« ÎnapoiContinuați »
gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Besides, are men really restrained from sin and made holy by the apprehension of hopeless perdition ? No doubt, the divine threatenings of a wrath to come are bothintended and suited to awaken alarm, to arouse the careless, torpid soul, to appal the obstinate sinner, and therefore is it right to set forth those threatenings, and to show that if men will not now listen to the voice of entreaty, if they will not be chastened and weaned from sin by the judgments with which they are now visited, if the present sorrow and misery of sin do not detach them from it, there is in reserve a yet more terrible visitation, a fiery indignation, a fearful looking for of judgment. All this, I say, must be plainly set forth, that men may be shown the intense evil of sin, and be moved to cry out What must we do to be saved ?' But yet, what after all is it that really weans the soul from the love of sin and wins it to holiness? Surely, it is the love of God in Christ Jesus. It is that which kindles the godly sorrow, that worketh repentance unto salvation. It is Christ lifted up on the cross that draws men to Him. It is the sight of the Saviour dying for sinners, not the vision of hell fire, that breaks the heart and softens the spirit. This, then, is to be the great burden of preaching, Christ dying for our sins and rising again for our justification. The doctrine of Christ crucified is the great instrument of conversion, and this, therefore, is to be the preacher's unceasing cry to his fellow men, 'Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world.' The ministry of the gospel is a ministry of reconciliation,
2 Cor. v. 20.
to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. Now then,' says the great Apostle, 'we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating by us; we pray on Christ's behalf, Be ye reconciled to God.'
Not unfrequently is it urged as a reason for insisting upon the endlessness of future punishment, that otherwise there is no guarantee for the endlessness of future life. The term eternal, it is argued, is applied to both; if then the first, though called eternal, be not endless, neither is the other. Now apart from any question as to its logical accuracy, is there not a sad selfishness underlying this argument? For, rigidly yet fairly interpreted, does it not mean on the part of those who use it, that they prefer to believe a large portion of their fellowbeings will undergo everlasting torment, rather than that the certainty of the endlessness of the life to come should in the smallest degree be dininished ? That those who think the bliss of the saved will actually be enhanced by a contemplation of the tortures of the damned, and not a few have thought and said this, that these should vehemently resent the understanding of the word aibvios in any other sense than that of never-ending, is not surprising. But that gentle, tender souls, who, while submitting to the dogma, yet writhe in agony at the thought of the unending misery of the lost, that they should use the argument in question, does seem sad and strange. How different was the mind of 'that loving, large-hearted, yet most faithful Apostle, who had such great heaviness and continual sorrow
Rom. ix. 1-3.
in his heart as that he could wish himself accursed from Christ on behalf of his brethren, his kinsmen according to the flesh, if thereby they could be saved. Moved by a like spirit, methinks, it should be to us a matter only for rejoicing could the noneternity of future punishment be rendered probable, even though it were at the cost of some abatement of positive assurance as to the eternity of the reward of the righteous. In point of fact, however, the argument in question is as unsound as the alarm which prompts it is groundless. To say that if future punishment be not endless neither is future life endless, seeing that to each the term aióvios is applied, is a dangerous argument to use, admitting as it does of the obvious retort, that if the mountains be not everlasting, God is not everlasting, seeing that both are called everlasting. But, in truth, the perpetuity of the life to come rests not on any so slender a foundation as a mere epithet like aibvios, but on its own nature and character, on its being what it is, the life of God in the spirit
• He that hath the Son hath the life,' the 1 John v. 12. divine life which God imparts, and which life is in 1 John v. 11. his Son. United to Christ through faith, Christians John 1. 4; are one with Him in whom is life, yea, who is the Life, and so are linked to unending life, seeing that because He lives they shall live also. The life of John xiv. 19. them who are in Christ Jesus is necessarily an everlasting life, because it is the life of the divine 2 Pet. i. to nature, of which they have been made partakers. They can never cease to be, because their life is the life of the Immortal One. Not, then, in its being called aióvios, but in its being what it is, lies the
assurance of the perpetuity of the life of the saved. Your life, says St. Paul, is hid with Christ in God : that life cannot, therefore, be any but a life everlasting
Col, iii, 3.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION.
In bringing this volume to a close, it may be well to place before the reader a brief review and summary of the points disputed. And first, with a view to bespeak candid and careful attention to the argument, and to preoccupy the ground on the score of novelty, it was observed that what may be new to an individual is not therefore new in Introduction. itself; that in relation to men all truth is new at some time or other, for that as it pleased God, at the first, not all at once but in successive and progressive portions to give the Holy Scriptures unto men, so has it also pleased Him, not all at once but gradually and progressively to impart to his Church the understanding of these Scriptures; from time to time correcting and removing misapprehensions, and causing it to see in his Word what it had not seen before ; as when, for example, even inspired apostles failed to see, though it was so plainly predicted and promised in the Scriptures, that the Gentiles were to be fellow-heirs with the Jews of Messiah's kingdom, and only came to recognize and acknowledge it by a special communication to Peter, and through him to them. So, may be, in God's own good time, will his Church come to see, and joyfully to ac