Is Hell Eternal?
Or Will God's Plan Fail?
By Charles Pridgeon

Chapter One: Barriers to a Candid Consideration

The spirit of prejudice stands in the way of all new views of truth. Prejudice has been defined as “a judgment or opinion formed without due examination of the facts or reasons that are essential to a just and impartial determination.”

In Bunyan's Holy War, Mr. Prejudice, with sixty deaf men, keeps Ear-gate, one of the most important gates of entry to the city of Mansoul. It is prejudice that blinds the eye, stops the ear, misunderstands and misinterprets everything that comes its way. Its state of mind is not founded on facts but on some feeling of dislike or something of self-interest.

There are those who will not accept any truth unless it is ministered in a certain conventional manner or supported by certain great names. The question “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth” shows this same principle of partiality. One would suppose that it was written in the Word that “Whoso believeth in eternal punishment shall be saved.” Our point of fellowship and union is in the Lord Jesus Christ; and even if many do not accept our teaching on the points before us, we will not pronounce any anathema against them or say they are not Christians, even though we could not take their standpoint without reflecting on the very person and character of God.

One lad said to another whose mother had been washing a bit of linen, ''I see that your mother is a washer-woman.” The other replied, “If I saw your mother pulling your little brother's wagon, ought I call her a horse?”

It is inconsistent with justice to put in the same class all who may profess the same doctrine. A further question needs to be first settled; viz., upon what grounds and for what reasons is this particular truth held? We might speak of two men who were in favor of the World War just waged. One of them favored it from reasons of patriotism and the desire to aid his fellow man. He proved this by the sacrificing of himself in the cause. The other favored it because he saw in it an opportunity to make a large sum of money. These two men profest faith in the same thing, but the reason and ground of their stand was so diverse that their names should not be mentioned in the same breath. The one acted from a lofty motive, the other from a selfish one.

One of the great religious leaders of our day said:

“The quality of men is shown not so much by the opinion they hold, as by the grounds upon which they hold them, by the arguments upon which those opinions rest in their minds. Men may hold the greatest of truths in a feeble way and upon the most unsubstantial evidence. Men may believe, for instance, in the Being of God because they have been told that it is true or because they want to believe it.  On the other hand, men may believe the simplest and commonest of truths on the most solemn and majestic grounds . . . So it seems that man's greatness is decided, not by the opinions which they hold, but by the kinds of evidence on which and by the spirit in which they hold them.”

We may not feel complimented in being classed with those who do not believe in the doctrine of eternal punishment because they dimly suppose that by denying the doctrine they may make a way of escape; nor do we desire to be classed with those who make light of sin; nor with those who found all their teaching on purely naturalistic grounds, or manufacture them from their own imagining; nor with those who belittle our Lord and His sacrifice on the cross; nor with those who do not believe that what “a man soweth that shall he also reap”; nor with those who do not think that any change is necessary in man in order to be saved; nor with those who do not believe in any hell at all, or in an inadequate one. To all these loose ideas we hope that we are a stranger.

Unless our faith is founded on a fair interpretation of the Word of God, not in part, but in its entirety; unless there is a vindication of God's wisdom, power, justice, and love; unless it has the “Amen” of a chastened Christian consciousness; unless it makes for righteousness and magnifies the cross of Christ; unless it solves doubt, dries a tear, comforts broken hearts, wins souls, and sanctifies believers; unless it also has practical spiritual fruit, we reject and refuse it; but if it has all of these and more, then let us believe it, and even if we have to suffer for it, let us suffer with joy, for it is worth it a thousand times.

One of the words that Prejudice uses is, “That is unorthodox.” Orthodoxy means “right thinking; to nearly every one it has come to mean “to think as I do.”

There is no room in a crystallized orthodoxy to learn anything more from the Word of God than it has learned. We are not affirming that stability in doctrine is not desirable; neither are we discounting the fact that we owe an immeasurable debt to our forefathers and to the Church Fathers; but after acknowledging this, there is room for progress. Unless there are deepenings and enlargement, vital and new openings of truth, orthodoxy becomes dead.

It is not strange in our day to learn fresh truth in the field of nature. It does not surprize us when scientific discoveries are made through new applications of old principles and larger generalization of truth. It ought not to be counted strange that new discoveries might be found in God's Word and that modification of some things which we regarded as truth had to be made.  In this way alone will truth remain living and have power. If this process is stopt, the Word of God will become a dead letter.

If there were no truth in the religious systems which some despise, they would die. The fact of their life and power can not be attributed alone to the forces of darkness; there is another factor. Usually there is some truth that has been neglected, some truth twisted or warped, else there would not be any need met by the systems that are so largely false.

Christianity centers in the person and work of the God-man, our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the touchstone and power of all truth. Any seeming truth that does not glorify Him is counterfeit, or only partly true. To us there seems to be a grave need for those who hold the great fundamentals concerning the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ--the full Inspiration and Authority of Holy Scripture; the necessity of Regeneration; the doctrine of Rewards and of Punishments--to assemble all the light from God's Word that removes the difficulties from the doctrine of eternal torment as usually held, and in this way make a glorious harmony.

We earnestly stand for the right of private judgment and guidance of God in an illuminated conscience, yet, at the same time, we desire to apprehend “with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge” (Eph. 3:18,19).
 

Prejudice stands in the way of even a conservative and constructive advance.

May God's Holy Spirit alone be our Teacher.

Go to Chapters: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15) (16) (17) (18) (19) (20) (21) (22) (23) (24) (25) (26) (27) (28) (29) (30)

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