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This is the profoundly false teaching we must resent. Evil cannot be freed from all that is malignant. It is no part of the divine scheme. It is no minister of the benign purpose
dominates the creation. "Against Thee have I sinned." This is the immense truth to burn into the soul.
I. Sin is not from God. The Old Testament holds this cardinal truth aloft, clear as noonday. “He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgement: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.” The same teaching is everywhere endorsed in the New Testament. “Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempteth no man.” “Every good gift and every perfect boon is from above," but the evil determination is from within. Philosophers and mystics vainly dreaming discern the poison and malignity of evil first in God; they infer that it was part of His own substance, and that the confusion of the world springs out of the divine nature: revelation, however, knows nothing of such notions. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” He is the Music that has known no discord, the eternal Beauty who requires no foil and suffers no blemish, Love that never touched a limit, Purity that excludes temptation, Life undimmed by time's shadow. It is the crowning blasphemy to implicate God with sin. As John Howe says: “He could not be the cause of unholiness but by ceasing to be holy."
2. Sin is not for God. "Against Thee."
Sin is contradiction, not misinformation. Not merely lack of knowledge, but, as we see every day, it is committed in defiance of knowledge, the act of sheer wilfulness. It is a deliberate assertion of ourselves as against the supreme law which we perfectly understand,
Sin is contradiction, not misdirection. We do not so much miss the mark—we refuse to aim at it. It is not that we take a false direction which is in somewise a variant of the true; we prefer one that leads right away from the divine goal. “And they have turned unto Me the back, and not the face."
Sin is contradiction, not imperfection. The child is imperfect in relation to the man, the pupil in relation to the master; but the sinner is not after this fashion an imperfect saint. He is not on the same lines of development at all. He occupies an opposite pole, not a lower stage. Sin is not the failure of one striving upward, it is the denial of the heavenly vision.
Sin is contradiction, not contrast. Contrasts are not contradictions. “Contrasts,” says Martensen, “are necessary differences which emerge from the essence of the thing, and which mutually demand one another; but contradiction is that which is repungant to the essence of the thing." Vice is not a necessary difference which emerges from the essence of righteousness; it is repugnant to that essence. It is opposition, not differentiation.
Sin is contradiction, not privation. It is not merely the absence of something, as darkness is the absence of light; it is also the presence of something, the positive assertion of the individual will against the commandments of God. This will is the centre of personality, and its decisions are of the essence of actuality. If there is anything real in our life, it is when we call upon ourselves to resist or to obey the eternal law.
“The carnal mind is enmity against God.” Sin is rebellion against God's majesty. It is full of terrible independence and ambition. It is the impeachment of the divine wisdom. “The foolishness of God is wiser than men,” but the sinner does not think so: he thinks the foolishness of man is wiser than God. Whenever we sin, our inward thought is that our programme is more rational than His. It is the denial of the divine goodness. He who transgresses the law believes that more good is gained by breaking than keeping it: he denies the goodness of the law and the love of the Lawgiver. It is unbelief in the divine truth and justice. The transgressor secretly believes that he shall eat and not die. Sin is the real, irreconcilable antithesis. A "double-faced unity"! Between the two faces a wide gulf is fixed, and a wide gulf ever yawns between those who serve God and those who serve Him not. Heaven and hell express the "doublefaced unity”; good and evil never come nearer together than that, whatever gossamer bridge speculation may spin between.
THE SORROWS OF SUPERIORITY
Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird; the birds round about are against her.-JER. xii. 9.
be the exact sense of this passage, it serves to remind us that the
privileged character of Israel excited the jealousy of surrounding nations, and in their faithfulness and unfaithfulness brought upon the chosen people special sorrows. The birds round about were against her because the colours of heaven streaked her feathers. Every kind of superiority excites dislike and invites attack. When Solomon bestowed gifts upon the birds, the hoopoes received golden crowns and flew away well satisfied with the distinction. But the jealousy of their brethren and the cupidity of man were so excited at the sight, that the hoopoes went in constant fear of their lives, and in time returned to their would-be benefactor and prayed him to take away from them the possession which had become so dangerous. The king listened to their supplication, deprived them of the glittering crowns with which he had adorned them, gave them instead crests of buff feathers tipped with black, and so sent them away rejoicing. This fable is a parable of the exasperating quality of excellence in all departments. An extra splash of gold or purple on our wings awakens the enmity of the commonplace. Victor Hugo hits the nail on the head : "Truly, all success in this world is a crime, and must be expiated." Schopenhauer reminds us that we must not expect to make ourselves popular in society by exhibiting intelligence and discernment, for with the majority such qualities excite hatred and resentment. To show your intelligence and discernment is only an indirect way of reproaching others for being dull and incapable. Intellectual ability is felt as a piece of impertinence. A man may be as humble as possible in his demeanour, and yet hardly ever get others to overlook his crime in standing intellectually above them. As Dr. Johnson testifies: "There is nothing by which a man exasperates most people more than by displaying a superior ability of brilliancy of conversation." To be accepted by the stupid you must conceal the Argus eyes and scarlet feather. The birds round about do not take kindly to the speckled bird of genius.
This antipathy is most pronounced in relation to moral and spiritual excellence. The world loves its own, and is shy of heavenly characters not well comprehended. Joseph is an outstanding illustration of this. It was not so much the coat of many colours that rendered him a speckled bird hated of his brethren, as the pure and lovely moral qualities of which the variegated tunic was a sign. "Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a fountain; his branches run over the wall. The archers have sorely grieved