« PreviousContinue »
vidual who finds at his feet only the weight and victorious power of evil. They proclaim aloud that they are not disinterested in the question of religion; it embraces for them all that makes life worth living. Therefore they unite more closely together, notwithstanding the divisions which still exist, in defence of the common banner.”
We must not forget that this banner is that of the Messiah announced by the Prophets; is the banner of the Divine Redeemer, who came down from Heaven for the salvation of the human race, and who, at the sure approach of a cruel and ignominious death, said to His terrified disciples, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world;" and to His Father and our Father, “ Holy Father, I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do. ... I have manifested Thy name unto men . . . . glorify me with .... the glory which I had with Thee before the world was. Father, the hour is come, glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son may also glorify Thee with the power that Thou hast given him over men to bring them to eternal life.”
THE REASON OF THE CROSS.
To the cross of deepest woe.” We have seen that many accomplished writers of modern times, endeavouring to understand and account for this great fact, have utterly failed to do so. . They have just touched the surface, and have flown off, as if repelled by the touch. Shall we not endeavour to discover the reason of this failure ?
There is no great difficulty in detecting it. Theodore Parker and Dr. Channing in America, Martineau, Robertson, and Maurice in England, differing often from each other, still agree in one point;—they dislike and reject the idea, found in every part of the Bible, that God is angry with sinners, and denounces wrath against sin. This idea lies at the foundation of Christianity, whose errand is, to bring men the Gospel, i.e., glad tidings ;—to proclaim salvation, to “set forth a Propitiation;" a Reconciliation. But salvation implies, that there is some evil, some danger, to be saved from. The good news,—the gospel, tells us how we may be saved from “the wrath to come.” But if there is no "wrath to come," then the gospel is an empty and unmeaning thing: it has no message of any value: it can bring us no “glad tidings.”
A rejection of this fundamental idea, that "God is angry
with the wicked,” (Psa. vii. 11, constitutes the essence of what is now called “Broad-Church theology.” The great master of the whole school was Theodore Parker, who tells us, in his autobiographical sketch, how soon, in his precocious self-confi. dence, he threw off his belief in one half of God's word: He thus writes :
“In my early childhood, after a severe and silent struggle, I made away with the ghastly doctrine of Eternal Damnation and a wrathful God. From my seventh year I have had no fear of God."*
The positive side of his creed, he thus developes :“ The religion we want must recognize the Infinite God, who is not to be feared, but loved: not a God who thunders out of Sinai in miraculous wrath, but who shines out of the sun on evil and good, in never-ending love." +
“I know that each beggar in the street, and each culprit in the jail, has an immortal soul, and will go on greatening and beautifying more and more for ever."
"From the idea of God as infinite, it follows that He has no right to call into being a single soul, and make that soul miserable for its whole life ;- no right to call into life a single worm, and make that worm's life a curse to itself. It is irreverent and impious to teach that He could do this.”
“God is perfect cause and perfect providence; father and mother of all men; and He loves each with all His being, His almightiness, His all-knowingness, all-righteousness, all-lovingness, and all-holiness. He knew at the beginning the future history of mankind, and of every man, and prepared for all, so that a perfect result shall be worked out at last for each soul." ||
Here is a poor, conceited “worm of the earth,” who really fancies that he knows far more of the nature and attributes of God than such persons as Moses, or Isaiah, or Daniel, or St. Paul; and who unhesitatingly tells us what God can do, and what He cannot do, and what He ought to do, with a cool selfsufficiency which must make the evil spirits laugh, but which would draw tears of pity from angels, if angels ever wept.
Theodore Parker had a freedom of speech which belonged to his position. He stood alone; fettered by no creeds, bonds, or obligations. His admirers expected and desired to hear startling things from his lips, and would have been disappointed if he had given them ordinary and every-day doctrines. But those who in their hearts concur with him in England, cannot speak with equal plainness. If Dissenters, they would lose their pulpits : if Churchmen, they would be in danger of ecclesiastical censures. So they merely adopt his conclusions, without avowing that they hold his premises. They deny the
hop of London. Thus, He is als
future punishment of the wicked, or reduce it to a moderate penalty. And the reason they assign is identical with his. God has no wrath,-no anger ;-He is all indulgence, all love, all pity, all compassion. Thus Mr. F. D. Maurice, in his Letter to the Bishop of London, speaks as follows :
“I must look upon God as the Redeemer of my whole people. I must speak of God as contending with unbelief in us all, and as using His chastisements and punishments to uproot it in us all. I must have confidence, and encourage confidence in others, that His will means to overcome the resistance of human wills against it.” (p. 39.)
But these teachers of a professedly new theology forget to confess that their whole system was in the hands of all English readers a century and a half ago. Theodore Parker would make us believe, that he thought it all out for himself, even as early as in his seventh year! But he was always a great reader, and had doubtless met with so common an author as Pope, among the earliest books which fell into his hands. And Pope, who was merely the pupil of Bolingbroke, taught us, in the earlier part of the last century, that
“All are but parts of one stupendous whole,
Cease, then, nor Order Imperfection name:
One truth is clear, WHATEVER IS, IS RIGHT.” Not one thought, not one word, have either Parker or Maurice, or any of their followers, added to what Bolingbroke and Pope declared in the days of the first of our Hanoverian kings.
The doctrine, doubtless, is a pleasing and comfortable one, to all who wish to "enjoy life” in the vulgar and sensual way, and yet to feel sure of getting to heaven at last. But, when questions of so momentous a kind are at stake, it is not the part of a sensible man to take things for granted. He who would have a reasonable certainty of “the hope that is in him," will ask Bolingbroke and Pope, and Parker and Maurice, “How they arrive at the knowledge, that God is the indulgent and insensible Being which they have figured to themselves ?”
The Bible brings before us a very different portrait. From its first page to its last, God's anger against sin, and His wrath poured out upon sinners, is denounced in every page. The very opening of man's history announces a penalty : “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” Then comes in the Tempter, he who was “a liar from the beginning," and he preaches to the first woman, exactly what Mr. Maurice preaches now,—“Ye shall not surely die.” The temptation prevails ; man sins, and hears the sentence, “ Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
Sin has now entered into the world, and Satan is the world's lord. Adam's eldest son slays his brother, and again vengeance speaks : “ Thou art cursed from the earth :-a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be.” But the pestilence spreads; and after a time “the wickedness of man was great in the earth; and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” “The earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.” “And God said, I will destroy them with the earth.”
If Mr. Theodore Parker and Mr. Maurice had given credence to the plain word of God, they would have known, and have appreciated the fact, that the world, in Noah's days, was a place fit only for devils to dwell in. It was “corrupt,'' – which means, that every abominable practice, alluded to in Gen. xix. and in Romans i. had become common, of daily use, and of general acceptance. “Every imagination of the thoughts of man's heart was only evil continually.” What more can be said of the realms of the lost, of the habitations of the fallen angels !
What follows seems to us, and has seemed to men for two or three thousand years, entirely just and natural. “ The Lord said, I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth.”
And could some of our modern philanthropists, could Mr. Parker, or Mr. Maurice, be forced to dwell for whole months with the king of Dahomey, and to witness his butcheries, or to abide in Persia as it is, and to be conscious of its unspeakable abominations, would they be able to repress the desire, which would spontaneously break forth, O that this land could be “swept with the besom of destruction”; so that these atrocities might come to an end !
We pass on to the brief history of Sodom (Gen. xix.); "the cry of them is waxen great before the face of the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” Next follows the case of the inhabitants of Canaan : “ The land is defiled, therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it.” (Levit. xviii. 25.) “For the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out." (Deut. ix, 5.) And then, when Israel and Judah had sinned in their turn, the sentence was passed upon them: “I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them.” (Jer. xxiv. 9.) Up to this very hour, all nations are witnesses of the truth of the Lord's denunciations; “ He rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation.” (Deut. xxix. 28.) He, therefore, who chooses to represent God to the people of the present day, as One who is all love, and indulgence, and good nature, one who cannot be provoked or moved to wrath, not only rejects the whole teaching of Holy Scripture, from the first chapter of Genesis to the last of Revelation, but shuts his eyes also to some of the plainest and gravest facts in the pages of history. Such a God exists neither in the records of the past, nor in the lessons of the present, nor in the predictions of the future. To set up such a fiction, and to preach such a Divinity to mankind, is a plain and direct violation of the positive command, “Thou shalt have none other Gods before me. I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children." It is to disregard the striking caution, “Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods ?” (Jer. xvi. 20.)
“ The wrath of God” is no invention of modern theologians. We do not hear of it, first of all, in the Thirty-nine Articles, or in the Augsburg Confession, or in the creeds or canons of ancient Councils. It is declared to us by God's own prophets, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Paul, and John, and many others. It is caused by sin ; and if not in some way quenched or pacified, it threatens destruction to the whole guilty race.
And therefore, to meet this greatest of all needs, did Christ come. Here was, in fact, “the reason of the Cross." But it is as apparent, as indisputable, now, as it was in the days of the Sodomites, of the Canaanites, and of the sinning descendants of Abraham.
The theologians who refuse to believe the plain declarations of Scripture, that “God is angry with the wicked every day," ought to ask themselves, how they reconcile their theory of an impassive and careless God with their own inward consciousness, and with their belief that their souls were made in the Divine image. Can they themselves look upon cruelty, lust, and perfidy, without indignation ?
In the Anobear of it, fimus no invo