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“If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous : and he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” 1
11 John 2:1, 2.
THE SIN OF THE WORLD
THE sins of the world are many. The sin 1 of the world is one.
It is like the grass of the field. Below the separate shoots and blades, which stand up individual and distinct, as if each one grew by itself, there is a network of branching roots and fibres, knotted together, interwoven, tenacious, spreading far, and propagating itself more swiftly the more it is cut and divided. The separation is on the surface. The unity is underground.
But before we can have any idea of what sin means, either separately in the individual or collectively in the race, we must give some thought to the problem of evil, starting not from the point of view of philosophy, but from the point of view of experience.
THE PRESENCE OF EVIL Beneath all the particular forms of evil that exist in the world, men have always recognized a common ground of evil in human nature. Something has happened to the race, something has entered into it and taken possession of its vital powers, which makes it bring forth bad fruit. This is not a theory. It is a fact.
The experience of mankind, thus far, is a mass of cumulative evidence that there is a radical twist in humanity which runs through it from top to bottom, and produces crooked results in every sphere of human life. So far as we can judge by our own experience, and by observation of others, every child of man who comes to moral consciousness, comes not only with a freedom of will which makes the choice of evil possible, but also with a propensity which makes such a choice easy. This probability is so strong that we always reckon with it, in dealing with ourselves or with others.
No man gets fairly started in the journey of life without knowing that he has a tendency to go wrong. It is the folly of the fool that he forgets it. The wise man remembers, fears, and tries to guard against it.
Human society is organized around two facts: the desire of good and the recognition of evil. Every institution in the world which is of any value has in it a defensive, corrective, punitory
side, which is an unconscious confession that mankind is prone to do wrong. Men take this for granted in all the relations of life. Whether they are making systems of education or of government, whether they are devising enterprises to increase their property, or laws to protect it, or wills to distribute it, they always take into account the fact that there is a strain of evil running through all humanity.
The advance of modern science and philosophy has not reduced or weakened the evidence of this common ground of evil in the world. On the contrary, it has done much to deepen and intensify the conviction that there is a radical twist in human nature. The easy-going and superficial optimism of the eighteenth century is thoroughly discredited and obsolete. Men have turned away from Rousseau's skindeep philosophy of the "original goodness and unlimited perfectibility” of human nature, to the profounder view of the Hebrew prophets, the Greek dramatists, Dante's Divine Comedy, Shakespeare's Hamlet, Tennyson's Idylls of the King, the great poetry of all lands and ages, —the clearer, deeper, sadder view, which sees the mysterious shadow resting on the life of man, and traces the lines of conflict, disaster, and death that run through human history,
back to their origin in the separation of man's moral character from the divine ideal.
Science, with its new theory of evolution, puts a stern emphasis upon the strength of the ties which bind man to the brute. It lays bare the workings of the selfish, sensual, egotistical impulses in the career of the race. It lengthens the cords and strengthens the stakes of the fatal net of heredity which holds all men together in an entanglement of defects of nature and taints of blood.
“I know of no study," wrote Professor Huxley, “which is so unutterably saddening as that of the evolution of humanity as set forth in the annals of history. Out of the darkness of prehistoric ages man emerges with the marks of his lowly origin strong upon him. He is a brute, only more intelligent than the other brutes; a blind prey to impulses which as often as not lead him to destruction; a victim to endless illusions which make his mental existence a terror and a burden, and fill his physical life with barren toil and battle. He attains a certain degree of comfort, and develops a more or less, workable theory of life in such favourable situations as the plains of Mesopotamia or of Egypt, and then for thousands and thousands of years struggles with various fortunes, at