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Our Father !' Neither is the trouble alleviated by saying that the penalties are not material anguish, but that they are the torments of conscience, of anguish, and despair. While we revolt at physical torment, the refined and cultured nature learns to estimate mental suffering as even more exquisite and more horrible than mere bodily torment; and to teach an eternity of conscious mental suffering, after all chance of hope or reformation is gone, shocks that true moral sense which has been created and educated by the example and the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In short, the very nature of the atonement, as an evolution of the inferior love-nature of God, condemns and destroys such a vision of future useless eternal punishment as a nightmare vision of barbarism. I can conceive, therefore, how a man may believe it simply as an idea. In part of a system it is a mere logical abstraction. But how a man can look in the face of a dying child, the sweet daughter of his hope, cut off without any evidence of change; how one can look into society and see that nineteen out of twenty are not in those conditions which his system of theology requires precedent to heaven and salvation, and yet live and be happy, eat, drink, sleep, laugh, jest, drink in the light of the sun, the glory of the springtime, walk in a rapture through summer, and believe this doctrine, I cannot conceive. When I look at it in the light of palpitating human life, if I believed in this doctrine every leaf would waft a sigh; the ground would tremble with the imagined thunders of perdition; I would be clothed in sackcloth; my head would become with the prophet's 'a fountain of tears ;' it would stop all the processes of human society ; it would say to every man who entered upon the married state, Thou art a barbarian, to bring into life children under such fearful peril and risk !' I do not believe that the reason, nor the industries of life, nor the sanctities of the household, nor anything that is gracious and good could long survive a real belief in these hideous doctrines.”

Referring to the history of the doctrine of future punishment, he agrees with what Canon Farrar has advanced in his book entitled “ Eternal Hope,” as well as with the statements of many other modern scholars who have written on the subject, and says:—“During the first four hundred years the three theories of restoration, of annihilation of the wicked, and of the eternal punishment of the wicked, were held indifferently in the primitive Church, and no man's orthodoxy was called in question on that ground. Of the first six schools of theology it has been shown that four of them taught the final restoration of mankind, and it has also been shown that these very schools comprised the missionary and revival men of that age; so that the energetic portion of the primitive Church that spread Divine truth were restorationists. That the men who wrote and thought in the Greek language, and who lived nearest to the times of the apostles, did not consider the New Testament as teaching the final, conscious suffering of the wicked, forms a strong presumption against the accuracy of the modern interpretation of the New Testament. The general drift of the New Testament is that a sinful life and character brings men into terrible perils in the future. But that those perils are precisely such as men have taught, and that they are endless in respect to each individual who passes unrepentant out of life, cannot be deduced from the general spirit of the New Testament. I teach that sin is both a shame and a disgrace in this life, and an exceeding peril in the life to come, and that there are elements enough of fear to rouse up the consciences of men who need the coarse stimulant of fear to induce any moral reflection or reformation."

But if scholars, who know their Greek and their mental and moral philosophy, no longer believe in the theory of endless, conscious torment in hell, what about the plain, unlettered man who has to read his Bible in a translation ? Would he derive from the New Testament the idea of future, eternal, endless misery? Mr. Beecher answers as follows :-“Yes; just as the old Jews naturally inferred from the Old Testament that the Messiah was to be a temporal prince rather than a spiritual force, and yet they were wrong ; just as the disciples believed that Jesus would come again in their lifetime, and that they should not see death until the kingdom of God had come in a physical and literal sense, and yet they were wrong ; just as many good men still believe in the second advent into this world of Christ, and of the transformation of all society relations by the coercive power of His omnipotence. In short, the universal tendency has been to materialise the Scripture ; to create a material hell and a material heaven; to bring to bear upon the ineffable themes of spiritual existence the attributes and laws of time, and matter, and space. • The kingdom of heaven,’ Christ said, 'is within us; it is not a physical state; it is a condition of the soul. The kingdom of darkness is a spiritual condition, and heaven and hell are words which cover the psychologic condition of the universe. Plain men naturally tend to literalise and materialise the figures of the New Testament; all the worse for them, for the Master declared, “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, they are life.”

Far be it from us to blame Mr. Beecher for this total change of opinion. It is the duty of every man to keep his mind open to any new light that may break out upon him from the holy Word. That a certain notion has been held for centuries by the great majority of the ablest and most godly men, is in itself no proof that it is contained in the Bible. Are we, of this nineteenth century, to be the slaves of the past eighteen hundred years? Are we to be for ever tied to the apron strings of orthodoxy? Have we no liberty? A man who is afraid to contradict Augustine, or Anselm, or Calvin, or Arminius, or Wesley, is not worthy of life. The Bible should be our only authoritative confession of faith ; and if, by studying and pondering the sacred page, a new light surprises us, we should not shrink back and attempt to hide ourselves behind the former darkness, as if we had no right to discover that of which our fathers were ignorant. When the new light broke upon him, Mr. Beecher did wisely to welcome it. He was always anxious to entertain a benevolent faith on this exalted theme, but his honesty prevented him from teaching a doctrine which he did not find in the New Testament. Now, however, he does entertain the “larger hope," and is not afraid to declare the fact. We have no sympathy whatever with those heartless critics who claim that since Eve obeyed the devil and ate the apple, nothing has been more astounding or foolhardy than Mr. Beecher’s change of opinion, They who still adhere to the old view may feel very sorry to see a great and influential man forsaking it, but certainly they should give him the credit of possessing a conscience as well as themselves. Is it sinful to feel and to say, in the words of the poet

“I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope,

And gather dust and chaff, and call

To what I feel is Lord of all,

And faintly trust the larger hope" ? The new faith may not be true; but who has the authority to assure us that the old dogma is a correct interpretation of Scripture? Are we not all equally human and equally fallible? We cannot say that we accept Mr. Beecher's new doctrine ; but we claim the right to inquire, with deepest solicitude, in the language of Tennyson

"The wish that of the living whole

No life may fail beyond the grave,

Derives it not from what we have

The likest God within the soul ?” To dogmatise in such a region as this would be blasphemous. The future is wrapped in the sable shroud of mystery. It is the land of dead silence and impenetrable darkness. The massive gates swing open in a mysterious, inexplicable manner; the dead pass in, the gates close again, and nothing more is known. Everywhere there are intense listenings, plaintive questionings, anxious inquirings, but the Great Beyond maintains its painful silence. Many there are who knock at the gates, and knock again, calling the while to their loved ones within—“Where are ye? Whither gone? In what state ?” But no response comes back; the silence is not broken, the darkness is not pierced. Out of the millions upon millions who pass in from day to day, and age to age, not one has ever returned to tell the story. All we know about the dread hereafter is, that it is inhabited by two classes of beings, one class being in happiness and the other in unutterable misery. Beyond that we dare affirm absolutely nothing. We cannot see eye to eye with those who confidently preach “ the larger hope." By so doing they are assuming a terrible responsibility. So far

as we are aware, Mr. Beecher does not teach the doctrine of possible restoration for those who in this life wilfully reject the offer of salvation through Christ. The Bible does not state that such a restoration is possible. It may be ; who knows? It behoves even the most confident of restorationists to speak with bated breath, saying only, with the poet

“Behold we know not anything;

I can but trust that good shall fall

At last—far off—at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.
“So runs my dream ; but what am I?

An infant crying in the night :

An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.'

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