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6. It sets before the church a much higher and more unselfish end than individual salvation, even fellowship with Christ in those ever-widening administrations of His kingdom, by which the power of His resurrection shall reach the countless generations of the dead, and bring them within the scope of His great salvation.
7. It avoids the peril of Universalism by showing that this restored life can become a blessing only as it is freed from sin, and that the more men now indulge in sin or harden themselves against the Gospel, the greater the disadvantages under which the new life is conferred, and the greater the risk of its irretrievable loss in the second death.
Whether, however, this attempt to apply the principle of a redemptive character in resurrection to the solution of these dark problems be approved or not, certain it is that the principle itself is true, and that around it our current eschatology will have to be reconstructed.
INADEQUATE PROOF TEXTS.
We listened not long ago to a paper read by the Rev. S. T. Lowrie, D. D., before the Presbyterian Ministerial Association of this city, reviewing the history of the compilation of the proof-texts which are subjoined to the formulas of the confession of faith, and which supply the scripture ground upon which they are based. We were surprised to learn that the General Assembly, in adopting the Confession, gave insufficient attention to this most important part of their work. This will help to account for the fact that in many eases the proof-texts cited do not prove the point. Leaving out of view their use of texts, which a later scholarship had discarded, such as 1 John v., 7, and of those whose authority is at least doubtful, such as Mark ix. 16, we find frequent instances of the use of undisputed texts where, to say the least, the proof they furnish is inadequate. We will cite some of these instances.
1, In Chapter III, sections 3 and 4, the fore-ordination of some men and angels to everlasting death, and the fixing of the number of the saved or lost in so certain and definite a way "that it cannot be either increased or diminished," is sought to be proved by such texts as Rom. ix. 22, 23, Prov. xvi. 4. Predestination is certainly taught in Scripture. But it by no means appears that the destruction to which "the vessels of wrath" spoken of in Rom. ix. are fitted is "everlasting death," since in the course of the same argument the apostle declares (ch xi.) that the Israel who had been cast away was to be received again as "life from the dead." This indeed illustrates a prevalent vice of Scripture quoting. Almost anything may be proved by passages taken in disregard of their connection.
2. So also in section 6, the texts cited are not sufficient to prove that, "Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, but the elect only." They do indeed prove that no man can come to Christ, except it be given unto him of the Father, and that Christ's own had been separated from the world and given unto Him, and that for them He laid down His life. But here again the question arises, is His salvation limited to these chosen recipients of it? Are there no other sheep "not of this fold?" (John x. 16). And is there no future grace toward the world, for whom He does not then pray, treasured in the fact that He had called His chosen out from the world? If there is not, why does He pray that they might be one, in order that the world may believe (John xvii. 21)? To say nothing then of the counter testimony of such passages as 1 Tim. ii. 6, and Heb. ii. 9, which assert that Christ gave himself a ransom for all men, and tasted death for every man, we must say of this case from the testimony of the passages cited—" not proven." The fact is, the Calvinistic view of election, while true up to the point to which it sees, is made untrue by what it fails to see. It fails to see that the elect church of God, as a royal priesthood, are the chosen mediators in ages to come of His salvation to far wider circles of their brother-men who lose their heritage of life in this age, and that, for the very end of giving scope to this far-reaching purpose of God's grace towards mankind, He has secured in Christ the gift of another life for all beyond the deathstate into which they must pass as the wages of sin. We are glad that by the reunion in 1870 the doctrine of universal atonement gained an acknowledged standing in the Presbyterian Church. We only hope that those who receive it will by-and-by come to see what it means. For until they see that the resurrection of all is the fruit of the ransom given for all, and that this is the way by which an opportunity for eternal life is secured for all, they will continue involved in as great inconsistencies as their old-school brethren.
3. We fail to see that Gen. ii. 16,17 proves that a "covenant of works " was made with Adam, "wherein life was promised to him, and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience" (ch. vii. sec. 2). In a covenant an agreement between contracting parties is implied. Here we have nothing but the command of a sovereign and a threat. Surely some of the features of this covenant of the Confession have to be read into the narrative in Genesis before they can be read out of it.
4. There may be no warrant for prayer for the dead (xxi. 4), but this is not proved by reference to David's declaration that it was useless for him to weep and pray as if he might bring back his child after it was dead. The quotation of Abraham's words to the rich man in hell is more pertinent, but they do not suffice to prove the falsity of the idea which was then held by most of the worship, pers in every Jewish synagogue, that the prayers of the living might bring relief and a more speedy resurrection to the dead.*
5. We have so often referred to the mis-location and consequent misinterpretation of the texts quoted in chap, xxxiii. and elsewhere, to prove the endless torments of the wicked in hell after their resurrection, that it is only necessary to allude to them as additional instances of misapplied texts. Mark ix. 43, 44, Luke xvi. refer to a loss and suffering that await sinful men in death and immediately after it. They leave the question open therefore whether no new door of hope is opened to these lost ones through resurrection. So Matt. xxv. 31-46 describes the judgment of living nations of mankind. There is no mention of dead men raised. And although John v. 29 teaches that the dead also shall be brought under judgment by the Son of Man, there is nothing in this description of Mat
* See Spirits in Prison by Dean Plumptre, pp. 264-266.
thew, nor in the parallel passage of II Thess. i, 8, 9, which shuts out all hope of some sort of recovery of these destroyed and banished ones through resurrection. At all events we have no right to use passages which on the very face of them describe a judgment to be visited upon the living generations of men, as if they desoribed a penalty to be pronounced upon these same men after their resurrection from the dead. How do we know but that this change in their condition may prove to them a blessing and not an untold curse? It is only a short time ago that we heard the Rev. A. T. Pierson, D.D., expound this passage before a large audience of the Sunday School teachers of this city, and emphatically assert that it relates to the judgment of the nations of men who are living on the earth at the time of our Lord's second coming. He agrees with us, at least so far as to believe that this is a pre-resurrection judgment, and that the risen dead are not here in view. If this be so, the pillar proof-text of the Westminster teaching on this subject falls, and the necessity of reconstructing it de novo becomes apparent.
Since writing the above we observe that the, Presbytery of Philadelphia has before it an overture requesting the General Assembly to take up this matter of the proof-texts in the Confession and give them a careful re-consideration. We are glad of this. We only hope thorough work will be done, and that the Church will honestly face the question as to whether its authoritative interpretations of these and other texts can stand in the light of Scripture and of that spiritual intelligence produced by it which judges all things.