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favour, and only denies itself in judgment to the unsusceptible and obdurate. This is the point from which alone we can understand Jesus' conception of God's punishments and rewards. The love of God is to Him as an all-surrounding atmosphere, which penetrates wherever it can find an entrance, creating and exalting life wherever it comes.
The praying publican has only to open his guilt-burdened heart in a “God be merciful to me a sinner,” and grace and forgiveness enter into it. But the human heart in its selfishness and sin stops all openings against this atmosphere, and so keeps life out and death in. And the wrath of God, His penalties and judgments, mean simply His denying Himself to those who deny themselves to Him, and leaving them to the death and self-condemnation which necessarily rule where access to the true eternal life is closed. Accordingly, in the holy order of the world all evil punishes and condemns itself, and yet only the absolute evil, the completed break with eternal love, falls under the irrevocable final judgment. An immeasurable series of relative judgments proceeds throughout this world, in which everything is intended for developing to a final goal, for growing towards a day of harvest, and these are at length summed up just as in the history of Israel the sentences are summed up in the approaching destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. xxiii. 35). And yet through all these judgments again runs an unexhausted goodness, a mercy that never grows weary so long as there is any possibility of deliverance. God is righteous, and in this righteousness just, good, and merciful towards His adversaries. He gives them what they will take from Him, His rain and His sunshine (Matt. v. 45). He also distinguishes between weakness and wickedness, between sins of ignorance and sins of wilfulness. “The servant who knew his lord's will and did it not shall be beaten with many stripes; but he who knew it not and hath done what is worthy of stripes shall be beaten with few stripes," an idea from which Jesus infers a specially mild judgment of God about the heathen. " If such deeds of revelation) had been done in Sidon or even in Sodom, they had repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes; but it will be more tolerable for Sidon and Sodom in the day of judgment than for you” (Matt. xi. 20-2-4). Most remarkable is that
passage which speaks of the pardonableness of all sin except the sin against the Holy Ghost (Mark iii. 28; Matt. xii. 31 f.; Luke xii. 10). It not only opens up the possibility of sin being forgiven (and therefore also of conversion) in the world to come, but contains the idea that every sin which admits of fuller knowledge, and so of conversion, is also capable of forgiveness; and only that obstinacy is excluded which shuts out both learning and conversion, and even the eternal truth and love inwardly felt and experienced. The same idea of the divine righteousness of love lies at the basis of Jesus' doctrine of reward. The reward of which Jesus mostly speaks (cf. Matt. v. 12, vi. 1-16, x. 41, 42, xx. 1-16), has nothing to do with a legal merit. In the teaching of Jesus there is no such thing in the usual sense of the word as merit in the presence of God; for when we have done all things which God requires, we have only done what was our duty (Luke xvii. 7-10). On the contrary, when, in Matt. vi. 6, the heavenly Father rewards the prayer which is offered from a sincere heart,--prayer which in no way establishes a claim of right,-it is clear that here again rules the suum cuique of merciful love, to which the prayer of poverty is sufficient claim to the communication of love's riches. We shall have to come back in another later connection to this idea of reward, to which an unreasonable objection has sometimes been taken. In its relation to God, it simply means that in all the good he thinks and does man has to do, not with an impotent abstract idea, but with an almighty living reality of good, in which there is reward for all that is thought and done within its sphere. That is the manifest blessing of the Christian faith in God, that with every act in which we surrender ourselves to the eternal holy love, and for it sacrifice our temporal welfare and selfish nature, we are enriched by gaining “a treasure in the heavens” (Matt. xix. 21).
$ 11. THE GRACE AND MERCY OF GOD
If Jesus conceives the righteousness of God as merciful and gracious, so, on the other hand, He regards grace and mercy as righteous, that is, morally conditioned. That at once appears in the most obvious expression of God's pitying, fatherly love towards sinful man, the forgiveness of sin. Sin in relation to the eternal rights of God is arrears of payment due. It is debt, and this debt cannot be discharged by any human performance, but can only be cancelled by divine forgiveness. Jesus proclaims this forgiveness richly, portrays it in the most moving pictures, such as the Parable of the Prodigal Son, that no sum, though it were ten thousand talents (Matt. xviii. 24), is too great for it to cancel. But it is throughout morally conditioned, and that not merely by the preceding, but also by the succeeding conduct of the man. Thus, Jesus in the Lord's Prayer teaches His disciples to pray for the forgiveness of their debts, but at the same time, that they must show God's forgiveness to their debtors, for God forgives only on this presupposition; and where this does not take place, the remission of debt already made is, according to the Parable of the Unfaithful Steward, revoked, and the divine mercy gives place to righteous judicial wrath (Matt. xviii. 23-35). But the connection between mercy and righteousness lies still deeper, and is a more radical one. Mere forgiveness is not the one entire work of grace. The grace of God has a more comprehensive aim, within which forgiveness is only one element, a means to an end—the aim of delivering the lost (Luke xv., xix. 10). That the sinner become a new man, that he be converted and live, is the aim of the divine grace (Matt. xviii. 12-14); and when this aim is attained in a man, when—in the language of the parablethe lost lamb is found, God can righteously forgive, for the lost is now found. The man has been converted, has broken with sin, and therefore the heavenly Father can pass over the sins of the past, just as the father in the parable makes no more mention of his son's way of death, from the moment when he sees that the lost is found, the dead alive. This relation of
1 The unprofitable servant is he who brings to his lord no more than he costs him for his daily bread.
The idea of divine grace is just as little formally present in the synoptic teaching of Jesus as that of the divine righteousness, but both ideas are really all the more richly present. The grace of God is presented by Jesus chiefly under the image of compassionate love, of mercy (cf. Matt. xviii. 27 ; Luke xv. 20), but it lies at the basis of the whole message of the kingdom of heaven coming near to sinners.
affinity between grace and righteousness, righteousness and mercy, in the view of Jesus, corrects an error into which the doctrinal development of the Church has fallen, and which, up to this moment, throws a painful shadow on the understanding of the gospel. By detaching both ideas, that of righteousness and that of grace, from their root, the idea of holy love, and by conceiving righteousness in a juristic legal sense and
in an antinomian sense, a contradiction arose between the two attributes in God, which had to be reconciled by a historical fact, by the sacrifice on Golgotha. The grace and mercy of God should urge to the pardon of the sinner, the forgiveness of sin. Yet these conflict with the righteous
. ness of God in itself, and can therefore take place only on condition of an atonement satisfying the claims of righteousness. This theory cannot appeal with reason even to the Old Testament, to say nothing of the teaching of Jesus. Though the forgiveness of sin appears in the Mosaic law to be, in certain circumstances, conditioned by a sacrifice, yet the teaching of the psalms and prophets already sets aside the idea that God has not inner freedom to remit debt without getting payment of it in some other way. The sacrifices with which God is well pleased are a broken and a contrite spirit, that is, a penitent heart. Wherever that is, there is forgiveness (Ps. cxxx. 4, 7) without any other satisfaction. The teaching of Jesus goes further on this track. He shows His Father's heart not narrower, but still wider than in the Old Testament; He teaches that God not only forgives the man who turns to Him without more ado, but that He wishes to convert even the unconverted, in order to be able to forgive them—that He seeks the lost until He finds it. In the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, the penitent invokes the grace of God, and without any reservation or reference to a future sacrifice, it is said," he went down to his house justified” (Luke xviii. 14). In the Parable of the Unfaithful Steward the relation of God to the sinner is compared with the position of a king to whom one of his servants owed ten thousand talents; the servant prays for mercy, and his lord sets him free, and remits the debt, without any mention of a vicarious payment (Matt. viii. 23). The prodigal son trusts to an unbroken love and goodness of his father, and finds it without any innocent brother having to make amends for the guilty. The father, like a true father, receives him to favour, and restores him to all his filial rights. How should he not ? He has the best satisfaction he could desire : “ This my son was dead and is alive again, was lost and is found”; he has begun a new life, and will continue it. Jesus never taught otherwise, when speaking of divine mercy or forgiveness of sin. He never represented His Father's heart as being inwardly hindered in freely forgiving. We shall show in its proper place that even that which He afterwards said of a ransom for many, of a relation of His death to the forgiveness of sins, neither adds nor takes anything from this. The righteousness and grace of God appear apart in His teaching, only in so far as from the former are deduced essential holy requirements of God with which His blessed fellowship is connected, from the latter gracious grants, which make the fulfilment of those requirements possible to man-law and gospel. But both holy requirement and gracious grant flow equally from the idea of the eis åyaós, from God's essential goodness, in virtue of which He must be the holy original of all actual goodness, as well as the power, rich in love and help, for all growth in goodness. But for human thought and experience, and therefore in the teaching of Jesus, the two sides necessarily appear apart. And therefore we have now to take a closer view of them in succession.
THE WAY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
§ 1. THE CONCEPT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Although the teaching of Jesus is essentially gospel and not law, yet His gospel embodies the law of God. If the God and Father of Jesus Christ is térelos in the ethical sense (Matt. v. 48), or if the kingdom of heaven is fellowship with Him, then the preaching of the kingdom of heaven must, above all, require the being perfect, as the Father in heaven is perfect, that is,—to use an expression of Jesus Himself, — it is a preaching of the way of righteousness (Matt. xxi. 32).