Part 3 out of 3
is pressed upon us, often with sickening keenness, by the commonplace
ills of our own commonplace lives: the cruel wrong of another's sin, the
long, wasting pain, the empty cradle, the broken heart. How can we look
on these things and yet believe that Eternal Love is on the throne?
Except we believe in Jesus we cannot; if we do, we must. For remember,
Jesus was no shallow optimist; He did not go through life seeing only
its pleasant things; He was at Cana of Galilee, but He was also at Nain;
over all His life there lay a shadow, the shadow of the Cross; He died
in the dark, betrayed of man, forsaken of God; surely He hath borne our
griefs and carried our sorrows. And yet through all, His faith in God
never wavered. He prayed, and He taught others to pray. When He lifted
His eyes towards heaven, it was with the word "Father" upon His lips;
and in like manner He bade His disciples, "When ye pray, say 'Father.'"
He took the trembling hands of men within His own, and looking into
their eyes, filled as they were with a thousand nameless fears, "Fear
not," He said, "our heavenly Father knoweth; let not your heart be
troubled, neither let it be afraid."
"Learn of Me ... and ye shall find rest unto your souls;" herein is the
secret of peace. But it is not enough that we give ear to the words of
Christ; we must make our own the whole meaning of the fact of Christ.
"God's in His heaven," sings Browning; "all's right with the world." But
if God is only in His heaven, all is _not_ right with the world. In
Christ we learn that God has come from out His heaven to earth; and in
the Cross of Christ we find the eternal love which meets and answers all
our fears. Fear not,
"Or if you fear,
Cast all your cares on God; that anchor holds."
"Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
* * * * *
"Now I saw in my dream, that at the further side of that plain
was a little hill called Lucre, and in that hill a
silver-mine, which some of them that had formerly gone that
way, because of the rarity of it, had turned aside to see; but
going too near the brink of the pit, the ground being
deceitful under them, broke, and they were slain;-some also
had been maimed there, and could not to their dying day be
their own men again."--JOHN BUNYAN.
* * * * *
_"How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the
kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to enter in
through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the
kingdom of God._"--LUKE xviii. 24, 25.
The most significant thing in the teaching of Jesus concerning money is
the large place which it fills in the records of our Lord's public
ministry. How large that place is few of us, perhaps, realize. Even
religious writers who take in hand to set forth Christ's teaching in
detail, for the most part, pass over this subject in silence. In
Hastings' great _Dictionary of the Bible_ we find, under "Money," a most
elaborate article, extending to nearly twenty pages, and discussing with
great fullness and learning the coinage of various Biblical periods; but
when we seek to know what the New Testament has to say concerning the
use and perils of wealth, the whole subject is dismissed in some nine
Very different is the impression which we receive from the Gospels
themselves. It is not possible here to bring together all Christ's words
about money, but we may take the third Gospel (in which the references
to the subject are most numerous) and note Christ's more striking
sayings in the order in which they occur. In the parable of the sower,
in the eighth chapter, the thorns which choke the good seed are the
"cares and riches and pleasures of this life." Chapter twelve contains a
warning against covetousness, enforced by the parable of the rich fool
and its sharp-pointed application, "So is he that layeth up treasure for
himself, and is not rich toward God." The fourteenth chapter sheds a new
light on the law of hospitality: "When thou makest a dinner or a supper,
call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, nor thy kinsmen, nor rich
neighbours ... but when thou makest a feast, bid the poor, the maimed,
the lame, the blind; and thou shalt be blessed." Chapter fifteen tells
how a certain son wasted his substance with riotous living. Chapter
sixteen opens with the parable of the unjust steward; then follow
weighty words touching the right use of "the mammon of unrighteousness."
But the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, when they heard these
things, "scoffed at Him." Christ's answer is the parable of Dives and
Lazarus, with which the chapter closes. Chapter eighteen tells of a rich
young ruler's choice, and of Christ's sorrowful comment thereon: "How
hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God." And
then, lastly, in the nineteenth chapter, we hear Zacchaeus, into whose
home and heart Christ had entered, resolving on the threshold of his new
life that henceforth the half of his goods he would give to the poor,
and that where he had wrongfully exacted aught of any man he would
restore four-fold. It is indeed a remarkable fact, the full significance
of which few Christians have yet realized, that, as John Ruskin says,
the subject which we might have expected a Divine Teacher would have
been content to leave to others is the very one He singles out on which
to speak parables for all men's memory.
The question is sometimes asked how the teaching of Jesus concerning
money is related to that strange product of civilization, the modern
millionaire. The present writer, at least, cannot hold with those who
think that Christ was a communist, or that He regarded the possession of
wealth as in itself a sin. Nevertheless, it is impossible not to
sympathize with the feeling that the accumulation of huge fortunes in
the hands of individuals is not according to the will of Christ. Mr.
Andrew Carnegie is reported to have said that a man who dies a
millionaire dies disgraced; and few persons who take their New Testament
seriously will be disposed to contradict him. But, inasmuch as all
millionaires are not prepared like Mr. Carnegie to save themselves from
disgrace, the question is beginning to arise in the minds of many,
whether society itself should not come to the rescue--its own and the
rich man's. No man, it may be pretty confidently affirmed, can possibly
_earn_ a million; he may obtain it, he may obtain it by methods which
are not technically unjust, but he has not earned it. Be a man's powers
what they may, it is impossible that his share of the wealth which he
has helped to create can be fairly represented by a sum so vast. If he
receives it, others may reasonably complain that there is something
wrong in the principle of distribution. And unless, both by a larger
justice to his employees, and by generous benefactions to the public, he
do something to correct the defects in his title, he must not be
surprised if some who feel themselves disinherited are driven to ask
ominous and inconvenient questions.
This, however, is a matter which it is impossible now to discuss
further. Turning again to Christ's sayings about money, we may summarize
them in this fashion: Christ says nothing about the making of money, He
says much about the use of it, and still more about its perils and the
need there is for a revised estimate of its worth. Following the example
of Christ, it is the last point of which I wish more especially to
speak. But before coming to that, it may be well briefly to recall some
of the things which Christ has said touching the use of wealth. Wealth,
He declares, is a trust, for our use of which we must give account unto
God. In our relation to others we may be proprietors; before God there
are no proprietors, but all are stewards. And in the Gospels there are
indicated some of the ways in which our stewardship may be fulfilled. I
will mention two of them.
(1) "When thou doest alms"--Christ, you will observe, took for granted
that His disciples would give alms, as He took for granted that they
would pray. He prescribes no form which our charity must take; we have
to exercise our judgment in this, as in other matters. Obedience is left
the largest liberty, but not the liberty of disobedience; and they who
open their ears greedily to take in all that the political economist and
others tell us of the evils of indiscriminate charity, only that they
may the more tightly button up their pockets against the claims of the
needy, are plainly disregarding the will of Christ. If what we are told
is true, the more binding is the obligation to discover some other way
in which our alms-giving may become more effective. The duty itself no
man can escape who calls Christ Jesus Lord and Master.
(2) But wealth, Christ tells us, may minister not merely to the physical
necessities, but to the beauty and happiness of life. When Christ was
invited to the marriage-feast at Cana of Galilee, when Matthew the
publican made for Him a feast in His own house, He did not churlishly
refuse, saying that such expenditure was wasteful and wicked excess.
When in the house of Simon the leper Mary "took a pound of ointment of
spikenard, very precious, and anointed the feet of Jesus," and they that
sat by murmured, saying, "To what purpose is this waste? for this
ointment might have been sold for above three hundred pence and given to
the poor," Jesus threw His shield about this woman and her deed of love:
"Let her alone; why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work on Me."
These words, it has been well said, are "the charter of all undertakings
which propose, in the name of Christ, to feed the mind, to stir the
imagination, to quicken the emotions, to make life less meagre, less
animal, less dull." Do not let us speak as though the only friends
of the poor were those who gave them oatmeal at Christmas, or who secure
for them alms-houses in their old age. There is a life which is more
than meat, and all heavenly charity is not to be bound up in bags of
flour. He who strives to bring into the grey, monotonous lives of the
toilers of our great cities the sweet, refining influences of art, and
music and literature, he who helps his fellows to see and to love the
true and the beautiful and the good, is not one whit less a benefactor
of his kind than he who obtains for them better food and better homes.
Man shall not live by bread alone, and they who use their wealth to
minister to a higher life serve us not less really than they who provide
for our physical needs.
Much, however, as Christ has to say concerning the noble uses to which
wealth may be put, it is not here, as every reader of the Gospels must
feel, that the full emphasis of His words comes. It is when He goes on
to speak of the perils of the rich, and of our wrong estimates of the
worth of wealth, that His solemn warnings pierce to the quick. Christ
did not live, nor does He call us to live, in an unreal world, though
perhaps there are few subjects concerning which more unreal words have
been spoken than this. The power of wealth is great, the power of
consecrated wealth is incalculably great; and this the New Testament
freely recognizes; but wealth is _not_ the great, necessary,
all-sufficing thing that ninety-nine out of a hundred of us believe it
to be. And when we put it first, and make it the standard by which all
things else are to be judged, Christ tells us plainly that we are
falling into a temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful
lusts; we are piercing ourselves through with many sorrows. For once at
least, then, let us try to look at money with His eyes and to weigh it
in His balances.
Christ was Himself a poor man. His mother was what to-day we should call
a working-man's wife, and probably also the mother of a large family.
When, as an infant, Jesus was presented in the Temple, the offering
which His parents brought was that which the law prescribed in the case
of the poor: "a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons." When He came
to manhood, and entered on His public ministry, He had no home He could
call His own. In His Father's house, He said, were many mansions; but on
earth He had not where to lay His head. Women ministered unto Him of
their substance. We never read that He had any money at all. When once
He wanted to use a coin as an illustration, He borrowed it; when, at
another time, He needed one with which to pay a tax, He wrought a
miracle in order to procure it. As He was dying, the soldiers, we are
told, parted His garments among them--that was all there was to divide.
When He was dead, men buried Him in another's tomb. More literally true
than perhaps we always realize was the apostle's saying, "He became
Who, then, will deny that a man's life consisteth not in the abundance
of the things which he possesseth? Yet how strangely materialized our
thoughts have become! Our very language has been dragged down and made a
partner with us in our fall. When, for example, our Authorized Version
was written in 1611, the translators could write, without fear of being
misunderstood, "Let no man seek his own, but every man another's
_wealth_" (i Cor. x. 24). But though the nobler meaning of the word
still survives in "well" and "weal," "wealth" to-day is rarely used save
to indicate abundance of material good. When Thackeray makes "Becky
Sharp" say that she could be good if she had L4000 a year, and when. Mr.
Keir Hardie asks if it is possible for a man to be a Christian on a
pound a week, the thoughts of many hearts are revealed. There is nothing
to be done without money, we think; money is the golden key which
unlocks all doors; money is the lever which removes all difficulties.
This is what many of us are saying, and what most of us in our hearts
are thinking. But clean across these spoken and unspoken thoughts of
ours, there comes the life of Jesus, the man of Nazareth, to rebuke, and
shame, and silence us. Who in His presence dare speak any more of the
sovereign might of money?
This is the lesson of the life of the Best. Is it not also the lesson of
the lives of the good in all ages? The greatest name in the great world
of Greece is Socrates; and Socrates was a poor man. The greatest name in
the first century of the Christian era is Paul; and Paul was a
working-man and sometimes in want. It was Calvinism, Mark Pattison said,
that in the sixteenth century saved Europe, and Calvin's strength, a
Pope once declared, lay in this, that money had no charm for him. John
Wesley re-created modern England and left behind him "two silver
teaspoons and the Methodist Church." The "Poets' Corner" in Westminster
Abbey, it has been said, commemorates a glorious company of paupers. And
even in America, the land of the millionaire and multi-millionaire, the
names that are graven on the nation's heart, and which men delight to
honour, are not its Vanderbilts, or its Jay Goulds, but Lincoln, and
Grant, and Garfield, and Webster, and Clay.
This is not mere "curb-stone rhetoric"; I speak the words of soberness
and truth. Would that they in whose blood the "narrowing lust of gold"
has begun to burn might be sobered by them! In the name of Jesus of
Nazareth, and of all the noblest of the sons of men, let us deny and
defy the sordid traditions of mammon; let us make it plain that we at
least do not believe "the wealthiest man among us is the best."
"Godliness with contentment," said the apostle, "is great gain;" and
though these are not the only worthy ends of human effort, yet he who
has made them his has secured for himself a treasure which faileth not,
which will endure when the gilded toys for which men strive and sweat
are dust and ashes.
It is further worthy of note that it was always the rich rather than the
poor whom Christ pitied. He was sorry for Lazarus; He was still more
sorry for Dives. "Blessed are ye poor.... Woe unto you that are rich."
This two-fold note sounds through all Christ's teaching. And the reason
is not far to seek. As Jesus looked on life, He saw how the passionate
quest for gold was starving all the higher ideals of life. Men were
concentrating their souls on pence till they could think of nothing
else. For mammon's sake they were turning away from the kingdom of
heaven. The spirit of covetousness was breaking the peace of households,
setting brother against brother, making men hard and fierce and
relentless. Under its hot breath the fairest growths of the spirit were
drooping and ready to die. The familiar "poor but pious" which meets us
so often in a certain type of biography could never have found a place
on the lips of Jesus. "Rich but pious" would have been far truer to the
facts of life as He saw them. "The ground of a certain rich man brought
forth plentifully," and after that he could think of nothing but barns:
there was no room for God in his life. "The Pharisees who were lovers of
money heard these things; and they scoffed at Him;" of course, what
could their jaundiced eyes see in Jesus? And even to one of whom it is
written that Jesus, "looking upon him loved him," his great possessions
proved a magnet stronger than the call of Christ. It was Emerson, I
think, who said that the worst thing about money is that it so often
costs so much. To take heed that we do not pay too dearly for it, is the
warning which comes to us from every page of the life of Jesus. Are
there none of us who need the warning? "Ye cannot serve God and mammon;"
we know it, and that we may the better serve mammon, we are sacrificing
God and conscience on mammon's unholy altars. And to-day, perhaps, we
are content that it should be so. But will our satisfaction last? Shall
we be as pleased with the bargain to-morrow and the day after as we
think we are to-day? And when our last day comes--what? "Forefancy your
deathbed," said Samuel Rutherford; and though the counsel ill fits the
mood of men in their youth and strength, it is surely well sometimes to
look forward and ask how life will bear hereafter the long look back.
"This night is thy soul required of thee; and the things which thou hast
prepared whose shall they be?"--not his, and he had nothing else. He had
laid up treasure for himself, but it was all of this world's coinage; of
the currency of the land whither he went he had none. In one of Lowell's
most striking poems he pictures the sad retrospect of one who, through
fourscore years, had wasted on ignoble ends God's gift of life; his
"plucked the world's coarse gains
As erst they plucked the flowers of May;"
but what now, in life's last hours, are gains like these?
"God bends from out the deep and says,
'I gave thee the great gift of life;
Wast thou not called in many ways?
Are not My earth and heaven at strife?
I gave thee of My seed to sow,
Bringest thou Me My hundred-fold?'
Can I look up with face aglow,
And answer, 'Father, here is gold'?"
And the end of the poem is a wail:
"I hear the reapers singing go
Into God's harvest; I, that might
With them have chosen, here below
Grope shuddering at the gates of night."
Wherefore let us set not our minds on the things that are upon earth;
let us covet earnestly the best gifts; let us seek first the kingdom of
God; and all other things in due season and in due measure shall be
added unto us.
* * * * *
CONCERNING THE SECOND ADVENT
"Lo as some venturer, from his stars receiving
Promise and presage of sublime emprise,
Wears evermore the seal of his believing
Deep in the dark of solitary eyes,
Yea to the end, in palace or in prison,
Fashions his fancies of the realm to be,
Fallen from the height or from the deeps arisen,
Ringed with the rocks and sundered of the sea;--
So even I, and with a heart more burning,
So even I, and with a hope more sweet,
Groan for the hour, O Christ! of Thy returning,
Faint for the flaming of Thine advent feet."
F.W.H. MYERS, _Saint Paul_.
* * * * *
CONCERNING THE SECOND ADVENT
"_They shall see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven
with power and great glory.... Of that day and hour knoweth no
one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the
Father only."_--MATT. xxiv. 30, 36.
The doctrine of our Lord's Second Coming occupies at the present moment
a curiously equivocal position in the thought of the Christian Church.
On the one hand by many it is wholly ignored. There is no conscious
disloyalty on their part to the word of God; but the subject makes no
appeal to them, it fails to "find" them. Ours is a sternly practical
age, and any truth which does not readily link itself on to the
necessities of life is liable speedily to be put on one side and
forgotten. This is what has happened with this particular doctrine in
the case of multitudes; it is not denied, but it is banished to what Mr.
Lecky calls "the land of the unrealized and the inoperative." But if, on
the one hand, the doctrine has suffered from neglect, on the other it
has suffered hardly less from undue attention. Indeed of late years the
whole subject of the "Last Things" has been turned into a kind of happy
hunting-ground for little sects, who carry on a ceaseless wordy warfare
both with themselves and the rest of the Christian world. Men and women
without another theological interest in the world are yet keen to argue
about Millenarianism, and to try their 'prentice hands on the
interpretation of the imagery of the apocalyptic literature of both the
Old Testament and the New. As Spurgeon used to say, they are so taken up
with the second coming of our Lord that they forget to preach the first
So that one hardly knows which to regret more, the neglect and
indifference of the one class, or the unhealthy, feverish absorption of
As very often happens in cases of this kind each extreme is largely
responsible for the other. Neglect prepares the way for exaggeration;
exaggeration leads to further neglect. Moreover, in the case before us,
both tendencies are strengthened by the very difficulty in which the
subject is involved. Vagueness, uncertainty, mystery, attract some minds
as powerfully as they repel others. And, assuredly, the element of
uncertainty is not wanting here. In the first place, this is a subject
for all our knowledge of which we are wholly dependent upon revelation.
Much that Christ and His apostles have taught us we can bring to the
test of experience and verify for ourselves. But this doctrine we must
receive, if we receive it at all, wholly on the authority of One whom,
on other grounds, we have learned to trust. Verification, in the nature
of the case, is impossible. Further, we have gone but a little way when
revelation itself becomes silent; and, as I have said, when that guide
leaves us, we enter at once the dark forest where instantly the track is
Let us seek to learn, then, what Christ has revealed, and what He has
left unrevealed, concerning His coming again.
As to the _fact_ of Christ's coming we are left in no doubt. Our Lord's
own declarations are as explicit as language can make them. Thus, in
Matthew xvi. 27 we read that "the Son of Man shall come in the glory of
His Father with His angels; and then shall He render unto every man
according to his deeds." In the great discourse on the Last Things,
recorded by all the Synoptists, after speaking of the fall of Jerusalem,
Christ goes on, "Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven;
and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the
Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."
And again, in the Upper Room, He said to His disciples, "I go to prepare
a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again,
and will receive you unto Myself; that where I am ye may be also." The
hope of that return shines on every page of the New Testament: "This
Jesus," said the angels to the watching disciples, "which was received
up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye beheld Him
going into heaven." The early Christians were wont to speak, without
further definition, of "that day." St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians
how that they had "turned unto God from idols, to serve a living and
true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven." _Maran atha_--"our Lord
cometh"--was the great watchword of the waiting Church. When, at the
table of the Lord, they ate the bread and drank the cup, they proclaimed
His death "till He come." "Amen; come, Lord Jesus," is the passionate
cry with which our English Scriptures close.
For all those, then, to whom the New Testament speaks with authority,
the fact of Christ's return is established beyond all controversy. But
what will be the nature of His coming? Will it be visible and personal,
or spiritual and unseen? Will it be once and never again, or repeated?
Will Christ come at the end of history, or is He continually coming in
those great crises which mark the world's progress towards its appointed
end? These questions have been answered with such admirable simplicity
and scriptural truth by Dr. Denney that I cannot do better than quote
his words: "It may be frankly admitted," he says, "that the return of
Christ to His disciples is capable of different interpretations. He came
again, though it were but intermittently, when He appeared to them after
His resurrection. He came again, to abide with them permanently, when
His Spirit was given to the Church at Pentecost. He came, they would all
feel who lived to see it, signally in the destruction of Jerusalem, when
God executed judgment historically on the race which had rejected Him,
and when the Christian Church was finally and decisively liberated from
the very possibility of dependence on the Jewish. He comes still, as His
own words to the High Priest suggest--From this time on ye shall see the
Son of Man coming--in the great crises of history, when the old order
changes, yielding place to the new; when God brings a whole age, as it
were, into judgment, and gives the world a fresh start. But all these
admissions, giving them the widest possible application, do not enable
us to call in question what stands so plainly in the pages of the New
Testament,--what filled so exclusively the minds of the first
Christians--the idea of a personal return of Christ at the end of the
world. We need lay no stress on the scenery of New Testament prophecy,
any more than on the similar element of Old Testament prophecy; the
voice of the archangel and the trump of God are like the turning of the
sun into darkness and the moon into blood; but if we are to retain any
relation to the New Testament at all, we must assert the personal return
of Christ as Judge of all."
So far I think is clear. It is when we come to speak of the time of our
Lord's return that our difficulties begin. It appears to me impossible
to doubt that the first Christians were looking for the immediate return
of our Lord to the earth. At one time even St. Paul seems to have
expected Him within his own life-time. Nor does this fact in itself
cause us any serious perplexity. What does perplex us is to find in the
Gospels language attributed to Christ which apparently makes Him a
supporter of this mistaken view. _E.g._, we have these three separate
sayings, recorded in St. Matthew's Gospel: "But when they persecute you
in this city, flee into the next; for verily I say unto you, Ye shall
not have gone through the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come"
(x. 23); "Verily I say unto you, There be some of them that stand here,
which shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the Son of Man
coming in His kingdom" (xvi. 28); "Verily I say unto you, This
generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished"
(xxiv. 34). This seems plain enough; and if we are to take the words as
they stand, we seem to be shut up to the conclusion that our Lord was
mistaken, that He ventured on a prediction which events have falsified.
Let us see if this really be so. I leave, for the moment, the words I
have quoted in order to cite other words which point in a quite
To begin with, we have the emphatic statement: "But of that day and hour
knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the
Father only." We remember also Christ's words to His disciples, on the
eve of the Ascension, "It is not for you to know times or seasons, which
the Father hath set within His own authority." There is, further, a
whole class of sayings, exhortations, and parables, which seem plainly
to involve a prolonged Christian era, and, consequently, the
postponement to a far distant time, of the day of Christ's return. Thus,
there are the passages which speak of the preaching of the gospel to the
nations beyond: "Wheresoever the gospel shall be preached throughout the
whole world, that also which this woman hath done shall be spoken of for
a memorial of her" (Mark xiv. 9); "This gospel of the kingdom shall be
preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations; and
then shall the end come" (Matt. xxiv. 14). There is the parable which
tells of the tarrying of the bridegroom till even the wise virgins
slumbered and slept. "After a long time," we read in another parable,
"the Lord of those servants cometh and maketh a reckoning with them."
What is the significance of the parable of the leaven hid in three
measures of meal, and still more, of that group of parables which depict
the growth of the kingdom--the parables of the sower, the wheat and
tares, the mustard-seed, and the seed growing gradually? Does not all
this point not to a great catastrophe nigh at hand, which should bring
to an end the existing order of things, but rather to just such a future
for the kingdom of God on earth as the actual course of history reveals?
And this, and no other, was, I believe, the impression which Christ
desired to leave on the minds of His disciples.
What, then, are we to make of those other and apparently contrary words
which I have quoted, but meanwhile have left unexplained? They
constitute, without doubt, one of the most perplexing problems which the
interpreter of the New Testament has to face, and any suggestion for
meeting the difficulty must be made with becoming caution. I can but
briefly indicate the direction in which the probable solution may be
found. Our Lord, as we have already seen, spoke of His coming again, not
only at the end of the world, but in the course of it: in the power of
His Spirit, at the fall of Jerusalem, in the coming of His kingdom among
men. But the minds of the disciples were full of the thought of His
_final_ coming, which would establish for ever the glory of His
Messianic kingdom; and it would seem that this fact has determined both
the form and the setting of some of Christ's sayings which they have
preserved for us. Words which He meant to refer to Israel's coming
judgment-day they, in the ardour of their expectation, referred to the
last great day. In the first Gospel, especially, we may trace some such
influence at work. When, _e.g._, Matthew represents our Lord as saying,
"There be some of them that stand here which shall in no wise taste of
death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom," it is
evident, both from the words themselves and from the context, that he
understood them to refer to the final return. Luke, however, speaks only
of seeing "the kingdom of God," and Mark of seeing "the kingdom of God
come in power." And if these words were our only version of the prophecy
they would present no difficulty; we should feel that they had received
adequate fulfilment in the events of the great day of Pentecost. We
conclude, therefore, that of the three reports before us the second and
third, which are practically the same, reproduce more correctly the
words actually spoken by Christ; and that the account given in the first
Gospel was coloured by the eager hope of the early followers of Christ
for their Master's speedy return.
To sum up in a sentence the results of this brief inquiry: Christ's
teaching concerning His return leaves us both in a state of certainty
and uncertainty. "We believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge"--that
is our certainty; "Of that day and hour knoweth no one"--that is our
uncertainty. And each of these carries with it its own lesson.
"Of that day and hour knoweth no one;" and we must be content not to
know. There are things that are "revealed"; and they belong to us and to
our children. And there are "secret things," which belong neither to us,
nor to our children, but to God. Just as a visitor to Holyrood Palace
finds some rooms open and free, through which he may wander at will,
while from others he is strictly excluded, so in God's world there are
locked doors through which it is not lawful for any man to enter. And it
is our duty to be faithful to our ignorance as well as to our knowledge.
There is a Christian as well as an anti-Christian agnosticism. To pry
into the secret things of God is no less a sin than wilfully to remain
ignorant of what He has been pleased to make known. The idly inquisitive
spirit which is never at rest save when it is poking into forbidden
corners, Christ always checks and condemns. "Lord," asked one, "are
there few that be saved?" But He would give no answer save this: "Strive
to enter in by the narrow door." "Lord, and this man what?" said Peter,
curious concerning the unrevealed future of his brother apostle. But
again idle curiosity must go unsatisfied: "If I will that he tarry till
I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me." "Lord dost Thou at this
time restore the kingdom to Israel?" But once more He will give no
answer: "It is not for you to know the times or seasons which the Father
hath set within His own authority." And yet, strangely enough, that
which Christ has seen good to leave untold is the one thing concerning
His coming on which the minds of multitudes have fastened. It says
little, either for our religion or our common-sense, that one of the
most widely circulated religious newspapers of our day is one which
fills its columns with absurd guesses and forecasts concerning those
very "times" and "seasons" of which Christ has told us that it is not
for us to know. Christ has given us no detailed map of the future, and
when foolish persons pester us with little maps of their own making, let
us to see to it that they get no encouragement from us. Let us dare
always to be faithful to our ignorance.
But if there is much we do not know, this we do know: the Lord will
come. And, alike on the ground of what we know and of what we do not
know, our duty is clear: we must "watch," so that whether He come at
even, or at midnight, or at cock-crowing, or in the morning, He shall
find us ready. Christ's solemn injunction left an indelible mark on the
mind of the Early Church. "Yourselves know perfectly," St. Paul writes
in the first of his apostolic letters, "that the day of the Lord so
cometh as a thief in the night ... so then let us not sleep, as do the
rest, but let us watch and be sober." As St. Augustine says, "The last
day is hidden that every day maybe regarded." But what, exactly, is the
meaning of the command to "watch"? It cannot be that we are to be always
"on the watch." That would simply end in the feverish excitement and
unrest which troubled the peace of the Church of Thessalonica. The true
meaning is given us, I think, in the parable of the Ten Virgins. Five
were wise, not because they watched all night for the bridegroom, for it
is written "they _all_ slumbered and slept," but because they were
prepared; and five were foolish, not because they did not watch, but
because they were unprepared. "The fisherman's wife who spends her time
on the pier-head watching for the boats, cannot be so well prepared to
give her husband a comfortable reception as the woman who is busy about
her household work, and only now and again turns a longing look
seaward." So Christ's command to "watch" means, not "Be ye always on
the watch," but, "Be ye always ready."
Spurgeon once said, with characteristic humour and good sense, that
there were friends of his to whom he would like to say, "Ye men of
Plymouth, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? Go on with your work." He
who in a world like ours can sit and gaze with idly folded hands--let
not that man think he shall receive anything of the Lord. A lady once
asked John Wesley, "Suppose that you knew you were to die at twelve
o'clock to-morrow night, how would you spend the intervening time?"
"How, Madam?" he replied; "why just as I intend to spend it now. I
should preach this night at Gloucester, and again at five to-morrow
morning. After that I should ride to Tewkesbury, preach in the
afternoon, and meet the societies in the evening. I should then repair
to friend Martin's house, who expects to entertain me, converse and pray
with the family as usual, retire to my room at ten o'clock, commend
myself to my heavenly Father, lie down to rest, and wake up in glory."
This is the right attitude for the Christian. The old cry must not fade
from our lips, nor the old hope from our heart: _Maran atha_, "our Lord
cometh." But meanwhile He hath given to every man his work; and we may
be sure there is no preparation for His coming like the faithful doing
of the appointed task. "Blessed is that servant whom His Lord when He
cometh shall find so doing."
* * * * *
CONCERNING THE JUDGMENT
"I often have a kind of waking dream; up one road the image of
a man decked and adorned as if for a triumph, carried up by
rejoicing and exulting friends, who praise his goodness and
achievements; and, on the other road, turned back to back to
it, there is the very man himself, in sordid and squalid
apparel, surrounded not by friends but by ministers of
justice, and going on, while his friends are exulting, to his
certain and perhaps awful judgment."--R.W. CHURCH.
* * * * *
CONCERNING THE JUDGMENT
"_When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the
angels with Him, then shall He sit on the throne of His glory:
and before Him shall be gathered all the nations: and He shall
separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the
sheep from the goats: and He shall set the sheep on His right
hand, but the goats on the left._"--MATT. XXV. 31-33.
He, the speaker, will do this. It is the most stupendous claim that ever
fell from human lips. A young Jewish carpenter whose brief career, as He
Himself well knew, was just about to end in a violent and shameful
death, tells the little, fearful band which still clung to Him, that a
day is coming when before Him all the nations shall be gathered, and by
Him be separated as a shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats. In
the world's long history there is nothing like it.
That Jesus did really claim to be the Judge of all men, it is, I
believe, impossible to doubt. The passage just quoted is by no means our
only evidence. In the Sermon on the Mount, which foolish persons who
love to depreciate theology sometimes speak of as though it were the
pith and marrow of the Christian gospel, Christ says, "Many will say to
Me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by Thy name, and by Thy
name cast out devils, and by Thy name do many mighty works? And then
will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work
iniquity." Again, He says, "Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My
words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man also
shall be ashamed of Him when He cometh in the glory of His Father with
the holy angels;" and again, "The Son of Man shall come in the glory of
His Father with His angels; and then shall He render unto every man
according to His deeds." The fourth Gospel also represents Him as
saying, "Neither doth the Father judge any man, but He hath given all
judgment to the Son ... and He gave Him authority to execute judgment
because He is the Son of Man." And if still further evidence be
necessary it would be easy to show both from the Acts and the Epistles
that from the very beginning all the disciples of Jesus believed and
taught that He would come again to be their Judge.
Consider what this means. Reference has already been made in an earlier
chapter to Christ's witness concerning Himself, to His deep and
unwavering consciousness of separateness from all others. But more
striking, perhaps, than any illustration mentioned there is that
furnished by the fact before us now. What must His thoughts about
Himself have been who could speak of Himself in relation to all others
as Christ does here? When men write about Jesus as though He were merely
a gentle, trustful, religious genius, preaching a sweet gospel of the
love of God to the multitudes of Galilee, they are but shutting their
eyes to one half of the facts which it is their duty to explain.
Speaking generally, we do well to distrust the dilemma as a form of
argument; but in this case there need be no hesitation in putting the
alternative with all possible bluntness: either Christ was God, or He
was not good. That Jesus, if He were merely a good man, with a good
man's consciousness of and sensitiveness to His own weakness and
limitations, could yet have arrogated to Himself the right to be the
supreme judge and final arbiter of the destinies of mankind, is simply
not thinkable. And the more we ponder the stupendous claim which Christ
makes, the more must we feel that it is either superhuman authority
which speaks to us here or superhuman arrogance. Either Christ spoke out
of the depths of His own Divine consciousness, knowing that the Father
had committed all judgment unto the Son; or He made use of words and put
forth claims which were, and which He must have known to have been,
empty, false, and blasphemous.
Such is the significance of Christ's words in their relation to Himself.
It is, however, with their relation to ourselves that we are primarily
concerned now. Of the wholly unimaginable circumstances of that day when
the Son of Man shall come in His glory and all the nations be gathered
before Him I shall not attempt to speak. As Dean Church has well
said, no vision framed with the materials of our present experience
could adequately represent the truth, and, indeed, it is well that our
minds should be diverted from matters which lie wholly beyond our reach,
that they may dwell upon the solemn certainties which Christ has
revealed. Let us think, first of the fact, and secondly of the issues,
The persistent definiteness with which the fact of judgment is affirmed
by the New Testament we have already seen. Nor is the New Testament our
only witness. The belief in a higher tribunal before which the judgments
of time are to be revised, and in many cases reversed, may be said to be
part of the creed of the race. Plato had his vision of judgment as well
as Jesus. And in the Old Testament, and especially in the Book of
Psalms, the same faith finds repeated and magnificent utterance: "Our
God shall come, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before
Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him. He shall call to
the heavens above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people;" and
again, "For He cometh, for He cometh to judge the earth: He shall judge
the world with righteousness and the peoples with His truth."
Here, then, is the fact which demands a place in the thoughts of each of
us--we are all to be judged. Life is not to be folded up, like a piece
of finished work, and then laid aside and forgotten; it is to be gone
over again and examined by the hand and eyes of Perfect Wisdom and
Perfect Love. Each day we are writing, and often when the leaf is turned
that which has been written passes from our mind and is remembered no
more; but it is there, and one day the books--the Book of Life, of our
life--will be opened, and the true meaning of the record revealed. Life
brings to us many gifts of many kinds, and as it lays them in our hands,
for our use and for our blessing, it is always, had we but ears to hear,
with the warning word, "Know thou, that for all these things, God will
bring thee into judgment."
It is, indeed, a tremendous thought. When Daniel Webster was once asked
what was the greatest thought that had ever occupied his mind, he
answered, "the fact of my personal accountability to God." And no man
can give to such a fact its due place without feeling its steadying,
sobering influence through all his life. Lament is often made to-day,
and not without reason, of our failing sense of the seriousness of life.
A plague of frivolity, more deadly than the locusts of Egypt, has fallen
upon us, and is smiting all our green places with barrenness. Somehow,
and at all costs, we must get back our lost sense of responsibility. If
we would remember that God has a right hand and a left hand; if we would
put to ourselves Browning's question, "But what will God say?" if
sometimes we would pull ourselves up sharp, and ask--this that I am
doing, how will it look then, in that day when "Each shall stand
full-face with all he did below"? if, I say, we would do this, could
life continue to be the thing of shows and make-believe it so often is?
It was said of the late Dean Church by one who knew him well: "He seemed
to live in the constant recollection of something which is awful, even
dreadful to remember--something which bears with searching force on all
men's ways and hopes and plans--something before which he knew himself
to be as it were continually arraigned--something which it was strange
and pathetic to find so little recognized among other men." But, alas!
this is how we refuse to live. We thrust the thought of judgment from
us; we treat it as an unwelcome intruder, a disturber of our peace; we
block up every approach by which it might gain access to our minds. We
do not deny that there is a judgment to come; but our habitual disregard
of it is verily amazing. "Judge not," said Christ, "that ye be not
judged;" yet every day we let fly our random arrows, careless in whose
hearts they may lodge. "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall
give account thereof in the day of judgment;" yet with what superb
recklessness do we abuse God's great gift of speech! "We shall all stand
before the judgment-seat of God;" yes, we know it; but when do we think
of it? What difference does it make to us?
What can indifference such as this say for itself? How can it justify
itself before the bar of reason? Do we realize that our neglect has
Christ to reckon with? These things of which I have spoken are not the
gossamer threads of human speculation; they are the strong cords of
Divine truth and they cannot be broken. "You seem, sir," said Mrs. Adams
to Dr. Johnson, in one of his despondent hours, when the fear of death
and judgment lay heavy on him, "to forget the merits of our Redeemer."
"Madam," said the honest old man, "I do not forget the merits of my
Redeemer; but my Redeemer has said that He will set some on His right
hand and some on His left." Yes, it is the words of Christ with which we
have to do; and if we are wise, if we know the things which belong unto
our peace, we shall find for them a place within our hearts.
The issues of the Judgment may be summed up in a single
word--separation: "He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the
goats on the left." Stated thus broadly, the issue of the Judgment
satisfies our sense of justice. If there is to be judgment at all,
separation must be the outcome. And in that separation is vindicated one
of man's most deep-seated convictions. As right is right and wrong is
wrong, and right and wrong are not the same, so neither can their issues
be the same. "We have a robust common-sense of morality which refuses to
believe that it does not matter whether a man has lived like the Apostle
Paul or the Emperor Nero." We can never crush out the conviction that
there must be one place for St. John, who was Jesus' friend, and another
for Judas Iscariot, who was His betrayer." This must be,
"Else earth is darkness at the core,
And dust and ashes all that is."
We must be sure that God has a right hand and a left, that good and evil
are distinct, and will for ever remain so, that each will go to his own
place, the place for which he is prepared, for which he has prepared
himself, or our day would be turned into night and our whole life put to
So far, Christ's words present no difficulty. To many, however, it is a
serious perplexity to find that Christ speaks of but two classes into
which by the Judgment men are divided. There are the sheep and the
goats, the good and the bad, and there are no others. To us it seems
impossible to divide men thus. They are not, we think, good _or_ bad,
but good _and_ bad. "I can understand," some one has said, "what is to
become of the sheep, and I can understand what is to become of the
goats, but how are the alpacas to be dealt with?" The alpaca, it
should be said, is an animal possessing some of the characteristics both
of the sheep and the goat, and the meaning of the question is, of
course, what is to become of that vast middle class in whose lives
sometimes good and sometimes evil seems to rule?
Now it is a remarkable fact that Scripture knows nothing of any such
middle class. Some men it calls good, others it calls evil, but it has
no middle term. Note, _e.g._, this typical contrast from the Book of
Proverbs: "The path of the righteous is as the light of dawn, that
shineth more and more unto the noon-tide of the day. The way of the
wicked is as darkness; they know not at what they stumble." Or listen to
Peter's question: "If the righteous is scarcely saved, where shall the
ungodly and sinner appear?" In both instances the assumption is the
same: there, on the one hand, are the righteous; and there, on the
other, are the wicked; and beside these there are no others. The same
classification is constant throughout the teaching of Jesus. He speaks
of two gates, and two ways, and two ends. There are the guests who
accept the King's invitation and sit down in His banqueting hall, and
there are those who refuse it and remain without. In the parable of the
net full of fishes the good are gathered into vessels, but the bad are
cast away. The wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest; then
the wheat is gathered into the barn, and the tares are cast into the
fire. The sheep are set on the right hand, and the goats on the left
hand; and there is no hint or suggestion that any other kind of
classification is necessary in order that all men may be truly and
justly dealt with.
All this may seem very arbitrary and impossible until we remember that
the classification is not ours but God's. It is not we who have to
divide men, setting one on the right hand and another on the left; that
is God's work; and it is well to remind ourselves that He invites none
of us to share His judgment-throne with Him, or, by any verdict of ours,
to anticipate the findings of the last great day. And because to us such
a division is impossible, it does not therefore follow that it should be
so to Him before whom all hearts are open and all desires known. _We_
cannot separate men thus because human character is so complex. But
complexity is a relative term; it depends on the eyes which behold it;
and our naming a thing complex may be but another way of declaring our
ignorance concerning it. We all know how a character, a life, a course
of events, which, on first view, seemed but a tangled, twisted skein, on
closer acquaintance often smooths itself out into perfect simplicity.
And there is surely no difficulty in believing that it should be so with
human life when it is judged by the perfect knowledge of God. Life is
like a great tree which casts forth on every side its far-spreading
branches. Yet all that moving, breathing mystery of twig and branch and
foliage springs from a single root. To us the mystery is baffling in its
complexity: we have looked at the branches. To God it is simple, clear:
He sees the hidden root from which it springs. So that, to go back to
our former illustration, it is only our ignorance which compels us to
speak of "alpacas" in the moral world. To perfect knowledge they will
prove to be, as Mr. Selby says, either slightly-disguised sheep or
There is a further fact also to be taken into account in considering
Christ's two-fold classification. Since it is the work of infinite
knowledge and justice it will have regard to all the facts of our life.
God looks not only at the narrow present, but back into the past, and
forward into the future. He marks the trend of the life, the bent and
bias of the soul. He chalks down no line saying, "Reach this or you are
undone for ever." He sets up no absolute standard to which if a man
attain he is a saint, or falling short of which he is a sinner. And when
He calls one man righteous and another wicked, He means very much more
than that one has done so many good deeds, and another so many evil
deeds; "righteous" and "wicked" describe what each is in himself, what
each will decisively reveal himself to be, when present tendencies have
fully worked themselves out. There are two twilights, the twilight of
evening and the twilight of morning; and therefore God's question to us
is not, how much light have we? but, which way do we face? to the night
or to the day? Not "What art thou?" but "What wilt thou?" is the supreme
question; it is the answer to this which sets some on the right hand and
some on the left.
* * * * *
Let us close as we began, remembering that it is Christ who is to be our
Judge. Therefore will the judgment be according to perfect truth. We
know how He judged men when He was here on earth--without respect of
persons, undeceived by appearances, seeing things always as they are,
calling them always by their true names. And such will His judgment be
hereafter. On the walls of the famous Rock Tombs of Thebes, there is a
group of figures representing the judging of the departed spirit before
Osiris, the presiding deity of the dead. In one hand he holds a
shepherd's crook, in the other a scourge; before him are the scales of
justice; that which is weighed is the heart of the dead king upon whose
lot the deity is called to decide. The pictured symbol is a dim
foreshadowing of that perfect judgment which He who looketh not at the
outward appearance but at the heart will one day pass on all the lives
of men. And yet an apostle has dared to write of "boldness in the day of
Judgment"! Surely St. John is very bold; yet was his boldness
well-based. He remembered the saying of his own Gospel: "The Father hath
given all judgment unto the Son ... because He is the Son of Man." Yes;
He who will come to be our Judge is He who once for us men, and for our
salvation, came down from heaven, and was made man, and upon the Cross
did suffer death for our redemption. Herein is the secret of the
"boldness" of the redeemed.
"Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
'Midst flaming worlds in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.
Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
Fully absolved through these I am,
From sin and fear, from guilt and shame."
* * * * *
CONCERNING THE FUTURE LIFE
"My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim;
But 'tis enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with Him."
* * * * *
CONCERNING THE FUTURE LIFE
"_Where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves
do not break through nor steal._"--MATT. vi. 20.
"_Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched._"--MARK ix.
These are both sayings of Christ, and each has reference to the life
beyond death; together they illustrate the two-fold thought of the
future which finds a place in all the records of our Lord's teaching.
Popular theology, it is sometimes said, seriously misunderstands and
misinterprets Jesus. And so far as the theology of the future life is
concerned there need be no hesitation in admitting that, not
unfrequently, it has been disfigured by an almost grotesque literalism.
The pulpit has often forgotten that over-statement is always a blunder,
and that any attempt to imagine the wholly unimaginable is most likely
to end in defeating our own intentions and in dissipating, rather than
reinforcing, our sense of the tremendous realities of which Christ
spoke. Nevertheless, much as theology may have erred in the form of its
teaching concerning the future, its great central ideas have always been
derived direct from Christ. It has not, we know, always made its appeal
to what is highest in man; it has sometimes spoken of "heaven" and
"hell" in a fashion that has left heart and conscience wholly untouched;
nevertheless, the time has not yet come--until men cease to believe in
Christ, the time never will have come--for banishing these words from
our vocabulary. Unless Christ were both a deceiver and deceived, they
represent realities as abiding as God and the soul, realities towards
which it behoves every man of us to discover how he stands. In the
teaching of Jesus, no less than in the teaching of popular theology, the
future has a bright side and it has a dark side; there is a heaven and
there is a hell.
That there is a life beyond this life, that death does not end all, is
of course always assumed in the teaching of Jesus. But it is much more
than this that we desire to know. What kind of a life is it? What are
its conditions? How is it related to the present life? What is the
"glory" into which, as we believe, "the souls of believers at their
death do immediately pass"? Perhaps our first impression, as we search
the New Testament for an answer to our questions, is one of
disappointment; there is so much that still remains unrevealed. We do
indeed read of dead men raised to life again by the power of God, but of
the awful and unimaginable experiences through which they passed not a
word is told.
"'Where wert thou, brother, those four days?'
There lives no record of reply.
. . . . .
Behold a man raised up by Christ!
The rest remaineth unreveal'd;
He told it not; or something seal'd
The lips of that Evangelist."
How much even Christ Himself has left untold! At His incarnation, and
again at His resurrection, He came forth from that world into which we
all must pass; yet how few were His words concerning it, how little able
we still are to picture it! Nevertheless, if He has not told us all, He
has told us enough. Let us recall some of His words.
He spoke of "everlasting habitations"--"eternal tabernacles"--into which
men should be received. Here we are as pilgrims and sojourners, dwelling
in a land not our own.
"Earth's but a sorry tent,
Pitched but a few frail days;"
and the chances and changes of this mortal life often bear heavily upon
us. But there these things have no place. Moth and rust, change and
decay, sorrow and death cannot enter there.
"The day's aye fair
I' the land o' the leal."
Again, Christ said, "I go to prepare a place for you." Just as when a
little child is born into the world it comes to a place made ready for
it by the thousand little tendernesses of a mother's love, so does death
lead us, not into the bleak, inhospitable night, but into the "Father's
house," to a place which love has made ready for our coming. "Father,
into Thy hands I commend My spirit." _Into Thy hands_--thither Jesus
passed from the Cross and the cruel hands of men; thither have passed
the lost ones of our love; thither, too, we in our turn shall pass. Why,
then, if we believe in Jesus should we be afraid? "Having death for my
friend," says an unknown Greek writer, "I tremble not at shadows."
Having Jesus for our friend we tremble not at death.
Further, Christ taught us, the heavenly life is a life of service. Every
one knows how largely the idea of rest has entered into our common
conceptions of the future. It is indeed a pathetic commentary on the
weariness and restlessness of life that with so many rest should almost
have come to be a synonym for blessedness. But rest is far from being
the final word of Scripture concerning the life to come. Surely life,
with its thousandfold activities, is not meant as a preparation for a
Paradise of inaction. What can be the meaning and purpose of the life
which we are called to pass through here, if our hereafter is to be but
one prolonged act of adoration? We shall carry with us into the future
not character only but capacity; and can it be that God will lay aside
as useless there that which with so great pains He has sought to perfect
here? It is not so that Christ has taught us to think: "He that received
the five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou
deliverest unto me five talents: lo, I have gained other five talents.
His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast
been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things: enter
thou into the joy of thy lord." God will not take the tools out of the
workman's hands just when he has learned how to handle them; He will not
"pension off" His servants just when they are best able to serve Him.
The reward of work well done is more work; faithfulness in few things
brings lordship over many. Have we not here a ray of light on the
mystery of unfinished lives? We do not murmur when the old and tired are
gathered to their rest; but when little children die, when youth falls
in life's morning, when the strong man is cut off in his strength, we
know not what to say. But do not "His servants serve Him" there as well
as here? Their work is not done; in ways beyond our thoughts it is going
forward still. 
One other question concerning the future with which, as by an instinct,
we turn to Christ for answer is suggested by the following touching
"I can recall so well how she would look--
How at the very murmur of her dress
On entering the room, the whole room took
An air of gentleness.
That was so long ago, and yet his eyes
Had always afterwards the look that waits
And yearns, and waits again, nor can disguise
Something it contemplates.
May we imagine it? The sob, the tears,
The long, sweet, shuddering breath; then on her breast
The great, full, flooding sense of endless years,
Of heaven, and her, and rest."
Can we quote the authority of Jesus for thoughts like these? The point
is, let it be noted, not whether we shall know each other again beyond
death, but whether we shall be to each other what we were here. At the
foot of the white marble cross which his wife placed upon the grave of
Charles Kingsley are graven these three words: _Amavimus, Amamus,
Amabimus_ ("We have loved, we love, we shall love"). After Mrs.
Browning's death her husband wrote these lines from Dante in her
Testament: "Thus I believe, thus I affirm, thus I am certain it is, that
from this life I shall pass to another better, there, where that lady
lives, of whom my soul was enamoured." Will Christ counter-sign a hope
like this? I do not know any "proof-text" that can be quoted, yet it
were profanation to think otherwise. There are many flowers of time, we
know, which cannot be transplanted; but "love never faileth," love is
the true _immortelle_. And whatever changes death may bring, those who
have been our nearest here shall be our nearest there. And though, as I
say, we can quote no "proof-text," our faith may find its guarantee in
the great word of Jesus: "If it were not so, I would have told you."
This is one of the instincts of the Christian heart, as pure and good as
it is firm and strong. Since Christ let it pass unchallenged, may we not
claim His sanction for it? If it were not so, He would have told us.
I turn now to the reverse side of Christ's teaching concerning the
future. And let us not seek to hide from ourselves the fact that there
_is_ a reverse side. For, ignore it as we may, the fact remains: those
same holy lips which spoke of a place, "where neither moth nor rust doth
consume," spoke likewise of another place, "where their worm dieth not,
and the fire is not quenched."
In considering this solemn matter we must learn to keep wholly separate
from it a number of difficult questions which have really nothing to do
with it--with which, indeed, we have nothing to do--and the introduction
of which can only lead to mischievous confusion and error. What is to
become of the countless multitudes in heathen lands who die without
having so much as heard of Christ? How will God deal with those even in
our own Christian land to whom, at least as it seems to us, this life
has brought no adequate opportunity of salvation? What will happen in
that dim twilight land betwixt death and judgment which men call "the
intermediate state"? Will they be few or many who at last will be for
ever outcasts from the presence of God? These are questions men will
persist in asking, but the answer to which no man knows. Strictly
speaking, they are matters with which we have nothing to do, which we
must be content to leave with God, confident that the Judge of all the
earth will do right, even though He does not show us how. What we have
to do with, what does concern us, is the warning of Jesus, emphatic and
reiterated, that sin will be visited with punishment, that retribution,
just, awful, inexorable, will fall on all them that love and work
"But why," it may be asked, "why dwell upon these things? Is there not
something coarse and vulgar in this appeal to men's fears? And, after
all, to what purpose is it? If men are not won by the love of God, of
what avail is it to speak to them of His wrath?" But fear is as real an
element in human nature as love, and when our aim is by all means to
save men, it is surely legitimate to make our appeal to the whole man,
to lay our fingers on every note--the lower notes no less than the
higher--in the wide gamut of human life. The preacher of the gospel,
moreover, is left without choice in the matter. It is no part of his
business to ask what is the use of this or of that in the message given
to him to deliver; it is for him to declare "the whole counsel of God,"
to keep back nothing that has been revealed. And the really decisive
consideration is this--that this is a matter on which Christ Himself has
spoken, and spoken with unmistakable clearness and emphasis. Shall,
then, the ambassador hesitate when the will of the King is made known?
More often--five times more often, it is said--than Jesus spoke of
future blessedness did He speak of future retribution. The New Testament
is a very tender book; but it is also a very stern book, and its
sternest words are words of Jesus. "For the sins of the miserable, the
forlorn, the friendless, He has pity and compassion; but for the sins of
the well-taught, the high-placed, the rich, the self-indulgent, for
obstinate and malignant sin, the sin of those who hate, and deceive, and
corrupt, and betray, His wrath is terrible, its expression is
unrestrained." "Jesu, Thou art all compassion," we sometimes sing;
but is it really so? St. Paul writes of "the meekness and gentleness of
Christ"; and for many of the chapters of Christ's life that is the right
headline; but there are other chapters which by no possible manipulation
can be brought under that heading, and they also are part of the story.
It was Jesus who said that in the day of judgment it should be more
tolerable for even Tyre and Sidon than for Bethsaida and Chorazin; it
was Jesus who uttered that terrible twenty-third chapter of St.
Matthew's Gospel, with its seven times repeated "Woe unto you, scribes
and Pharisees, hypocrites!" it was Jesus who spoke of the shut door and
the outer darkness, of the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not
quenched, of the sin which hath never forgiveness, neither in this
world, nor in that which is to come, and of that day when He who wept
over Jerusalem and prayed for His murderers and died for the world will
say unto them on His left hand, "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into the
eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels." These are
_His_ words, and it is because they are His they make us tremble. He
_is_ "gentle Jesus, meek and mild"; that is why His sternness is so
These things are not said in order to defend any particular theory of
future punishment--on that dread subject, indeed, the present writer has
no "theory" to defend; he frankly confesses himself an agnostic--but
rather to claim for the solemn fact of retribution a place in our minds
akin to that which it held in the teaching of our Lord. We need have no
further concern than to be loyal to Him. Does, then, such loyalty admit
of a belief in universal salvation? Is it open to us to assert that in
Christ the whole race is predestined to "glory, honour, and
immortality"? The "larger hope" of the universalist--
"that good shall fall
At last--far off--at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring"--
is, indeed, one to which no Christian heart can be a stranger; yearnings
such as these spring up within us unbidden and uncondemned. But when it
is definitely and positively asserted that "God has destined all men to
eternal glory, irrespective of their faith and conduct," "that no
antagonism to the Divine authority, no insensibility to the Divine love,
can prevent the eternal decree from being accomplished," we shall do
well to pause, and pause again. The old doctrine of an assured salvation
for an elect few we reject without hesitation. But, as Dr. Dale has
pointed out, the difference between the old doctrine and the new is
merely an arithmetical, not a moral difference: where the old put
"some," the new puts "all"; and the moral objections which are valid
against the one are not less valid against the other also. I dare not
say to myself, and therefore I dare not say to others, that, let a man
live as he may, it yet shall be well with him in the end. The facts of
experience are against it; the words of Christ are against it. "The very
conception of human freedom involves the possibility of its permanent
misuse, of what our Lord Himself calls 'eternal sin.'" If a man can go
on successfully resisting Divine grace in this life, what reason have we
for supposing that it would suddenly become irresistible in another
life? Build what we may on the unrevealed mercies of the future for them
that live and die in the darkness of ignorance, let us build nothing for
ourselves who are shutting our eyes and closing our hearts to the Divine
light and love which are already ours.
* * * * *
"Behold, then, the goodness and severity of God;" and may His goodness
lead us to repentance, that His severity we may never know. This is,
indeed, His will for every one of us: He has "appointed us not unto
wrath, but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus
Christ." If we are lost we are suicides.
Footnote 1: J. Stalker, _The Christology of Jesus_, p. 23, footnote.
Footnote 2: "The sources for our knowledge of the actual teaching of
Jesus do not lie merely in the Gospel accounts, but also in the
literature of the apostolic age, especially in the Epistles of Paul....
Even had no direct accounts about Jesus been handed down to us, we
should still possess, in the apostolic literature, a perfectly valid
testimony to the historical existence and epoch-making significance of
Jesus as a teacher."--H.H. Wendt, _Teaching of Jesus_, vol. i, p. 28.
Footnote 3: _What is Christianity?_ p. 20.
Footnote 4: _Three Essays on Religion_, p. 253.
Footnote 5: _Literature and Dogma_, p. 10.
Footnote 6: See Harnack's _What is Christianity_? p. 4.
Footnote 7: See A.S. Peake's _Guide to Biblical Study_, p. 244.
Footnote 8: _Thoughts on Religion_, p. 157.
Footnote 9: _The Kingdom of God_, p. 50.
Footnote 10: "Christian apologists," says Dr. Sanday, "have often done
scant justice to the intensity of this [monotheistic] faith, which was
utterly disinterested and capable of magnificent self-sacrifice."--Art.
"God," Hastings' _Dictionary of the Bible_, vol. ii, p. 205.
Footnote 11: See R.F. Horton's _Teaching of Jesus_, p. 59.
Footnote 12: A.M. Fairbairn, _Christ in Modern Theology_, p. 244.
Footnote 13: On the subject of this chapter see especially G.B. Stevens'
_Theology of the New Testament_, chap. vi.
Footnote 14: _Christian Doctrine,_ p. 77.
Footnote 15: Bishop Gore, _Bampton Lectures,_ 1891, p. 13.
Footnote 16: J. Denney, _Studies in Theology_, p. 25.
Footnote 17: For an admirable statement of the argument of this
paragraph see D.W. Forrest's _Christ of History and experience_, chap.
i. and note 4, p. 385.
Footnote 18: Cp. Denney's note on St. Paul's description of Christ, "Him
who knew no sin," in 2 Cor. v. 21: "The Greek negative (mae), as
Schmiedel remarks, implies that this is regarded as the verdict of some
one else than the writer. It was Christ's own verdict upon Himself."
Footnote 19: _The Death of Christ_, p. 28.
Footnote 20: _The Philosophy of the Christian Religion_, p. 408.
Footnote 21: John xii. 27, 28; xiii. 31; xvii. 1.
Footnote 22: G.B. Stevens, _Theology of the New Testament_, p. 133.
Footnote 23: I quote once more from Dr. Denney.
Footnote 24: J. Denney, _Studies in Theology_, p. 154.
Footnote 25: See W.N. Clarke's _Outlines of Christian Theology_, p. 373.
Footnote 26: "It is the Holy Spirit who supplies the _bodily presence_
of Christ, and by Him doth He accomplish all His promises to the Church.
Hence, some of the ancients call Him 'Vicarium Christi,' 'The Vicar of
Christ,' or Him who represents His person and dischargeth His promised
work: _Operam navat Christo vicariam."_--Owen, _Works,_ vol. iii. p.
Footnote 27: "Our sources with the utmost possible uniformity refer to
the Spirit in terms implying personality."--Stevens, _Theology of the
New Testament_ (p. 215), where the whole question is discussed with
great fullness and fairness.
Footnote 28: John Watson, _The Mind of the Master_, p. 321. May we
remind Dr. Watson of what he has himself written on the first page of
his _Doctrines of Grace_: "It was the mission of St. Paul to declare the
gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to the nations, and none of
his successors in this high office has spoken with such persuasive
power. _Any one differs from St. Paul at his intellectual peril_, and
every one may imitate him with spiritual profit."
Footnote 29: See, in confirmation of the argument of this paragraph,
Orr's _Christian View of God and the World_, p. 401 ff., and Art. "The
Kingdom of God," in Hastings' _Dictionary of the Bible_; Denney's
_Studies in Theology_, Lect. VIII.
Footnote 30: J. Watson, _The Mind of the Master_, p. 323.
Footnote 31: F.G. Peabody, _Jesus Christ and the Social Question_, pp.
Footnote 32: _Fellowship with Christ_, p. 157.
Footnote 33: See Trench's _Study of Words_, p. 100.
Footnote 34: The chapter entitled "Christ's Doctrine of Man" is one of
the most suggestive chapters in Dr. Bruce's admirable work _The Kingdom
Footnote 35: _Studies in Theology_, p. 83.
Footnote 36: See Hastings' _Dictionary of the Bible_, Art. "Sin," vol.
iii. p. 533.
Footnote 37: This is the R.V. marginal rendering of Gen. iv. 13.
Footnote 38: R.W. Dale, _Evangelical Revival and other Sermons_, p. 66
Footnote 39: _The Kingdom of God_, p. 203.
Footnote 40: In his famous sermon on the Pharisees, _University
Sermons_, p. 32.
Footnote 41: R.W. Church, _Gifts of Civilisation_, p. 71.
Footnote 42: Prov. iv. 7: "Get wisdom; and with all thy getting get
understanding," which does not mean simply, "Whatever else you get, be
sure to get understanding." The marginal reference is to Matt. xiii. 44:
wisdom, like the pearl of great price, is to be secured with, _i.e._ at
the cost and sacrifice of, everything else that can be gotten. (See J.R.
Lumby on "Shortcomings of Translation," _Expositor_, second series, VOL.
iii. p. 203.)
Footnote 43: 2 Cor. v. 9 R.V. margin.
Footnote 44: _Laws of Christ for Common Life_, p. 59.
Footnote 45: _Bible Characters: Stephen to Timothy_, p. 95.
Footnote 46: _On the Authorized Version of the New Testament_, p. 14.
Footnote 47: I am indebted for these two quotations to Bishop Paget's
_Spirit of Discipline_, p. 66.
Footnote 48: P. Carnegie Simpson, _The Fact of Christ_, pp. 116, 117.
Footnote 49: _Time and Tide_, p. 224.
Footnote 50: F.G. Peabody, _Jesus Christ and the Social Problem_, p.
Footnote 51: Emerson had surely overlooked this nobler meaning of the
word when he wrote, "They [the English] put up no Socratic prayer, much
less any saintly prayer, for the queen's mind; ask neither for light nor
right, but say bluntly, 'grant her in health and wealth long to live'"
Footnote 52: To those who are interested in the subject of this chapter
Prof. Peabody's book already referred to, and an article entitled "The
Teaching of Christ concerning the Use of Money" _(Expositor,_ third
series, vol. viii. p. 100 ff.) may be recommended.
Footnote 53: _Studies in Theology_, p. 239.
Footnote 54: "There is no subject on which it is more difficult to
ascertain the teaching of Christ than that which relates to the future
of the kingdom."--A.B. Bruce, _The Kingdom of God_, p. 273.
Footnote 55: J. Agar Beet, _The Last Things_, p. 46.
Footnote 56: Marcus Dods, _The Parables of our Lord_ (first series), p.
Footnote 57: _Cathedral and University Sermons_, p. 10.
Footnote 58: John Watson, _The Mind of the Master_, pp. 203, 204.
Footnote 59: See T.G. Selby's _Imperfect Angel and other Sermons_, p.
211. Cf. Zachariah Coleman in "Mark Rutherford's" _Revolution in Tanners
Lane_: "That is a passage that I never could quite understand. I never
hardly see a pure breed, either of goat or sheep. I never see anybody
who deserves to go straight to heaven or who deserves to go straight to
hell. When the Judgment Day comes it will be a difficult task."
Footnote 60: See the very striking and beautiful chapter entitled "The
Continuity of Life" in Watson's _Mind of the Master_.
Footnote 61: See T.G. Selby's _Ministry of the Lord Jesus_, p. 279.
Footnote 62: R.W. Church, _Human Life and its Conditions_, p. 103.
Footnote 63: In a striking article entitled "The Old Antinomianism and
the New" (_Congregational Review_, Jan. 1887).