« PreviousContinue »
less presence and activity of the Supreme Reality- the Highest Good.
Mr. Cook's science, ethical and otherwise, starts with the Bible's and husbandman's familiar truth, that a man reaps what he sows. He then hastens on to the generalization of the method, that the self propagating power of habit is the path to Heaven and Hell and reaches the conclusion, that a prolonged refusal on earth to open the door to God, scientifically leads to a certainty that a point may be reached at death, and by many is reached, of permanent subjection to sin and its consequences.
Thus we have sin enthroned in the fortress of habit, permanently secure against all the assaults of Omnipotence.
Recall now the two laws of evolution- laws alike of the phenomena of finite mind and physical nature: the instability of the homogeneous, and the multiplication of effects by incident forces.
To us, Mr. Cook's perdition appears none other than a homogeneous, or at most, a very moderately complex state of soul or mind. It is stability of mind and being, and admits of no influence to change from within or without. It can have no variety, no differentiation, no retrogression, no disintegration. Evolution has ceased, self-propagation has ended in an abrupt halt. The law of from less to more has exhausted itself; the soul no longer sows, its harvests are alone those from past sowing; it cannot in even evil" have more abundantly," for the limits of the farm have been reached, and the fertility of all the soil exhausted. Mr. Cook's perdition thus seems to us to forbid the idea of continued sinning, and, so, of a continued piling up of additional guilt and consequent suffering. His hell is a stable homogeneity of spirit. As a sea, its waves are fixed; as a fire its flames have no increase; as a country, it is an endless dead level; as suffering, it is one in quality and form; no variety of experience is possible or imaginable.
It may be said that, in as much as Mr. Cook uses the same language in speaking of the way to Heaven and to Perdition,
we are no more justified in characterizing the latter as above, than we would be in making his Heaven a colorless monotony of bliss, should he define it as permanent subjection to the good. Further reflection will, however, establish our correctness, we think, and leave us free of this possible criticism. We are sure that the Boston Lectureship preaches a heaven of growth and progress in common with the general thought of christendom. It is significant that there should be so general a harmony here, and so much difficulty in settling on a definition and conception of perdition. We should note one thing in particular in Mr. Cook's position. His definition of perdition excludes all sinners from it who have not yet reached permanent subjection to sin, and as this permanence cannot be certainly decided as attained this side of death, there is no certainty that perdition has any territory on earth. At the most, all earthly sinners are but possible citizens in the mak ing for a perdition in the future life. But in a state of permanent blessedness, it is conceded, that " a constant process of perfection," as Lotze says, is going on. All the soul's faculties are increasingly employed in the extension of knowledge and variety of experience of life and joy. The spirit maintains relationship with all the incident forces of finite and Infinite being, subjective and objective. The resulting multiplication of blessed consequences will continually correspond.
Permanent blessedness, therefore, means life still enlarging, still abiding amid the universe of things, to which it remains gladly responsive.
This alleged scientific perdition, on the other hand, is a prison of habit bolted forever against change, or freedom, or variety of taste, or variety of gifts. No star here can differ from any other star in damnation. "Permanent subjection to guilt and sin and their consequences," means not only fixed life of evil, but loss of desire and freedom, of ability and opportunity, and all inducement by the play of incident forces to do or be other than bad. Here is no possibility of high treason. All prisoners are in one cell. Stable fidelity to Mr. Cook's personal satan receives no reward in change or modification of treatment, or a shortened term.
But are we just in thus seeking to hold Mr. Cook to a nondeveloping perdition by his terms? We thinks so, and expect to show that by all the light which the sciences of nature and mind give us, no such state of perdition is either probable or possible in the universe.
But suppose, however, this perdition has a law of progress in evil. a growth in the piling up of vaster "magnitudes" of guilt and sin. With this we shall find the Lecturship in another strait where it is sheer presumption and against all science and experience, to assert certainty about any soul ever becoming hopelessly lost. For, if a soul just entered into a future perdition can there go on multiplying sins — what follows? Why this all ideas of permanence must inevitably be rendered uncertain. For to sin the soul must retain the power and freedom of choice. Liberty to sin is liberty not to sin; and where and as long as this liberty lasts, there are, and will continue, conscience and God. In such continued conjunction of things it is a swaggering defiance of all science to affirm the certainty of a permanent subjection to sin. Choice remaining, it is simply blasphemy to think of God as maintaining the soul in such liberty without Himself doing anything, or the soul having any environment and relations where shall play incidental forces looking to the calling of such power of choice into exercise, save in the one choice of perpetual evil. If there is here at first only homogeneity of life and conduct, this will tend to pass into the heterogeneous, and the latter into greater heterogeneity. And in each and every change of the soul's life there must continue, and precede it, an environment which makes this change possible, as well as the continuance of the maintained integrity of the soul's faculties and endowments, on which the environment ever makes a demand. Hence under universal law of either physical or ethical being, so far as science yet affords us any reliable data, the assumption that there may be an increase of sinning in a future existence carrics with it all the subjective and objective conditions of both sin and righteousness, and leaves at the very worst the final destiny of the dead sinner undecided,
with all the presumption, however, on the side of the triumph of righteousness, since the conditions leave God and all the universe of good still aggressively opposing the sinner's career and soliciting him to choices of good.
Mr. Cook vividly sets forth the condition under which, he affirms, some souls attain permanence of bad character. his 181st lecture he says:
"1. Some act of man's free will must go before God's entrance into the soul. Man is to open the door.
2. That man has natural power to do this and a corresponding responsibility.
3. That God's knocking invites, inspires, persuades, and enables man to do this act.
7. That God stands at all doors knocking.
11. That every refusal to open adds to man's guilt and peril, and that there must be on the part of the unyielding soul a refusal for every knock, and that this knocking is incessant, and that so the guilt and peril of evil choices mount swiftly to vast magnitudes."
Mr. Cook does not say it is certain that any soul before death becomes fixed in evil. That perhaps would not be preachable" doctrine belonging to that part of Calvinism which even Mr. Cook has left behind. To affirm to a congregation of sinners that some of them had already become permanently bad, would be the assertion before them that there is no Holy Spirit and no Atonement for them, which would be an impeachment of the claims of the Gospel as now almost universally interpreted by Christendom. But Mr. Cook does not hesitate to draw the line through the point of death. Here certainly, he claims that sound scholarship and science declare, there arises the perpendicular wall of permanence. Up to this line of death the state of the sinner has been one of free will, natural power to open the door, corresponding responsibility, and God's incessant knocking. Now, if the "vast magnitudes" of guilt which with the sinner have been increasing up to the time of death, continue to grow after death, then after death the conditions of their growth must continue the same as before death. That is, freedom, moral
NEW SERIES. VOL. XXIII.
discernment and ability, responsibility, and God's still incessant multitudinous knockings to have the door opened. What sort of a perdition would this be? The very one with which we are all so familiar every day. It would be the projection of all the essential spiritual characteristics and environments of the soul's present state into the after-death life. Such a perdition cannot be scientifically called a "permanent subjection to guilt and sin," while the assumption that these conditions will exist in the future with the sinner, and that the sinner is certain to remain forever uninfluenced by them for good, is to imply the idiocy of God. The mind revolts at the absurdity of God still keeping up His knocking after the door has been permanently bolted. But that magnitudes of guilt may there increase, God's unceasing knocking is an absolute prerequisite. Withdraw the knocking of God, and we have, as at first, on the assumption of the immortality of the sinner as held by Mr. Cook, a perdition that cannot increase in guilt or suffering, an absolute stand-still of being.
According to Lotze, the reality of things can only be conceived as in a multitude of relations. This standing in relations to other things gives to a thing its reality. And the nature of this reality, again, can neither be consistently represented as a fixed and hard substance, nor as an unalterable something, but only as a fixed order of recurrence of continually changing events or impressions (Ency. Brit.). This conception of the physical universe as related to our minds, holds no less good as a conception of our present and future selves as related to each other and to the environment of the spiritual universe.
Any rational guess as to the destiny of an assumed immortal mind must spring trom this fact of actuality, that the soul is always in relations, and in relations which are not negative and fruitless, but positive and productive and diversified.
Couple with this state of things the omnipresent, sole Supreme Reality, the Highest Good, which is the enswathing Medium by and in which the whole universe of things and their relations have their actuality, and we have before our