Page images
PDF
EPUB

ence.

conditioned to know just what this self-propagating power of sin leads to. Slavery in our land destroyed itself. Had it been content to be shortened back and live in abeyance, it doubtless would have been in existence to-day. But it was not. It sought to propagate itself. It would spread over the whole land, and dominate all our institutions, and be the ruling power in our nation. This provoked fierce opposition. Then it plunged into the rebellion and was “hoisted by its own petard.” The mine that it sprung for its own preservation and the destruction of its enemies, blew it out of exist

So in every case. Sin carries with it always and everywhere, the seeds of its own death. Its very self-propagating power, in the long run, proves its own destruction, even as the forces of decomposition in the decaying vegetable finally consume the very thing upon which they feed.

The great law of the universe is not, as Mr. Cook reads it, it is not that there is “a tendency in character to final permanence, good as well as bad, and bad as well as good,” but it is that there is a tendency in good character to permanence, and in bad character eventually to reformation ; that in the long sweep of things righteousness tendeth to life and sin to death and destruction.

All profound philosophy sees this. Thus Emerson says: “ Evil, according to the old philosophers, is good in the making. That pure malignity can exist is the extreme proposition of unbelief. It is not to be entertained by a rational agent, it is atheism, it is the last profanation. The divine effort is never relaxed, the carrion in the sun will convert itself to grass and flowers, and man, though in brothels or in jails, or on jibbets is on his way to all that is true and good."1 Carlyle, too, expresses most beautifully our reading of this law of the universe.

“ The best philosophy teaches that the very consequences (not to speak of the penalties at all) of evil actions die away and become abolished long before eternity ends, that it is only the consequences of good actions that are eternal, for

1 Representative Man, p. 138.

these are in harmony with the laws of this universe and add themselves to it, and co-operate with it forever; while all that is not in harmony with it must necessarily be without continuance, and fall dead, as perhaps you have heard in the sound of a Scottish psalm amid the mountains ; the true notes alone support one anotl:er, all following the one true rule. The false notes, each following its different false rule, quickly destroy one another, and the psalm which was discordant enough near at hand, is perfect melody when heard from afar.2"

That is the law of the universe. Evil is her own executioner, and at last “ dies amid her worshipers,” while the pisalm of righteousness rolls on through the eternal ages, making the melody of God forever.

3. This doctrine of the “ final permanence” of evil is unChristian, is contrary to the teachings of Christ.

This follows legitimately from all we have said. Chris. tianity cannot teach anything that is opposed to the nature of things. It may teach a higher truth than nature, but none that is opposed to it. If, then, we have read aright the nature of things, and discovered the true meaning of God in his universe, this doctrine of the “ final permanence of sin ” is not a Christian doctrine. That it is not, the briefest study of Christianity ought to make clear. Christianity is confessedly a mission of salvation to the whole sinful world. Christ came to seek and save the lost, and all the lost; he tasted death for every man,” “ he gave himself a ransom for all," " he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for the sins of the whole world.” Any doctrine, therefore, that casts a doubt upon the final success of his undertaking is, in so much, un-Christian. Any doctrine that teaches that Christ will not do what he has undertaken to do is in opposition to the very spirit and purpose of the gospel. It can be no Christian doctrine that teaches the inability of Christ to save all that he undertook to save. And as the doctrine under consideration teaches just this, since it teaches that there are souls whom Christ cannot save, therefore it is un-Christian.

2 Cloud of Witnesses, p. 139.

But this doctrine is in direct opposition to the express teachings of the New Testament. If the New Testament teaches anything, it teaches the final complete success of Christ's kingdom, that " in the dispensation of the fulness of times" he will subdue all hearts unto himself and make all souls obedient unto his reign. There is a class of passages that set this forth in express terms, that teach it in so many words.

Thus the Saviour himself says: “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth will draw all meu unto me." And Paul, in keeping with the very letter and spirit of this promise says: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God he Father.” Again, " Then comcth the end, when he shallt have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, when he shall have put down all rule, all authority and power.

And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him that God may be all in all.”

These passages, and they are but specimens of a class, teach, if they teach anything, the ultimate, universal subjection of all souls to Christ, such a subjection as shall render them Christlike. When the end here indicated shall come, when Christ shall put down all rule, authority and power, when all souls shall confess him Lord to the glory of God the Father, when he shall so reign in and over and through all souls that God shall be “ all in all," there will be, there can be no rebellion in God's universe. But this doctrine says that this time will never come, that sin will never end, that there will be rebellion in God's universe to all eternity. It is therefore in direct opposition to the express teachings of the Christian Scriptures, and must therefore be false.

The task we set ourselves is now accomplished. We have shown that this famous doctrine concerning the permanency

of evil is atheistic, unphilosophical, and un-Christian ; that . it impeaches the character of God, is opposed to the nature of things, or the known character of the universe, and is contrary to the most obvious and emphatic teachings of the New Testament.

Allow me to say in conclusion, that I rise from the study of this great subject with the conviction of the reality of two great truths deepened in my soul. It is that in this universe punishment for sin is absolutely certain, and salvation from sin equally certain. I see the great forces of God working out no more surely the retribution of transgression than they do the moral purification and ultimate obedience of the transgressor. Hence, I can close with no more fitting or beautiful words than those of George Macdonald :

“If men would but believe that they are in process of creation and consent to be made, let the maker handle them as potter the clay, yield themselves in respondent motion and submissive, hopeful action with the turning of his wheel, they would ere lony find themselves able to welcome every pressure of that hand upon them, even when it was felt in pain, and sometimes not only to believe, but to recognize the divine end in view — the bringing a son into glory. Whereas behaving like children who struggle and scream while their mother washes and dresses them, they find they have to be washed and dressed notwithstanding, and with the more discomfort; they may even have to find themselves set half naked and but half dried in a corner, to come to their right minds and ask to be finished.”

Stephen Crane.

ARTICLE XXII.

Missionary Work, and the Highest Motives thereto.

The command to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, imposes an obligation on Christian

8 Sir Gibbie, p. 149.

believers, to meet which, what are called Missionary enterprises have been inaugurated in nearly every age and country since the advent of our Saviour.

Only thirty years after Jesus gave the command, there was, according to Tacitus, in the then far distant city of Rome, such a “great multitude” of Christian converts that the government and people joined hands in a persecution which put hundreds of believers to death. Seventy years after the command was given, Pliny, then governor of Bythinia, complains that Christians “ of all ages and ranks, of both sexes," were so numerous that for a long time the heathen temples had been almost deserted, and that the beasts brought to market for sacrifices to the gods found no purchasers! The Christian fathers bear witness to the same zeal and effort on the part of believers ; Justin Martyr, forty years after the death of John, testifying: “ there is no part of mankind, whether Greeks or barbarians, where there are not some Christians.” Tertullian, about the year 200, declares that the Gospel had been preached to all nations known to the Romans, and to many whom that imperial power had not reached in its career of conquest. After enumerating the provinces of Europe and Asia, he mentions Parthia, Scythia, Media, Mauritania, Egypt, the regions in Africa held by the native tribes, as well as those conquered bv Rome; and, without naming them, alludes to many other countries and islands, all of which, he says, had listened to the word, and though unsubdued by Rome, had subınitted to Christ.

Later, as pagan doctrines made their way into Christian creeds, and dissensions and corruptions carried the Church into the dark ages, so called, where ignorance and selfishness took the place of knowledge and zeal, the missionary spirit died out, and the bounds of Christian conquest receded.

The Reformation made the old order of things possible, but not immediately, as the Protestants were necessarily employed in establishing and maintaining their independence in Europe, and in reforming the abuses and correcting the errors of the Romish Church, as well as in dealing with ex

« PreviousContinue »