Second, the enemies of God are consumed by His fire. He went before Israel to battle enemies; likewise, His fire now defends us against all spiritual enemies. He is our Protector and Deliverer. He roars with fire to consume those who would lead His people astray or harm them.
Jesus died so that we might live and avoid becoming subject to this consuming fire. All who call on the name of Jesus are saved. Conversely, some will refuse to accept the truth of the gospel for themselves. Jesus is clear about what awaits them, and all Scripture points toward Jesus as the One who saves us from the fire.
Jesus Christ walks with us through any fire we face on earth and delivers us from the fire that is the destination of Satan, Death, Hades, and all those whose names are not written in the book of life.
For this vision of truth God has been working for ages of ages. Forthis simple condition, this apex of life, upon which a man wonders likea child that he cannot make other men see as he sees, the whole labourof God's science, history, poetry--from the time when the earthgathered itself into a lonely drop of fire from the red rim of thedriving sun-wheel to the time when Alexander John Scott worshipped himfrom its face--was evolving truth upon truth in lovely vision, intorturing law, never lying, never repenting; and for this will thepatience of God labour while there is yet a human soul whose eyes havenot been opened, whose child-heart has not yet been born in him. Forthis one condition of humanity, this simple beholding, has all theoutthinking of God flowed in forms innumerable and changeful from thefoundation of the world; and for this, too, has the divine destructionbeen going forth; that his life might be our life, that in us, too,might dwell that same consuming fire which is essential love.
\"Wherefore, we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us havegrace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godlyfear, for our God is a consuming fire.\"--We have received a kingdomthat cannot be moved--whose nature is immovable: let us have grace toserve the Consuming Fire, our God, with divine fear; not with the fearthat cringes and craves, but with the bowing down of all thoughts, alldelights, all loves before him who is the life of them all, and willhave them all pure. The kingdom he has given us cannot be moved,because it has nothing weak in it: it is of the eternal world, theworld of being, of truth. We, therefore, must worship him with a fearpure as the kingdom is unshakeable. He will shake heaven and earth,that only the unshakeable may remain, (verse 27): he is a consumingfire, that only that which cannot be consumed may stand forth eternal.It is the nature of God, so terribly pure that it destroys all that isnot pure as fire, which demands like purity in our worship. He willhave purity. It is not that the fire will burn us if we do not worshipthus; but that the fire will burn us until we worship thus; yea, willgo on burning within us after all that is foreign to it has yielded toits force, no longer with pain and consuming, but as the highestconsciousness of life, the presence of God. When evil, which alone isconsumable, shall have passed away in his fire from the dwellers in theimmovable kingdom, the nature of man shall look the nature of God inthe face, and his fear shall then be pure; for an eternal, that is aholy fear, must spring from a knowledge of the nature, not from a senseof the power. But that which cannot be consumed must be one withinitself, a simple existence; therefore in such a soul the fear towardsGod will be one with the homeliest love. Yea, the fear of God willcause a man to flee, not from him, but from himself; not from him, butto him, the Father of himself, in terror lest he should do Him wrong orhis neighbour wrong. And the first words which follow for the settingforth of that grace whereby we may serve God acceptably are these--\"Letbrotherly love continue.\" To love our brother is to worship theConsuming Fire.
The symbol of the consuming fire would seem to have been suggested tothe writer by the fire that burned on the mountain of the old law. Thatfire was part of the revelation of God there made to the Israelites.Nor was it the first instance of such a revelation. The symbol of God'spresence, before which Moses had to put off his shoes, and to which itwas not safe for him to draw near, was a fire that did not consume thebush in which it burned. Both revelations were of terror. But the samesymbol employed by a writer of the New Testament should mean more, notthan it meant before, but than it was before employed to express; forit could not have been employed to express more than it was possiblefor them to perceive. What else than terror could a nation of slaves,into whose very souls the rust of their chains had eaten, in whosememory lingered the smoke of the flesh-pots of Egypt, who, rather thannot eat of the food they liked best, would have gone back to the houseof their bondage--what else could such a nation see in that fire thanterror and destruction How should they think of purification by fireThey had yet no such condition of mind as could generate such athought. And if they had had the thought, the notion of the sufferinginvolved would soon have overwhelmed the notion of purification. Norwould such a nation have listened to any teaching that was notsupported by terror. Fear was that for which they were fit. They had noworship for any being of whom they had not to be afraid.
At all events, if God showed them these things, God showed them whatwas true. It was a revelation of himself. He will not put on a mask. Heputs on a face. He will not speak out of flaming fire if that flamingfire is alien to him, if there is nothing in him for that flaming fireto reveal. Be his children ever so brutish, he will not terrify themwith a lie.
But we shall find that this very revelation of fire is itself, in ahigher sense, true to the mind of the rejoicing saint as to the mind ofthe trembling sinner. For the former sees farther into the meaning ofthe fire, and knows better what it will do to him. It is a symbol whichneeded not to be superseded, only unfolded. While men take part withtheir sins, while they feel as if, separated from their sins, theywould be no longer themselves, how can they understand that thelightning word is a Saviour--that word which pierces to the dividingbetween the man and the evil, which will slay the sin and give life tothe sinner Can it be any comfort to them to be told that God lovesthem so that he will burn them clean. Can the cleansing of the fireappear to them anything beyond what it must always, more or less, be--aprocess of torture They do not want to be clean, and they cannot bearto be tortured. Can they then do other, or can we desire that theyshould do other, than fear God, even with the fear of the wicked, untilthey learn to love him with the love of the holy. To them Mount Sinaiis crowned with the signs of vengeance. And is not God ready to do untothem even as they fear, though with another feeling and a different endfrom any which they are capable of supposing He is against sin: in sofar as, and while, they and sin are one, he is against them--againsttheir desires, their aims, their fears, and their hopes; and thus he isaltogether and always for them. That thunder and lightning andtempest, that blackness torn with the sound of a trumpet, that visiblehorror billowed with the voice of words, was all but a faint image tothe senses of the slaves of what God thinks and feels against vilenessand selfishness, of the unrest of unassuageable repulsion with which heregards such conditions; that so the stupid people, fearing somewhat todo as they would, might leave a little room for that grace to grow inthem, which would at length make them see that evil, and not fire, isthe fearful thing; yea, so transform them that they would gladly rushup into the trumpet-blast of Sinai to escape the flutes around thegolden calf. Could they have understood this, they would have needed noMount Sinai. It was a true, and of necessity a partial revelation--partial in order to be true.
It is the law of Nature--that is, the law of God--that all that isdestructible shall be destroyed. When that which is immortal buriesitself in the destructible--when it receives all the messages fromwithout, through the surrounding region of decadence, and none fromwithin, from the eternal doors--it cannot, though immortal still, knowits own immortality. The destructible must be burned out of it, orbegin to be burned out of it, before it can partake of eternal life.When that is all burnt away and gone, then it has eternal life. Orrather, when the fire of eternal life has possessed a man, then thedestructible is gone utterly, and he is pure. Many a man's work must beburned, that by that very burning he may be saved--\"so as by fire.\"Away in smoke go the lordships, the Rabbi-hoods of the world, and theman who acquiesces in the burning is saved by the fire; for it hasdestroyed the destructible, which is the vantage point of the deathly,which would destroy both body and soul in hell. If still he cling tothat which can be burned, the burning goes on deeper and deeper intohis bosom, till it reaches the roots of the falsehood that enslaveshim--possibly by looking like the truth.
The man who loves God, and is not yet pure, courts the burning of God.Nor is it always torture. The fire shows itself sometimes only aslight--still it will be fire of purifying. The consuming fire is justthe original, the active form of Purity,--that which makes pure, thatwhich is indeed Love, the creative energy of God. Without purity therecan be as no creation so no persistence. That which is not pure iscorruptible, and corruption cannot inherit incorruption.
The man whose deeds are evil, fears the burning. But the burning willnot come the less that he fears it or denies it. Escape is hopeless.For Love is inexorable. Our God is a consuming fire. He shall not comeout till he has paid the uttermost farthing. 59ce067264