« AnteriorContinuar »
His offspring, and whose gracious purposes, are not circumscribed by this little span of human life, but that He is the same just and loving God, yesterday, to-day, and forever
Such is the doctrine the Church needs to give her success, because it is the true doctrine and the full gospel. The world can never be frightened by fears to Christ, nor won by a mutilated gospel. Catholic Christianity has not been able to hold more than half the lands once won. Protestant Christianity, still more severe in its dogmas about the future, discarding any relief, such as purgatory gave in the older system, has waned in all the lands of the Reformation. It is scarcely holding its own in this most favored land; for numbers are sometimes a deceptive standard. It makes much of its missionary zeal and conquests. But it is estimated that the addition to the ranks of Pagans and Mahometans by natural increase are fifty times as great as the converts from among them to Christianity. The Church has been seeking to evangel ize these millions with a gospel that largely conceals the grace of God, that draws a dark veil over His face, and denies that it is glad tidings of great joy to all people. Her success either at home or abroad fur nishes no argument against the trial of some new and more merciful view. The world has not been won, and cannot be, in any way that conceals from men the true knowledge of God. The Holy Spirit will not honor testimony that robs the mission of the Lord Christ of half its grace and glory. Nor can an appeal to men's fears avail which so exaggerates its terrors that the very men who utter it recoil from it, while their hearers are only dazed and stunned into stolidity or unbelief. We want a rational doctrine of hell, as well as a full gospel proclamation of Him who holds its keys, and whose resurrection shed down its light of hope among the "spirits in prison," the myriads of earth's dead who have been carried away captive into its dark domain. And we need to arouse men, not only by the hope of individual salvation,—a hope not free from selfishnesss—but by the high aim of fellowship with Christ in present sacrifice, that so, baptized for the dead, they may be fitted to take part with Him in those ever-widening conquests by which He shall recover from the land of the enemy the captive multitudes of our race for whom His soul travailed unto death. The anxious cry of the heathen, "What of our ancestors?" when they first hear the gospel, would find here its satisfying answer.
NOTES ON CURRENT OPINIONS AND EVENTS.
Life And Death.—The Rev. Geo. O. Barnes, "Mountain Evangelist,'' has sent us a brief essay of his with the above title, with permission to publish. He has our thanks for both the tract and the privilege. Did our limits allow wTe would be glad to publish it, with our comments. It contributes some valuable thoughts to the grave problems we have been discussing. He strongly rejects the orthodox solution of the mystery of future punishment, an eternal hell of damned souls, which he describes as a "running sore upon the heavenly body politic, a Botany Bay of irreclaimable convicts— blaspheming the King's name, and polluting His dominions with their presence." He admits the truth of annihilation, in so far as that all that is evil which has entered into the being and character of sinful men, and all beings essentially evil, as is Satan, will he destroyed. His general principle is that all that is of life, which includes the image of God in man, "is its own protection." It cannot be destroyed and must, when the incrusted evil has been burnt away, "go up to God," while "all tljatis of sin—death claims and devours." The general drift, therefore, of the author's view is towards restitution.
We recognize some of the author's views as in the same line with those given in the chapter, Destruction Qua Homo, in our book upon the Mystery of Creation and of Man. He does not have a clear view, however, of the relation of the doctrine of resurrection to this whole subject. If he had, he would see that Scripture knows nothing of "released souls" flying up to God, except they have first won the crown of life on the arena of embodied manhood; and that no restitution is provided for sinful men except a recovery to this sphere of manhood, out of which sin has cast them, which must bring to them a new opportunity to win this prize. Failing in this, the second death seems in Scripture to close the scene of their trial. A.11 beyond this is speculation.
The Presbyterian Creed.—The Independent quotes Dr. S. S. Mitchell, of Buffalo, as saying in a recent sermon: "The Presbyterian Church, possibly the broadest of all the evangelical churches, has always recognized the fallibility of all human creeds, and her clergymen are never sworn to the confession, word by word, and letter by letter. All that is required of them is that they shall accept it as a system of doctrine. And the private members of the church are not asked to do even this. . . . For one or two whole generations the church has been all the while raising her ceiling, so as to give plenty of breathing room for the mightiest pair of lungs.''
This sounds very well, but it is not strictly true. That church still expects and officially requires her ministers to adhere closely to the Westminster Confession. And although there is much practical toleration of a style of preaching which either ignores or is inconsistent with many of its statements upon vital points, such preaching has no official sanction. A man is allowed not onlj' to differ from the creed, but to covertly assail it, provided he does not openly avow his sentiments, nor do anything to disturb the security of the system, or the tranquility of the church. But let him candidly avow his differences; let him proclaim it as the sacred duty of the church to subject her authorized statements of doctrine from time to time to revision in the light of her advancing knowledge of the truth, let him move in this direction in the church courts, and he will find that the effort to raise the ceiling in this truly honest and responsible way will be apt to bring it down upon his own head. It is this very kind of covert and irresponsible liberty that we have protested against in this magazine. We do not believe in any such efforts to give the church a reputation for liberality which she does not deserve. We wish all our ministers who assert for themselves liberty of prophesying, as does Dr. Mitchell, would join us in this effort to induce the church to re-cast formulas which are now virtually disowned, and so help to bring the church on to honest ground.
The Andover Trial.—It is to be regretted that the issue in this trial does not turn directly upon the Scriptural warrant for the new teaching, but rather upon whether it is consistent with the creed which the Professors are required to sign every five years. Upon this question honest men will incline to one opinion. It is not a question of precedents, but of ihe law of contract. It is indeed a great misfortune that benefactors should have so tied up their gifts, and hampered the liberty of prophesying in men who cannot properly fulfill their office, unless they yield themselves to the light which God gives them. The Professors at Princeton Seminary are unfortunately still more hampered. It is worse than folly, it is a dishonor to the Spirit given to unfold the truth to the Church until she comes to the perfect knowledge of the Son of God, to assume, as such donors have done, and as the Church has done in the rigid enforcement of her creeds, that the function of the Church is merely to conserve the statements of faith to which she has once for all attained. The law of her life is that she must grow in divine knowledge. The Holy Spirit has been given her for this purpose. The best way, therefore, for the Andover men is, once for all, to repudiate such a system and to begin anew. If the foundations are false, let them, at any sacrifice, be relaid.
ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS.
The following is from a Presbyterian brother, a member of the last Synod of Pennsylvania:
Dear Bro. Baker: I have read every number of your magazine with deep interest. While reading the December number I could but wish that "Words of Reconciliation" might be read by every minister, not only of our church, but of all evangelical denominations.
Now it occurs to me to make a suggestion—that for the benefit of those who have not the book at hand, or who would not take the trouble to refer to it, you print again the language of the Confession on endless punishment, together with the proof texts. Then, if any brother in the ministry is ready to say that in his judgment these '' words which the Holy Spirit teaches" completely fill the measure of the language of the Standards, let him be invited to do so. Certainly no other has the right to 'swing the ecclesiastical whip' over the shoulders of his brethren, who fully acknowledge the authority of God's word, but believe they may, without sin, question the authority of uninspired men. Nay, "the holy Scriptures are the only rule of faith and obedience," as declared in the Standards.
Numerous defenses of the dogma of endless torment have come to my notice, and have been read with attention. These writings might be variously described as sincere, earnest, vigorous, vehement, while some, alas! seemed to be marked by a recklessness that halted not at much unfairness and misrepresentation of opposing views. None of these defenses that I have seen consist of bare quotations from the infallible word, without the attempt to force into them the meaning the writers desire to establish. Such quotations as have been made from the sacred Scriptures seem to me to be fitly described as 'text slinging,' and that at long range.
I like your remarks on the action of the Synod of Pennsylvania. The paper adopted declares '' the current speculations about a probation after death non-Scriptural and non Christian." Good I But whoever begins that way ought not to stop where the Synod did. The road stretches a long way beyond that. The Synod "commends a profounder study of the Word of God, and a more earnest preaching of its plain truths." Excellent! Such study will lead to