HABITS OF UNHAPPINESS
To continue with this volume we must literally come down to earth. In our last chapter we scaled the heights of human possibilities in the line of virtue, in the climb towards happiness. Beginning in this chapter we must start to dig down, to look into the depths of human possibilities in quite another direction, in the direction of unhappiness, of sin. For it is true that in every one of us there are unsuspected possibilities of sanctity and of vice, of success and failure.
I think we are indeed down to earth again when we start this chapter by observing the technique of a great insurance company; at least we have come down a long way when we have passed from the activities of the Holy Ghost to the activities of an insurance company. The insurance company of which I am speaking has adopted a method of procedure well known to St. Thomas and spread it all over America in full-page advertisements in practically all magazines. The business of that insurance company is to keep people alive as long as possible; no one regrets a funeral more than an insurance company. In order to do that, the company has seen that it is not enough to tell people where good health lies, what it looks like and what its benefits are; it is also necessary, indeed more necessary, to see to it that people understand what ill health is, what it looks like, its symptoms, dangers, remedies and preventions.
The business of St. Thomas was to lead men to happiness. To do that he recognized seven hundred years ago, as did Christ two thousand years ago, that it was not enough to talk about virtue, to explain what it was, how it worked, its full benefit of happiness; it was also necessary to say a great deal about sin — what it is, what it looks like, its symptoms, dangers, remedies and preventions. The insurance company is not an enemy of human health because it warns so emphatically against sickness; nor are theologians enemies of human happiness because they warn us so constantly against human misery in its acute form of sin.
The insurance company stands solidly against the enemy of man’s body; the theologian, against the enemy of man’s soul. One is the sworn opponent of the enemy of human health; the other of human happiness. Both are fighting in the name of humanity. Yet the one has all the world for an ally; the other fights alone. Our nation and our time is always on the alert for the enemy of health, positively eager to talk about symptoms, operations, infallible remedies. But of the enemy of happiness?
- The familiar but strange face of sin:
- Denied to be embraced
Our time certainly does not want to hear about sin. To many, such an enemy as sin cannot be admitted as existing; because sin makes such a charming companion for a while, thinking of it as an enemy would spoil it all. We have an attitude like that of a small boy who stoutly denies the existence of measles and disregards all warnings because he sees great possibilities in a good case of measles. There is no sin, there cannot be, it is silly to be careful about sin — because after all sin holds out some tremendous possibilities.
Denied to be shunned
Still others wander through the streets of life carefully side-stepping sin, crossing the street to avoid the remotest contact with it. And all the time they proclaim to the world that their peculiar actions have no special meaning, they are a little eccentric, perhaps a little insane; but there really is no such thing as sin. There is no such enemy to run from; please do not pay any attention to the spiritual gas-masks, rifles, bayonets and hand-grenades — these are just little eccentricities adding a touch of gaiety to life like the trappings of a masquerade ball.
Recognized to be fought
There is finally that alertly courageous group that refuses to surrender and refuses to run; the men and women who may be beaten to earth again and again but are still “strong enough to fail” and to fight again. This group looks on sin as the rest of the world looks on sickness, recognizing sin as just as much, indeed very much more, of an enemy. It is an enemy, therefore something to be fought. It is not to be hidden in the bosom of our families, not to be ignored while it does its deadly work, not to be wished out of existence, but to be recognized as the peculiar problem of humanity.
- Sin and human nature:
- Denial of possibility of sin an insult to humanity
While sickness is something we have in common with all living things, sin is an enemy about which only men have to worry. Sin is the story of man’s failure; and only man can fail because only man can succeed. Only man has control of his actions. Sulphuric acid never makes the mistake of freezing a man instead of burning him, nor does a dog make mistakes though he does meet with accidents. To say there is no sin is to insult the humanity of man; it is to put man in the class of inanimate or brute creation every moment of which is fixed, every step accounted for along the narrow path laid out by necessary physical laws from the very beginning. To deny the possibility of sin is to deny the humanity of man or to make him a freak in nature.
Recognition of possibility of sin a tribute to humanity the recognition of the possibilities of sin on the contrary is the rendering of due tribute both to man and to nature. It is an insistence on the humanity of man, on his control and mastery of his own actions; and it is an equally emphatic insistence on his integral place in nature. He is not a freak, alone of all creatures excused from that general law which moves all things to the ends of nature, each according to its proper gifts; rather he is one with nature, moved by the laws of nature to the ends of nature — but moved as a man, morally not physically. There is an even greater tribute to man in this recognition of the possibilities of failure, a tribute not of word but of deed. It is the tribute a man gives to his own humanity when he has the courage to face the terrifying truth of that humanity and its responsibilities; it is the courageous tribute given by the most abject of sinners who knows and admits he has sinned, a scathing denunciation of the cowardice of the man afraid to face his humanity.
Commission of sin a betrayal of humanity
But while paying that tribute to what nature is and should be, the sinner is actually betraying his humanity by his sin. He is twisting, perverting, turning that nature away from all it was intended to be and to do. That nature is a rational nature; in it reason should be king, all its energies should move smoothly along under the direction of reason to the goal of reason in which alone there is happiness for man. The sinner, whatever his sin, dethrones reason and puts some usurper on the throne of his soul; his energies are aimed, not by reason, but by the usurper, not to the ends of reason but against all that reason reaches out for. Every sin is unnatural, against nature, a betrayal of nature because every sin is against reason.
The more profoundly we become acquainted with ourselves, the easier it is to understand why we call God “Father” and why we are always children in His eyes. We never really grow up. An instance to the point is our delight in the childish device of vivid contrast — beauty and ugliness, colour and drabness, laughter and tears. It was part of the gentle humour of God smiling on children that made of contrast the simple key to beauty, to love, even to wisdom for men. It was another evidence of God’s stooping to men when He made contrast the gay path along which alone man walks to knowledge: of all the creatures beneath him, only man is capable of contrasting; and of all those above him, man alone stands in need of constant contrast.
A contrast of friend and enemy: virtue and vice
It is not astonishing, then, that our best insight to sin is obtained by placing it in vivid contrast to its opposite, by putting the enemy of human happiness side by side with the indispensable friend of human happiness. Sin and virtue, darkness and light, ugliness and beauty, decay and health, all are in that one contrast of good and bad habits.
We have said that virtue was a good habit; its opposite, a bad habit, is strictly called a vice. The fruit of the spirit and the fruit of the flesh, these two are an adequate statement of the opposite acts of good and bad habits, of virtuous acts and sins. The first proceeds from the spiritual faculty of reason in command, the second from the rebel forces which have overthrown reason. Sin, then, is the act which proceeds from a bad habit and goes into the formation of a bad habit. Goodness and evil are the opposite dispositions left in a man as a result of these habits and acts.
These two, sin and virtue, are sworn enemies. No house is big enough for them, no reasoning, pleading, excusing is powerful or pitiful enough to keep them from each other’s throats. It is sometimes a question as to whether vice or virtue will come hurtling out the window; but always we can be certain of a fight. If the actual guests at the same inn happen to be mortal sin and the infused virtues, there can be no question but what one of them must take the road again seeking other lodgings. Mortal sin is not so hard on the acquired or natural virtues; a natural virtue, after all, is not destroyed by one act. Venial sin does much to destroy the genial air of hospitality, but can get along in a strained, weakening atmosphere with either the acquired or the infused virtues.
A definition of sin (Augustine)
By contrasting vice and sin with virtue and acts of virtue we have an accurate idea of the nature of sin and vice. This accurate notion was stated briefly by Augustine when he said that sin was “a thought, word or deed against the Eternal Law “. Thoughts, words and deeds are the material, the brick and mortar, from which sins are constructed; the formal element in sin, what sets it apart from virtue, is its opposition to the Eternal Law.
Distinguishing marks of sin: Its accidental character
The catechism defines sin as “a thought, word, deed or omission against the law of God “. But the word “omission” is a little unfortunate. It has the air of the accidental about it, like forgetting to take medicine or absent-mindedly going out without an umbrella. Actually sin is impossible without some positive act back along the road from which that sin has come. Sins do not just happen, they are willed; they are not accidents that stain our souls as ink might stain a table-cloth, we must deliberately throw the stain at our souls. For sins are human acts, acts for which a man is responsible, which proceed under his control and to an end which he has freely chosen. Otherwise acts, no matter how evil they may be in themselves, are not sins. So somewhere behind an omission, either by way of cause, or occasion, or impediment, we must be responsible for the omission; which means that somewhere we must have willed it, whether directly or indirectly.
Its motive or object: God, self, neighbour
Yet in another sense, sins are indeed accidents. The commission of sin puts us in the position of the little boy who wants to eat green apples but does not want the inevitable stomach-ache that goes with eating them. Nevertheless he eats the apples. The stomach-ache is an accident as far as his will is concerned, certainly his mouth does not water in anticipation of a stomach-ache, yet in another sense he is quite willing to accept the stomach-ache as the price to be paid for eating green apples. No man wants to be a sinner, wants to turn his back upon God, wants to give up all chance for happiness and condemn himself to eternal misery. But if all that is inevitably connected with what is desired here and now, the sinner is willing to pay that price for his sin. We never quite grow up; and there is no more convincing evidence of our constant immaturity than the childish reversal of values involved in sin.
Some non-specific distinctions of sin
Stepping into the world of sin is like stepping into a dank tropical forest nurtured to unbelievable growth by a sun of desire which kills healthy plants. The variety of sin rivals the variety of tropical growth, in fact surpasses it; for the variety of sin is limited only by the possibilities of a will whose limit is the infinite. It is of no use to look to that will for a distinction of the various kinds of sin; an examination of the motives of sin, meaning by motives the causes which produce sin, can tell us only that this act was or was not human, that it was or was not sin. From a terrible fear of humiliation or from a wildly passionate love can come the same sin of lying or murder; from the one motive of anger can come sins as widely different as blasphemy, theft and murder.
The reason for this is that sin, like every other human act, is a motion to a goal. In the world below man we can easily determine the nature of a motion by looking either at the goal or at the active power that produced the motion; for the powers beneath man run along a determined track that leads always to the same goal. But the powers of man have no set channel along which they must necessarily flow. So for the determination of any human act, virtuous or vicious, we must look to the goal towards which it is going, to the object of the act, to the thing desired that first set in motion that activity of a human being. In other words, the specific character of any sin, as the specific character of any virtue, its very essence, is to be judged by the object to which it is directed.
These objects of sin fall easily into a very general classification since the field of sin is the same as the field of virtue, indeed the same as that of every human action. A human act has to do with God, our neighbour or ourselves. There is a profound thought behind this classification of sins into sins against God, ourselves or our neighbours, a thought we have met before and will meet time and time again, and yet one which continually slips into the back of our minds. That thought is the solemn truth that every creature beneath us is merely a tool or a servant; the universe is ours to use for God, ourselves and our neighbour — but neither God, ourselves or our neighbour is to be used, for anything in the universe no matter how powerful or attractive it may be.
Another way of stating this foundation for the essential distinction of sins is to say that man is governed by a triple rule: the rule of the reason of God, the rule of human reason directing the individual activities of man, and the rule of human reason directing the social activities of man. This is the triple law of human action: divine reason, personal human reason and political human reason. The first contains the second and third, for the reason of man has its validity precisely in so far as it is acting in the power of the divine reason. The dedication of men or society to any end less than the ends of man is a perversion, a twisting of nature, a rebellion against divine reason whose outcome is not freedom, not divine supremacy for man, but slavery — a chaining of man to the world that should be his servant and his tool.
Every sin, then, has its essential character from its goal, as every motion has its specific character from the place to which it is going; surely the contrast between a baseball thrown for a perfect strike and one thrown at a spectator’s head presents us with a picture of essentially different motions. We applaud the one and resent the other, particularly if we are among the assaulted spectators. Any consideration other than this one essential point of the goal of sin, may tell us something about sin but it will not distinguish one sin from another.
Mortal and venial
For example, we distinguish between mortal and venial sins; but this distinction does not set aside different sins. The same kind of sin, for example theft, might be either mortal or venial; so a Catholic confessing ” his many mortal sins” is no help at all to the confessor. The reason is easily seen. We cannot distinguish a man from a monkey by saying the human animal is bald; that is an accident and we are looking for an essential, specific difference. We can distinguish one man from another by saying that one is a barber and the other a priest, because there is no essential distinction, no specific gap between men. The mortal or venial character of sin tells us graphically what the sinner can expect from his sin or what he has done by his sin, i.e. either he has irreparably destroyed the very principle of his order to the goal or he has wandered from that order without destruction of its principle. But, as far as the sinner is concerned, both of these are accidents as deplorable as the little boy’s stomach-ache from his feast of green apples. Like everything else, sins are not distinguished by accidentals.
Commission and omission; Thought, word and deed
The same will hold true of sins of commission or omission. “Omission” or “commission” tells us how a sin was committed, whether the sin violated a positive or a negative precept; but it does not tell us what sin was committed. I remember a very small boy who came to confession and, after much embarrassment and many hacking coughs by way of getting a start, solemnly assured me he had, in the past week, “had five thoughts”. It was quite a remarkable feat in this day and age. It seemed to me the matter called much more for congratulation than for absolution. As a matter of fact he had merely stated the first grade of all human action. In the order of sin that first grade is fulfilled and rises to its consummation by the steps of word and deed; as, for example, an angry man first has thoughts that will not bear printing, then words that will not bear repeating, and finally the full perfection of his anger blossoms out in mayhem or murder.
Place of circumstances
Perhaps we keep the rest of the parish shifting from one foot to another while we tell the whole family history of our sin, its neighbouring surroundings, and all the circumstances that could possibly or impossibly have entered into it. All these may be important, they may vary the gravity or responsibility of the sin; but they do not let the confessor or anyone else into the secret of what that time-consuming sin was. For it is only the goal, the object of that sin, that gives it its essential character; and unless a circumstance steps out of its minor role of decorating that sin into the stellar role of object, it does not specify the sin.
The disorder of sin: A step towards chaos
It is important that we understand this specifying element in sin, important for several reasons. First of all, it gives us an insight into the terrifying variety of sin; and with that insight we can appreciate something of the dank disorder in the fetid life of the tropical forest of sin. We described virtue as the path along which human acts run to the goal of reason, as the channel leading the energies of man to reason’s goal; and we said this was true of every virtue. All have the same goal; the man of virtue is a man of streamlined energies moving with smooth, easy grace and harmony to one end. The essence of sin is the disregard of the rule of reason, indeed of any rule but that of immediate desire for this particular object. The sinner is a victim of civil war. By the very nature of sin all order is disrupted: a thousand and one goals, even contradictory goals, are strained for at the same time; his soul is a chaos in which nothing can be accomplished, where even life itself is intolerable so that a man must get outside himself or go insane. That is the secret of the difference between the quiet peace of Christ coming from the unveiled face of God and the riotous peace of the world that dare not stop its wild pace an instant lest chaos overtake it, but must charge ahead carrying chaos with it, plunging with every step into greater and greater chaos. The virtues are intimately connected; but every sin is not only an enemy of God, an enemy of man, an enemy of society, every sin is a bitter enemy of every other sin, each striving for a mastery that will be its own destruction.
Inequality of sins
For sin, like every evil, would destroy itself if it could only be carried to perfect fulfilment. Like a disease which must have some healthy tissue to feed on destroys itself by its very growth, so sin by its growth eats away the thing which makes it possible — the freedom of man. If it were possible for sin to go its full length, its end could only be the destruction of itself in the destruction of the reason of man.
Sin can go as far as the destruction of man’s freedom by making him a slave to his senses; but, thank God, it cannot go the lengths of destroying reason, for reason is a spiritual faculty against which no created force has any leverage. But the comparison with sickness gives us a clue to the different gravity of different sins. Just as one sickness is more grave than another, so is one sin more grave than another; the one as it more seriously attacks the principle of physical life, the other as it more seriously attacks the principle of reasonable life or of the life of grace. To put it another way, on the basis of our classification of the objects of sin we have an easy classification of the gravity of sin. All exterior things are ordained to man, and man is ordained to God; so sins directed against the external possessions of a man (such as theft) are less serious than those which are against the very substance of a man (like murder), and these in turn are less serious than those whose target is God Himself.
In so far as the objects of sin are opposed to the ends of reason, the sin has gravity; in so far as the virtues are tied up more intimately with the ends of reason, they have greater dignity. It is on the whole a fair arrangement. There is no unfair matching of a heavyweight sin with a lightweight virtue, cabin-boys do not fight admirals, raw recruits are not pitted against seasoned veterans. The graver the sin, the nobler and more dignified the virtue it attacks. In fact the arrangement is even more fair than this would indicate. All side-issues are thrown out, all petty annoyances brushed aside, when a greater virtue and a greater sin enter into their mortal combat; if there is a struggle at all it will be to the death. For of course the very nobility of a great virtue will easily sweep aside all but the correspondingly great sins, as a defending army will mow down the advance-guard of the invaders.
Carnal and spiritual sins compared
We could make a neat division of greater and lesser sins on the simple grounds of spirit and flesh; but in such a division it must be remembered that the comparison is general and supposes a parity in every other line. Otherwise we shall put ourselves in the silly position of a sports writer comparing two pugilists by putting the strength of one against the curly hair of the other. On this strict basis of gravity, then, the spiritual sins belong among the great, the carnal sins among the less great sins. There is of course much more shame and infamy attached to the carnal sins, as the course of the ages and the uplifted noses of the terribly righteous will testify. They do bring man down to the level of the beasts and no one realizes this more keenly than the carnal sinner himself. But from the point of view of the formal element of sin, the actual aversion from God and reason, there is much more of conversion to the creature than of aversion from God in the carnal sins, while the opposite is true of the spiritual sins. Again the spiritual sins are flatly directed against God and neighbour, both of whom we are bound to love more than our own body which is the object of the attack of the carnal sins. There is much more of deliberation and malice in the spiritual sins, much more of impulsiveness and the drive of passion in the carnal sins and in the matter of sin, the more a man is pushed the less is his guilt, because sin is always a matter of deliberate choice. Briefly, the spiritual sins to which we pay so little attention have more of the formal element of sin (aversion from God), more deliberation and malice, and are directed against a greater object. The sheep and the goats are not to be separated on the grounds of the carnal sins.
Factors in gravity of sins: Will and sense appetites
An absent-minded attendant at a shooting-gallery who shoots the clients in his fits of abstraction would be a great nuisance but hardly a great sinner. The rabid baseball fan who actually kills umpires in the excitement of a disputed decision is not to be compared to a cold-blooded gangster shooting his enemies in the back. For in establishing the gravity of a sin that deliberate will, which makes the spiritual sins so outstanding, holds absolutely first place. As a general rule, we might say that anything which adds to the deliberate will increases the gravity of sin; anything that detracts from either the deliberation or the willingness lessens that gravity. Indeed in this latter case the gravity and even the sin itself might disappear altogether — when, for example, the rush of passion or the fog of complete abstraction destroys the humanity of the action.
Deliberate will increases the gravity of sin by giving it concentrated power, boring in more deeply much as a hot iron can give a bad, even a fatal, burn though it is applied to only one spot. An equally fatal burn can be given by applying the iron to a wider surface, even though it does not burn so deeply. In the same way sin’s gravity can be increased by spreading it over a larger surface, making it extensively greater even though intensively it does not bore so deeply. This is ordinarily the role played by the circumstances of a sin. Over and above the essential evil given by the object of the sin, they add the accidental malice of time, place, manner, and so on. Of course it is possible for a circumstance to change the whole character of sin, as, for example, in the beating given to a wife and the beating given to a nun; but then we are no longer dealing with a circumstance but with a distinctly different object of sin.
Among the other factors contributing to the gravity of sin, a place of dishonour must be given to the objective damage done by our sin. Perhaps we intended the damage; or perhaps we foresaw it and did not particularly care; perhaps we did not foresee it through sheer negligence; or maybe the damage was not foreseen, not intended, but nevertheless was directly connected with our action — in all of these cases there is sin because in all of them there is an element of will, of effect flowing from our controlled action. Where that element is lacking — for example, when the damage done is embarrassment to a lady by falling into her lap from a ten-storey building — then the damage is not to be put on the bill of sin. It is just an accident.
Condition of person sinned against
It makes considerable difference who is committing the sin and against whom the sin is committed. We have said that in a general way the objects of sin are the objects of virtue: God, ourselves and our neighbours. Thus sacrilege against persons or things consecrated to God, even sins against persons who are very closely joined to God by virtue, will in themselves be more grave in proportion to the intimacy of that union with God. Sins against a mother or a father, against our children, against husband, wife, relatives, in fact against anyone who is joined to us either by a bond of blood, of natural necessity, or of gratitude, will all be more grave in proportion to the closeness of their union with us. In a way they are one with us, in sinning against them we are sinning against ourselves. The sins against a neighbour are more grave as they affect more of our neighbours: so an attack on the President is more grave than an attack on a private person because it really injures the whole community; or an injury done to a famous person will be more serious than the same injury done to someone who is entirely unknown, because of the scandal and turmoil it causes among the people.
Condition of the sinner
On the other hand, the sins of the saintly man are much more serious by reason of the high state of virtue he had reached. There is so little to excuse them. He cannot plead weakness with the same honesty as the poor sinner whose life is a long series of falls; his sin is a much more unforgivable evidence of ingratitude for the graces and friendship he has received; he was far, far better prepared to withstand the assaults of sin. So of course his fall causes much greater scandal than would the sin of anyone else. “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Indeed the saintly sinner can expect much himself by way of punishment.
Home of sin
It has been a persistent modern mistake to look for sin in the nerves, muscles, health or illness of a man, in his home life or in his surroundings. Of course the object of that search has persistently eluded the searchers. This or that has been improved and we lean back to watch the death of sin; but sin does not die. Really we have not touched the stronghold of sin; nor can we remotely approach that stronghold until we have recognized the humanity of man and man’s control of his actions. For it is precisely in that control-room, back in the spiritual citadel where only guests ever penetrate, that sin is to be found. Sin is a human action, proceeding from a human habit; and the habits of man are to be found in the one place where habits are necessary — in the principles of human action.
As we have seen, the prime mover of man is the will of man. Here is the last stronghold of sin, of evil as it is of good; for it is the work of the will, not merely to move, but to move towards or away from a goal, towards or away from good. In the will first, and in the other faculties in so far as they are moved by the will, we find sin — in the intellect, in the sense appetite for good, in the sense appetite to and away from difficulty, but always in so far as these things are subject to the movement of the deliberate will of man. Sin is essentially a rebellion; and a rebellion is possible only where government is possible. The supreme victory of sin is had when it has successfully rebelled against the government of reason not only in the colonies of the senses, but in the high seats of reason and will themselves.
- Sin and the modern world:
- Hatred of sin by Christ and by the modern world
This, then, is our preliminary survey of the field of sin. It leaves us with some rather astonishing results. Not the least of these is the contrary nature of the hatred of Christ and the hatred of the modern world for sin. Christ hated sin from the very depths of His divine being: sin is against all that God stands for, since it is an offence against the very mind of God; just as positively it is against all the God- man stands for, since it is the one enemy of human happiness. The Son of God who became incarnate that men might be free from sin, Who dedicated His life to the work of teaching men the truth that would make them free, of giving them an ever more abundant life, of leading them step by step to the goal of human life which is happiness — of course He would hate the enemy of human happiness which is sin. And of course He would demand a like hatred as the badge of distinction from His followers: ” If you love me, keep my commandments.”
Foundations of the modern stand: Misconception of sin
The hatred of the world for sin is hardly less thorough, but it is directed against the name, the idea, of sin rather than against sin itself. This hatred finds its most natural expression in a vituperative attack on those who insist on calling a sin a sin, who defend the exclusive privilege man has of making a mistake. Actually what the modern world hates seems rather to be the ostracism which sin is made to suffer; it would like to do away with this caste system of good and evil in the society of human actions. Looking at this hatred of the modern world objectively, we are forced to the conclusion that it is directed much more against men and women than it is against sin; for faced with the dilemma of admitting the possibility of sin and all its terrible consequences or of denying the humanity of man, the modern world turns all its guns on the humanity of man, determined to reduce it to the level of the chemical and animal world above which it towers.
“Not strong enough to fail”.
To us who are so familiar with our own times, this modern attitude, unreasonable as it is, has its explanations. The modern world is fighting sin because it does not know sin; and it cannot know sin as long as it remains ignorant of man. It is impossible to understand the indignities of which man is capable until we have some understanding of his dignity; and in a world where the spirit is laughed out of existence, there is no possibility of grasping even vaguely something of the dignity of man, of the necessity of habit and of the possibility of that bad habit which is sin. Even where the pressure of the years pushes men and women to an uneasy suspicion of their humanity, of their high destiny and eternal possibilities, the recognition of sin comes hard; for sin is human-failure with human responsibilities for that failure. Always there will be those who are “not strong enough to fail”.
Sin and successful living: Individual life This is one of the great reasons why our times are making such a botch of living. If we let this enemy of successful living have the run of the house, we can be sure there will be little of success individually, socially or supernaturally. The secret of successful living, as we have seen, is in the unification of the energies of man under one command, in their harmonious concentration on the one goal worthy of man. Sin is a disruption of that command, a dispersion of that concentrated power with a resultant state of civil war in the individual, of a scattering of his powers on goals totally unworthy of his manhood; it is a wasting of human energy, a complete failure of accomplishment, a smashing of the mirror in which was imaged the beauty and power of God. Every appetite is for itself here and now; the riot, confusion, total absence of peace in the soul of the sinner is a picture and a prophecy of the horror of hell.
In society it is every man for himself; and, as in the individual, it ends up by every man being against himself. As in the individual, we find men used as tools, ordained to the ends of things beneath them, the masters shining the shoes of the servants — men bowing and scraping before military prestige, financial power, class domination, and so on. For here, as in the individual, the unifying goal of reason is swept to one side; the one possible means of cohesion for human beings — a mutual respect for rights — is made a thing of words with much the same results as in the individual: slavery or destruction, in the one case destruction of life, in the other, destruction of human society.
Our world is in a bad way; men and women of that world are in a terrible way, for their very humanity is under fire. But even more terrible, their aspirations to the life of God have been definitely surrendered. Man is asked to find his peace, his hope, his courage, his complete happiness in this individual world of civil war, in the social world of slavery, with never a glance above the dreary scene that men have painted to inspire other men. For sin is, above all, rebellion against God; it is a deliberate descent from the plane of divine life, with the knowledge that no power but that of God can ever lift us up to that plane again. And even God will not lift us up against our will. Sin is a surrender of all that gives meaning to that swift motion which is human life, for it is a surrender of the goal of that motion.
Sin and happiness
Sin and happiness? The confirmed sinner has a solid grasp on the bitter knowledge of the unhappiness of sin. He has found out for himself that neither in this life nor in eternity can sin bring happiness to man. Perhaps only the saint realizes as keenly that the happiness of man consists in the approach to and possession of the goal of man and that sin is a despairing flight away from the goal to its complete loss.