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

CHAPTER VII.

IS FUTURE RETRIBUTION NECESSARILY AND INVARIABLY ENDLESS?

"Wilt Thou not make, Eternal Source and Goal!

In Thy long years life's broken purpose whole,

And change to praise the cry of a Lost Soul?"

WHITTIER .

I now pass to the fourth point.

As to the first three, I have shown that Dr. Pusey, and with him the majority of our best divines, as well as of Roman Catholic divines, repudiate as fully as I have repudiated the necessity for believing as matters of faith [1] that there is a material hell; or, [2] that the majority of mankind must perish; or, [3] that no change will be possible in the condition of the dead who may die in an imperfect frame of mind. These points are therefore conceded, and I have only had to remove the verbal ambiguity attaching to one phrase ("those who die in a state of sin").

My object has been more than gained if I have succeeded in forcing upon the attention of the Church that the popular teaching still prevalent is not in accordance with true theological teaching; that it goes far beyond revealed truth; that it is mixed up with many dangerous accretions; that it constitutes a deadly hindrance to the spread of Christianity among the heathen, and to its acceptance in Christian countries by many men of high intellect and pure morals whom we should love to win over to the truth in Christ.

It is different with the fourth point. I said that "the supposition of the necessarily endless duration of hell for all who incur it", was also an accretion to the true doctrine. On this point Dr. Pusey takes his stand. To give up this belief would, he says, be "to give up part of that Faith which our Lord gave as a protection to all those who suffer for Him sooner than give up Himself". Yet on this point there is a difference between us so far only as this: I do not deny that punishment may for some souls be endless; but I do not agree with Dr. Pusey in thinking that this endlessness is a necessary matter of faith.

Dr. Pusey, since he too believes in a punishment beyond the grave which will terminate — a purgatorial punishment, - repudiates this fourth accretion in exactly the same sense as I do.

The apparent opposition between us is purely verbal. Dr. Pusey confines the word "hell" to the meaning "endless punishment"; to him therefore it would be a mere contradiction in terms to say that "hell" could ever end. If he gives this definition to hell, I of course agree with him. Whatever "hell" may be, I have said that the soul which never repents to the end will suffer to the end. But since the popular theology (to which alone I was alluding attaches the name "hell" to every kind of punishment beyond the grave, it asserts the impossibility of any terminable and purifying punishment. I wished to repudiate this assertion, and so does Dr. Pusey. I meant to declare my hope that there is such a thing as a punishment beyond the grave — call it "purgatory" or what you will — which will not be endless. The divergence of our expressions only conceals a substantial indentity in the views which we alike hold.

Dr. Pusey would say:

I. I believe that some human beings pass away from this world under the doom to endless torments.

II. But I believe also — or at any rate I admit it to be a perfectly tenable opinion — that the majority of human beings will ultimately be saved.

III. Yet, since they die unfit for heaven, I believe that all who die unsanctified, and but imperfectly penitent, will pass hence into a state of punishment in which they will be prepared and purified for the presence of God.

Now as regards these three propositions I should adopt much the same views, but express them in different words, namely —

I. I cannot but fear, from one or two passages of Scripture, and from the general teaching of the Church, and from certain facts of human experience that some souls may be ultimately lost; - that they will not be admitted into the Vision and the Sabbath of God.

II. I trust that God's mercy, and through Christ's redemption, the majority of mankind will be ultimately saved.

III. Yet, since they die unfit for heaven — since they die in a state of imperfect grace — I believe that in some way or other, before the final judgment, God's mercy may reach them, and the benefits of Christ's atonement be extended to them beyond the grave.

This is, and always has been, ex animo, my belief and hope; and, as I think my whole book showed, this was exactly what I meant when I said that "eternal punishment", i.e., "punishment in the life to come", is not necessarily endless in duration to all who incur it.

But then it was said that while I denied Universalism, many of my arguments pointed in the direction of Universalism. I reply: -

i. That though I am neither an Universalist nor an "Annihilationist", I believe that both of these views have at all times been held by many good and faithful Christians; that neither of them is positively rejected by any formula of our Church; that neither of them cuts off those who hold them from the rights of full communion; and that both of them may be supported by arguments from Scripture which, thought to me they are unconvincing, are not to be swept aside as impossible or absurd.

And, ii. That, as regards Universalism, although it cannot be held as a dogma, it is so far from being excluded as a hope, that it represents one of the apparent antinomies of Scripture which it was right to indicate. Dark as is the prospect of wicked men, awful as may seem to be their ultimate doom, it would yet be sinful and faithless to quench every apparent gleam of hope respecting their future lot which to some eyes has always seemed to be dimly discernible on the far horizon.

Would the Church for more than a thousand years have taught us to pray an absurd and a hopeless prayer? Yet the Church teaches us, all our lives long, to pray a prayer which I for one breathe more intensely than any other from the very depths of my heart,

"THAT IT MAY PLEASE THEE TO HAVE MERCY UPON ALL MEN,

 

We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord."*(1)

*(1) "I embraced in my heart all that is called man, past, present, and future, times and nations, the dead, the damned, even Satan. I presented them all to God with the warmest wishes that He would have mercy upon all." — LAVATER, ap. Alger, p. 537.

*** END OF CHAPTER VII. ***

ch. 1 ch. 2 ch. 3 ch. 4 ch. 5 ch. 6 ch. 7 ch. 8 ch. 9 pt. 1 ch. pt. 2 ch. 10 ch. 11 ch. 12 ch. 13 ch. 14

ch. 15 ch. 16 Last Page of Mercy and Judgment


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