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Problems of the Spiritual


V. Do not the words—"Our God is a consuming Fire" (Heb. xii. 29 v.)—conflict with the teaching that all will finally be restored?

No; on the contrary, we regard this statement as being one of the strongest supports upon which we base our conviction that the Universalist position is right, and that the Bible's prediction of "the Restoration of all things" (Acts iii. 21 v.) will be fulfilled. The ultimate elimination of evil from the universe seems to us to be guaranteed by the fact that God is " a consuming Fire."

But what do we understand by this term?

As applied to God, it can only, of course, have a figurative significance. It cannot denote that God is fire, any more than the words—"I am the Vine," and "I am the Door"—denote that Jesus is a tree or a piece of dead wood. The term signifies that there exists in God a Principle which can be likened to consuming fire. That implies the destruction, the burning up of something.

Of what? The "Fire" of a God of supreme Goodness will, assuredly, not burn up anything but that which is evil and worthless. "He will gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire," said John the Baptist.

The "chaff"! But the Theology of the past has got into a muddle, and created a host of Biblical difficulties for itself, by giving a wrong signification of the word "chaff." It has made the "chaff" symbolize men themselves, instead of the evil in men.

God as "a consuming Fire" has been interpreted for centuries to mean, that the Almighty will presently consign countless myriads of human souls to endless ruin and horror.

This particular text is seized upon in support of his theory, alike by the upholder of the doctrine of Everlasting Punishment, and also by the believer in the less revolting, but equally illogical, doctrine of the Annihilation of the wicked.

The former's argument is that as "God is a consuming Fire," sinners will be consigned to the burnings of an everlasting Hell. The suffering, whether mental, or physical, or both, according to some, will be endless.

Those who hold this appalling idea deny that the evil in the ones in Hell will be consumed. Necessarily so; they are cute enough to see that a perpetual Hell would be no suitable condition for any being ridded of evil. But they do not perceive the inconsistency of describing as "consuming " a Fire which leaves its victims unconsumed for ever and ever.

The Annihilationist is very much more consistent. He teaches that the "consuming Fire " will destroy the Sinner; that the man will be wiped out of existence.

But what does this latter theory involve? Plainly this, the defeat of God, and that evil is strong enough to effectually frustrate for ever God's Love and Purpose.

God's Love! According to Christ, He "loved the world," i.e. all His human creatures in it. God's Purpose! The salvation of all. His Christ was declared to be "the Saviour of all men," and "the Lamb of God which taketh away the Sin of the world."

Yet, according to the Annihilationist, God's Purpose will never be fulfilled, and His Love for untold numbers of the race He loves will come to an abrupt ending. We are told He will stamp out the evil in millions by sweeping them into nonentity. Is He not "a consuming Fire?" it is asked.

Surely a strange way of bringing about "the Restoration of all things," and of justifying Christ in saying He would "draw all men to Himself"!

Will God deal with His evil-stricken beings as we deal with our plague-infected cattle—kill them to get rid of the disease? Is this compatible with the thought of Divine Love and Almightiness?

And yet this, and far worse than this, has been taught, and is even now being taught, by some who have read this text in the lurid light of a narrow theology. Thank God! the world is fast moving on to worthier conceptions of God. Men are refusing to allow any longer their minds and their moral instincts to be enslaved by the traditions of the past.

The Gospel, as the Universalist understands it, presents none of these difficulties to faith and none of these shocks to reason and the moral perceptions.

Our God is "a consuming Fire," we say, because of His Love. That "Fire" will "burn up" the evil—the "chaff" in human souls, just because He loves those souls. All souls are God's, and no soul in this world, or in any other world, to whatever extent it may be a "lost" thing, can be beyond the radius of the Love of the Father. The "lost piece of money" comes from the royal Mint of Heaven, and although it may have rolled away into the dust and defilement of evil, and become a rusted and tarnished thing, with the superscription of the Divine on it all but obliterated, it still belongs to God. He has handed over nothing which is His to a Devil. That evil-defiled soul is still loved by Him. The mission and work of His Son is "to seek and to save" the lost things, and on the showing of the Christ Himself that mission will never be accomplished until the last of the "lost " shall have been found, and restored to the Father.

It is the evil in men and women which makes them "lost" souls; and God hates that evil; not them. Evil is selfishness, and selfishness is the antithesis of Love. It interposes a barrier between God and the objects of His Love. It thwarts for a while the purposes of that Love. His "Fire" will consume it. By His judgments, by His disciplinings in this world and the next, by the very hells which men make for themselves, God will "burn up" the evil in them. Thus, the very judgments of God become the pledges of His Love; and thus, a passage of Scripture which has been supposed to sound the knell of unending doom and horror for the greater part of the human race, becomes to us, in the light of Universalism, a message from God which scares away the awful shadows that men have flung on the Being of the Father, and lifts us to infinite hope.

In the light of such thoughts, how luminous become the words of the Psalmist—"I have hoped in Thy judgments" (Ps. cxix. 43)!

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Other Books by Rev. Chambers:

"Man and the Spiritual World" (1903 UK Edition)
"Thoughts of the Spiritual" (1905 American Edition)

Rev. Arthur Chambers Returns From "Death" To Speak Through The Zodiac Circle

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