Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Wideness of God's Mercy

I've been reflecting on this hymn lately:

There's a wideness in God's mercy
like the wideness of the sea;
there's a kindness in his justice,
which is more than liberty.

There is no place where earth's sorrows
are more felt than up in heaven;
there is no place where earth's failings
have such kindly judgment given.

There is grace enough for thousands
of new worlds as great as this.
There is room for fresh creations
in that upper room of bliss.

For the love of God is broader
than the measure of man's mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.

But we make his love too narrow
by false limits of our own;
and we magnify his strictness
with a zeal he will not own.

There is plentiful redemption
in the blood that has been shed;
there is joy for all the members
in the sorrows of the Head.

'Tis not all we owe to Jesus;
it is something more than all;
Greater Good because of evil
Larger Mercy through the fall.

If our love were but more faithful,
we should take Him at His word;
and our life would be all sunshine
for the sweetness of Our Lord.


Was Fr Faber's hymn written to open the mind or stretch the heart?

It seems we have failed to integrate head and heart sufficiently. We are certainly not supposed to be hard-hearted as Ezekiel reminds us when he reminds of the need to have a heart of flesh, but St Paul and St James remind us that we should remain firm in our belief and our reasons for believing what we do lest we be blown about by winds of doctrine. Does this mean that Biblically we should be hard of mind and soft of heart?

The trouble with being hard of mind, as St Paul reminds us, is that we become conceited with intellectual pride. Now, it is one thing to say extra ecclesiam nulla salus, but quite another to condemn someone to Hell with the coolness of the intellect. It is true to say that there is no salvation outside the Christian Church. Does this mean to say that I have now condemned all Moslems, Sikhs, and Atheists to Hell? Believe it or not, this does bother me greatly. Hell is such a terrible place that I wouldn't wish anybody at all, no matter who they are or what they've done, to even spend a moment there. I still hope that Hell will be empty.

However, there's a wideness to God's mercy, and thankfully it is not any one of us who will be the one who makes that decision. Those who wilfully reject God are destined to spend Eternity without Him, and they will find out just how unpleasant that is, for that is Hell indeed. My hope is that, by living our faith as best we can and praying fervently for the salvation of those who appear to be outside the Church, they will be able to see what we see and find their Salvation with us. We should certainly pray for those who do not believe, but first let us pray that the light of God should shine in our lives and work to that end, so that our brethren without the Church may see something of the Truth which we profess to seek.

1 comment:

poetreader said...

I am qualified by Scripture and Tradition to say that salvation is only through Jesus Christ. I am entitled to find assurance in accepting the indubitable truths revealed to the Church -- assurance that Faith and Sacraments avail for their appointed purpose. I can say with confidence that he who trusts in Jesus and calls upon Him for salvation will be saved.

I am not qualified, however, to judge the heart of any man, nor to judge the unseen works of God. Can God be more expansive than I have believed Him to be? How can I have sufficient knowledge to deny Him that prerogative?

Christians proclaim salvation. Christians are powerless to pass a sentence of damnation upon anyone, and should not try. Sin we can identify. Repentance may indeed be beyond our observation.

A professor at my wife's Bible school often observed that, when we arrive in Heaven, we will be surprised at who we see there -- and at who is not there.