Appendix O. Speeches For Study And Practise. Part 4
Everything that grows tells a like story of infinite power. Why should I deny that a divine hand fed a multitude with a few loaves and fishes when I see hundreds of millions fed every year by a hand which converts the seeds scattered over the field into an abundant harvest? We know that food can be multiplied in a few months' time; shall we deny the power of the Creator to eliminate the element of time, when we have gone so far in eliminating the element of space? Who am I that I should attempt to measure the arm of the Almighty with my puny arm, or to measure the brain of the Infinite with my finite mind? Who am I that I should attempt to put metes and bounds to the power of the Creator?
But there is something even more wonderful still - the mysterious change that takes place in the human heart when the man begins to hate the things he loved and to love the things he hated - the marvelous transformation that takes place in the man who, before the change, would have sacrificed a world for his own advancement but who, after the change, would give his life for a principle and esteem it a privilege to make sacrifice for his convictions! What greater miracle than this, that converts a selfish, self-centered human being into a center from which good influences flow out in every direction! And yet this miracle has been wrought in the heart of each one of us - or may be wrought - and we nave seen it wrought in the hearts and lives of those about us. No, living a life that is a mystery, and living in the midst of mystery and miracles, I shall not allow either to deprive me of the benefits of the Christian religion. If you ask me if I understand everything in the Bible, I answer, no, but if we will try to live up to what we do understand, we will be kept so busy doing good that we will not have time to worry about the passages which we do not understand.
Some of those who question the miracle also question the theory of atonement; they assert that it does not accord with their idea of justice for one to die for all. Let each one bear his own sins and the punishments due for them, they say. The doctrine of vicarious suffering is not a new one; it is as old as the race. That one should suffer for others is one of the most familiar of principles and we see the principle illustrated every day of our lives. Take the family, for instance; from the day the mother's first child is born, for twenty or thirty years her children are scarcely out of her waking thoughts. Her life trembles in the balance at each child's birth; she sacrifices for them, she surrenders herself to them. Is it because she expects them to pay her back? Fortunate for the parent and fortunate for the child if the latter has an opportunity to repay in part the debt it owes. But no child can compensate a parent for a parent's care. In the course of nature the debt is paid, not to the parent, but to the next generation, and the next - each generation suffering, sacrificing for and surrendering itself to the generation that follows. This is the law of our lives.
Nor is this confined to the family. Every step in civilization has been made possible by those who have been willing to sacrifice for posterity. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of conscience and free government have all been won for the world by those who were willing to labor unselfishly for their fellows. So well established is this doctrine that we do not regard anyone as great unless he recognizes how unimportant his life is in comparison with the problems with which he deals.
I find proof that man was made in the image of his Creator in the fact that, throughout the centuries, man has been willing to die, if necessary, that blessings denied to him might be enjoyed by his children, his children's children and the world.
The seeming paradox: "He that saveth his life shall lose it and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it," has an application wider than that usually given to it; it is an epitome of history. Those who live only for themselves live little lives, but those who stand ready to give themselves for the advancement of things greater than themselves find a larger life than the one they would have surrendered. Wendell Phillips gave expression to the same idea when he said, "What imprudent men the benefactors of the race have been. How prudently most men sink into nameless graves, while now and then a few forget themselves into immortality." We win immortality, not by remembering ourselves, but by forgetting ourselves in devotion to things larger than ourselves.
Instead of being an unnatural plan, the plan of salvation is in perfect harmony with human nature as we understand it. Sacri-ce is the language of love, and Christ, in suffering for the world, adopted the only means of reaching the heart. This can be demonstrated not only by theory but by experience, for the story of His life, His teachings, His sufferings and His death has been translated into every language and everywhere it has touched the heart.
But if I were going to present an argument in favor of the divinity of Christ, I would not begin with miracles or mystery or with the theory of atonement. I would begin as Carnegie Simpson does in his book entitled, "The Pact of Christ." Commencing with the undisputed fact that Christ lived, he points out that one cannot contemplate this fact without feeling that in some way it is related to those now living. He says that one can read of Alexander, of Caesar or of Napoleon, and not feel that it is a matter of personal concern; but that when one reads that Christ lived, and how He lived and how He died, he feels that somehow there is a cord that stretches from that life to his. As he studies the character of Christ he becomes conscious of certain virtues which stand out in bold relief - His purity, His forgiving spirit, and His unfathomable love. The author is correct. Christ presents an example of purity in thought and life, and man, conscious of his own imperfections and grieved over his shortcomings, finds inspiration in the fact that He was tempted in all points like as we are, and yet without sin. I am not sure but that each can find just here a way of determining for himself whether he possesses the true spirit of a Christian. If the sin-lessness of Christ inspires within him an earnest desire to conform his life more nearly to the perfect example, he is indeed a follower; if, on the other hand, he resents the reproof which the purity of Christ offers, and refuses to mend his ways, he has yet to be born again.