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Produced by Bryan Ness, Greg Bergquist and the Online
Scientific and Religious Journal.
|Vol. I.||JULY, 1880.||No. 7.|
The source and fullness of created good is the knowledge and enjoyment of God. “Give what thou wilt, without thee we are poor; and with thee rich, take what thou wilt away.” The wicked are like a ship’s crew at sea, carried by the winds upon unknown waters, without peace or safety until they can renew communications with the shore. A man alienated from his God is without his proper relations, and separated from the fountain of happiness, is like a child unconscious of his father—an orphan, forced along, the sport of accident, with no hope for the future, but darkness that may overshadow his pathway to the tomb. If we were at once deprived of all knowledge of God where would we find hopes for support in the gloomy hours of adversity? What sadness would reign over the world! What black despair! O, what a chasm it would make to strike the Infinite One out of existence! “The angels might retire in silence and weep, or fly through infinite space seeking some token of the Father they had lost. With unbounded grief and despair they might wing their way farther and farther, with their harps all unstrung, and every song silent, and the soul-harrowing words, ‘We have no Father, no God, a blind chance rules,’ might be all that would break the awful silence of heaven. Let the glorious words once more be heard, ‘God reigns, he lives, he reigns,’ and what joy would fill the heavens and the earth.” The child of sorrow would lift up his head and say, “Our Father who art in heaven.” The heavenly songsters would string anew their harps, and send the good news far and wide, “He lives, he reigns, God over all, blessed forever.”
“We are not able to estimate the effect it would produce to blot the knowledge of God from the universe. We can not appreciate the state of that mind which labors under the impression that God is retiring. Perhaps we have one momentary example of the sad gloom that takes possession of the man under such circumstances. It is seen in the Savior’s dying words, ‘My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?'”
In our nature and condition there are two sources of misery—the mind, or conscience, disturbed by sin, and the body affected by disease and death. Sinful emotions cause disquietude, uneasiness, sorrow and misery, bitterness, recrimination, reciprocated treachery, infuriated rage, malignant and stormy passions; envy, jealousy, suspicion and unlawful desires distract the mind and quench its joys. Who can be happy in such a condition? Disquieted and corrupted affections cause the greater part of the unhappiness or misery of the race. The angels of light could not be happy in such a murky sea. Our great ancestors were doomed to toil in a world of disappointment and sorrow for yielding to such a guide. Haman occupied a high position at the court of Persia, yet he made himself miserable because “Mordecai the Jew sat at the king’s gate.” And Ahab, on the throne of Israel, “refused to eat bread” because he could not get possession of the vineyard of Naboth. Men can not be happy with such passions reigning in the mind, and yet they are found in almost every bosom, unless it has been purified by the influence of the gospel of Jesus the Christ. The great idols of this world are fame, pleasure and wealth, and the love of these is the strong passion of the heart. But it is the most prolific source of individual, social and public misfortune, the most mischievous, contentious and demoralizing passion. The ambitious, the voluptuous, the rich and the great are not necessarily happy. Alexander wept upon the throne of the world because there was not another world for him to conquer.
In the midst of seminal pleasures and corrupt passions men are always miserable. The influence of the Gospel of Christ is the only remedy for such diseases. It saves men from aggravating selfishness and holds in check their fierce passions until they are extinguished. Virtuous affections are invariably the great sources of human happiness. They are fountains of living waters, which purify the mind and make their possessors happy. They are as rivers of water in a thirsty land.
In the teachings of Christ we learn all that pertains to true happiness, in what it consists and how to obtain it. There we are admonished of mere worldly blessings, because the desire for them is generally so intense that it becomes a source of corruption, and in our successes we often forget our highest interests. The Savior left in the background the commonly received notions of men touching the sources of true happiness. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” referring not to those who are temporally poor. The wicked are poor as well as the righteous. O, how dreadfully miserable are the wicked poor! a miserable life here, followed by a miserable hereafter. Many poor persons are haughty, ungodly, dishonest, profligate and unhappy. Neither does it mean voluntary poverty, or to turn mendicant monks and friars. It means the humble, those who are deeply sensible of their spiritual or mental and moral wants; in other words, those who feel that there is a place in their spiritual nature for the blessings of the Gospel of Christ. It is opposed to self-righteousness. The poor in spirit come to God through Christ, and, putting all their trust in him, submit to the divine will under all the trying dispensations of his providence.
The poor in spirit are always sensible of their need of salvation, but the proud in spirit are “clean in their own eyes.” Their goodness is like the morning cloud and the early dew, yet they say, Stand by thyself; I am holier than thou. “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” What a sublime rebuke to the spirit of this world! It is a grand contrast to the uneasy desires of greedy covetousness; to the disposition of the gay; to the degradation of the impure; to the senseless pleasures of the ambitious, when new fires ignite their hopes only to plunge them into deeper darkness. The Bible’s happiest soul is he who has most of its peculiar mind and character. Not on account of earthly riches, for he may be one of the Lord’s poor, who, like his blessed Master, has “no place to lay his head.” Not because he has sought and obtained honor from men, but because he sought and “seeks the honor which cometh from God only.” Not because he has much of this world, but because he is a Christian. He may not have the greatest capacity, but he has a state of mind that prepares him to rightly estimate and enjoy all that is worth enjoying. “To the upright there ariseth light in the darkness.” They are wisely guided, comforted and encouraged in the most gloomy wilderness. They are not oppressed with doubts; sorrow does not crush them. Darkness gives place to light, and the seeming evil turns to good. They often sip honey from the most bitter flowers. They yield not to fear, for they believe in God, and are assured, by a thousand contrasts, that “all things work together for good to those who love God.” One of the never-failing sources of happiness for which we are under obligations to Jesus the Christ is the mind and character which he requires of us. “A good man shall be satisfied from himself.”
“Man was created for an active life. Effort is the true element of a well regulated mind. Undisturbed soil becomes hard and unproductive. Its bosom is shut up against the dews and the rains, and also against the warm rays of the sun. So it is with the mind when it is closed up and deprived of healthy action; this man lives for himself alone, and only the baser passions spring up in his breast. His soul is too narrow for Christian benevolence; sympathy and emotion are disabled and all his nobler faculties languish. Action, from intelligent and benevolent principles, is a great fountain of happiness. Few streams of bliss equal those which flow from charitable exertions. Benevolence and well-doing are great inducements to future exertions, because of the fact that they are their own reward in a thousand different ways. The seed thus sown brings back an hundred fold, and a rich harvest to others, which adds to the abundance of our own happiness. But where shall we go for those principles of action? Shall we search for them in nature? Can reason alone discover them? Are they found in the teachings of philosophy? Are they gathered from observation? Does not our world need Revelation to make known the true aim and end of our being?” Cicero said, “Those who do not agree in stating what is the chief end, or good, must of course differ in the whole system of precepts for the conduct of human life.” He also says there was so great a dissention among the philosophers, upon this subject, that it was almost impossible to enumerate their different sentiments. So it came to pass that exertions for benevolent ends were seldom, if ever, put forth by pagans in pagan lands—they knew nothing of the happiness springing from such a source.
Great efforts from great motives are the glory and blessedness of our nature. In the Bible only men have learned what great motives and efforts are. There we find food to sustain them and wisdom to guide them. Nowhere in the pages of infidel philosophy can we find such an injunction as this: “Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, do all to the glory of God.” Where else do we find this Christian maxim: “None of us liveth to himself, and none of us dieth to himself; but whether we live, we live unto the Lord, and whether we die, we die unto the Lord.” He or she alone is the happy one who is taught to consider the nature and tendencies of human conduct, and whether it will stand the test before God, and advance the ends of his truth and love in the world; who makes the Lord’s will the ends of his or her life and lives to please God and show forth his praise. Such a life is necessarily a happy one, because it is one full of goodness. There is daily joy in such daily activity. No man can be wretched while acting from the principle of communicative goodness. Such are happy whatever their sphere or occupation may be. Their aims are high. Their objects sustain them and their impulses encourage or strengthen them. Their anticipations are joyous and their reflections are tranquil. They look backward with delight and forward with hope. Their conscience approves them. They have not buried their talents. They are not encumberers of the ground.
They live to bless the children of men. When they die they will to them their counsel, their example and prayers. Benevolent habits are a great source of happiness, for which we are indebted to the religion of Christ.
It is vain to attempt to persuade ourselves that human misery does not exist. We can not get away from it by arming ourselves with stoical insensibility. Evils lie all about us; we ourselves are made to feel them. If we open our eyes upon the pages of time we see a continuous series of beings who appear for a short time and then pass away. Their beds are bedewed with tears, and soon the emblems of death are hung about their doors. O, what wonderful scenes lie between the cradle and the grave! What hours of sadness and gloom! Here, in the midst of life, we realize disappointments, losses, painful diseases and heart-rending discouragements, defeated hopes and withered honors. Here are good reasons for the interposition of redeeming love. Does the God who loves us sympathize with us in our woes? We are liable at every step in life to great individual and domestic calamities. No hour can be free from the fear that what we value the most on the earth may be snatched away to-morrow.
Trees and flowers grow to their full stature, fill up their measure of time, and pass away. Beasts and birds are more rarely cut off with disease. Their lives are not embittered with the expectation of death; the knowledge of the past and the present is all they have; they have no knowledge of the morrow; they live contented in their ignorance and indifference, and, at last, sink into the deep, unending night, “being made to be taken and destroyed.”
But this is not the history of man. He perishes from the cradle to the tomb—”suffers a hundred deaths in fearing one.” He is conscious of the dangers that beset him. He is hedged in on every side. Death is constantly destroying his fondest hopes and causing him the sorest grief. It bursts the ties that bind heart to heart, and the dearest fellowships are severed, and the joys of a blessed life are wrapped in the gloom of death. All there was of earthly bliss in the bygone now makes up his anguish. Is it possible that life and death walk “arm-in-arm?” Yes; even while we are happy in the enjoyment of one, the other comes and casts the fearful mantle over all our earthly prospects. Seal up this blessed volume of life, and I know not from whence the light is to spring which would cheer this gloomy picture. Without this, man would be in a grade of blessedness beneath the brutes that perish. It would be better to be anything than rational without the religion of Jesus Christ and the intelligence of the Bible. The Scriptures inform us that these things have a cause, that they come from God’s dealings with his creatures, that the unseen hand which permits these trials is benevolent and wise. Sorrow has its design, and it is neither unkind nor malignant. These things have a moral cause; they are the great rebuke of God for sin. They are also a part of the discipline of a Heavenly Father, designed to co-operate with the Gospel in bringing back all those who are intelligently exercised thereby to their forsaken God.
The antidote for all these ills culminating in death was the tree of life. When man sinned against his God he was put away from the tree of life. If he had remained with it he would have been beyond the reach of the motive of life, and beyond the restraining power of the fear of death. He would have lived forever, subject, like fallen angels, to mental suffering during the ages to come. But being placed beyond the reach of the tree of life he may be redeemed by the love of life to a higher state. When the rebellious see and realize this great truth, being exercised by the chastening hand of God, they are often subdued to submission, to peace, and under the heaviest calamities they often look upward and say, “It is the Lord, let his will be done.” And this, of itself, is a source of unbounded bliss.
We often submit to present pain when counseled to do so by those in whose wisdom and goodness we trust. As Christians we extend this principle to all the sufferings of this life. Doing so, we have that feeling of quiet submission growing out of permanent confidence in God which supports us under all the trials to which we have been subjected by an all-wise Father. This principle is wonderfully fruitful in consolations to the bereaved and mourning—it is the joy of all Christian hearts. “The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice.” What shall we say of the hopes and prospects of bereaved souls? Is it blind conjecture that there is an existence beyond the shadows? Is there no life to come? No great resurrection? No comforter to arrest the current of mourning and lamentation?
How natural it is, when reminded of our loss, to exclaim, Shall we not meet them again? Is this parting to last forever? Is there a God? Has he not answered this agonizing inquiry? When we sit down upon the brink of those waters which have swallowed up our living treasures and weep and call upon the waves of eternity to give back our dear ones, when, from the shores of time, we look and gaze and listen, does no voice reach us? Yes! To the ear of faith there is a voice. It is the voice of our God. We listen. The words come ringing in our hearts, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” Our grief is allayed. We believe and are comforted. We look forward to a happy meeting. A reunion for eternity hovers before us like a bright star, lights up our pathway, and leads us forward in a living hope.
Nowhere in the Bible is human sorrow clothed with cold indifference. The counsels of that book and its promises are so adapted to the sorrowing that those who have passed through the furnace of affliction know best their value. There is no such relief from sorrow found away from the faith of God and the Bible.
There is an hour when we ourselves must die? Shall we trifle with the will of God till then? Can we trifle with death when it comes? “The sting of death is sin.” Death never fails to bring along with it a keen sense of guilt to the guilty unless they are cut off in a moment, and then who knows the anguish that may be experienced just beyond? What is there to soothe the sorrow of the dying sinner?—of that wicked soul who never obeyed his God nor did anything to make the world better for his existence? Let none of us live at a distance from our God. Let none of us approach death without the necessary preparation for mutual association with him. Let none of us bear the burden of a guilty conscience in that hour. May none of us be so cruel as to leave the hearts that love us in doubt respecting our condition in death. May we never tread its dark waters without the light of the glorious promises and facts of the religion of Jesus the Christ. Let us keep our souls pure in obeying the truth through the Spirit. Let us live with and obey God, do good and be happy.
BY P. T. RUSSELL.
Thought, Thinkers, Things—realities with their qualities or attributes. These are all connected. If the first and second are present the others are not far away. We only think when we perceive, and only perceive realities. Nonentities are not perceivable, and therefore not thinkable. Thoughts may be, and are, transferable from one to another by words, or signs equivalent to words, yet we are only able to impart to another ideas already in our possession.
We have no thoughts of our own but those which are the result of our perceiving. We have no thought of color without the eye, nor of sound without the ear, etc. Now, if we have in our possession thoughts of persons or things beyond the reach of our powers of observation, i.e., beyond the reach of the five senses—seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling—then those thoughts can not be ours; we could not be the first to think them; they were too high for us; they were out of our reach. Who, then, could and did reach them and give them to us? This ought to be the question of questions with us. Thoughts of foreign countries have been given to us by the men who have seen those countries. But they could only give us ideas of what they had seen or others had told them. A man visiting England only could give us no thought of Russia, unless instructed by some one who has seen that land; then, and not till then, could he give us thoughts of Russia. I am now ready for the statement of this proposition, viz: The following trio of thoughts are beyond our reach. They are not our thoughts; we did not think them, but we have them; then, some being who could see higher and look farther than we must have given them to us. Those thoughts are the following: First, the existence of God; second, the use of words; third, the origin of religion. These I will examine in the order given above.
THE EXISTENCE OF GOD.
Whence came the idea? This is now the question. In answering it I shall assume no ground but that which all parties say is true. The Christian, the Deist and Atheist will admit that we have learned all we know, and that we have learned only through the aid of the five senses: seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling are the porters of the mind. One or another of these bring to the mind every thought that it receives. We obtain thoughts of odor only by the sense of smell; of flavor only by the taste; of color by the eye alone. In these matters we have no intuition. We brought no ideas into the world with us. In all these things we are creatures of education. Simple or single ideas, like simple words, represent simple thoughts or realities, and compound ideas represent compound thoughts or realities. Therefore it follows that every thought comes from a corresponding reality. To deny this is equal to the affirmation that we can clearly see objects in a vacuum, that we can see something where there is nothing.
Having stated premises in which all are agreed, I now state my first proposition:
There is a true and living God.
In sustaining this proposition I shall introduce no witnesses but those whose perfect reliability is vouched for by the Atheist himself; so we shall have no dispute concerning the credibility and perfect reliability of witnesses. For the Atheist, claiming to be a votary of reason, as well as a boasted free and fearless thinker, certainly can not impeach the testimony of his own mind. And, being a free and fearless thinker, he will not try to conceal or prevent the witness, when on the stand, from telling the whole truth. I am now ready for the evidence.
The scene changes; Christian is alone in his studio, and a rap is heard at the door. It is opened, and Mr. Atheist is invited to enter, and being seated, Christian addresses him thus: