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in which we can get ventilation without draughts,



UR RELA TIONSniPS. 171

a temperature that is comfortable without being
enfeebling ; it may attend properly to all sanitary
matters ; it may even keep us from being made
universally dyspeptic by wholesale adulteration of
that which we eat and drink, though that seems
very far off. For, in regard to obtaining these
things on which our physical health depends,
perfectly free from everything that is deleterious,
we are almost under the necessity of doing as he
was advised to do who asked a Portugese wine
grower how he was to obtain in his cellars in
England a cask of pure Port wine. Said the man,
*' I would advise you to come here and see the
grapes grow ; and watch them in every stage until
their juice is in the cask : then to keep your eye
on that identical cask marked with your own mark,
and never for a moment allow it out of your sight
until you deposit it in your cellar. I know no
other way than that." So much of our misery
comes from physical causes that in speaking of
the ''life of man" it is necessary to recognize
them, and our own relation to the causes of much
of the misery of this human race. No man but
he who is blind in perception and judgment can
close his eyes to the fact that so very many of our
miseries come from causes over which w^e have
control, and it is our duty, as servants of God and
as being charged with the responsibility referred
to in the text, to remove them if we can. Let us



172 OVR RELATIONSHIPS.

welcome all that science can do for us, but let us
remember that its limits are soon reached, and
this also, that neither science nor anything else is
of any use to those who are too ignorant or too
indolent to use it. There are men within one
hundred miles of this place who have built into
their houses everything which the latest knowledge
supplies ; who can command the most scientific
physicians in the land, who can have everything
that money can buy, and yet there is many a
laboring man earning his fev\^ dollars a week who
is both healthier and happier than they are. It is
little better than sheer nonsense to talk of science
supplying everything that our life needs to make
it comfortable. No life ever yields comfort to its
possessor, until it is conformed to the idea which
He had for it who originally gave it. Everything
has its state of fixity and there is no content and
no satisfaction until that state is reached. This is
specially and emphatically true of the life of man.
We are members of a great human race in every
one of whom there is the feeling of something
attainable which has not yet been attained. As
to what the something is there is endless diversity
of opinion. But when the Apostle says, *'The
whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in
pain until now," he recognizes the inward life of
man seeking after something not yet reached.
And this is not true alone of the ungodly, it is



UB BE LA TIONSHIPS. 1 73

true also of the godly, *' And not only they but
we ourselves also who have received the first fruits
of the Spirit even we ourselves groan within
ourselves, waiting for the adoption." And yet,
in another place, speaking of himself alone, he
says, «* Not as though I had already attained,
either were already perfect, but I follow after if
that I may apprehend that for which I am appre-
hended of Christ eTesus." The Biblical view of
life is very much higher than the man of the
world's view, or the moral view, or the scientific
view. Says Froude, speaking of Carlyle — these
lines were often on his lips to the end of his life ;

"It is an old belief

That on some solemn shore,
Beyond the sphere of grief,

Dear friends shall meet once more:

Beyond the sphere of time.

And sin and fate's control.
Serene in changeless prime

Of body and of soul

That creed I fain would keep.

This hope I'll not forego;
Eternal be the sleep

If not to waken so."

Now the church has something more to do than
to take care of itself. Very little good can it do
on the principle of simply caring for itself. It
has to sound in the ear of humanity, of men every-



174 OUn MELA TI0N8HIP8.

where, the truth that is in these words, ** At the
hand of every man's brother will I require the
life of man." It has to illustrate by its spirit and
temper and by its deeds this fact — that all men
belong to all other men. Missionary it must be
or die. When Israel of old, elected to a hisfh
service to the world, fell below the level of its
calling — then said the Apostle, and he but spake
the mind of God, *'Lo ! we turn to the Gentiles."
The doctrine of election, about which there has
been so much needless wrangle, does not refer to
personal salvation. It has nothing to do with
that. It refers to a service, to a purpose, to a
mission. The people of Israel were elected to
a special dignity and mission to the whole world.
They fell below it. They did not *'make their
calling and election sure ;" then the mission was
put into other hands. And every nation has had
some special mission to the world. When it has
fallen below it, then its period of decay has begun
and it has hurried to its doom. It is so of the
church of Christ. That church has to declare
God's ideas, God's favor, God's will to the world
as these have come to us in Jesus. It has to live
those ideas before the world and thus gradually
but surely renew the world. It is to be the leaven
in the meal. It must be that every man is
accountable for the right use of the noblest ideas
which ever came into his soul. Quench them he



UR BEL A TIONSHIPS. 175

must not. Stifle them he must not. He must
nourish them into growth, or his soul will be a
graveyard in which are buried the murdered inno-
cents which would have grown into manhood but
for the strangling hand of his scepticism. And
so, while I speak of the Church as the collective
of all God-inspired souls, I beseech you to note
that in our text there is no absorption of the indi-
vidual into the mass. *'At the hand of every
man's brother will I require the life of man."
The whole life of man concerns each of us — all of
us. That is the truth at the base of universal
suffrage. We are responsible for the high or low
tone of the life of man in the community in which
we live, in the town, in the city, in the state, in
the nation. "At the hand of every man's brother
will I require the life of man." Why, says one,
should I be punished for what another man does ?
Because we are all partakers of one life, and are
related, and are a family, and the law is that if
one member suffer all the members shall suffer
with it. And so, if there be small-pox in the poor
streets, you who live in the better streets begin to
be concerned, you don't ask what have I to do
with that man's small-pox? You say to the
authorities, ''Get the man off" to the hospital;
disinfect his house. Go in and do it." But Avhat
right have you to enter that man's house and haul
him away to the hospital ? What right have you



176 OUR BEL A TIONSHIPS.

to send the health officer with his disinfectant?
You see, your doctrine of individualism breaks
down in presence of a contagious and desolating
disease, and very properly so. But is it not a
miserable confession to make, that we have to
learn the doctrine of our relationship to others
on the lowest side of it, because we will not recog-
nize it on its highest side? Now, while we really
do more as churches than is done by the un-
churched in the community in regard to the men
and women who are, through ignorance and
shiftlessness, at a great disadvantage, yet as
churches, w^e are apt to separate between the ma-
terial and the spiritual and to say, *'Our work is
spiritual not material." But how can 3^ou separate
these ? You never saw a man's body walking on
one side of the street while his spirit was w^alking
on the other side. Soul and body are so closely
married in this life that no one can divorce them.
They act and react on each other. Organization
does not produce life ; — life produces organiza-
tion. We cannot separate the material and the
spiritual. The life of man is too much of a unit
to allow us to do that. And, says the Almighty
One, *' At the hand of every man's brother will I
require the life of man." We are parts of a na-
tion's life. All its questions are our questions.
All its strnsfSfles are our struoo-les. All its fail-
ures are our failures, all its triumphs are our



TIB MELA TION SHIPS. 177

triumphs. Not till the regenerated brotherhood
of the Church rises above its sectisms and boldly
puts itself in the fore-front of the natiop's life as
the truthteller, the Evangelizer, claiming the life
of man for Christ and testing everything by the
principles of life He has given us, does it do its
duty or fulfill its mission. Of course, a man
begins with his individual wants, but the man who
takes no interest in any one but himself, and even
when he is voting his vote on a great national
occasion is still voting for self, regardless of the
great life of man, is a man not affiliated to the
cause of Christ in the world and his end is defeat.
But *'our Father hears the man who cries to
Him, however clumsily, for light and strength
to do his duty. He may be utterly puzzled, utter-
ly downhearted ; utterly hopeless ; but in acting on
the higher plane introduced to us in this text, he
is baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire.
God meets his willingness and endows him with
power. He begins to have a right judgment : to
see clearly what he ought to do, and how to do it.
He grows more clear-sighted, more prompt, more
steady than he has ever been before. And there
comes a fire into his heart such as he never had
before, a spirit and a determination which nothing
can daunt or break, which makes him bold, cheer-
ful, earnest in the face of the anxiety and danger
which would, at any other time, have broken his



178 UR BEL A TI0N8HIPS.

heart. The man is lifted up above his former
self, and carried on through his work, he hardly
knows how, till he succeeds nobly, or if he fails,
fails nobly."

But the inspiration of the Spirit of God, meet-
ing His willingness, makes him to see and feel that
he is allied to the life of man. And he acts from
a higher view and on a broader plane of things
than before. He hardly knows himself again.
Seeing farther, feeling more deeply, life enlarges
to his vision, and you hear him hymning this
glorious petition : —

" Father, bear the prayer we offer.

Not for ease that prayer shall be.

But for strength, that we may ever

Live our lives courageously."



To save life, not to destroy it, is thenceforth
bis aim, and whatever the line he take, whatever
the work he do, according to his possessions, his
opportunity, his talent, he realizes a blessedness
unknown before, and to such an one there is no
harrassing rebuke ever tormenting his soul even
in words like these, '* At the hand of every man's
brother will I require the life of man."



XIII.
THE LIMITATIONS OF EYIL.



But I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill
the body, and after that, have no more that they can do. — Luke^
xii : 4.

IN those times when the air is full of war and
rumors of war, *' distress of nations with
perplexity, — the sea and the waves roaring, men's
hearts failing them for fear," — in such times men
have to seek out some truth which shall help to
steady the mind and keep it hopeful. For no
man but he who is heartless can keep himself from
shuddering at the idea of warfare, wholesale
carnage, men mown down by hundreds and thou-
sands, wives turned into widows, children made
fatherless, mothers left to mourn their only sons,
the tender humanities of life ruthlessly trodden
under foot, the hard earned money of the people
compulsorily exacted from them and spent for the
direst purposes man knows, in doing devil's work,
not the work of God. All this is terrible to look
at and think of. How should we view it if we

179



180 TEE LIMITATIONS OF EVIL.

were introduced to it for the first time ? If the
history of man had not been one of warfare, if
now the idea and the purpose of it were suddenly
sprung upon us, what a howl of indignation there
would be from one end of the world to the other
against any one of any nationality who should
propose to use Intellect and Science in preparing
means and methods for man's destruction ! In our
unimpassioned moments we are all, surely, on
the side of unwarlike statesmen, men who on
their shoulders have the heaviest kind of respon-
sibility, men who will do anything and every-
thing that can be done rather than draw the
sword. Such men have oftentimes to hear them-
selves charged with vacillation, cowardice, want
of heroism, and I know not what else, but if you
or I were in the place of such a man should we not
do everything doable to make war impossible,
and if we failed, to make it on behalf of those who
were responsible for the failure criminal. In our
day there are so many commercial interests which
make a pecuniary profit out of war. These are
clamorous all the time. Men who deal in money
on stock-exchanges are clamorous too. And the
newspapers, through which we get our information,
have a pecuniary interest in war. These clamor-
ous interests make it extremely difficult for
statesmen, who are at heart peace-makers, to get
a fair hearing or fair-play.



THE LIMITATIONS OF EVIL. 181

One of the blessings for which we cannot be too
grateful, is that this continent from the Atlantic
to the Pacific is not to be split up into rival
nationalities, jealous of each others' power and
progress, preyed upon by treacherous diplomats
in league with professional soldiers who can get
promotion only through war. The division
between North and South would have been the
open gateway to the introduction of all the old
world evils to this continent. The perpetuation
of the Union meant very much more than the
perpetuation of the American idea, it meant the
exclusion of the Italian and Spanish Machiavellian
idea, the exclusion of the German imperial idea,
the exclusion of the Eussian autocratic idea, that
the country is to be sacrificed to the interests of
the Czar, the exclusion of the English aristocratic
idea that God made the many for the sake of the
few, all these ideas would have got footing and
power and permanency here if the South had been
allowed to assert and establish its independence.
Wow, the whole force of the national mind can be
turned toward internal improvements, to the condi-
tion of the people generally and how to elevate it.
The professional soldier becomes only a superior
kind of policeman, the defender of personal
liberty not the assailant of any one, as such to be
respected and honored. We ask, however, will
the time never come when the professional soldier



182 THE LIMITATIONS OF EVIL.

shall be the soldier of Conscience and of Civiliza-
tion and thus the embodiment of the Old Chivalry ?
Will he never be the man who prevents instead
of foments war? Will the time never come when
Christianity shall have conquered the military ism
of the civilized nations of the world, and when
there shall among those nations be a holy league
and covenant to prevent war? When a dog
becomes mad everybody in the region is interested
in preventing his biting men, women and children.
And when a nation is suddenly seized with the
war frenzy, all other nations should combine
against it. There is no other way to make war
the disgraceful and hateful thing it is. Despots,
using huge armies for the avenging their own
private quarrels with other despots, or for the
promoting their own insatiable ambition, or for
the creating interests outside the nation for the
sake of calling off attention from the deplorable
condition of things inside, these men should
be given to understand that they have had their
day, and for humanity's sake, must cease to be.

The New Testament is remarkable for its brief
recognition of all the facts of life and its sugges-
tions as brief, and effective, of thoughts which
should brinsr some deo^ree of comfort even in the
presence of the direst difficulties and the most
doleful degradations. While we cannot undertake
to give anything that could be called an exhaus-



THE LIMITATIONS OF EVIL. 183

tive interpretation of this text to which our
attention is called, yet it introduces to us certain
ideas which may, in times of trouble, be of some
help and comfort to us.

The first of these ideas is this — that there is a
limit to the power of evil. ^'Fear not them
which kill the body, and after that have no more
that they can do." It would appear to us in those
moments in which we are most sympathetic, that
there is nothins^ more diabolical than war. It has
been characterized as the sum of all human vil-
lainies. Any form of government which makes
war easy is condemned as in itself evil. No other
word need be said. No apology for it ought for a
moment to be listened to. Abolish it ; for hu-
manity's sake, abolish it. That form of govern-
ment which in the nature of the case is most
pacific, is the form which a God of Love must
mean to exist. But even war is not the worst of
evils. It would be better for men to go to war
belie^^ing that they were doing something thereby
for God and His Kingdom, than to have perpetual
peace with no belief in God at all, just as it is
better for a man to die in doins: somethins: that
calls out the fulness of his life than for his powers
to rot in indolence. That which Divine Provi-
dence permits here on this earth, is a part of the
condition of human freedom. It is part of
the discipline of life. But there is a limit eveij to



184 TEE LIMITATIONS OF EVIL.

the worst things that a man can do. When he
murders me he comes to the limit of his ability.
He releases my soul from its fetters, he unbinds
me from this earth, he hurries me into the spirit-
ual world. It is an immense thing to do for me ;
it may be, as far as I am personally concerned, a
great blessing conferred ; as far as the doer of the
deed is concerned it must be the weightiest curse,
for he has done his worst on me.

The Christian view of death does not make
murder any the less of a crime, it does nothing to
justify war, but it does a great deal to relieve our
minds when we think upon Divine Providence.
What meditative mind is there that has not been
on the edge of disbelief in a Divine Providence in
times of dire calamity, when human life seemed so
cheap as almost to be worthless, blood poured out
like water, and for what? To gratify human
ambition, to avenge some fancied injury or slight,
even to help depopulate a country because of
angry growlings arising from internal discontent.
Nine-tenths of the wars of the world have been
criminal. They have» been wars which have left
nations sadder, poorer, more demoralized, than
when they began. They have left behind thenj
no stable government, no freed slaves, no possibil^
ities of improvement, nothing of any value. And
when we think of such wars and the men who are
responsible for them, we can hardly refrain from



THE LIMITATIONS OF EVIL. 185

thanking God for the words, "After death the
judgment." No moral order could eternally exist
in a universe in which such monstrosities and such
monsters were not punished. And yet, looking
all the facts of life full in the face, sympathizing
as none other ever did with the myriads of torn
and bleeding hearts which war has rent and
broken, our Lord could say to us, ^'Fear not
them which kill the body and after that have no
more that they can do." He could say so because
He knew the beyond. He saw the limit to
evil. He saw the line beyond which it could not
go. He was in the secret of the councils of the
Almighty One who had said, *' Thus far shalt thou
go and no farther." It was not heartlessness
which spoke. This is not the language of a soul
devoid of sympathy, not the language of one capa-
ble of saying, "Let them go on with their wars,
it will make it better for trade." Oh, no ; nothing
of this, it was the language of one who could
march straight up to Calvary, who, hanging there,
refused the anodyne that would have lulled His
physical pain, because He saw clearly the beyond,
and so, for the joy that was set before Him,
endured the cross, despising the shame. Have we
not a right to all the help His words give us ?
Nay ; do not those who refuse this help, defraud
themselves ? It is impossible in the present de-
veloped state of the human mind, to believe in a



18G THE LIMITATIONS OF EVIL.

Divine providence apart from the revelation of
Immortality. I think that I am justified in saying
it is impossible to believe in it apart from the
revelation of a judgment beyond the line we call
death. One of the great intellectual arguments
for the truth of the Christian doctrines is their
coherence, the way in which they form a whole,
the way in which one necessitates the other. The
same Holy Spirit which convinces the mind of
Sin, convinces it of a Righteousness which is
absolute and of a Juds^ment which cannot be evaded
or avoided. The three ideas cohere ; they tenant
the mind together. They belong to one another.
In this state of existence man cannot develop
without freedom, without a measure of freedom
which seems to us dangerous, even, at times,
appalling. The fact that a man should have the
liberty and the power to kill his fellow man seems
to us, when w^e are meditative, dreadful. The
fact that it should be possible for men to organize
armies for the express purpose of wholesale
slaughter of each other seems more dreadful still.
The attendant fact that men should be so capable
of deluding themselves as to assume that on this
field of slaughter, virtue and heroism can be most
appropriately and conspicuously shown, is astound-
ing. And yet there is no denial of the facts. Our
Lord knew them as well as we know them ; saw
the battle-fields bristling with bayonets ; the smoke



THE LIMITATIONS OF EVIL. 187

of their artillery ; the red of their carnage ; heard
the groans of dying men, and the moans of dying
horses, heard it all, saw it all, shuddered at it all,
and yet He could calmly say to us, "Fear not
them which kill the body, and after that have no
more that they can do." There is a limit to the
power of evil. It is not almighty. It is not infi-
nite. It has its sphere, and within that sphere can
do its dire work. Murderers may murder the
body ; the aggressive military spirit may take up
its abode in nations and get itself legalized and be
made honorable even, but it is not of God. It
may *' kill the body, and after that it has no more
that it can do."

The second idea, a still profounder idea, is this,
that death is a rescue from all evils which are not
demoniac in their character. It seems to me quite
impossible to read the New Testament with that
attention which it demands and deserves, and fail
to notice that there are two kinds of evil spoken
of, that which belongs to man as possessing an
animal nature and that which does not belonir to
him as of his own humanity, but which enters into
him and takes possession of him, that which we
call Satanic. It does not seem to me possible to
read the New Testament references to evil intelli-
gently, unless we keep this distinction in mind.
The Church of Eome has tried to preserve the
distinction in the well-known words " mortal and



188 THE LIMITATIONS OF EVIL.

venial sins." It does not seem to me that the
terms are well chosen. Bat the fact that such a
distinction in the quality of sins has been made, is
instructive and noteworthy. Protestantism has
often spoken of sins of infirmity, and sins of will.
In the one case a man errs not meaning to err, he
sins not meanin": to rebsl ai!:ainst God. The roots
of his sin are in his ignorance, in his non-percep-
tion of the nature of certain acts. Some sins are
fallen virtues. But other sins have no affinity
with virtues. They are of such a nature as to
take possession of the inner spirit and dry up the
very springs of repentance. In such a case a
man's heart never melts into sorrow and his lips
never utter the word of contrition. Our humanity
when it is Christianized readily recognizes that
some sinners are more to l)e pitied than blamed.
Now, from all sins of this class and from the evils
they bring, death will come as a rescue. That
part of the man in which the inherited tendencies to
these sins reside will drop away. The soul enters
into new surroundings and conditions. That
which injures and tends to kill the body may still


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Online LibraryReuen ThomasDivine sovereignty, and other sermons → online text (page 10 of 16)