Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

terian minister of a magazine like this would not have been possible.

One of our chief aims has been to throw the light of Scripture upon this great mystery. We have sought to show where the current theories of a future probation are wrong, in that they minify the present peril which overhangs sinful men. And we have directed attention to the* basal and vital doctrine of. Christianity, the resurrection of the dead, as containing within itself the true solution. Only the gift of a new life can bring with it the dawn of a new hope.

We have shown that the Church's great mistake has been in denying the essential character of resurrection, as a recovery out of that death-state which is the wages of sin, and in making that which is the effect of Christ's redeeming work, the prelude to a double retribution, and confirmation in endless agony and despair. Slowly, and yet surely, is the light of that "hope toward God," which He kindled when He raised Jesus from the dead, breaking over the darkness of the Church upon this subject. And the temporary check to the missionary spirit, due to the spread of a theory of prolonged probation before resurrection, will be followed by a new ardor for the work, when the Church comes to see that her present mission is to gather out of all nations a people prepared for the Lord, who, as the chosen seed under Him, shall carry out in an age to come the purpose of judgment and salvation toward the whole human race, dead and living, in obedience to which God raised Him up to be the Judge and Lord of both the living and the dead.

2. The other great question before the church relates to the hindrances to her mission arising out of her divided state. One of the most impressive signs of the times is the stirring up of Christians of every name to a sense of the shame and weakness of these divisions. The effort to remove them, to human eyes, seems hopeless.

How. stands the case? There is hardly an article of the Christian faith upon which all who profess and call themselves Christians are agreed. Beginning with the Being and Nature of God, the orthodox affirm that He exists in three persons. The Unitarian affirms that this conception ends in tritheism, and that it is funda" mental in the right knowledge of God that we shall conceive of Him as One Person, the Infinite Father, from whom all other beings are derived. The Swedenborgian affirms the same doctrine of the divine unity, but holds fast to the deity of Christ, whom it declares was the one personal God, manifested in the flesh. And yet few of these professing Christians would refuse to unite in the Scripture confession, "I believe that Jesus is the Son of God." Upon the doctrine of the Atonement there is the same disagreement. The great majority of Christians hold, in some form, to substitution. They believe that the death of Christ was a veritable ransom, but whether for an elect company, or for all mankind, they are not agreed. Others hold that His sacrifice was a most impressive exhibition of the mind of God toward sinners, and an example to men of the great fact that, in the way of self-surrender for the good of others, men enter into life. Some Christians conceive of Christ's sacrifice as if it were a device by which sinful men may escape future punishment. Others see that the forgiveness based upon it requires the separation of the sinner from his evil deeds and evil nafure, and that '.he gospel of the remission of sins carries with it a divine operation for the putting away of sin in the way of either a self-judgment, or a divine judgment, against it. Christians are also widely separated by their views upon sacraments. One class makes them the ordained means, in the hands of a human priesthood, of conveying the life of Christ to men. Another views them as only the signs and seals of blessings already conferred. Some make immersion in water indispensable to valid baptism. Others insist that the quantity of water cannot be essential. While a few put such stress upon baptism by the Spirit as being alone of value, as to decline the water-rite altogether. Christians again are not agreed upon the question of man's immortality,—as to whether it is inherent in the fact that he is made in God's image, or imparted through Christ, through whom He gives eternal life. This divides them again upon the question of the endless existence in suffering of the lost, the one class affirming that no life, alienated from the life of God, can last forever. And we have already noticed how much they differ upon the meaning and place of resurrection in the divine scheme, upon the great question of human destiny, and the goal toward which God's redemptive working along the ages tends. They differ ■ also in their views concerning the constitution of the

Church, the form of its organization, the functions of its ministry, and its relation to the world. The prelatist believes in a divine deposit of grace handed down through a regular succession of priestly men. The independent, in this grace as given to all men who come unto God in the way of faith, and that such believers constitute the church, with power to organize themselves in such forms as best subserve their own edification in the Lord.

To the external observer, then, an outlook upon the Church reveals a scene of confusion, and the prospect of union between these differing sects and factions hopeless. And yet, as we have seen, no more significant fact in the condition of the Church is apparent at this time than the growing desire for unity. She i; forced to admit, notwithstanding the plea of denominationalists that more is accomplished through division, that she is falling far behind her Lord's standard of oneness in Him, and His condition of success by which alone the world can be made to believeHence, congresses, and discussions, and friendly overtures. How marked an advance, for instance, has been made by the Episcopal Church in this direction! One body of Congregationalists has replied to their overtures in a most fraternal way. And the people are ahead of the leaders in this movement. There is a yearning desire among the scattered members of the one flock of God, produced in them by the one Spirit, that it may be accomplished. Not that organic unity would of itself suffice. Something deeper is needed and longed for. And we believe that the Spirit who begets the desire will ultimately show the way to its accomplishment. It will be through a revival in the Church of a sense of His presence in her—the revelation in her and through her of His omnipotent lifeNot even the Bible can take the place in the Church of His personal indwelling Presence. In the first century she had no such full Bible as we have. And yet the indwelling Christ kept her strong and pure. We believe the Church in these last days needs to know that, in giving her the Bible, her divine Head never meant that she should put even His own bookin place of Him,—so that she would be always appealing to its letter for guidance, rather than to the Spirit who indited it, and gives it life. We do not wish to be misunderstood. We hold most strongly the full inspiration of the Bible as the Word of God, and as our infallible guide. We believe also that the Spirit who gave it can never contradict Himself, and that all new views of truth must be tested by it. But we also believe that the Spirit who first gave the Bible to the Church, and through the Church, is God's perpetual gift to her to the end of time, that His presence must be duly acknowledged and honored, that His guidance must be not only sought, but expected, that His voice must be listened to, His promptings obeye \. We know the danger here of fanaticism. But even fanaticism is less dangerous than dead formality. Better the disorder of a Corinthian assembly, where there is the energy of the Spirit, than the most decorous worship of modern days of which He is not the inspiration. Now it is through this

« AnteriorContinuar »