Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

temper is worldly; they are devoid of what are called graces except as mere germs or chance outgrowths, and make no recognition of them as forming the substance of true character. Such men break the laws of God, and of their own nature, as really as does the drunkard, but they meet with little apparent punishment. There may be inward discomfort, pangs of conscience at times, a painful sense of wrongness, a dim sense of lack, but nothing that bears the stamp of penalty. These discomforts grow less, and at last leave the man quite at ease. The petty and inevitable troubles of life are not the punishments of such sin; they do not awaken a conviction that they proceed from sin. But the drunkard, the sluggard, the voluptuary, know that their sufferings are the penalties of their sins. These men seem to be sinning without punishment, and often infer that they do not deserve it. The reason of the difference is plain. They keep the laws that pertain to this world, and so do not come in the way of their penalties. They are temperate, and are blessed with health. They are shrewd and economical, and amass wealth. They are prudent and avoid calamities. They are worldly wise, and thus secure worldly advantages. Courteous in manners, understanding well the intricacies of life, careful in device and action, they secure the good and avoid the evil of the world. If there were no other world, they would be the wisest men, because they best obey the laws of their condition. But man covers two worlds, and he must settle with each before his destiny is decided : he may pass the judgment seat of one acquitted, but stand convicted before the other. It is as truly a law of our nature that we shall worship as that we shall eat. If one starves his body he reaps the fruit of emaciation and disease. But one may starve his soul and none remark it. This world is not the background upon which such processes appear, or they appear but dimly; but when the spiritual world is reached, this spiritual crime will show itself.

When, a half century ago, the famous Kaspar Hauser appeared in the streets of Nuremberg, having been released from a dungeon in which he had been confined from infancy, having never seen the face or heard the voice of man, nor gone without the walls of his prison, nor seen the full light of day, a distinguished lawyer in Germany wrote a legal history of the case which he entitled, “ A Crime against the Life of the Soul.” It was well named. There is something unspeakably horrible in that mysterious page of history. To exclude a child not only from the light, but from its kind; to seal up the avenues of knowledge that are open to the most degraded savage; to force back upon itself every outgoing of the nature till the poor victim becomes a mockery before its Creator, is an unmeasurable crime; it is an attempt to undo God's work. But it is no worse than the treatment some men bestow upon their own souls. If reverence is repressed, and the eternal heavens are walled out from view ; if the sense of immortality is smothered; if the spirit is not taught to clothe itself in spiritual garments, and to walk in spiritual ways: such conduct can hardly be classed except as a crime against the life of the soul.

But one thing is certain. As the poor German youth was at length thrust out into the world for which he was so unfitted, with untrained senses in a world of sense, without speech in a world of language, with a dormant mind in a world of thought, - so many go out of this world, — with no preparation in that part of their nature that will most be called into use. There the soul will be in its own realm; it will live unto itself, a spirit unto spiritual things. What darkness, what confusion, what bewilderment, what harrowing perplexity must the unspiritual soul feel when it enters the spiritual world! A spiritual air to breathe; spiritual works to do; a spiritual life to live, but the spirit impotent! If there has been absolute perversion of the moral nature here, it must assert itself there in the sharpest forms, but the natural penalty of the greater part of human sin is dark

For the greater part of sin consists in withholding from the soul what it needs; in low contentedness with this world, in refusing to look into the heavens that insphere us. This is the condemnation, that men have loved darkness. And the penalty of loving darkness, is darkness : a soul out of keeping with its condition, and therefore bewildered, dazzled by light it cannot endure, or blind from the disused sense, it matters not which ; it is equally in darkness. A true life in this world is indeed the best preparation for the world to come ; but it must not be forgotten that the chief duties in this world are spiritual, and that spiritual heavens overarch this world as well as the next.

ness.

I hope this discourse will awaken within us a living sense of the certainty of the punishment of sins here and hereafter. It is not strange that the world of thinking men reject it when it is taught as some far off, arbitrary, outside infliction by God in vindication of his government, the issue of some special sentence after special inquisition. This is unlike God, it has no analogy, no vindication in the Scriptures; it is artificial, coarse, unreasonable. It is just now the special scoff of the world, but the scoff is the echo of unreasoning words reiterated till the world was weary of them. Carry the subject over into the field of cause and effect and we find it irradiated by the double light of reason and revelation. It takes on a necessary aspect. Penalty is seen to be a natural thing, like the growing of seed. It is not a matter that God, in his sovereignty, will take up after a time, but is a part of his ever-acting law.

The question of penalty is not to be settled by yea or nay count; it cannot be set aside by a sneer of fine oratory; nor is it the pliant tool of systembuilding theology on either side; it is not a question to be settled with men, nor with revelation only, but with the order of nature, with the soul under law, with God as the author of nature and the framer of law. The pain that now attends disobedience is a proof and pledge that all broken law will reap its appropriate pain: each offense after its kind, and in its own time. It is not a matter of text or decree, but of law which is also text and decree, even all texts and all decrees.

Does any one, turning aside from the certainty and fitness of future punishment, ask how long, or how brief, are God's penalties ? — questions needless under the principles laid down. How long ? So long as sin reaps its consequences. How brief ? Not till the uttermost farthing of defrauded order and wronged justice is paid back to the ordainer of order and justice; not till the darkness-loving eyes open to the light, and the self-centered affections turn to God. Will this happen "at last — far off

- at last, to all ?” The answer is hidden in the mystery of personality. The logic of the gospel is salvation, and the secret of the universe is joy ; “SO runs my dream ;” so we read with our finite eyes, but these same eyes discern also a shadow they cannot pierce.

The worthier question is, How shall I avoid the sin? Or, having sinned, how shall I be rid of it? How shall I turn back its stream of fatal tendency, which, if not checked by some all-powerful hand, must flow on, so far as the sinner can see, forever?

« ElőzőTovább »