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to unity, she must come out of her childishness and petulance and rivalries into the strength that belongs to her as the body of Christ. She must get beyond the alphabet of her present knowledge of him as her indwelling life; she must get into true and living relations with her head, who has promised to make his abode in her as she does his will, and who has declared it as his supreme will and crowning desire that we all may be one as he is one with the Father. Then his transforming power will be seen in her, and it will flow out from her in streams of blessing to the nations who shall walk in her light and bring their glory and honor unto her gates.
THE RELIGION OF BABYLONIA.
An interesting proof that God has not left himself without a witness among the heathen is given in Dr. Francis Brown's articles in the January number of the Presbyterian Review. He gives some striking instances of similarity between the devout expressions of the Hebrew and Babylonian Psalms and remarks:
"If words have meaning the words we have quoted from these old poems express a sense of ill-desert before beings of greater majesty and higher character than the suppliant possessed; beings who could pardon, and perhaps would; beings in whose graciousness, at all events, lay the penitent's only hope. A better conception of duty deepens and enlarges the thought of sin, and of the need and hope of forgiveness. The Jew had it in fuller degree than the Babyonian, and the Christian than the Jew: but because ther advanced stage is better, it does not follow that the earlier was wholly bad. Because the utterance of more profoundly instructed lips are richer and riper, it does not follow that the utterances of ignorance were empty and worthless. For sin and forgiveness are not mere concepts of philosophy: they are genuine and vivid experiences of human souls.
There were men behind those psalms who remembered God; and when any man remembers God in the vital, Biblical sense, God himself is at hand, his grace is moving upon the heart, his love is warming the atmosphere."
RETRIBUTION—HERB AND HEREAFTER.
As we advance in years, and enter upon what is called middle life, and especially in the latter stages, when middle life begins to draw near to old age, we are compelled almost unconsciously more or less to endeavour to find out if possible some of the causes which have led to results in our own life; to trace cause and effect, and more narrowly and and more impartially to examine our own actions in the past than was the case at the time. Having also comparatively little to expect or to hope for from the future, we naturally turn to the past. At this period the study of history more particularly forces itself upon our attention, as in history we see the operation of cause and effect on the grandest scale.
When we thus examine impartially and honestly the facts of history and circumstances of our previous life, we are compelled to come to some conclusions with respect to them.
The result of tho examination has forced upon my own mind with overwhelming force the reality of one great truth, even the doctrine of retribution, whether for good or evil, and the conclusion I have arrived at is this: whenever we have done wrong, whether as nations or as individual we shall, as surely as the sun shines in the heavens, have, so to speak, to Work it back, and often in blood and tears. Eepentanec itself, however deep and sincere, will not avert the blow, though it will very greatly soften it. The laws of God are inexorable—inexorable because they are righteous. Even looking at this from a purely human point of view, we can discern that it would le the most duel and the weakest thing possible for our Father in heaven to remit the just and righteous retribution due to sin, for it may be questioned whether we ever really learn properly to refuse the evil, and to choose the good, without more or less of suffering.
I may illustrate my meaning by referring to a circumstance of my school life. At the school to which I went we had a master who was a kind, good-natured, easy-going sort of man, who was very soon placated; so much so that after ho had given us some task or imposition by way of punishment he would almost always let us off when we expressed our regret for what we had done. The result was that we all more or less looked with contempt upon him, and cared little for what he said. It has been truly remarked as one of the most singular features of child nature, and, indeed, of boy nature, if not of human nature, that when children are punished properly and fittingly, not vindictively, for what they have done, so far are they from disliking the person who inflicts the punishment, they actually respect, and even like him more for it. This I take to be a heaven-sent instinct of the soul, an undoubted proof that punishment is not sent as a curse, but as a blessing. Instead, therefore, of trying to escape the consequences of our evil deeds, we should rather see in this very chastisement the proof of a Father's love and care, and, in the words of the prophet, ''accept the punishment of our iniquity," and thereby not only bear it better, but be actually raised higher than before, in connection with this point, I think that the ordinary evangelical theology has done a vast amount of mischief inasmuch as it teaches, or appears to teach, that sin when repented of is entirely and completely forgiven and blotted out by God. Now, God forbid that I should say, even for a moment, that when we truly repent God does not forgive us. 1 fully believe that in the highest and truest sense He does so at once; but what I mean is that forgiveness does not imply the letting us off, as it were. On the contrary, it is far otherwise. Forgiveness of sins does not at all imply this, but rather it renders the chastisement more necessary, inasmuch as God intends through this very chastisement to restore us to righteousness. "As many I love I'rebuke and chasten" are the words of the Lord Jesus. What repentance could be deeper or more sincere than that of King David when he penned the fifty-first Psalm? and yet his after-life was more or less one of constant trial and suffering, suffering evidently inflicted for his sin. In exact accordance with this we find the Lord saying to Moses, " I have pardoned according to thy word; nevertheless, in the day when I visit I will visit their sins upon them."
It were greatly to be wished that preachers of the Gospel, instead of dilating upon doctrines usque ad nauseam, were to instil into the minds of their hearers the faet that though God will pardon their sins on repentance, He will as certainly visit their sins upon them. I think anyone who reads the prophets of the Old Testament will see that this was the burden of all their prophecies. In fact, the general drift and tendency of the Bible, taken as a whole, is to warn us as well as to comfort us, and the moral of it all is, Never do wrong.
In spite of all this, however, we find men" continually hoping that they will escape the punishment due to their Bins, and thinking that, if they repent at some future time all will be forgotten and forgiven. We frequently hear such expressions as "So-and-so will settle down after he has sown his wild oats." There is in this remark unquestionably a certain amount of truth, for we see it frequently happen, but, for all that, the sins that have been committed are not forgotten by God. The words in the Book of Ecclesiastes are strictly true, " Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and walk in the ways of thy heart and the desire of thine eyes ; but know thou that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment." I remember hearing a story of a man who had lived what is called a fast life (which really means giving the reins to one's passions). He had, however, subsequently settled, married an amiable wife, and had a comfortable home and children. But amidst all these outward tokens of happiness, the images of his former sins kept rising so constantly before him as to make his life perfectly wretched, and this went on until, as it were, his sins were Forced Back. 1 will venture to say that such is a frequent occurrence, and I repeat the ordinary orthodox theology is not without blame in the production of such a result.
There can be no doubt that this method of God's government, this punishing in cold blood, so to speak, is infinitely more efficacious than any other in causing us to view sin in its true light, and in making us sensible that it is indeed "an evil thing and a bitter " to have forsaken the Lord.
No doubt, however, the power of real repentance is very great, and, as I have said, though it will not avert the blow, it will most materially soften it. The true course for the sinner to adopt, therefore, is at once to repent and humble himself before God, to endeavour to make what reparation he can where reparation is necessary, and, above all, not to attempt to screen himself.