How may I, a sinner, draw near to Him in whom there is no sin, and look upon His face in peace?
This is the great question which, at some time or other, every one of us has asked. This is one of the awful problems which man in all ages has been attempting to solve. There is no evading it: he must face it.
That man’s answers to this question should have been altogether wide of the mark, is only what might have been expected; for he does not really understand the import of the question which he, with much earnestness perhaps, is putting, nor discern the malignant character of that evil which he yet feels to be a barrier between him and God.
That man’s many elaborate solutions of the problem which has perplexed the race since evil entered should have been unsatisfactory, is not wonderful, seeing his ideas of human guilt are so superficial; his thoughts of himself so high; his views of God so low.
But that, when God has interposed, as an interpreter, to answer the question and to solve the problem, man should be so slow to accept the divine solution as given in the word of God, betrays an amount of unteachableness and self-will which is difficult to comprehend. The preference which man has always shown for his own theories upon this point is unaccountable, save upon the supposition that he has but a poor discernment of the evil forces with which he professes to battle; a faint knowledge of the spiritual havoc which has been wrought in himself; a very vague perception of what law and righteousness are; a sorrowful ignorance of that Divine Being with whom, as lawgiver and judge, he knows that he has to do; and a low appreciation of eternal holiness and truth.
Man has always treated sin as a misfortune, not a crime; as disease, not guilt; as a case for the physician, not for the judge. Herein lies the essential faultiness of all mere human religions or theologies. They fail to acknowledge the judicial aspect of the question, as that on which the real answer must hinge; and to recognize the guilt or criminality of the evil-doer as that which must first be dealt with before any real answer, or approximation to an answer, can be given.
God is a Father; but He is no less a Judge. Shall the Judge give way to the Father, or the Father give way to the Judge?
God loves the sinner; but He hates the sin. Shall He sink His love to the sinner in His hatred of the sin, or His hatred of the sin in His love to the sinner?
God has sworn that He has no pleasure in the death of a sinner (Ezekiel 33:11); yet He has also sworn that the soul that sinneth, it shall die (Ezekiel 18:4). Which of the two oaths shall be kept? Shall the one give way to the other? Can both be kept inviolate? Can a contradiction, apparently so direct, be reconciled? Which is the more unchangeable and irreversible, the vow of pity or the oath of justice?
Law and love must be reconciled, else the great question as to a sinner’s intercourse with the Holy One must remain unanswered. The one cannot give way to the other. Both must stand, else the pillars of the universe will be shaken.
The Everlasting Righteousness
There are, I confess, multitudes in the world who, although they cannot avoid some general convictions of sin, as also of the consequents of it, yet do fortify their minds against a practical admission of such conclusions as, in a just consideration of things, do necessarily and unavoidably ensue thereon. Such persons, wilfully deluding themselves with vain hopes and imaginations, do never once seriously inquire by what way or means they may obtain peace with God and acceptance before him, which, in comparison of the present enjoyment of the pleasures of sin, they value not at all. And it is in vain to recommend the doctrine of justification unto them who neither desire nor endeavour to be justified. But where any persons are really made sensible of their apostasy from God, of the evil of their natures and lives, with the dreadful consequences that attend thereon, in the wrath of God and eternal punishment due unto sin, they cannot well judge themselves more concerned in any thing than in the knowledge of that divine way whereby they may be delivered from this condition.
The Doctrine of Justification by Faith
Were all human beings suddenly to become blind, still the sun would shine by day and the stars by night, for these owe nothing to the millions who benefit from their light. So, were every man on earth to become an atheist, it could not affect God in any way. He is what He is in Himself without regard to any other. To believe in Him adds nothing to His perfections; to doubt him takes nothing away.
Almighty God, just because He is almighty, needs no support. The picture of a nervous, ingratiating God fawning over men to win their favor is not a pleasant one; yet if we look at the popular conception of God, that is precisely what we see. Twentieth century Christianity has put God on charity. So lofty is our opinion of ourselves that we find it quite easy, not to say enjoyable, to believe that we are necessary to God. But the truth is that God is not greater for our being, nor would He be less if we did not exist. That we do exist is altogether of God’s free determination, not by our desert nor by divine necessity.
The Knowledge of the Holy