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RELIGION AND REFORM.pdf

RELIGION AND REFORM.pdf

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Published by glennpease
By George Boardman Eager, D. D.,


"I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness
against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swear-ers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger, and fear not me, saith the Lord of Hosts."— Mai. 3: 5.
By George Boardman Eager, D. D.,


"I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness
against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swear-ers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger, and fear not me, saith the Lord of Hosts."— Mai. 3: 5.

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Published by: glennpease on Nov 08, 2013
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RELIGION AND REFORMBy George Boardman Eager, D. D.,"I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witnessagainst the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against falseswear-ers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, thewidow and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger, and fear notme, saith the Lord of Hosts."— Mai. 3: 5.THE great social and civic evils out of which grow the problemsof reform are not new or peculiar to modern life. Here theyare rife and rampant in Malachi's day, as in ours. In spite of allthat may be justly claimed for the progress of the world, the prob-lems of reform have changed very little, for the human heart is stillthe same. "As in water face answereth face, so the heart of man toman."Moreover, they do not exist, nor can they be wisely considered,independently. The prophet is true to life when he groups them.They are all of a family. They are interwoven in the social tex-ture. They are closely twined cords of the one dark rope that bindsthe children of men in bondage to oppression, lust, and wretched-ness. The "social evil,'' the oppression of the hireling in his wages,the merciless disregard of the rights of the widow and the father-less, the combinations to lure the stranger aside and fleece him, thegreat, far-reaching, damning evil of intemperance — ^these are evilscommon to every age and rooted in the common soil of humanselfishness. They are all traceable in the last analysis to irreligion,topractical infidelity. "I will bear swift witness against them becausethey fear not me, saith the Lord of Hosts."Take the oppressions and retaliations that grow out of the rela-tions of capital and labor, employer and employee. What are theyat last but the flint of selfishness in the employer striking the rock of selfishness in the employee and "bringing fire" in what are rightlycalled "strikes^' — in what often takes the form of riot, arson, andpillage ? Is it not the self -same selfishness, too, taking the form of lust or greed in the employer, that grinds the face of the poor, that
 
begrudges the working girl a living wage, and that, combined withignorance and a weak love of ease or finery in the girl, and falsesocial standards in the community, prepares many a poor creaturefor the pitfall of the social evil ? Then the lurking jackals of luststand by, of course, ready to drag her down, and the deadly gravita-tion of false social conditions may be trusted to keep her there.Take the vice of intemperance, too; how often it is at first therefuge of the despondent and the despairing ! How often men andwomen oppressed by poverty, worn out and embittered by unremu-nerative toil, and suffering in consequence domestic troubles and dis-content, seek selfish surcease in drink! The homeless girl, thewoman who finds herself a social outcast, and the man forced uponthe road to tramp for a living, plunge naturally into the drinkinghabit for the relief that the fleeting pleasure brings, or as the longed-for lethe of forgetfulness. The saloon will never be abolished untilthe oppression and inequalities that maintain it, and the greedy sel-fishness that thrives by it, are abolished.What, then, is the relation of religion to these problems of re-form ?Let us not lose ourselves in abstractions, but seek for practicalanswers.It would be no mean help toward arriving at a solution of theproblem to know how the prophets of old dealt with such ques-tions — in what spirit and by what methods they faced and tried tocope with the social evils of their day.Surely they do not ignore them. They do not minimize them.They do not deal with them as matters apart from religion. Theyrefer often and boldly to the oppression of the poor by the rich, andalways with outspoken denunciation of it. The painted harlot ap-pears in their pictorial sermons, not so much for pity as for repro-bation. A false balance they denounce as among the things thatGod despises. And their words in regard to the great monster evilof intemperance are the fittest words that we can find to-day to ex-press the divine disapproval of this soul- destroying vice.
 
233 THE AMERICAN BAPTIST PULPIT..But note the spirit and method in which they do this. By clearringing enunciation of eternal principles, by lifting the veil fromthe face of God and pointing men to his eternal hatred of injus-tice, cruelty, and selfishness, they make themselves felt as messen-gers of the Eternal whose lips have been touched with coalsfrom off the altar of God, who can in no wise condone or enter intocomplicity with evil. They were not merely ^^a voice crying in thewilderness" — they went with their message into the crowded martsof men. With plain words, as with an incisive knife, they separatebetween the entangling veil of expediency and eternal right, be-tween human selfishness and the holy will of God. They areprophets, not /ore-tellers, but /or^/i-tellers ; they speak for God, inhis very person, as it were. ''I will come near to you in judgment./ will be a swift witness against you, because ye fear not me, saiththe Lord of Hosts."They were not afraid to speak out in God's name. They fearedneither the rich nor the powerful, but, swept out and borne on bythe Spirit of God, they left their retreats and spoke into the verybeards of men, into the teeth of the tyrants and oppressors of thepoor, uttering the law of the King of kings, and showing what Godthought of this or that, with no uncertain sound. They penetratedthe veil ; they trained their eyes in the blaze of the light of the sunof righteousness; they placed their ears to the mystic phone thatconnected them with the council chamber of the Eternal, and witha trumpet voice sounded the messages which they received to theworld.But they did not adopt worldly ideals or stoop to worldlymethods. They joined no political parties. They neither took noroffered bribes. They avoided "entangling alliances." They didnot permit themselves to be dwarfed into political partisans, toshout party watchwords and use political machinery for party ends.An infinitely higher wisdom was theirs — to bring the eternal prin-ciples of truth and right down into human affairs, to show the in-stability of riches, the unrighteousness of injustice, the need of 

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