Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

lust rushes on wherever it will. Vice no longer hides itself. It stalks forth before all eyes. So public has abandoned wickedness become and so openly does it flame up in the minds of all, that innocence is not only a rare thing, but has wholly ceased to exist.” * Add to this dark picture of an age of corruption and vice the wars of aggression in all ages, and of conquest without even the paltry pretence of “extending the area of freedom”- too often for a French or Napoleonic love of “glory;” add the intrigues, lusts, rapines, and murders of all times, including the finest portions and palmiest days of Christendom; the revival of the slave-trade in the noon of the nineteenth century, uncondemned by the courts of “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” and with the augmented horrors of a “middle passage” under the vigilance of a frowning world; add the developments of border-ruffianism, in Congress and out of it, scorning reason and truth to carry a purpose of oppressive and lustful conquest; add the recklessness of a perverse nature that so often utters the maxims: “rule or ruin,” and “after us the deluge;” and from such historic data what shall we infer? Shall we say that all this badness is only a lowering of the general tone of morals, which yet spares the inmost integrity of each individual of the race? Shall we say that the evil infests society, and pervades the mass, injuring fatally no single member? The wide differences of character that have been ever observed, oppose this view. The distinctions of good men and bad men have not been regarded as mere differences in degree, but distinctions radical; and though they may have been sometimes made by false tests and standards, yet wherever there has been enough of moral truth for a true and just standard, the same distinctions have been made none the less. Here is a very strong presumption that, as many seem far more bad than good, so as to be commonly reckoned on the whole bad, the badness which is so large in the aggregate may in some individuals be more concentrated, so as radically to affect and determine the character.

* Seneca, De Irâ, l. 2 c. 8. Compare Livy's Preface.

4. Various examples, I think, confirm our fears that some men are hopelessly bad. And I shall not seek my examples among the lower classes of men, so often given over as past saving, or as not worth saving, by the élite of society. Here is one of the great corruptions that Christ came to rebuke, the “ respect of persons” or of outward apppearances and advantages, which often make men really worse instead of better. Akin to this is the common condemnation of men because ignorant, sceptical, or unorthodox. So the Pharisees said: “This people that know not the law are accursed.” And in modern times the term “ miscreant has

grown out of the same feeling that no man could be worse than a misbeliever ; for that is the meaning of the reproachful word. The mission of Christ, who made himself the “ friend of publicans and sinners,” was in part to condemn this false and pernicious method of judgment.

Here it may be urged that Christ extended his charity to all classes. “ Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” was his dying prayer. But it may be fairly questioned whether the prime instigators and contrivers of his death were included in this petition of mercy.

The account occurs in Luke xxii: 33, 34: “ And when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors; one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then said Jesus, Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."

This condonation may apply only to the Romans, who were the instruments employed by those who plotted his death, and to others who might fairly plead some excuse of ig

Luke tells us in the next verse, with two intervening statements, that “the rulers derided him ;” and though Christ felt no resentment or revenge, we can not, in a strict interpretation of the passage, make the act of pardon cover the argument of my opponent. Especially is this view discouraged by what Christ had before said to the class in question, “ Ye have both seen and hated both me and my Father;” and on another occassion, “ If ye were blind, ye should have no sin ; but now ye say, We see ; therefore your sin remaineth.” With

norance.

which agrees that of John, “ There is a sin unto death ; I say not that

ye
shall
pray

for it." For examples of apparently bad men, then, I will name:

(1.) Balaam. This man, who had very important gifts of prophecy, seems after all to have had none of that charity or holy love without which one is nothing. He is preëminently an instance—and as such Bishop Butler has wisely selected him - of the power of man to act wickedly, against the fullest conviction both of duty and of interest. He was well persuaded that Jehovah was the true God, and that one's highest welfare, if not the only salvation, was in his favor. “Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel.” (Num. xxiii: 23.) “ There shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.” (xxiv: 17.) “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." (xxiii: 10.) Such were his utterances in the rapture of the prophetic spirit. Yet this same man, for filthy lucre's sake, contrived a plan by which he should seduce the Israelites into idolatry with its usual vices, so he might feel warranted in pronouncing upon them the curse which Balak craved. If it be said that he did this in the confidence that nothing could harm the Israelites, - as some have excused the treason of Judas against Jesus, must consider that after the seduction was accomplished and the curse pronounced, and twenty-four thousand of the Israelites had perished, he joined the army of Balak to meet their attack. If he expected Balak would conquer, he accepted the bribe and repeated the guilt which procured it. If he expected the Israelites to conquer, he gave up all hope of dying the death of righteous people, or of interest in their inheritance. In either case, we do not wonder that the Jews regarded him as a thoroughly bad man, and that the early Christians called the sin of simony after his odious name.

(2.) Nero. This emperor of Rome, in the earlier part of his government, was restrained by the counsels of Seneca, and seemed likely to disappoint the gloomy expectations of the

then we

people. But he soon entered upon a career of infamous lust and crime. His mother, wife, and many other relatives, were put to death by him. Seneca was sacrificed to his jealousy. Tacitus remarks that, after the murder of many illustrious personages, he manifested a desire of extirpating virtue itself.

Suetonius asserts positively that the burning of Rome that occurred in his reign was by his command. Tacitus thinks it uncertain whether this was by his order, or by accident; he says, however, that all Nero's efforts failed to quiet the general suspicion that he fired the city, and for this reason he charged the crime upon the Christians. There is no doubt that during the conflagration he sung the Fall of Troy to the music of the lyre, looking upon the scene from a tower.

Niebuhr regards this as simply showing that Nero was mad, though he says that after the murder of Agrippina he “abandoned himself more and more to bloodshed, and delighted in it.” Admitting that he was insane, the question still remains * whether moral causes did not mainly produce his insanity ; for all his derangement was apparently moral rather than mental. And if so, what proof have we that such a morbid condition, such disease of the soul, might not end in its proper

death? I have met another solution of the rational difficulties in the way of Nero's salvation. A Universalist to whom I mentioned his playing while Rome was burning, thought that was rather a hopeful feature of the case. For Shakspeare has said :

The man that hath no music in himself,

Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.”

But Nero was evidently no such man, for he could sing. « So much the worse," said I, “ for the common opinion is that he played the lyre just because Rome was burning.” My friend was not so sure of that, and thought that as we all need charity we should have a little for Nero. This seemed to me like stretching the veil of charity to meet a case and cover a theory

until it was rent. The question remains: Was Nero so unmoved by the calamities of half the people, that he could enjoy

name.

the poetry of their blazing homes? If so, was he radically good or bad?

(3.) Cæsar Borgia. Ranke says of this ambitious son of Pope Alexander VI., “ He had caused his brother, who stood in his way, to be murdered and thrown into the Tiber. His brother was attacked and stabbed on the steps of the palace by his orders. The wounded man was nursed by his wife and sisters ; the sister cooked his food, in order to secure him from poison, and the Pope set a guard before his house to protect his son-in-law from his son—precautions which Cæsar derided. He said, “What is not done by noon, may be done by evening.' When the prince was recovering from his wounds, Cæsar burst into his chamber, drove out the wife and sister, called an executioner, and ordered the unfortunate prince to be strangled. ... He killed Peroto, Alexander's favorite, while clinging to his patron and sheltered by the pontifical mantle. The Pope's face was sprinkled with blood. . . . Rome trembled at his

Cæsar wanted money and had enemies; every night murdered bodies were found in the streets. Men lived in seclusion and silence; there was none who did not fear that his turn would come. Those whom force could not reach were taken off by poison."

There were, if possible, greater abominations than these." The record of them is cited by Gordon in his lives of the father and the son, in modest Latin which may satiate the curious.

(4.) Colonel Francis Chartres. 6 Of immense wealth and of aristocratic connection, every effort was turned to the gratification of animal passion. Even in his old age, his body burned to a cinder, the fire of passion continued unabated. Utterly impotent in body, he pursued the shadow of the same lusts with the same energy with which he had pursued their substance.” He was executed in the year 1730, at the age of seventy, for an attempt at rape. The following epitaph was written by Dr. Arbuthnot ::

“ Here continueth to rot the body of Francis Chartres, who,

« AnteriorContinuar »