RESTITUTION OF ALL THINGS
My Dear C——
The account you give of your perplexity, and of the answers with which it has been met by some around you, reminds me, (if one may refer to it in such a connection,) of what happened some months ago in a Sunday-school. The boys in one of the classes were reading the chapter which records how David, as he walked on the roof of his house, saw Bathsheba. One of the boys, looking up through the school-room window at the steep roofs of the houses opposite, after a pause, said,—"But, Teacher, how could David walk on the roof of his house?" The teacher, on this point as ignorant as his scholar, at once checked all enquiry by saying, "Don't grumble at the Bible, boy." Meanwhile the teacher of an adjoining class had overheard the conversation. Leaning over to his fellow-teacher he whispered, "The answer to the difficulty is, 'With men it is impossible, but not with God, for with God all things are possible.'" Such was the solution of "the difficulty;" too true a sample, I fear, of the way in which on the one hand honest doubts are often met, as though all enquiry into what is perplexing in Scripture must be criminal; and on the other, of the absurdities which are confidently put forth as true expositions of God's mind and word.
Your difficulty is, how are we, as believers in Scripture, to reconcile its prophetic declarations as to the final restitution of all things, with those other statements of the same Scripture, which are so often quoted to prove eternal punishment. Scripture, you say, affirms that God our Father is a Saviour, full of pity towards the lost, seeking their restoration; so loving that He has given for man His Only-Begotten Son, in and by whom the curse shall be overcome, and all the kindreds of the earth be blessed; and yet that some shall go away into everlasting punishment, where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. How is it possible, you ask, to reconcile all this? Are not the statements directly inconsistent? And if so, must not the statements of the Bible, as of other books, be corrected by that light of reason and conscience, which is naturally or divinely implanted in every one of us?
Now I grant at once that there is a difficulty here, and further that the question how it is to be solved is one deserving our most attentive consideration. I entirely agree with you also, that "though indifference or devout timidity, calling itself submission, may set aside such enquiries as unpractical or even dangerous, though indolence under the guise of humility may refuse to look at them, and spiritual selfishness, wrapt in the mantle of its own supposed security, may forbid such investigations as presumptuous, Christ-like souls can no more be unconcerned as to what may or may not be God's mind as to the mass of humanity, than they can stand by unaffected when the destitute perish from hunger, or the dying agonize in pain." All this to me seems self-evident. But agreeing with you in this, I cannot grant that the difficulty you urge is unanswerable, or that, even if it were, you would be wise for such a reason to reject the Scriptures. Is there any revelation which God has given free from difficulties? Are there not even difficulties as to the present facts of life which are quite inexplicable? Is it not a fact that man comes into this world a fallen creature; and yet that God who made man is just, holy, and merciful? But how do you reconcile the facts? You think that man is not a sinner only because he does evil. You rather believe that he does evil because he is a sinner, and that, guard and train him as you will, evil will come out of him because it is already in him; that in the best there is an inability to do the good they would; that in all there is a self-will and self-love, the pregnant root of sin of every kind. And yet you say that God is good. Say that the evil came through Adam's disobedience; yet how is it just to make us suffer for a trespass committed thousands of years before we were born? That there is a difficulty here is evident from the many attempts which have been made to solve it. Yet you and I believe both sides of the mystery. We believe that man by nature is corrupt, his heart wrong from his mother's womb, a dying sinful creature, who cannot change or save himself, utterly hopeless but for God's redeeming mercy; and yet that God is good, and that He does not mock us when He declares that not He, but we, are blameable. Why then, seeing that life is such a mystery, and that there are contradictions in it which seem irreconcilable, and for the true answer to which we have often to wait, should you take the one difficulty you urge as a sufficient reason for hastily rejecting those Scriptures, which you have often found to be as a light in a dark place? Rather look again and again more carefully into them. Then you will see, as I think I see, how these Scriptures, rightly divided, open out far more exalted and glorious hopes for man than his own unaided imagination or understanding has ever yet dared to guess or been able to argue out.
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