Page images

who might have been, but who was not through unconscious deterioration, read Burns' own sad epitaph:

" Is there a whim-inspired fool,

Owre fast for thought, owre hot for rule,
Owre blate to seek, owre proud to snool,

Let him draw near;
And owre this grassy heap sing dool,

And drap a tear.
Is there a man whose judgment clear,
Can other's teach the course to steer,
Yet runs himself life's mad career,

Wild as the wave,
Here pause and through the starting tear,

Survey this grave.”

In the development of moral capacity is the blight seen most deplorably. Made morally in the image of God, unconscious deterioration so blinds the moral perception of men and women that God's holiness is dragged down in the dust.

A young business man told me not long ago that it was very rare to find any exhibition of conscience in a business transaction. He was not a misanthrope. He was merely stating a fact. This does not mean that conscience is not here. Rather does it mean that the rapid rise in real estate values and the consequent desire of getting rich quick and the opportunity of so doing has unconsciously deteriorated our judgment of moral values. Several years ago at Yale University I heard a graduate of national reputation give a most inspiring address on the moral responsibilities of citizenship. To

day, because of his dealings, none so poor as to do him reverence.

A well-known New York minister once told me of a certain man who through many years had been à tower of strength in his church as Superintendent of Sunday School, yet that same man became the great corruptionist head of the political ring that prostituted justice in New Jersey and defeated the will of the people. I think that neither one of these men were hypocrites intentionally. They were but representatives of the great army of those who suffer from unconscious deterioration.

Do you think a United States Senator for a great sum, or a California State Senator for $300, or a municipal officer for other sum, realizes what he is doing when he sells his birthright for a Mess of Pottage? Rather have these seen so much corruption, breathed so constantly of the atmosphere of loose financial dealing that unconscious deterioration has made them forget that bribery held us in the same class with lying and thieving. In the realm of the heart unconscious deterioration leaves the mark of her deadly sway. The feelings, the impulses of a man are God's noblest gifts. You see sometimes a character as beautifying as a block of ice, sparkling in the sunshine, but as frigid, because love is not there. You see a life as pure as a slab of Italian marble, but as cold, because love for God is not there. You see men and women who once felt the yearnings after the noblest and the highest but they heeded not, and unconscious

deterioration has dried up the fountains of the heart.

Going into the wilderness and fighting down unconscious deterioration is the only safeguard.

Through lack of watchfulness, through palliating excuses comes deterioration. We must build up a public sentiment which will call a lie a lie, a theft a theft, and undeveloped talents a sin against ourselves and against God, and we must measure ourselves thereby and not some one else. We must get ingrained in our consciousness that insincerity and untruthfulness are at the basis of all deterioration. This is what Ruskin was always preaching. He saw that there were Seven Lamps of Architecture and the brightest of these was the Lamp of Truth. Says he, “Nobody wants ornaments in this world but everybody wants integrity. All the fair devices that ever were fancied are not worth a lie.” His keen eye saw the wreckage that lying had wrought in all the affairs of man's work. Here lying stones in the foundation, there lying tiles in the roof, yonder lying paint on a plaster column had wrought destruction and ruin to great cathedrals with priceless treasures of art and of beauty. In righteous indignation, he exclaims, “ It is good for us to remember this, as we tread upon the bare ground of these foundations and stumble over its scattered stones. Those rent skeletons of pierced wall, through which our sea winds moan and murmur," bear continuous testimony.* “It was not

Ruskin, “Seven Lamps of Architecture,” II-19.


the robber, not the fanatic, not the blasphemer, who sealed the destruction that they had wrought; the war, the wrath, the terror, might have worked their worst and the strong walls would have risen again. But they could not rise out of their own violated truth.”

The same trail of desolation wrought by deception did he see everywhere. Lying lead in the drainage, had he seen as the demon of fever and death, and lying links in the anchors' cable as the stormy petrol of shipwreck. He might have seen a thousand perish in the flames of a General Slocum or be swallowed up by the merciless waves at the destruction of a Valencia because some penurious steamship company had put rotten cork in life preservers.

We do not wonder that he branded with infamy lies of both high and low degree, “ the patriotic lie of the historian, the provident lie of the politician, the zealous lie of the partisan, the merciful lie of the friend, and the careless lie of each man to himself." If untruth is deadly to things made by hands much more is it destruction to that house of the soul not made by hands that standeth eternal in the heavens. Therefore, telling of that new Jerusalem, the City of God, the seer in the book of Revelation said, “There shall enter into it no sorcerer, no murderer nor whatsoever maketh a lie.”

He who would escape unconscious deterioration must tear aside the mask. He must not fool him

self. He must hate untruth in all forms whatsoever. Foil unconscious deterioration by the power of purpose. We are proud to possess the power of self-determination and vehemently vindicate the fact of free-will. Yet, rarely do we really exercise the sovereign power of will. What passes for will is a chaotic lot of indecisions. We are content to feel dimly, see faintly, decide weakly, and life becomes a series of ineffectual struggles in which it is often hard to distinguish success from failure.

“I have half a mind to do it." Where are the great pictures this has painted, or the books it has written, or the duties it has performed ?

Purpose, the fullest development and noblest attainment. Fight on until the day is done. Even Samson, blind and grinding in the prison-house dared to dream of a better day and he prayed and said, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me '—and he took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood and he bowed himself with all his might and the house fell upon

the Lords of the Philistines and upon all the people.”

Fight unconscious deterioration by meeting temptation triumphantly. There was one who conquered. He came into the wilderness. Unconscious deterioration attacked Him by the wiles of every fancy that could appeal to the strong man grown weary. He faced every temptation unrelentingly and instantly.

Profiting by His triumph and with His power,

« PreviousContinue »