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BY JOSEPH AGAR BEET
TO the results noted above, we must now add others similar. We observe in our own hearts that disobedience to the dictates of the Moral Sense is always followed by moral deterioration, by loss of moral strength, and consequently by loss of self-respect. This immediate result of wrong doing awakens in us an irresistible apprehension that further evil results will follow. We cannot shake off a conviction that exact RETRIBUTION awaits every man. The irresistible majesty of the Moral Law, which secures at once the reverence of whatever in us is noblest and best, compels us to believe that it is able to vindicate its commands by due punishment and reward ; that sin and sorrow, righteousness and well-being, are linked together by ties which none can break. This expectation of reward and punishment is strengthened by our observation of various OUTWARD CONSEQUENCES which in the present life usually follow right and wrong doing. The immediate inward degrada tion noted above finds its outward counterpart in the bad effects of sin on society around us, effects which often 3
LECT. IV.] RETRIBUTION. 31 fall, sometimes with crushing force, by the outworking of influences which none can hinder, upon the head of the sinner. And this outward retribution is approved, and indeed demanded, by the Moral Sense. Where it is, we feel that moral order is maintained : where it is not, that order seems to be disturbed. We notice however that in the present life retribution is IRREGULAR ; that, although the moral sense demands in every case due reward and punishment, very frequently the wicked prosper, and that not unfrequently good men have lost even life itself by doing right. The irregularity of retribution in the present life has in all ages puzzled the wisest of men. And in all ages the same explana
tion of it has been given, viz., that the present life is not the whole of man s existence, and that BEYOND THE GRAVE exact retribution awaits every one. This explana tion is the only one which the felt majesty of the Moral Law permits us to entertain. It forbids us to believe even for a moment that any one can, in the long run, be a loser by doing right. Consequently, since some men have, by losing life, lost all earthly good through upright ness, there must be a life beyond the grave in which they will receive due recompense. Otherwise the Moral Law will be their debtor with a debt it can never pay : which is inconceivable. Thus in all ages the death of the righteous has revealed to men a hope beyond the grave. To this widespread apprehension that punishment will inevitably follow sin and that retribution beyond the grave awaits all men, the entire literature of the world bears witness. In XENOPHON S Anabasis, bk. ii. 5. 7, 8
32 PRELIMINARIES. [PART I. a Greek commander says to a Persian general, evidently appealing to broad principles recognised by all men, " First and chiefly, the oaths of the gods forbid us to be hostile one to the other. And whoever is conscious of having disregarded these, that man I should never esteem happy. For I know not with what kind of speed and whither fleeing one would escape the hostility of the gods. For all things everywhere are subject to the gods, and everywhere equally they are masters of all things." Notice here the superhuman source of this inevitable sequence of sin and punishment Still more definite teaching is found in PLATO S Re public, bk. x. pp. 612-14. " The nature both of just and unjust is truly known to the gods ? Granted. And if they are both known to them, one must be the friend and the other the enemy of the gods, as we admitted at first ? True. And the friend of the gods may be sup posed to receive from them every good, except only such evil as is the necessary consequence of former sins ? Certainly. This then must be our notion of the just -man, that even when he is in poverty, or any seeming misfor tune, all things will in the end work together for good to him in life and death : for the gods have a care of any one whose desire -is to become just and to be like God, as far as man can attain the divine likeness, by the pursuit
of virtue ? Yes, he said ; if he is like God he will surely not be neglected by him. . . . These then are the prizes and rewards and gifts which are bestowed upon the just by gods and men in this present life, in addition to other good things which justice of herself provides. Yes, he
LECT. IV.] RETRIBUTION. 33 said ; and they are fair and lasting. And yet, I said, all these things are as nothing either in number or greatness in comparison with those other recompenses which await both just and unjust after death." He then tells a story of judgment beyond death in which all men receive tenfold good or bad in proportion to their actions on earth. Absolute retribution, beginning in this life and con tinuing beyond the grave, underlies the entire religious thought of India, ancient and modern. The Dhammaflada, a famous work of the Buddhist canon, begins : " All that we are is the result of what we have thought : it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage. ... If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him like a shadow that never leaves him. . . . The evil-doer suffers in this world, and he suffers in the next ; he suffers in both. He suffers when he thinks of the evil he has done ; he suffers more when going on the evil path. The virtuous man is happy in this world, and he is happy in the next." So strong is the conviction, in Indian thought, that sin and sorrow are linked together by an indissoluble tie that, in order to explain suffering inherited by birth or not merited in the present life by the sufferer, the Hindu has invented a previous existence which has left no trace in the memory of man. This strange belief, held to-day by millions in India and China, bears strong witness to man s deep sense of the moral inequalities of the present 3
34 PRELIMINARIES. [PART I.
life and of the inevitable retribution awaiting all men either on earth or beyond the grave. We now see that, just as the material world cannot explain its own origin, or the origin of motion and of life, or the moral sense of man, and thus bears witness to the existence of a Power other and higher than the forces observed in operation in the visible world, so the present life by its incomplete retribution bears witness to an existence beyond the limits of human observation. In other words, in the visible world and the moral sense of men we see footprints of an invisible and intelligent Creator and Ruler and in the present life indications of a life to come. We have also found proof that these indications have been recognised and accepted in all ages and nations. So important are these inferences and so vast is their influence on the higher life of man, that we must attribute them, not simply to man s intelligence, but to the Creator s DELIBERATE PURPOSE. In other words, if the universe and man be the work of an intelligent Creator, we must believe that He created them such as they are in order through His works to make Him self and His will known to His intelligent creatures. In this sense we have, in the material world and in the moral sense and the social life of men, a direct revela tion of God to man. This unveiling of the unseen, which we have found to be common to the race generally, may be called the UNIVERSAL REVELATION. It finds embodiment more or less accurate and full in the various religions of the world ; and underlies the
LECT. IV.] RETRIBUTION. 35 entire religious life of man. And it will form the basis of our further theological research. The above quotations reveal the immense theological value of the extant literature of the ancient world. In it we see laid open to our inspection the thought and life of men in various and independent nations long before the time of Christ. And in that human thought we see reflected a superhuman Thought and
Will. The results just noted are of the highest importance. For we cannot doubt that, inasmuch as the first production of matter and motion and life is a much greater work than their maintenance, so their Unseen Source is greater than the forces observed now in the material world ; and that the conscious existence beyond the grave in which the retribution begun on earth will receive its consummation is of vastly greater moment than the present life. We are therefore eager to know all we can about this greater Power and this life to come. Other facts inward and outward increase this eager ness. All of us are marching to the grave : and we are reluctant to leave the brightness and the pleasures of the world around us. Moreover, most or all of us are conscious of PERSONAL SIN. And our deep sense of the inevitable and proportionate sequence of action and retribution awakes in us, in view of the imperfect retribution of the present life, as we approach the dark river of death, a fear that beyond it we shall meet the CONSEQUENCES of our past misdeeds. On the
36 PRELIMINARIES. TPART I. other hand, we are sure that beyond that silent shore blessing awaits the righteous. Thus the indications of existence after death create in man a new need, viz. of deliverance from the future penalty of past sins. We seek forgiveness in order that we may enter the future rest of the righteous. We soon become conscious of another need. Our fear of punishment prompts efforts to do right, that thus by future obedience we may atone for past neglect. Whether the future can thus atone for the past, is very doubtful. But it is all that remains under our control. Sad to say, these efforts, in proportion to their earnest ness, do but reveal our MORAL powerlessness and BONDAGE. W T e find our past sins to be a present power forcing us along our former evil path. This bondage, once felt, becomes an intolerable degradation. And it strengthens our apprehension of further punish ment to come. In other words, our preliminary investigations have aroused in us a sense of double
need, viz. of pardon for the past and of moral liberation from present bondage. The help we need, we CANNOT FIND in the material world, or from our fellows, or in the Moral Law. Loud voices speak of retribution, none of pardon. Nature tells us of invariable sequence, but suggests nothing which will break the observed sequence of past sin and present bondage and future punishment. The Moral Law marks out the right path, but does nothing to help those who find themselves unable to go along it. If help is to be found, it must be from sources
LECT. IV.] RETRIBUTION. 37 other than these. But, inasmuch as whatever is true is in harmony with whatever else is true, the help we seek must be in harmony with the facts already observed and noted. For such deliverance from the penalty of past sins and from present moral bondage, a deliverance which shall pay homage to the supreme majesty of the Moral Law, we now seek. This deliverance, so needful to our highest well-being, is the practical aim of theology. We seek to know all we can about the Unseen, so far as it makes for righteousness, with a hope that in the Unseen we may find the deliverance which we have vainly sought among the things that are seen. Whatever helps us in this search belongs to the Science of Theology.
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