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“ Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound.
But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life b. Jesus Christ our Lord.”—Romans v. 20, 21,
progHESE words of St. Paul unfold to us
some daring as well as profound thoughts.
“ The law entered that the offence might abound.” And God sent it ; God would have the offence abundant. The sin was already there. Deep in the constitution of humanity the poison was already working, and God would have it developed, in broad, full, strong manifestation. The driving of evil out to the surface, where all can see it in the broad daylight, is, as in some deadly forms of fever, the first step towards the cure. But there is the revelation of a daring as well as a powerful intellect
in the broad simplicity of the statement. “The law entered that the offence might abound.” Paul had not ventured to entertain the thought unless he had known, as no man, save perhaps Luther, has ever known, the superabounding, the overmastering power of grace.
The infinite tenderness of God to sinners is the broad and blessed fact of the Gospel. To the uttermost, to the lowest depth of wickedness and misery, to the crumbling edge of the pit of per. dition, to the last step, the last cry, the last gasp, He is able, willing, waiting, with intense desire to save. God's utter hatred of sin, and His fixed determination to uproot sin, lie, if I may so speak, underneath the everlasting Gospel. By righteousness alone, God's righteousness, can a soul be saved. But if sin be there in the heart let it work itself out, let the poison spread through the whole system, let the corruption taint the whole world, then grace shall reach it, grace shall rule it, grace shall cure and save its victims; and so, “where sin abounded unto death, grace shall reign, through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
I suppose that the problem of problems, the difficulty of difficulties, the question over which chiefly souls have agonized through the long night, is, how can a righteous and loving God endure and even perpetuate the existence of a world like this? God
has not made it as it is. God made man upright, and the world an Eden. But God upholds it as it is; a touch, a breath, would abolish its sin and misery for ever. But it lives on; and, generation after generation, “ the cry of the human,” the cry of souls lost in darkness and writhing in pain, the shouts of the combatants, the moans of the wounded, the plaint of the wronged, the curses of the desperate, are rising up into the ear of God. Glorious and beautiful things God also looks upon; brave words, noble deeds, angelic ministries; but at what cost? God knoweth at what cost great deeds are done, and great ministries are accomplished in a world like this—and God alone! Life --the life of a human spirit-is, as we have said above, an awful endowment. By no act of ours it comes to us. It is forced upon us by a superior will, and struggle as we may, madden as we may, we can never lay it down. We must have it and hold it, and all the issues that spring out of it, through eternity.
And the influences which mould it are but partially under the control of our hand. There is a man who was educated to be a jail-bird from his infancy. He never had his young eye upon the form of a nobler life. You cannot say that there are no seeds of great thoughts and great virtues in him. He would be torn limb from limb before
he would betray his comrade in crime. But his chance in life has been a poor one compared with yours. His whole life is a battle with society; he has a dim notion that that is his vocation; and society masters him, chains him, and will infallibly crush him at last. Released for a moment from its iron grasp, in a week another daring crime has brought him again within its toils. His life is but a long misery, with no hope. And yet that man must live, must drag on his burden ; and passionately as he may long to die, body and soul, and have done with thought and feeling for ever—and who hears the cries that go up from dens of vice and prison-cells—it is God's will that, for good or for ill, he shall bear the burden of that life through eternity. He may mend his life; God's mercy puts that within his reach ; but one thing God has settled for him absolutely, that if he will not mend it, he shall bear it, bear it for ever and for ever.
How many myriads, how many millions of men are there, in any given generation, who, were the choice offered to them to live on as they are living, or to die at once, body, soul, and spirit, would answer, “Let me die and have done with it for ever.” Annihilation has been the supreme hope of many a creed which has had wide influence with men. And why? Because “ Sin reigneth unto death” everywhere. Life is good : the world is fair. The storms, deserts, and earthquakes, would have no terror for man if there were not wilder storms and barer deserts within. Life were blessed in such a goodly world, if man could but be freed from the terror of himself. But self haunts him as a spectre. " The things that I would, those I do not ; the things that I would not, those do I;” and the doing these things is death. Every day, every hour, man has forced on him the fact that, in some way, the responsibility of which he cannot shift off on God, he is out of harmony with his world, and in deadly discord with himself. And the sin reigns. Everywhere out of the sphere of grace, the revelation of the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, the cry, the wild cry, is heard, “O miserable man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death ? " Here, then, are men by millions, living by no will of their own, bound to live whether they will or no, fighting a losing battle through life ; or refusing to fight it, and giving it up in despair, grovelling with the beasts, cursing with the fiends, filling the world with woe and wailing, and fattening its fairest plains with the blood, the flesh, the bones, of mangled and slaughtered men. Doubtless, there are a thousand lights as well as shadows in the picture. Here and there, even in Pagandom, there is a gleam of light so bright as to seem to have strayed down from the inner glory. But