George T Lemmon.

Better things for sons of God online

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his seed the perfectinjg^ by care of the home
he had made for the race. The old poets
taught us that immediately after Adam's
sin snakes first began to hiss and creep and
miraculously develop the poisonous fang;
lions and tigers ceased their affable gambol-
ing with lambs and kids and turned with
love of blood to become the foe of all other
animal life ; elephants marshaled themselves,
trumpeting with rage, for their first cam-
paign of destruction ; eagles grew mad at
sight of doves and pounced upon them, deal-
ing death ; and sharks first rolled on back

and stretched their horrid jaws to entomb
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110 BETTER THINGS FOR SONS OF GOD.

their smaller kindred of the finny tribes.
While these ideas may well pass with the
grotesque fancies which gave them birth,
there is a truth hid in all their crudeness
well worth our attention.

There can be no doubt that the fall cursed
nature even as it cursed the race. The sin
of the first pair inoculated all their surround-
ings with its blighting virus, and nature re-
fused its former unlabored reward. Do-
minion would still be man's ; but with toil
unmeasurable, sorrow most terrible, care un-
ceasing, and with his life in jeopardy every
hour must he now win that lordship over
nature which without sin would have been
obtained by the kindly fellowship and friend-
ship of master and servant. Therefore it
is * ' that the whole creation groaneth and
travaileth together in pain until now,*'
** waiting for the manifestation of the sons
of Gk>d.'' The work which Adam begun
when he cleared his first acre of its thistles
and thorns, and with remembrance of Eden
made a garden of the first wilderness plot to
which he gave his toil, has been continued,
haltingly, unlovingly , no doubt, by many, but
still continued, and whenever nature has



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THE WORK OF SONS OF GOD. Ill

been kindly and intelligently treated the re-
ward has amply, surprisingly, repaid the toil
bestowed.

Looking at the animals which have been
domesticated we behold the practical perfec-
tion in usefulness to man which is possible
to wise-directed effort. The horse, ox, boar,
wolf, tiger-family cat, are now the friends of
man, though reflecting very often in their
dispositions the disposition of their master.
The camel and elephant readily yield to the
service of man. The sacred alligators, kept
from being provoked by the wanton cruelty
of man, never attack. Lions and tigers have
yielded to the will of men, and travelers
unite in declaring that the most powerful
beasts observe an honorable truce until it is
broken by the murdering desire of men.
Surely these things more than hint of a pos-
sible dominion of man over the animate
world. The legend of Orpheus enthralling
the beasts with music waits to become a
reality of blessing to the world when this
portion of man*s empire, forfeited by the fall,
is regained by the full-lived obedience of the
sons of Grod whereby they shall gain the
patience, kindliness, and skill necessary to



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112 BETTER THINGS FOR SONS OF GOD.

the reclataation of the animate world from
its unbridled rage and insatiable bloodthirs-
tiness.

If we retain in our concept of heaven the
four and twenty elders John heard sing-
ing the new song beside the throne of God,
dare we cast out the four beasts which, ac-
cording to his record, joined them in that
song? Waiving all treatment of the theme
of animal immortality, we may at least hold
that this repeated use of beasts in the descrip-
tion of beatific bliss symbolizes some tribute
by the powers of nature to the glory of God.
Nor is it too much to believe that all the sub-
human orders of creation shall reap some
benefit from the redemption of the sons of
God.

Studying the work which man has done
in restoring the lost perfection of inanimate
nature, or in cursing it still more with his
horrid vices, we see more clearly how closely
for good or evil it is chained to his own
destiny. ' ' Just as the law, in asserting the
freedom of the individual, gives to the parent
the custody of his own child, however
vicious that parent may be, so God gives to
man, in spite of the moral lapses that have



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THE WORK OF SONS OF GOD. 113

overtaken him, power over the world to
modify it for good or evil at his will. . . .
Man occupies, in relation to the inferior
creation, a position analogous to that sus-
tained by the divine Mediator to all man-
kind, and by the revelation of the glory of
Gk>d's sons the whole creation will be lifted
at last to higher beneficence and more per-
fect majesty.*' If man as the lord of nature
exercises his lordship righteously, nature is
blessed and blesses in return; if unright-
eously, nature is cursed and curses man with
scant or foul return. Nature is man's serv-
ant ; no matter how good it may be in itself,
its obedience to him harvests evil if his com-
mands have been evil. This is clearly seen
in the uses of the forces of nature which man
has discovered, concentrated, and applied to
the use of the race.

The steel which in the hand of one cleaves
the skull of a brother man, in the hand of
another cleaves the soil for his brother's sus-
tenance. The iron which in war's cannon
belches forth its blasts of death, thunders
across the rails of continents as the throb-
bing herald of good will when devoted to the
arts of peace. The dynamite which at will



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114 BETTER THINGS FOR SONS OF GOD.

of slum-bred or king-throned anarchist
mines cities, demolishes public buildings,
destroys homes, and sends human -freighted
ships to ocean's bottom, maiming children,
dismembering women, and killing thousands
in a wild chaos of blood and flame — this
mighty force, at will of others bent on bless-
ing to the race, clears Hell Gate, tunnels
mountains, cuts highways for the iron horses
and fleets of commerce, digs reservoirs for
storing the refreshment of cities, and gfives
the labor that purchases thousands of happy
homes. Electricity, seized by men with
minds inflamed for war, may deliver its bolts
of death, make possible swifter dischargfing
guns, more ready passage of the orders of
the master murderers at head of armies,
and flood the gory field with searchlight
radiance to reveal to dehumanized fiends the
hell their arts have made on earth ; but this
matchless offering of the omnipotence and
omnipresence of God to his sons on earth,
used as sons of God should use it, binds all
continents together with its thought-con-
veying currents, impels all lands to do their
best each day, conscious that all the world
shall know their doings to-morrow, bids



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THE WORK OF SONS OF GOD. 115

darkness flee, cuts space in two, increases
power a thousandfold, and in numberless
ways of cheering, helping, healing, hasten-
ing, lines the avenues of the world with the
trolleys along which God's work may speed.

Nature at her worst is kindly. Light-
nings purify. Frost deadens and heat kills
the countless disease-breeding foes of health.
Even the poisonous plants have their mis-
sion of good ; nearly all — perhaps we shall
find when knowledge fully comes, all —
poisonous plants rightly used yield a cure
for one or more of the myriad ills of man.

More completely do we see the mastery
of man in perfecting nature as we examine
the results of his persistent and intelligent
husbandry. Africa has its Sahara, Amer-
ica had her Great Desert, every State and
county has its arid and barren lands, but
these were and are simply nature's calls or
commands for man to put forth his skill and
strength in ennobling toil. God has
promised his sons that ** the wilderness and
the solitary place shall be glad for them, and
the desert shall bud and blossom as the
rose.'* The disappearance of the great
American Desert from the geographies of



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116 BETTER THINGS FOR SONS OF GOD.

our children, and the blooming of rose, and
the waving of golden grain over numberless
acres that our fathers esteemed worthless
prove God to be laboring at prophecy ful-
fillment in this nineteenth century.

Look at that wilderness ! Mr. Lazybones
and his non-expectant family would not take
a mile square of it as a gift ; yet what he
refuses Trustful Toiler accepts, and with
sweating brow clears, burns, ditches, har-
rows, seeds, and weeds, then grows large
with honest pride as the rich loam lifts a
glorious harvest to his gaze. The wilder-
ness is glad.

Behold the desert! Mile on mile it
stretches, fruitful only of death to the trav-
eler, whether beast or man. The wise look
on it and descant upon the lack of beneficent
design in nature. Sanitary commissions
declare it a menace to civilization. Capital
curses it as so much unremunerative terri-
tory its rails must traverse to bind wealth-
producing districts. One miracle it per-
forms — Congress and Legislatures are dumb
before it ! Worthless, an excrescence on the
national geography, is the universal verdict.
Now comes one of nature's noblemen. He



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THE WORK OF SONS OF GOD. 117

cuts channels by which the torrents flowing
from the melting snow of distant mountains
may wend in and out among the sandy fields,
or bores deep into the earth until the hid-
den springs are tapped and the fountains
below rush up their welcome flow ; and thus
God's great supply for nature's great need
being claimed by thought and skill of man,
flowers bloom, fruits blossom, grain ripens,
grasses grow, flocks nibble, herds graze,
gardens thrive, homes rise, cities multiply,
** the restorer of paths to dwell in ** has been
here, and civilization receives a priceless
jewel as his expression of continued inter-
est in the world. The desert has passed
away; instead there is '* a watered garden,
whose waters fail not."

This, then, is the work which groaning
nature waits to receive from the sons of
God. The earth is the Lord's. He has
given it to his children to enjoy ; not to a
few select, self-chosen, grasping groups,
but to all, and for the need of all, he has
made abundant supply. To us his children
he commits the division of his bounty ; and
much as we may reject this duty in our daily
practice we will find at the judgment's bar



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118 BETTER THINGS FOR SONS OF GOD.

that for the loving impartiality of that
division we are accountable unto him. An
English statesman has wisely said, **The
laws of nature preside over the creation of
wealth, but the heart of man over its dis-
tribution, in sympathy, justice, brother-
hood." If with considerate sympathy for
the need of all, exact justice for the rights
of the lowliest, we do not prove ourselves
the brothers of all men, no matter what
their race or color, God will disown us as
his sons. For if the love which Christ had
for all is not in us we are not the brethren
of the Nazarene, and if we are not brothers
of Christ we are not God*s sons, and the
future has no hope for us, and when hope
dies in us hope dies for the world.

Second, Man waits to be perfected through
his redemption from barbarism by a brother-
hood that shall repeat for the good of all the
race the sacrifices offered by God's sons in the
past, A brotherhood must be formed that
will be content to inclose and love not one
soul less than Christ loved.

The first great act in this perfecting of
man was that manifested in Abraham's
obedience to the call of God to come out



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THE WORK OF SONS OF GOD. 119

from among the unclean of his day and
father that peculiar people who would be
zealous of good works. Irksome and un-
satisfying was the task, for Lot was unsac-
rificing, Sarah barren of seed and of grace,
and Ishmael a thorn in the old hero's flesh.
Yet in and through this man, who, for the
good that was to come to those unborn,
turned his back on Ur and kindred, God
began the work on which he is to this day
engaged. The people were as yet only in
the thought of God, but the ** father** was
commissioned, and the new race within the
race begun. Moses found the people pe-
culiar in that they were a mob of slaves.
As the Israelites stood on the farther shore
of the Red Sea, saved by God from engulfing
waves and Pharaoh's warriors, they were
without either civil or moral law; a mob
awaiting nationality and order, religion and
morality. As a mob they were typical of the
great soul-hungry masses that herd to-day in
the moral jungles of our cities, the neglected
back districts of every rural neighborhood,
and of those larger, more needy masses that,
in Asia, Africa, and the islands of the sea,
bow the knee to gods as unhearing as Baal.



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120 BETTER THINGS FOR SONS OF GOD.

The commands God gave to that mob he
gives to all mobs. The truth he revealed
to them he revealed for all, and he waits
on the consecration of the children of to-
day to commission a Moses, and the Aarons
and the Miriams and the Joshuas necessary
to the completion of his eternal work.
Israel knew not God, no more do these
morally destitute ones to-day. That God
is they must be taught, that what he would
have them be and do may be learned by
them. This was the one truth possessed by
the mob as they stood singing with Miriam
when Egypt's dark waters had drowned the
host of Pharaoh. God was. This Moses
declared, for '* I am that I am'' had sent
him. God loved them. He proved this
by the miracles that made them free and by
the overwhelming destruction of their selfish
oppressors. They must love God, - Grati-
tude was already writing this truth on mind
and heart. But beyond this was a pall of
black ignorance they could not pierce. God
was; but what was God like? They could
only learn what God was like by learning
what God liked. What did God want them
to be? This only God himself could tell.



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THE WORK OF SONS OF GOD. 121

Therefore it was that Sinai made its revela-
tion, and the wilderness experience in the
hard school that opened many graves taught
them that when God spake he must be
obeyed. The wilderness school was a
kindergarten. God made no attempt to
answer their mind g^opings as to what he
was like until they had at least feebly
grasped what they were to be like; this
learned, he declared that the beauties he
desired to behold in them were only the
beauties which in perfectness existed in
himself. This remains the desire of God
for all men to this day.

The three great demands which God
through the law made of that mob were
purity of life, worship through sacrifice,
and individual and national uprightness in
all their dealings with others. To learn
how to teach these truths Moses communed
with Crod as friend with friend. To give a
home to the learning nation Joshua con-
quered Canaan. That the well-being of all
was affected by the acts of each was em-
phasized by Achan's covetous folly and ter-
rible death. God's refusal to condone the
wrongdoing of those in official position



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122 BETTER THINGS FOR SONS OF GOD.

caused the chastisement of Eli, Saul, and
many of the kings. That the truth of this
progressive revelation of the will of God
might be kept bright in the minds and
loved in the hearts of all Abraham's seed,
David sang, Solomon wrote wisdom, Elijah
thundered, Elisha wrought wonders, Isa-
iah prophesied, Jeremiah wept, Ezekiel
dreamed, and Daniel governed. That they
failed in holding the mass true to these
teachings is less proof of their failure than
the slums of American cities, the submerged
tenth of England, and the vile immorality
of the French middle classes are of the
failure of Christianity. To the same work
on which these mighty ones toiled, Peter,
John, Paul, and the college of apostles,
with James, Barnabas, ApoUos, and the
fathers of the early centuries, consecrated
their lives. To continue this sacrifice for
the uplift of humanity those whose lives are
the only gleams of radiance shining through
the gloom of the Dark Ages labored, prayed,
and died. The Reformation was simply a
new exodus into a new Canaan and the pre-
cursor of the political revolutions which for
two centuries have followed one another



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THE WORK OF SONS OF GOD. 123

with almost too great a speed, re-shaping
the laws of all nations as regards the rights
of the common people. This onward march
of the race toward holiness, true worship,
and human brotherhood halts not in our
day. ** Speak to the people, that they go
forward ** is still the command that rings
from the heights. We must step into line
and keep step with the march, no matter
how great the obstacles, regardless of the
sacrifice, and continue the progress up the
steeps toward the consummation that is in
the thought of God when a perfected race
shall do God's will on earth, even as it is
done in heaven.

The law by which man has been governed
has made great advances, but even the law
needs to be born again into a full expression
of the will of Christ for the present and
coming generations. The end of the He-
brew law was the purification of the indi-
vidual and his preparation for government.
The end of the Roman law was the ag-
grandizement of the State, for which the in-
dividuals existed. The end of Anglo-Saxon
law is the protection of the individual and
his right to a voice in the government by



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124 BETTER THINGS FOR SONS OF GOD.

which he is ruled. These all wait to be
merged in the law of Christ, whose end is
the redemption of the individual, the gov-
ernment, and the State from the anarchy of
selfishness outgrowing from the inherent
weakness and partiality of all these other
systems ; under this Christ law the purified
and practically perfected individuals will
constitute a Christian State, existing to do
the will of God, governing the people in
righteousness and equity through their asso-
ciation in a true world-wide brotherhood.
Only as men are purified and perfected
through the redemption of Christ and the
indwelling of the Holy Ghost, only as they
become temples of God are they fitted for
government. Only as government sits at
Jesus's feet and learns its duty in the sociali-
zation of men in justice and sacrifice, rather
than in their individualization in selfishness
and the exploitation of the weaker, does it
rise to the dignity of a Christian govern-
ment. Only as the Christian State obeys
the Lamb — not lion — who sits on the great
throne as King of kings, and rules as God
would have it rule, does it rule for eternity
and merit the benediction of Jehovah.



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THE WORK OF SONS OF GOD. 125

If we are to perfect the race we must rise
to a full conception of the fact, and the
duties arising from the fact, that there is
but one race in the world. Every man
who lives, be he saloon keeper or preacher,
king or slave, dwelling in ice hut of Green-
land or palace of Germany, in jungle of
Africa or on river boat of China, is our
brother. Every woman who breathes,
whether prostitute or princess, dancing half
nude in the ballroom or toiling entirely
nude in the tropics, glorious with the
beauty of purity or foul with the sin of
sins, free in Christendom or bound in
paganism — all these are our sisters. By
command of God we are our brother's and
our sister's keeper. The race has but one
Father, and he is the Father of the Christ in
whom the whole world is to be bound to
the heart of God. Not for one land or
tribe, or family, but for the entire race was
the Nazarene lifted up ; to all men came his
revelation of the love of God, and all to
whom he addressed that message are capa-
ble of knowing God and being transformed
into his image. From this race we cannot
isolate ourselves, and its wrongs and woes
9



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126 BETTER THINGS FOR SONS OF GOD.

we must all suffer. Therefore it is that we
must cast out evil wherever found, and
sacrifice ourselves for the redemption even
of those who have no mercy on themselves.

Would you be encouraged for this work?
Then study the history of our own century.
Follow that hero and his sacrificing wife,
who, with life in one hand and Gk)spel in
the other, march out of civilization into the
barbarism of the Cree Indians of British
America, find degradation indescribable
and savagery rampant. Can these human
beasts be lifted up ? Is not the only good
Indian a dead Indian ? Twenty years give
the answer in degradation vanished and
holiness flaming with fervor. Ignorance
has passed away, and educated sons of God
are masters of waving harvests, lords of
happy homes, patterns of Christian nobility,
saints praising God in a score of Christian
churches.

Go with that little band who set foot on
the Hawaiian Islands in 1819. God has
wondrously prepared for their coming. A
strange revolution has within a year de-
stroyed idols and temples, abolished the
priesthood, and made an end of human



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THE WORK OF SONS OF GOD. 127

sacrifices. King and chiefs own all the
land, and the people, a horde of half naked,
drunken savages, living in surf and sand,
eating raw fish, always fighting, and
abandoned to sensuality, are their slaves.
They have no written language, law, or
courts, nor any conception of their worth.
Yet in forty years this moral desert is
abloom with righteousness. The whole
people are educated, ethically and industri-
ally, and their language preserved in a trans-
lation of the Book of Books. In the schools
native teachers press the work until a larger
proportion of the natives can read and write
than can do the same in New England.
Godliness reigns, and the foundation is laid
for that temporal prosperity which made
possible the present contest for their annex-
ation to the United States.

Look at the Society Islands in 1823.
Even as coral reefs belted many of the
islands with their crimson walls on which
the waves dashed only to froth and foam in
vanquished might, so morally the islands
seemed belted with superstition and idola-
try, past which religion could not go. The
idea of God seemed lost, if ever possessed.



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128 BETTER THINGS FOR SONS OF GOD.

Every man's hand was lifted against his
neighbor. Licentiousness was king; war
was perpetual and to the death; women
were killed lest they should become the
mothers of warriors; children, hooked by
the ears on spears, were led as offerings to
the rude temples; skulls of the defeated
beaten in, the brain spread on breadfruit
leaves and oflFered to the gods. To crown
all cannibalism spread its feasts of human
flesh. Can such wretches become Christ-
like ? Dare you, O Christian, in love with
ease and propriety, count these as your
brethren ? Yet to these came John Williams,
apostle to the South Seas. God preserved
his life. In two years the natives were
tamed, teachable, kind, and diligent. Con-
verts came, and then rowed from isle to
isle to tell the story of Jesus. In 1827, at
Ranatonga, a vast concourse gathered,
marching with their idols to lay them down
at Williams's feet. Fourteen great idols, the
smallest fifteen feet in length, were put
away that day. Still onward went the
transforming work. Chapels were built,
spears which had been used for war now
formed pulpit balustrades, wooden idols



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THE WORK OF SONS OF GOD. 129

served as props for roofs of sheds and
barns. The whole population had become
new creatures in Christ Jesus, and when in
1834, eleven years after the work com-
menced, Williams left the island, he could
say, ** I found them all heathen, I leave them
all professing Christians," and the Bishop
of Ripon could justly exclaim as he laid
down the story of Williams's life, ** I have
been reading the twenty-ninth chapter of
the Acts of the Apostles."

So you may continue the story of God's
mighty work through men in uplifting
those created in his image into a moral
likeness to himself.

Jerry McAuley, become the prisoner of
Jesus Christ, garners a blessed harvest in
New York. Shaftesbury goes out from
the House of Lords to spend his nights in
London slums, loving hundreds back to
manhood and honest labor, to womanhood
and virtue. McAU, with three words, ** God
loves you," begins the work that spreading
from the gay capital through all France,
rescues thousands from lives of shame.
Catherine Booth, with arms about the neck
of the vilest, awakens a love long dead, and



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Online LibraryGeorge T LemmonBetter things for sons of God → online text (page 6 of 9)