In the Battle of the North Sea, Admiral Beattie, because of a pierced pipe on the Lion, had to transfer his flag to a torpedo boat; and when he came up with the fleet it had withdrawn from the action. So a mighty and costly and precious mechanism of moral influence may be rendered useless by one little act or word.
In geology there is a term "fossil rain." On the stratum of old red sandstone are to be seen the marks of showers of rain which fell ages ago, and yet so clear and perfect that they show which way the wind was blowing and the slant of the rain when it fell. So in manhood and age the marks of youthful sins are traced upon the tablets of the soul.
The darkest fact in man is sin. The grandest fact in God is forgiveness. John Chrysostom, Christianity's most eloquent preacher, used to say, "There is only one calamity—sin."
In the introduction to his Confessions Rousseau commences with these striking words: "Such as I was I have declared myself to be; sometimes vile and despicable; at others, virtuous, generous, and sublime. Even as thou hast read my inmost soul, Power Eternal, assemble round thy throne an innumerable throng of my fellow mortals. Let them listen to my confessions, let them blush at my depravity, let them tremble at my sufferings, let each in his turn expose widi equal sincerity the failings, the wanderings of his heart, and, if he dare, aver, I was better than that man." Who cares to accept that challenge?
The first temptation in the history of the human race took place in a garden, and with man at peace with the whole animal creation. The temptation of Jesus, the second Adam, took place in a wilderness, where he "was with the wild beasts" (Mark 1:13). That contrast between the first temptation and the temptation of Jesus, one in a garden, the other in a desert, is a picture of the ruin which had been wrought by sin.
Sailing past Mount Etna or Mount Vesuvius, by ship in the sea or by airship in the heavens, you can see by day the clouds of smoke pouring from the crater of the volcano, and by night the red glow of the fires that burn within. Only on occasion does there come the great explosion of internal fires and gases, when the volcano pours out ruin and death upon the people and cities at its feet.
So also is it with mankind, with the heart of the world. There come, as at the present time in this great World War, vast explosions of man's sin and corruption and rebellion against God. But that takes place only because ever smoldering beneath the surface of human society is the iniquity in man's heart.
Because of the dragging back, and dragging down, power of one besetting sin in a man's life, we see what the apostle means when he says that in this race for eternal life we must lay aside every sin.
In one of the famous battles of the Old Testament, the king of Judah, Jehoshaphat, and the king of Israel, Ahab, went up to fight against the fortress ol Ramodi-gilead, in possession of the Syrian army under the command of Benhadad. Before the battle was joined, the king of Syria called together his thirty two captains and gave them instructions: "Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel'
A Scottish writer tells of being with a deer stalker on the northwest coast of Scotland. Sitting down to rest on the hills of Quoich, he was entranced with the lovely view of the islands and the sea, and said to his companion, the deer stalker, "A man might sit here forever and in peace."
But his companion answered, "You know the old true word of our race: 'Though a man have no foeman without, within there is always one."'
Yes, this is true! Within there is always a foeman, and every soul has its own ladder down to hell.
William Cowper, after his unsuccessful attempts at suicide, was seized with religious horror. He began to ask himself whether he had been guilty of the unpardonable sin—and began to feel that he had. Fortunately, contact with evangelical faith brought him out of that abyss, and he received strength to believe: "I saw the sufficiency of the Atonement He had made, and my pardon in His Blood."
John Bunyan in the first days of his Christian life was constandy beset by the devil, who urged him to "sell Christ." One day, after he had answered many times to this temptation, "No, no, not for thousands, thousands, thousands of worlds," wearied with his battle, he exclaimed, "Let Him go if he will!" After that he began to feel he had committed a sin too great for pardon. He compared his sin with that of David and Peter and Judas, and always to his own disadvantage. His sin, he said, was "point-blank against my Saviour, . . . bigger than the sins of a country, of a kingdom, or of the whole world."
A pagan artisan once manufactured a goblet in the bottom of which there was fixed the model of a serpent. Coiled for the cruel spring, a pair of burning eyes in its head, its fangs ready to strike, it lay beneath the ruby wine. The cup was of gold, and chastely wrought without. Never did the thirsty man who lifted the cup to quench his thirst and quaff the delicious draught suspect what lay below, till, as he reached the dregs, that dreadful head rose and gleamed with terror and menace before his eyes. It is not when you look on the brimming cup of temptation and sin that you see its power to hurt you. It is when the cup is empty that the serpent of remorse, guilt, despair, and punishment rises with its ghastly menace upon the astounded soul.
In his interesting reminiscences of his early life former President Calvin Coolidge describes his companions at Amherst College, most of whom, he says, were earnest, thoughtful young men who had come there not for the sake of going to college but for the sake of getting an education. He said there were a few dissipated men, but they had little standing and did not last long in the race of life. "A small number became what we called sports, but they were not looked on with favor, and they have not survived. It seems to be true that unless men live right they die. Things are so ordered in this world that those who violate its laws cannot escape the penalty. Nature is inexorable. If men do not follow the truth, they cannot live."
The way of the transgressor is hard, and no one has yet discovered a way to make it easy. Even sin forgiven must bear its temporal penalty.
Wounds of the soul, though healed, will ache,
The reddening scars remain
And make confession;
Lost innocence returns no more;
We are not what we were
Before transgression.—Author unknown