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THE ESCHATOLOGY OF ST. PAUL.
We have been much interested in reading the recentlypublished work of the Rev. A. Sabatier, Professor of Protestant Theology in Paris, upon The Apostle Paul, in which he sketches with great skill the development of the apostle's doctrine as drawn from the study of his life and writings. The book is a fine example of the higher criticism, in that, while it freely applies its methods to the examination of that portion of the literature of the New Testament, it leaves us with a higher, as well as more intelligent view of the great apostle, and of the inspiration by which he was guided in his life and labors as the servant of Jesus Christ.
It is interesting to note to what conclusion this author and critic arrives concerning St. Paul's eschatology. He says:
When Paul declares that death itself shall be abolished forever, it seems to imply that evil will actually cease to exist. The apostle says nothing of the final fate reserved for the wicked, or the devil. But the idea of an eternal damnation evidently lies outside the logic of his doctrine, which would rather require the absolute annihilation of wicked beiugs. It is particularly to be observed that Paul makes no reference to any resurrection of the wicked. Not having the principle of life in themselves, they cannot live again.
The author in this last remark overlooks one important passage (Acts xxiv, 15), in which Paul avows before Felix his "hope toward God" (in which his accusers also shared), "that there shall be a resurrection both of the just and the unjust." Professor Sabatier has the discernment to perceive that in the apostle's view resurrection is necessarily a redemption to life, and, therefore, that, if the wicked were to be again raised to life, this would imply their ultimate restoration. He is right in this conclusion, but he is clearly wrong when, in order to support the opposite alternative of their annihilation, he suppresses the one positive declaration of Paul that the unjust shall be raised.
Moreover, in his comment upon Rom. xi and other passages from the apostle's writings he admits that the kingdom of God must finally "embrace all humanity." His own logic, as well as the apostle's logic, requires him to hope for such an universal salvation. That Paul supposed that this grand result of Christ's redemption could be achieved only through the annihilation of the immense portion of mankind known as "the wicked" is not for a moment to be entertained.
What Professor Sabatier and the large class of devout and hopeful students whom he represents need to perfect their doctrine is to accept the full consequences of the principle that resurrection is redemptive, and that "in Christ all shall be made alive," and then to make room for all the retributive teaching of Scripture under that principle. He will learn that there is a distinction to be made between the salvation through resurrection of the essential man and of the personal man; that the essential man, as from God, cannot be "annihilated," and must finally attain to perfect personal expression in the image of God, while the present personality, so far as it is an unworthy expression of that image, must be destroyed. This was Paul's view of salvation as applicable to all men, whether saint or sinner. The saint was saved only as he yielded his carnal and natural man to death, that through the alembic of death and resurrection it might be transformed into the spiritual man. In this surrender and through this transformation he saved "himself." His present personality was thus made to furnish the materials which were to be wrought over into the structure of that perfect manhood in which he would be manifested at his resurrection from the dead. In the case of the ungodly there would be the same destruction of the old man in God's consuming fire, but inasmuch as the personality of the man had been identified with this body of sin, and had not been surrendered to the transforming power of the Spirit of God, it must be destroyed with it. Resurrection therefore could only restore such a man to another opportunity in the flesh to build up another structure in personal manhood more suited to the original thought of God in creating man in His own image. Such resurrection involves of necessity further judgment and suffering in the flesh, and such break in the continuity of personal identity as would fully justify the apostle's words as applied to the persons of wicked men—" Whose end is destruction."
It is in this way that we are to find reconciliation between Paul's evident hope that even the unjust dead are included in the great sweep of God's redeeming grace, and his assertion that they shall be forever destroyed from His presence.
PERSONALITY IMPLIES LIMITATION.
It will be remembered that we have uniformly applied the term "personality" to man, not as he is, of a nature divine in his inmost being, but as he exists in outward manifestation. The inquiry here arises, if man at the root and ground of his being is of God, why does not his personality inevitably assume a form suited to that nature, and properly expressive of it?
The answer is that man, as made in the image of God, is yet in process of creation. We read of only one man who has, as yet, reached the goal of perfect personal embodiment of God. In the "Son of Man who is in heaven," and who is " the image of the invisible God," we discover the final thought of God in the creation of man, which is that the fullness of the divine nature shall dwell in him bodily. In the end, therefore, the personality of man shall correspond to this true idea of his being. His complete personal manhood shall become the fit and eternal dwelling-place of God.
But during the progress to this supreme goal the divine nature chooses to manifest itself in imperfect and transitory forms which are preparatory to, and more or less prophetic of the final form. It proceeds by steps through all the lower stages of created life, in order that it may carry "the creature" along with it to this high goal (Rom. viii, 22-24). "When it thus humbles itself to creature conditions, it of necessity becomes subject to all the limitations and defects which those conditions impose. Even the gross forms of animal life below man must be explained on this principle. All life is from God, but it is made subject to this yoke of corruption and vanity in hope of its final deliverance from the yoke " into the liberty of the glory of the sons of God." And this especially explains the forms of gross and sensuous humanity with which the world is filled. These are all in various stages of progress toward the final goal. There is a divine nature in them, but it is hindered and delayed in its manifestation by the conditions which its subjection to the yoke of the creature imposes. The law of its progress requires that these forms be discarded as unfit. Here comes in all the Scripture teaching concerning retribution. And here is the foundation for our teaching that this destruction of the existence of sinful men, while it cannot carry with it the destruction of the divine nature in them, must carry with it the loss of their personality, so far as the existent man is not conformed to the essential man. Here there is left room for all Scripture warnings to men against losing themselves in this pit of destruction, and for all its exhibitions of the grace and power of God as now operative through Jesus Christ to save men from this perdition. Salvation in Christ is not only the deliverance of the essential man from the limitations that obstruct his progress to perfect personal expression—it is the rescue and renovation of our present personality, so that it may become such a fit expression. Otherwise it must be lost with its accumulated treasures. And this is why its salvation must be through a process of death and resurrection. As the sentence of the law against it on account of sin is death, it must be "crucified with Christ"—that is, it must be laid upon the altar of sacrifice and service in complete