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cause, all on account of this paralyzing doubt and questioning.
Let me indicate in two or three directions what I mean. Take the matter of religion. People are criticising the Bible, saying that nobody knows who wrote Genesis, nobody knows by whom this or that prophecy was composed, nobody knows concerning the authorship of John, whether John. wrote it or somebody else, whether it contains the story of an eye-witness of the life and teachings of Jesus, or whether it is merely tradition, philosophizing, speculating. Since there has come this great doubt into the world concerning what once was regarded as forever settled, there has come also an equally paralyzing doubt concerning the authority of the Church, so that we can no longer believe that the decree of pope and council is the utterance of the word of God. Men have begun to question whether religion itself, which they had always associated with these beliefs, is not about to pass away, whether there is to be anything permanent in these traditions, these sentiments, these feelings, that seemed at one time to link them vitally with God, to lift their lives out of the commonplace, to put something of poetry, something of meaning, something of sublimity, into that which seems stale and flat without them. Doubt has gone so deep in regard to some of these questions that it has touched the very being of God himself. People wonder whether there is any God; if there be, where? if he be not on a throne, as we used to understand, if he be not in some special sphere, at some central part of the universe that we can call heaven, then where? If he be diffused through all space, then is not all personality gone? Can he any longer mean anything practically to us? Is he our Father? Does he care anything about me? Does he know when my heart aches? Does he know when I have lost a child or a friend? Is this a part of any plan? Are the sorrows and the tears of life merely thrown away, or do they find echoes somewhere in the thought and the heart and the purpose and the love of one strong enough to guide and save? I say people are all afloat in regard to these deepest questions of life.
Then, when we turn to more human things, they are equally uncertain in regard to questions of duty, as to what they ought to think, what they ought to believe, what they ought to attempt in their social relations.
Take as one illustration the fact that the great political parties of the country stand face to face in battle over the great principles involving the relations of this nation to all the other peoples of the world. Shall we enter into free commercial relations with other people, or shall we try to build a fence around our own country, isolating ourselves practically from the rest of the world, and live on our own resources and within our own borders? This is a great question. No wonder the ordinary thinker, the ordinary newspaper reader, is bewildered concerning it,-wise men on this side, wise men on that, men who have given years to the study of it,- more time than the ordinary reader expects to give, unless he drops his business and devotes himself entirely to it. Which way, then, shall we go in the midst of such paralyzing uncertainties? Or take it concerning the question of labor,- labor and capital at swords' points in Europe, in America, all over the world. We want to help,help lead, help lift, help make the world a better place for everybody. But how? What shall we do? Is there anything known? Here is one man who has given years of study to the subject, and he tells us that the application of the single tax as stated by Mr. Henry George is the one, certain, only way out of the difficulty. Here is another man who urges us to join some Nationalist organization, adopting the theories of the famous book of Mr. Bellamy. Here is another man who tells us that both of these are vain and foolish imaginings, and that the one next step onward and upward for the struggling laborers of the world is to establish by law eight hours as a working day. So in every direction men question. Whom shall we join? In whom shall we believe? What man shall we choose as leader? Can we accomplish anything?
Take it, again, in regard to the matter of poverty. The
poor, as the New Testament says, are always with us. Would that they might not be! We would, if it were possible, abolish poverty. We do not believe the old saying, "Blessed are the poor." We believe that a man is better if he can conquer and control his circumstances, if he can work out his freedom, so that he can have time for study, for educating his brain, for living, and not be merely tied down to the drudgery of supplying the immediate physical wants of himself and of those dependent upon him. How shall we go to work to make things better? We have tried, perhaps over and over again, I have,- to help some individual cases, and have found ourselves deceived. We have searched out some needy person, and have tried, leaving aside the great world problem, to help just that one man; and we have been cheated. He has played upon our sympathies and betrayed them. Or we have been trying to help some worthy woman, and have found that she stood in such relations with a drunken husband, whom she would not desert, that our help for her has simply resulted in feeding and supplying his personal vices. We become discouraged, our sympathies are driven back upon themselves; and we question whether it is of any use to try.
Then what? I see men who have no particular notions in regard to any of these matters, who do not care for them, who have given the problems up, who are simply engaged in their own personal affairs. They enjoy their business, they enjoy making money, they enjoy the power that the possession of money gives them. 'Here at any rate," they say, "is something real, something tangible. We do not know anything in regard to these other matters which people are discussing. Here, at any rate, is something we can do." And they give themselves up to that.
We find another effect produced on another type of man. Some man who is sensitive, who is touched by the sorrow of the world, who hears the sad music of this human sorrow, becomes despairing. He does not fall into selfishness. He could not be content in that; and yet he is discouraged and troubled, not knowing which way to turn.
Then there is another class of minds,- the people who give up the problems of life and simply turn to personal enjoyments. They say: "These things, at least, we can attain. We do not know whether we can help the world. We do not know whether there is any plan about the world. We look down the past, and see nations and civilizations rising and sinking like waves in a far-off sea. We do not know what the end is to be, but present enjoyment at least we can indulge in." And so they give their lives to that.
This great disease, then, of uncertainty is the thing that you and I, as we look out over this coming year, need to be cured of, it may be, so that we may fix our eyes on some definite goal, may feel our hearts fired by some grand purpose, may join hands with each other for the attainment of some noble end.
That we may not be troubled over-much by this fact of uncertainty that I have noted, I want to ask you for a moment to consider the cause of it, that we may see there is not so much occasion for discouragement as at first might appear. Only a few years ago there was no occasion for this uncertainty. People knew, or said they did, and thought they did, all about the origin, the development, and the destiny of this world. They had clearly thought out in their minds, had taught to them as children, preached to them from the pulpit week after week, year after year, a certain definite scheme of things which they did not doubt. The great majority of men had no question as to the general truth of the scheme of things that was presented to them. They knew, for example, that there were three persons in the Godhead, and that these three lived in a past eternity, finding complete and perfect satisfaction in this sort of association with each other for uncounted ages before the world was. They knew that at a definite point of time, only a few thousands of years ago, on account of a revolt in heaven, a certain number of fallen angels had been cast down into the new-created pit, and that God had determined to create the world and repeople his desolate celestial sphere.
They knew that the first man and woman fell, and were cast out of the garden in which they had been placed; that they lost their innocence, and fell under the wrath of God. They knew that God appeared and spoke to the patriarchs, and that after a time he selected one family to be the seed of a great nation, which was to be his own particular people. They knew that he was to train this people and lead them on up the ages until the fulness of time; and then he himself was to come to the earth, born of a virgin, taking the shape of man and bearing the sorrows and living the life of man, preaching to them, then by his suffering and death. redeeming the world. They knew that since that day the Church had been carrying this gospel, this good news of salvation, over the world, and that by and by, when the elect had been gathered from the four corners of the world, then the end was to be. This scene of things was to close, and the eternal condition of the saved and of the lost was to begin and go on unchanged forever. People thought they knew this. The universe was a very little affair. There had been made to them a revelation that threw light upon the whole of it from the beginning to its end. So certainly did they know it that even the little children comprehended it, and it never occurred to them to raise a question. Perhaps you remember the story of the minister's little girl of seven, who, when some one rang the bell, went to the door, and on the person's inquiring for her father said, "He is out; but, if you wish to talk about your soul, walk right in, for I am familiar with the whole plan of salvation." Everybody was familiar with the whole plan of salvation. The universe was small, definitely outlined, and comprehensible to all. There were no vexing problems in regard to the rich and the poor. The poor were taught that they were born into this station of life, and they ought to be contented. The rich, indeed, were to relieve special cases of poverty or great need by their charities; but they were teaching rings throughout the New Testament that whether any were rich or poor, learned or ignorant, slave or free,
taught — the