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Faith in God as gracious, it has been maintained, does not require for its exercise moral attainment. The sick, and not the whole, need a physician; and, the better the physician, the worse the cases that can make bold to go to him for cure. Precisely because God is gracious, He asks no minimum of good behaviour before He will aid, but the good-news is that He seeks and saves the lost, and admits publicans and sinners into His Kingdom. Moral attainment as a pre-requisite for faith is legal and Pharisaic, and not evangelical and Christian.

Yet God's salvation is moral attainment, and by it alone the working of all things for good is to be measured. Therefore, it can have no value except to moral sincerity. With hypocrisy we can have no faith in God of a kind that would reconcile us with God in all He appoints to make us perfect as He is perfect; for how can we approve of the road, when we are not truly desiring its goal?

But, if, as has been maintained, hypocrisy is inseparable from sin, moral sincerity would not appear to be any more within our reach than moral perfection. Are we not for ever condemned to the treadmill round of sin and self-deception, and self-deception and sin? Unchanging guilt and irremediable remorse 207 we cannot face for ever; and, if we cannot alter the facts, are we not certain to try to deceive ourselves regarding them? Then, being left despairing and self-deceived, are we not certain to be further tempted?

Till this vicious circle is broken, it is plain that we can neither have moral independence nor dependence upon God, Some way of escape, therefore, must be sought. But, the more earnestly we face the moral and the religious situation, the more we seem shut up within adamantine walls.

1.The moral situation is that to grow in insight, to extend our idea of responsibility, to pass from action to motive, is to enlarge remorse till the pain leads us to curb our thoughts and to moderate our expectations. Who can escape the cultivation of hypocrisy, if, the more intensely and seriously moral a man is, the more bitterly he must feel that his morality only "shuts him up to disobedience"?

Most manifestly this would seem to be the outcome of a conscience, no longer exercising a hard, external, legal judgment, but hungering and thirsting after righteousness, a conscience which nothing less can measure than the infinite claim of love. The moral problem is simply larger and more insoluble than ever; and we are more than ever in the toils of that hypocrisy with which we can have no right relation to truth either in faith or penitence. Thus shut up in the vicious circle of sin and hypocrisy and hypocrisy and sin, what can man do save cry out with the


Apostle, "Who shall deliver me from this body of death?" And of purely moral answer there is none, the purely moral judgment allowing no place of repentance, though sought carefully with tears.

2.But can any better success await a religious trust? A right deliverance from remorse might break the vicious circle and afford us room to be sincere, but, when we speak of pardon, what moral reality does it stand for which would give us a right to forgive ourselves? What is it save a legal fiction, farther away than ever, not only from moral sincerity, but from every form of spiritual reality?

The difficulty springs from the inmost nature of the moral person, for, without imputation of our doings to ourselves, personality would have no existence. In all else we may change and become wholly different individuals, but the sense of responsibility abides, linking inexperienced youth and intrepid manhood and decrepit age into one, and insisting that, throughout all the change, we remain unchange ably our own selves. Nor, without this imputation, could we have any permanent basis for the self of our consciousness, the growth of our ideals, or the formation of our character. The word imputation has fallen into disrepute through keeping doubtful company, but the thing itself is the life-nerve of moral personality; and if the gracious relation of God we have spoken of plays fast and loose with the imputation of our own doings to our own selves, it would be more deadly for everything that is of moral significance 209 in us than even to be overridden occasionally by the direct force of omnipotent grace.

But imputation is a legal idea and necessarily creates a legal situation. Must it not, therefore, be dealt with legally? Must it not be either punished or condoned? And, if God's pardon is the acquittal of a judge, it can only be by some kind of legal condonation. This has seemed so evident that the endeavours after such a way of escape are ancient and numerous. By ignoring minor differences, however, we may reduce them to two -- the way of Compromise and the way of Composition.

The way of Compromise introduces God's pardon purely to patch up the rents in human morality.

The firsthand simplest view is that we can ourselves attain so much more merit in the future than the bare legal demands of the future will require, that it will compensate in God's eyes for falling below the bare legal demands of the past.

Here we have the legalistic, moralistic spirit at its shallowest, to which the noble and austere form even of a legal morality has not truly appeared, and which has not even dreamt of a morality which demands the whole devotion of a perfect love to God and man. It has no consciousness of life's varied opportunity, no infinite standard of its demands, nothing save the most mechanical conception of character. Yet, mostly unconfessed, but not, therefore, less operative, this view dominates much theory and still more practice.


More or less consciously, it directs such religious doings as penance and masses, and determines some ideas of saving faith. There are, moreover, many people neither obviously Catholic nor aggressively Protestant, nor, for that matter, of any markedly religious character, who are also possessed by the idea of so acting as to compensate for the past and have its evil condoned, and who are thereby made unable to meet their present duty simply because it is their present duty. This may cause them to have much anxiety about law and morality, but it is a law of mere observances and a morality without moral motive.

The legal morality which, if it ceased to impute our doings to ourselves, would have no business to do upon the earth, cannot touch the imputation of wrong, or, when we face the moral reality with unaverted eyes, afford us any prospect save the bitter irremediable past. And if morality is a legal requirement and every breach of it legal guilt, and nothing can alter the past which is past for ever, or make it other than our own, is any better, any other possible way of comfort open than to hope that we can do something to make up for the past, and that God will overlook the rest?

But if that be all, the comfort is not great, for such condonation deals efficiently neither with the past nor the future; and least of all is it adequate to the needs of the present. It may be better thus to lighten the burden of the past than to ignore it, but there is no real power in the hope of acquittal on good behaviour 211 in the future to remove it from our shoulders. As our future can never be determined apart from our past, it is better to bring our past to bear upon the future in this way than not at all, but it is no right attitude to the future to see ourselves in its vistas creatures of transcendent merit, even though our past should need all conceivable future merit to cover its deficiencies. Above all, though our present task comes out of the past, and a very important part of it may be to face the consequences of past transgression, our service is in the present; and the service of the present never allows us to be more than debtors to its calls, so that, after we have done all we can, we remain unprofitable servants, with no merit in our best devotion to good, and much less superfluous merit to meet the demerit of past devotion to evil.

The other form of legal condonation is by Composition. It looks beyond our own righteousness, and believes that the merit of another person better than ourselves can compensate for our deficiencies. This may be merely the transference of the merits of the saints, or it may be the more definite and comprehensive conception of a substitute who takes our place.

The feeling by which this theory survives doubtless comes down to us from the days when the person was still submerged in the clan or city. When moral interests were communal and individual responsibility only vaguely defined, such transference of merit 212 or guilt may not have been morally forbidding and may even at times have been morally impressive: but, as a theory of pardon which is to work legally in a legal situation, the essence of which is the ascription of guilt to the individual, it comes to shipwreck, not merely on details, like the difficulty of seeing how any one's merit could be transferred to another and also remain his own to secure him a higher place in the hierarchy of the saints, but because it fails completely to fulfil the legal condition of the very legal difficulty it exists to remove, which is that the sin wholly belongs to the sinner.

It is proposed as a remedy at once for the distressed conscience of the individual and for the violated law of the universe; but, in respect of both, it remains an arbitrary solution which no subtlety can make moral. With respect to the individual the heart of the legal situation is that the guilt is ours, ours only, and ours always, that, in this aspect, the moral personality is quite isolated and impenetrable; with respect to the moral order, a true moral order does not need to vindicate itself at all, and, if it did so by transferring merit, it would not be moral, while, if it accepted the sufferings of the innocent for the punishment of the guilty, it would not even be legal. Nor can this apply less to the justice of God than to the justice of man.

The theory, moreover, is even less religious than moral, for it turns the Father into a legal Potentate, intent by any device on maintaining his status and 213 keeping His subjects in order. God would not be dealing with us as with sons, but, at best, He would be giving us some kind of State condonation for a cause foreign to ourselves and foreign to our filial relation to Him. To the name of forgiveness, as a true restoration of fellowship in His family, it could have no kind of claim.

If pardon is to break the vicious circle of sin and hypocrisy, and hypocrisy and sin, in which we find ourselves imprisoned, it must neither be a compromise nor a composition, nor any device of condonation whatsoever, but must deal with the actual moral situation by means of moral realities, and the result must be power to look the whole moral situation straight in the face. It must not mean palliating, or ignoring, or transferring, but courage to open all cupboards, assured of finding no skeletons. To be forgiven ought to mean that all need has gone from us to think anything, either in ourselves or in our situation, other than it is. The essence of being justified is emancipation from moral juggling with ourselves by giving us power to look all reality in the face, but, as a mere legal fiction, it would only be another illusion, and could do nothing to deliver us from hypocrisy. From a peace of moral insincerity, which we can too easily attain, it is the very business of justification to set us free. Yet it will avail nothing to this end unless it so deal with our actual moral situation that we can, at one and the same time, have utter sincerity and peace.


"Blessed," says the Psalmist, "is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, in whose spirit there is no guile." The absence of guile, the absence of all desire to shield oneself in any way from falsehood or derive profit from anything save sincerity and truth, is here at once the condition and the consequence of forgiveness. But condonation for a reason wholly outside of our responsibility would only complete our self-deception by taking the most profoundly personal element, the imputation of our sin to ourselves, out of our lives; and the result, instead of being our deliverance, would be our spiritual annihilation.

Yet, if the Lord is not a legal fiction, if He is, on the contrary, only another name for reality, if the one thing He must do is to impute to every man exactly what he is, how, except under some illusion or by some device, can we ever have any blessed sense of pardon? From the practical moral standpoint, the problem of all forgiveness arises precisely from this close partnership of sin with unreality. We cannot be forgiven without spiritual death so long as there is guile; and we cannot be rid of guile till we look out upon forgiveness. This is the legal situation which we may not ignore, yet the antagonism in it can never by any legal device be overcome.

Here we come upon another of the indirect, personal ways of grace, the chief reason, indeed, why it is a curve of personal succour, encircling and embracing our need. Grace sets right our legal relation to 215 God, but only by making it cease to be legal. It may not ignore any part of the moral situation, but its essential quality is shown in not treating it legally. Sin is not merely another name for crime, but has a religious, and not merely a moral significance. Iniquity is sin, because it is against God's purpose and uses the world for other ends than His, in short because it is alienation from God. Therefore, it cannot be dealt with merely by condoning its consequences, but only by a forgiveness which restores us to His fellowship, to our place in His family, and to the blessings of His goodness. Even in our human relations, this alone is true pardon. To forgive is not to overlook or condone the past, but so to deal with it that friendship is restored. And this can only be the work of the injured by taking pains to show that his own friendship remains unbroken. Demanding compensation from the culprit or his advocates is no step towards it. Thus the essence of God's pardon is in showing Himself so gracious as to give us faith in His love: and it is in this sense that we are justified by faith.

But, it may be asked, is there any phrase in the whole theological vocabulary which stirs a deeper feeling of unreality? Surely it is far less truly ethical, far more arbitrary, to suppose that God justifies us because we have accepted certain beliefs, than that He does it on signs of amendment or in view of the moral elevation He foresees we shall attain?

So certain does this conclusion seem that when, in deference to Apostolic language, we are said to be 216 justified by faith, it is taken to mean, either that God condones the past because faith in the Church's creed guarantees the future by introducing us to the outward operations of grace which will complete our good resolve with love and holy works, or that faith as an inward grace is the germ of all God approves, and that, through the secure working of His omnipotence, He is able to accept it as though it were already the full fruition. But both explanations lead us back to the old legal solution, which turns out again to be nothing beyond the old legal fiction which makes God's judgment one thing and moral reality another. Faith, so conceived, becomes a condition for a legal acquittal simply because, as a mental state, it is plastic to the operations of omnipotence. Then we return to the old difficulty that, if so much depends on faith as a mental state, we must try to maintain it as a sort of tension or self-hypnotising, giving rise to a distressing and morally calamitous conflict between faith and intellectual honesty, and even between faith and moral sincerity.

What prevents understanding is the legal or moral association of the word "justification," inherited from the Latin. But the original term was neither legal nor moral, neither to be declared just, nor to be made just. It meant simply to be put right with God, as the prodigal was put right with his father when he came back into the security of his friendship and the blessedness of his family. In other words, it is truly to be forgiven. And it is received as the father 217 of the prodigal enabled his pardon to be received, by so manifesting his love that the son could not but commit himself to it and be assured that the past, however much it might have to be lived down, cast no shadow on the fellowship in which such a task was alone possible. In this sense we are put right with God by a faith which is of His giving by showing Himself one who, while we are yet sinners, beseeches us to be reconciled.

We are justified by faith because faith is a discernment of God's mind, and not because it is a specially meritorious state of our minds; and its effect does not depend upon the nature of faith, but on the world of spiritual reality in which, on its own witness to itself, we are enabled to believe. We have forgiveness and all its fruits because by faith we enter the world of a gracious God, out of which the old hard legal requirements, with the old hard boundaries of our personality and the old self-regarding claim of rights, have disappeared, a world which is the household of our Father where order and power and ultimate reality are of love and not of law.

In that world atonement is a veritable experience and not a legal fiction, in that world and not in any other. There the sacrifice and service of Jesus Christ are no longer the crude legal device of taking so absolutely personal a thing as guilt and transferring it to the shoulders of another, an innocent person, or the equally crude moral device of making His 218 righteousness ours, but are the manifestation of our deepest and holiest relation both to God and man in a world, the meaning of which, in spite of everything that appears to the contrary, is love. They form the holy of holies of a new world with new and healing moral conditions, where legal ideas of meeting God's judgment fall away from us, and God's service rises upon our spirits, not with legal demands and threats, but as a Divine righteousness which we shall ever rejoice to pursue yet always rejoice to know is ever beyond us, a world even at the portal of which we may leave behind us all self-delusion and have courage to look upon ourselves as we actually are, seeing forgiveness has become a reality and a deliverance, because the whole moral order of our life is transformed.

In that world alone is atonement ever preached by any writer of the New Testament.

In a certain logical sense moral sincerity is still the preliminary demand. To be free from guile is a condition as well as a consequence. When Paul went to the outside world, he preached that men should repent and turn to God and do works meet for repentance. Only in the writings which he wrote out of the community, for the community itself, and interpreted by the spirit of its fellowship, did he speak of being justified by faith; and, even thus, it was only in that marvellous setting of personal devotion in the service of love which, as the filling up of the sufferings of Christ for his body's sake, was at once the outcome and the interpretation of his faith.


John's order is equally illuminating. "But, if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanseth us from all sin." To walk in the light as He is in the light, to be morally sincere, to have no guile is the condition. But that means turning to Him who is the light and not an attempt of our own effort to expel our own darkness, even as Paul says in one breath, Repent and turn to God. Then the outcome of this world of light is to have fellowship one with another; and only thus, in bearing and forbearing with one another, have we the fellowship of Christ's sufferings, and enter into the sphere where Christ's blood, meaning His service and suffering, cleanses from all sin.

As the Cross speaks to us within the family of God, the old world of moral actions for legal reward is crucified to us, and our self-regarding performance of moral actions is crucified to it. Then sincerity and peace are joined in such inseparable unity that penitence is made the way to peace, and peace the way to a truer penitence; and the vicious circle of sin and hypocrisy and hypocrisy and sin is turned into the emancipating way of sincerity and inward liberty and inward liberty and sincerity. In the Cross, therefore, above all else, we see the gracious relation of our Father towards us, because there, as nowhere else, is the utter service of our brethren, unconditioned by our merit, shown to be the essential spirit of His family. The true meaning and power of the Cross we 220 discover only as we have this spirit, and love becomes for us the fulfilling of the whole law, and the spirit of mere legal judgment so leaves us that it would seem even less brotherly to refuse to share our brother's shame and help him to live it down, than to refuse to share with him in his undeserved poverty or affliction.

The sole moral demand is sincerity, for no restoration is possible till we come to ourselves, and arise and go to our Father and say we have sinned, but it is vain to demand sincerity unless, when we go to our Father, we find more than condonation. Only because faith in Christ is the discovery of something more, does it justify. In itself, and merely as an inward grace, faith, no more than any other state of mind, effects pardon by legal merit. Not faith, but the love of God it trusts, speaks peace; and it does so, because faith in it is not of ourselves, but is the gift of God, the manifestation of what we may call an atoning order, understood by the sufferings of Christ and our partaking of them.

It is justification because it deals with sin itself, and not merely with its consequences, because it is not condonation, but the forgiveness that waits long and gives freely, and which has ready the kiss of welcome and the robe and the feast, being forgiveness precisely because it puts itself to the trouble and cost of restoring us thus abundantly to our Father and the fellowship of our home. Were it only a letter from the father to the prodigal, saying, Come home and nothing will be said about the past, the past would


not require to have anything said about it, for its own voice would be loud enough. True forgiveness demands positive manifestation of a love which will triumph over the evil past and silence its voice. The Father must say by His whole bearing towards us, My son, let us share the sorrow and live down the shame together. And that is the meaning of the Cross. It works peace, not as an isolated event in the history of the world, but because it is the supreme manifestation of a redeeming love which works every day and in every event of every day. It is the high altar of sacrifice because it shows that the whole world is its temple.

If the theory of substitution, legally interpreted, has, as it doubtless has, brought peace to burdened souls, if it has not hardened them in self-love, but has given them deliverance from self as well as sin, the reason is not that the theory is capable of some subtler legal interpretation which makes it truly meet some need of conscience, or that it is capable of some more comprehensive legal application which removes some difficulty in the government of God. The true reason is that the Cross of Christ has, in spite of the theory, interpreted and displayed to burdened souls the new world in which hard legal conditions do not obtain, but where these legal frontiers of our moral personality have been lost in a deeper moral fellowship with our Father and our brethren. There they have realised that the bearing of each other's burdens, whether of 222 sorrow or of sin, is the surest of all realities, and that the bearing of sin in particular is the very heart of God's gracious relation to us which is love.

Though the theory of substitution, legally interpreted, is at best a legal evasion, it has, for many, broken the sense of being shut up in the vicious circle of sin and hypocrisy and hypocrisy and sin long enough to lay hold on the true deliverance; yet how much greater ought to be the appeal of a gospel which shows us that we are self-enclosed within this circle only because we isolate ourselves from the whole gracious mind of our Father.

But, though essentially a gospel to the sinful, the opening of the prison to them that are bound, it is not a gospel to them that call good evil and evil good. To the son who will go into the far country the father divides his living, and he goes. No force alters the substance of his soul or hedges in his career. Only by bitter experience does he come to himself. And it is not a new self, but his own true self he has so long repressed and wronged. Nor is it less a teaching of God because it is a teaching of life. Not till we are thus taught of God, Jesus says, do we come to Him. But, then, there are no conditions, no compromises, no compositions, no legal dealing with the past in any way, but simply arising and going to our Father and finding, in Christ, every manifestation of love which makes pardon a perfect restoration to a fellowship which, on God's side, has never been broken, but has always been a waiting and a longing, ready to see us 223 on our return a long way off and to anticipate our confession with every token of forgiveness. Moral sincerity alone it asks, and makes no inquiry regarding moral attainment, yet it so displays the mind of God as to take away every reason for being insincere, and furnishes every reason for being open and manifest in His sight, and for putting away every hidden thing of shame, which means every secret deed and thought which shame would hide. It has no conditions about the past, and none about the future, but it has a very high condition in the present, for it is no less than God Himself, and the recognition that His will is alone wise and makes rich and adds no sorrow.

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