« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
pardon the great majority of men, because they are guilty only of very excusable faults; but he will undoubtedly condemn those great criminals who have polluted the earth by their frightful crimes. However, for my part, I have a more enlarged idea of the goodness of God. I believe that he will pardon, not only men guilty of slight faults, but even the greatest criminals. I believe that he will open his heaven at last to the unhappy beings who fill our prisons and convict establishments, as well as to those who have never either committed murder or theft. You see that my God has greater goodness than yours.”
This excess of goodness appeared to me to surprise the three travellers who had already spoken, when the fourth began to speak. I thought he was about to set a limit to this great mercy, but was much astonished to hear him
say, “Gentlemen, I am of the same opinion ; it is an absurdity to think that God has created men to be lost. Rather than to have given life to creatures who would be condemned for their crimes, God, who foresaw their conduct, would, in that case, have been wiser not to have given them existence. The god who should have created a single man to burn him would be a barbarous god. For my part, I assign no limits to the goodness of God; I believe in a god who will pardon us all because he wills the happiness of all. I do not think," said he, looking at my neighbour, " that your God can have more liberality than mine."
“ Here you deceive yourself, sir ; my God, just as yours, wills the pardon of all men; but herein is the difference between you and me. You say, God will pardon us after death ; and I say, he pardons us to-day, at once. So that, at the moment I am speaking, I believe that pardon is assured to me, and heaven obtained. Thus, you see that my God is more merciful than your four gods together--no purgatory, no punishment for slight faults, no condemnation for great crimes, not even a pardon deferred until after death, but an absolute pardon, and the gift of eternal life and happiness to all, and that pardon accorded now, at the moment I am speaking." “Sir,” said the tutor, in a serious tone, “you are free to form what opinion you please of God, but the subject under inquiry is, not to ascertain which is the god of your imagination, but which is the God of truth.”
“That is just, sir,” said I, “I thank you for your observation. However, before replying, allow me to ask a question of each of you. Would you feel joy or grief to know that God was really such as you have described him ?”
“ Joy,” said all the voices at once.
« Well, and does it not rest with you, Monsieur l’Instituteur,* to prove that such is the truth?”
“Such is the teaching of the Church and our Holy Scriptures.”
“What do you say, gentlemen,” said I, addressing the others.
“ For my part," said one of the other travellers, “I attach very little importance to the teaching of the Church and the Holy Scriptures, but I confess that if Christianity, which has invented purgatory and hell, teaches the absolute and immediate pardon of all men, it would much surprise me, and I should be greatly tempted to examine those Scriptures more closely.”
“ And I,” said the second.
“So that, gentlemen, you will accept my God, infinitely good, offering immediate pardon, if such is the teaching of Christianity ?"
“Yes, yes, yes," they all said.
“ Well, know, then, that all I have said to you, far from being invented by my imagination, is drawn from the Bible, the Holy Scriptures, the word of God."
“Impossible ! you jest !"
“No, gentlemen, I speak seriously, very seriously. That God who offers you complete pardon for all your sins, who offers it to you at once; that God who wishes to give you heaven at once, without your having merited it, is the Eternal, the God of the Bible, the true God. While infinitely holy, abhorring sin and determined to punish it, yet he has, in great mercy and compassion towards sinful men, provided a Saviour,
* The tutor.
THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY, 27, RED LION SQUARE, LONDON.
His own Son, who became a willing sacrifice for the sins of mankind.* In order that you may not rely on my word, I will read to you the declaration of the Bible itself, without altering one word.”
Here he drew from his pocket a small bible. “ First," said he, “observe the history of the woman of immoral life, who, until the day that she came and wept at the feet of Jesus, had lived in debauchery and impurity. Jesus pardoned her instantly. He did not say, Thou shalt be pardoned at thy death; thou shalt be pardoned in twenty, ten, or five years, but he said, Thou art already pardoned. Hear the words of our Saviour, · Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.'+
“Observe next the history of Zacchæus the publican, who had enriched himself by plunder. Jesus did not say to him, Thou shalt be ten, twenty, thirty years in purgatory, and after that I will give thee salvation, but he said, · To-day I must abide at thy house.'I
“Behold the history of that thief on the cross on the right of Jesus. He had lived by plunder and murder, he was condemned and punished for great crimes ; this he acknowledged, for he said to his companion, who railed on Jesus, · Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation ? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds.' And when, turning himself towards the Son of God, he said to Him, · Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom,' Jesus did not reply, There is pardon only for slight sins; thy enormous crimes ought to be punished. He did not even put off the pardon which he offered to him to a century, to a year, or to many days; no; but He said to him, • To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.' But do you ask, gentlemen, for positive declaration as to a salvation complete, free, immediate, and offered to all ? They are found in every page. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.'| He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall
* 1 Pet. ii. 24. + Luke vii. 50. Luke xix. 5. § Luke xxiii. 40, &c.
|| Rom. viii. 1.
not come into condemnation ; but is passed from death unto
God hath saved us, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus.'t The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.' •By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves : it is the gift of God.'s.” The reader stopped and closed his book.
“ This is astonishing," said the friend of Rousseau.
“ Well, Monsieur l'Instituteur," said another, you who spoke to us of a God so terrible, you see that it would be better to have to do with God than the saints, with the Bible than the Church.
“ Indeed," said the third, “ since it is thus, I accept the God of your gospel.”
“Well, gentlemen,” said the bible reader, “now let me apply what I have said ; let us draw our conclusions from the word of God—What shall we say then ? Shall we continue in sin that grace' may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein ?' · Likewise reckon
also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin there. fore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin : but yield yourselves to God as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.'||
* Thus; gentlemen, in a word, God pardons you, pardons you at once; and since you are pardoned and saved, your heart, full of love and gratitude for so great a benefit, strives henceforth to please so good a God. He loves holiness--you will then live holily; he is a God of truth--you will ever be sincere ; he is a God of mercy-you will always be merciful to your enemies ; you will love your brethren; egotism, pride, and vanity will no longer rule over you, and you will daily seek more and more joyfully to cast away from
you those sins
# John v. 24.
§ Eph. ii. 8.
+ 2 Tim. i. 9. # 1 John i. 7.
which grieve your God. You, being saved and pardoned by love, you will seek then, in a feeling of love, to live holily and purely."
Our four travellers were astonished. They were far from expecting such a conclusion, but as their conscience told them it was a just one, they knew not, at the moment, what answer to make; they seemed taken in a net which they had themselves spread. After turning again and again, the fashionable young man attempted to escape by a ruse. “ Well, sir," said he, “keep your God and his goodness ; I love my own better."
“ And I mine." “ And I also.”
“ You see, then, gentlemen,” said the tutor, “that the Church is right."
“ It appears to me,” replied the bible reader, “ that I was not very wrong when I said at the commencement that, notwithstanding our apparent unity, we worshipped three different gods. But, would you wish that I should now tell you frankly why you reject my God, who is so good, and whom you seemed at first disposed to accept? Do you wish to know why you each prefer your own god, notwithstanding his imperfect goodness ?”
All were silent. The friend of Rousseau looked out at the window ;
the young man cast his eyes over the engravings ; at last I saw that all wished to close the subject. Then, raising myself from my corner, I said, “ Yes, gentlemen ; I am curious, on my own account, to hear your explanation."
These words were like the key which again sets the timepiece in motion; and, without stopping, the intrepid preacher boldly renewed the conversation in a tone of mildness and authority. “Gentlemen,” said he, “I have not the slightest intention to wound you, but the subject is too grave for me to say less than the whole truth. The great difference between my God and your gods is, that mine pardons and that yours will pardon.
It is evident that a present is better than an expectant pardon. How is it, then, that you nevertheless reject it? Why do you look to the future for that which God