Page images

acters of very different moral quality and temperament. And what is the aim? Not, surely, to degrade the higher character; for that, though possible, is never necessary. No: it is the lifting up of the lower, and the broader education of both, and, in the course of coming generations, the neutralization and elimination of the bad moral quality in the human stock. And husband and wife are faithless to these high educational obligations of the marriage relation when at any time, love being off guard, cold reason lifts the veil of illusion and bids either see in the other faults incompatible with love. Far better, excepting the extreme cases I have noted, is the sacred relation observed and honored by those who learn to bear and forbear, and forgive much evil, and who finally triumph over it and win the crown of a love purified as if by fire. And such instances are not infrequent, – instances where, though the grievance has been great, yet by persistent faithfulness to the marriage vow, remembering that each took the other in the fresh morn of love for better or worse, the saintliness of the one has at last conquered the sin of the other, and both have been blessed by the fidelity that won the victory. So again in society at large. It is wisely ordered by the very conditions of the existence of human society that, the different moral classes and grades of mankind cannot live wholly apart from and independent of each other. They must come into contact, they must affect each other for weal or woe, whether they will

or not.

And here the responsibility rests chiefly upon the moral and cultivated classes. They are the leaders. They cannot live to themselves alone. They can only save and strengthen their own virtue by helping the ignorant and the vicious. Society is, indeed, imperilled from these degraded sources. There is moral poison in the contact, there is taint in the very atmosphere. But upon mental and moral culture is devolved the obligation and privilege to disinfect the atmosphere, to extract the poison. In thus redeeming others from the sloughs of moral degradation, the virtuous and educated members of society redeem themselves from the dangers of a refined selfishness. There are many social questions pressing upon our time with alarming urgency. They are not to be escaped. To try to get away from them into some quiet corner where we may be permitted to pursue our own vocations and follow our own tastes in peace and prosperity is cowardly. It is also in vain. The peace and prosperity cannot be secured; at best they will be but temporary, so long as vice and ignorance are left rampant to their own devices in any grade of society. These foes must be met by the culture and virtue of society, wisely and humanely, but firmly and persistently, met at the ballot box, by the press, in legislation, in business, in the home, the school, the pulpit, the street, met everywhere where knowledge can be imparted and virtue get a foothold and philanthropy obtain a place for her lever, met not de

spairingly, not half-heartedly, but courageously, heroically, with fulness of faith and of hope, else will the kingdom of heaven not gain much ascendency on the earth.

I have spoken only of the application of the theme to our present earthly life; and this certainly is for us the most important application. Yet, though we may not dogmatize on a question where we have no real knowledge, I know not why it is not reasonable to suppose that the same principles will extend into any life that may be in store for humanity in the future. If we are to preserve our identity in that coming life for which we hope, it would seem that the life must consist of essentially the same elements and go on upon essentially the same basis as our present life. The things that make goodness here must make it there. The law of moral fidelity must be as binding there as here. Compassion, fraternal sympathy, loving-kindness, helpful charity, must be the same benignant active qualities in the heavenly as in the earthly life, only lifted up to purer intensity and freer scope. So I cannot conceive that in that other world evil is to be removed beyond the reach of goodness. I believe that the two. must exist together there as here, so long as one needs the help which the other has to give. Why should death fix at once an impassable gulf between the good and the evil, so that mercy cannot pass from the one to the other? That good and evil characters are different in nature, and crave

different satisfactions, and must needs enjoy different pleasures, is true; but they need not for that reason go to different and forever divided worlds then more than now. I believe rather that the change of relation between the good and the evil which death is most likely to effect is the lifting of them both into more favorable conditions for bringing the evil under the redeeming influence of the good; that, so far from being implacably separated from the evil, the good will have a better chance then than now to throw around them the healing sympathies of their love; and that this larger, better opportunity for such saving service will be one of the joys of heaven. Why, we believe, do we not, that this better opportunity and its attendant joy will surely come with the improvement of society even here on earth; and I can conceive nothing less than this as making the felicity of heaven. Surely, for a being with a human heart there can be no felicity in any heaven below which opens an unapproachable and irredeemable gulf of perdition. There as here the good and the evil must grow together till the time of harvest.

The harvest may be long postponed; but even man, in his brief years on earth, by his intelligent skill can make wonderful transformations in the plants and flowers which he cultivates, as well as in personal character. When the final harvest of all comes, may not even the tares be found fertilized from the pollen of the wheat, and the Infinite Reaper have only pure grain for his garner?


THE persons who have moved the world are those who have had the courage of their convictions; that is, those who have not only clearly, thoroughly, and firmly believed in certain principles and truths, but have also had the disposition, will, and vigor to act upon their beliefs and to endeavor to get them adopted and acted upon by other people. There is a class of persons who, in quiet retirement, like to work at problems of thought or in scientific research, but whose interest in their work seems to be chiefly a theoretical one. They manifest little care whether the truths they discover are made known to the world and adopted by other people or not. They might stand by their convictions, if summoned to do so; but they feel no call to enter upon a voluntary struggle to propagate and maintain them. They enjoy the work of discovery; but the work of propagandism is not to their taste, and they decline it. These persons have a use in the world; for the thought-problems they solve or the discoveries they make are taken up by other people, and are thus thrown into the current of the world's activities and made available for human benefit. But they do not themselves aim at that benefit nor seek actively to promote it.

« PreviousContinue »