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stem from the middle shoots up two to three feet, on which appears a flower resembling that of the thistle—but of a yellow color.
There hangs a tale by this plant It has this peculiarity that its opposite leaves always point north and south. Whenever seen and I saw it at various places hundreds of miles apart--it points north and south. How many soever you may see—and I saw hundreds in sight at a time—they all stand in the same position. Having a peculiar, I may say unnatural appearance—for they always seem as if the leaf were turned into an unnatural position by a breeze, showing a silvery sheen like the lower side of the silver maple—they are at once marked to the eye among all the hundred various plants which cover the prairie. Bright sheets of tin, stuck in among the grass and all turned the same way, would scarcely appear more marked to the view. Now the tale that bereby hangs is this. It is said that by these plants the Indians guided their way across the prairies on dark and cloudy days. By these plants they knew their north, and south, and thus found their course, when they had no other familiar object by which they could be sure of their way. Thus in these vast seas of grass this plant served the untutored Indian as compass—and hence its name. In the primeval woods be knew which was north by observing which side of the trees was most over-grown with moss, and on the prairie lie trusted to the unerring fingers of this singularly interesting pilot plant.
Good is the Lord-even to the poor Indian ! He left him not without a guide, nor Himself without a witnesss to his tender love on these wide, wide prairies, long before a foot of civilized man had crossed their trackless expanse. Let the pious tale be preserved and repeated ; and let the compass plant ever speak from out the rich green prairie in praise of God's providential love.
We could not, in any place, where these singular plants met our eye, contemplate them without an inward grateful ackrowledgment of that still better and surer guide and compass, which a kind God has given us in His Son and in His word, by which we may find our way through the desert of this life to the glad shores of everlasting peace and rest. How little we think of it after all! How small is our gratitude for the un. speakable gift. We admire His kind providence as manifested toward the Indian in the compass plant; but how infinitely greater are the exhibitions of His love to us as they appear in the kind guidings of His grace by which be ever besets our path on every side. How many, sin. fully unmindful of the pointing finger of His thousand-fold love, still miss the way, and thus never reach that heavenly Home toward which they are so clearly directed and so lovingly allured. Let it be so, if stubborn ungrateful man will have it so; but let not our kind father in heaven be blamed for the wanderings and the wo which those bring on themselves, who in spite of the love which would lead and save them, rush blindly and madly on, till their feet stumble on the dark mountains, and whilst they look for light their way is turned into the shadows of death and becomes gross darkness.
LET us direct our attention in a brief article, to sins of ignorancethe sin of being ignorant in regard to divine things, and of committing sin in that ignorance.
Is it sin to be ignorant, and, in that ignorance to do wrong? What is the nature of such sin? What is its guilt? What are its moral consequences? These are earnest and solemn questions; and every one who bears a responsible nature ought to be ansious to have them auswered by the clear light of the holy scriptures.
There are beyond doubt loose views, and still looser feelings on this point prevalent. Ignorance in divine things is looked upon with great allowance. It is not regarded as a crime ; but as an innocent matter of course, or at least as a mere misfortune. It is pitied, but not blamed. It is ridiculed, but not solemnly deplored as sin. It is regarded as a kind of privilege to be allowed to such as may choose it for themselves. It is even scarcely regarded as a shame by others; and very little felt to be such by the subjects of it themselves.
Ignorance in religious things is treated with more leinency and charity than ignorance in other things. To be ignorant in even the lowest ranges of eartbly knowledge is blamed. There are circles in which igporance of certain mechanical movements of the body, called manners, are treated as an evil that scarcely dares seek forgiveness—where ignorance of the laws and changes of fashion dooms to hopeless social reprobation-where the preparation of a dish, the arrangement of a ribbon, the want of a bow, is followed by banishment into the outer darkness of society and civilization. But ignorance of God, of Jesus Christ, of the Spirit, of holy angels, of the ways of a saint, of divine doctrines and duties, is not even a shame much less a sin! He that hears not, and knows not Chesterfield shall be damned; but he that knows not Jesus Christ, and Paul, and the prophets, it shall be no sin unto him, he shall be free!
Such is the superficial judgment of the world. But in this, as in other things, God's thoughts are not men's thoughts, neither are His ways as the ways of men.
Let us look into the divine record. To the law and the testimony; whosoever does not speak or think according to these is not in the way of the truth.
In the holy scriptures, ignorance itself is treated as sin. lynorance is set forth under the symbol of "darkness." As such it is the opposite of holiness, which is light; and belongs to the kingdom of the devil, which is darkness. To be with God is to be in the light: to be in sin is to be in darkness. Satan is the prince of darkness. Sin is the power of darkness. Hell is the land of darkness. This is so plainly, so repeatedly, and so emphatically stated in the holy scriptures as to need no argument or illustration. The passages that bear on it would themselves cover pages.
In like manner is doing wrong iu ignorance treated as sio. God has laid down special laws in regard to sins of ignorance-treating it as sin --pointing out the nature of its guilt, and prescribing the atonement to be made for such sin. In Lev. iv. tod instructs the Jews what is to be done, " If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done." He gives a law for the sin of ignorance of the “Priests "-a law for such sins in the "whole congregation "-a law in regard to such sins in the “rulers ”—and a law for sins of ignorance in “ the common people."
It is distinctly said, v. 15, “If a soul commit a trespass, and sin through ignorance, in the holy things of the Lord," he shall bring a trespassoffering and “make amends for the harm that he bath done," and "the priest shall make atonement for him." “ And if a soul sin, and commit any of the things which are forbidden to be done by the commandments of the Lord; though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his iniquity."
The New Testament recognizes the same law. The apostle Paul, when he charges the Jews with the guilt of killing the prince of life, says, “I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.” Acts jii. 17. Does he therefore excuse them, and say it is no sin to you? No. He says, “ Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out."
Paul, Romans i, pronounces the heathen as without excuse ?" 20. In Luke 12:28, we read : " He that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beater with few stripes.” He shall not be clear.
Thus the holy scriptures clearly teach that sinful acts, though done in ignorance, are sin.
Let no one find fault with this law as though it were hard and unjust. Let no one find fault with the scripture because it is there laid down. For it is not there alone. It is also written in actual history and experience before us. Are not men coustantly suffering the consequences of their ignorance?
& man eats that which will bring disease upon him in ignorance. A man takes a poisonous substance in ignorance, and it costs him suffering and life Does he escape the penalty, because be did it in ignorance? Here are facts in nature, just like the facts of the Bible. He that condemns the one must condemn the others. Bible or no Bible, God or no God, here are the facts-facts alike to believer and upbeliever-and one is as much bound to explain them as the other.
With the instances around us in which men suffer for their ignorance we have no irouble. We acquiesce in the law. Wbo ever heard of a man finding fault with the law outside of the Bible? Who ever rejected nature, because this law is written upon it? Why then find fault with the same law when written in God's word ? A man-.even if be believe not the Bible—who picks up a hot iron ignorant of the fact, suffers the penalty, and never thinks of flying into the face of God or nature because there is such a law !
It will, moreover, be found that in many cases in which men in this
way suffer the penalty for their ignorance, it was not even in their power to know, that what they were about to do would be a violation of a law, the consequences and penalty of wbich would be suffering. It is not so in the case in hand. In most cases—perhaps in all-where men sin through ignorance they might have known. The apostle Paul even contends that the heathen might know more of their duty to the true God than they do. “They did not like to retain God in their knowledge." Rom. i. How much more emphatically is this the case in Christian lands. What excuse is there here for ignorance of divine doctrines and doties? Who shall be excused ? Shall the blind? they are now kindly taught. Shall the deaf? they are now mercifully made to hear. Shall the poor? they have opportunity to learn if they will but embrace it.
What excuse is there for any one to be ignorant of right and wrong ? Is any one so, the fault is his own!
Why are any ignorant of divine things ? Because they have no taste for such knowledge. They are not earnest in the effort. They are not willing to undergo the discipline. They would sit with their hands on their laps, rather than read God's word. They prefer the newspaper to & religious book. They would rather call at à neighbor's, than call at the lecture room--would rather sit in the store, shop, or bar-room than in the catechetical class. They would rather fix an ornament of pride upon their bodies, than fix a religious doctrine in their heads. They would rather dance in the ball-room, laugh at a comic show, or play at games, than sit with Mary at Jesus feet. This is the reason of their ignorance—the fault all their own.
Let any one look at the way in which the great crowd of men and women, young and old, spend leisure time to no earthly purpose, and he will be at no loss to account for the mournful ignorance which hangs like Egyptian gloom over the minds of thousands. He will easily account for the prevalence of the grossest error in regard to doctrine and daty—and will not be surprised at the grouping in darkness, and the blundering in sin, of which the world is full.
See, too, the supreme devotion to mere earthly interests. See how much care is bestowed on mere worldly knowledge. Men will read more in a paper about politics, stocks, accidents, and nonsense in a day, than they will read in the Bible in a week. They will read more about a candidate for the Presidency in one campaign, than they will read of Jesus Christ in a life time.
Offer a man a coin and he will sound it-offer him a note and he will feel the paper, hold it up to the light and look through it; and if still he is not sure he will take out the detector-he is at home in that business, his soul is in it. But offer to such a man religious truth and he assents to it on trust, or rejects it without understanding it, or more likely looks at it with “brute unconcious gaze," as an ox looks at the mountain! Do you say this is a hard saying? We answer, not plainer than the facts as you know them to exist. “I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not; judge ye what I say !"
Shall such persons, with such treatment of their own noble spiritsspirits amply capable of knowing,—as their worldly acquirements show,-after such treatment of Gods revealed will--after such indifference to their high duties and privileges shall they, ignorantly blundering in
sin, plead that ignorance is an excuse; and find fault with that just and holy law which attaches guilt and penalty to sins of ignorance !
Shall a man thus bury his taleuts, and then say to God, when he comes to reckon, I know thee, that thou art an austere man, reaping where thou hast not sown! Shall a man shut his eyes at mid-day, and blame the sun when he strikes his foot against a stone, falls into the mire, or misses the way!
A man that would know duty must put himself in the way of know. ing it, and use the means. God, through his church, affords abundant
He that will hear the church through her Bible, ministry, sermons, books, sabbath schools, Bible classes, catechetical instruction, and more private counsels, need not walk in darkness, but may have the light of life. He that neglects these and sins through ignorance, upon his own soul shall be the peril, and the penalty, and the pain !
But let us not forget the peculiar tenders mercy of God toward sins of ignorance in cases where the fault of such ignorance is not directly and willingly our own. Though God does not excuse sins of ignorance, even when they are not wilful, yet he mingles great mercy with justice.
In regard to the heathen, he says: “It will be more tolerable, for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for those to whom He preached. The times of ignorance God winked at; but when light has come he commands all men everywhere to repent. In regard to the Jews, he says: “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin ; but now they have no cloak for their sin.” John 15: 22, 24. “To him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin."
James 4:17. To the same effect is our Saviour's prayer on the cross : “Father, forgive them they know not what they do!" See also Luke 12: 45.
Sins of ignorance, then, are not as great and inexcusable, as sins against light and in the light. We see that this fact is recognized by God's word, and we can also easily see the propriety of this feature in the law. We ourselves act on the same principle. An ignorant person may sin against us-may injure us—insult us—and do us wrong—we overlook it, because we know that it was done in ignorance.
But the same course of conduct from another who is not ignorant takes a different form! Why? Because the person knew better--and we see not ignorance but illwill and malice in the act. So also we find that even the laws of the land lean to mercy in regard to crimes done in great igno. rance. Such is the strong feeling that ignorance should be viewed with more mercy and less severity.
Still we repeat, it does not cease to be sin—it is not excusable or excused : “Though he wist it not, yet is he guilty, and shall bear his ini. quity!” Luke 5: 17.
There is a wicked thought which sometimes enters the heart of persons : That it is best not to know much, for then there is no such great accountability. This plea is vain-because it is wilful ignorance. Instead of an excuse, it is a double sin ; a sin to be ignorant, and another sin to remain so.
We are responsible not only for what we know, but for all that we might know. God requires of us not the bare talent which he gives ; but that talent with usury. Do we bury it, and return it as we received