Written yesterday, eighty-six years ago.
Priceless Value of Human Life
[The Presbyterian, 95.1 (1 January 1925): 5.]
A resolution passed by the General Council [of the PCUSA], at its last meeting, held in Chicago, on December 10, was as follows:
“Whereas, Statistics show that the number of murders and of other crimes of violence in the United States is much greater in proportion to population than in any other civilized country, and that the loss of life in traffic and in industry is alarming. Therefore, be it
“Resolved, That we earnestly call public attention to this startling indifference to the priceless value of human life, as shown by the number of homicides, suicides, preventable accidents, and urge upon all the ministers of our church to bring the subject strongly before the members of their respective congregations, and that we appeal to our co-religionists in other churches to take similar action to the end that proper respect may be shown to life, that sacred gift from the Creator, which man can extinguish, but is powerless to restore.
“And we hereby declare our readiness to co-operate with all groups of citizens organized for the remedying of this great evil.”
It is well and timely for the General Council to call attention to this grave and openly acknowledged condition in our own country. It iwll not be safe to treat this as a sensation. It is most significant, serious and threatening. The remedy cannot be discovered until we first know the cause. Sin is the root cause of all such violence and bloodshed. But what is the restraint upon this sin and what is the power that produces this restraint? Our Lord answers the first question when he declares that true believers are “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” This salt reduces and restrains the moral putrefaction and this light dispels the darkness in which the putrefaction takes place. If, then, iniquity and violence increase, it would be reasonable to conclude that the salt has lost its savor and the light has become great darkness.
The truth and application of these teachings of Christ and these deductions from them are sustained by the coincidence of this wave of murder and other violence and corruption in this nation, and the small faith and low spirituality in the church. For some time unbelief in the form of modernism has been forcing its way into the life and faith of the church until it has lost its savor. Moreover, the church has largely lost its light, it has been covering up the gospel, and giving itself to great organization and money-raising. We are met with undeniable facts announced by the present General Council at its first meeting, namely, we raised last year $38,000,000, and the number of souls received into the church was the smallest in ratio for a century. This brings us face to face with the reality and the cause of this fearful situation. The church has weakened in her faith and use of the gospel, and the Holy Spirit has withdrawn, and we have this fearful state of murder and other violence. People living in this condition have returned to a state of cultured heathenism, in which there is no noble purpose or motive in life. The fear of God and the love of God are wanting in the people, and they are living for thrills. Loeb and Leopold afford a specific example of a general condition. They killed and committed unspeakable violence upon a cousin for no other purpose than a thrill. Much of this shooting and murder is done to produce a thrill. Much of the fast and reckless automobile driving arises from the same desire for a thrill.
The General Council has called attention to this real and terrible violence. The church has deserted her task of seeking to win souls to salvation and to build them up in faith and holiness through the gospel blessed and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. The church has given herself to statesmanship and civilization rather than to preaching Christ crucified, which is the power of God and the wisdom of God unto salvation. The loud cry of modern violence calls the church everywhere, first to repent and cast off her unbelief, then to return unto God, and he will return unto her, will forgive her sin, and heal our land. It is to be hoped that this loud call will be answered and the church, rising in the might of the Holy Spirit, will drive out the false teachers and their heathen rationalism, and will proclaim with double faith, energy and prayer the blessed gospel of the glorious God.