The Last Farthing

Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou have paid the last farthing.
— St. Matthew 5:26

So might I imagine a thousand steps up from the darkness, each a little less dark, a little nearer the light—but, ah, the weary way! He cannot come out until he will have paid the uttermost farthing! Repentance once begun, however, may grow more and more rapid! If God once gets a willing hold, if with but one finger he touches the man’s self, swift as possibility will he draw him from the darkness into the light. For that for which the forlorn, self-ruined wretch was made, was to be a child of God, a partaker of the divine nature, an heir of God and joint heir with Christ. Out of the abyss into which he cast himself, refusing to be the heir of God, he must rise and be raised. To the heart of God, the one and only goal of the human race—the refuge and home of all and each, he must set out and go, or that last glimmer of humanity will die from him. Whoever will live must cease to be a slave and become a child of God. There is no half-way house of rest, where ungodliness may be dallied with, nor prove quite fatal. Be they few or many cast into such a prison as I have endeavored to imagine, there can be no deliverance for the human soul, whether in that prison or out of it, but in paying the last farthing, in becoming lowly, penitent, self-refusing—so receiving the sonship and learning to cry, Father!

Commentary

Till The Debt Be Paid
by Dave Roney

Our journey through The Last Farthing has come to the final entry; along the way we have been blessed with commentaries by our brothers and sisters for each of the daily readings; to theirs I add this closing one.  Might I here say that our salvation makes a demand on God, but also on man; God has a part, and we have a part; He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, and we must do what we are able to do.  His part was to secure our Ransom; our part is to become like Him.  Even as He paid the uttermost farthing in Ransom, we are to pay the last farthing to our neighbor.  Thus I begin: 

How exacting is God about the payment of a debt due?  I do not know, except that it must be so stringent as to demand return of the tiniest floor-fallen crumb to its place in the table-set loaf.  Not asheep to be lost, not a lamp left under basket; no hungry man sent away with a stone, no tares left in the wheat field, nor pearl of great price left on the vendor's table unclaimed, and no desired fish left outside His far flung net.  He Who can, will; He will go to any length, pay any price, suffer any humiliation to redeem that which is His, to reconcile and restore it and fill it with His abundant Life; He has given everything of Himself to do it; will He not demand of men their all and have it from them?  For Him the path to Victory has been one of unimaginable excoriation, execration, the entire giving away of Self and the very forgetting of self ; “So I might imagine a thousand steps up from the darkness, each a little less dark, a little nearer the light—but, ah, the weary way!” for humanity: “Hard is the way!”

What God is ever doing a man must learn to do; he must take first a small step out of his darkness toward a glistening Light which yet remains to him a dim candle, and by a procession of steps this Light, which is sent out to him from the breast of the Divine, grows brighter and brighter.  And the first step is to begin loving God, followed on its heel by the loving of neighbor; as grows the one so also grows the other, love for God and man in tandem, and neither is possible except for the other.  I must stress this: If a man does not love his neighbor whom he has seen, he cannot love God Whom he has not seen.  Obversely, if he truly loves his neighbor, to that degree he is also loving God. And the neighbor of a man is every man, not only those lovable but equally those despicable, hateful, the most vile, evil and profane, those loathed by society, every man who is yet to be reconciled to God.  These we must love, forgive, and be friend and brother to—to do it is to pay the required farthing!

Has not God of Himself given everything; will He not, then, of men demand their all, and have it from them, which is also to have it to themselves, by His will at the right time, when His heart has become their heart?  Many have been taught “Once saved always saved;” I would say a man, in view of his debt still owing, ought to think to himself that he will finally be saved, for surely every man will ultimately be saved.  Today I may have paid the final farthing of debt to the man offensive to me, but tomorrow when another such man offends me, and I harden my heart against him, have I not taken upon myself another debt which I owe to the man and to the man's God?  And in that debt-ridden condition am I fit to enter the courts of our Lord?  The gates into His presence are wide to include every man who has paid his due; those gates are strait to all others who do not love their neighbor as their self.

Those who enter by the path which is narrow, by the peculiar gate, are those who are like Christ Jesus; if there is aught in me which is other than like Him, I am not ready and He is not willing, for He loves me too much to allow my old Self to have any claim over me.  What He seeks to accomplish in me during this life, because of my Self-driven willfulness (should I say selfishness, the withholding from another that which I owe him, my forgiveness?), may have to continue beyond this life.  And I know it.  If my dross I will not surrender, though His fire burn hotly in me, shall He overlook it in His grand attempt to build me into His crown while I am yet filled with the imperfections of my unpaid farthing?  No, never!  He must increase His heat, must allow me to subject my own self to the misery which only I can release in the purging fumes.  A man must pay as the final farthing that which he owes.

Let me be quite frank; because a man at sometime, and sincerely, placed his trust in the Atoner he is not given an automatic pass into the realm of heaven, of God's presence; to enter in the man must be as pure as Christ is pure; the command of God, “Be holy for I am holy” is no vain collocation of words or some nebulous idea, but a real command made by God with intention; and it is a thing of which we are capable of doing, for God issues no command to us that we cannot do.  Do we think “Well, I know I shouldn't feel that way toward so-and-so, but yet I am saved; God will deal with me when I get to heaven?”  Do we reckon, based on our supposed “eternal security” and by our assumption “once saved always saved” that we will be given some Divine pass, that God will nod at our sin and let it go?  He will not do it!  “There is no half-way house of rest, where ungodliness may be dallied with, nor prove quite fatal.”

The last farthing must be paid else He can not embrace us; He may turn away His face, but never release His hand, will love us but “have us to be entirely clean.”  What shall become of us in such case? Shall we then be consigned to some eternal torment without hope as some of the preachers have said?  God forbid! For He can never leave nor forsake His children, and every person is His child, be they near or estranged.  Is not “Self” the man's enemy?  Has he not put Self before Sacrifice?  Has he not set himself up in his heart as its master?  Is there not running through his life-lump of gold a dark vein of sin, which is his dross, which must be burned out of him before he is made whole?  He may purge it from himself by contrition and the becoming like Christ Jesus, or he may cling to his dross so that only God can by the Consuming Fire loose its bands.  What is his consignment?  “In the midst of the live world he cared for nothing but himself; now in the dead world he is in God's prison.”  And in that prison house of darkness he will find the Consuming Fire is still doing its work, and will continue for as long as it takes, until the Christian man and the worldly man alike cry out, turn from self, loathe that which within them is not like our Lord Christ, and repent; this is the paying in Hell of what ought to have been paid in life, the uttermost farthing.

Is Hell a place of literal fire and brimstone?  I do not judge it to so be; I think it is the place of “outermost darkness,” that the entire teaching of it in Scripture, that of “fire and brimstone,” is a metaphor, something we can for its actual horror relate to at least a little bit:

“It is the ghastly dark beyond the gates of the city of which God is the light—where the evil dogs go ranging, silent as the dark, for there is no sound any more than sight.  The man wakes from the final struggle of death in absolute loneliness.  Not a hint, not a shadow of anything outside his consciousness reaches him.  All is dark and dumb; no motion—not the breath of a wind, nothing to suggest being or thing besides the man himself, no sign of God anywhere.”

This is is as apt a description of Hell as a mortal mind is able to make; it is the place made for spirit beings to bring about their repentance, is also become the haunt of disembodied souls of men, themselves spirits, the incomplete selves, they then being suited to the deathly rigors of the place; literal fire might burn flesh and consume it, the Fire of Hell is Love designed to consume the creature's dross of heart and leave his gold; it is both purgative and redemptive in nature, the ultimate, fearsome, corrective if not disciplinary side of God's Love.  And I see it so because man was created for and to be in relationships; but in Hell he is absolutely alone, a condition for which he is unprepared and unable to long abide.  Earthly isolation will drive a man to insanity; Hellish isolation will drive him to God.

“God is not bound to destroy sinners but sin;” when a man, a Christian man or an unredeemed man, any man, enters into Hell it is the outer darkness (which is no metaphor but the actual) with no sensory perceptions left to himself, for those are moldering in his grave; all that is left of the man is his spirit self, and it may not be long that thus robbed of all his distractions, those of sight and sounds, of hearing and touch and taste, that he will finally begin to think of the very things he should have been thinking during his life on earth.  And whether he comes to his senses in a moment or if it takes “ages of ages,” yet he will; whether his debt be considerable or small, he will come to the point that he is freely willing to pay it, down to the uttermost farthing.  God will not force it on the man, His patience is such that He allows the man to come to it himself; and when the man is willing, either fast or finally, his Hell vanishes of an instant; before him then stands His risen Lord, filled with light, with arms open and extended; “Come!” He says; “Let me now take you to your Father!”

Shall every man go to a purgatorial hell at his final breath?  I do not know; I can only speak of myself, for no man knows the innermost heart condition of another save the man himself and God; this, however, that God would have all men everywhere to repent.  I do know that every man who owes a debt to his neighbor owes it also to God, and that the demand of God is for payment in full:

“Be they few or many cast into such a prison as I have endeavored to imagine, there can be no deliverance for any human soul, whether in that prison or out of it, but by paying the last farthing, in becoming lowly, penitent, self-refusing—so receiving the sonship and learning to cry, 'Father'!”