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pancy of vice.
we shrank away with loathing in our hearts? Some years ago I was conducted through one quarter of a great city that was then abandoned to the sole occu
of vice. There as you passed along with hastened step, and as the language of blasphemy, the brazen look, and squalid marks of unblushing guilt shocked your soul as sin never did before, you learned to prize, as never before, the homes where love and virtue dwell. Even so, when sin shall have wrought itself out in all its Protean shapes of horror and, with touch upon touch, painted its own repulsive portrait, then shall the universe gaze on the form and features of sin and on the face of God, and see by the contrast new brightness in the ineffable glory.
II. Human wickedness gives occasion for the more signal exertion and exhibition of special traits of the divine character. Some of the highest attributes of God could never otherwise have been fully unfolded to his creatures. The chief regalia, the choicest crownjewels of the Godhead, would have lain hidden in the casket.
Had there been no intractable materials it certainly would have been an amazing and incomprehensible wisdom to make and manage this vast universe, so interlocking, adjusting, balancing all its elements, parts, and occupants that countless forces shall concur and infinite diversities shall correlate and coöperate. And thus the atom and the nebula each knows its laws; the infusoria and the megalosaur have each their several times and spheres ; the mote that floats in the
sunbeam claims kindred with the sun; the ray of light that has traveled a thousand years from its source finds its resting place in the eye of the astronomer by night; and the ascending series of life clasps the earth with its roots and reaches towards heaven with its tendrils. When we reflect on this astounding complication of agencies so riveted together that
“ From nature's chain whatever link you strike,
Tenth or ten thousandth breaks the chain alike,"
how sublime the wisdom that has bound it all together, fitting each to the other and to the whole, and the whole to some glorious end! But how much more sublime does that wisdom appear when it plans that end, meeting and defeating hostile forces at every turn, overcoming at every point the open insurgency of the highest created agencies. It becomes thus the stupendous problem to convert determined discord into harmony, wilful repulsion into cohesion.
With the wisdom is joined the power. The antagonist force, bursting out at every point, at every point sooner or later is driven back. Then appear the resources of our God. Ancient Israel would have known little of the transcendent power of Jehovah but for the obdurate hearts, the high looks, and the stiff necks that went down before his successive strokes, till one and another and another perished from the way. From that day to this it would be almost comic if it were not tragic, to watch the vain attempts to frustrate the kingdom of God. Predictions and efforts
for the extinction of Christianity, the dislodgment of the Scriptures, and the decadence of evangelical religion have never long been wanting. But God sits quietly in the heavens, and Nero and Julian, Mary and Alva, Voltaire and Strauss are, in the great tide of his Providence, but bubbles foaming and bursting and vanishing on the bosom of the ocean,
“One moment white, then gone forever.”
But meanwhile his kingdom pervades the great powers of the earth. His Word speaks every year in new tongues to the sons of men. His Spirit subdues the
class and every condition. So he rides forth conquering and to conquer.
But for human sin there could have been no exhibition of God's marvelous mercy to the undeserving and his grace to the ill-deserving. His uncompromising holiness also is seen in a new and almost startling form in the great sacrifice for sin. These things "the angels desire to look into.” They never saw such things in heaven. Do they hover over the earth to see?
Equally remarkable is the additional revelation of God in the character of his children. It is the sin and the ruin which sin has wrought that give occasion for all that is highest and noblest in regenerate humanity. Hence the call and the sphere for meekness and heroic courage, self-denial and self-sacrifice, the incredible patience of hope and the exhaustless labor of love ; for all those qualities that make the difference between man and man, and raise some men to resplendent excellence. In the turmoil of bitter conflicts appear the majestic forms of great statesmen, Cromwells and Washingtons ; in the midst of sin and woe are found the great philanthropists, Howards and Nightingales ; in the deepest kinds of degradation loom up the benign figures of the lifelong missionaries, Schwartzes, Judsons, and Goodells ; and in the fiery furnace kindled by Satan are seen the noble army of martyrs, and with them One like the Son of God. Such characters and · careers can find place only in such a world as this.
III. God makes the sin that is in the world to a great extent his minister of justice. He makes the malignant passions not only neutralize their powers in antagonist struggles, but punish each other with mutual stripes. They become a system of imperfect retribution. Viper-like, they strike the bosom that warms them to life. Whatever may be the transient pleasure of gratification, the baleful passions are painful in the exercise and not seldom disastrous in their issue. The fiercer, the more calamitous. The most diabolic villain of our great dramatist vents his hate upon a noble foe simply by making him the victim of jealousy and revenge. The evil passions first wreak their vengeance upon themselves.
More conspicuously does God use these wicked passions to punish other wickedness. The two ends often concur; as the stinging insect is said sometimes to emit together its poison and its life. All selfishness tends to collision. Violence naturally first finds the violent as surely as provocation invites retaliation. All
selfish and malignant passions in different breasts are essentially beasts of prey, and though often found roaming together in the chase they worry and devour each other over the spoil. Thus, much of the wretchedness of bad men, besides what they inflict upon themselves, is inflicted by other bad men ; and sin provoked becomes the executioner of sin provoking. They that take the sword perish by the sword; and they that quaff the cup of villany oftenest drink its deepest dregs.
In many cases the public retributions thus inflicted have been peculiarly striking. Thus God calls the Assyrian king “the rod of his anger,” and adds, “I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, ... and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.” Faithfully did God fulfill his threat against Jerusalem by the blasphemer's hand. “Howbeit,” saith God, "he [the Assyrian king] meaneth not so. ... Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish . the stout heart of the king of Assyria . . . and his high looks." And if the invasion of Sennacherib, as is supposed, be the time referred to, you need not be told how,
“ Like the leaves of the forest when autumn hath flown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.”
So God summoned the Persian conqueror, as he says, to be “the weapon of his indignation” against the