« ElőzőTovább »
reasons why there has been such revolt against the doctrine of retribution. It has been taught that men are to be condemned for original sin. One of the thirty-nine articles of the Anglican and American Churches has a clause which has often been misunderstood in favor of such teaching. “It deserveth God's wrath and damnation.” What? Not the being who has come into this inheritance of sin, but original sin itself. Certainly, God hates sin. But there came One in our nature who was without sin. He came to be the Lamb without spot, who, by the sacrifice of Himself once made, should take away the sins of the world.
Here, then, on one hand, is a universal fact, the infection of sin in every human being; and sin deserves God's wrath and damnation. On the other hand, is another fact as universal, that Christ has tasted death for every man; that He died that He might pay the penalty for every man. Does not one fact overbalance the other? If so, there can be no wrath or damnation now for the infection of our nature. Punishable sin is the conscious violation of law.
Then, in the next place, in thinking of future retribution we must always think of the large number of people who are as irresponsible as the veriest infants. They may have intelligence enough for the purposes of daily life, but no more. The religious nature, existing somewhere in every human being, finds but imperfect modes of manifestation, or is altogether hidden. We are not speaking of idiots or of the insane, but of many people who, while belonging to neither of these classes, are no more responsible than children are. We cannot think of their being consigned to penalty in the other world.
Then, as we think of future retribution, we come to the great bulk of those who have never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel—the vast multitude of the heathen. Are they all condemned for the infection of their nature, if Christ died for them? Are they all condemned for rejecting a Gospel of which they have never heard? What of the heathen, then, in the life to come? We can know very little about their future condition, except that they will be judged righteously according to a standard which they themselves must admit to be just.
Part of the perplexity with reference to the heathen arises from two errors--first, thinking of them as all equally condemned to perdition, and then thinking of eternal happiness as alike for
all the saved. Since the sacrifice of Christ, the heathen stand as all other men. They come within the merits of that sacrifice, although they are unconscious of the fact. If they are condemned, it will not be because of original sin, but because they have not lived up to their own laws.
When a correct view is taken of responsibility-responsibility according to knowledge-it relieves the doctrine of retribution considerably, inasmuch as it narrows down the number of the lost to those who consciously and wilfully reject the offer of salvation.
When, besides all this, we take a correct view of future bliss and of future woe, we find still more relief. It cannot be that all the redeemed in the future will be equally happy, and that all the lost will be equally wretched; for there are varying degrees of capacity. There must be an immeasurable distance, for example, between the saintly martyr, whose whole life was a conflict and whose death came as a happy release—an immeasurable distance between his experiences in the eternal kingdom and those of a little child, whose coming into life and whose departure hence were on the same day. There must be infinite grades of happiness there, as there must be vast differences between those who are driven into outer darkness.
And what of those who are driven from the presence of the Lord? What are their experiences? How long does their expulsion last? Is it forever and forever? Or is there some limit? If they learn obedience through their sufferings, will their sufferings end? And is there in some far-off future some final restoration, so that the last vestige of rebellion shall be removed ?
What answers shall be given to these questions? No man can answer them, except to express the hope that somehow the justice of God may be satisfied, and the sinner's rebellion cease.
But we know nothing clearly upon these points. We do know that there is retribution for sin—for sin unrepented of and unforgiven. Whether that retribution continue for one year, or for a thousand years, or for eternity, it is not material to decide. He who dies in sin passes on to be judged for the deeds done in the body. Having rejected the offers of mercy here, he must meet penalty there. The man who dies impenitent and unforgiven finds his retribution.
Judgment, like the gift of life, is immediate. It is not to be looked for only in the future. It is now. Future judgment is
no arbitrary act. It is not something which springs from laws to be set in motion hereafter. It is the working out of laws under which we are now living. If we sin wilfully now, we must suffer for it. If we pass hence with a load of unrepented and unforgiven sin, judgment must surely follow us wherever we go. But it is not a new judgment; only a continuation of a judgment begun here; something inseparable from sin. Why should we fear to speak of a judgment to come when we know that a judgment has already come? True, the present judgment is not in every instance that which brings bitter anguish, but it is just as real as if men groaned in agony. It is a separation from goodness; a loss of spiritual power; a falling below the ideal. When men's eyes are opened, they may see that the loss of what they might have been, and their degradation through sin, is indeed the visitation of penalty. Judgment consists quite largely in deprivation. Such a judgment has begun here, and it points to the awful issues of the future, when the day of earthly probation shall have ended.
GEORGE WOLFE SHINN. 54
VOL. CLXX--NO. 523.
CHARTER NEEDS OF A GREAT CITY.
BY BIRD S. COLER, COMPTROLLER OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK.
Two years of experiment with the charter of Greater New York disclosed imperfections in the original work sufficient to justify the appointment of a commission to prepare amendments; and the revision to be made, it is expected, will in the end amount to a complete reconstruction of the organic law of the consolidated city. The charter that is to be amended, or repealed by the enactment of a new one, is the work of able and experienced men, who were united in a determination to provide for the enlarged municipality which it brought into existence the best local
government that could be devised. That they failed of complete success does not detract from their ability or integrity.
A perfect charter for a great city has not yet been drawn, and in America we have not passed beyond the stage of experiment in the proper government of our larger municipalities. Much of the time of the Legislatures of a majority of the States has in recent years been occupied in the work of making and amending city charters. In many cases, notably New York, this is merely evidence of meddlesome political activity; but, on the whole, we are making progress, and intelligent public opinion has been aroused to the fact that new conditions must be met, new problems solved, and that old methods must yield to the knowledge gained by practical, and often expensive, experience. Charters and charter laws must be kept abreast of the times, must be made to conform to modern and progressive conditions in business, financial and industrial affairs, or the development of cities will be greatly retarded.
Without hesitation or fear of contradiction, I class brevity and simplicity as the chief essentials of good charters for our greater cities. Too many laws and too little public and political
honesty are directly responsible for most of the bad government that has damaged and disgraced American cities. The charter, or permit from a State government to the people of urban communities to form themselves into a corporation to take, hold, develop and operate public utilities and conduct the public business for the benefit of all citizens, should be so carefully drawn that no essential section would be susceptible of conflicting interpretations; and every right and power conveyed by the act should be stated so clearly that doubt or misunderstanding as to local authority would be impossible. Brevity and simplicity should be the rule in every section, but the duties, powers and responsibilities of all officers should be clearly defined.
In theory, the chief purpose of a city charter is to enable the citizens of a particular community to manage their public affairs, conduct their corporate business and develop their resources and public utilities in their own way, free from unnecessary restrictions or harmful interruptions by the higher power of State government. This theory is not yet a reality in any great city in the United States; and, until it is, we shall not have perfect municipal government. Today, the greatest charter need of American cities is home rule in fact rather than theory. Two governments cannot exist in a municipality without conflict. When the powers and duties of local officers have been fixed, these officers should be permitted to exercise discretion in the management of the purely business affairs of a city, the remedy of prompt removal by frequent elections remaining always in the hands of the people.
City government does not imply law-making in the general sense of the term, the duties of the corporation being confined to the protection of life and property, the preservation of the public health, the promotion of education and of public comfort. All other functions of municipal administration are limited to the management of the public business, which may be classed under the two general heads of taxation and expenditure. It is apparent, therefore, that when a State has created the machinery for city government constant tinkering with it is certain to cause perpetual confusion. The power to regulate the affairs of a municipality that is vested in local officers should not be exercised by the State, except under unusual conditions or in extraordinary circumstances. Charters must be amended from time to time, but the custom of State Legislatures making special laws for private or corporate