« ZurückWeiter »
They may go this very evening into hundreds of poor dwellings in the purlieus of London, and find a wretched wife, with two or three starving children, expecting the return of the husband and father. He comes, rendered savage by poisonous stimulants, and pricked also by his own conscience. He has wasted all his earnings on liquor. The poor wife pleads for the hungry children. Maddened by drink, he strikes her to the ground, tramples on her, and almost takes away her life. Such scenes as this are described in our police courts every day ; but for every one which so comes to light, there are twenty of which the world hears nothing. Could Mr. Maurice witness such a scene without being thrilled with horror and indignation ? But, if he could not, why should be make to himself a God who can look upon these things without any anger, without any feelings of wrath or aversion ?
When the Reformation first enlightened Italy, more than three centuries ago, it was quenched in blood. A Roman Catholic, servani to Ascanio Caraccioli, thus describes a single scene, of which he was an eye-witness in Montalto :
“Most illustrious Sir,-Having written you from time to time what has been done here in the affair of heresy, I have now to inform you of the dreadful justice which began to be executed on these Lutherans early this morning, being the 11th of June. To tell you the truth, I can compare it to nothing but the slaughter of so many sheep. They were all shut up in one house. The executioner went, and bringing out one of them, covered his face with a napkin, led him out to a field near the house, and causing him to kneel down, cut his throat with a knife. Then, taking off the napkin, he went and brought out another, whom he put to death in the same manner. In this way the whole number, amounting to eighty-eight men, were butchered. The meekness and patience with which they went to death are incredible. To-day a decreo has passed, that one hundred women shall be put to the question, and afterwards executed."*
Christ said, of such scenes as these, “ Shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them ? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Such is the testimony of Holy Writ in a thousand places. But Theodore Parker and Mr. Maurice cannot tolerate the idea of “a wrathful God.” At the sight of brutal cruelty, of horrid murders, of dreadful sufferings endured by innocent persons, they would feel burning anger
- consuming horror and indignation. But God, in their view, cannot know anything but a placid complacency. He loves all men alike; and will welcome all men, equally, to His heavenly mansions! Are we to admit this to be a reasonable
* Pantaleon, Rerum in Eccles. Gest. Hist., p. 337.
anticipation? Does not the natural conscience of man, however darkened, in all climes and in all ages, tell him of a coming judgment, and of an inevitable punishment for the evil-doers? What is this modern invention, then, of a God who regards wickedness and goodness with equal serenity and satisfaction, but Satan's last device for “making the cross of Christ of none effect,” by teaching men to believe, that no salvation was needed ;--for that there was no “wrath of God” to dread,—no punishment to be saved from ?
We turn from these lying vanities to the Scriptures of Truth. What was the universal testimony of all God's prophets, at the time of Christ's coming, as to the state of man, and as to the need of a Saviour ? What had been the constant declaration of every one of His inspired servants, from Moses unto Malachi ? Nay, we may go higher than Moses ; for “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied saying: The Lord cometh to execute judgment” ;-and that judgment was “the blackness of darkness for ever.”
If a man rejects the Bible, as an historical document, as did Voltaire and Thomas Paine, we have no common ground on which to rest an argument. But this a clergyman of the English Church will hardly do. Such an one must allow us to open the Holy Scriptures, and to ask, What is the aspect which they present, of the relations subsisting between man and God, from the first page of Genesis to the last of Revelation ?
The earliest chapters of the narrative show us man in the character of a transgressor, and therefore as one lying under the frown of God.
Of the earlier facts of the history we have already spoken, but God's anger against sin, and man's alienation and ruined condition, are alluded to in every page of His word. Job, in very early times, asks, “What is man, that he should be clean ? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous ? Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water ?” (xv. 14-16.) And David testifies, “ The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy : there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Ps. xiv. 2, 3.)
What follows ? Let Paul answer :-" The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” The whole human race is justly described by him in those fearful words, “ Being filled with all unrighteousVol. 68. -No. 379.
ekedness, covetoliquity; whispeneventors
ness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, un. merciful.” (Rom. i. 29–31.) And to what result does all this inevitably tend ? To a “day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds.” Even of God's own chosen people, Isaiah had said, long before, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away, And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.” (Isa. lxiv. 6, 7.) This was the lamentable condition even of the children of Abraham. As for the rest of mankind, St. Paul's description of the Ephesians might be applied to them all. “Ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” (chap, ii. 12.)
Here, then, we begin to see something like an adequate motive; something like a reason for the awful transactions, for the tremendous sacrifices made in Gethsemane and Calvary. A whole world of men, originally made “in the image of God," had so fallen, that God's great enemy ruled over them. To free themselves from this dreadful bondage,-to place themselves once more in God's favour, was as utterly beyond their power, as it would have been to have climbed bodily up to heaven,
The reasoners with whom we are contending, the Channings, Parkers, and Maurices, always treat the facts of the case in a delusive manner. They affect to look at the human race; whereas, in fact, they take only into their view a specimen, and a deceptive specimen, of the race. They take Society as they find it at Boston, or Philadelphia, or London, and argue as if the view which they thus get did really present a true picture of mankind. They choose to forget that Christianity has purified and changed the race in these few spots of the earth; just as Christ once cleansed, in a moment, ten lepers, only one of whom rightly acknowledged the mercy. So, in England and in America, the faith and morals of the Gospel have worked an external change, ten times as extensive as the soul-transformation which has come upon a few. A street in Boston or in Edinburgh may have but three or four earnest Christians among its householders, and yet, such may have been the moral influence of God's word continually proclaimed, that ten times as many residents could be counted, whose lives, to outward appearance, are virtuous and praiseworthy.
It is this improved state of things upon which our modern Universalists build their hypothesis. They look at a state of society which exists only in Christian lands, and they argue as if the morals of a christianized and civilized community presented a fair sample of the morals of the heathen world. But this assumption is utterly groundless. Over four-fifths of the globe the state of human society is such, that were a Channing or a Maurice condemned to pass the rest of his days in such an atmosphere, he would deem his fate to be utterly deplorable. A man who limits his view of the human race to a select coterie in the most polished and refined circles of London or Edin. burgh, commits as strange and irrational a blunder, as if he were to spend a morning in examining and computing the treasures laid up in the Bank of England, and were to draw therefrom the conclusion that in London at least there could be no poverty.
The world is now, few as are the real Christians in it, in a far better state than it was in the days of Tiberius Cæsar. At that period the most polished and elevated of all the nations were Greece and Rome; and the writings of Plato and Aristophanes, of Horace and Juvenal, exhibit the state of society at that time. Certain pictures and sculptures of Pompeii teil the same tale; but as these are kept out of sight because of their loathsomeness, so we refrain from citing the words of the Greek and Roman poets, for the apostle's reason-“it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them.”
How far, then, was man from God! “Even the heavens are not clean in His sight;"—how “abominable and filthy," then, in His heart-searching view, was man “who drinketh in iniquity like water.” (Job xv.)
Here was a problem which only God could solve ;-a work which only God could do. Had the highest archangel been asked, how this lost and ruined and depraved world could be brought into God's favour, so that, once more, He might“ look upon everything He had made, and behold it to be very good," he would have answered, of necessity, that such a work was far beyond his powers; and that it was impossible for him even to conceive how such a task should be achieved. To destroy the whole guilty race by another flood, or by a general convulsion, such as those which preceded Adam's creation,-this he knew to be possible enough; but how such creatures as now lived upon the earth were to be brought into the favour of Him who is “ of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon iniquity," would have been far beyond his conception.
A Parker, we know, or a Maurice, will reply, that he sees no difficulty in the case ;-that God is good, and has only to issue His pardon, and all is done. That is to say, if the justice of God, or the truth of God, are merely unmeaning phrases; and if the universe is governed by no fixed laws, but by mere caprice, or blind good nature.
But where is the evidence of such a moral chaos? There is none. We must either remain in total darkness on the question, or we must accept the plain declarations of Holy Scripture. And Scripture plainly tells us of God's cognizanceofsin, of cumulative sin (Gen. xv. 16); and thus we are led to see, that the mountain of human guilt which had been accumulated, and which was to be swept away, and “made an end of" by Christ's sacrifice, was something which would have appalled the mind of an archangel, and reduced him to utter despair.
The work was a great work, a mighty work; hence we are told plainly, in the predictions of the Messiah, “The Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him.” He is “the Son of man whom Thou madest strong for Thyself.” (Psa. lxxx.) He is “one that is mighty.” (Psa. lxxxix.) All Isaiah's wonderful glimpses of the coming Redeemer describe One who prepares himself for a great and difficult undertaking.
“He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him. For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke.” (Isaiah lix. 16, 17.)
“Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah ? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength ? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat ? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me.” (chap. Ixiii. 1–5.)
Let this language be laid by the side of the pictures drawn by Channing and Martineau, by Parker and Maurice; and it is seen at a glance, that they are thinking of one kind of Messiah, while prophets of old thought of quite another. The two portraits are utterly unlike. They regard Jesus as only a greater Wycliffe or Savonarola ; but that he had to “bear the iniquities of all His people—" to make reconciliation