Chauncey Giles.

Progress in spiritual knowledge online

. (page 14 of 26)
Online LibraryChauncey GilesProgress in spiritual knowledge → online text (page 14 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


suffer the consequences. The Lord cannot prevent it.
" The wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him."

We are brought to the inevitable conclusion, therefore,
that there is no hope for the sinner but in being cleansed
from his sin. So long as he is a sinner he is not in har-
mony with the Divine order. His will cannot receive the
Divine love and his understanding the Divine truth in
their true forms and order. He is an instrument out of
tune, and his activities can only be discords ; he is a cor-
rupt tree which cannot bring forth good fruit ; his spir-
itual body is diseased, and all its activities are death
rather than life, and he will remain spiritually dead until
he turns from all his sins, which cause that death. When
he keeps the Lord's statutes and does that which is lawful



192



PROGRESS IN SPIRIl^UAL KNOWLEDGE.



and right, he will surely live ; he will not die. These are
the conditions, and the only conditions, on which we can
be saved.

My whole effort has been directed to one end, and that
is to show that there is nothing arbitrary or fluctuating in
the punishment of sin. Man is not punished for sinning,
but in sinning ; sin and suffering are intimately connected,
and by no possibility can they be separated. The Divine
laws are not modelled after human laws. They are all
self-executing. They are never annulled or repealed or
modified.

This truth is very broad and comprehensive in its ap-
plications, and will reverse many of the opinions and
much of the reasoning upon the Lord's relations to man.
It relieves the subject of human salvation from all its
mysteries and complicated technicalities, and makes it as
plain and simple as the curing of any natural disease, and
much more certain, when the prescribed remedies are
appHed. For we have a Spiritual Physician who under-
stands the disease perfectly, and who never fails to cure
all who apply to Him and follow His prescriptions. We
must direct our attention to the sin, to the disease, and
not to the pain it causes. We must learn the Lord's
commandments, that we may know what the laws of life
are, and then we must obey them. We must shun what
they forbid. We must do it now, to-day, every day.
The Lord will assist every effort we make. He came
into this world by assuming a human nature, that He
might remove every obstacle that prevents His access to
us, that He might apply the remedy directly to the dis-
ease, and so bring His life down to us, even in the grave



SIN AND ITS PUNISHMENT.



193



of our sins, that He might become our resurrection and
life. He is present with us now by the influences of His
Holy Spirit, and assists every struggle for release from
sin, and favors every aspiration after a heavenly life. In-
finite love, wisdom, and power are on our side, and we
have only to remove the obstructions to their application
to our own life to be sure of escaping every torment -of
sin and of enjoying every heavenly blessing we are
capable of receiving. Therefore, * ' cast away from you
all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed ;
and make you a new heart and a new spirit : for why will
ye die, O house of Israel ? For I have no pleasure in the
death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God. Wherefore
turn yourselves, and live ye."



17



THE DIVINE MERCY IN SUFFERING AND EVIL.

** But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.'''' — Mat-
thew X. 30.

^'^ He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and
sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.'" —Matthew v. 45.

T N the first of these passages the Lord declares the uni-
^ versahty of His providential care ; and in the second,
that His care extends to the evil as well as to the good, to
the just as well as to the unjust. By the sun and rain are
meant His love and wisdom. He here assures us, there-
fore, that He exercises the same love towards the evil
that He does towards the good, and that He employs
His Divine wisdom just as fully for the benefit of the un-
just as He does for the good of the just.

This is not the common opinion, and it is not appar-
ently in accordance with many passages of the Word, in
which the Lord declares His hostility to the wicked.
But there is no real contradiction between Divine declara-
tions. Some express the real truth ; others the apparent
truth. Persons who oppose us in any course we are pur-
suing seem to be our enemies. Our children often think
we are hostile to them because we do not grant all their
requests, or because we oppose them in what seems to
them to be good. The real truth is that the Lord's
providence is over all men, at all times, in all states, in
temptation and sorrow as well as in prosperity and joy,
194



THE DIVINE MERCY IN SUFFERING AND EVIL. 195

and is continually exercised for their good. It does not
seem so to us, because the Lord knows that often what we
think to be for our good is hurtful to us. Opposition to
that seeming good, but real evil, is, therefore, a favor to
us. The Lord regards every human being with infinite
love, and He deals with every human being with infinite
wisdom. He does all for every one, in every part of His
universe, that infinite wisdom and infinite power can do ;
for the evil as well as the good, for the ignorant heathen
as well as the most intelligent Christian, for the sick as
fully as for the strong, for the lowest spirit in hell as well
as for the highest angel in heaven. But what He can do
for each one depends upon his state, upon what he really
needs. Therefore the Divine life is received by no two
in the same manner.

This principle is clearly exhibited in human life.
What we can do for another, supposing we have the
power, depends upon what he needs. If he is rich, we
cannot help him by giving him money. If he is well,
medicine will do him no good. If he has an abundance
of provisions, it will not help him to give him bread. If
he is wiser than we, our advice is of no service. But if
he is poor, or sick, or ignorant, we may help him in
those particulars. If he is perverse, we may help him
to overcome his perversity. If he is starving for natural
or spiritual food, we can feed him.

But what the Lord can do for us is not only limited by
our necessities, but by our willingness to be helped. In
all the Lord's dealings with man we must recognize the
immutable truth of man's freedom, and that the Lord
always respects his freedom. It is not the Lord's power,



196 FJ^ OGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE,

nor the Lord's disposition, nor the abundance or scarcity
of means, nor the capacity of man's nature that is the
limit of the good the Lord can do for him. It is man's
freedom. How much good can he be led, in freedom, to
receive? Man's freedom in this respect is like a vessel.
It is the capacity of a vessel and not the ocean that
limits the amount we can put into it. We often wonder
and sometimes complain because the Lord does not give
us a more abundant and richer good. When we see the
apparently vast inequalities in human life, and the
immense amount of suffering and sorrow, we are sur-
prised that the Lord does not interpose in behalf of the
destitute and the afflicted, more fully equalize human
blessings, and bestow His bounty with a more liberal
hand. But there is no withholding of His blessing. He
gives to every being the largest measure of the highest
good he can be induced to receive. We do not wonder
that the sun does not clothe a white and burning bank
of sand or a stagnant pool of water with wheat and
vines. The heat and light of the sun fall upon all places
of the same aspect alike, and enter and vivify what there
is to receive them. So it is with the Divine love. Let
us, then, settle it as an immutable truth that the Lord
always gives us all the good He can lead us in freedom to~
receive.

It is my own fault if I suffer. The Lord did not send
this affliction upon me. I brought it upon myself He
tried to prevent it, but could not without doing me a
greater injury than the one I have received. And He is
even now trying to bring out of this suffering all the
good He can.



THE DIVINE MERCY IN SUFFERING AND EVII. 197

But that we may see this truth in a clearer light let us
consider more particularly the manner in which the Lord
sends His blessings to us and leads us to good.

The Lord never provides evil or punishment or suffer-
ing for any one. But He permits them, and He permits
them for our good. The Lord has arranged everything
in the universe for the happiness of man, and He has
organized man himself to receive delight from every-
thing. So long, therefore, as man lives in the order of the
Divine providence he receives nothing but good. For
example, the Lord has arranged a certain order for man's
physical life, concerning food, raiment, sleep, and exer-
cise. This order is perfect. It is from the Lord's will.
If man lives according to it he receives only good. It is
the same with his moral, intellectual, and spiritual hfe.
But if man violates this order he takes himself out from
its harmonies, and so far cuts himself off from the will of
the Lord. The Lord can no more reach him in that
way. He separates himself from good and comes under
another law, the law of truth which condemns him. The
order which was provided to bring the soul good and
only good now acts against it and condemns it, because
the soul does not move with it. You have seen a com-
plicated piece of machinery driven by a powerful engine.
Every part of the machine was arranged according to a
certain order, to accomplish a certain end. Suppose this
order and every part of the machine to be perfect.
Every wheel and spring and lever plays in harmony, and
the end, which is the good sought, is accomplished. But
if some wheel gets out of place or some spring breaks,
the order is destroyed. The whole force that propelled

17*



198 PROGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.

the machine now serves to break it up and destroy it.
The force of the engine that acted only for good now
crushes, now acts for evil. So when man violates the
order of infinite wisdom embodied in his soul, that order
acts against him, and man suffers according to the extent
of the violation. Now, the Lord did not provide this
suffering ; it is not from His will, but He permits it, and
He permits it for man's good in the state in which he
then is.

But when we say He permits evil we must not under-
stand the permission in the sense that He concurs in it,
or that He led man into it, or sent it upon him in any
sense. All the laws of the Divine order are good, and
when man by disobedience departs from the Divine order
it is he who casts himself into punishments and torments.

The case is the same as with the parent and child. A
wise parent wills only the good of his child, and shows
him how to attain the good. But if the child will not
obey in all things ; if he desires to do things which the
parent knows are not for his good, he may still permit
him to have his own way if he believes that forcible re-
straint would do the child more harm than to follow his
own inclinations. He knows, perhaps, that he will never
be satisfied until he has tasted the bitter fruits of his own
choice. Such cases come within the experience of all
parents. Now, the parent does not provide the false and
evil course for his child. He does not provide the suffer-
ings which are caused by it. He does not will it, but he
permits it, because to restrain the child by force would
be a greater evil.

In the same way the Lord permits us to disobey His



THE DIVINE MERCY IN SUFFERING AND EVIL. 199

laws. He tells us the consequences ; but we do not be-
lieve Him, and we cannot be made to believe Him until
we have tried it for ourselves. He permits us to plunge
into evils and falsities, and to bring their inevitable pun-
ishments upon ourselves, because the evil is not so great
as would result from forcibly restraining us. Thus He
permits it for a relatively greater good, or because it is
the least evil under the circumstances.

But the Lord does not leave us in our sins. He uses
the suffering as a warning to go no farther astray. Every
pain we suffer is a voice of warning, a cry that we are in
danger. When I put my hand too near the fire the
smarting cries out to me, ' ' You are violating a law of
your physical life!" When I labor too long and too
severely, the weariness and pain declare in unmistakable
language that I am in danger of overtaxing my strength.
When I violate a moral or spiritual law, conscience lifts
her voice and inflicts her pangs. The Lord permits these
things for our good, but He did not provide them for the
smart and pain. The Lord did not provide fire to burn
us, but to warm us, to cook our food, and to serve a
great variety of useful purposes. The Lord did not
weave a fine texture of nerves throughout the whole
human body for the purpose of filling it with pain. He
formed them to be the medium of communicating a de-
light from everything we touch. He did not create the
conscience to sting and madden us, but to be a light to
guide us and an approving voice to comfort and sustain
us in the right. He did not make the head to ache and
the whole human body to be racked with pains, to be
eaten up with ulcers, and withered with palsies. He



200 PROGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.

formed it to be the beautiful home of the soul while it
tarries in the world, the free and happy instrument with
which it communicates with the material universe and
gains the materials for the development of its own form
and life. And yet He permits the body to become a
most foul, repulsive, and hideous thing.

But it is important to a true knowledge of the Divine
character for us to keep in mind that the Lord does not
permit those things for the sake of punishment. He
permits the punishment for the sake of preventing evil
and of leading men back to good. All those passages in
the Word which represent the Lord as hating the evil,
burning with fury towards them, and inflicting upon them
the most terrible punishments, express not genuine, but
apparent truths. They state things as they appear to
man, not as they are when viewed from the Lord. You
will observe, however, that this view gives no license to
man to commit evil. On the contrary, it shows that evil
and suffering are inseparably connected. The Lord
Himself cannot prevent the suffering. ' ' The soul that
sinneth, it shall die." But it shows the Divine character
to be very different from that which is often attributed to
the Lord. It shows how suffering and sin in the world
are perfectly consistent with His infinite love and wisdom.

There is another reason why the Lord permits man to
act out his evils in freedom, and that is that he may see
them in their infernal deformity and put them away.
Man must exercise the same freedom in putting away his
evils that he does in committing them, for all his real ac-
tions are voluntary. The natural man is full of evils,
which must be put away before he can be regenerated.



THE DIVINE MERCY IN SUFFERING AND EVIL. 20I

But an evil cannot be resisted until it is seen, and it
cannot be seen until it appears. We ought not to commit
evil, however, that it may appear. We ought to see it
in its first motions in our thoughts, and there repress and
shun it. But most persons, will not examine themselves
with candor, by the light of Divine truth. We are loath
to confess even to ourselves that we are sinners ; and
many persons will not do it until their evils come out into
act, and in all their frightful deformity boldly confront
them. And even then they shut their eyes against them
until they are compelled, by seeing their fatal conse-
quences, to avoid them. Thus the Lord's providence is
over us at all times, and He makes the best use of our evils
for our good. What He cannot prevent without a greater
injury to us He permits, and permits that He may make
the commission itself of the evil an aid in removing it.
He is merciful even where it is impossible to remove
the evil, as is the case with all who are evil at heart,
after they have passed into the spiritual world. The
punishments they inflict upon one another are permit-
ted for the purpose of repressing their evils from fear,
and thus preventing those who commit the sin from sink-
ing into still greater evils, and thus incurring a severer
punishment. Thus the Lord is ever seeking our good,
and never fails to do the best for us that infinite wisdom
can effect. He does not cease to love us and work for
us when we are in evil. He does not leave us to our-
selves when we wander from Him, but, like the good
shepherd. He leaves the ninety and nine that are safe and
goes after the one that is lost.

We must not infer, however, that It is no matter what



20 2 PROGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.

we do, if whatever happens is best for us. We must re-
member that it is best under the circumstances, taking
all things into consideration. For example, suppose you
are disappointed in the attainment of some good upon
which you had set your heart, or you are afflicted by
some terrible bereavement. The Lord is doing the best
He can for you. The evils you suffer are to prevent
greater evils. Still, it is not as well for you as it would
have been if you had lived a better and more orderly life.
You are sick, perhaps, and suffer much pain. Your
sickness is not sent upon you by the Lord. It has come
from the violation of some physical law, and, though
your suffering is best under the circumstances, your con-
dition might have been better if you had not disobeyed
the laws of your physical life. It is best for the wicked in
the spiritual world to be restrained from greater sin and
greater misery by punishment ; but it would have been
far better for them if they had repented and shunned
their evils as sins against God in this world ; for then
they would be angels in heaven, and they would be en-
tering into the enjoyment of all heavenly delights.

There is also one important principle of compensation
for our natural sufferings which no finite mind can ever
fully estimate. A natural evil may be permitted and used
by the Divine Providence to effect a spiritual good. Man
has a twofold nature, and suffering and disappointment in
one degree or plane of his mind may be overruled for his
greater good in another. We see some persons who seem
to be always in affliction. Nothing that they touch seems
to prosper. They never succeed in business ; if they run
for office they are sure to be defeated ; if they engage in



THE DIVINE MERCY IN SUFFERING AND EVIL. 203

an enterprise they fail ; they always meet with what we
call accidents, and everything seems to go wrong. Now,
out of this apparent misfortune there may be educed a
much greater spiritual and eternal good than could have
been gained by the greatest temporal prosperity. What,
therefore, seems to us misfortune may really be the
greatest good fortune. The man who suffers these things
may get more real good out of them than his neighbor,
who succeeds in everything he puts his hand to, can get
from his prosperity. A natural loss may contribute to a
great spiritual gain. In this way there are compensations
for natural evils, whose value we can never estimate, and
which may immeasurably outweigh the ills. One thing is
certain r the Lord permits them for a good end, and with
our co-operation He will bring good out of them, all the
good that is possible to infinite wisdom and power.

What a cheerful view does this truth give us of life !
With what a merciful and loving tenderness does it invest
our Heavenly Father ! How the disappointed hopes, the
ignorance, the failures, the bereavements, the sufferings
and sorrows of poor, erring humanity, change their re-
pulsive aspect ! How is all that we have called unfortu-
nate, and mourned over in our own lives, brightened and
changed into new forms of beauty and good by it ! Let
us try to bring home the blessed truth to our own souls
as an undoubted reality. Our very hairs are numbered.
The Lord does not turn away His face from us because
we turn our faces from Him. If we are spiritually naked
and hungry, sick and in prison. He will no more leave us
than a devoted parent would leave a beloved child when
he was sick and in affliction. If possible, the Lord then



204



PROGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.



regards us with more tenderness than at other times ;
and, though He cannot communicate to us any good but
what He can lead us voluntarily to receive, He watches
over us every moment of our lives, and seizes upon the
slightest opportunity, and makes the most of every pos-
sible occasion to soften the hardness of our nature, to
bend our wills towards a true order, to lead us back into
harmony with Him. Why are we so slow and reluctant
to believe in His mercy and loving-kindness ? Why are
we so prone to doubt His care for us, and to make our
natural prosperity the measure of His good-will towards
us ? When we suffer, why will we accuse the Lord of
unkindness or want of care, when the only reason the
Lord does not give us a greater measure of good is our
unwillingness to receive it ? Why do we not commit our
way unto Him, and trust Him, and let Him lead us in the
paths of righteousness, beside the still waters, and restore
our souls to their true order, harmony, and peace ? Oh,
you who go trembling with many a fear, whose souls are
chafed and worried and stung with many an anxious care,
whose hearts are heavy with many a burden of grief, why
will you not accept the blessed invitation, **Come unto
me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, . . . for I am
meek and lowly in heart ; and ye shall find rest unto
your souls' ' ? Come, the Lord will take you by the hand.
He will help you at every step. He will strengthen your
weakness of will and act. He will lead you as gently as
love itself He will reward every right effort. Come up
from the corruption of the grave and the coldness and dark-
ness of death into the light and order and peace of heaven.
Come, all things are ready. Come, and begin to live.



THE ATONEMENT: WHO MADE IT, WHY

IT WAS NECESSARY, HOW IT

WAS EFFECTED.

' ' For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will
not lie : so he was their Saviour.

" In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the Aiigel of his
presence saved them : in his love and in his pity he redec'ined
them ; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old. ' '
— Isaiah Ixiii. 8, 9.

T^HE subject to which I invite your attention is justly
regarded by the whole Christian world as vital to
man's salvation. Our eternal happiness or misery rests
upon it. We all know that we are sinners ; that we have
rebelled against the government of the King of kings and
Lord of lords. We are under condemnation. We con-
fess it by our fears. We are already suffering the pen-
alties of our disobedience. We feel it in the weariness of
servitude, in the weakness and pain of disease, in cares,
anxieties, disappointments, in yearning for a freedom we
do not possess, in aspirations for a good we cannot gain,
and in the sharp thrusts of conscience for violated law.
The whole earth is a prison whose walls are not stone or
iron, but ignorance and error and evil ; and multitudes
fear that they will be released from this prison-house only
to be plunged into a more terrible one. Whether you
believe the Bible or not, whether you accept the common
doctrine of sin and punishment or not, you know that

18 205



2o6 FI^ OGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.

you suffer ; you know that your affections, your under-
standings, and your lives are not in the harmonies of
Divine order. You know that you are weak and bhnd,
that your heart is full of fears and questions about your
relations to the Lord and your chances for future happi-
ness.

The subject we are to consider is, How the differences
between us and the Lord are to be harmonized ; how His
claim upon us is to be adjusted. If it is a punishment
which must be inflicted, who is to bear it ? If it is a debt
which must be paid, who will pay it ? If it is a case of
spiritual disease, weakness, and death, which have come
upon man as a consequence of violating the laws of spir-
itual hfe, how is he to be restored to spiritual soundness
and health, so that his whole nature shall act in harmony
with the Divine nature ? Put the question as you will, it
touches every vital interest and immortal hope of man.
It is the essential question between man and the Lord,
the root principle on which all other questions depend.

There have been many opinions and theories upon this


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Online LibraryChauncey GilesProgress in spiritual knowledge → online text (page 14 of 26)