Imágenes de páginas

only be understood empirically by means of the moral selfconsciousness.” (Planting and Training of the Church, book 6, chap. 1, note.)

I have thought it important thus to insist on the freedom of the will and the reasonless nature of guilt, as showing that man may be really guilty and bad. This alone, of course, does not prove any man radically bad, since one may, perhaps, repent of little sins, and reform himself into entire goodness. Yet the reasonless nature of guilt shows that it may not so be. He who acts foolishly, lawlessly, madly in a small matter, may do the same in things of weightier moment. He that is unjust in that which is least may also be unjust in much. Nay, as physical disorder tends to further and utter derangement, so the human will forsaking the law of reason may gain fresh impulse away from the true good, and end in final and utter abandonment, in the darkness of un-reason which it has freely entered.

I will here remark that while I am glad to hear my Universalist friends speak of charity and forgiveness, and doubt not they cherish a real feeling of good will toward all, yet a very common theory pressed to its consistent results would destroy the very idea of charity and forgiveness. If no man acts against known duty or interest, if all are doing precisely according to their best light and knowledge, then what place for charity or pardon? One who is conscious of having done the best he knew or could, does not ask forgiveness, nor thank one for the offer of it. And if it is further said that men do wrong only under the influence of passion or of strong temptation, the question recurs, Do they act with good conscience ? and, Can they not resist and conquer their foes, the evil passions ? If they can not, they need no pardon, for they are simply victims. If they can do better, their guilt remains; and while we should forgive until the seventy times seven, it should be with some fear that the actual and, in its measure, reasonless and excuseless guilt inay continue and subvert the soul. But let us never speak of forgiveness under a theory that leaves nothing to be forgiven.

2. The nature of genuine moral virtue is such that we should not hastily conclude that all men possess it, even in slight measure. Virtue is something more than prudence, or a regard for one's interest. It is true that duty and interest ever coincide ; neither can properly interfere with the other. Honesty is ever the best policy. Yet it has been well said that he who is honest from policy is not an honest man.

To do a certain act because it is prudent and profitable, and to do the same act because it is right, generous and noble, are two very different things. Though all that is really virtuous is also really prudent, still here are two kinds of motive totally different. The two planes are indeed exactly parallel, and the figures are equal ard similar; yet he who moves in one plane may have no sympathy whatever with him that moves in the other. The two persons are of different aims, and may therefore reach different moral results, and destinies.

The nature of virtue as something more than prudence may be observed in various relations, and illustrated in various ways. The man of prudent expediency is apt to be selfseeking and selfish. The man of principle regards what is right — for others no less than for himself. One makes self the centre about which his life revolves; and the other looks to what is just and good for all. One is devoted supremely to his own interests; the other is benevolent, devoted to the wel. fare of those around. One is seeking to gratify himself; the other is self-sacrificing, self-denying. The friendships of the one class are friendships of convenience, — they love those that love them, as publicans and sinners may do; the other class make all men their neighbors, and give not expecting to receive again. The former are almost sure to fall before temptation, because selfishness is ever short-sighted and blind and weak; the latter endure trial because they are settled in principles of duty, as upon a rock.

Here we may urge that the scripture doctrine of conversion contains an important principle, and that the change from selfishness to benevolence is most radical, and beyond the power of any prudential consideration. “ He that saveth his life shall

lose it." “If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters, yea, and his life also, he can not be my disciple.” Self-denial, or the foregoing of pleasure and even of the favor of friends and kindred, out of regard for him who was

“ full of


and truth," is made the condition of acceptance with God. Such is the high style of virtue which he requires. But self-denial is, in the very idea of it, beyond the power of self-love. No self-seeking can help in this matter of self-forgetting. If this is not the sole work of a higher power, lifting man up and out of his selfishness with his free consent, it is at least the work of a higher nature than any mere regard, however far-seeing, to one's own interest. And this seems to me to cut off one very common argument of the Universalist, i.e., that the vicious and abandoned will and must become virtuous when they find that this is for their interest. I answer, the habit of self-interestedness is just what makes the case of many so helpless and hopeless. They are slaves to self, "lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.” This is their bondage, and they can not be emancipated by any proclamation how they may serve themselves better. Prudential maxims may lengthen their chain, but they can not break it; a wiser policy may let out their tether, and give them a wider range of selfservice, but it can not make them truly free. It can not make them unselfish, or give them a generous and hearty interest in the well-being of others, or a self-sacrificing joy in that which is noble and true. Such a freedom comes from the Deliverer, the Jesus who came to save his people from their sins.

But to break away from this self-love requires some struggle and effort, and it may be refused as an intolerable hardship. Here is a most alluring bondage from which we are not sure that all will escape. True it is that when one is devoted from self to the general good, he has an interest in that wherein he takes an interest, so that “all things are his,” and he has gained the true riches, the unsearchable and inexhaustible wealth of God's domain. But no self-love can grasp that priceless pearl. And because the neglected duty of regard for others brings an

accusing conscience, the duty itself may be hated. I can not otherwise explain the dislike which Alcibiades had for Socrates, when he “ wished that he were no longer to be seen among men,” apparently because, while Socrates was doubtless his true friend and well-wisher, he wished to dissuade him from a low but fond demagogueism, and make him a nobler and truer man. I can not otherwise explain the conduct of the man who ostracized the Athenian whom no man could accuse, because he could not bear to hear him perpetually called “ Aristides the Just.” I can not otherwise explain the open scoffing at the idea of moral principle, of which we heard a little in political life a few years since, when many whose sincerity was not questioned were reproached as a conscience men.” not otherwise explain the feeling of the Scribes and Pharisees, of whom Christ said, “ Ye have both seen and hated both me and my Father;” a signal instance of cherished malignity, which seems to preclude the notion that all sin grows out of ignorance or misconception, or that all will do better when they know better.

For some further suggestions under this and the following heads, I will refer to Dr. Bushnell's argument on “ The Fact of Sin,” in his work on “ Nature and the Supernatural.” The most thorough discussion of the whole subject is found, I think, in Müller's “ Christian Doctrine of Sin.”

3. The extended history of wickedness among men, often in most flagrant forms, gives some reason to fear that there may be radically bad individuals, finally unsaved. I wish here not to be misunderstood. I am not of the croaking school of philosophers, who say deliberately and habitually what David said in haste, that “all men are liars.” It is indeed a significant fact that multitudes have doubted whether there be any disinterested benevolence or virtue in the world. The famous maxims of Rochefoucault are based on this denial. And we know how many have re-asserted that of the British states

Every man has his price.” Almost in the same tone has Jeremiah said, “ The heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately weak” (Heb. enosh), i.e., our hopes of


man :

human nature are often wofully disappointed. But, while I doubt the conversion of the world into a church, I am not given to jeremiads. I do not believe that the history of the world has been mainly a catalogue of hatreds, vices, and crimes. I doubt not the vast majority of all men's outward acts have been good rather than bad. It must have been so. Society could not subsist for a single week if it were otherwise. Fallen as mankind are, they are not so lost to self-love that they should destroy themselves in a trice. And better than this self-love or prudence — there are many natural sentiments of the human heart that produce much agreeable and amiable deportment and feeling. But it still remains true that man shows too bad a history for an unfallen race a race of which every individual has retained the remnant of saving virtue, as a “good in all.” For argument's sake we may regard as hyperbole the strong language in Genesis: “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of his thoughts was only evil, continually.” And we may say the same of Paul's account in the first chapter of Romans: “ And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all uprighteousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful; who knowing the judgment of God, that they who commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” But if this be hyperbole, it is not confined to inspired men, writing in the interest of a humbling doctrine of man's nature. A heathen writer of the first century says of Rome : “ All is full of criminality and vice; indeed much more of these is committed than could be remedied by force. A monstrous contest of abandoned wickedness is carried on. The lust of sin increases daily, and shame is daily more and more extinguished. Discarding respect for all that is good and sacred,

« AnteriorContinuar »