REV. DR. BAYLEY.
Minister of Argyle Square Church, Kings Cross, London.
CHARLES P. ALVEY, 36 BLOOMSBURY STREET, W. C.
PRINTED BY CHARLES P. ALVEY, MUSEUM STREET.
THE Discourses on the Paradoxes which follow, were delivered to aid sincere seekers after Christian Truth. I am profoundly convinced that the number is very large in all denominations of those who desire to be right; who wish to serve the Lord, and live for heaven, but who at the same time, have many difficulties which they would gladly have unraveled. They need helping, and they desire to be helped. True Christian work is, in love, to help each other; not to reproach, or to denounce each other. In this spirit these Discourses were delivered; in the same spirit they are issued from the press, with the prayer that, they may be blessed to the good of many, by Him who is the Light of the Word.
1 THE HEAVEN AND EARTH WHICH ENDURE, AND THOSE WHICH
2 THE GRAND ATTRIBUTE OF JUSTICE 15
3 GODS APPARENT ANGER AND REAL LOVE 27
4 GODS APPARENT REPENTANCE AND REAL UNCHANGEABLENESS 39
5 INIQUITY VISITED UPON CHILDREN, BUT PUNISHMENT ONLY
UPON THE GUILTY 51
6 THE FATHER AND MOTHER TO BE HONORED, AND THE FATHER
AND THE MOTHER TO BE HATED 63
7 THE PREDESTINATION OF ALL MEN TO HEAVEN BY THE LORD,
AND ITS REALIZATION IN ALL WHO LOVE HIM. 75
8 MARRIAGE; ITS SANCTITY, DIGNITY, AND USE 87
9 THE ONE GOD: HIS UNITY AND TRINITY 102
10 THE ATONEMENT. MAN RECONCILES TO GOD 113
11 MANS RESURRECTION IN HIS SPIRITUAL BODY 127
12 FAITH GROUNDED IN LOVE, THE SOURCE OF CHRISTIAN VIRTUE 141
Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish.Psalm cii. 25, 26.
Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.Psalm civ. 5.
EVERY patient student of science knows that nature is constantly presenting PARADOXES. Nature has few straight lines. There are complications, and what appears to superficial minds to be contradictions, everywhere.
How small the sun appears, yet how vast it is! How large the earth seems, yet in comparison with the universe how small it really is. How fixed do we conceive the rocks on which we build to be, yet are they as parts of the earth, in most rapid motion. Solid things are usually regarded as heavier than liquid, yet ice is lighter than water. Cold commonly makes objects shrink into less compass, yet frozen water expands and will burst rocks and even cannon. So, throughout every domain of nature and of life, there are found paradoxes apparently inconsistent with law, yet they are not really so. Patient study shows that the apparent contradiction points to some deeper law, some wider, grander view of things, and when this larger generalization is obtained the seeming perplexity disappears.
This characteristic of the works of God prevails also in the Word of God. Things there, as in nature, are not always what they seem; and probably for the same reason the difficulties in nature excite enquiry, call forth exertion, and make man a far nobler being than he would be if his whole life were one of ease and smoothness.
Let us then, while we study the Paradoxes of the Bible, the seeming contradictions which are presented on the surface of Divine Wisdom, pray to Him who is the way, the truth, and the life, to warm our hearts with a devoted love of truth, and to open our eyes, that we may behold wondrous things in His law, (Ps. cxix, 18,) which discloses the Divine and gracious lessons of everlasting life.
The first PARADOX upon which we venture to ask your consideration is the statement in the Psalm we have quoted, that the earth and the heavens SHALL PERISHa statement several times made in the Scripturescompared with declarations equally positive and really more numerous, that the earth and the heavens SHALL ENDURE FOR EVER. We have selected this instance of apparent contradiction in the Sacred Volume, because the subjects dependent on a right understanding of it are numerous and important, and are especially so at the present time, when many are expecting the kingdom of God to come with outward observation. We would earnestly deprecate the course pursued by many diligent readers of the Bible, who are aware that statements of an opposite kind exist in the Sacred Volume, but are content, as they read, to notice with favor the declarations which echo the sentiments, right or wrong, in which they have been educated, and suffer the others to make no impression on their minds.
The Word of God is doubtless correct, but if we understand its teaching, so as not to know what to do with one-half of its declarations we have certainly not yet embraced the whole counsel of God.
If we would be faithful to our Divine Teacher, we must listen devoutly to all he has to say, and especially consider what appears contrary to our previous prepossessions. We are in no danger of giving too little weight to them; there is great likelihood of our giving too much. Let us, in the spirit of loving trust in the Lord, accept all His counsel on the subject before us, and doubtless, we shall find that he will, as ever, guide the meek in judgment: the meek will he teach his way.
It is not altogether unworthy of notice, that this passage is the first in the Bible which seems to declare that the outward universe will some time perish. There are others in pages of the Old Testament, and also in the New, but this is the first. Half the Bible had been given before any such expression is to be found. The passages which announce but they are very distinct. The Lord says, Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.Matt. xxiv., 35. Again, Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not giver her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.Matt. xxiv., 29.
The Apostle Peter furnishes a very positive declaration; But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night: in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness. Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless, we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.2 Pet. iii., 10-13. John also, in the book of the Revelation, says, I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth, were passed away; and there was no more sea.xxi. 1.
Were these declarations alone, and unqualified by expressions which manifestly modify them, every faithful believer in the Bible would undoubtedly accept them as teaching that our magnificent universe would at some period absolutely perish, leaving not a wreck behind.
But they are not alone; they are paralleled and accompanied by declarations very numerous and of the most definite character, that the EARTH, the SUN, the MOON, the STARS, in fact, all GODS UNIVERSE having been created by Infinite Wisdom to accomplish the ends of Infinite Love, will never cease to be. Let us notice the most positive of theseHe built his sanctuary like high palaces, like the EARTH which he hath established FOR EVER.Ps. lxxviii., 69. Who laid the foundations of the EARTH, that it should not be removed FOR EVER.Ps. Civ., 5. The WORLD also is established that it cannot be MOVED.Ps. xciii., 1. Say among the heathen that the Lord reigneth: the WORLD also shall be established that it cannot be MOVED: he shall judge the people righteously.Ps. xcvi. 10. One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the EARTH abideth FOR EVER.Eccles. i., 4.
Of the sun, moon, and stars, we readThey shall fear thee as long as the SUN and MOON endure, throughout ALL GENERATIONS.Ps. lxxii., 5. His name shall endure FOR EVER: his name shall be continued as long as the sun.ver. 17. Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise ye him, all ye stars of light. Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created he hath established them FOR EVER AND EVER: he hath made a decree which SHALL NOT PASS.Ps. cxlviii., 3, 5, 6. These and many other declarations, in the most emphatic manner declare the Divine intention, that the Universe shall not cease to exist, but continue to answer the great purpose of Divine Love in its creation, and furnish continued generations of immortal beings who shall people with innumerable myriads, the ever-increasing abodes of bliss. There is also a large class of prophetic passages which teaches that the designs of Divine Providence will eventually be accomplished; and through the gradual improvements which seem to us so slow in their operation, will yet issue in the full universal diffusion of knowledge, wisdom, justice, and peace over all the earth.
But how could this be realized if the sun, moon, and stars, and earth were to be dissolved and pass away, especially were to do this soon? No such state of universal love and light has yet been experienced among the nations of the earth, and if the material earth and heavens were shortly to be annihilated, such prophecies, and there are many of them, would be incapable of fulfillment. That part of the Word of God, and it is a large and important portion, would utterly have failed; yet our Lord says, not one jot or tittle shall pass from His Word until all be fulfilled.
A glance at some of the prophetic declarations of the kind we mean will repay our careful notice. It is too frequently the case that Christians never suspect their early impressions, that according to the Scriptures the world is to become worse until Divine patience can tolerate it no longer, and then it will be delivered to judgment and destruction. But let us examine the prophecies of Scripture for ourselves, and we shall find the very reverse of this to be true. They teach indeed that after the early triumphs of Christianity there will be a falling away. The love of many would wax cold, and iniquity would abound.Matt. xxiv., 12. There would come a time when there would be very little true faith in the earth.Luke xviii., 8. But, after that, there would be a new opening of Divine things, that knowledges of the Lord would be revealed afresh, ignorance be banished, and intelligence diffused. His kingdom would be brought nearer to men, and His will would be done on earth, through all its kingdoms, as it is done in heaven. Let any one peruse the sixtieth and following chapters of Isaiah, or those of the greater part of Zechariah, or the leading prophecies of Daniel, or the two last chapters of the Revelations, and ask himself if the magnificent things there predicted have been realized as to a hundredth part, or could possibly ever be so if the end of the universe were near.
We are speaking not of a few isolated passages, but of whole chapters. We will notice some few parts, however, which will distinctly place this truth before usIt shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lords house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it.
How could these passages, which show us an enlightened and regenerated state of all the nations of the earth be fulfilled, if ere long the outward universe were to be burnt, dissolved, and disappear? And if this world were brought to the enlightenment and happiness these prophecies foretell, and the Lords kingdom were really come, why then should the earth be destroyed? Let us examine some few similar declarations. In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall NEVER BE DESTROYED: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand FOR EVER.Dan. ii., 44. Once more in Daniel: I saw in the night, visions, and behold, one like unto the son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given, him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom; that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.vii., 13, 14.
No such universal dominion has yet been given to our Lord who is at once both Ancient of days and Son of Man, and when it is given, and all worship Him, then it is never to be taken away.
The prophet Zechariah proclaims the same thing.And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Lord, and His name One.xiv., 9. Again, may we not ask from the thoughtful Christian, has this ever been? It is not to be? And when it has come to pass will not he truth be fulfilling its purpose for too gloriously to be then burnt and cast away?
In the New Testament similar declarations are made. The time cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in parables, but I will shew you plainly of the Father.John xvi. 25. I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot hear them now.John xvi., 12. The seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven saying, the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign FOR EVER AND EVER.Rev. xi., 15. And with death taken in the meaning of the apostle Paul who said, to be carnally minded is death, how glorious a passage is that in the twenty-first of RevelationsBehold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God shall be with them, and be their God, and there shall be no more death (carnal-mindedness), neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away.ver. 3, 4. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it; and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honor into it.
Again, let us ask ourselves how is all this to be accomplished if the earth is to perish, and the universe as a whole is to be burnt and pass away? We might indefinitely pursue similar inquiries, but we trust enough has been said, combined with the numerous declarations respecting the perpetual duration of the universe which we have presented from the Scriptures themselves, to induce the enquiry, in what way can the Scripture testimony be reconciled? How can the Paradox that the heavens and the earth shall perish, and yet the heavens and earth shall endure, be harmonized together?
We must harmonize Scripture by Scripture. If we read the Psalms and the Prophets carefully, we shall see that earth is used not with reference to the material earth, but to society--to the Church upon earth. The heavens mean the inner principles and states of the Church; and the earth or world its outer manifestationsthe institutions and life to which it gives rise. Heaven and earth are then equivalent to a dispensation.
This interpretation is so clearly suggested, we may indeed say almost stated, that there will be no difficulty in its admission by the thoughtful student of Divine things. The Scriptures press it upon the mind, and it is wonderful it has so long been overlooked. Read the third verse of the seventh-fifth Psalmthe earth, and all the inhabitants are dissolved; I bear up the pillars of it.Ps. lxxv., 3. These words would not be intelligible at all, except we regard the earth and its inhabitants as meaning the Jewish Church and its members. These are spoken of by David as in dissolution, because no doubt the Psalm was written at a time of general dissoluteness and decay, probably when Saul was persecuting David to death, and the whole land was a prey to wickedness. A perishing earth is used as corresponding to a perishing Church; in Psalm eighty-two, it is written, They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are out of course.ver. 5. Nor can we conceive of any other earth than the Church, when we read, Truth shall spring out of the earth: and righteousness shall look down from heaven, (Ps. lxxxv., 11); or when the prophet Jeremiah describes the state of things he so pathetically laments in those remarkable words: For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have no understanding; they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge. I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.iv., 22, 23. Here we have manifestly the disorder and evil of the people described by the disorder of the earth, the darkness of their minds by the darkness of the heavens. In Isaiah, many striking examples of this language are given. We will select one or two.
In these statements of the prophet Isaiah, we have not only the image of the dissolved earth as the representative of the dissolved Church, but also the prevalence of fire is asserted as in Peter. The inhabitants of the earth are BURNED, and few men left.
The inhabitants of the earth are burned, when the overthrow of religion leaves men a prey to their selfish and violent passions. What burns like hate? How often do malice and revenge like slumbering firs keep up hidden flames in wicked hearts, until some sudden occasion makes them burst out with volcano-like energy, scattering destruction on all sides. The inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.
The destruction of one Church, however, by gradual decay, consummated at last by more or less of violent animosities and the prevalence of direful lusts, is always followed by the establishment of another, and this formation of a New Church is described by the same prophet in the following terms: I have put my words into thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say onto Zion, Thou art my people.--li., 16.
What can be clearer from both these descriptions, than that the destruction and removal of one dispensation of religion, and the institution of another, is expressed in the Divine Word by a former heaven and earth passing away, and a new heaven and earth being introduced. There is another striking instance of this in the same prophecy of Isaiah, For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.
There is a very clear and manifest illustration of the Divine rule of using the outward universe as a grand symbol of the universe of mind in the prophecy in Joel ii., 27-32, and its fulfillment related in the Acts of the Apostles, ii., 16-20.
The words of the prophet are a prediction of the coming of the Lord, the Redeemer, into the world; and the consequent end of the Jewish Church, and the commencement of the Christian; and he thus expresses himself, and yet shall know that I am in the minds of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and one else: and my people shall never be ashamed. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants, and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call. In the succeeding chapter, and at the fifteenth verse, but relating to the same time as stated at the beginning of the chapter, it is declared The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.
Now, this language is precisely similar to that used by our Lord Himself, in Matt. xxiv., 29, 30, respecting what has been commonly understood to be the end of the world;
And, when by the sun we understand the LOVE of the Lord, the Sun of Righteousness (Isa. lx. 20, Mal. i., 4); by the moon, the Lords Wisdom accommodated to our mental nights, (Isa. lx., 20, Rev. xii., 1); by the stars, the bright lights of heavenly knowledge, which are al darkened when selfishness, folly, and superstition take the place of love, light, and the true science of Divine things, which is ever the case where a Church has been grossly corrupted, then we can clearly perceive that what Joel foretold was fulfilled when the apostle Peter declared it to be so.
From our Lords parables, it is evident that by the kingdom heaven He meant His Church and kingdom upon earth as to its inward state and principles, which is His heaven upon earth; hence He said, The kingdom of heaven (the heavens) is like unto a man who sowed seed in his field.--Matt. xiii., 24. The kingdom of heaven (the heavens) is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field.--ver. 31. The kingdom of heaven (the heavens) is like unto heaven.--ver. 33. The kingdom of heaven (the heavens) is like unto treasure hid in a field.--ver. 44. The kingdom of heaven (the heavens) is like unto a merchantman seeking goodly pearls.ver. 45. The kingdom of heaven (the heavens) is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind.--ver. 47.
The Church, then, constitutes the Lords heavens among men; the state and everything of social life form the world among men. These come and go, as great changes take place in the human mind, By the Word of the Lord are the heavens made, and all the host; of them by the breath of his mouth.Ps. xxxiii., 6. Heaven and earth pass away, but the Word of the Lord does not pass away; and from that Word new heavens and earth are formed.
In the earliest ages, among our first parents and their descendants, the Adamic heavens and earth were formed in six great spiritual stages or days; these continued down to the flood, one great cycle of dispensation; then came the Noetic heavens and earth, continuing for many ages, and through many changes, over many nations, and ending in darkness and idolatry all over the East, and probably much farther into western lands than is commonly supposed. This was followed by the Jewish heavens and earth, the shadow only of Divine things, the pattern of the true; and these continued until the Great Savior came to bring in once more the great spiritual truths of Christianity, and to declare the kingdom of God is within you.Luke xvii., 21.
These were all in their times the systems of which the Lord had laid the foundations, and their heavens were the work of His hands; they were the garments, the clothing of His Eternal Spirit; yet of all of them it could be said, THEY SHALL PERISH. They all waxed old like a garment, and then as a vesture Divine Providence changed them, and they were changed. But He, the Eternal Creator and Ruler, remains the sameHis years have no end.
We have now all the elements for clearly reconciling our apparent PARADOX. The heavens and earth that do not pass away, but are established for ever and ever, are what may be called strictly Gods heavens and earth; those which are Gods work independent of man, the heavens of angels, the starry heavens and Gods earth as the groundwork of mans training-place for everlasting bliss; these will endure, world without end.
But the heavens, or the Church, which God forms through man, and the world formed out of the principles of the Church, these have changed; these will change until they issue in the grand CHURCH OF THE FUTURE: a Church of universal science, light, love, justice, and peace, with the Lord Jesus Christ as its glorious Head and Center, with a Bible seen to be all spiritual wisdom and beauty, and a life in church and state altogether in harmony with the Divine Will.
In short, then, we may say, Mans world changes, Gods universe remains. May we not exclaim with the poet,--
Gods world is worthy better men.
When the end of the world is contemplated, it is not the end of Gods glorious universe of innumerable systems and suns at which astronomy stands aghast, but the end of the present old world of ignorance, slavery, superstition, selfishness, and sin; and the introduction of education for all, scientific aid, mutual help, universal kindness, and the universal reign of love. The Scriptures proclaim this, the hearts of good men year for it, and Providence is manifestly preparing the way. We look, said the apostle Peter, for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness; not wherein dwelleth new sun, moon, stars, and soil. The prophecies announcing the close of the Divine operations of providence in such a kingdom of universal knowledge, intelligence, affection, and virtue, all manifestly radiating from the Lord Jesus, as its center, are very numerous and very clear.
We will notice a few. But then, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.Dan. xii., 4. There the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams: wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us. And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.Isa. xxxiii., 21, 22, 24. There shall be one king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.Zech. xiv., 9. And there shall be no more curse: but the THRONE of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and HIS servants shall serve HIM. And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there: and they need no candle, neither light of the sun: for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.Rev. xxii., 3, 4, 5. I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and the morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely.Rev. xxii., 16, 17.
The earnest and attentive reader cannot fail to observe in these cheering declarations the promise of an age, a new golden age on the earth, of abundant knowledgean age of an immense increase of spiritual intelligence meant by the broad rivers and streamsof the abolition of sin as the curse of mankind, and of that self-government by which men reign over themselves and the powers of nature.
Nor can the observant mind omit to notice that these changes are now dawning upon us. In all the dispensations of the past, the old ages have gradually subsided and dissolved into the new and rising one, which Divine Providence has by degrees introduced to mankind. Like darkness fading into day, so error, gradually disappears before the light of truth.
What an advance has been made in new and better things during the past fifty years! How has science increased that power of locomotion by which men can run to and fro, as Daniel said, and knowledge be increased! The dark corners of the earth are now penetrated by holy light in a way which is marvelous in our eyes. How do books multiply! How wondrously they are cheapened and brought to every hand! And we may safely say that their quality is equally improved with their quantity. Mark, also, the rapid increase of benevolent institutions. How nobly now does wealth pour out of its abundance to supply the helps which charity craves for sorrow. But greatest, and best of all, there is everywhere acquiring strength, and increasing immensely, though checkered by selfishness and ignorance, the remnants of past error and neglect, the appreciation of man as man:the dignity of humanity in all its forms, the dignity of labor as well as of literature, of work as well as of mind. Humanity is evidently emerging once more from chaos and darkness, to order, wisdom, and peace. Let us hail the sacred morning of a new day, and labor for the realization, however distant that realization may seem to be, of the era in which there shall be neither idler nor slave. Then, none shall be ignorant of the great lights of eternal truth and justice, and all from the highest to the lowest livingly know that righteousness can bless the world, and make it like heaven. Then will the kingdoms of THIS WORLD become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever.
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?Micah vi. 8.
And the Lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.Luke xvi. 8.
IN the first of these texts it is stated, What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Thy God! And in the second we read that the Lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely; or, as we may as well state now at the commencement of our observations, according to the correct translation, because he had acted prudently! In the first passage the Lord sets before us that which the ancients well called the center and soul of every virtue, the essence of all Divine works, the Divine principle of justice. They called it the center and soul of every virtue, because if there be not justice as the ground for everything else, it will be found that however fair a virtue may seem, it will be hollow and rotten within. It was not only a perception of the ancient Greeks that justice is the very soul of all goodness, but it is likewise the constant doctrine of the Sacred Volume. Unhappily that does not appear so completely throughout the Bible as it would if the word justice had been rendered from the original biblical languages directly as it is. It occurs frequently in them, but generally it is covered by the word righteousness. Righteousness, in the English Bible, is always the representative of the word justice; righteous, is always the word which renders the word just.
Hence, when we read in the Sacred Volume, Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, we do ordinarily conceive the idea, blessed are they that hunger and thirst after being right, but it rather suggests the thought, blessed are they that hunger and thirst after being pious. To be pious is, undoubtedly, a good thing; but only when justice is in the heart of our piety. All prayers, all praises, all religious observances that have not in them the earnest desire to be good and do brood, are rather odious in the sight of God than well-pleasing to Him. Cease to do evil learn to do well. Be constantly aiming to become more and more like your blessed Lord and Savior, who is the very fountain of justice and righteousness. When this is the case, then will you pray, not simply to escape punishment and to get happiness; but you will pray to become heavenly, pray to become right-minded, pray to overcome every evil and falsity within you. What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly!
In the Sacred Volume there are constantly declarations that show the essential character of the Divine principle of justice;
Justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne.--Ps. lxxxix., 14. The Lords throne is heaven. Thus saith the Lord, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool.--Isa. lxvi., 1. We are taught by the declaration that justice is the habitation of the Lords throne, that HEAVEN is the land of perfect justice--the land of perfect law. Justice is love clothing itself with law Love can only accomplish its blessed ends by orderly and wise arrangements. Such are the laws, such are the arrangements of heaven.
But in heaven justice reigns as love to the Lord, joyously yielding Him the whole heart with its glowing thanksgiving, adoration, and obedience; the whole atmosphere is an atmosphere of love. Justice reigns in heaven as the ministration of right, of good-will, and of all the manifestations of affection, of beauty, and of use justice reigns in forms of grace, loveliness, and perfection unknown on earth. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man to conceive the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them to us by his Spirit.--1 Cor. ii., 9. Heaven will repel the impure as light repels the owl. True religion is the embodiment of justice; it insists that Gods will should be done on earth as it is done in heaven. Through repentance, faith, and love, true religion regenerates man, and makes him fit for heaven by making him heavenly, loving, and just.
But the question then comes--how does it happen that the Lord Jesus, on one occasion, commended the man who had not done justly? How did it come to pass that there should be such an anomaly as that He should commend the unjust steward because he had acted prudently. Let us now, endeavor to see this Divine lesson in the light intended by the Lord. Let us regard the parable in its entire range, and I trust we shall find that in every part of it most edifying and consolatory lessons will appear.
We should never forget that the parables of our Lord--and in fact all His teachings--have their chief application to spiritual things, and not to things of earth. My words, He says, are spirit, and they are life.
The parable commences by stating that a certain rich man had a steward who was reported to him as having wasted his substance. This certain rich man is that Glorious Being who is, properly speaking, the only rich man in the whole universe,--the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the eternal Divine Man. He is described very beautifully by one of the apostles, who said, Though rich, yet for oar sakes he became poor.
Who is the steward? Who is not a steward? God imparts to us our varied faculties, powers, and possessions that we may minister to one another.
The Gospel here is the description of what happens when the soul begins to feel that there has been a report against it. When a man begins to be concerned about his eternal condition, when he begins to enquire in himself, and conscience brings home Divine Truth to his condition. At such times a man asks himself, for what am I living? How have I spent my past life? What bearing has it had upon my future condition? Am I, who was made to live for ever, just like a thing that perishes, like an animal that devours its meat, and lies down and cares for nothing until the pangs of hunger awake it again? Have I been living thus? I, who was born for a nobler and higher existence, for grander, that is, for celestial things? There are everlasting habitations. Have I, as the heir of an immortal kingdom, been claiming the wealth of this glorious inheritance, or have I been wasting my goods? Such is the state represented by the stewards consciousness that there are accusations against him. Evil spirits take great pleasure in bringing these charges home to a mans conscience; they would gladly dishearten him altogether. They are called in the Sacred Volume, the accusers of the brethren. Angels do not accuse man; they excuse. Evil spirits accuse and condemn. They seek to throw a man into despair. This steward is represented as saying, I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. I feel helpless to earn wealth for myself, even to think; I am thoroughly ashamed. God be merciful, he cries, to me a sinner! I cannot do anything else. I can only mourn. I sink down, and feel how thoroughly I am worthless, and how much I have wasted. But after a little time, when this feeling of discouragement and despair has somewhat softened, the messengers of heaven come, and they say, Yes, you can do something better than this. Call up your masters debtors;
And the steward said to the first, What owest thou to my Lord? And the debtor answered, A hundred measures of oil; or, as it might be rendered from the original, a hundred baths of oil. The bath was a liquid measure among the Hebrews, containing over seven gallons. And to the other, How much owest thou--a hundred measures (or a hundred cors) of wheat? The cor contained about sixteen gallons. The hundred, which is it complete number, is to represent all that we receive from the Lord; it is not that in spiritual things it is to signify any particular measure, but only to express the whole. You will find one hundred, one thousand, and ten sometimes, used in that sense. Therefore by the hundred measures of oil and the hundred measures of wheat are meant our entire indebtedness for all we have received, both of goodness and truth. We owe the Lord for all.
Oil, we have said, is the symbol in the Sacred Scriptures, of heavenly love, because that has precisely the same effect on the soul that oil has on the body: oil softens it, soothes it, heals it. It is represented oftentimes in the Sacred Word, in such passages as this in Psalm xxiii., where David says, Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over, the words evidently signify,--thou hast filled my heart with love. I am altogether receptive of celestial blessing and joy.
In Isaiah lxxii., 2, it is said, The Lord will comfort those that mourn in Zion; he will give them the oil of joy for mourning, and the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness. It is this blessed oil which, when it descends into the heart, softens all its asperity, and sweetens all our intercourse with each other. At all times when we deal harshly, it is a little oil we want;--the Lord gives it, but we waste it. If we pray to the Lord, oil will come down into the heart. Whenever we are disposed to exercise animosity, and be bitter, let us just try this blessed healing balsam from the King of kings, and it will be found that it blesses, like mercy, him that gives, and him that takes. It is, then, heavenly love in all its applications, from the earliest dawn of life to the latest age, that is represented by the hundred measures of oil.
The wheat, as I said, is representative, in the Sacred Scriptures, of truth, especially of the truths which teach charity and goodness. It is a seed. It is that clearly which the Divine Word represents by wheat, Psalm lxxxi., 15. If the haters of the Lord would have submitted themselves to Him, He would have fed them with the finest of the wheat, and with honey out of the rock He would have satisfied them. It is that same kind of wheat of which it is said, in Matthew xiii., speaking of the Lord coming to human minds. That which fell upon good ground is he that heareth the Word and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth some a hundred fold, some sixty some thirty; where a hundred represents the same as here, the full giving out of instruction, and a full reception of Divine Truth from the Lord. Here, then, to teach us that all we have, either of truth or love, is given from the Lord our Heavenly Father, the debtors are described as both receiving these full measures and of acknowledging such reception.
The steward said, Take thy bill and write fifty, in relation to the oil; and Take thy bill and write eighty, in relation to the wheat. If a hundred that had been received implied all that the Lord imparts during the whole of life, and a great part of life had been already wasted, there could only be an acknowledgment now of that which should be received in future, of that which could still be rightly used. The sacred lesson depicts the determination of him who feels that he has wasted his time. He has wasted his powers, and he cannot pay in full. He is not what he ought to have been, but he is determined that he will now seek to apply his Lords goods aright. Now he will acknowledge and rightly use the fifty that remain, or the eighty that he still has. He will do the best under the circumstances. This is what our Heavenly Father is pleased to commend.
O, how many have supposed that God is a being strict to mark and swift to punish! But this parable and many others are given for the purpose of teaching that it is not so. Divine Love is desirous always of receiving man when he is willing to come, and helping him to do better for the future. With infinite tenderness, Mercy says, Come, now, if you cannot pay one hundred, pay what you can. And when man determines that henceforward he will pay what he can, he will use the fifty, he will use the eighty, he will use every opportunity that he has in the remainder of his time wisely in his masters service, the Lord commands the unjust steward, and says he has acted prudently.
I mentioned that the word prudently is here what is rendered wisely, because it is so in the original language, and it is properly so. Where a person begins first of all to endeavor to live for heaven, he has not yet got up to that state of heavenly perception and heavenly usefulness which the Lord calls wisdom. Wisdom means the highest kind of interior thought; it is the flame which shines from heavenly fire. The Word never calls a man a wise man until he has passed above mere knowledge, and above the intelligence which comes from reasoning When goodness has become his highest nature and loving law, and he says, Yea, yes, without hesitation to all that is right, and Nay, nay, to all that is wrong, without listening to selfish persuasions at all, he is called wise. He that heareth my words and doeth them, the Lord says, I will tell you to whom he is like; he is like a wise man which built his house upon a rock. Here, because the steward represents the soul malting its first efforts to do right, it is called prudent. In time perhaps, but not yet, he will be accounted wise.
It is a wonderful thing of infinite mercy and love, that the Lord will commend us while we are yet very imperfect, when we are striving to improve. He takes us by the hand and gives us truth and love, and calls on heaven to rejoice with us, and He does all this because of His infinite affliction. This, then, is meant, when it is said that He commended the unjust steward; the man who had hitherto been unjust, but now determines to use rightly all that remains of what he has and is.
And so with the Divine blessings which follow. And I say unto you, make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. The mammon of unrighteousness means all that we have acquired while we were in an unrighteous state. Mammon is the Hebrew word for riches, translated into Greek, and thence into English. When we are converted, and come to the Lord Jesus Christ we have got acquisitions more or less. It may be, we have not very much earthly wealth, hut we have life, we have talents, we have knowledge; especially the knowledge of the Word of God.