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crease and become inflamed and imperious! How does it rob the man of the desire for that which is nutritious and healthful, and bind him and goad him as a very slave to its own gratification! How does it corrupt and disorder his whole physical being, and harden his heart also, and deaden all the finer sensibilities of his nature! How does it reach out also in its retributions and destroy for him all the blessedness and prosperity of home, and rob him of the respect of his fellowmen, and of his self-respect as well! How does it isolate and imprison him, and torture and destroy him! He becomes an Ishmaelite. Every man's hand is turned against him, as though war were declared against him. Men who want service, and are willing to pay for it, advertise that for him they have no use. The great corporations boycott him in advance. And how do all who are associated with him suffer also because of him! The man and the woman who sin against the law of the family-how do nature and mankind together conspire to poison and despise and repudiate them! With what awful severity are those treated first or last who are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God!
And the internal smitings are as severe as the external, and harder even to bear,—the goadings of conscience, the stings of remorse, the sense of degradation, the inflamed and heated imaginations, the struggles and hopings and despairings! There is a severity in sin, and a bitterness in its fruits, which here and now are awful. Escape from life offers no relief; for escape from life here is not escape from self, nor from moral beings like ourselves, nor from God.
And this divine severity with respect to individuals in given conditions is only representative, as we know, of the severity of God with respect to groups of individuals organized in societies and nations where like conditions exist.
We look to India as it was, and as to a great extent it
still is. There caste is to be found, and infanticide, and child-marriage, and wife-burning, and the nameless horrors and sufferings attendant upon the really religious life of that · people. Why all these horrors? The answer is to be found in the fact of error in the spirit and truth and form of their religion. And into this error, for the most part, the people were born. They know no better. Is not God severe upon religious error, even that which is the result of ignorance? The very worst forms of heathenism, cannibalism itself even as we are told, have a religious foundation and significance. It is the judgment of God upon falsehood in religion.
We look to Turkey. That country ought to be one of the most fertile and prosperous of the nations of the earth. Its people ought to dwell together in unity and in peace. Why is it barren and waste? Why does the blood of the thousands of the massacred cry to God unavenged from the ground, and the orphaned mourn without hope for their martyred parents? What a position of ignominy and abhorrence does Turkey occupy among the nations of the earth! Spain is hardly behind Mohammedan Turkey. Why are her colonies east and west in rebellion, her peoples rent in warring factions, and her wealth squandered to bankruptcy? Why have these United States been driven to break the friendly relations of generations, to arm to the teeth, spend wealth in warships and in the equipment of armies, and give of her sons for the conflict which is waging? All these things come because of offenses. There has been a false or merely formal religion, the practical denial of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, a petty and puerile pride, the selfish seeking of personal and dynastic ends instead of the enlightenment and elevation and blessing of the people. And certain it is that on such things, and on such peoples, God is hard. He is a consuming fire. There is such a thing as the
wrath of God. There is such a thing as the drinking of the wine of the wrath of God.
When we magnify, as we should, the love of God, let us not forget that these are facts of appalling significance. They are not mere figures of speech. And all of the ills and evils which come as consequences of human acts, are they not of the same character,-revelations of the severity of God?
I know that this fact of severity is one that we dislike to connect with our thought of God, and that there are many who are accustomed to deny that God has anything to do with these withholdings and inflictions. With the woe of intemperance and immorality, and with the riot and wreck of war, it is said that God has nothing to do. All these are but the outcome of the wickedness of men. And there is truth in the disclaimer. These ills do not come from God without the agency of men. Men do produce the conditions; but when men have produced the conditions, God, working through the laws and forces which he has ordained, produces the results. It is divinely ordered that if men will cut themselves off from the vine they shall wither as branches and be consumed. stinct with the presence and power of tory results cannot be apart from him. pression of his judgment of those who, by what they are and by what they do, are guilty of the offenses which provoke the retributions. They are the revelations of God in and through the laws which he has established as the laws. of life. By his judgments God gives expression to the honor in which he holds his own laws, and to the abhorrence in which he holds those who violate them. Such retributions are not less the work of God because they are inflicted automatically, through the operations of the violated laws themselves. The man who plans and sets his torpedo so that his enemy's ship shall strike it and
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be sunk by it while he is at a distance, is as truly the destroyer of the vessel as though the work were done by his own hand. It is done by his mind and skill and purpose. So also it is with these retributions which seem to us to be merely natural. They are inflicted because God in his wisdom and skill has so made this world and us who live in it that when the conditions are realized the blow of retribution falls according to his purpose.
But, turning to the side of the divine goodness, let us ask ourselves if we would be willing, all things considered, to have our heavenly Father any less severe than he is? Were the order of things in this world to be so changed that these withholdings and inflictions and retributions could never be suffered by mankind under any conditions, could we regard it as an evidence of the divine goodness?
Doubtless our first impulse is to answer, "yes," to this question. But a moment's reflection will show that severity is shown only under certain conditions. What are those conditions? Conditions of the violation of the laws of our being, which are the laws of God, always. It is transgression upon the track of which retribution follows. Obedience never brings woe, but always blessing. Would we have it otherwise? Would it please us to have a condition of things in which it would be equally well with us whatever we might be or do,—however carefully we might keep, or flagrantly we might break, the laws of our being? Would we like to have bodies which would be affected alike by foods and poisons; minds which would never cause us to suffer because of ignorance; consciences which would never rebuke our wrong-doing; social conditions in which infidelity and hatred would have no other effect than do fidelity and love; and souls to which it would be all the same whether God is supreme with us or repudiated altogether?
If this is our desire, it becomes us to ask ourselves what
kind of persons we really wish to be. Certainly we do not wish to be the moral and social beings that we now are. We do not wish to be beings with the powers and possibilities which we now possess. But we must wish to be something very different and less,-mollusks or sponges or beings inconceivable and impossible, instead of sons and daughters of God. On the other hand, is it not true that the highest conceivable blessing, both for this world and for the world to come, is for us to be just what we are made to be when we obey in spirit and act the laws of our being? What better thing is there for us in this life of the flesh than that which comes when we are fed with the food that is convenient for us, delivered from the peril and bondage and suffering of poisons and narcotics, and permitted to enjoy the fullness of health and vigor?
In the possibilities of the social life, what is there better than these relations and ties and institutions which God has ordained, and in which heart is united to heart, and life to life, in fidelity and love? The suffering of the innocent because of the guilty, which seems so hard and almost unjust,-how manifestly is it due to the fact of just that strength and solidarity and tenderness of the social relations which make supreme social blessedness possible where there is obedience to the laws of righteousness and love! And in all the broader relations of men is there anything better conceivable than that which would be realized were the Golden Rule to become the practical rule of life for individuals and nations? Where then would there be the possibility of war? What marvelous possibilities of peace and universal prosperity would be opened up!
Then, as the life and inspiration of all, let there be obedience to the simple law of the religious life,-love supreme to God as revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord. Is there anything better conceivable for such beings as are we, and in such a world as this, than is thus offered? But