« AnteriorContinuar »
Moreover, in showing that sin makes hell, and that it must dig even a deeper pit beyond the resurrection for those who still cling to it, we emphasize the necessity of being saved from sin as the only way of life. We are thus left free to use all the warnings and invitations of the gospel without concealing any of its blessed hopes. And this is just the way the Apostles used them. For their preaching is notably free from any of the threatenings of an eternal torment in hell, such as orthodoxy has deemed it necessary to hold up as the dark background from which to present the Gospel. Either it or the Apostles have misconceived the words of Jesus upon this matter. For our part we believe that no more terrifying weapons, and no sharper sword of the Spirit, can be used in Gospel preaching than the Apostles used. And we search in vain either their sermons or their epistles to find an instance in which they appealed to men from this stand-point of danger of an eternal torment in hell.1
We conclude, then, that this doctrine, while it would sift the Church and confine it to those who are truly baptized into Christ, would yet provide room in its outer courts for that large class brought under the influence of Christian truth and training, and who are only properly candidates for eternal life—not yet possessors of it—and who, if they fail of it here, may yet now be brought so far under this influence that their recovery to the future life shall be on that plane along which they shall go into (e i *) life eternal. And scope is left also for the exercise of the largest charity
1 Consult upon this point "Retribution in Apostolic Preaching," vol. II., No. 8, of this Magazine, or chap, viii., Part II. of Fire of God's Anger.
and benevolence toward the ignorant and suffering masses of men outside. For in this way not only is the Church, and all who follow in her train, to be schooled in that attruism which is of the essence of the divine life, but these poor and wretched and sinning ones are to be helped up on to higher levels of humanity in the assurance that such gain will not be lost in their reinvestment with the life to come. Our doctrine of the resurrection of both the just and unjust provides for all such discrimination. Any advance now in the direction of righteous living is seen to be a step toward a better resurrection. The resurrection of the just is seen to be something different from that of the elect church. These " saints in Christ Jesus" are already "risen with Him," and are not in view in the general ressurrection, brought to view in John v. 28, 29; nor are they among the judged ones of Matt. xxv. 31-46. The "just" and "righteous" there mentioned are the men of good life and benevolent spirit among "all nations," including the heathen, who have never known the name of Christ. There is, therefore, the amplest room and the highest motive for Christians to engage in every good work that can lift their fellow men into better life, inasmuch as we have the assurance—which the old doctrine denies to us—that no such effort is lost even upon those whom she cannot receive within her pale. While, as relates to the heathen, we have not only this motive, but the higher one, of preaching a gospel which shadl gather out from among them that company of the elect which must be made complete from all nations before all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God.
We have been interested of late in looking through the writings of Irenseus, one of the most noted early Fathers, who flourished toward the close of the second century. We find that his knowledge of the Gospel of the resurrection is far in advance of what prevails in the church in our day. And yet it does not attain to the full limit of the truth. As an instance of his views on this point we refer to p. 529 (Oxford Ed.). His Scripture texts are evidently quoted or freely paraphrased from the Septuagint.
But Esaias himself hath distinctly declared that such joy shall be in the resurrection of the just, thus speaking: The dead shall rise again, and they who are in the graves shall arise, and they who are in the earth shall rejoice. For th» dew which is of thee is health unto them. This same Ezekiel also saith, And behold I will open your graves and bring you out of your graves; in the time when I shall bring my people from the graves, I will both put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I will place you upon your own land, and ye shall know that I am the Lord. And again the same speaketh thus: Thus saith the Lord, I will gather Israel from all nations where they are scattered, and I will be sanctified in them in the sight of the children of the heathen; and they shall dwell in their own land which I have given to my servant Jacob and they shall dwell on the same in hope, when I shall have executed judgment on all who have dishonored them, on those who are around them, and they shall know that I am the Lord their God, and the God of their fathers.
Now, we showed a little before that the church is the seed of Abraham, and therefore, that we might know how that in the New Testament, following the Old, there shall be one who shall gather out of all nations such as shall be saved, raising from the stones children unto Abraham, Jeremiah saith, Behold the the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall say no more. The Lord liveth, who brought the children of Israel from the north and from every region whither they had been driven; He shall restore them unto their own land which He gave unto their fathers. He shall hsal the bruise of His people, and heal the grief of their wound. But the grief is of that wound whereby man disobedient in Adam was smitten at first; that is, death, which God shall heal, raising us from the dead, and restoring us to the father's inheritance.
There is much more of the same sort. This citation is interesting as showing how uniformly the early fathers explained the Old Testament prophecies in the light of the resurrection of the dead. Irenseus, indeed, makes a slip in confounding the church with the Jews,—applying these promises to the resurrection of the church as the true seed of Abraham. In our last number we showed conclusively that the passage from Ezekiel, which he quotes, covers the case of the sinful dead of Israel as well as the righteous. Many in our day fail to distinguish between the true seed of Abraham, the godly remnant of Israel and the elect church from the Gentiles which Paul declares to be of the seed (Gal. iii, 29), and the "all nations" to whom this seed was to bring blessing. It is of first importance to a right understanding of Scripture that this distinction should be carefully made. Even in Abraham's family, and in the people descended from him, there was this distinction between the true seed, the spiritual family, and the earthly.
Esau was rejected and in Isaac was his seed called. But Jacob prophesied of a lower blessing for Esau. So Ishmael was cast out as the son of a bondwoman who could not inherit with the son of the free. He was a type of the Jerusalem in bondage, the carnal nation of Israel. But there was a lower grade of blessing even for Ishniael. So the spiritual seed of Abraham, to which the church belongs, have their peculiar mission and blessing. They are heirs of the world—joint heirs with Christ. But the very purpose of the calling of this seed from the first was, that in them all the families of the earth should be blessed. That is then but a narrow view of this great plan of blessing which confines its sure mercies to the chosen seed. This is the radical mistake of Calvinism. And, as we saw from our last month's examination of Ezekiel 36th, and 37th, and from our study of Jeremiah in this number, any view of Old Testament prophecy which excludes the sinful dead of Israel or of mankind from the blessings of the promised restoration cannot stand for a moment in this court of Scripture. They are necessarily, and by the very terms of these promises, a part of " all the families of the earth" to whom the seed of faith is to be the seed of blessing. And until the church sees this she will never know the true "hope of her calling and the riches of the glory of her inheritance," nor will the world understand and receive the gospel as glad tidings of great joy to all people.
Other expressions however by Irenaeus show that he had glimpses at least of this larger purpose of God in the resurrection of the dead. On page 286 he gives this summary of Isaiah's teaching on this subject:
Esaias saith, And the holy Lord of Israel remembered his dead who had slept in the land of burial; and went downto them to preach the good tidings of the Salvation which is of Him, that He might save them. And this same thing the prophet Amos saith also: Himself will turn and have mercy upon us; He will do away our iniquities, and cast our sins into the depth of the sea.