Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

It is very often stated, by persons who profess to be expounding the doctrines of Christ, that God is Justice as well as Love. The Bible does not say so. It merely says that God is just. The meaning of this distinction we may take to be, that justice is not something opposed to love, but is rather its necessary outcome. It is just that the sinner should be punished in proportion to his sin, because only in this way can he be saved from that sin, which is the consummation love desires. In other words, just punishments may be regarded as expressions of love. I forget who it is who says, "A God all mercy is a God unjust." If by mercy he meant withholding punishment, we may say with equal truth, "A God all mercy is a God unkind." "Nothing emboldens sin," says one of Shakespeare's characters, "so much as mercy." But to do anything that emboldens sin is, in reality, to act most unmercifully. Eli, in the treatment of his children, is a type, not of affection, but of indifference. It is only a sickly sentimentalism that withholds punishment when punishment would be useful. God is too merciful for this. "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth."

Plato, in his ' Gorgias,' argues, in reference to the punishments inflicted by society, that the man who manages to avoid them is to be pitied;

for since vice is a disease of the soul, and

punishment its cure, he who gets off scot-free

is left, so far as society is concerned, to die of

his disease. And we may argue in a similar

manner regarding punishments in general. Just

as the caustic applied by a physician is meant

to destroy the disease which might otherwise

destroy the body, so the fire of retribution is

intended to consume the sin which might else

consume the sinner—which might «at away his

manhood, and leave him wasted, marred, ruined,

lost. God is not "satisfied" with the suffering that

follows sin. The suffering is merely a means

to an end, and that end is joy. God's glory

can be no selfish pride. It must consist in the

welfare of His creatures. "The Lord's portion

is His people." Hence, as Faber has finely

said—

'' God's justice is the gladdest thing
Creation can behold.

There is a wideness in His mercy-
Like the wideness of the sea;

There is a kindness in His justice
Which is more than liberty."

So the two apparently contradictory statements of our text are really quite consistent. The first is a corollary easily deducible from the second. If God be love, He must punish. Hence the fact of punishment is not an argument against the divine benevolence, but an additional argument for it. On the one hand, a retributive fire, consuming only to destroy, would be diabolical. On the other hand, a love which withheld the punishment essential to our wellbeing would be contemptible, and equally destructive. It would harm us while meaning to be kind. Out of pity it would ruin us. The love which consumes in order to save is alone worthy of being called divine.

As long as the universe contains a single sinner, the fire of love must be a consuming fire.

291

The Gifts of the Spirit.

"There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of administrations [or rather services], but the same Lord. There are diversities of operations [or workings], but it is the same God which worketh all in all. . . . The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal." —1 Cob. xii. 4-7.

TNTELLECTUAL progress consists in discover-*- ing the unity which underlies all diversity. In early ages the world seemed a chaos. Everything appeared to be totally different from everything else. Thousands and tens of thousands of conflicting agents were supposed to be at work in the production of natural phenomena. The woods appertained to one set of deities— the dryades; the mountains to another set— the oreades. Every star and every planet had a moving principle peculiar to itself. Storms and earthquakes, pestilences and eclipses, were thought to be the work of a variety of beings, who were guided by all sorts of different motives, and whose future action it was absolutely impossible to predict. There were gods many and lords many, who found in the material universe a convenient playground for their manifold caprices. The history of science is a record of the discovery in this primeval chaos of the unifying principle of Law. Over and over again, phenomena that seemed altogether dissimilar, have turned out to be merely different operations of one and the self-same force. The apple, which falls to the ground, once seemed to have nothing in common with the moon, which does not so fall. But now we know that both are equally under the control of gravity; that the moon is attracted no less than the apple; and that the tendency to fall earthwards, produced in it by this attraction, is one of the factors determining its course. Or, to take another example, shooting-stars may even yet be regarded by some as mere lusus naturae, altogether unique in their origin and nature. But the investigations of some German physicists have recently brought to light the fact, that these eccentric objects contain animal remains. This discovery may be taken as proving what has long been believed by scientific men— that in those distant parts of the universe from which the meteorites have come, the same biolog

« AnteriorContinuar »