SIR ROBERT ANDERSON
Secret Service Theologian
PREFACE TO THE SEVENTH EDITION.
APPEALS have been received from many quarters for an
edition of Human Destiny at a price to bring it within reach of a wider circle
of readers. And it has been urged by some that in re-issuing it account should
be taken of what has been published on the subject during the seven-and-twenty
years since the book was written. But later writers have added nothing to the
standard works dealt with in these pages, namely:
(i) Dean Farrar's Eternal Hope, Five Sermons preached in Westminster Abbey, November and December 1877.
(2) Salvator Mundi; or, Is Christ the Saviour of all Men? by Dr. Samuel Cox.
(3) The Second Death, and the Restitution of All Things, by Mr. Andrew Jukes.
(4) Mr. Edward White's Life in Christ.
The first of these books is throughout a passionate appeal to prejudice. Salvator Mundi, though written in a different strain, is in some respects quite as unsatisfactory. The author of the third was a man of another type, but, as his very title indicates, his exegesis is utterly unreliable; for the Apostle's words in Acts iii. 19-24 relate expressly to Israel's promises of blessing for earth, and have no reference whatever to the eternal state. Life in Christ is the ablest work this controversy has produced. But the criticisms it evoked rendered the author's main position untenable, save at the cost of denying the resurrection of Christ as man; and in his "Third Edition" he frankly jettisoned that essential truth of Christianity.
Of more recent books there is one that, perhaps, may seem entitled to notice because of its phenomenal popularity, a popularity which is due, no doubt, to its being an exceptionally pleasing and plausible presentation of that most ancient of all evangels by which the Old Serpent of Eden deceived the Mother of our race-" Ye shall not surely die." I refer to Our Life after Death, by the Rev. Arthur Chambers.. The burden of the book is an "intermediate life," in which people who die "in a state of salvation "(whatever that means) will, in common with less favoured mortals, be "perfected" to fit them for heaven. "The popular idea," the writer tells us, "is that when a good person dies, he goes direct to heaven" (p. 31). And he adds, "You may search the Bible from end to end without finding a passage which will justify such a statement." Most true it is that the popular belief that "good people go to heaven when they die" is shattered by an elementary knowledge of Scripture. But the denial of the truth that sinners saved by Divine grace pass at death to heaven, to be "at home with the Lord" (2 Cor. v. 9, R.V.), displays strange ignorance of Christian doctrine.
Scripture teaches, moreover, that at the Coming of the Lord "the dead in Christ" shall be raised, and "we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them to meet the Lord," and to be with Him for ever (i Thess. iv. i6, ii). But as all this conflicts with the writer's theory, it is ignored and implicitly denied - a further proof that these eschatological heresies involve our jettisoning the distinctive truths of the Christian revelation.
The writer's tone and argument respecting this " intermediate-life " theory may be gathered from his stating that "the Bible proclaims it, Jesus confirms it, and our reason approves it" (p. 33). The Christian does not distinguish in this manner between the authority of the written Word and of the Living Word, nor does he acknowledge human reason as a Court of Appeal from either; but the "Jesus" of this writer is cited to confirm the teaching of Holy Scripture, provided always that "our reason approves it."
The figment that good men are fitted for heaven in an " intermediate-life" rests upon an erroneous reading of Heb. Xii. 23, which he always quotes as spirits made perfect "-a blunder from which a glance at the Greek Testament might have saved him. The passage speaks of " the spirits of righteous men who have been perfected" ; and from chapter x. 14, we learn that we are "perfected," not by purgatorial discipline but by the "one offering " of Christ. Our thoughts are thus turned to "the Father, Who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light " (Col. 1: 12).
In common with other writers of the same school, Mr. Chambers seeks to excite prejudice against the doctrine he rejects by citing deplorable language used by some of its exponents. This is untruth of a kind which, though common in political controversy, is unworthy both of the author and of his theme. For the relevance of his quotations depends on the innuendo (which he must know to be false) that they express beliefs to which we are committed if we reject his heresies. Nothing can justify the language of these quotations. So awful is the teaching of the Lord Jesus respecting the doom of the impenitent that every statement upon the subject ought to adhere strictly to the very words of Scripture.
And it is not on this point only that "the orthodox" supply a leverage by which divine truth is undermined. "The larger hope" theory is not more un-warranted by Scripture than is the "orthodox" dogma that it is death which determines the destiny of men. In the case of all to whom the gospel comes, the consequences of accepting or rejecting Christ are immediate and eternal. This is declared by the Lord Himself in words so simple that not even a child can miss their meaning, and so explicit that not even a casuist can evade it (John iii. 16-18).
But it will be asked, What of those upon whom the light of the gospel has never shone, and of others who have seen but glimpses of it, dimmed or distorted by Christendom religion? "I do not know," is the only answer we ought to give to questions such as these. The Bible is not designed to solve problems of the kind, but to be our guide in respect of all that concerns us. And what concerns us is to receive the gospel of the grace of God ourselves, and to make it known to others. Not content, however, with this, our most blessed lot as fellow-workers with God, too many there are who impiously claim to anticipate the judgments of "the Great Assize" respecting the ignorant masses around us and the unnumbered millions of the heathen world. (See Chap. XII, post.)
From follies and excesses of this kind the following pages are wholly free. They make no claim to deal ex cathedra with mysteries which have perplexed the thoughtful in every age. They record the struggles of one who has sought to reach the truth by calm and patient study and earnest thought; and their method has been to bring to the test of Holy Scripture what others of different schools have written. And whatever the faults and failings of the book, the author is happy in the conviction that it can never serve as a "wrecker's fire "to lure men to their eternal doom by persuading them that they may neglect the "great salvation" in this life with the certain hope of finding an escape in the life to come.
After Death What?
BY Sir ROBERT ANDERSON, K.C.B., LL.D.,
Author of "The Gospel and Its Ministry," "Redemption Truths," "The Silence of God." &c.;
THE QUESTION STATED.
ACCORDING to the most careful estimate, the population of
the world exceeds one thousand four hundred millions. Not one third of these
are Christian even in name; and of this small minority how few there are whose
lives give proof that they are travelling heavenward! And what is the destiny
of all the rest? Any estimate of their number must be inaccurate and fanciful;
and accuracy, if attainable, would be practically useless. As a matter of
arithmetic, it is as easy to deal with millions as with tens; but when we come
to realise that every unit is a human being, with a little world of joys and
sorrows all his own, and an unbounded capacity for happiness or misery, the
mind is utterly paralysed by the effort to realise the problem.
And these fourteen hundred millions are but a single wave of the great tide of human life that breaks, generation after generation, upon the shore of the unknown world.
What future then awaits these untold myriads of millions of mankind? Most of us have been trained in the belief that their portion is an existence of endless, hopeless torment. But few there are, surely, who have carried this belief to middle age unchallenged. Sometimes it is the vastness of the numbers whose fate is involved that startles us into scepticism. Sometimes it is the memory of friends now gone, who lived and died impenitent. As we think of an eternity in which they "shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever," the mind grows weary and the heart grows sick, and we turn to ask ourselves, Is not God infinite in love? Is not the great Atonement infinite in value? Is it credible then that such a future is to be the sequel to a brief and sorely-tempted life of sin? Is it credible that for all eternity - that eternity in which the triumph of the Cross shall be complete, and God shall be all in all - there shall still remain an under-world of seething sin and misery and horror?
We can have no companionship with those who refuse to bring these questions to the test of Scripture. If such a hell be there revealed, faith must assert its supremacy, and all our difficulties, whether intellectual or moral, must be put aside unsolved. But what is, in fact, the voice of Scripture on the subject? The voice of the Church, it is true, has been heard in every age in support of the doctrine of an endless hell; and in some sense the testimony gains in weight from the fact that a minority never has been wanting to protest against the dogma, thus keeping it unceasingly upon the open field of free discussion.
This affords sufficient proof, no doubt, that Scripture seems to teach the doctrine here in question. But more than this must by no means be conceded. On such a subject no appeal to authority will avail to silence doubt. The minority may, after all, be right. What men call heresy proves sometimes to be the truth of God.
But how is such an inquiry to be entered on? It needs some scholarship and not a little patient study, and yet it is of interest to thousands who have neither learning nor leisure. Common folk whose opportunities and talents are but few must take advantage of the labours of others more favoured than themselves. And we turn to their writings with the honest wish to find there an escape from the teaching of our childhood. Some, indeed, have used language which betokens pleasure at the thought of endless torment; but apart from the enthusiasm or the bitterness of controversy this would be impossible. Surely there is no one unwilling to be convinced that hell itself shall share at last in the reconciliation God has wrought; or, if the lost of earth are lost for ever, that in the infinite mercy of God their misery shall end with a last great death that shall put a term to their existence.
But here are two alternatives which are wholly inconsistent, two paths which diverge at the very threshold of the inquiry. Of which shall we make choice? If our instincts and prejudices are in the least to guide us, none will hesitate. We refuse to contemplate the annihilation of the lost save as an escape from something still more grievous. But what if Scripture warrants the belief that all the lost shall yet be saved, the banished ones brought home, and God's great prison closed for ever as the crowning triumph of redemption? This is indeed a hope that with eagerness we would struggle to accept.
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