« AnteriorContinuar »
But there is a still more difficult and dreadful case to be contemplated. When those who have thrown themselves loose from the government of conscience are but few compared with the great body of the community, they may without any great effort be kept within bounds, and order may be preserved. But the situation is materially altered when in any case the lawless become the many, and the righteous become the few. If in a community of ten thousand there are not ten righteous, what are you to do? How is justice to be administered? Where are you to get judges who will maintain the right fearlessly? Where are you to get jurymen who will acquit the innocent and condemn the guilty? In such circumstances, righteous government is at an end,—the foundations of social order are destroyed.
It is with reference to this condition of things that the question is put, —" If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" And what is the answer to it? Are the righteous to give up their principles to any extent, seeing it is apparently impossible to get them carried out? Are they to seek to ally themselves with influential parties among their dissolute neighbours by making compromises which trench upon their conscientious convictions? Were they to take this course, instead of there being ten righteous men among the ten thousand, there would soon be not one. Their duty is to stand firm, and to look up to God. Man's extremity is God's opportunity. The answer to the question is in the words which follow: "The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord's throne is in heaven: His eyes behold, His eyelids try, the children of men." It is easy for Him to put things right on earth when, in as far as man is concerned, they are irretrievably wrong.
The foundations have been destroyed again and again in the course of the world's history; and yet God has raised up anew the moral and social edifice. On one occasion the whole race of Adam to a man almost had become corrupt, and the earth was filled with violence. Order seemed then to have been overturned among men for ever. But God swept the incorrigible rebels into one vast watery grave; and from one man and his family whom He saved, He made a new world to spring. He has not again visited the earth with a flood: but He has rained fire and brimstone upon cities full of abominations, and has burnt them to ashes; He has decimated whole communities by famine and pestilence; He has reduced the strength of mighty nations by long-continued wars, and has laid their glory in the dust. We may rest assured that He will not allow righteousness to be put down on the earth. He is the King of nations, the Almighty Euler who lives for ever and ever, and whose word never falls to the ground unfulfilled. He has said that He will give His Son the heathen for His inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession. His decree, which He addressed to His Son and caused to be written, is this: "The nation and kingdom that will not serve Thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted" (Isaiah lx. 12).
Let us be true to ourselves in this most important of matters. Let us guard and strengthen the foundations of order in our own hearts. Let us never act contrary to our sense of duty. Let us endeavour to keep a conscience void of offence both toward God and toward man. We have the inestimable privilege of having God's Word in our hands, which speaks to our consciences, and shakes them from their slumbers, and stirs them up to new activity. It does even much more than this. It answers a question to which an answer can be got from no other quarter whatever. When our consciences condemn us—when we feel that we have done many things which we ought not to have done, and that we have left undone many things which it was our duty to do—when our spirits are filled with the dread of coming judgment,—the Word of God makes to us the most joyful of all announcements—that through Jesus Christ, who laid down His life for His people, all our sins may be forgiven, and we may be made partakers of eternal life.
Blessed is the man who, though he may have strayed far from the paths of righteousness, is restored to the divine favour—on whose heart the divine image is imprinted anew in full outline and beauty, and who has the divine assurance that there is a place prepared for him in the heavenly mansions. Death has no terrors for him; and life is full of joys which shall never end.
THAT WHICH EXALTS A NATION.
"Righteousness exalteth a nation; bat sin is a reproach to any people."—Peovbrbs xiv. 84.
"IITANY things combine to make a nation -"*. great; but if its greatness is real and permanent, one thing is essential. As the most perfectly constituted human body is valueless without the life which animates it, so the body politic, however many may be its members, and however rich its resources, is only a mass ready to go to ruin without righteousness. Mighty nations have in past ages gone to dissolution. Their rise and progress may have been glorious but miserable have been their decline and fall. Even Israel, the nation most favoured of heaven, was not exempt from the common doom. Is it impossible, then, to prevent so sad an issue? Must this nation of ours, which now stands so