Imágenes de páginas

who die in their sins. And St. Paul directly teaches in this connection that there can be no justification of them on this ground of their good works, hut that this must come alone in the way of faith on Christ. Here we have then on the one hand what seems to be a legitimate Christian hope for these unsaved multitudes, and on the other a strict definition of the way of life which seems, both on the ground of works and of faith, to exclude them.

It is just at this point that this pamphlet fails of a satisfactory solution. Our own attempt to solve it has been repeatedly made on these pages. It is substantially this.

We distinguish, first, between salvation to eternal life and glory, and salvation from that pit of sin and death into which the race has fallen under the primal curse. The purpose of God in creation is to raise up on its platform creatures made in His own image, and invested with His own eternal life and glory, and so fitted to inherit and administer His vast estate. Man has not by nature, and by sin he lost all claim to, this eternal life. And to enter upon it now, he must die out of his old sinful manhood, and be created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works. This is the only way in which he can rise into this life immortal. And he can be "justified'' or made righteous only in the way of faith on Jesus Christ. It is plain therefore to us that no heathen, or Jew, or Mahometan, however devout or philanthropic, can pass out of this life into this full salvation without the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ as sent of God, in which eternal life consists (John xvii. 2. 3). And hence we read that even thatjust and devout man, Cornelius, needed that Peter should come and tell him words whereby he must be saved (Acts xi. 14). Our friend admits this in what he says above of the need that even the best men have of further "spiritual evolution and progress." We go beyond this, however, and nsist upon the need of a new and divine birth from above ■wrought in the soul through its apprehensions of Him who is the divine source of this eternal life. Hence we have a stronger plea for missions than one could derive from his statement - a wider hope.

But we come on to "common ground" with him in cherish ing itself. And we think we see more plainly than does he the way in which it will be realized. We see that, besides this special and full salvation of those unto whom it is "now given to - believe on and to suffer for His Name," and who at once enter into the eternal life, being "made partakers of the divine nature," a salvation has been provided for all men out of the pit of death into which all fell by the first disobedience (Rom. v. 12-20). The grace of God hath superabounded above the curse so as to provide another life for all, "In Christ all shall be made alive; but every man in his own order." On the platform of this life to come, therefore, whenever it is bestowed, we find, not the assurance that all men will enter into life-eternal, but into such new conditions of life as shall adjust all the inequalities and disadvantages of their present life, giving those who are prepared to receive ChriBt, as was eminently Cornelius, their opportunity to embrace Him, and gathering up also such heritage of condemnation as those may deserve who are unfitted to receive Him. This salvation to another life, which is not eternal life, but only another training ground for it, is a gracious boon to the race. But as it must proceed according to God's great harvest law of life which requires that men must reap as they sow, it affords scope for the free and full operation of that principle of reward and penalty which is universal

in the government of God. Men of righteous life, who have sought to do justly, and to act mercifully toward the neighbor, will have their reward in a more speedy recovery from bondage to death, and in a nobler and freer endowment of life, making easy their pathway to eternal life. Here room is made for all needed "spiritual evolution and progress," without proposing any other way of life than the one straight and narrow way which requires the denial and even the death of the old nature centers in self, and the formation in a man of that Christ-nature whose center is in God. "No man can attain to or purchase this divine life by his own "works of righteousness." But good works may develop iu him a capacity for receiving it. They may prepare him for it as they did Cornelius. And so such will get full recog. mtion and recompense at the resurrection of the just.

This, to our mind, is" the best way, and the Scriptural way of reconciling the varying aspects of Bible teaching upon the way of life, in which the element of character and deeds done enters so prominently. This does not conflict with the way of faith, which is the only way of salvation to eternal life and blessedness. But it leads up and on to this way of faith. Where good works are honestly attempted the soul soon learns its need of a Christ, and is prepared to welcome him when fairly and not distortedly made known. And hence they furnish no uncertain ground for hope in the case of those who practice them, even though they have not known of Christ, or, by reason of a perverted notion of Him, due to false education, have been "blinded to His true character, as we may believe to have been the case with such a man as Montefiore. But the hope for such cannot be that of an immediate entrance upon eternal life, with no such testing as comes to the Christian. The hope must connect itself with the opportunities of that future life secured for all through a resurrection from the dead. Here Scripture places it. The single passage from St. Peter's first epistle, which seems to locate this hope in an intermediate state, is best explained by supposing that the message preached to "spirits in prison" was the hope of coming resurrection now certified in the fact of a quickened Christ.

Our single criticism then upon this pamphlet, in the spirit of which we find so much to commend, is that in setting forth the hope, it does not sufficiently define the ground upon which that hope is based, nor clearly distinguish between the hope of eternal life, which is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, given to them that receive Him and believe on His Name, and the hope of a future life which will bring with it opportunities of blessing and of progress in this way of life, according to character and fitness, and on the basis of God's eternal law. "I will give unto every one of you according to your works." Such a distinction enables us to preserve clear-cut the gospel terms of eternal life, without the danger of the mistake that God has lower terms for weaker souls, or that anyone can attain that holiness without which no man can see the Lord, except as Christ is formed within him as the power of a new life and the hope of glory.


At the recommendation of a friend we read recently a book called "Donovan" in which is depicted the struggles and discipline of a young man driven into agnosticism by the perversions of Christianity he saw in the lives of those about him, and wandering in the mazes of unbelief and sin. When at last brought to know God and His forgiving love, he remarks to another who had been living in the deceit and meanness of a false profession, and who was trembling on his death-bed at the prospect before him—" You and I have been in hell all our lives."

This serves to bring to view an idea of retribution which is true as far as it goes, and yet only partly true. Men may now be sunk in the darkness and misery of hell, and be suffering the penalties that belong to it. Hell is by no means an altogether future fact. Men all around us are in its outer precincts, already delivered to Satan, and suffering the destruction of the flesh (I. Cor. V. 5): But we shall mistak* if we assume, as is done in this remark, that it consists wholly of mental torments. Its ultimate idea is that of physical destruction. There is a castigation and degradation of man through the body which goes along with sin, both as its present punishment and its future issue. The death which is the wages of sin is not merely the

« AnteriorContinuar »