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"Because right is right, to follow right
Well says Bishop Watson, as quoted by Mr. Brooks in the lecture previously mentioned,
"God forbid that the search after truth should be discouraged, for fear of its consequences. The consequences of truth may be subversive of systems of superstition, but they can never be injurious to the rights or well founded expectations of the human race." And Mr. Brooks himself says, "He is saved from one of the great temptations of the ministry who goes out to his work with a clear and constant certainty that truth is always strong, no matter how weak it looks; and falsehood always weak, no matter how strong it looks."
No lie can ever be justifiable, even though it might do something to better the outward face of things. We do not believe that it can do even this, for any long time, or to any great degree; but surely it cannot regenerate the inward life, and. there can be no true salvation until this inward regeneration is accomplished. Sinners cannot be reached and influenced in such a way as to insure the most radical and permanent good results in character, until those who try to reach them renounce all fictions, and sincerely endeavor, in their teachings, not to vary one iota from the simple line of ascertained truth and fact.
The best way to make truth really effective in the lives of others, is to live it ourselves, in all relations, great and small. The best way to overcome settled unbelief, is to live daily the grand verities of the true Christian faith. The best way to demonstrate the efficacy of prayer to the satisfaction of the persistent skeptic, is to live, as only those can live, who "pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks." Are not the real evils of sin which grow out of laws whose workings we see all around us more truly awful than any diseased imagination can depict? Let the church strive to portray, more vividly and powerfully than it has ever done yet, the real hells into which sinners are plunged now, and from which there is no possible hope of escape, so long as they persist in sin. Let it teach with authority the eternal law, operative in all worlds,
that safety is synonymous with righteousness. Let it teach with divine, constraining power the absolute relentlessness of that persistent demand of Righteousness which no man can eternally evade. Any saving force is doing the best possible service when it helps a man to feel that his soul was made in the image of God, and for something infinitely better than the vileness of sin, and it retributive wretchedness.
Let the pulpit aim to arouse the dormant sentiment of worship in man by continually dwelling upon the central truth of Christianity the Fatherhood of God; thus presenting a real, an unspeakably excellent and attractive object of worship. Let the love of God be taught in its infinite comprehensiveness. Love is not a weak, fleeting sentiment. It is the great, essential, all-pervading principle or law of the universe, to which all things will bow and be conformed at last. Providence is the uniformity of divine love, working patiently under law toward universal ends of holiness and perfect peace. We speak of God as possessing many attributes; but they are all manifestations of Love. His love makes Him merciful and just and true and righteous.
It is not very long since a council of ministers met in the city of Chicago, to gravely discuss questions bearing upon the religious and moral welfare of man. After mature consideration they gave it as their judgment that present tendencies in the realm of religion are caused by a weakened sense in man of the justice of God. Are they not rather caused by a nobly strengthened and quickened sense of God's justice? God is too just to himself to rest in partial results, to rest in results which if they are final make creation an unthinkably gigantic failure. God is too just toward man to make the consequences of sin, terrible as they are, assume the form, not of punishment which from its very nature must ever consider the good of the punished, but of cruel, useless, never ceasing torment. The justice of God will give all men what they deserve. They deserve to enjoy or suffer in such way that they may be helped. to become better, to renounce sin and fulfil the holy purposes for which all men were created. Under God's providence the
sting of retribution is the work of mercy. True mercy compels man to suffer when he can only by walking in the way of suffering reach the goal of the soul's highest good-salvation from the love and guilt of sin, and reconciliation with God. According to Orthodox theology it is possible for some to escape from God's justice by accepting the merits of Jesus, who suffered in their stead, thus appeasing this justice. But what honorable, manly soul desires to escape from justice, from the suffering of that which it deserves to suffer? The justice of God is unfaltering and sure. The law of gravitation is not more so. The laws of growth, from the seed planted in fertile soil to the "full corn in the ear," are not more sure. The mother's love for her child, perhaps the best human type of a perfectly unselfish love, caring only for the good of its object, is as nothing when weighed in the balance with that love which is ever speaking through God's justice. So we say that sinners cannot be greatly moved toward righteousness of inward feeling and motive as well as outward conduct, until they come to profoundly realize these transcendent truths; until they are helped to dwell in the light of God's all-comprehending love.
It is better to preach love, than hate, that men may be touched with the spirit of gratitude and holy aspiration, not of cowering, degrading fear. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a negation nor a threat. It is a positive affirmation of universal good to be wrought out by man, with God's help. Now that our generation is escaping from the slavery of religious superstition, its great need is the influence of this positive, transforming force. It needs Christ, who came to save sinners; to work peace and good will among men and nations; to abolish caste and divisions and so direct the lines of evolution, that the future may escape the ills which afflict humanity in the present, and death be swallowed up in victory, and the Lord God wipe away tears from off all faces, and take away the rebuke of His people from off all the earth. It needs to deeply feel the old facts-facts co-ordinate with the life of humanity which no science can destroy, nor safely ignore.
It needs to feel the reality, the enormity, the folly and hazard of sin; the glory of righteousness; the beauty and blessedness of virtue. It needs to feel with Canon Farrar, "that for every sinful act which men commit, unless it is repented of, they shall hereafter, as they do now, feel the heavy and merciful wrath of God, until He has purged the vile dross from them. and made them as the fine gold for Himself." If those who earnestly desire to do God's work in the world are thus truthful, sincere and faithful; if they thus plant and water the seeds of higher truth and life, we may not justly doubt that God "will give the increase." "Good is the final goal of ill.”
As has been remarked, there are those in the world, who look for utility outside the sphere of truth. They seem to think that the wisest expediency will not permit a pressing of all the facts. They are afraid to investigate. They desire our public teachers to be silent about certain matters. They frown upon the growing scientific spirit. They fear that the grounds of faith may be destroyed. They forget that any faith which cannot stand in the light of all knowledge must be a false faith, and therefore deserves to be destroyed. Christians of this stamp may profitably study the teachings of the ancient Stoics. They believed that the highest virtue is not moved by thoughts of reward or punishment. They believed that loyalty to truth, without any regard to consequences, is the first duty of man. Dr. John Young quotes the following in explanation of the stoical philosophy:
"The highest end of life is to contemplate truth, and to obey the Eternal Reason and the immutable law of the universe. God is to be revered above all things, to be acknowledged above all events, and to be universally submitted to. Virtue is the supreme good, and is to be pursued for its own sake, not from fear, or from hope. The consciousness of well doing is reward enough without the applause or approbation of others, without even their knowledge of our good deeds. No prospect of self-indulgence, and no fear of loss, or pain, or death, must be suffered to turn us aside from truth and virtue." The Christ of History, p. 158.
Ir is a pleasing illustration of the progress that has been made in the theological thought of our times, that now the believers in the old church creeds are put on the defensive as regards nearly all their most important dogmas. Fifty years ago Orthodoxy took the offensive in the warfare of creeds, and never condescended to defend its own doctrines, but employed all its forces in attacking heresies. Its own doctrines were Orthodox, the substance of divine revelation, formulated and settled by Church Councils, believed of the saints and theologians of all ages; and it was treason to truth to admit for a moment that they needed defence - the Bible was their defence, though something might be needful in the way of explanation for the unlearned and the unbelieving.
Now all this is changed. The world has grown mightily during the last fifty years. Our schools and colleges; the enlarged study of comparative theology and philology; a more thorough understanding of the language and literature and history of the Scriptures; the growth of philosophical culture and inquiry; the immense additions to human knowledge resulting from scientific investigations; and the consequent flood of light that has been let in upon the masses of the people through newspapers, and scientific, philosophical and religious magazines, the pulpit, and public lectures, and universal talk on these themes; the great philanthropies of the age, which minister to all forms of human need and suffering; the constant Christian endeavors to encourage, lift up and save the perishing and dangerous classes, and make practical the doctrine of human brotherhood and helpfulness-all these agencies are quickening the thought of the world, and reflecting an ever fresh glory upon the character and providence of God, and his divine plan of educating, developing and perfecting mankind.
The result of all this mental and theological growth is that Orthodoxy has been slowly retreating from the ground of attack to that of defence, and is to-day more engaged in apologizing for its own dogmas? than in denouncing those of its neighbors. So great indeed has been the recoil from some of them that it is positively denied in certain 7
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