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present natural order, which open the way for gracious intervention in their behalf by that royal priesthood of the future of which Christ is the head. We may not venture to say what anticipations or preparations for these deliverances may now be going on in the unseen world.
FORGIVENESS OF SINS.
A primary blessing of the gospel is that of the forgiveness of sins. In what does this blessing consist?
It is manifest that it is not indiscriminate pardon. It is not immediate and complete deliverance from deserved penalty. The believer on Christ does not seem to have any exemption above other men from the universal law, "Whatsoever a man soweth that must he also reap." If Christians do wrong, they suffer the inevitable consequence as do other men. There is no loop-hole by which they can escape, in that net-work of evil results in which the law of God ensnares and shuts in the wrongdoer. Moreover, Christians die as do other men. To what other category than the wages of sin do the physical pains and the mortal agony through which they pass belong?
Nor does the Word of God view them as exempt from the consequences of their sins. The words just quoted about sowing and reaping are addressed to them (Gal. vi. 7, 8). It constantly uses toward them the severest language of reproof and threatening. "The Lord shall judge His people" is a key-word in Old Testament Psalm and Prophecy. It is also adopted in the New Testament. They are warned that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, that vengeance is His, and that He will repay (Heb. x. 30, 31). In nothing does the misconception of Christians about this matter more reveal itself than in their common misquo tation of the passage, "For our God is a consuming fire." It is not "God out of Christ," as we hear them say, but God in Christ, our God, who is a consuming fire. The whole book, and the chapter in which this verse occurs (xii. 29), enforces this as its special lesson. Where then comes in the grace of forgiveness?
1. In the first place, Christ's death brings to us all the ransom of our forfeited lives. The gospel proclaims to all men this initial blessing, and so is glad tidings of remission of sins to all men.
2. It proclaims the risen Christ as the power of God to purify from sin the lives which His death has redeemed from destruction. And this He does, not only by separating us from the sins which defile our lives, but from the sinful nature—the old man, in which sin resides. His salvation is a divine operation to set us free from our former sinful selves, and to create within us a new self, "the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness." The etymology of the Greek word for forgivneess—d<pe<rc<;—shows that it is something different from mere pardon. It is the dis charge, the putting away, of the sins that bring punishment. If the sins remain, the penalty must remain. If the nature in which sin resides, and out of which it flows as from a fountain, remains, the death-sentence must abide upon it. God's radical forgiveness carries with it the complete separation of a man from the sins which make punishment necessary And hence, in Christ, He has instituted that divine operation necessary to effect this result. The deep meaning of the cross is that it is God's condemnation of sin in the flesh. It is His executed sentence upon the old man of sin. Our faith in Christ connects us with Him in His death unto sin. We yield ourselves to that divine operation which requires the killing out in us of the old nature of sin. And just so far as we yield ourselves unto God in this process, to that extent we are saved from the penalty. And just so far as we draw back, and refuse consent with this divine operation to set us free from sin, we become liable to penalty. If we judge not ourselves we are judged of the Lord.
It thus appears that God's offer of forgiveness to the sinner contains no promise of exemption to the flesh, or to the old man. On that ground, and in that character", we must still reap the corruption we sow. It is only as we live in the Spirit that we are not under the law.
At no point do the Christians of our day need more enlightenment than at this point. Many of them look upon the atonement as a device by which, if they keep on sinning, they may still go free at last. A deathbed repentance, in this view, will answer every purpose. Men forget that the purpose of God's salvation is not to rescue them from hell, but to save them from the sins which make hell possible. And they are saved just so far as, and no farther than, they are saved from their sins. God's remission wipes out all the score against their former selves; but, in doing so, it brings the oldself to the cross of Christ and leaves it there, in the place of death. And if they revive it, and walk after the flesh, they slip back again into the region of law, where God's whip of correction is sure to be laid upon them according to their deeds. Into what fearful evils and consequent sorrows have Christians been tempted by this false view of God's forgiveness, as if it somehow set aside in their case His universal harvest law, which renders to every man according to his deeds, and according to the fruit of his doings. What missteps they might have avoided, what follies they might have shunned, what shame and loss they might have escaped, if they had known that God cannot be trifled with, and that His children, of all men, must be held to the strictest accountability for wrong-doing. And this, as we have seen, is required by the grace that forgives and saves them. For no other salvation would meet the case, or secure their future, but one that judges and casts out their sins,—one that humbles and mortifies the old nature of sin, which must die out in them before they can be raised into the glory and beauty of that eternal life which cannot sin and cannot die.
It also appears that God is no respecter of persons in that He makes different terms for different classes of men, or in that there is any other way of entrance into life than through the complete surrender of the old sinful self to the consuming fire of His holiness. "Every one must be salted with fire." If there were a truer understanding of this primary law of God's government and of His salvation, the mystery of the Bible teaching about future punishment would not be so hard I
Jewish Opinion. 19
to understand, and the merciful character of this administration, in its bearing upon the future of even the unjust, would be more readily discerned. "Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy, for thou renderest unto every man according to his work " (Ps. lxii. 12).
Jewish Opinion.—Among other opinions of Jewish Talmudists, the following is cited:
"The wicked stay in Gehenna till the resurrection, and then the Messiah, passing through it, redeems them." The redemption contemplated is recovery to embodied life. "They are punished till the time decreed is expired and then allowed to transmigrate."
"The righteous bring out of Gehenna imperfect souls." "The future world will have its Gehenna, but the last times will have it no more."
Our view that the hell awaiting sinful men lies this side of resurrection, and that resurrection is essentially redemptive, can be amply verified as the view in vogue among the Jews in the time of Christ. See Alger's Doctrine of a Future Life, pp. 169-171. Mercy and Judgment, pp. 203, 204.
Conversion Of The World.—The statement has been recently made that the vast heathen populations are growing seventy times faster than the church is gaining upon them by conversions. This would be a gloomy outlook for the world, were we forced to look for its conversion by existing methods. The gospel is now preached to take out of the nations a people prepared for the Lord, who are to be His chosen instruments of salvation to the human race in an age to come.