Calamity has forced
us into the gaze of the nations and made us the cynosure of the
world’s attention. Our days of mourning opened the fountain of unrestrained
sympathy, and some of our noblest national qualities have found
vent. But now that the climax of our grief has spent itself, and
we are recovering from the shock that plunged us into a conflict
of emotions, we must soberly reflect upon the situation and deal
with the causes of our woe, both those immediate and those remote.
Naturally, we feel that we must first of all crush under heel that
serpent of lawlessness that seeks to strike with death at our institutions.
In the outburst of resentment we are apt to darken counsel with
words without knowledge. Passions roused to revenge have found spokesmen,
and cruelty torturing with pain has been suggested. But all such
sentiment is foreign to the spirit of Him who prayed for His murderers.
Much idle talk has demanded
the immediate enactment of laws to prevent the recurrence of assassination.
But lawmaking is no easy thing. Law is not the verdict of exasperated
individuals, but the consensus of wisest, most patient and skillful
judicious minds. The hasty utterances of undigested thought fashioned
into a code of law would create a machine that would grind many
of us to powder. We must leave all remedies within legal province
to minds expert in judicial wisdom. Nor will mere law stamp out
crime. All crime lives despite law, and anarchy will prove no exception.
We are a nation of a
mixed multitude. From every latitude and longitude, with every phase
of temperament, phlegmatic and erratic; aristocrat and plebeian;
virtuous and vicious, we gather here. With such a heterogeneous
people we cannot experiment with erratic nations [sic], but
must assimilate convictions about our tried and proven institutions.
And what is the most cohesive force in any nation? Not its numbers,
wealth,  resources, system
of education or form of government. These are all vital and integral
factors. But the most potent force is the moral fiber that lives
in a nation’s religion. In proportion to the grip of religious truth
upon the national conscience and conviction, is a nation’s greatness.
And it is no accident that the nations most reputed for evangelical
Christianity are the mightiest nations of the world to-day. The
custodian of evangelical Christianity in America is the church of
God. Through her membership God must exercise the cohesive power
of divine grace binding us in one. Christianity must be the salt
of the earth and the agent of converting grace. When it fails of
this, corruption and disintegration must ensue.
In the present crisis
we are face to face with ripened atheism. Anarchy is the deadly
fruit, atheism the deadly root. Its logic is concise: no God; no
authority; no accountability; no punishment; no law. Law is restraint
and restraint is tyranny. As a philosophy it breaks everywhere.
Beyond the destruction of law and government it has no plan or ideal.
In practice it has no place for restraint, and conscience is dethroned.
Free land, free wealth, free love, free beer are its cry, and it
strikes death at the foundations of home and society. It is insincere.
Make its advocates rich and to-morrow they will demand the protection
of the law which to-day they destroy. They violate the law with
crime, then ask its protection from consequences.
But there are remote
causes for this lawlessness. We need to blush for the lawless visitation
on lawlessness enacted within recent years. Cruelty and passion
have delighted less in justice than exquisite torture in many recent
lynchings. Unshriven the wretched criminals were sent to an account
at God’s tribunal to suffer the destiny of eternal punishment. But
what cared the mob for that? There was no fear of God before their
eyes. They acted with practical atheism, independent of God. The
only excuse pled for such acts is the law’s delays and defeats of
judgement. Alas that it should be so! If the legal profession would
refuse a retainer for every cause which they believe unrighteous,
and refused to appeal where justice had made decisions, and repudiated
the screening of wrong beneath technicalities and loop holes, 
our law would be a thousand fold more effective. As it is, many
a criminal boldly gambles on the law’s protection or weakness.
But in how far are the
words of Paul (Romans ii:17-24) applicable unto us? We mingle in
all the affairs of men, in the social, business and political world.
There are two kinds
of skepticism in the world. One that is not sinful or destructive,
but ultimately finds God. The other that is ruinous and deathly.
With intellectual embarrassment that sometimes suggests the doubt
of God’s existence, knowledge or care, God had no quarrel. Calamity,
sorrow and disaster may confine the faculties of mind. Job, the
Psalmist, Habbakuk, John had their hours of eclipsed faith. But
there is an atheism of heart, not head, that rises out of desire.
The fool that saith in his heart there is no God, let us break His
bands asunder, etc.; this is moral atheism that would not have a
God. Practical atheism, this is real atheism. Not how do we say
the creed, but how do we live the creed judges the issue of atheism.
What force is a Christian society in the social life in the world?
How much place has God in the decisions as to whom we shall fellowship
as friends, whom we will choose as companions of life, whom we will
admit to those intimacies that must exert an influence on us? How
much do we reckon with God as to whether we shall be negative or
positive in the world? leavening or being drawn away into wordliness?
[sic] Do we not in all this act without God? There is no
fear of God before their eyes.
In the business world
what place has God in the conduct of affairs? Oh, one can’t be honest
to-day and succeed. Is that true? Then it is a choice, and to choose
success is atheism. God on Sunday, no God Monday. Men make partnerships
without God and then cannot jointly ask God in crises. Men engage
in lines where they cannot counsel with God. By so far as God is
shut out in so far it is Godless, atheistic. “There is no fear of
God before their eyes.”
What place has God to-day
in the family life? That is at the foundation of state. Is there
an altar in that citadel of the government? And what place has the
closet at the fountain head? We can dispense with churches more
safely than the closet and family altar. Let them 
crumble and we decay at the core of life. Let us not rise against
an individual or a small class, however dangerous; with them we
must deal. But we need more. Detective service, court decision,
legal execution alone cannot save us. There must be the transforming
power of divine love that makes man Godfearing. These men need conversion
more than execution. And our hopelessness of such an issue is atheism
itself. The power of the gospel can save all men.
For the church, this
is the day for us to put on sackcloth and ashes; to return unto
the Lord for healing; to consecrate anew life, business and fellowship;
to let God into all and make us the salt against corruption; to
build the closet, the family altar and acknowledge the Lord in all
our ways. To deny ungodliness and unholy lust, living soberly, righteously,
we smite atheism at its root and the tree will decay and die.