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The value thus attached to power by mankind causes them to fall down and worship power and superiority in others, and to elevate into the position of gods those who pre-eminently possess it, regardless of the suffering which that attainment may have caused. Hero-worship springs from the same principle, and even the benefactor of the race is glorified, not so much because of the benefits he confers, as because of the power or knowledge which enables him to bestow the benfits. And the desire for this glory and adulation is the stimulus to all, from the comparatively innocent emulation of the schoolboy for mental proficiency, or feats of strength and activity, to that of him who seeks to fill the position of a god to his fellow-men.
Perhaps some will say : ‘Is emulation sin ? Is there not a legitimate and generous emulation ? And how could the world exist without it?' Emulation is the outcome of pride, the struggle as to who shall be the greatest, and that the world as it is could not get on without it, any more than without armies and weapons of war, may be admitted. The proposals for general disarmament, and the specious promises held out by some of universal liberty, equality, and fraternity, lose sight of the fact that it is not enough for even the whole world to burn its weapons, and redistribute property equally to all; for there would still remain that lust of riches, power, and superiority which manifests itself as the absorbing and insatiable passion of all men when opportunity is afforded them for gratifying it. Change the hearts of men, and both emulations will cease, and Utopias will become realities, without efforts on the part of any to make them so ; but while selfishness is the ruling principle of human nature, human existence must be a continual emulation, a struggle in which each strives to surpass the others, the weak are trampled under the feet of their fellows, and only the strongest or most fortunate gain the prizes.
There is indeed a lawful emulation, but it is not that of 'who shall be the greatest,' but that emulation in righteousness or love which, instead of calling forth envy and jealousy in others, obtains their affection and gratitude; and if this were the case with all, the terrible struggle for existence would cease, for those who had knowledge, power, riches, or opportunity would gladly use them for the benefit of those who had them not, obtaining, indeed, a just reward for so doing; but that reward would not be of the nature of the dominion and adulation which are sought by selfishness, but rather of the joy which was set before the Saviour of mankind, which enabled Him to endure the cross, despising the shame, for the sake of the love of those whom He redeemed (Heb. xii. 2).
The dominion of the law of self produces other effects besides those mentioned. Selfishness being the exact contrary of that love which is the province of the moral faculties of man, those faculties become dwarfed and stunted by it; and when this is the case, even subjects of inquiry which exercise the higher mental faculties cease to possess an interest, and those faculties become also dwarfed and undeveloped, and the reason and mental perceptions are confined to mere material interests. If then the process was not arrested by other influences, man would gradually tend to become more and more morally and mentally degraded, until he had well-nigh reached the level of the beasts which perish; nor are illustrations of this wanting, as may be seen by the state of some savage races.
Now, the prominent feature of the degradation of these races is that their chief energies, mental and physical, are confined to obtaining physical gratification ; they become the victims of gluttony, sloth, and sexual excess, and, if they can obtain spirituous liquors, of drunkenness, the result of which is that their bodies become degraded, their features repulsive, and their whole vital powers impaired. Every degree of such decadence may be observed in savage tribes, some of whom in certain physical respects present a far lower type than that of the higher animals; and it is evident that, in proportion as these excesses are indulged in, so are the sensual inclinations further strengthened, and the moral and mental faculties starved, and cause and effect thus react on each other. Therefore, although, on account of the short lives of each individual, it takes many generations, each sinking lower than the previous one, for the ultimate result to be reached, yet if life were sufficiently prolonged in persons subject to this dominion of the law of self, without any redeeming influence to arrest its progress, then we may be certain that they would lose all those moral and mental faculties which at present distinguish them from the beasts, and even sink far below them in physical degradation, inasmuch as the beast in its natural state never sins against the law of its physical being.
Now, these animal excesses are sins against the body, as is expressly stated by the Apostle with respect to one of them (1 Cor. vi. 18); and although not directly antagonistic to the law of love, are yet the necessary and ultimate consequence of the contrary law of selfishness. They may be little or no temptation to the highlyrefined and moral member of a Christian community, and are often actually repulsive to him ; but the same selfishness is at work in such communities, although much modified by higher influences; and in many we may see the same tendency to mere animal gratifications, especially in those who have naturally low moral and mental faculties, or in whom the higher faculties have been more or less undeveloped.
Moreover, because the law of sin or selfishness has dominion over all by nature, therefore these effects of that law are in some degree developed in all, and in varying degrees are sources of temptation to all ; and all who in any degree give way to them are in that degree morally degraded, and their ultimate redemption is rendered more difficult. The Scripture warns men most solemnly against these things, and no one who truly believes in God will therefore recklessly and wantonly indulge in these sensual gratifications.
On the other hand, they are temptations to numbers who recognise their evil, and instead of indulging in them, fight against them. Some have indulged in them in ignorance or unbelief, until they have obtained the power of propensity, which is not an essential characteristic of the human constitution ; in others the propensity is inherited, as is often the case with drunkenness; and without going into a tedious analysis of all cases, we may believe that the temptation to all, varying as it does in different individuals, is the result of the perversion of natural appetites, which have, through the indulgence of the individual, or of the human race generally, assumed a dominion over the higher faculties which they had not originally.
Thus they become, to many, infirmities, consequent indeed upon the sin of the race, but not necessarily of the sin of the individual; or if due to the previous selfindulgence of the latter, yet, when striven against and opposed by the mind, they are no longer consequent on the person's moral evil. And in this respect they are quite different to pride, malice, covetousness, and vainglory, which are the direct results of moral evil, or of the law of self, and manifest the dominion of selfishness.*
* It may be observed that this conclusion is directly contrary to the judgment of many who regard drunkenness and sensual immorality as the most heinous sins, but think little of pride, malice and covetousness, and even at times commend them.
There are also temptations which are the result of physical infirmity, induced by the decay and imperfection which has been the result of sin. “Be ye angry and sin not,' says the Apostle. Anger is the natural indignation of the mind aroused by injury or evil of any kind, and is in itself obedience to, and not transgression of, the law of our being; but when that anger is cherished, or passes into the wish for revenge, it is the outcome of wounded pride and the spirit of self-assertion, and it then becomes sin. With many, however, on account of a constitutional irritability, which may vary with the state of health, anger and the desire for revenge are a much greater temptation than to others. Impatience, in like manner, is often an infirmity springing from constitutional causes, and these things, while they are temptations to some, are little or no temptation to others. Yet the former, recognising the evil of giving way to them, may strive against them, while the latter may indulge them without restraint. In fact, these infirmities may be regarded, from a moral point of view, in the same light as all the numerous temptations from without, which arise from the evil in others, and from the sufferings and misfortune which befall men, to which some are constantly subjected, and from which others are comparatively free. They are consequent on the sin of the race, but not necessarily of the individual. This is also the case with those who, like the savage, have become morally degraded, and whose moral perceptions from generations of disuse are little developed ; it is manifest that temptation to sin in these cases is much harder to overcome, than in the case of those with higher moral faculties and unvitiated propensities.
These remarks show how little we ought to judge others, and how different our judgment may be to that of God, who recognises all the obstacles which each has to contend against. Even an unfallen but finite being,