David Hummell Greer.

Visions : Sunday morning sermons at St. Bartholomew's, New York online

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If there is a hell on earth, or anywhere else, love
will go into it. Love always descends into hell ; it
can't help it, for the sake of those it loves. And to
every person there that never-forsaking love speaks,
saying, " O, turn thee, turn thee, turn thee, to thy
God ! " And turn at last the sinner must, and will.
And that righteousness of love will in the end pre-

That is the message of the Christian religion to
us. Sin is a fact, a heinous fact. Hell is a fact, an
awful fact. J>ut it is also a fact that God is with


US ill it, suffering with us in it, to save and redeem
us from it. It is the message of the Christian re-
ligion to men, and shoukl also be the message of
the Christian Church to men — to all men every-
where ; never condoning sin, never palliating sin,
but giving to the sinner an everlasting hope ; caus-
ing every sinner on the face of the earth, no matter
what his sin or how excuseless his sin, to say with
the Psalmist,

" Though I make my bed in hell, behold. Thou
art there ! " And to hear there the voice, saying,
" rjse, and walk ! "


Thy Ir other shall rise again. — St, John xi. 23,



This is the season in the ecclesiastical year, this
Easter season, when our thoughts are directed to
the consideration of that great hope of immortality
which has always been, in all ages, in all lands, and
among all peoples, savage and civilized, barbarous
and enlightened, the hope of human life. Let us
consider that hope for a little while this morning,
as it seems to be interpreted through the language
of the text by the Christian religion to us, or by
the teaching of Jesus Christ ; and which, when put
in topical form, may be expressed as follows :
The Hope of the Perpetuation of Ourselves as In-
volving in it the Hope of the Perpetuation of our

First let us inquire what it is that constitutes
" ourselves " ? And what is it ? Our bodies ?
Hardly that, for our bodies are constantly changing,
and crumbling and perishing and passing away, while
Ave ourselves remain. What is it then ? Our char-
acters ? That is coming a little nearer to it. And yet
I think we can come a little nearer than that. For
what is it that forms our characters, f asliions, shapes,



moulds them, makes them what they are ? Our loves ;
the things Ave love to do, the pursuits we love to fol-
low, the actions Ave love to perform, the people Ave
love to love. These are the things, these loves, or these
exercisings in us of love, Avhich precipitate in us
that deposit Avhich Ave call in the aggregate our
characters; Avhich, in their last analysis, are re-
solvable into our loves.

Our loves, therefore, are our characters. Our
loves are ourselves. And Avhen Ave express the
hope that Ave ourselves after death, or notAvith-
standing death, may still go on, somehoAv, and be
perpetuated, Ave are but expressing the hope that
our loves may still go on and be perpetuated.

That Avas the hope, or that Avas the desire at
least, Avhich the sister of Lazarus had. She loved
her brother. She Avanted to go on loving her
brother. She could not go on Avithout that love ;
for that love Avas part of herself ; it Avas herself ;
and she herself could not go on and be herself with-
out it. That Avas Avhat the hope of immortality
meant to her, as far as she had that hope. That,
Avlien Avc come to think about it and analyze it,
is Avhat it means to everybody else ; not the
hope of the perpetuaticm of hhnself Avithout his
loves, his various human loves whatever thcA^ may


be, but the hope of the perpetuation of himself Avith
his loves. For without his human loves, his various
human loves, he could not be himself, he would be
somebody else ; and he does not want to be some-
body else ; he wants to be himself. That is why
the heathen pupil of the Christian missionary, of
whom we have all heard, did not want to go to the
missionary's heaven. When the missionary told
him, speaking I think more zealously than truth-
fully, that none of his ancestors would be there
because they had not been baptized : " Will my
father not be there, he asked nor my mother ; my
brother, my kinsfolk, my ancestors ? " Then he did
not want to go there ; he wanted to go where they
were ; for he loved them and wanted to go on
loving them. He could not go on without that love,
for that love was part of himself, was himself, and
he himself could not go on and be himself without

Neither can we. Without that love within us,
that human love within us, that love which makes
our characters, that love Avhich makes ourselves,
that love which is ourselves ; we cannot go on with-
out it, for it is we ! If we are to go on and live, it
must go on, that human love Avithin us. It must
go on and live, or we cannot go on.


This far then Ave have come in the development
of our subject, and this much we have seen — that
we ourselves cannot be perpetuated without the
perpetuation in us of that human love, or of those
human loves which are ourselves, and without the
perpetuation of Avhich Ave ourselves as ourselves
cannot be perpetuated.

IN'oAv let us advance a little further in the devel-
opment of the subject. Hoav can those human
loves be perpetuated Avithout the perpetuation of
those relationships in Avhich those loves exist ? For
love is a relative term. We cannot love nothing ;
love is a relative term and implies something to
love ; as seeing is a relative term, and hearing is a
relative term. Unless there be something to see
Ave cannot see ; unless there be something to hear
Ave cannot hear ; unless there be something to love
Ave cannot loA^e. And if that loA^e is to go on, that
something Avhich it loves must go on, or that rela-
tion in Avhich it is exercised must go on. Other-
Avise it cannot go on, it cannot be exercised, and
the love cannot exist. And if the loA^e cannot ex-
ist, the great, complex, manifold love that makes
us what Ave are, how can we exist ? Hoav can Ave
think of ourselves as existing? A\^e cannot. And
tliat is Avhy we find it so hard sometimes to think


of ourselves as existing in another Avorld, because
Ave try to think of ourselves existing there, in that
other world, out of all relation to what we love in
this world, and to whom we love in this world. And
we cannot do it ; it is impossible. But according to
Jesus Christ that is not the case. And that
hope of immortality, which nothing can eradicate
from the human heart, does not mean and involve
the perpetuation of ourselves, or the perpetuation
of the loves which are ourselves, apart from those
relationships in which they now exist ; it is the hope
of the j)erpetuation of those relationships. Timj
brother shall rise again — not simply the man Lazarus
whose body lies in yonder grave — but then as now,
there as here, thy brother ! They are to be perpet-
uated ; those relationships, in which here and now
we exercise our love ; they are to be perpetuated,
in that other life, in that other world. There as
here the same, making us the same, or keeping us
the same ; loving there Avhat here Ave love, and in
those same relations in which Ave love here ; which
though broken noAV for a time, are healed again
and restored !

That is the great human hope of some immortal
life, as it seems to be through the medium of the
text, through the language of Jesus Christ, in-


tcr})reted to us ; the hope of the perpetuation, not
merely of our present selves or of our present loves,
but of those various relationships in which our pres-
ent loves are exercised.

I know of course that there are difficulties con-
nected with this view. Perhaps there are some
embarrassments. For some of the relationships in
which our loves at present are exercised may not be
pure and good ; but sensuous, and corrupt ; and
we cannot possibly think that they will still go
on ; for corruption cannot inherit incorruption. But
there are other relationships of love Avhich are pure
and good, noble and ennobling, Avhich we can easily
think of as going on ; and which, according to Jesus
Christ, as I interpret His teaching, shall go on and
be perpetuated.

May I mention two or three of them in the way
of illustration? The relationship of Home; that
domestic relationship, so sacred, so divine, Avhere
our human love begins, Avhere first we learn to love,
and hnd the meanino^ of love ; that o:arden soil of
Home which no rude hand must touch, no tres-
passer destroy, no violater invade ; where love in all
its sweetness, in all its beauty, grows ; which seems
to be, and is, on earth like the paradise of God ;
but which is broken by death at times and blasted


and destroyed. Ko, says Jesus Christ ; it is not de-
stroyed. That Home, or that home relationship
does still exist, and shall forever exist. Thy brother
shall rise again ! And the home which ministered
here to love, making us what w^e are, shall minister
there to love, keeping us what w^e are !

The relationship of Home; the relationship of
Country. For w^e are not only placed in homes,
we are placed in lands, or nations. The relation-
ship of Country, ministering to what we call the
"patriotic" love; a love so strong and high, so
deep and great within us, that it sometimes con-
sumes the love of Home within us ; which, as we
feel its joy within us, thrilling us, inspiring us,
casting out for a time at least the love of self
within us, seems to be almost like the love of God
within us !

Shall it not go on? Shall we find no country
there, in that other life, in that other world, to stir
and kindle in us there the patriotic love; no
national shrine or altar there, to inspire it there
within us, to keep it there alive ? Yes ; it seems to
me Jesus Christ declares, that national bond of
brotherhood which does here exist, in some exalted
shape and form shall continue there to exist. Thy
brother — O, thou patriot heart — Avhom here thou


dost serve, whom here thou dost love ; thy brother
shall rise again, where all the peoples, and tribes,
and kindreds, and tongues, and nations of the eartli
are gathered ! And the patriotic love which thou
here hast felt, making thee what thou art, thou
shalt continue to feel, keeping thee Avhat thou art !

The relationship of Home, the relationship of
Country, and then that great and wide and widen-
ing relationship of Humanity, which ministers to
what we call the " philanthropic " love, Avhich to-
day we are coming so strongly in our hearts to feel ;
going beyond the home, going beyond the nation,
Avhich by man in coming years will more and more
be felt, disposing him to serve on earth and help his
brother man. It too shall go on. It too shall be
perpetuated, the philanthropic love — Thy brother
shall rise again ; a real humanity there, to serve, to
help, to love, to minister unto, as a real humanity
here !

Home, Country, Humanity. These are some of
the great cardinal relationships — there are others —
in which now we live, in which now we grow, be-
coming now what we are, becoming now ourselves ;
nor can we in some other Avorld, some future world,
some heavenly world, be ourselves without them.
According to Jesus Christ we shall not l)e without


them. Home, Country, Humanity ; great, cardinal
relationships ministering here to love, and making
us what we are ; in higher, purer, better, more en-
during form shall minister there to love, keeping us
what we are.

So does Jesus Christ interpret that great human
hope of immortality, which has always been and
always will be the hope of human life, making it
more attractive, more appealing to us, more human
to us ; whose voice it seems to me we can hear to-
day, standing by the grave of our broken hopes and
loves, and saying to every man : " Thy brother,
Avhom thou seest, whom thou knowest, whom thou
lovest now, in the Home-world, in the Xation-
world, in the great Human-world, thou shalt here-
after see, thou shalt hereafter know, thou shalt
hereafter love ; for thy brother shall rise again ! "


Is thine eye evil^ heccmse I am good? — St.
Matthew xx. 1 5



That is from the parable of the laborers in the
vineyard which you have just heard read as the
Gospel for the day. It is quite likely that some of
you on hearing it read thought that there was in
fact some injustice in it, and that those who had
worked for a day were in fairness entitled to more
than those who had worked for an hour, when they
had all been doing apparently the same kind of
work. That, perhaps, is Avhat some of you thought.
That is what some of the laborers thought, and to
which they gave expression, in murmuring and
complaining. And why? Because the vineyard
owner had not been good to them ? 'No ; but be-
cause, while good to them, he had been good to
others. That suggests the subject on which I wish
to speak — Looking at ourselves with reference to
others ; or Good making evil. Or still again, The
Paradox of Goodness.

First, see how it was in the parable itself. Here
were certain persons sent into a certain vineyard
by the vineyard owner, to do a certain kind of
work, — a day's work, at a certain price, which they



considered fair and equitable, if not generous, or
which at all events they had agreed to take. Now,
suppose no other laborers had been sent into that
vineyard, at the third, the ninth, or the eleventh hour,
and that they themselves, by themselves, had labored
there all day, alone, with no other laborers in the
vineyard. Would they then have murmured, when
the time of reckoning came, because they then re-
ceived what it was said they would receive and
what they had agreed to receive? Would they
then have murmured and complained ? I think not.
With the work of the day no easier, and the burden
of the day no lighter, and the heat of the day no
less, and the wage of the day no more, it Avould
have been all right, honorable, equitable, fair, with
nothing to complain of. Why, then, did they com-
plain ? What was it that put the evil into their
eye ? Because their eye, instead of looking at the
vineyard owner who had sent them into the vine-
yard, who, when they were idle and had nothing
to do, had given them something to do, and for the
doing of Avhich had promised to give them a certain
sum, a certain price, and which he did give ; with
everything all right, honorable, fair, and nothing to
complain of, — because I say their eye, instead of
looking at tlie vineyard owner who had been so


good to them, was looking over there at those other
laborers in it, to whom the vineyard owner had
also been so good. That is what did it ; that is
what put the evil into their eye, trickling down
into the heart and spreading there its slime ; mak-
ing it evil !

That is what did it in their case ; that is what
does it in ours. Looking at ourselves not with ref-
erence to God, the great vineyard Owner, and
what He has done for us, but looking at ourselves
with reference to others and what He has done for
them — that is the way in which the evil that is in
us is created in us, our eye evil, because God is so
good ! God does not make evil, for God is good,
supremely good, with nothing but goodness in Him,
nothing but goodness emanating from Him. God
does not create evil ; He could not ! And yet, par-
adoxical as the statement seems, or is, it is the
goodness of God that does create it at times ! Just
as the coming together of two gases will sometimes
make a third gas that is different from either ; so
does the goodness of God, and the giving of good
things to others, God and they together. He giving
good things, and they receiving good things, make
in us at times things that are not good.

In some such way as that, I suppose, the devil


might have been made. God did not make the
deviL God is good, with nothing but goodness —
that is necessary to the conception of a God —
emanating from Him. God did not make the
devil ; He could not ! And yet it was the good-
ness of God perhaps that did make him. Originally
he was — so at least the Scriptures seem to teach
and imply, and all religious fancyings and imagin-
ings about him — originally he was, not an angel of
darkness but an angel of light, to whom God was
good. But in the spiritual hierarchy of that
supramundane sphere there were other angels of
light — so again the Scriptures seem to teach and
imply — to whom God was also good, very good ; and
who were perhaps in the goodness of God faring
better than he. And looking at and seeing, that
goodness of God to them, the evil entered into his
eye, into his heart, lodging and dwelling there,
making him evil, making him a devil. So, I say,
the devil might have been created in the other
world. Whether or not he was so created is of
course a matter of conjecture ; but it is not a mat-
ter of conjecture, but of experience and observation
so far as this world is concerned. And Avhatever
the way in which the devil there was made, that is
the way in which the devil here is made, that is the


way in vrliich the devils here are made, for there
are many of them, their name is legion ; and good-
ness makes them! That is the paradox of good-
ness, that it makes devils !

Is that strange ? Yes, it is strange ; but it is
true. Did not the goodness of Jesus Christ make
devils ? ]S^ot Jesus Christ Himself, no, not Jesus
Christ Himself, in His aim. His motive, His purpose,
which ^yas nothing but love, compassion, benevo-
lence, but the goodness of Jesus Christ ; did not it
make devils all about Him; and as He persisted
uncompromisingly in His goodness to the end, did
it not make more devils about Him, until at last
they killed Him ? AYould it be so now ? I do not
know. It might be. What I do know is this, that
looking at a goodness in others which is better than
the goodness in us, and therefore rebuking and
putting to shame the goodness in us ; creates at
times in us, antagonisms to it. "We do not want
such goodness. We do not Avant it about us. It
is too good. And we shun and avoid and dislike
it, and sometimes despise and hate it, and would
not be sorry perhaps if some one else should kill it
or put it out of the way.

So it is with things that are morally good. So it
is with things that are physically good ; creating


things at times that are not good, creating evil

What is it that is creating so many of the evil
things in society to-day ? The good things in it !
without which the evil things would not exist ; the
physical wealths and treasures, the physical bless-
ings and prosperities, which those persons have
whom we call rich, those other laborers in the
vineyard who do not labor much, and yet Avho
have just as much or more perhaps than some of
the rest of us who are called poor, who labor all
day long, bearing all day long the burden and heat
of the day. We do not like it, and we do not
like them, and we murmur and complain and
threaten, and are envious and angry and jealous,
and are going to do something about it, we don't
know what, but we are going to do something to
change it. What is it that makes all this mumur-
ing and complaining and threatening, putting all
this evil into the eye, into the mind, into the heart
of society to-day, making evil passions in it, making
evil things ? The good things in it ! of which some
persons seem to have so much and others not so
much ; and who are looking at themselves with
reference to those others.

But I am not s])eaking to a congregation of poor


people this morning ; and therefore I want to say
that not only among the poor and the poorer, is
this devil-making process going on, but among the
rich and the richer it is also going on ; prides, vanities,
arrogancies, extravagancies, superficial ostentations,
overstraining emulations, pageants, pomps, parades,
taxing so much their time, their strength, their
physical resources, that they have but little left of
time or strength or physical resources for a
better kind of doing and giving. Devils there
are made, evils there are made, and in the same
manner made. Looking at themselves with refer-
ence to others, trying to keep up with them, trying
to get ahead of them, not wishing to be outdone by
the good things of others, not wishing to be out-
shone by the good things of others ; and if they have
to be, then there is carping, and criticizing, and
heartburning, and backbiting and murmuring and
complaining : the devils come.

So again we see in society to-day, as in the old
parable long ago, the good things making evil
things. It is the paradox of goodness. It is, it has
been, it will be, until we learn to look at ourselves,
in this great vineyard-world, not with reference
chiefly to others, for then the envies and the prides
and the ostentations and the covetousnesses and the


uncharitablenesses, and all the devils will come ; but
until we learn to look at ourselves, each of us, Avith
reference chiefly to God. Laboring here, living here,
with reference chiefly to God. Developing here our
powers, faculties, gifts, endowments, whatever they
may be, with reference chiefly to God. Fulfilling
here and rounding out ourselves with reference
chiefly to God, and that great ideal life of God in
Jesus Christ appearing. Then, and only then, can
the devils be cast out, out of ourselves and out of
the world !

Without God, my friends, we cannot work tliis
world. It has been tried and it has failed. It
sometimes seems to me as though, not avoAvedly but
virtually, we were trying it again, and again, if so, it
will fail. Statesmen, politicians, financiers, men of
affairs, whoever we are, even from the most practical
and worldly point of view, we cannot work this
world without God ! And the good things that are
in it, as more and more they come, looking at our-
selves not with reference to God but with reference
to others, will more and more make evil in it. But
looking at ourselves with reference to God, the eye
lifted up to Ilim, the point of vision is changed, the
angle of vision is changed ; the paradox of goodness
becomes the parallax. AVhat seemed before to be


evil seems now to be good, and God seems to be
good, good to us, good to others, good to all, mak-
ing us and others, making all good ; and more and
more does this world seem to be, like all the
Avorlds, the expression not merely of the Infinite
Power or of the Infinite Wisdom, but of the Infinite
goodness of God !


And the servants of the hing of Syria said unto
him, Their gods are gods of the hills ; therefore they
were stronger than we ; hut let us fight against them
in the plain, and surely we shall he stronger than
they.—l Kings xx. 23.



The armies of the king of Syria had been de-
feated in battle by the armies of the king of Israel,
and in trying to explain the defeat, and to ascertain
the cause of it, the counsellors of the Syrian king
found it in the fact to which the text refers. They
had been fighting the children of Israel, they said,
in the wrong place, on the hills, Avhere their gods
were ; and where, in consequence, the children of
Israel had been especially protected and made
strong; and if they could only fight them again,
not on the hills but on the plains, where their gods
were not, they might hope for a different result.

That was their explanation of their defeat, by
their enemies. Is it the explanation of our defeat,
by our enemies ? Let us inquire, and see if what
was said of the children of Israel, so long ago, can,
with any truth, be said to-day of us, and that our
gods, like their gods, are the gods of the hills.

First, let us inquire why, or in what sense, it
came to be said of them.

It seems to haA^e been the custom, in those an-



cient times, for the people to associate religion Avitli
high places. That is where they built their altars
and their shrines, their sanctuaries and their tem-

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Online LibraryDavid Hummell GreerVisions : Sunday morning sermons at St. Bartholomew's, New York → online text (page 9 of 12)