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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWhat's Mine's Mine - Volume 1 - Chapter 15. The Gulf That Divided
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What's Mine's Mine - Volume 1 - Chapter 15. The Gulf That Divided Post by :ispeculate Category :Long Stories Author :George Macdonald Date :May 2012 Read :3140

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What's Mine's Mine - Volume 1 - Chapter 15. The Gulf That Divided

VOLUME I CHAPTER XV. THE GULF THAT DIVIDED

When Ian ceased, a silence deep as the darkness around, fell upon them. To Ian, the silence seemed the very voice of God, clear in the darkness; to the mother it was a darkness interpenetrating the darkness; it was a great gulf between her and her boy. She must cry to him aloud, but what should she cry? If she did not, an opportunity, perhaps the last, on which hung eternal issues, would be gone for ever! Each moment's delay was a disobedience to her conscience, a yielding to love's sinful reluctance! With "sick assay" she heaved at the weight on her heart, but not a word would come. If Ian would but speak again, and break the spell of the terrible stillness! She must die in eternal wrong if she did not speak! But no word would come. Something in her would not move. It was not in her brain or her lips or her tongue, for she knew all the time she could speak if she would. The caitiff will was not all on the side of duty! She was not FOR the truth!--could she then be OF the truth? She did not suspect a divine reluctance to urge that which was not good.

Not always when the will works may we lay hold of it in the act: somehow, she knew not how, she heard herself speaking.

"Are you sure it was God, Ian?" she said.

The voice she heard was weak and broken, reedy and strained, like the voice of one all but dead.

"No, mother," answered Ian, "but I hope it was."

"Hopes, my dear hoy, are not to be trusted."

"That is true, mother; and yet we are saved by hope."

"We are saved by faith."

"I do not doubt it."

"You rejoice my heart. But faith in what?"

"Faith in God, mother."

"That will not save you."

"No, but God will."

"The devils believe in God, and tremble."

"I believe in the father of Jesus Christ, and do not tremble."

"You ought to tremble before an unreconciled God."

"Like the devils, mother?"

"Like a sinful child of Adam. Whatever your fancies, Ian, God will not hear you, except you pray to him in the name of his Son."

"Mother, would you take my God from me? Would you blot him out of the deeps of the universe?"

"Ian! are you mad? What frightful things you would lay to my charge!"

"Mother, I would gladly--oh how gladly! perish for ever, to save God from being the kind of God you would have me believe him. I love God, and will not think him other than good. Rather than believe he does not hear every creature that cries to him, whether he knows Jesus Christ or not, I would believe there was no God, and go mourning to my grave."

"That is not the doctrine of the gospel."

"It is, mother: Jesus himself says, 'Every one that hath heard and learned of the Father, cometh unto me.'"

"Why then do you not come to him, Ian?"

"I do come to him; I come to him every day. I believe in nobody but him. He only makes the universe worth being, or any life worth living!"

"Ian, I can NOT understand you! If you believe like that about him,--"

"I don't believe ABOUT him, mother! I believe in him. He is my life."

"We will not dispute about words! The question is, do you place your faith for salvation in the sufferings of Christ for you?"

"I do not, mother. My faith is in Jesus himself, not in his sufferings."

"Then the anger of God is not turned away from you."

"Mother, I say again--I love God, and will not believe such things of him as you say. I love him so that I would rather lose him than believe so of him."

"Then you do not accept the Bible as your guide?"

"I do, mother, for it tells me of Jesus Christ. There is no such teaching as you say in the Bible."

"How little you know your New Testament!"

"I don't know my New Testament! It is the only book I do know! I read it constantly! It is the only thing I could not live without!--No, I do not mean that! I COULD do without my Testament! Christ would BE all the same!"

"Oh, Ian! Ian! and yet you will not give Christ the glory of satisfying divine justice by his suffering for your sins!"

"Mother, to say that the justice of God is satisfied with suffering, is a piece of the darkness of hell. God is willing to suffer, and ready to inflict suffering to save from sin, but no suffering is satisfaction to him or his justice."

"What do you mean by his justice then?"

"That he gives you and me and everybody fair play."

The homeliness of the phrase offended the moral ear of the mother.

"How dare you speak lightly of HIM in my hearing!" she cried.

"Because I will speak for God even to the face of my mother!" answered Ian. "He is more to me than you, mother--ten times more."

"You speak against God, Ian," she rejoined, calmed by the feeling she had roused.

"No, mother. He speaks against God who says he does things that are not good. It does not make a thing good to call it good. I speak FOR him when I say lie cannot but give fair play. He knows he put rue where I was sure to sin; he will not condemn me because I have sinned; he leaves me to do that myself. He will condemn me only if I do not turn away from sin, for he has made me able to turn from it, and I do."

"He will forgive sin only for Christ's sake."

"He forgives it for his own name's sake, his own love's sake. There is no such word as FOR CHRIST'S SAKE in the New Testament--except where Paul prays us for Christ's sake to be reconciled to God. It is in the English New Testament, but not in the Greek."

"Then you do not believe that the justice of God demands the satisfaction of the sinner's endless punishment?"

"I do not. Nothing can satisfy the justice of God but justice in his creature. The justice of God is the love of what is right, and the doing of what is right. Eternal misery in the name of justice could satisfy none but a demon whose bad laws had been broken."

"I grant you that no amount of suffering on the part of the wicked could SATISFY justice; but it is the Holy One who suffers for our sins!"

"Oh, mother! JUSTICE do wrong for its own satisfaction! Did Jesus DESERVE punishment? If not, then to punish him was to wrong him!"

"But he was willing; he consented;"

"He yielded to injustice--but the injustice was man's, not God's. If Justice, insisted on punishent, it would at least insist on the guilty, not the innocent, being punished! it would revolt from the idea of the innocent being punished for the guilty! Mind, I say BEING PUNISHED, not SUFFERING: that is another thing altogether. It is an eternal satisfaction to love to suffer for the guilty, but not to justice that innocence should be punished for the guilty. The whole idea of such atonement is the merest subterfuge, a figment of the paltry human intellect to reconcile difficulties of its own invention. Once, when Alister had done something wrong, my father said, 'He must be punished--except some one will be punished for him!' I offered to take his place, partly that it seemed expected of me, partly that I was moved by vanity, and partly that I foresaw what would follow."

"And what did follow?" asked the mother, to whom the least word out of the past concerning her husband, was like news from the world beyond. At the same time it seemed almost an offence that one of his sons should know anything about him she did not know.

"He scarcely touched me, mother," answered Ian. "The thing taught me something very different from what he had meant to teach by it. That he failed to carry out his idea of justice helped me afterwards to see that God could not have done it either, for that it was not justice. Some perception of this must have lain at the root of the heresy that Jesus did not suffer, but a cloud-phantom took his place on the cross. Wherever people speculate instead of obeying, they fall into endless error."

"You graceless boy! Do you dare to say your father speculated instead of obeying?" cried the mother, hot with indignation.

"No, mother. It was not my father who invented that way of accounting for the death of our Lord."

"He believed it!"

"He accepted it, saturated with the tradition of the elders before he could think for himself. He does not believe it now."

"But why then should Christ have suffered?"

"It is the one fact that explains to me everything," said Ian. "--But I am not going to talk about it. So long as your theory satisfies you, mother, why should I show you mine? When it no longer satisfies you, when it troubles you as it has troubled me, and as I pray God it may trouble you, when you feel it stand between you and the best love you could give God, then I will share my very soul with you--tell you thoughts which seem to sublimate my very being in adoration."

"I do not see what other meaning you can put upon the statement that he was a sacrifice for our sins."

"Had we not sinned he would never have died; and he died to deliver us from our sins. He against whom was the sin, became the sacrifice for it; the Father suffered in the Son, for they are one. But if I could see no other explanation than yours, I would not, could not accept it--for God's sake I would not."

"How can you say you believe in Christ, when you do not believe in the atonement!"

"It is not so, mother. I do not believe what you mean by the atonement; what God means by it, I desire to accept. But we are never told to believe in the atonement; we are told to believe in Christ--and, mother, in the name of the great Father who hears me speak, I do believe in him."

"How can you, when you do not believe what God says about him?"

"I do. God does not say those things about him you think he says. They are mere traditions, not the teaching of those who understood him. But I might believe all about him quite correctly, and yet not believe in him."

"What do you call believing in him, then?"

"Obeying him, mother--to say it as shortly as I can. I try to obey him in the smallest things he says--only there are no small things he says--and so does Alister. I strive to be what he would have me, nor do I hold anything else worth my care. Let a man trust in his atonement to absolute assurance, if he does not do the things he tells him--the very things he said--he does not believe in him. He may be a good man, but he has not yet heard enough and learned enough of the Father to be sent to Jesus to learn more."

"Then I do not believe in him," said the mother, with a strange, sad gentleness--for his words awoke an old anxiety never quite at rest.

Ian was silent. The darkness seemed to deepen around them, and the silence grew keen. The mother began to tremble.

"GOD KNOWS," said Ian at length, and again the broken silence closed around them.

It was between God and his mother now! Unwise counsellors will persuade the half crazy doubter in his own faith, to believe that he does believe!--how much better to convince him that his faith is a poor thing, that he must rise and go and do the thing that Jesus tells him, and so believe indeed! When will men understand that it is neither thought nor talk, neither sorrow for sin nor love of holiness that is required of them, but obedience! To BE and to OBEY are one.

A cold hand grasping her heart, the mother rose, and went from the room. The gulf seemed now at last utterly, hopelessly impassable! She had only feared it before; she knew it now! She did not see that, while she believed evil things of God, and none the less that she called them good, oneness was impossible between her and any being in God's creation.

The poor mother thought herself broken-hearted, and lay down too sick to know that she was trembling from head to foot. Such was the hold, such the authority of traditional human dogma on her soul--a soul that scorned the notion of priestly interposition between God and his creature--that, instead of glorifying God that she had given birth to such a man, she wept bitterly because he was on the broad road to eternal condemnation.

But as she lay, now weeping, now still and cold with despair, she found that for some time she had not been thinking. But she had not been asleep! Whence then was this quiet that was upon her? Something had happened, though she knew of nothing! There was in her as it were a moonlight of peace!

"Can it be God?" she said to herself.

No more than Ian could she tell whether it was God or not; but from that night she had an idea in her soul by which to reach after "the peace of God." She lifted up her heart in such prayer as she had never prayed before; and slowly, imperceptibly awoke in her the feeling that, if she was not believing aright, God would not therefore cast her off, but would help her to believe as she ought to believe: was she not willing? Therewith she began to feel as if the gulf betwixt her and Ian were not so wide as she had supposed; and that if it were, she would yet hope in the Son of Man. Doubtless he was in rebellion against God, seeing he would question his ways, and refuse to believe the word he had spoken, but surely something might be done for him! The possibility had not yet dawned upon her that there could be anything in the New Testament but those doctrines against which the best in him revolted. She little suspected the glory of sky and earth and sea eternal that would one day burst upon her! that she would one day see God not only good but infinitely good--infinitely better than she had dared to think him, fearing to image him better than he was! Mortal, she dreaded being more just than God, more pure than her maker!

"I will go away to-morrow!" said Ian to himself. "I am only a pain to her. She will come to see things better without me! I cannot live in her sight any longer now! I will go, and come again."

His heart broke forth in prayer.

"O God, let my mother see that thou art indeed true-hearted; that thou dost not give us life by parings and subterfuges, but abundantly; that thou dost not make men in order to assert thy dominion over them, but that they may partake of thy life. O God, have pity when I cannot understand, and teach me as thou wouldst the little one whom, if thou wert an earthly father amongst us as thy son was an earthly son, thou wouldst carry about in thy arms. When pride rises in me, and I feel as if I ought to be free and walk without thy hand; when it looks as if a man should be great in himself, nor need help from God; then think thou of me, and I shall know that I cannot live or think without the self-willing life; that thou art because thou art, I am because thou art; that I am deeper in thee than my life, thou more to my being than that being to itself. Was not that Satan's temptation, Father? Did he not take self for the root of self in him, when God only is the root of all self? And he has not repented yet! Is it his thought coming up in me, flung from the hollow darkness of his soul into mine? Thou knowest, when it comes I am wretched. I love it not. I would have thee lord and love over all. But I cannot understand: how comes it to look sometimes as if indeinpendence must be the greater? A lie cannot be greater than the truth! I do not understand, but thou dost. I cannot see my foundations; I cannot dig up the roots of my being: that would be to understand creation! Will the Adversary ever come to see that thou only art grand and beautiful? How came he to think to be greater by setting up for himself? How was it that it looked so to him? How is it that, not being true, it should ever look so? There must be an independence that thou lovest, of which this temptation is the shadow! That must be how 'Satan fell!--for the sake of not being a slave!--that he might be a free being! Ah, Lord, I see how it all comes! It is because we are not near enough to thee to partake of thy liberty that we want a liberty of our own different from thine! We do not see that we are one with thee, that thy glory is our glory, that we can have none but in thee! that we are of thy family, thy home, thy heart, and what is great for thee is great for us! that man's meanness is to want to be great out of his Father! Without thy eternity in us we are so small that we think ourselves great, and are thus miserably abject and contemptible. Thou only art true! thou only art noble! thou wantest no glory for selfishness! thou doest, thou art, what thou requirest of thy children! I know it, for I see it in Jesus, who casts the contempt of obedience upon the baseness of pride, who cares only for thee and for us, never thinking of himself save as a gift to give us! O lovely, perfect Christ! with my very life I worship thee! Oh, pray, Christ! make me and my brother strong to be the very thing thou wouldst have us, as thy brothers, the children of thy Father. Thou art our perfect brother--perfect in love, in courage, in tenderness! Amen, Lord! Good-night! I am thine."

He was silent for a few moments, then resumed:

"Lord, thou knowest whither my thoughts turn the moment I cease praying to thee. I dared not think of her, but that I know thee. But for thee, my heart would be as water within me! Oh, take care of her, come near to her! Thou didst send her where she could not learn fast--but she did learn. And now, God, I do not know where she is! Thou only of all in this world knowest, for to thee she lives though gone from my sight and knowledge--in the dark to me. Pray, Father, let her know that thou art near her, and that I love her. Thou hast made me love her by taking her from me: thou wilt give her to me again! In this hope I will live all my days, until thou takest me also; for to hope mightily is to believe well in thee. I will hope in thee infinitely. Amen, Father!"

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