Page images

were opened at last. It took eight years of dire war to make her see, but she saw finally, and let the colonies set up for themselves, and with what an immense blessing to the world.

Take our own national history. Have not our eyes been opened by retribntion ? What people ever more willfully shut their eyes to the truth than we did to the truth concerning slavery. It was as clear as sunlight that we could not hold slaves in opposition to the spirit of the age and of our own institutions, when all civilized nations were setting them free. And yet we would not see it. We shut our eyes to the truth until in our headlong blindness we plunged into the Rebellion. Then we began to see. That terrible castigation opened our eyes. We acknowledged the truth amid the pains and under “ the furnace blast of our own transformation." It took a good deal of punishment to remove our blindness, but we saw at last and let the bondmen go free.

But perhaps the best example of this judicial blindness is furnished by the Jews in their rejection of Christianity. And here we are fortunate in having the whole question settled by inspiration. The Jews rejected the gospel light in the most wilful manner. Their blindness was complete, and their retribution the most terrible that was ever visited upon a people. But was that blindness permanent and is the retribution to last forever? Hear what the great Teacher says : - () Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wing, and ye would not. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. Ye shall not see me henceforth till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord " (Matt. xxiii. 37-39). Listen also to the great Apostle as le illuminates tlie whole subject in the cleventh chapter of Romans: " I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceits, that blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in, and so all Israel shall be saved."

Here we have the highest authority in direct opposition to

the teachings under consideration. Jesus and Paul declare positively that this judicial blindriess under the government of God is not permanent but temporary, hence its retribution cannot be eternal. It must be seen, therefore, that the

argiment under this head fails utterly. There is another law in the retribution caused by this blindness, as all these examples clearlv show, that counteracts this law of judicial blindness and renders all arguments drawn from it in support of the final permanence of evil entirely worthless.

2. The self-propagating power of sin. The argument under this head is but little more than a restatement in an. other form of the argument under the previous one.

It is that every act of sin weakens the force of righteousness within us and tends to make us the slaves of sin. By continuous disobedience we form or grow the habit of disobedience. It we do wrong to-day it becomes easier for us to do wrong tomorrow, and by doing wrong to-morrow it becomes still easier the next day, and so on, until we lose the power to do any. thing but wrong. We all know the power of habit, and the argument is that habit may become so strong as to defy all the power of God and man to break it.

"Under irreversible natural law,” says Mr. Cook, “there is a self-propagating power in sin. Of course this self-propagating power depends upon the law of judicial blindness very largely, but by no means exclusively. So are we inade that every effect in the growth of our character becomes a cause.": 4

That is, we sin ; that sin produces a bad effect in our souls ; that bad effect is the cause of more sin, and so on until we are tied to sin by the force of habit with adamantine chains. In illustration of this argument Mr. Cook relates the following incident in the life of the great naturalist, Agassiz :

· Agassiz, wishing to study the glittering interior of an Alpine chasm, allowed himself on one occasion to be lowered into a crevice in a glacier, and remained for some hours at midday, at a point hundreds of feet below the surface of the ice. 'After gratifying his enthusiastic curiosity, he gare the signal to be drawn up. I heard him say this himself: 'In

4 Ibid. p. 156.

our haste we had forgotten the weight of the rope.

We had calculated the weight of my person, of the basket in whichi rode, and of the tackling that was around the basket; but we had forgotten the weight of the rope that sank with me into the chasm. The three men at the summit were not strong enough to draw me back. I had to remain there until one of the party went five miles—two and a half out and two and a half back-to the nearest free to get wood enough to make a lever and draw me up. When babit,” continues Mr. Cook, “ lowers a man into the jaws of the vature of things, it is common, but it is not scientific, to forget the weight of the rope. That weight is a fact in the universe, and the importance of not forgetting it is one of the most haughty and unanswerable teachings of science.” 5

This is very good as an illustration, but we are not to mistake it for an argument. To make it worth anything as an argument it must be shown that not only man but God hath forgotten the weight of the rope. " It is one of the most baughty and unans erabile teachings," at least of religious science that there is a God in this wiverse, and that " He made us, and not we ourselves.” To make this illustration. good for anything as an argument, therefore, it must be shown that in giving us moral freedom whereby the letting of ourselves down into the abyss of sin became possible, God forgot the weight of the rope-- habit; and that He cannot now find sufficient wood anywhere in the universe to make a moral lever strong enough to draw us out. As this is not done there is no argument in the illustration.

The argument in support of the position that habit may become so strong that it cannot be broken, he takes from the analogy of natural law. Mr. Cook argues that there is a penalty of natural law that is not remedial, and hence that anal. ogy teaches that there may be, yea, must be such a penalty to the moral law. There is a penalty, he says, that has a remedial tendency, and there is a penalty that has no remedial tendency. To illustrate and enforce this position he has the following:

5 Orthodoxy, p. 12.

[ocr errors]

“ Under the physical laws of gravitation a ship may careen to the right or left and only a remedial effect be produced The danger may teach the crew seamanship; it makes men bold and wise. Thus the penalty of violating up to a certain point the physical law is remedial in its tendency. But let the ship careen beyond a certain line and it capsizes. If it be iron it remains at the bottom of the sea, and hundreds and hundreds of years of suffering of that penalty has no tendency to bring it back. Under the physical natural laws plainly there is such a thing as its being too late to mend.

So under the organic law your tree gashed at a certain point may throw forth its gums and even have greater strengti, than before ; but gashed beyond the centre, cut through the organic law is so far violated that the tree falls; and after a thousand years you do not expect to see the tree escape from the dominion of the law which is enforcing upon it penalty, do you? There is no tendency in that penalty toward remedial effects, none at all, and you know it.” Hence he concludes, “ If there is such a thing as its being forever too late to mend, under the organic and physical natural law, probably, and inore than probably, there is such a thing under the moral natural law." 6

Unfortunately for this argument, if it proves anything it proves too much. if the argument was for the annihilation of the wicked, this reasoning might have some weight. Jt it was held that sin absolutely killed the soul, utterly took away its existence, then perhaps this argument from the penalties of physical natural law might have some force. But this is not the case. Mr. Cook does not hold that sin kills the soul, but through the power of habit, that it eventually ties the soul to such a condition of sinfulness and conscious suffering that all the forces of the miverse cannot break it away. Hence this argument proves too much. For if it proves anything it proves annihilation.

That ship down there in the bottom of the sea is not a ship. It is only so much wood and iron in the shape of a ship. A ship, properly speaking, is something that has life and can sail. Without these properties it ceases to be a ship, tiiat is, it is a dead ship.

Just so with the tree. That prostrate trunk

6 Transcendentalism, pp. 157-8.

a man.

not a tree. It is only so much wood. A tree is something that has life and can grow. Losing these properties it becomes a dead tree. It is no more a tree than a dead body is

Hence the penalty of the physical law in the case of the capsized ship and that of the organic law in the case of the felled tree, is death, not suffering existence, but absolute death. Consequently if the analogy holds good, the penalty of the moral law, when violated too long, is death, absolute annihilation. It kills the soul, destroys conscious existence. This argument of Mr. Cook, therefore, cuts up his own doctrine, root and branch. It makes endless sin impossible, because it kills the sinner. Hence it proves nothing to his purpose because it proves too much.

This is sufficient as an answer to this argument, but as we desire to take from it all possible force it may have in any mind, we observe that the position taken as to the penalty of these physical natural laws is false and as a man of science he is inexcusable who does not know it to be false. The position is that this penalty is a state or condition of permanency, that the dead ship and the dead tree are in a condition from which there is no escape. The effort is to prove that there is a penalty to the moral law that is irremediable; hence it is affirmed that there is a like penalty under the physical law, a penalty that is an irremediable condition.

But this is not so. The condition of the dead tree is not irremediable. On the contrary, we all know that the forces of nature begin at once to remedy its condition. They take the prostrate trunk in hand and convert it into materials for another tree. This is the “ resurrection " process that is continually going on in the vegetable world. The old dies and rises again into new forms of life and beauty. It is absurd, therefore, to say that the penalty of violating an organic law by cutting down a tree is a condition of perinanency.

The same is tre of the ship, only the changing forces operate more slowly, and their work is not so palpable to the senses. Judging from the mighty changes that this globe has undergone, what supreme folly to intimate that that ship

« PreviousContinue »