Mercy And Judgment by Canon F.W. Farrar
Put into electronic form by Tentmaker Ministries and Publications, Inc. Copyright 200 May not be reproduced without permission.
MERCY AND JUDGMENT.
"So runs my creed: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying in the light:
And with no language but a cry." — TENNYSON
"And Thou, oh God, by whom are seen
All creatures as they be,
Forgive me, if too close I lean
My human heart on Thee." — WHITTIER .
But to conclude: If, as I have shown, the ultimate extinction of the being of sinners appears to be taught by the literal meaning of many passages of Scripture; and if the final restoration of all mankind appears also to be taught in many passages of Scripture; and if the popular conception of endless torments for the vast majority is nowhere indisputably taught in Scripture; and if it is only by inference we are led to the fear that any souls may be finally excluded from the presence of God at the end of the ages; if, I say, these are the conclusions to which Scripture alone has led us, what is it that on this subject I finally believe?
It will be seen at once that I propound no "Optimist theory" (as it has been called), "that all men will be saved"; though since the suppression of the old 42 nd article that view is nowhere declared to be untenable in our formularies as interpreted by the highest authority. Still less do I teach that all men will attain to everlasting felicity, or that — to refer to the coarse instance selected by Jerome — a Jezebel will be at last as a Virgin Mary. Nay, I do not even say that some men may not for ever suffer form the consequences of their sins, and from impenitence respecting them, dearly as I wish that it were possible for us to believe in final universal felicity as a glorious triumph of the love of God and the cross of Christ. But I think that even if some portion of the "pain of loss" may continue for ever, there is nothing to sanction the assertion that such hopes as sinners may here embrace may not also be open to them, at least until the great Judgment, in the Intermediate State beyond the grave. The death of the soul shall last as long as its willing sinfulness lasts, and its "hell" burn as long as its enmity to God continues. The only hope is that form this sin and this enmity it may at last — far off — before the end of the ages — possibly be saved. Hell and death are endless conditions so long as there is persistent impenitence. They cease when the soul repents, but not till then. But who shall say that when the moment of death is over there can be no further answer to the sinner's cry, "Will the Lord cast off for ever, and will He be favourable no more? Is His mercy clean gone for ever? Doth His promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath He shut up His lovingkindness in displeasure?"
But it is due to my readers that I should try to express this in language as clear as the subject admits, not by way of laying down a dogma or of giving expression to a novelty, but by stating what I hold to be the teaching — not of sects or of individuals, or even of majorities, - but of the Catholic Church, of which I am, and ever have been, a loyal and faithful, though most humble and most unworthy son.
In accordance then with what the Church has ever held — adding nothing to that Catholic creed, and subtracting nothing form it,
I believe that on the subject of man's future it has been God's will to leave us uninstructed in details that He has vouchsafed to us only so much light as may serve to guide our lives.
I believe in God the Father, the Creator; in God the Son, the Redeemer; in God the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.
I believe that God is Love.
I believe that God willeth all men to be saved.
I believe that God has given to all men the gift of immortality, and that the gifts of God are without repentance.
I believe that every man shall stand before the Judgment-seat of Christ, and shall be judged according to his deeds.
I believe that He who shall be our Judge is He who died for the sins of the whole world.
I believe that "if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous, and He is the propitiation for our sins."
I believe in the forgiveness of sins.
I believe that all who are saved are saved only by grace through faith; and that not of ourselves; it is the gift of God.
I believe that every penitent and pardoned soul will pass from this life into a condition of hope, blessedness, and peace.
I believe that man's destiny stops not at the grave, and that many who knew not Christ here will know Him there.
I believe that "in the depths of the Divine compassion there may be opportunity to win faith in the future state."
I believe that hereafter — whether by means of the "almost-sacrament of death" or in other ways unknown to us — God's mercy may reach many who, to all earthly appearance, might seem to us to die in a lost and unregenerate state.
I believe that as unrepented sin is punished here, so also it is punished beyond the grave.
I believe that the punishment is effected, not by arbitrary inflictions, but by natural and inevitable consequences, and therefore that the expressions which have been interpreted to mean physical and material agonies by worm and flame are metaphors for a state of remorse and alienation from God.
I see reasons to hope that these agonies may be so tempered by the mercy of God that the soul may hereafter find some measure of peace and patience, even if it be not admitted into His vision and His sabbath.
I believe that among the punishments of the world to come there are "few stripes" as well as "many stripes", and I do not see how any fair interpretation of the metaphor, "few stripes", can be made to involve the conception of endlessness for all who incur future retribution.
I believe that Christ went and preached to the spirits in prison, and I see reasons to hope that since the Gospel was thus once preached "to them that were dead", the offers of God's mercy may in some form be extended to the soul, even after death.
I believe that there is an Intermediate State of the soul, and that the great separation of souls into two classes will not take place until the final judgment.
I believe that we are permitted to hope that, whether by a process of discipline, or enlightenment, or purification, or punishment, or by the special mercy of God in Christ, or in consequence of prayer, the state of many souls may be one of progress and diminishing sorrow, and of advancing happiness in the Intermediate State .
I believe that there will be degrees of blessedness and degrees of punishment or deprivation, and I see reasons to hope that there may be gradual mitigations of penal doom to all souls that accept the Will of God respecting them.
I believe, as Christ has said, that "all manner of sin shall be forgiven unto men, and their blasphemies, however greatly they shall blaspheme", and that as there is but one sin of which He said that it should be forgiven neither in this aeon nor in the next, there must be some sins which will be forgiven in the next as well as in this.
I believe that without holiness no man can see the Lord, and that no sinner can be pardoned or accepted till he has repented, and till his free will is in unison with the Will of God; and I cannot tell whether some souls may not resist God for ever, and therefore may not be for ever shut out from His presence.
And I believe that to be without God is "hell"; and that in this sense there is a hell beyond the grave; and that for any soul to fall even for a time into this condition, though it be through its own hardened impenitence and resistance of God's grace, is a very awful and terrible prospect; and that in this sense there may be for some souls an endless hell. But I see reason to hope that through God's mercy, and through the merits of Christ's sacrifice, the great majority of mankind may be delivered from this awful doom. For, according to the Scriptures, though, I know not what its nature will be or how it will be effected,
I believe in the restitution of all things; and
I believe in the coming of that time when, - though in what sense I cannot pretend to explain or to fathom —
GOD WILL BE ALL IN ALL.
( Doxa tw Qew. )
*** END OF CHAPTER XVI ***
(Chapter 16 is the last chapter of the book "Mercy and Judgment")