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Justification, as we have conceived it, does not permit us to ignore our sins, but, on the contrary, enables us to face them in the assurance that they no more interrupt our fellowship with the Father of our spirits; does not modify our legal relations by special acts of grace, but manifests God as gracious to us in all His ways; does not condone offences, like pardon by the State, but is the assurance of a love which can be pained, though never alienated, and which, out of its pain, charges itself with the task of commending itself to us, so as to restore us to our place in the family and household of God, where, in forgiving, we learn the blessedness of being forgiven.

Yet it may still not be clear how such a justification really justifies. If sin is forgiven merely by taking us out of the circle of legal morality into the circle of God's family, the consequences of sin would seem to remain, and, with them, our guilty fears, the spring of all our moral juggling. If the consequences of our sins still follow us as certainly as our shadows, the past is not delivered from despair nor the future from dread, and we cannot cherish the spirit of peace and find it to be the spirit of truth.

A justification which condoned our guilt and assured us of escape from punishment on the day when 225 God judges the secrets of the quick and the dead, may not have covered all our need, but at least it set a term to our fears. Its operation might be external, but the consequences of sin also are external. Precisely because they are now utterly outside of us, they are entirely beyond our amending from within. A Day of Judgment may be a metaphor, but if there is an absolute justice, it represents the tremendous reality of a final equivalence of sin and sorrow. As sin has a way of springing its consequences upon us at unexpected times, even a day when it will spring all its consequences upon us may not unreasonably be feared. Without provision against so great a fear, what right have we to cast off anxiety or what possibility have we of peace? To dismiss lightly this fear as mere self-love is no answer.

Lack of clearness in our thinking leads to ambiguity in our terms, which again re-acts to the further confusion of our thinking. Among such ambiguous terms we ought to reckon "self-love," for it may be used with every shade of meaning, from abject selfishness to the highest and most self-denying moral reverence for ourselves. Butler has consecrated its use for the latter. Self-love, being concern for our highest good, is, he says, one of the two regulative rational principles of life -- conscience being the other -- and is so far from being selfishness that as few people are guided by a reasonable self-love as by conscience. By imposing a little more precision upon language than can be looked for in ordinary speech, 226 we might use selfishness for attention to self without heed to others or to the moral nature of things; self-regard for a prudent attention to the consequences of our actions; and self-love for the search for true blessedness among our fellows and in face of all reality. Such self-love would be concerned with our salvation, but its salvation would be our highest spiritual possibility in perfect relation to God and man, and not merely security against the outward disasters which may befall us.

Yet self-regard also has its reasonable place, it being of the nature of vice, and not of virtue, to enjoy the present forgetful of the past and heedless of the future. And, if grave concern for ourselves ever could be justified, it ought to be by a danger looming vast and threatening through the haze of eternity. Least of all may a view of religion which starts from sincerity and ends with blessedness, ignore any consequences of sin in this world or the next, for to turn our eyes from the shadow of disaster is not to be sincere, and to steel our hearts is not to be blessed.

Much anger against persons who are distressed about their souls is mere thoughtless worldliness, which is also seeking its salvation in equally self-regarding ways. Many cherish it merely because they do not wish to have their ideas of salvation by worldly success troubled by such questions as, Whose shall these things be when thy soul is required of thee?

Yet dislike to anxiety about one's soul is not all for 227 material reasons. There is also a right feeling that it is possible to be anxious about one's soul in this way till the soul is lost in seeking to save itself, for it may degenerate into a selfishness which considers only outward happiness without thought for the things of the spirit, which alone is true self-love, or even without facing the actual moral situation, which alone is true self-regard. To the fear of the consequences of sin all legal treatment of guilt appeals, but it does not deal with the fear that besets true self-love, for its fear is to be unworthy and not merely to be unhappy. Nor does it really meet the fears of self-regard, for the legal way does not morally and according to the nature of things deal with the past; and, therefore, does not truly secure the future from its consequences.

In the first place, a succour wholly postponed to a remote, unknown day of judgment, would be an ill-tested security even against that day. With God the same and ourselves the same, why should the conditions of that day be different from this? Only if we are living down our past now, have we a well-grounded confidence of not meeting it again as an enemy in our path at any later time. In another life, where no secrets are hid and all things appear what they are, the consequences of sin may be evident as they are not here, but if the consequences which are evident are not met, what assurance have we against those that are unknown?

In the second place, so long as our sins work harm in the lives of others or enslave our own souls, we may 228 not try to escape their consequences. While they trouble the lives of others, should we even desire that ours be left untroubled? While habit establishes character both in good and evil, how can we be acquitted if, in our own characters, it still persist as evil? We may not seek to wash our hands of sins which continue to work evil without and within, so long as moral sensitiveness or perception of our moral continuity remain. And a deeper sense of God could only show us more clearly the evil effects in our souls and make us feel more keenly our responsibility for its effect upon others.

Nothing can ever make past evil as though it had not been, or restore to us the years the locusts have eaten, or prevent the year of weeds being the proverbial seven years of seeds. Did the past never remind us of its existence again, either in this life or another, we could not be true to ourselves--without which we cannot be true either to God or our fellow-men--and take advantage of the immunity to cultivate oblivion.

A true forgiveness, so far from offering us this way of escape, evokes a keener sensitiveness to the evil we have done in the world and to the evil we have planted in our own hearts: and to desire to escape the moral distress which arises from an evil past merely shows that God's pardon has not really touched us. Would we ignore the consequences of our sin which still work evil in the world, we have merely, in a selfish spirit, accepted legal condonation for a Father's 229 pardon which wins us from self; would we overlook them while they still work evil in ourselves, we have merely accepted the succour of power which ignores our true nature and our true need, in place of the succour of love which concerns itself with nothing else. Neither God's pardon, nor any succour of love our highest faith might conceive--not though it afforded the clearest vision of life's blessedness and stirred every chord in our hearts--could, after that direct and immediate way, blot out the heritage of sin. To deal with this moral situation morally is beyond any operation of might, even though it were omnipotent.

Once more God's gracious personal dealing with us is indirect and through ourselves, and not direct and by almighty fiat.

Grace deals with all the consequences of sin, in ourselves and in the world, in the present and in the future, but only by first enabling us to accept them.

To be at peace with God is to be at peace with all He appoints. But our sins were not appointed of God, and were not designed, by us or by anyone else, to work for His purpose, in accord with which alone can all things work for good or love be seen, even in a glass darkly, to be the meaning of experience. God is reality, and reality is against all who would interpret life by self-love and self-will. Sin is the attempt to get out of life what God has not put into it. Necessarily it is a hopeless and calamitous warfare, in which the 230 blows are not light and the falls not soft. To deny this is vapid sentiment and self-delusion. As God's rule must, in the nature of things, be against everyone who, with the purpose of evil, would counter His purpose of good, the experience of God's wrath is overwhelmingly calamitous, not as anger outside of the moral order, but as the essential nature of its working.

This experience of evil to him who works evil causes men to think that God needs to be reconciled to man, and not man to God. But it is only the shadow of our misunderstanding, as if, fleeing from a friend in the dark, we meet disaster as though he were a foe: and, as our friend only needs to show his face, we need only truly to see God's face to be succoured. Yet to show Himself is difficult, precisely because we are fleeing from Him in the dark.

Hence the gospel is good news of a gracious God beseeching us to be reconciled in a form which speaks to all hearts. To be reconciled is to be forgiven, and to be forgiven is to be reconciled, yet Christ's whole manifestation of the Father depends on putting reconciliation first in our thoughts. We are not reconciled when, upon conditions, God has forgiven us, but we are forgiven when we know that He is waiting to be gracious. No word of religious insight says we need to beseech God to be reconciled to us. On the contrary, the Apostle conceived his own task and the task of the whole religious fellowship to be that, through them, God besought men to be reconciled 231 to Him. But, before we can hearken, we must learn how all life, and more particularly the sternest experiences in it, suffering and death and corruption, is His pleading not to accept the world at its face value, but to seek farther for His purpose and our peace.

Yet that is impossible till we have recognised the evil of our sins and accepted their consequences, for they are the reason why He must plead so often in severity and disaster. Deliverance from the guilt and power of sin must be central and dominant in all His dealing with us, for He can have no purpose with which they are in accord. The consequences of sin, therefore, determine most of our discipline and much of our duty, yet, so long as we are merely seeking to escape its consequences, sin is the last explanation of their hardness we would admit. As, in that case, we can do no other than err in all our attempts to understand life, we can do no other than be at enmity with it and with the God who appoints it. Even punishment for our sins is not something to be escaped by any device. Rather is it right to say with Luther that true penitence and sorrow seek and love it. This does not mean that we find it other than grievous or that we love it for its own sake; but it does mean that it also may be included by God among the things which work for good, and that sorrow is not associated by God with sin for any other reason. Then we can believe with the Psalmist, that to Him belongeth mercy, for He renders to everyone according to his work. But this equal rule can only mean that to Him 232 belongeth wrath, so long as we are merely seeking to shun the evil consequences of our iniquities.

No reconciliation to God which accepts the duty and discipline of life is possible without accepting the consequences of our sin by which duty and discipline are so largely determined. Because He deals with us as with sons. He cannot, without disaster, overcome them save by moral means. Yet, precisely because we are sons in the household of God, our individual tasks and trials are not to be regarded as necessarily the direct consequences of our particular sins or as a specially designed individual course of medicine. Forgiveness should deliver us from regarding even the certain consequences of our own sin as punishment, yet they are to be overcome, not by being looked upon as blessings in disguise for our own personal edification, but by finding sin and all its consequences taken up into a world where love suffers and atones. Life is what it is because the consequences of sin are what they are, but we can only judge that to be of God's goodness as we realise our place in the whole family of God, and not as we take life to be our mere private concern. God is not a supreme director of souls appointing each particular life as the special regimen designed exclusively for each person's particular ailment, as though his household were a hospital, but He is a Father, treating us all as His children in His family, who are as unable as He is to keep themselves apart from the sins and failures of His other children.


Yet it is by this common regimen that we come to health. By helping each other's infirmities and sharing, according to the whole measure of our opportunity and not in the restricted measure of our own responsibility for evil, the sufferings and toils by which, in the family of God, evil is changed to good, we discover that, when we accept the consequences of sin and meet them in humility, everything in life works for their undoing. And if God condescend to use us as instruments to that end, so far from shrinking from the sorrow and the shame, we shall accept them willingly from the hands of God's love, which cannot do other than make large demands from us, because it would not be love were it not also wise.

Life then becomes a sacrament of redeeming love, the one supreme Divine sacrament of which all others are symbols and interpretations.

A symbol might be described as an interpretation to the heart; and because that is the only adequate interpretation if love is greater than all its gifts, symbols are the deepest and holiest things in life. When we speak contemptuously of mere symbols and insist that sacraments are special operations of grace, vehicles and not symbols, we are merely setting the working of omnipotence above the gracious personal love of our Father, which is the same as measuring a token of love by its material value.

The sacrament of the broken body and shed blood of One who surrendered Himself to shame and agony 234 and death, to the utmost evil life could impose, not in Stoic resignation, but for the sake of His brethren and in accord with the will of His Father, is the crown and consummation, because it manifests the most awful demands of actual defeat, desertion, contempt, despair and agony and death as all included in the gracious dealing of the Father with His children for victory over all the consequences of sin, without and within. It is the high altar of sacrifice, revealing to us that the whole world is God's temple, wherein all our common life, and all our dealings with our brethren, amid all the wickedness of man and even the fears and agonies and corruption of death, are the ministers of God for the deliverance of His children. In the Cross of One who did no sin and deserved none of its evil consequences, love makes its highest claim to trust and its largest demand for loyalty. For that reason it is the inmost sanctuary of pardon and reconciliation, where we can take up our discipline and duty, assured of finding them the way of victory, because we have learned the mind of Him who appoints them, and would ourselves also be partakers in the sacrifice and service by which sin and all its consequences must be overcome.

To call us thus to be His fellow-workers is the crowning evidence that God deals with us as His children at one with Him in our choice and steadfast purpose, and never as mere subjects and dependents. It is this that changes our duty and discipline from trials and tasks into a service of a love which is not a 235 mere emotion, but is esteem for us as moral persons, from whom no sacrifice is too great to demand, if it enable, not ourselves alone, but also our brethren, to live in the Kingdom of the Father.

To be justified, then, is not to have the consequences of sin condoned or even obliterated, but so to be reconciled to God in spite of sin, that we can face all evil with confident assurance of final victory over it, and by God's succour transform all its consequences, whether the evil be natural or moral, the outcome of our own sin, or from our necessary fellowship with others in His family.

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