Is It Of God?

by Alan Burns

WHO is the author of the doctrine of the reconciliation of all things? Is it God? Is it man? Can it be Satan? In approaching such a momentous question, man, as a source, may be immediately eliminated from the discussion, for if God be the source of this doctrine man is merely used as a means in its revelation, and if its source is in the father of lies man is simply his tool in its unfolding. Nor does the character of man enter very largely into it, for if God has at times used bad men to do Him service, so have good men been employed by Satan to do his evil work. It is equally unnecessary to answer both of the remaining questions, for if we can find the answer to one we have automatically eliminated the other. If it be God it cannot be Satan; if it be Satan it cannot be God.

We have long since learned that the enemy of God does not introduce merely that which is obviously repulsive, distorted, and ugly into the world. He does not write merely obscene and filthy stories. He can produce "literature." He has not only composed frivolous popular songs, and the inanity of jazz, but, if you please, he can also write hymns. He has not alone fathered many a shade or phase of infidelity or atheism, but his name might with justice be inscribed on the title page of many a "theology."

Now the test of any theology is simple. Does it magnify and exalt the Creator or the creature? To whom does it give a capital C? Does it leave the sinner without a single shred of righteousness to call his own? Is the tree on which the Son of God suffered a cross or the cross? Does God save man or does He help man to save himself? Is salvation all of God? Is man dead or is he only disabled or diseased?

It is unnecessary to remind our readers of how these subjects have been touched on, and emphasized in these pages. The reconciliation of all things is God's work, not man's. It is effected by the impartation of God's righteousness, and is not the result of the recognition of man's native worth. It is the result of the life of God flowing into dead men. The cross is the channel through which it flows.

We are asked to believe, however, that thus far Satan preaches the gospel of God, if only he be allowed to add that God's "venture" in the work of Calvary will be carried to a successful conclusion! Satan thus is supposed to preach, or prophesy, his own defeat; supposed to own that his rule in the heavenlies and over men is as limited in duration as it is in extent, and his rebellion destined to an ultimate subjugation. We are asked to believe that he is declaring that ultimately divine love will conquer his hellish hatred, and that one day he will gladly bow the knee to the Man Whose hands he sought to nail to the accursed tree; and, bowing the knee in the sublime adoration of love, call Jesus Lord! Of course, it may be suggested in defense that on the same grounds the doctrine of everlasting torment cannot be of Satan, for he would hardly teach his own ultimate defeat, or his incarceration in the lake of fire. But we must not go too fast here. The lake of fire, future retribution, Satan's ultimate defeat, these are all divine doctrines and consequently true. Nor could all the artifices of hell remove these words from that Word, inspired of God, which will outlast the heavens themselves. One thing, and one thing only, could be done. He could add something, and this God, in His providence, allowed him to do. And so the little idea, or word "everlasting" appeared. This left Satan at least with something for all eternity. It left him with himself, his sin, his hatred, unchanged. And it also showed him as in part successful, for had he not marred the primeval purpose in creation when all things were made for Him Who was and is the appointed Heir of all things?

And again did not this doctrine of endless sin and unending torment serve Satan's purpose in slandering God? Has it not poisoned the barb of many an infidel taunt?

Now let us ask if these things, or any of them can be said of the doctrine of reconciliation? Does it leave Satan anything? No, on the contrary, it leaves him nothing, not even himself. It shows him at the end of the ages, impotent and empty, coming like any piece of Bowery wreckage, coming as all his myriad victims came, with his head bowed, and his heart ashamed in the spirit of the sinner's confession:

"Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me."

Does this rob God of anything? Not even of revenge, for if bread to the hungry be the divine method of heaping coals of fire, so does God Himself revenge Himself upon His enemies by loving them! Does it magnify or belittle the thought of grace? Does it contradict the Bible, or does it not rather teach that not only did God speak "all these words," but He it was Who also spake these "all" words?

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