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the true. They are absolute and unchangeable in their essence. Man does not make them. The solemn expression of the opinion of a world cannot unmake them. All the forces of the universe would be too weak to bar an obedient soul, nation, or world, from their blessing, or to shield the disobedient from their curse. To believe this is the first step to a true penitence. Until a man sees this in all its grand and awful reality, his penitence is but the fright of his ignorance at the shadow of itself.
2. I have perverted that which is right.
This is the second article of the penitent's confession of faith, and full of terrible meaning, as those who have passed through the agony know full well. “I have perverted." The anguish of that “ I” on a penitent's lip! No man knows what “I” means, but the man who has felt himself isolated from God by transgression, alone responsible for it, alone bound to bear it, a solitary soul in a universe of solitude; for of all the thronging myriads of beings who fill it, there is not one who can lift, or even share, the burden of his sin. It is the transgressor who knows what the burden of existence is, laden with a weight which he must bear though it crush him, the burden of which he cannot cast on God. We cannot wonder that in all ages the intellect of man has made even despe
rate attempts to escape from this dread isolation, and to connect with God in some way the burden of his sin. “ I have perverted the right.” What means this “I?” Did not God make it, and is not God responsible for it? If the right is of God's making, who in the universe can mar ? Philosophy has pressed these questions in more or less subtle forms on the intellect of each generation, but ultimately it is all summed up in the question in which St. Paul concentrates it, “ Who hath resisted His will ?” “I am what God has made me. I can but do what God has made me to do. There is, there can be, no such thing as freedom. God is absolute and omnipotent in the universe; there is, there can be, but one will in the universe, or God ceases to be God.” This is the barest form of the Pantheistic argument against moral responsibility, and consequent excuse for sin. According to this philosophy, there is, strictly speaking, no such thing as sin. Man sins like a sullen dog, or a vicious horse. It is a fact about him, a very noteworthy and unpleasant fact to others it may be, but that is all. He is a creature of infinitely higher endowment than dog or horse, and touched to infinitely finer issues, but still he is no more than the finest stop in that great organ, the creation, which gives forth its music under the breath and the hand of God. The penitent sweeps all this to
the winds. It may be very difficult to square the conception of moral freedom with any definitions of God in the abstract which satisfy the intellect, but the penitent is not stopped by the difficulty. Arguments as to what God can do or cannot do, as to whether freedom is a possible or an impossible conception in any intelligent scheme of the universe, are to him but as filmy gossamer before a strong man's tread. When the soul first sees the Divine lawgiver, and asks itself the momentous questions on which hang its eternity, the “I” is the dread reality. One thing is clear to him as the sun at noon, that there is that within him which, whatever it may be, distinctly is not God. This “I” is the reality which millions of hopeless Buddhists at this moment supremely dread. "O God! could I but get away from my-self; might I but lose it, lay it down, let it be absorbed in thee!” But God is not the sinner, and the sinner knows it. Sin isolates him, sets him apart; and God teaches him, through sin, what is meant by “himself.” A being having within himself the springs of his eternal woe or weal, bound to live on while God lives, with a burden which he must bear, though it crushes, torments, and curses him; to get rid of which he will fling himself under the bloody wheels of Juggernaut, or into the sullen, sacred stream, but which he finds again, in the first moment of con
sciousness beyond the river, heavier, more crushing than ever, and which he must lift and bear eternally.
Do you know what it is to hate yourself, and yet to feel that you can never get rid of yourself? You might tear yourself bit by bit till every fibre and thread of your wondrous texture is unravelled; not a particle as big as a grain of dust may survive of what seemed to be you; and yet you, the “I” in you, survives it, and smiles scornfully on the wreck. The penitent, at any rate, knows that there is something within him which is not God, which is capable of resisting God, of perverting that which is right in the sight of God, of becoming an object of repulsion to God, the word of whose nature as well as of whose lips is, inevitably, “ Depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” That power is in me, and I have used it. I have perverted that which was right. I have seen the right, and chosen the wrong, and I knew that I, and not God, was making the choice, and that I was choosing in spite of God. In the clear daylight of truth I have followed vanity and lies, and they have led me down into darkness and the valley of the shadow of death. I have corrupted the spring of my spirit's innocence and purity ; I have established a propensity which drags me down ever lower and lower towards the pit. The light is there, but behind me. I am leaving
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it; daily it grows dimmer, and the darkness is gathering round me. God! “ thou art justified when thou speakest, and clear when thou judgest.” Thou hast witnessed, thou hast striven. I have resisted; I have perverted that which was right, is right, and will be right for ever. My blood is on my own head. My sin lieth at my door. I must answer it before the Judge.
3. And it profited me not.
It is the third and final article of a penitent's creed about sin. “What profit have ye had in those things whereof ye are now ashamed, for the end of those things is death?” “THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH.” . Many a reckless sinner goes on madly in his career of transgression till ruin stares him in the face, till a sight of the deadly dart, wielded by a ghastly hand, brings him to a pause. Perhaps he feels its cold point grazing against the shuddering flesh, and shrinks back appalled. “IT PROFITED ME not.” If any other confession than this were possible for a sinner in the long run, and after full experience of an evil way, it would simply mean that the righteous God had ceased to be the ruler of the world. Can sin stand the test of possession? Is it proof against satiety? Given its end, can it rest in it and be blessed? If it can, then the Atheist is right : there is no God. For this test of profit is the ultimate test to which