It is one of those deep Mysteries, which will never be understood, save in Heaven, in the Light and Love of Almighty God. For it may be, that, in Hell, it will be part of the misery of the damned, still to rebel against the Justice of God, as here against His Love and Righteous Will. One only difficulty there is, of which all the rest are but offshoots, “Whence is evil amid the Works of an All-Good, All-Wise, God?” And if man, living in this corner of the Creation, bounded in his understanding, looking but a little way along a little space, be not humble enough to say, “I cannot know, God has not revealed it,” there is nothing before him, but to say with the fool, “There is no God.” If we shrink back from this, as we must, and believe, and know, and confess, and glory, and think in our inmost souls, that, be this how it may, (we know not, need not to know, cannot know now, wish not to know,) since we know this which alone concerns us, that God is very good to us, then we shall go on, and with the Psalmist “Praise God in His Holiness,” for “His Mercy is over all His Works,8” although we understand not His Dealing with any of them.
There are but two resting-places in the whole range of thought about God; the one a loving, implicit, child-like faith, which, although it understands not, believes every Word of God, because it loves Him, and “bends not the Thoughts of God to be as its thoughts, but yields and casts down its every thought to be obedient to the Thoughts of God; the other, entire unbelief, which ends in dethroning God, making God a part of the world, and itself a part of God. All else is only moving in the one way or the other.
And so will ye, too, Brethren, and putting from you all thoughts, “how it can be thus?” think only, reverently though sadly, “hath not He Who is Love, God Who, for Love of us men, became Man, said, it shall be thus?”
Alas! Brethren, it is an Aweful, painful Mystery of the Justice of Almighty God, corresponding with the Mystery of His Love in our Redemption by the Infinite Merits and the Death of the Only-Begotten Son. Both were foreshadowed from Paradise; both were revealed, in their depth of light and darkness together, by Him, and in Him. It would seem as though they were inseparable. Without the one, we should presume; as, without the other, despair. The loss of an Infinite Good, must be an infinite evil. An Infinite Remedy implies an ill all-but infinite. We can see that it is very fearful to put aside Love so Boundless. It may be a contradiction, that such Love, such light terms of acceptance should be offered, and not entail misery proportioned on those who put them aside. But what I would point out, is the fact, that our knowledge of the Greatness of our Redemption, the misery of those who would not receive it, and their multitude, became known to us, by degrees, together. Scarcely were the Gates of Paradise closed, with the Promise of Him Who should crush the serpent’s head, than the first-born of our fallen race was a murderer! His seed became the mighty of the earth, the discoverers of all earthly wisdom, the corrupters of what remained good in the race of Seth, until “all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.” …What is the constant prophecy of Judgment to come? “A remnant only shall be saved.” It is foretold in the name of Isaiah’s son; and yet he again, St. Paul says, is the image of us Christians, “the children which God” the Father “hath given” to His Christ. St. Paul again gives this as the sum of the prophecies as to Israel. “Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved; ” and again, “Except the Lord of Hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah,” the cities whom God utterly overthrew, “suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” Again, when amid a great forsaking in the midst of the land, a tenth only should remain, even this should again be consumed, and a “holy seed” alone be the hope for the time to come. “A holy seed,” “gleaning grapes as the shaking of an olive tree, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost fruitful branches thereof;” such are the emblems of those who shall be left. And when that former people were restored from that first desolation, the captivity of Babylon, (again an image of our restoration in Christ), how few, in comparison, even of that one tribe returned, from which our Lord was to be born; and when He came, these were divided in divers heresies; and they who believed in Him, although a great multitude, even “many tens of thousands” in Jerusalem alone, were still but “a remnant according to the election of Grace,” while “the rest were blinded.” What is the very name of Christians in St. Paul, but “the elect,” i. e. those “chosen out of” the greater mass who remained; and of those thus chosen, there is yet a smaller body, which, when the larger part are cast away, shall be “the chosen;” “Many are called, but few chosen.” Again, the name by which our Lord calls His disciples, is “a little flock. d” He prays for them who are chosen out of the world. They are but as a heap of corn, small, compared to the chaff from which it is sifted. e Such is the history before Christ came and at His Coming; before, few were even called, still fewer chosen; at His Coming “His own received Him not.” So many would “not have this Man to reign over them,” that St. Paul had to prove that God had not altogether cast away His people, that, in the mass of Israel, there was a hidden number who alone were the true Israel. And what shall be at the end? Our Lord answereth, “When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find Faith on the earth?” and that, “if it were possible, the very elect” should fail.
But what, Brethren? are we then to despond for ourselves or others, because the way is narrow, and few find it? This were the very device of Satan, to slay us through despair, if he cannot lay us to sleep in presumption. This we know, God willeth all men to be saved, willeth that we be saved. His Love is wanting to no one, but we to It. God willeth thee to be saved; will thou it also; will it with a steadfast will; will it with a whole heart; will it at whatever cost; and pray Him to uphold thy will, and thou wilt be saved. Wherever or whatsoever we are, we are encompassed with tokens of His Love. …
These aweful warnings are but a token the more of His Love towards us, if we will be warned. He terrifieth us, only that we may take refuge in His Love. He meeteth us in terror if we fly from Him, only that we may turn to Him in love. He affrighteth us, even as a tender parent doth, that we may cling the closer unto Him. … He biddeth us, “fear” and “fear not;” “fear Him” and we shall fear nothing out of Him; “fear the Lord and depart from evil.” He Himself saith, “Ye that fear the Lord, put your trust in the Lord, He is their Helper and Defender.'” He Himself biddeth them who fear Him, to say “His Mercy endureth for ever.” …….
Never, perhaps, were there times, in which the Windows of Heaven were more opened, God’s Calls louder, His Work and Care, in recovering us, as a Church, more visible, His Work and Care for human souls more manifest. He calls us, as a Church, by sorrow and by blessing, by spreading us without and strengthening us within, by giving us “the heathen for our inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for our possession,” by enlarging our borders; and woe unto us, if we preach not the gospel.'” He is calling us individually, again and again; He is calling the very “dead in trespasses and sins” to hear His Voice and live.
Oh stand we not all the day idle! trust we ourselves with Him, and He hath said, “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee.” Aid we how we may, whom we can, by prayers, alms, self-denial, that His Call reach others also. Our love shall return into our own bosom. “Pray” we “the Lord of the Harvest” to “send forth labourers into His Harvest.” And for ourselves and those we love, fear we not either repented sin or present infirmities, so as to lose courage, and faith, and hope in Him. The more pitfalls surround us, cleave we the closer to Him, our Only Guide. The more the waves assault us, cling we closer to Him, the Rock of our Salvation. Cast we ourselves, our fears, our past sins, into the Infinite Abyss of His Mercies, and as we lose ourselves in Him, we shall find ourselves in Him for ever. If we fear to faint by the way, keep we the nearer to Him Who is our Food for the way. If we fear to be parted from Him, part we with ought, at least offer we to Him, to part from us ought which may keep us from Him. Commit we our way unto Him, and He will bring it to pass. He Who forsook us not when we forsook Him, will not forsake us when we would turn to Him. “Faithful is He That calleth you, Who also will do it.”
Now unto Him “Who hath saved us, and called us with an Holy Calling, not according to our works, but according to His Own Purpose and Grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, be blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, for ever and ever, Amen.”