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religious missionary associations; town treasurers; bank tellers and cashiers; trustees of the property of widows and orphans, are found to have used trust money for private speculations. Usually they have begun this course of evil long before they were found out. During these years they have been respected in the community, perhaps have been teachers in Sunday schools, have given largely to missions, have stood up and exhorted in prayermeetings. Meantime their sin has been following steadily after them. Made bold by impunity, they have grown careless, audacious, reckless. At last the sin overtakes them; the day of detection arrives. The community learns with astonishment that this man, so much trusted and honored, has been for years a thief, stealing the property of others, with which to gamble in stocks. Some of these men are now in our prisons; some have committed suicide ; some have fled in disgrace. All have brought misery on themselves and their families and friends.
Probably there are now among us others of the same sort; those whose sins are steadily pursuing them, sure to overtake them by and by. What a dreadful state of mind such a man must be in ! He is obliged to appear cheerful while inwardly consumed by anxiety, afraid of detection and discovery at every moment.
In one of Scott's novels there is an account of a party of fugitives escaping from their enemies,
making their way in darkness by secret paths in the mountains, and hearing behind them the deep bay of the bloodhound on their track, constantly following their footsteps. So is the man whose sin is following after him.
On one of the post-office routes of the United States money had been frequently lost. A detective was sent by the department to find the culprit. For a long time he quietly pursued his inquiries. He travelled to and fro along the route, put packages into the mail between different offices, dropped letters here and there containing marked bills. At last he discovered the office where the letters were intercepted. The postmaster was a very respectable man, married to a good wife, with two sweet little children. He kept a shop as well as the post-office. When the agent went in, he was weighing out goods to a customer. The detective said, “Can I see you in private for a nioment ?” The man's face turned ghastly pale. He knew that his sin had found him out. In a monient, fell in ruin his character, the respect and love of others, his peace and fortune, -all that makes life worth living. His sin had followed after him steadily during many years, and now it had come up with him. Oh, what a fool he had been ! For the sinner always sees at last that he is also a fool.
In the irresistible logic of guilt, one evil leads to another, one sin is developed out of another. There is nothing abrupt, nothing casual in the process. The road to sin is smooth, because an army of transgressions has passed over it. When such a development takes place, the community is filled with consternation. Men meet each other and say, “Have you heard what has happened ? Mr. A. has turned out a defaulter. Mr. B. has been robbing his bank. How could he have done it?” Alas! he did it long ago, when he took the first step, when he diverged a very little way from the path of right. After that, every other step was easy, natural, and logical.
But while you condemn the man, pity him. Think of his misery during all these years. He knows that his sin is following after him; knows that it will one day find him out. Meantime he lives in perpetual fear; a nameless dread hangs over him at every moment. Certainly sin is the greatest of follies. Such a man digs a mine under his house, fills it with gunpowder, makes a train from it to the railroad where the hot sparks are falling, and then places himself over the mine, waiting for the explosion.
Likewise the good works of some persons are manifest beforehand. There is a goodness which is gracious, and everywhere beloved ; a goodness which hurts no one's prejudices, interferes with no one's opinions. Some persons are born with good tempers, sweet dispositions, lovely manners. They make sunshine wherever they come. They are like Guido's Apollo, preceded and attended by the beau
tiful Hours. A band of graces goes before them; soft music heralds their approach. These are the saints whom all admire; the saints of society; the heroes of the winning cause. It is easy for them to be good-natured, sympathetic, kind, for they are made so. We will be thankful for this sort of goodness, for it makes life fair, and these lessons of kindliness are known and read of all men. They are our alphabet of virtue, easily learned. The sun, I suppose, finds no difficulty in shining; he cannot help being radiant; and these fair souls find no difficulty in saying and doing kind things. They radiate sunshine naturally.
But some men have a good inward purpose, surrounded by a harsh, ungraceful, egotistical, combative, or disagreeable manner. They try to be kind; they only succeed in being patronizing. They struggle to please; they displease by the very effort. They come to see you, desiring to make themselves agreeable. In five minutes they have engaged you in a sharp dispute. They are sometines so diffident that they seem proud. They would give the world to be loved, and they appear indifferent. They go through life sad and gloomy, walking always on the shady side of the street, and
men call them sullen. I confess in reading Dante I have felt a pity for his poor sullen people, whom he thought fit to immerse in the mud of hell, and whose words came bubbling up through the slime, saying, “Sullen were we in the sweet
air that is gladdened by the sun, carrying lazy smoke in our hearts; now lie we sullen here in the black mire.” Poor souls! they perhaps did not wish to be sullen ; they could not help themselves. I do not think that the Almighty Judge will confirm Dante's hard sentence. I like Burns's view better:
“Who knows the heart, 't is He alone
Decidedly can try us ;
Each spring, its various bias.
We never can adjust it ;
But know not what's resisted.”
Old Dr. Beecher was an instance of one whose good works followed him. In him we saw a man brought up to believe with undoubting faith that men can be saved only by orthodox opinions. Earnestly desirous of doing good, bent on finishing the work he had to do, he was yet from this narrowness unable to do justice to an opponent. Before him marched in full view his bigotry, his bitterness against heretics, and his superstitious fear of an avenging God. But his good works followed after, - his practical labors for temperance, for education, for human improvement, his desire to revive vital religion in human hearts; and so at last, when he came to be old, he had the happiness of seeing himself surrounded by troops of friends