be escaped here and now. The Christian has a present life—a soul—to be saved. And so the sinner has a present life endowment—a soul— which he must lose unless he finds salvation in Christ. Death does not prolong for him this issue. It decides it. The point we have raised is this. Is this loss of being and of manhood in death final and endless? Or does resurrection recover the lost spirit in its own time and order and invest it again with the prerogatives of that form of being which we call man, and out of which it was ejected by death into the outer darkness. We say such recovery lies in the very idea of resurrection, and makes it what it claims to be, a boon procured for the death-smitten human race by the Second Man, the Lord from heaven. And yet we have also insisted that this is not a recovery of unjust men to eternal life—a gift they never possessed—only to a life and form of being which is still under judgment and on trial, and whose opportunities and capacities will be according to character. The Christian never loses life, or "his soul." He is already "risen with Christ," "passed from death unto life." But the sinner loses this priceless heritage. He suffers a definite damnation. He goes into the prison-house of death, the sheol or hell of Scripture,

with its darkness, its privations, its pangs of dissolution. Whether, therefore, men shall escape this doom and "be saved," or whether they must go down to this destruction, and undergo the hazards which attend even their recovery to another life, is an issue which, for all who hear the gospel at least, must be decided here and now. And this is all that is involved in the passages of Scripture to which we have referred. They truly set forth the decisiveness of this present life, and these present gospel opportunities. But they nowhere teach that over the night of the death which they threaten, no light of hope will ever arise through a resurrection out of death.


Another objection to our doctrine in many minds is that it seems to favor procrastination, and to diminish the necessity of immediate application to Christ, the only Saviour. Why not wait, it is said, for the next chance beyond the grave?

If the main thing in salvation is escape from punishment, there might be some force in this objection. But if it be essentially deliverance from the sin that brings punishment, then there can be no relief from the suffering until there be separation from the sin. We may be sure of this, that penalty will last as long as the sin lasts. No one can believe this more strongly than do we. We often hear this as a sufficient statement of the orthodox position. We most heartily accept it. Retribution is as sure as gravitation. And therefore the necessity of salvation from sin, in our view, is an immediate necessity. We have shown above that there is a bankruptcy of being, a loss of body and soul in hell before resurrection, from which we must now be saved. And not even resurrection out of this death will bring salvation to a man to whom sin still cleaves. And God has but one way of curing a man of this disease. If he dies now unsaved, not even God's remedy can reach him until he has been taken all to pieces and dissolved in death. God must, so to speak, begin His work over again with such a man.


"It must be remembered that our Lord recognized also another of the beliefs which were accepted by those to whom He spoke. When He told them of the prison from which a man should not escape till he had paid the uttermost farthing" (Matt. v. 26, xviii. 34); of the servant who knew not his Lord's will, and should be beaten with few stripes (Luke xii. 48); of the more tolerable penalty for Tyre and Sidon, for Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt. xi. 21); of all sin and wickedness but one being forgiven, either in this world or the world to come (Matt. xii. 31), 32), His words could not fail to seem to those who heard them to be almost an echo of those which taught that some souls might descend into Gehenua, and remain there for a time mourning for their evil deeds, and then rise up again. Even the parable in which the terrors of the unseen world were set forth in the most appalling vividness, represented the sufferer as having at last learned to care, more than he had done in his lifetime, for the welfare of others, of the father of the faithful still recognizing the sufferer in Hades as his son (Luke xvi). To those who were familiar with the thought that there was a curable as well as an incurable evil, there must have been something suggestive in the fact that the word which He chose (kolasis) even for the aionian punishment was one which carried with it, strictly interpreted, the thought that it was inflicted for the sake of the sufferer, and not merely to work out the retribution, however righteous, awarded by the Avenger.

"Among the Jews whom the Apostles addressed, and which, so far as they do not protest against it, it may fairly be supposed they shared, there was an anticipation, more or less distinct, of the work which the Messiah whom they expected was to carry to completion in that world of the souls of the dead. Thus we read (Emek Hamelech, fol. 138, c, 4), that the Son of David would pass through hell, to redeem those who were there under comdemnation; that when the condemned saw the light of the Messiah, they, prepared to receive Him, cried out, Here is one who will redeem us out of the kingdom of darkness, as has been spoken by the prophet, ' I will deliver them from hell and redeem them from death' (Hosea xiii. 14); and as Isaiah foretold 'The redeemed of the Lord will return, and will come again with singing unto Sion.'"

"The outcome of what I have endeavored to present is, I take it, that there has been a constant drift during the last

« AnteriorContinuar »