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Christians and the Law-Courts

 

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Faith in the 'Vain Thing'

The whole of the Old Testament says that the misfortunes of the Jewish people were the effect of their believing in false gods and not in the true God. Samuel, in his First Book, chapters 8 and 12, told the people that to all their former disobedience they had added a new one. Instead of God who had been their King they had chosen a man-king, whom they thought would save them. Do not believe in 'vain things,' says Samuel to the people.2 1 Samuel 12:21 It cannot help you or save you because it is 'vain' - empty. That you may not perish together with your king, cling to the one God.

And it was faith in that 'vain thing,' in empty idols, that hid the truth from me. On the path to it, hiding its light from me, stood those 'vain things' which I had not strength to reject.

I was walking the other day toward the Borovitski Gates of the Moscow Kremlin. At the gates sat an old crippled beggar, wrapped round the ears with some rag. I took out my purse to give him something.3 Tolstoy always gave away small change to beggars he met, in accord with the usual practice of religious folk in a country which had no State poor-relief organization, and also in accord with the injunction 'Give to him that asketh of thee!' He sometimes admitted that his gift might do harm and that the man might go and drink it; but he argued that the goodwill on the giver's part indicated by the gift was more important than the possible ill-effects of the recipient. - A.M. Just then, coming down from the Kremlin, ran a manly, ruddy young fellow, a grenadier in his regimental sheepskin coat. The beggar, on seeing the soldier, jumped up in dismay, and ran limping down toward the Alexandrov Gardens. The grenadier started to catch him, but, without overtaking him, stopped and began abusing the beggar for sitting at the gateway though it was prohibited. I awaited the grenadier at the gate. When he came up to me I asked him if he could read.

'I can, what about it?' 'Have you read the Gospels?' 'I have.' 'And have you read, "For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat"?' And I quoted that passage.4 Matthew 25:42 "For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink." He knew it and listened to it, and I saw that he was uneasy. Two passers-by stopped to listen. It was plain that the grenadier was hurt to feel that he, fulfilling his duty excellently and driving beggars away from the place they had to be driven from, suddenly appeared to be in the wrong. He was agitated, and was evidently seeking a rejoinder. Suddenly in his clever black eyes a light gleamed, and he turned sideways to me as though to walk away. 'And have you read the Military Code?' asked he. I said I had not read it. 'Then don't talk,' said the grenadier tossing his head triumphantly, and adjusting his coat he proceeded confidently to his post. This was the only man I ever met in all my life who quite logically decided the eternal question with which our social state, being what it is, faced me and faces every man who calls himself a Christian.

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