« AnteriorContinuar »
wholly misconceive the mission of the Messiah and the most essential fact of His gospel—the resurrection from the dead.
That this is the true interpretation becomes further apparent when we consider how the individual Israelite always connected his hope of personal blessing with that of his people. It was only as the whole house of Israel was to be blessed through a Messiah that he hoped for personal salvation. This was implied in all their religious rites and training. This was the basis upon which the prophets always built their hopes. We have frequently shown how the law of the firstborn taught them the continuity of family life, of responsibility and blessing. Even if the promised salvation should be long delayed and reach a distant generation, yet the lifting up of that generation must finally reach and benefit the "whole house" of Israel. God's way is always through an elect class to reach and bless those who are non-elect.
This suggests a further principle which qualifies all His dealings—that priority and extent of blessing is according to character. There is a first resurrection. There are those who, like Paul, strive if by any means they may attain unto the resurrection from the dead. Saints are already "risen with Christ." They enter upon blessing while the rest of the dead live not (Rev. xx.) A sinful life here must be punished by captivity in death and hell, prolonged and intensified according to the degree of guilt. And resurrection is not eternal life except to the godly. All other men are restored to only such plane of life as they are fitted for, and on all lower planes of life than the eternal there must be conflict and discipline. This is the "resurrection of judgment."
And some are so weighted with evil character as to find no forgiveness in the world to come. Such must sink back into a second death. But this does not conflict with the grace that has provided for all a resurrection from the dead. These old testament promises to sinful generations of men stand. They can only be fulfilled through their recovery from death—the wages of their sin. To deny that they mean this throws a cloud over the whole of Scripture. The bungling and divisive interpretations of sects all take their rise here,—in the failure to give resurrection its proper significance as God's great boon to the race under the curse of sin and death. This is the veil that now hides His grace and glory from the nations, and even from the church. It is denied that the redeeming office of Jesus Christ has any relation to the dead, except they be of the elect. We have shown that in this notable passage the sinful dead of Israel are not only included; they are the very ones to whom it applies. The same is true of Hosea xiii., and of this whole class of prophecies, and until men see this the gospel of Jesus Christ will never be understood, nor the Church's place and calling under it, nor the issue of this great problem of the human race.
We ask then each of our readers to carefully read these two chapters, to see whether by any honest interpretation the sinful generation to whom these promises were made, long since dead, and the dead of Israel who went before and come after, can possibly be excluded from "the whole house" which is to be blessed. If they cannot, then the modern denial of the gospel that the redemption which is in Christ Jesus contains no hope for the unjust dead is exposed.
Men say at once, however, if this be true what becomes of all the Bible teaches about punishment for sin, about the fixed laws of character, and why should men be now concerned for their personal salvation? But the promises we have been considering occur in connection with repeated declarations of the inexorable punishment of sin. Was not Israel to suffer "wrath upon them to the uttermost" for their sins? Surely their whole history and the unchanging Word of God leaves no doubt of this. Moreover we have seen that the final punishment of their sin was long captivity in Sheol—the land of silence and darkness, and as the New Testament puts it, of torment (Luke xvi), and of a possible destruction of both body and soul. The antediluvian sinners are spoken of as " spirits in prison" by St. Peter, nearly three thousand years after their day of perdition. Can it be a light thing to be cast into hell, to go into the long outer darkness, or even to sink away into the land of forgetfulness, outcast from the light and life of God's presence? How absurd then to say that there is no motive left in this doctrine for urgency in the matter of personal salvation! Remember God did not promise to restore Israel until after His judgments upon them had been satisfied, and His vengeance executed. If one's eyes are open to observe the punishments that sin brings even in this life, he will find more than motive enough to be cleansed from it. And when we are further told that the torments of sin pursue the wicked beyond the grave, and that the horrors of dissolution await him there, and the gloom of a long night in the prison of hell, and that the more heinous his sin the worse and the more protracted his punishment, until he has paid the uttermost farthing, surely there is little encouragement to go on in sin that grace may abound. Men do not reason in this way in other matters. If I have a friend who is tempted to be a defaulter, I would not refrain from warning him against the sin because I knew that after ten years in prison, he would be liberated and have a chance to begin life anew. I would seek to save him from the threatened misery and degradation of character. Why should the fact that hell must some day give up its captives make any man think lightly of its punishment, or of the sin that requires it, or of the salvation from it now put within his reach? Moreover the hell must abide so long as the sin abides. And the deliverance can only be up to the level of capacity for a better life. Recollect that recovery from death is not eternal life. That must yet be won. And the new life must be burdened or stripped for the race for this crown of life according to the eternal law of life that embodiment must be expressive of character.
AN IMPORTANT QUESTION.
In the last number reference was made to a recent article by the Rev. S. J. Andrews, which sets forth the position of the "Catholic Apostolic Church" in the matter of Church unity, and takes the ground that it can never be realized without a restoration of the ministries of apostles and prophets as first bestowed upon the Church, and now withdrawn because of her unbelief. By this we understand that a class of men must arise in the Church so manifestly called of God, and endowed by His Spirit with such plenitude of gifts—including those that we denominate supernatural—that the Church shall conform to their decisions in respect to the matters which now divide her, and submit to their authority as infallible throughout her bounds.
This question is manifestly connected with another of great importance. It relates to the predicted triumph of the kingdom of God, and to the mode of its accomplishment. Is that kingdom to be looked for simply as a development, and as the result of existing agencies; or are there divine hidden forces in reserve and to be brought into activity at the period of its consummation?
It is not, indeed, to be assumed that these methods are exclusive, one of the other. Science recognizes that there has been use for both development and catastrophe in the progress of nature. And so the slow and silent working of spiritual forces may not only consist with, but may require, sudden outbreaks and transformations. What we regard as supernatural interruptions and interferences with the course of things—such as the miracles of Scripture— may be but a manifestation of hidden forces brought into> play at some consummating period made ripe for their operation. We are far from being familiar with all the incubating forces that have wrought these wondrous results that meet our eyes either in the realm of nature or of man. The tendency of modern thought is to explain everything by evolution, and to eliminate the supernatural element from Christianity as not of its essence. Even the record of the resurrection of Jesus is thus treated, and we see men professedly seeking to build up a structure of Christianity after