by Alan Burns

WORDS are the weights and measures of exchanged thought. False weights and false words are "an abomination to the Lord." They should be an abomination to us as well, and should teach us to choose the words we use, as David chose the five smooth stones from the running waters of the brook.

We are always saying more than we mean, or meaning more than we say. Consequently we kill no giants. David can teach us how to fight. And as words are the weapons of our warfare, how necessary it is that we should be expert in their use. We use verbal crowbars to do the work of needles, and coarsely blunder in the delicate art of dissecting thought.

The doctrine of hope beyond the grave is almost invariably spoken of as being "the doctrine of a second chance." It is presented as the tremulous nebula of better things. This phase represents correctly, perhaps, the sentimental wishes of such men as Dean Farrar, who scarcely dared to hope that even a second chance in the life to come would take the place of certain doom. Where orthodoxy, wearing the black goggles of medieval theology, saw nothing but certain damnation, these good men trembled in the optimism that saw even "the possibility of a maybe" in regard to at least some of the human race.

It is not to be wondered at, however, that those who believed in the ability of man, and who consequently thought that final responsibility hinged in some way upon this ability, should have, and could only have at best but the shivering uncertainty of a forlorn hope. On the other hand those who have perceived the absolute inability of the creature are shut up to either having no hope for any, or else having hope for all.

How then do we stand in respect to the "gospel of a second chance?" Let us be as clear as we can upon this point. Let us be as emphatic as we may. Let us weigh these words and measure them by the rule of truth. We believe there is no such thing. Indeed, not only do we not credit the doctrine, or gospel of a second chance, but we repudiate the idea of a first one.

If a "second" chance might possibly retrieve the ineffectiveness of a "first" one, is it not possible that a "third" chance might remedy any ineffectiveness in the second? And if a second, and a third, why not a fourth and a fifth and even more if necessary? The fact that we only hear and read of a second chance, seems to indicate a limitation of hope and faith akin to Abraham's in his petition for Sodom.

But, as we have already noted, we do not believe in a first chance, not to mention a second or a third. Indeed, we look upon the phrase "gospel of a second chance" as a lying one. It displays but a meager knowledge of man, and one still more scant where God is concerned. It need hardly be pointed out that it is self-contradictory in its construction, for when it rests upon chance it ceases to be gospel.

Is the gospel a gamble that we should group it with "chance?" If we know anything of Scripture, we shall already have learned that even in gambling there is no such thing as chance. The whole disposition of the lot is from the Lord (Prov.16:33). So close and all-reaching is the government of God that even the tumble of the dice is not beyond His control.

The false doctrine of man's divinity makes him the autocrat of his choices. Ignorant of the fact that the fountainhead of his saving impulse finds its origin above, that the impetus Christward comes from the Spirit of God, he contrives a system of thought which leaves him an anarchist in a world of law. Even God Himself is not free in the sense in which man construes "freedom," for He is not free from Himself, from His own blessed nature.

What God is, determines what God does. What man is, determines what he does, and what he chooses. What Adam was in Eden determined what he did. Had he been "in Christ" he would never have fallen. If he had been in the state of what we must call "organic unity" "in Christ" he could never have chosen to disobey his Creator—no more than Christ could have done had He been in Eden, no more than He did when on earth, and all because this condition of "organic unity" existed between Him and His Father. "I am in the Father, and the Father in Me."

Christ could not sin, the condition of union—"in God"—forbade the possibility. Adam could do nothing but sin, his condition of separateness compelled the necessity. If Adam could have triumphed over evil as Christ did, and conquered sin as Christ conquered it, then it is not absolutely necessary that God should "head up all things in Christ." Then man can realize perfection and sinlessness while separate from Him.

The idea of "chance" in connection with the gospel is intimately interwoven with this idea of human freedom, and constructed in forgetfulness that while the will is "free" from God's sovereignty it is enslaved by its own condition of separateness, and while in that estate of separateness, the acts, impulses, and choices are those of a creature separate from God, out of Christ, running opposite to the mind, and nature and law of God. Had Adam been raised from the dead and given a "second chance" in Eden, under exactly the same conditions, he would have turned his back upon God again and chosen the tortuous road of human sin and pain once more. To replace him in Eden would not have been a second chance but a second certainty that history would repeat itself. God did not repeat the "experiment"—as some view it.

The vision of God has become more glorious to us as the years have rolled by. It has been enlarged and intensified by truer conceptions of the Father of spirits. Our "Magnificat" is not in praise of man, but of Him who was, Who is, and Who is yet to come. God never has a headache. He is never worried as we worry when our plans go wrong, for the simple reason that His plans never do. An experiment is an experiment because of its possible failure. God never fails; hence He makes no experiments.

According to the measure in which we have learned of God will we interpret such a Scripture as this: "Who will have all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim.2:4). Is this His wish or His will? Is this the gospel of chance, or certainty? Is this to say that the mighty work of redemption wobbles on the vagaries of the human will or does it teach that redemption itself consists, in part, in the elimination of man's will with all its vagaries?

The so-called science of materialism contains in its doctrine of creation the equivalent of the theological doctrine of redemption. Both are Godless, the one no more so than the other. The "fortuitous concourse of atoms" is the doctrine of chance in the creation dogma of infidel science. The element of fortuity perpetuates itself in the "gospel of a second chance." Neither has a place nor a portion in a universe that God has made, and governs.

It is right here that the doctrines of the Millennial Dawn system fail. It is here that the essential demerit of its teaching appears. Its gospel, the gospel of a second chance (and how much better that is than a gospel of only one!—) is nevertheless the gospel of a second chance. It subordinates the problem of destiny to the fluctuations of human caprice.

Let us sum up our conclusions. The gospel with which we are entrusted is the gospel of god—first, last, and only. It is not the gospel of God and me. I am in it, it is true, but only as the absolutely passive recipient of its favor and power. Left to myself in my separateness from the Creator I come under the inflexible laws of that separateness and the certain dominion of a nature that is alien and antagonistic to Him. There is nothing uncertain about it. It contains no elements of chance within it. On the other hand, when the all-transcending Spirit of God is united with my spirit (which has had its origin in God) the condition of union so produced is the law that governs its changed attitudes and activities. Through the supernatural act of the Holy Spirit, faith becomes the natural activity of the finite human spirit. Faith is the homing instinct of the re-united creature.

The certainty of the separate soul is the certainty of sin: the certainty of the united spirit is the certainty of salvation. In the first condition, or state, man must sin: in the second, he cannot.

In conclusion we may point out that what goes by the name of evangelical thought today, is remarkable for its determined opposition to the Darwinian doctrine of creation—creation by chance—little aware of the fact that its doctrine of salvation (the gospel of chance, first or second, it matters little) can be as truly called Darwinian as the other.

The universe is too small to contain two deities, God and Chance.

"To us there is but one god" (1 Cor.8:6).
Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Eph.1:11).

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