Is Hell Eternal?
Or Will God's Plan Fail
By Charles Pridgeon
Chapter two: Doctrine of Reserve, An Enemy of Truth
If there is one cause more than any other that has blocked and sometimes blighted the propagation and development of divine truth, it is the doctrine of reserve.
This doctrine teaches that it is right to withhold, to disguise and, if necessary, to deny faith in any truth, if there is sufficient cause. This doctrine has prevailed all down the ages to a greater or less degree, and some of the godliest saints and theologians have been its slaves. They reason, "It is all right to hold these deeper things ourselves, even if they differ from the popular conception. Such things will not hurt us, but the people are not ready for them. It will work them great injury; these are professional secrets."
The first reason that is given is the general statement of the ignorance of the laity upon spiritual questions, except the more primary ones. It is, therefore, wise, they say, not to confuse or confound the common people. It is true that there are many who are not sufficiently versed in the Word of God to be able to form an unbiased judgment, but in the present day of almost universal education this consideration does not have the same force as of old. A further fact needs to be given due weight, viz., that when it comes to the understanding of spiritual things, the one who may have little of a worldly education may be "rich in faith" and have large and just conceptions of spiritual things. Even if wisdom is to be used in the method and amount of truth to be disclosed, there is no necessity for deception nor misrepresentation.
When Abraham Lincoln determined to free the slaves, an intimate friend of his sent him a telegram: "From Richard Yates to Abraham Lincoln. Dear Abraham,--Pause! The people are not ready for it." The President sent a reply that has been described as the finest message ever sent over the wires. "From Abraham Lincoln to Richard Yates. Dear Dick,--Stand still and see the of salvation of the Lord."
Often the reason that lies back of the concealment is lack of courage, and fear of the consequences. In times of great persecution it certainly would be easy to follow some devious path of Christian casuistry in order to escape torture, imprisonment, suffering, or death. Even in our time, altho much of the crude and outward persecution has passed, that which remains may be none the less cruel and naturally provocative of fear. As one has aptly said:
"There are other forms of dogmatic bondage besides fear of death. The halter and the stake have indeed been banished . . . But the more hidden and insidious forms of persecution--suspicion, prejudice, calumny have by no means lost their power; and they are doing their enslaving work (as truly and effectually today) within the limits of the Church as ever in its history."
Many a preacher has to wear a muzzle on certain questions or lose his church and his living. Even if he cares little for his own welfare, that of his wife and children holds him strongly. It takes courage from God and supernatural grace to step out trusting God alone, but He will honor every one who honors Him. The rights of conscience and of private judgment are admitted in theory by nearly all, but not in practise.
"A great error of the Church has always been its assumption of authority over the souls of men in all matters of faith and dogma; and the natural fruit of dogmatic authority has always been, and always will be, insincerity, hypocrisy, cant, and all their evil brood. Until that yoke is completely broken everywhere in Christendom, its results are bound to appear.”*
*Professor Levi L. Paine in The Ethnic Trinities, page 315 (Houghton, Mifflin & Co.). We are not approving the theological conclusion this book, but the courageous honesty of its author is highly refreshing.
May God raise up more of those who will be willing to stand for what they believe to be the truth of God no matter what it costs, and deliver His children from all deceit and hypocrisy!
Away with such bondage! Away with such deception! The old question arises again, "Is a lie ever justifiable?" To this all courageous, honest men make answer, "No." At the same time, we insist that tact and wisdom must be exercised in the propagation of truth, but not to the extent of lying. No matter if others yield to such deception and sin, let us be truthful. It is true it often takes courage to tell the truth, but God's Word stands sure, that, "Them that honor Me I will honor" (1Sam. 2:30). God honors with more truth and more faith and more power, when one takes his freedom in God and stands for all he believes. "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36). How many are blessed through such a courageous stand! Even hardships that have to be endured, that promised to be so hard, are found easy, "For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light" (Matt. 11:30). Ecclesiastical bodies should allow such freedom to their representatives, just so the essential truths of salvation are held intact. Whosoever trusts the Lord Jesus Christ has salvation. This is our foundation of faith and fellowship. "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life" (1John 5:12).
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