Page images

teaching and sectarian living, and not, in the matter of truth and righteousness, as taught by the Master, that has hindered its progress and delayed its triumph. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine.” Fidelity to God, conscience, and the law of love, are far more essential and efficacious than a tame assent to Creeds not understood, the doctrines and commandments of men, and conformity to the traditions and formalities, substituted for devout obcdience to God and reverence for the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The leaven is in the meal. Many are running to and fro, and knowledge is increasing. Men and women are coming to see and acknowledge their true relations, duties, dependencies, and responsibilities, and to assert their rights. Names of Creeds may be still seen on church and college walls ; they are so faded by the light of God, that they are little read and less cared for. Nations, like sects, are looking over boundary lines with more generous regards. Kings and councillors meet and talk of reducing armies, arid as fast as they dare, do it. Conquerors are no longer the great men, most fit to rule in civil governments. Swords are rusting in their scabbards, and spears are curiosities in museums. Pity schools should be kept to teach young men low to kill each other scientifically, or to preach the everlasting gospel by human Crewds. Kindness lives in humanity. Electric lights are sparkling through the darkness. Truth dominates error, virtue vice, principle policy, at least in thought and desire, and goodness must prevail. Creeds and platforms are disappearing before the coming day; when liberty, cquality, fraternity sl:all prevail the wide world over. The Lord God omnipotent reigneth ; let the earth rejoice.

Theories which thousands cherish

Priss like clouds that sweep the sky;
Creeds and dogmas all must perish;
Truth herself can never die!

Rev. W. S. Balch.


The Gospel of Perdition According to Joseph Cook.

One day not long since, while looking along my shelves for a book with which to make an hour profitable, my eye was caught by a volume among a series, its title being “ Boston Monday Lectures, hy Joseph Cook - Orthodoxy.” It contains the author's course of lectures during the winter of 1877–8. The book has gone somewhat into obscurity, but is still as aggressive and able a book in the interest of what Mr. Cook is pleased to call “ Calvinistalistic Orthodoxy," or “ Improved Calvinism," as las come within the range of my knowledge.

During the time these lectures were being delivered I was on terms of friendly acquantance with Mr. Cook. In several private discussions I held with him on theological questions, I learned somewhat of the inside view of modern Orthodoxy. In those days I respected him as a man of conviction who tried conscientiously to do an opponent justice. I have still an admiration for his marked forensic abilities, but concerning his candor my opinion has undergone some modification.

I open the book at page 29 — a page I easily remember. I read for th, fiftieth time this ponderous sentence :

" The failure to attain predominant love of what God loves and hate of what God hates is perdition.”

It is liis definition of perdition. How came that sentence to be made? It came by growth, and no one save its author knows better than myself the process of its growth. In fact, I can, in a partial sense, claim to be its author. If Joseph Cook evolved it, I helped to develop it.

Some personal reminiscences are now in order. It fell to my lot to report one of his lectures for the Springfield Republican, and agreeably to an understanding I submitted to Mr. Cook my report. In reading it from my manuscript he came to these words (which I now take exactly from the printed record): My definition of cternal punishment is that it is the loss of even the desire to be holy." " Let me look at that,” said Mr. Cook. After reflecting on it some inoments in silence he said, “I will stand by that statment." Hence it became his authorized definition of eternal punishment. Some days afterwards, when walking with him on the common, he said, “ Why did you look so amused'the other day at my definition of perdition ?” I replied, as I remember, that while the doctrine of endless punishment was to me to the last degree objectionable, this definition made it objectionable for altogether a new reason. The desire to be holy, I said, is a phrase which must mean conscience, and when one loses bis desire to be holy lie simply loses his conscience. That would make hell a very easy place. Youder, at the North End, I said, you may see a condition of life I call perdition ; and what makes it dreadful if it be not conscience protesting against sin ? Take the desire to be holy out of the sinner and the inferno becomes his paradise. Hence your definition of perdition, I said, is too soft for iny Universalist laith. Here the subject for the time dropped. In a Monday Lecture soon after, however, he gave this improved version of his definition (which I also quote from the printet rrport I hare preserved): " I define perdition to be the final loss of the predominant desire to be holy." The definition has now grown by the addition of the word predominant. “ There may be,” says Mr. Cook, " subsidiary desires for holiness in the lost; but these are for their torment. Their controlling desire for holiness they have finally lost.” I reviewed this lecture of Mr. Cook in a newspaper article, and without laying much stress on the matter in the course of any article I said : . By the way, we would like to ask Mr. Cook if he has not given a definition of perdition which involves him in a contradiction with his theology, by making perdition after all rather a small affair. “The final loss of the predominant desire for holiness.' Of course one cannot lose what he has never possessed. According to this definition, therefore, one must have been in a saved state in order to be in a lost state - perdition can come only to backsliding Christians.” Some weeks after this I was in Mr. Cook's study on Beacon Hill. He was revising his lectures for the press. He turned to the lecture which had been the subject of my review, and on finding the sentence I had thus criticised, he said, “ You are very hard to suit, but see if you can find any flaw in this definition of perdition which I propose to put into my book.” He then read to me his thrice amended definition in the precise words, as I recall them, now found on the 29th page of his volume entitled Orthodoxy : The failure to attain predominant love of what God loves and hate of what God hater is perdition.What is your objection to that? he asked. My objections, I told him, were fundamental and radical.

This is the process by which the definition grew. Mr. Cook evolved it, but I suppose he would acknowledge that I had some part in its development.

I propose now to state my fundamental and radical objections to Mr. Cook's doctrine of perdition.

The general doctrine implied by this definition may be thus stated : Sinful human beings are in a lost state, — failure to attain to Godlikeness in this world (where alone probation in the strict sense is possible) will under the natural law of the self-propogating power of evil, incur a remediless doom in the world to come, so that at death the lost soul has made its final and irreversible choice of evil.

Mr. Cook acknowledges that no alleged Bible doctrine can stand except it be reasonable. His constant appeal is to the test of the scientific method. A particular merit in the scientific method is that it makes a distinction between assumptions unproved and assured facts.

It is at the bar of reason I would test Mr. Cook's doctrine of perdition, and I ain glad to have it stated in what Mr. Cook regards — or, at least, some years ago regarded — as a flawless proposition.

In the meaning he gives to his definition I disagree with all its assumptions. There is one of the assumptions, however, with which my disagreement is only partial. It is beyond denial, I think, that sinners are in a lost state. I should, no NEW SERIES.



doubt, define the lost state, however, especially as to its beginnings, differently from Mr. Cook. But I will raise no issue here. I assume that we should agree in this, that sin, being a transgression of God's law, is a forfeiture of God's favor and justly deserving his penalties.

Four other assumptions implied in Mr. Cook's definition of perdition are these :

1st. That sin is in its nature immortal.
2d. That death is a calamity to a sinful soul.

3d. That beyond death, for the soul dying sinful, is an absolutely endless doom.

4th. That good is not in its nature an eternally aggressive power in the universe.

To all which, with thorough conviction, I offer denial.

I. Mr. Cook bases the proposition that sin is in its nature immortal on what he styles “the self-propagating power of evil.” He affirms that evil character tends to permanence through the persistency of habit; that sin induces an increasing deadness of conscience, hence a growing moral deadness; that the will, under the rule of a predominent evil love, is continually being weakened for effective repentance or choice of good ; hence, that evil, by its own self-propagating power, becomes permanent, or in other words is immortal.

Will this assumption stand the test of a scientific examination ?

That there is, in the surface view of some of the visible tendencies of human life, a show of support for this proposition, I do not hesitate to acknowledge. But that the absolute immortality of evil scientifically predicated of these present and partial tendencies, ought not to be hastily assumed. Such a proposition must be based, if it can be made to stand at all, on an analysis of all the basal facts of our experience, or within the scope of our knowledge.

I agree with Mr. Cook, as I understand lim, that the desire for holiness in the human soul is innate. I agree with him that, though it may not be in all souls a predominant love, it is indestructible. Can this, in faithfulness to human na

« PreviousContinue »