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a single incursion upon the primeval wilderness has been undertaken, not one sign of the victory of man over nature exists, and in spite of the dreamer's joy want and misery are eating the heart out of the whole despairing settlement.
The second main source of our moral despair is in the deepening sense of the brutal forces in man. During the last three light-hearted decades, we have been smoking the opium pipe of evolution, telling the world how far it has risen, chiefly by its own force, from the depths in which it began, describing the speed by which it has mounted under our sage and dreamy eyes, and prophesying of its complete ascension in the near and sweet bye and bye. Trust in the cosmic process apart from the energy and passion of this moral process is delusion. Recent events have broken this opium pipe and dispelled this delusion. The world as a series of facts is once more gaining solemn recognition. We face again the nameless eonian shame of our cities, the alcohol curse, the economic hardness of heart, the plague of the idle rich, the shallowness and insincerity of the religious classes, the inhumanity of man to man, and the occasional outbreak, as at present, of the wild beast in our race. As at sea in a storm one will sometimes awaken to the fact that only an inch or two of iron shell are between him and the wild flood, so one is now and then made aware of the thinness of the civilized wall that protects all that men hold dear from the immeasurable fury of the surrounding brutality.
Let us make haste to add that in the statement of the problem, we must not exaggerate or lose sight of mitigating incidentals. We must apply Punch's humor to the situation. To Mike, home from the front, battered, broken, halfdead, a benevolent idler remarks, “This is a terrible war." "It is indeed," Mike replies, "but it is far better than no warre at all!” We must not lose the sense of human heroism. Nor must we forget the opposite fact that the sufferings of men do not always weigh heavily upon others. A Boston fireman, to whom I had given for years the tickets that I had bought to the fireman's ball, confidentially informed me on one occasion that his wife had received a great fright on my account. Dr. A. J. Gordon had died, and the newspaper head-line had told the sad story in ten thousand homes.
The fireman's wife with quick sympathy thought of me, and exclaimed, "Doctor Gordon is dead; no ball for me this year." Again, altruism which seems to us absolutely essential to a happy life does not at all times appear a necessity. "My mother told me a falsehood," said one of the small boys in my parish; "she said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' Acting on that principle I put one cent into the Salvation Army box and I have been miserable ever since.” Once more the essentiality of mind to human happiness I have recently found strangely contradicted. A faithful servant who after partial recovery from a stroke of apoplexy, upon being questioned by me made the confession that he slept better than he had ever slept, that he ate better and that he enjoyed his life better. He added, “My mind is gone but I don't miss it.” These incidents will serve to modify extreme statements, and will perhaps give us a sense of the sanity and hope essential even in the discussion of the sources of moral despair. I can recall no great humanist or humorist who fell a permanent victim of despair. Cervantes rises before one in his prison assuring one that in the black tragedy of the world there are everflowing fountains of mirth.
For the despair that comes from moral inertia and insincerity the remedy is at hand. The question of insincerity is the simpler of the two. No man is sincere who is unwilling to back his dream with his deed. The person who is full of talk about his heavenly vision and who withholds his obedience from that vision is an idle chatterer. The Christian church is cursed with this order of persons and they must be shamed into loyalty to their faith. Grant tells us that in the sorest struggle of the great battle of Shiloh twentyfive hundred Union soldiers ran from the field and lay down in a valley beyond the range of the enemy's guns. These men, when they faced their commander and comrades, were So ashamed of themselves that they begged for another chance to stand in the firing line and they vowed that never again would they show the white feather, and they kept their vow. Like the Priest and the Levite in the parable of Jesus, many find religion good for the walk from Jerusalem to Jericho, good for the happy excitements at both ends of the journey, but good for nothing in an emergency calling for the exercise of an adequate humanity.
Let it be remembered that insincerity is one of the cowardliest of qualities, that it can be scorned out of existence. By the recoil a new moral force will be set free sufficient for many a hard task for many a day. Even in those few cases where men prefer appearance to reality and become expert in every art of disguise and hypocrisy, in the end they are discovered. The sign of the sneak is branded upon their faces; they cringe and fawn like whipped dogs; they reveal the intolerable misery of the path of unreality and cunning over which they have crawled. Goneril and Regan are able with their pretence to blind their poor old father Lear, while the truth of Cordelia becomes an offence to him. Sincerity here fails, insincerity succeeds; in the beginnings of the drama of existence it is often so. The final issues tell another story. The soul that could “love and be silent” came at last to full recognition as a “soul in bliss," and ministering to one “bound upon a wheel of fire"; the successful hypocrites vanish at last in darkness and infamy. They remain only as witnesses against themselves, as forces creative of the life that they despised and destructive of that which they pursued. Judas with the kiss, apparently of friendship, but really of treason, seems for a moment closer to the heart of Jesus than the disciple who leaned on his bosom at supper. The contrast between them soon came to light; one allures by what he loved, the other creates recoil by his dishonor.
If the source of disloyalty to the ideal is not insincerity but moral weakness the force of shame is still availing. There is nothing clearer in the history of religious struggle than that moral weakness brings woe and woe ultimately creates the force that conquers the weakness. This point will emerge in our discussion again in another connection; I here call attention to this sign of hope in the heart of distress. The men who have become moral wrecks under the appeals to lust and drink and dishonor do not tell the greater part of the epic of the soul. That greater part is in the hidden record of tens of thousands who, mortified by their weakness in the presence of evil appeal, and smitten with shame as they looked upon their inward dishonor, rose into strength through their miseries till they sang, as with the voice of the hurricane,
“So by my woes to be
So long as the denial of Jesus issues, as in Peter's typical case, in sorrow, and the sorrow creates a new moral habit, we shall not count the weakness of man stronger than the divine constitution of his being. The Sisyphus stone that the doomed toiler could never land on the hill-top is the symbol of much in the moral struggle of mankind; the lessening burden till it vanishes altogether on the shoulders of Bunyan's Pilgrim is typical of much more.
We are now ready to face our second source of despair, -- the increasing sense of the brutality of mankind. There are few who have not, at some period in their existence, sympathized with the person who said, "The more I know of men the better I think of dogs." We are tempted to go further. If anything in the records of the Indian jungle can surpass the record of the violation of Belgium, I, for one, have never heard of it. Face to face with this brutality, and worse than brutality, working in our civilization, cancelling, at times, every instinct of manhood, and making the struggles and hopes of the moral process in history seem utter vanity, we must retreat upon the deepest things of our faith, reform and re-equip life there for a more resolute advance. Nothing less than a general muster of the greater moral insights and · forces of the world can meet the need of the times.
We must renew our vision of the great principle at which I have already hinted and which I now state, — the self-destructive force of evil. All lines of conduct, all kinds of behavior are at first ne cral. Whichever courses are chosen are adopted in the belief that they will increase the quantity or exalt the character of life. On any level of existence none but madmen commit suicide. That life is good, that this good is increased by the increase of the quantity and the improvement of the quality of life, that the supreme good is life carried to its utmost in magnitude and its highest in worth is an axiom written in the heart of normal man everywhere. Courses of action are adjudged better or worse, good or evil, precisely as they seem to accord with or contradict this aboriginal intuition of life. Much mistake is mixed with the human judgment, «much deceit is worn by the appeals that compete for human choice. Essential good often appears as essential evil as when the rich young ruler turns away from Jesus, essential evil often seems good as in the garden of Eden story the forbidden fruit appeared fair to the eye and good for food. The moral process has been plagued from the beginning of this compound of inward error and outward cheat. In the grand campaign, again and again, enemies have been regarded as friends, and friends have been regarded as enemies; the objects of sense have never lost their power of stealing the livery of heaven. Satan disguised as an angel of light, and in this character winning his way to the friendship of men, is a symbol of one of the saddest chapters in human history. The judgment is so errant and the disguise is so subtle that all of the people have been fooled some of the time.
Here comes into view a great saving principle in the human soul. What diminishes and degrades life is finally seen to be evil; what enlarges and exalts life is ultimately known to be good. We learn obedience through suffering. The friends, and foes of man in the environment, in foods and drinks, in types of human being, in courses of action, in ideals, in beliefs, are sooner or later, in the light of experience, clearly seen and solemnly judged and set apart as far as the east is from the west. That under certain conditions fire burns, that water drowns, that poison kills, that enmity is foolish and that tribal war means extermination, become axiomatic. These instances are typical of that segregation into opposite camps of the bitter and the sweet, the deadly and the benign in human experience and the causes of these experiences. Nothing can run counter all the time to the highest interests of life without disclosing its deadly character, without creating in the soul of