« PředchozíPokračovat »
East, and are coming to worship Him. The wisdom, the wealth and the worship of the world are being laid at His feet. His influence is being felt in every department of thought and life. He has touched the pencil of the painter, and under His magic spell the greatest masterpieces of art have been produced. He has touched the pen of the author and the most voluminous literature is eminently christian, and most of the books in our libraries are pervaded with christian thought and shot through with christian sentiment. He has touched the soul of the philanthropist and the waste places of the earth have been made to blossom as the rose; and animated by his spirit men have gone anywhere and everywhere to redeem the lowly. He has touched the wealth of the wealthy and the pockets of millionaires are being emptied today into the channels of helpfulness and blessing, as never before. The nations of the world are calling for His gospel, and the most benighted regions are waking to His loving call. Paganism is vanishing before his conquering tread; and the banner of His cross is being unfurled in every valley and on every hilltop. We are rapidly hastening toward that glad day when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord, to the glory of the Father.
The great Napoleon, in summing up the influences which have most affected men and which have produced civilization, paid a high tribute to the greatness, and the marvelous achievements of Christ. He said: Caesar, Charlemagne, Alexander and myself have founded king. doms, but upon what did we found the creations of our genius? We founded them upon force. Jesus Christ also founded a kingdom, but he founded it upon love; and while the creations of our genius are crumbling to the dust, our names passing into oblivion, and the relics of achievements being relegated to the limbo of the forgotten, Jesus Christ is still loved with an undying devotion, and there are millions today throughout the world who would die for Him.
"Ah no, thou life of the heart,
Then said Jesus unto His disciples, if any man will como after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me, for whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own life; or, what shall a man give in exchange for his life? Matt. 16:24-26.
"HE most valuable thing in all the world is life.
Without it man is a pauper and all the world beside is worthless. With it, he is owner of the most priceless treasure that a mortal can possess, notwithstanding he may be destitute of all else in the world. Whoever gains the whole world and loses his life sustains infinite loss, and whoever gives his life in exchange for the world, or anything in the world, not only bankrupts his own soul, but squanders the most valuable possession ever intrusted to the keeping of man. Life is that for which the race has always been in quest, and that to which man clings longest and most tenaciously. How to preserve life and protect it from the imminent dangers to which it is exposed, is a matter of supreme moment to every man; and how to develop and expand the possibilities which tremble in every man's breast, is the profoundest problem in moral science. Destruction is a process which is going on in every realm of nature. The ravages of disease are seen on every hand. The life of the body not infrequently hangs on a slender thread. Mental chaos is as frequent as it is deplorable. The atrophy and dissolution of the soul is not more uncommon than the dissolution of the body. To save one's life and preserve one's powers from decay and destruction is paramount to all else.
Every great teacher has had his secret of a appy life. Every great moralist has made his contribution to the solution of the problem of living. He has defined what he conceived to be the summum bonum of life, and pointed out what he regarded as the path that leads to the stars. Not
otherwise was it with Christ, when He inaugurated His great scheme of redemption. He, too, announced a pro gram of living, and mapped out a plan of salvation. His regime is as beautiful as it is original, and His principle, in accordance with which men must live that they may obtain life, is as natural as it is fundamental. His appeal is to man's will, in which appeal he recognizes human autonomy and responsibility. He asks men in all conditions of life, to find themselves, and putting themselves under His tuition, to make the most of themselves. That they may do this, they must renounce self. If they would find real life, they must crucify the lower self on the cross of self denial. Each man must pass through the divine curriculum, and if he would find life, he must reach it through the gateway of death.
The supreme end and aim of human existence, therefore, is finding and developing and conserving one's higher self. The process through which we reach this end is self denial. The power which pulls us up and out is Christ, and He can pull us up and out only when we commit ourselves to divine discipline and the realization of divine ideals. All else dwindles into insignificance in comparison with the salvation of one's selfhood. There is no loss comparable to the loss of real life. The price of all real life is suffering and sacrifice.
I remark first: The call of Christ to a higher life and right living presupposes man's ability to respond. Christ most emphatically recognized human autonomy. He lodged the responsibility for determining the issues of life in man's will. The human will is the arbiter of human action and the self determining power in all human conduct. According to the teachings of Christ man is neither a machine nor a corpse. He is neither deaf to the appeals of the gospel nor dead to divine impressions. Whatever may be the extent of his moral inability, he is most cer. tainly not impervious to moral ideas nor insensible to holy incentives. Whatever may have been the effects of sin upon his moral constitution, he still has the power to choose and the ability to act. He may be dead,-and certain it is that sin has wrought havoc in his being, -yet it cannot be that he is totally devoid of all power to move.
If he is powerless this challenge is mockery. If he is dead, it is either nonsense or ignorance. Either Christ did not know man, or in this summons He was desecrating
the dead. If the will of man has been shattered and he cannot move, this invitation has absolutely no meaning. The doctrine of moral inability, though firmly intrenched in theological systems, did not originate with Christ. He never taught it; nor, did He act as if He believed it. Certainly He knew men are weak, selfish and sinful; and no man ever deplored sin more than He. Yet with all the chaos it had wrought in human life, He taught that even the lowest and vilest could turn from it if they would. The most incapable and undeveloped were not totally devoid of desire and will.
Nor, is man totally depraved or devoid of all goodness. He did not look on humanity as a mass of corruption. In His judgment men were not all criminals. Their faculties were not simply so many inlets and outlets of sin, channels of corruption. Some were bad, some vile; but not all were alike, and none were totally depraved. On the contrary, he saw a spark of divinity in every man, whatever his condition. There was a capacity for goodness in each and all. Each man was a diamond in the rough, needing polishing and development. Every one is an angel, in a block of stone, uncut and unhewn.
Let no one conclude, however, that Christ ignored or minimized sin. No one ever recognized its reality and its turpitude more than He. He simply did not overlook goodness. He began with what men had and what they were, and asked them by divine help to make the most of themselves. He appealed, not more to what men were than what they might become. Always, and everywhere he appealed to them, not as reprobates or libertines, but
He regarded no man as hopeless or irrecoverable. He won responses from the most unpromising. He made saints out of men who at the beginning were little more than savages.
Responsibility, in his judgment, depends on capability. Decision always lies in the will. He asks men to do good and be good, because they can. If willing, any one can and may. If unwilling, he can, but simply will not. Men are not passive or inert, as are stones, but active. To be or not to be is the question in matters moral, and each man must settle it for himself, and he settles it in his own will. We are neither dead volitionally, nor bound arbitrarily. Certainly the will is impaired, but not destroy. ed. We are neither tied by decree nor shackled by