Another ideal is Progress. We are moving, not toward the bottom, but toward the top of possibility. We reject annihilation, because then there is nothing left. And there must always be something left—progress—a bigger something, a better something. Should annihilation be the truth of things, and all the race mortal, then some day there would be a Last Man. And after the Last Man, what? He would die, and then all that any of the other stars could view of the vast panorama of our earthly generations would be an unburied corpse, with not even a vulture hovering to pick it to freshness in the air!
A Last Man? No. Instead, the seers have shown us a great multitude in a heavenly country, praising God, and singing forth His Name forever. Immortality broods over the great thought of the race. All great minds look upward to it: it is the final consummation of our dreams.
Another ideal is social adjustment, and social service. We must do something for some one, or we cast current sagacity behind the back. People crowd each other to the wall. The weak of communities and nations are too often crushed. Redress is in the air. The longed-for wisdom of to-day shows a kaleidoscopic front, in which are turning the slum-dweller and the millionaire; the white man, the yellow, and the black; the town and the territorial possession. The slave-colony, garbage-laws, magistrates, and murderers are mixed in motley, and there are whirling vacant-lot schemes abroad, potato-patches, wood-yards, organized charity, Wayfarers’ Lodges, resounding cries of municipal reform, and various other interests of the wisdom-scale.
Hence, wisdom has not yet been arrived at: we are still on the run. This twentieth century will find new problems, new queries, new cranks, and new dismays!
One thing, however, shines out clear: Wisdom is being recognized as having a moral aspect, and men are looking for a Religion which shall sum up the learning of the sages, the information of the race.
When we look down into the physical universe, the primary thing that we find there is gravitation. When we look into the moral universe, the primary thing that we find there is also gravitation—a sinking to a Lower. This is sin—a contrariness of things—which makes the world an evil place to live in, instead of a good; which wrecks character and states, eats the hearts out of cultures and civilizations, destroys strong races, leaves a stain upon even the youngest child, and which is constantly drawing the race downward, instead of upward.
Sin, sin, sin! Everywhere the fact glares upon us, and cannot be hid, or put away. Sin is not an intellectual toy, for philosophers to play with or define as “a limitation of being.” Sin is a reality, for men to feel, recoil from, and of which one must repent.
Sin is energy deliberately misplaced: energy directed against the course of things, the infinite development, the will of God. Sin is corruption, and desolation, and decay. Death broods over the spirit of man, unless a Redeemer come. The unredeemed ages hang over history like a pall. In them there are monumental oppression, cruelties, and crimes. The breath of myriad millions went out in darkness, and there was none to save. A plague swept over all the race.