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THE WELLBEING OF NATIONS.
THE FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIAL ORDER.
1 If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?' —Psalm xi. 8.
TWERY one knows the value of a foundation. ." You cannot build a house of even the smallest size without one. And after a building has been erected, and has stood unmoved and in great strength for many generations, you have only to destroy its foundations in order to bring it down. It may rest upon a solid rock, but if you loosen and break in pieces the stones which bind it to the rock it will totter and fall with a crash.
It is not to ordinary buildings that reference
is made when the question is put in God's Word, "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" The foundations here spoken of are the foundations of social order.
In the constitution of the universe we see order established everywhere. Whether we look to the earth or to the heavens, the most perfect arrangements meet our view. Forces of incalculable variety and of immense power are in constant operation, and yet the action of all is regulated with the utmost precision. Who can fail to admire the adjustment of the movements of the heavenly bodies? With what unerring exactness do they keep their places and their times! And on earth the vast and varied powers which are at work are guided from day to day, and from year to year, and from age to age, with the same perfect accuracy.
But there are forces in operation on earth besides material ones. Every human being is a centre of force greater or less. He has within him a spirit which puts forth its energies. He has thoughts which seek vent in action. He has desires which seek indulgence. These forces are in operation everywhere. What a stir their outgoings cause even as they proceed from a single individual! And if you visit a large city, what a vast combined movement is to be seen in it, proceeding from the forces to which I have referred,—ever flowing and ebbing like the tides of the sea!
Now God is the Father of our spirits as well as the Framer of the material universe. While He has made perfect provision for the regulation of the forces which are in constant operation throughout external nature, has He made no provision for the regulation of the forces which proceed from the minds and the hearts of men? Are their thoughts and desires intended by Him who gave them being to go forth without government or control? Far from it: He has laid the foundations of order in our spiritual constitution as perfectly as He has laid them in the constitution of external nature.
What, then, are those foundations of order which God has laid within us? Among the powers which He has given to every man, is the power of distinguishing between right and wrong. Other powers are bent on action; this power points out to us how we ought to act. There are right courses, and there are wrong courses: we ought to choose the right- and to avoid the wrong. He who has given us all our powers, has given us this regulating power by which all are to be governed and controlled. As our other faculties develop, so this faculty of conscience develops. It is a gift bestowed not on some only, but upon all the members of the human family. As in all parts of the world people distinguish between sweet and bitter, and between white and black, so in all parts of the world they distinguish between right and wrong. In every language on earth you find words expressive of these distinctions. It is further characteristic of this regulating power, that while it distinguishes, it also judges. It not only marks the difference between right and wrong, but also approves the one and condemns the other. The doing of what is right is attended with a sense of satisfaction; the doing of what is wrong is attended with a sense of shame and dread. This result does not depend at all on the presence of any of our fellow-men. Good deeds done in secret are approved by our own hearts, and evil deeds done in secret are condemned by the same judges within us. We are witnesses for or against ourselves, as the case may be; and the court is held and the decision is given without the intervention of any other on earth. Only the fact that we are so framed forces upon us the conviction that He who