« AnteriorContinuar »
deliverance, by the patient process of exhaustion. The argument is, that as God is just, his character requires him to do justice; that he is immutable and can not reverse his decreed penalties ; and especially that we are all under the penalty of justice now, in so far as we transgress; the penalty being executed in us by a necessary law of nature, which, as God can not change it without a miracle, must pour its currents upon us, till we become good enough to go clear, under the same retributive laws of cause and effect, which grates in misery and bondage on our bad experience. There is no possibility of a sudden remission, apprehended by faith and sealed by a new spiritual birth. We must begin to grow better, by a regular process of culture and amendment, and we must go on till we run out the flow of penal consequence, and get the laws of retribution on our side.” This view “wholly displaces the gospel, as a message of good news from heaven ; denying even the possibility of pardon or remission, in any sense that gives it an effective value. Nothing can be said of pardon, save that it signifies a forgiving feeling in God to the penitent. It is that feeling, nothing more.” (Christ in Theology, pp. 271273.)
And the denial of salvation from penalty vitiates the doctrine of salvation from sin itself. For punishment certainly does not save from the sin already committed. Even if we admit the notion of expiation or compensation, — so much pain paying for so much sin, — that is not salvation, but a compounding of losses. And there still remains the bad effect of the sin in the mental and moral habitude. The Universalist theory is that penalty is designed as a tonic to correct this, and so save from future sin. But this view formally rejects the notion of “remission of sins that are past” (Rom. iii. 25), and involves another serious difficulty. Punishment is no longer a thing of justice in any sense; it is not even just, but becomes a sheer experiment of discipline. Thus Dr. Smith says:
- Punishment is not retrospective, but prospective. You are to be punished, not because you have yielded to an evil volition, but that you may yield to an evil volition no more.” (Part I. $ 2.)
That is, one is to be punished at a venture for sins that may never be committed! The only escape from this absurdity is in another; viz., that guilt is ill-deserving not intrinsically but only because penalty is annexed; or that the punishment constitutes the crime. This I have endeavored to deduce in treating the difficulties both of the orthodox and the Universalist views on this subject. (Debt and Grace, c. x. SS 5, 6.)
We come round again to the question, Is the disease of sin in the soul healed by forgiveness? I think the affirmative answer avoids all the difficulties I have alluded to. But this supposes that the moral disease, unhealed, is mortal. For, if a personal immortality remains, that implies a continuance of all the faculties of personal and responsible being, including free agency, and involving the power of self-recovery ; and then forgiveness is not needed. But if the disease is threatening, or if “the wages of sin is death,” then forgiveness as a healing grace and power is legitimate. There is then“ remission of sins that are past,” for their penalty is revoked and their power
is broken in the same work of the soul's recovery. Justification or pardon and sanctification are not divorced, but become inseparable. Mercy and truth are met together. Grace — or gratuitous favor and amnesty — is no repeal of law, but its reënactment, in the returning strength and life of one who was sinking into the outlawry of death.
Here I may remark that all the scriptural language which represents sin as disease and our Savior as a Physician, is specially pertinent to this view. The governmental system of the Roman Empire has, I think, made our theology too foren sic, and the Schoolmen have made it too dialectic. Has it not yet to become, as it were, more therapeutic? And when we make it such, shall we not “ hold fast the form of sound words” and of “sound doctrine" (hygiainouses didaskalias, healthy instruction, 1 Tim. i. 10; vi. 3 ; 2 Tim. i. 13 ; iv. 3 ; Tit. i. 9, 13; ii. 1, 2)?
$ 3. The Nature and Design of Punishment. A doctrine of punishment has extensively prevailed which is
much like this: that crime and sin are infringements of law, upon which the law, or the majesty of the law-power, requires penal retribution, for which the severe name is vengeance. The law, it is commonly said, has been violated, “broken." And to "repair" this damage there is a demand for suffering, expiation, satisfaction.
The false element in this theory is indicated by the results to which it has been carried in views of the Atonement. The redemptive work of Christ has been regarded as a compensation, a payment of debt in the sinner's behalf, valid upon the sinner's acceptance of the substitute. That this idea does away with free grace on the part of God is confessed by one author who says: “Sure I am, that debt can never be forgiven which is paid.” The difficulties of the theory are also betrayed by the connected question respecting the extent of the Atonement.
The Universalist theory of punishment as solely corrective and reformatory seems to me an extreme reaction from the above view. It has been favored also by the modern reform in criminal codes and prison discipline, and by the discovery that a humane ministry of penalty may reform, where rigorous and unmixed punishment only hardens. This view, however, may easily be carried to an extreme and false result. The transgressor of law may be regarded as simply unfortunate, and not as guilty ; that which he needs may exclude all notion of what he deserves ; he may be treated not as deserving any penalty, but as having special claims and rights, and as deserving to be reformed.
We need some view of the subject which shall avoid each extreme. And such a view I think is suggested by the Econ
To what purpose are the pangs and sighs and woes of which the world is so full ? Are they all purely vindictive? Or, are they all reformatory? Neither the one nor the other. But they grow out of a natural system of penalty, very wise and merciful, yet no less just, which is exemplified on a large scale in the nervous system. The design of the nerves of sensation, with their exquisite susceptibility of pain, is the protection of limb, life, and health. Take out the nerves from
omy of Pain.
the body, and it might be maimed or destroyed withoui one s knowing it. They are the eyes and ears of the system, protecting it by their constant watch and their thousand alarms. Frost and cold are so fearful because they hurt so little, — benumbing and stealing away the senses, and taking the life unwarned. These troublesome nerves, with their magazine of pangs so liko Pandora's box of all human ills, are the outposts and sharp sentinels that warn us of danger. They are all designed for our good. I thank God, therefore, for all the ministries of Pain. We could not live without them ; and many would live longer and better if they had more of them.
At the bottom of Pandora's box, in the fable, was Hope. But do we find hope at the end of all human pains ? I find this - that many men push against the terrible dangers of which their kind nerves admonish them, and make a complete sacrifice of health, or limb, or life. And this is done not by holy martyrs only, dying under some lower law, that they may live up to a Higher Law, but by men of the lowest aims, rushing upon ruin in defiance of all law. Men do this sometimes for lucre. They do it oftener for lust; gratifying their queasy or their vicious appetites, purposely “living fast” and slipping rapidly and painfully down into their graves. They do it to glut their revenge ; pursuing a foe to the ends of the earth, willing enough to die when he is dead.
In all these cases the punishing nerves demand and receive their dues. But what is the result? They were all designed to reform and save. In the general economy, their pains were salutary and healing, but instead of that they have only killed. In short, they who disregard the lesson of penalty, perish under it, and with it. The pains are sharp and very torturing, because they were set to guard a precious treasure of life ; and the beneficence which ordained their sharpness, holds out to the end, and lets them die out with the life. They are, like the gospel itself, a sweet savor - of life unto life, or of death unto death, according as they are used or disused. But the beneficence goes on no further than death. When the life is thrown away, the slighted mercy is not bound to restore the rejected boon. Why should it? An old writer has laid down the principle thus:
“Omnes pænæ non exterminantes sunt reformantes." All punishments reform- when they do not exterminate. And our question now is, Is this true of all kinds of penalty, or of the physical only?
I reply, the examples I have offered have all the force of the argument from analogy. And the argumeni is made very strong by the immense number of the instances, and by the fact that we observe no contrary instances. So far as I know, in every department of nature, persistent action against the laws of being tends to deteriorate the nature and destroy the being itself. Real law can never be “ broken ;” it vindicates itself as immutable and sovereign, by breaking and crushing all that will oppose it.
But strong as the argument from analogy is, and much as it seems like a reason and nature of things, I doubt whether we are left to it alone. There are some things in the action of Conscience that suggest the same law as applying to man's moral nature. When its admonitions are disregarded, it becomes blunted. If one will do what he knows is wrong, his feelings of misgiving gradually die out; the twinges of conscience subside into a dull and dead pain ; regret and remorse often give way to hard-hearted indifference; the distinctions of right and wrong are confused and obliterated. The talent disused wastes away. Capacity becomes incapacity. The whole doctrine of judicial blindness, which we discover in the Scriptures, may be a verification in the conscience of the rule: “ He that hath, to him shall be given; and from him that hath not shall be taken that which he seemeth to have.” *
* Dr. Bushnell gives, among his“ Sermons for the New Life,” one on this passage which so far suggests the thought of annihilation that he considers the doctrine and gives his reasons for thinking that conclusion can not be reached. It should be compared with some expressions in his Discourse on “ Endless Life."