Vol. 23 New Series April, 1961 No. 2

In the year 1915 I got to know some of the books published by Henry Clay Mabie, D.D., LL.D., who was born in 1847, at Belvidere, Illinois.

In 1906 he published "Method in Soul-Winning" and "The Meaning and Message of the Cross." Two years later there appeared "How Does the Death of Christ Save Us?" In 1911, "The Divine Reason of the Cross" was published, and in 1913 "Under the Redeeming Aegis." These titles tell us what his chief study was. In 1917 there appeared his life story, "From Romance to Reality," 396 pages of great interest, describing his travels and work in many lands.

In his book on the Redeeming Aegis he explains the term aegis as a Latin word meaning a shield, anything that protects. He proceeds on the postulate that our world is under a redeeming aegis. "This redeeming conception took on a primeval form in the cherubim set up, together with the sword of flame, at the gate of lost Eden. But it even more clearly found expression in the winged covering of the mercy-seat or 'Propitiatory' above the Ark of the Covenant." The idea of atonement as an "aegis" is as old as the Bible, nay, as redemption itself. "It is more that of a divine bringing-to-nought of man's sin than of reconciliation between contrasted dispositions. God Himself covers and cures man's sin."

The meaning of this aegis is that our world is a potentially redeemed world, eternally so in the mind of God. It is this kind of a world into which God has brought us; ours is at bottom an evangelical universe, no other form was ever conceived for it in the mind of God.

Sovereignty in God unmodified by love as holy, and holiness as also loving, is a false and indefensible sovereignty; it is amenable to no proper sanctions either in divine or human nature. Out of it arose such monstrous inferences as that attributed to Colonel Ingersoll when, in dispute with a religious antagonist, who had coldly irritated him, he replied, "The difference between you and me is that your God is my devil."

If Ingersoll had only known something of God's great heart of pure Love! If he had only known that even the Rainbow shewn to Noah was the sign of an aegis, the product of storm and sunshine combined, foretelling the coming Cross that was to be revealed through a judgment once for all passed upon God Himself in Christ! Again the Rainbow is seen in Ezek. 1:28 and also Rev. 4:3, in each case standing at the inaugural of three momentous epochs, all representing the same thing: the commingling of tenderness and severity in the Government of God respecting each period, first, the one family preserved by faith from the Flood, and entering upon their new career under a redeeming aegis; secondly, Israel about to be restored to the Land despite all their sins and idolatries; and thirdly, the great apocalyptic age, stretching away into the far future.

So the atonement of God-in-Christ is really a timeless reality at the very basis of God's relation to mankind. This atonement was laid before the foundation of mankind in the counsels of God. It was the great forethought of God.

Dr. Mabie describes Charles G. Finney, of Oberlin, Ohio, as the best preacher representing the governmental idea Mabie commended. He was emphatically a preacher of the grace of God, which he rightly conceived to be a governmental function something far deeper than either benevolence or righteousness alone in God. He reached the conscience in an uncommon way, and brought men face to face with judgment, not as mere doom, but as cohering in ethical love. He did much to save the conception of God from mere arbitrariness, or undue severity. Even Lawyers and great Judges, ordinarily hard to reach with the Gospel, bent with awe before his ministry. In Rochester, New York, alone, nearly the whole legal fraternity was led into the new life. The secret of Finney's life was that he blended severity and tenderness. He shewed that the moral judiciary of our universe is itself sacrificial and vicarious—"a throne with a rainbow round about it."

Finney once used the following illustration in an article. A philanthropic disciplinarian was sought to take charge of a difficult Reform School for boys. He would consent only on condition that he might disuse all locks and keys on the doors of the Institution. Opposed at first, he finally gained his way. The beneficial effect was soon evident. This new master had to be absent for a few days, and the Directors thought locks and keys should again be used. But the new master objected, and asked that all be left with him. He then executed a document making over all his property possessions to the Institution, in case the boys, during the interval of his absence, should turn their liberty into license. Then calling the school together the master explained the situation. The pupils listened with astonished interest. With this additional responsibility laid upon the school, the master departed. On his due return, which occurred at midnight, the pupils quickly assembled themselves in a large hall adjacent to the masters' room. A rap was given and he appeared, to be greeted with the exclamation "We are all here, Sir! We are all here!"

Such a system would not always work, but Finney claimed that government thus administered works better than any other system, and that when the judcial governing authority of this universe is, perceived, at cost of pain and jeopardy to His own interests, thus to endure for man's sake, it has in it the greatest moral power possible to recover sinful and free beings to their original rectitude, and more. Thus best can be secured a true repentance, which will come to loathe former sin, and take sides with God against one's self.

Dr. Mabie also gives an account of a form of judicial treatment of young criminals, which was inaugurated by Judge B. B. Lindsey, of Denver, U.S.A. The peculiarity of the Court here was that the Judge on the bench, with quenchless love for youth, set to work to prove his deep desire to recover incipient criminals from chronic conditions. At great cost and despite wide criticism of political and even commercial concerns, this Judge contended for the interests of juvenile offenders. He made common cause with them vicariously, utilizing "probation officers," somewhat as God does in Jesus the Christ, representing the two moral polarities involved—the moral dignity of the Law on the one hand, and the interests of the unfortunate yet criminal juvenile on the other. He was willing himself to pay the price of reconciling these two antinomous yet indivisible factors in human society, where reform and redemption are concerned; and in order to do it he endured a living death before the public for some years. Yet he obtained wonderful results. He so gained the confidence of the young criminals of his city that in sending to the reformatories within a period of eight years 508 offenders, with commitment papers in their own hands, unattended by officers, all but five of them went straight to their destination. They so confided in their Judge, knowing him to be their friend, that their consciences were reawakened to higher moral ideals than before. One culprit, a boy of ten, when asked by a visitor why he was so willing to go to the child's prison unattended, replied: "Cause the Judge loves the kid." This is peculiarly adapted to renew the transgressor, and it represents the bi-polarity of the rainbow-throne—the grace principle of the Bible. It is the offer of a new evangelical probation, grounded in the work of God's grace, eternally purposed, made concrete and visible in Christ Jesus, in His unique living-death consummated on Calvary, a death certain to emerge in resurrection-power, as it did on the third day. Then says Dr. Mabie: "What if it should turn out that all the world is under the jurisdiction of a form of Divine Juvenile Court!"

Another young culprit, in a dark prison den, for whom Judge Lindsey had been asked to help, as he saw the Judge still doubtful of him, as he turned to leave the cell, cried out with tears, "Oh, Judge, Judge, if you'll let me go, I'll never get you into trouble again!" The Judge recognized the new note of loyalty in the remark, since it sensed the bearing of the boy's wrong-doing not upon himself, but upon the suffering authority that longed to help him; and so the Judge took the boy with him out of prison and to a new life.

The police, on the other hand, in these same eight years, lost 42 "breakaways," who were never rearrested. Dr. Mabie quotes from Dr. A. H. Strong as follows: "The eternal love of God suffering the necessary reaction of His own holiness against the sin of His creatures and with a view to their salvation—this is the essence of the atonement." Then he quotes from Professor Royce: "behind all the chaos and the mockery of life there is a suffering and Supreme One, who somehow is able to transjorm it all, and this Supreme Sufferer thus speaks to us: 'Oh, ye who despair, I grieve with you. No pang of your finitude but is Mine too. I suffer it all, for all things are Mine. I bear it, and yet I triumph.' It is this thought of the suffering God who is just our own true self, who actually and in our flesh bears the sins of the world, and whose natural body is pierced by the capricious wounds: that hateful fools inflict upon Him,—that traditional Christianity has in its deepest symbolism first taught the world, but that in its fulness only an idealistic interpretation can really and rationally express. Were not the Logos our own fulfillment, were He other than our very flesh—His loftiness would be our remote and dismal helplessness. But He is ours and we are His, He is pierced and wounded for us and in us. He somehow finds (is it not through a real atonement?) amidst all these horrors of time, His peace and ours. We have found in a world of doubt but one assurance, but one and yet how rich. All else is hypothesis. The Logos alone is sure—the brief and seemingly so abstract creed of the idealistic philosophy—this world is the world of the Logos."

"Our universe has its centre in that self-manifestation of God, called redemption, in the deepest meaning of the term."

"Sinners are seen to be potentially just as truly in the arms of the eternally gracious Saviour-God, as they are in the hands of One 'Who cannot look upon sin.'"

"Side by side there dwelt in God the impulse to punish and the passion to pardon; and these two united in one and the same Being constitute grace."

"It is neither holiness in God nor love that is final in our universe, but it is the union of these two things with many others in one and the same Being, all mutually conditioning each other in their exercise towards sinful man and that as a concrete reality that is sovereign. This is the Sovereignty of Grace."

"Sovereignty in God unmodified by love as holy, and holiness as also loving, is a false and indefensible sovereignty: it is amenable to no proper sanctions either in divine or human nature."

"On two points all advocates, even of the Christian religion, are liable to create or intensify misconception of God: first at the point of His severity, and secondly at the point of His tenderness. The moral sense requires that these be conceived in some sort of balance."

"The unity of personality always consists with a certain multi-polarity, whether it be human or divine. That is, there is always the power of moral alternatives in it; without this power there can be no personality."

"The death of Christ is but a historical time-expression for a timeless reality far deeper than itself. This reality was the voluntary self-manifestation of the vicarious atoning nature which belongs to the God of the Christian Bible—nay, of the moral universe itself which lay behind the Bible and was anterior to it, which itself created the Bible for purposes of a divine revelation."

"The atonement, be it remembered, is no after-thought in time, although its open manifestation came late: it was a timeless reality. On Calvary, as Dr. A. H. Strong has put it, 'the Eternal telescoped into the moments of time.'"

"The historically manifested work of Christ is but the temporal portrayal of what was eternal in the Being of God. In reality, all that Christ suffered for us on Calvary the Father shared."

"The whole Deity is behind the atonement, within it, and at the root of it. Grace is after all God's grace. When our sin arose, it created an antinomy, a self-opposition, so to speak, in God. God, as holy, must oppose and condemn sin, otherwise He could not be God. That side or polarity of the divine nature must judge and punish sin. But there is anqther side, or polarity, to God's Being called Love. And as such it just as eagerly and spontaneously yearns to pardon and save. How then could these opposite polarities which even the anticipation of sin as well as its actual occurrence called into exercise in one and the same Being, be reconciled, and so reconciled as to save the guilty? We answer at once, God Himself reconciled them by His own voluntary vicarious suffering, whatever it was. This was the essential reconciliation—the cosmic reality—the divinely satisfying thing to God Himself."

"God on one side of His nature provides what on another side of His nature He exacts."

"The reconciled antinomy between the two sides or moral poles of one and the same Being. . . It is this self-reconcilement that constitutes Grace."

"Grace is a boon self-wrought and self-procured for us, and by the same tribunal that found and adjudged us guilty."

In this book Dr. Mabie describes how he was able to lead many people to Christ. While he was a Pastor in Indianapolis in 1884 he passed through an important spiritual crisis, which led him to see with new clearness that faith primarily, involves a decisive act of the will in obedience to some present measure of spiritual light. This is better than a mere theoretic belief of the truth.

He says that real evangelistic power can coexist only with a certain clearness of God's face, and as some specific divine secret is therewith imparted. Dr. Mabie opposed the condemning of another person's religious opinions. Instead, his watchword was "put them on the clue" through some subjective committal of self. Do not all at once pour out all your spiritual ideas, but rather endeavour to draw out from your friend who is not saved one or two ideas which are correct, and thus encourage him to proceed.

Preaching in many pulpits is often vague, tiresome, and ineffective. Unsaved people are generally hazy about God, and Christ, and thus we ought not to overwhelm them with multitudes of facts which they are unable to swallow wholesale.

What a boon it would be if evangelists and clergymen. followed the methods described by Dr. Mabie, especially if they were willing to bear the punishment which was due to criminals and wrongdoers. Unfortunately, there are very few men who would want to bear such punishment.

It is evident that Dr. Mabie derived some inspiration from James Morison, D.D., of Bathgate, Scotland (1816-1893), whose Exposition of Romans chapter 3 covers 422 pages, published in 1866. Dr. Mabie, at the end of his book "How Does the Death of Christ Save Us?" sums up some of James Morison's views upon Romans 3:25-26, as follows: the price of redemption is such a price as is at the same time a manifestation of unparalleled divine philanthropy and benevolence and yet too at the same time an offering and a sacrifice, also a righteousness for unrighteousness. When the exposition of the price of redemption and ransom are thus limited by the unique peculiarities and glory of the great reality to which they are applied, there is no difficulty in supposing that God may in one of the manifold susceptibilities of his nature experience anger (against sin), while in another he experiences and cherishes benevolences and grace. Such a dualism of feeling is possible even to ourselves. It is a polarity that is in truth inevitable on the supposition of contrary moral relationships. There is hence also, no difficulty in supposing that in one line of the multiform relationships in which God stands to the Universe he may require to manifest displeasure; while in another line of the same multiform relationships he delights to manifest compassion and mercy. There is no difficulty in supposing that these two lines of relationship may exist concurrently, and may also meet in the same individual, provided the individual be viewed under different aspects, and as bearing different rapports. Thus there is no difficulty in supposing that God in the aspect of his many-sidedness may require satisfaction, while in another he graciously makes provision for the satisfaction which he requires. It may thus be the case that he requires a price of redemption for men, and that at the same time he provides for its payment.

"The principle of the matter is just this, that God may require one thing in order to provide another. If this principle be disputed, all the elements of moral character and of personal activity are eliminated from our notion of the Divine Being. Impersonality is conceded, and Pantheism, emptied to boot of infinite self-consciousness, is assumed; but if the principle is admitted, then the whole of the doctrine of redemption as exhibited in Scripture with all its alleged antilogies (contradictions), is transparently self-consistent. Men always require to be redeemed from exposedness to God's wrath, his 'wrath to come,' his wrath to the uttermost—that they may be redeemed to the enjoyment of his everlasting favour and glory."

A.T. Last updated 12.11.2005