The Silence of God - PREFACE

PREFACE TO THE NINTH EDITION - The Silence of God

IN response to appeals from various quarters this book is once again reissued. Its importance is enhanced by the vagaries of religious thought in our day, and notably by the growth of certain religious movements which claim to be accredited by "miraculous" spiritual manifestations.
As the Epistle to the Hebrews teaches, certain great truths which are generally regarded as distinctively Christian were common to the Divine religion of Judaism upon which Christianity is based. And as the opening words of Romans remind us, "The gospel of God concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord" was "promised afore" in Hebrew prophecy. The most distinctive truth of the Christian revelation is Grace enthroned. And that truth was lost in the interval that elapsed between the close of the New Testament Canon and the era of the Patristic theologians. That He to whom the prerogative of judgment has been committed is now sitting upon the throne of God in grace, and that, as a consequence, all judicial and punitive action against human sin is in abeyance - deferred until the day of grace is over and the day of judgment dawns - this is a truth that will be sought for in vain in the standard theology of Christendom. "My gospel" the Apostle Paul calls it, for it was through him that this truth was revealed - not the gospel "promised afore," but "the preaching of Christ according to the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began."
Even among men, the wise and strong keep silence when they have said all they wish to say. And as this gospel of grace is the supreme revelation of Divine mercy to the world, the silence of heaven will remain unbroken until the Lord Jesus passes from the throne of grace to the throne of judgment.
It is not that the Divine moral Government of the world is in abeyance. Still less is it that spiritual miracles have ceased. For in our day the gospel has achieved triumphs in heathendom which transcend anything recorded in the New Testament. Infidelity is thus confronted by miracles of a kind that give far surer proof of the presence and power of God than any miracle in the natural sphere could offer - hearts so entirely changed, and lives so thoroughly transformed, that fierce, brutal, and degraded savages have become humble, pure-living, and gracious.
But the argument of these pages is that what may be called evidential miracles have no place in this "Christian dispensation." In the ages before Christ came, men may well have craved tokens of the action of a personal God. But in the ministry and death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, God has so plainly manifested not only His power, but His goodness and love toward man, that to grant evidential miracles now would be an acknowledgment that questions which have been for ever settled are still open.
No one may limit what God will do in response to individual faith. But we may confidently assert that, in view of His supreme revelation in Christ, God will yield nothing to the petulant demands of unbelief. And that revelation supplies the key to the dual mystery of a silent heaven and the trials of the life of faith on earth. This foreword is given for the benefit of persons who skim a book instead of reading it.
R.A.

PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
IN his introduction to The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne descants feelingly upon his incapacity for literary effort during the years in which he held an appointment in the Custom House. But there are spheres of work in the Public Service compared with which the Custom House might seem almost a sanctuary! And having regard to the circumstances in which the present volume was written, the demand for a new edition within a few weeks of its first appearance gives striking proof of deep and wide-spread interest in the subject of which it treats.
Conflicting criticisms have been passed upon the structure of the book. In the opinion of some the middle chapters embarrass the argument, and ought to be omitted or curtailed. Others, again, have strongly urged that these very chapters should be amplified, and definite additions made to them. These seemingly contradictory suggestions are both alike legitimate. To a very limited class such incidental dissertations seem unnecessary, and the mere critic turns from them with impatience; but in the estimation of the great majority of readers they are of exceptional interest. The ninth and eleventh chapters, for example, which might perhaps have been excluded, seem to have attracted special notice.
It must not be forgotten, moreover, that, unlike those doctrines which belong to the Christian dispensation in common with that which preceded it, the great characteristic truth of Christianity is ignored by the religion of Christendom, and receives but scant attention even in our best religious literature. It is of vital moment, therefore, to unfold here its character and scope, and to emphasise its transcendent importance. Indeed it will probably be found that the reader's appreciation of the argument will be precisely in proportion to his apprehension of this truth.
One of the leading daily papers, for instance, informs its readers that the author "finds the sufficient cause of the silence in the doctrine of the Atonement." And another journal -a Review of the highest class indicates as the "main contention" of the book, "that the Christian facts supply an adequate explanation of the 'Silence of God.'" It might seem impossible that any one could so misread these pages; but the preceding paragraph may perhaps account for the phenomenon. "The Atonement" is not a specially Christian doctrine at all: it holds as prominent a place in Judaism as in Christianity. And the author's "contention," most plainly expressed, is that "the Christian facts," so far from explaining the silence of Heaven, seem only to render it still more inexplicable.
In the judgment of this last-cited critic the intensely Protestant and Christian position maintained throughout this volume is nothing more than a "peculiar view of Scripture as a supreme guide in matters of faith and speculation." And writing from the standpoint this indicates, his strictures are, of course, unsympathetic and severe. Nor can the author complain of this; for one who deals hard blows should expect hard blows in return. But there should be no "hitting below the belt." The impartial reader can decide whether these pages afford even a colourable pretext for the charge of "occasional departures from reverence." And no less unwarrantable is the allegation that Mr. Balfour is here referred to in "a patronising tone." Considerable freedom, indeed, is used in criticising the arguments of a still more distinguished man. But the author's misgivings upon that score have been relieved by receiving a letter from Mr. Gladstone himself. "I am very glad," he writes, "that those arguments should be thoroughly canvassed by persons so well disposed and competent as yourself."
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER I.
The problem stated, and exemplified by the Armenian atrocities and the massacre of Christian missionaries, by "the Christian persecutions" and the common experience of Christians generally
CHAPTER II.
A reference to Scripture seems only to make the difficulty greater -The advent of Christ seemed to give promise of a new order of things, and the experience of the Pentecostal Church appeared to confirm the hope.
CHAPTER III.
As this discussion assumes the possibility of direct Divine interposition, the infidel objections to miracles are considered and refuted-But why have they ceased? Mr. Balfour's suggestion affords no answer - Mr. Gladstone's argument criticised - The problem exemplified-Doctrinaire and practical infidels contrasted 19
CHAPTER IV.
The seeming cogency of John Stuart Mill's argument against Christianity shown to depend on the error of Paley's position. Bishop Butler's thesis that miracles were the ground of the faith of the first converts discussed and refuted-The purpose and evidential value of the miracles of Christ- His ultimate appeal was to Scripture, not to miracles- Christianity not a religion-In what sense external evidence can accredit a revelation 33
CHAPTER V.
In confirmation of the view that it was for the Jew the miracles were given, the Acts of the Apostles gives proof that the miracles ceased when the favoured nation was rejected; and the record of that rejection is shown to be the main purpose of the Book 48
CHAPTER VI.
Restatement of the difficulty of a silent Heaven - The solution must be found in Scripture, and notably in the Epistles of Paul - But the discussion assumes that these Epistles contain the revelation of Christianity - This thesis discussed - Christianity distinguished from the religion of Christendom 61
CHAPTER VII.
In continuation of the argument of Chap. VI., Baur's theories are shown to be but the travesty of a lost truth - Having crucified their Messiah, the Jews received a further offer of pardon - Hence the Jewish character of the Pentecostal dispensation - Their rejection of mercy, signalised by the murder of Stephen, led to the revelation of the great truth of Christianity 71
CHAPTER VIII.
Review of the preceding inquiry, leading up to the position that the characteristic truth of Christianity must be sought for In the Epistles-Before turning to St. Paul's teaching, a further defence of Holy Scripture is offered, against the attacks of rationalists on the one hand and of those who make it subordinate to the Church upon the other . - 84
CHAPTER IX.
A digression to notice the Agnostic's view of Christian doctrine, as stated by the late W. R. Greg; and to explain from the Lord's parable of the Good Samaritan what that doctrine really is 96
CHAPTER X.
The Apostle Paul's gospel is not to be found in the earlier Scriptures: it was a special revelation to himself-The truth of Reconciliation explained, and shown to be a distinctive "mystery" truth-Eternal salvation is thus brought within reach of all-But why do so few receive the benefit? 106
CHAPTER XI.
The answer to the question which closes Chap. X.-The Satan myth contrasted with the Satan of Scripture-His temptations are aimed, not agaiast morals, but against faith - He is "the god of this world," and influences and controls, not its vices and crimes, but its religion -Hence the neglect and rejection of Christianity 117
CHAPTER XII.
In continuation of Chap. X.-The doctrine of Christianity is further unfolded -The present controversy between God and man is shown to be altogether about Christ -The Cross has closed every other question - Grace is supreme and judgment is postponed
CHAPTER XIII.
The silence of God is explained by the great characteristic truth of Christianity - His seeming apathy in presence of the sufferings of His own people is a part of the discipline of the life of faith - Final restatement of the main problem, and a recapitulation of the argument of the book. . . 146
APPENDIX. NOTE
I. The alleged miracles of spiritualism and faith healing
II. The use and meaning of the word "religion" in this work 171
III. The purpose and scope of the Acts of the Apostles . 172
IV. A new dispensation began when the Jews rejected the Pentecostal testimony 177
V. The meaning of " mystery" in the New Testament . 180
VI. Examination of passages of Scripture relative to the Devil and his temptations 182
VU. Further exegesis of John viii. 44-The effect of Satan's influence in the world 186
VIII. The Satan Myth 189
IX. The gospel of Divine grace, and men's attitude towards it 200
X. "Of what value, then, is prayer?" . . . . 203
XI. Abandonment of the critical attack on the New Testament - Mr. A. D. White and Professor Harnack . 2088