Its Necessity

Why is life a battle? There are more answers than one. Some would say, because of the belligerency of human nature.

Now there is no doubt that in every strong character there are strains of belligerence, and some men reach the zenith of their power in opposition. The apostolic allusions to games and contests, wrestling and warfare, show that the forces of emulation which pulsate restlessly in our blood can be transmuted into spiritual qualities; and the kindled consciousness of power which makes the soldier can contribute to the nurture of faith. Our trust in God and the victory of His cause rises to nobler heights with the difficulties which appear in our lot, and amidst the contradictions of sinners; and our hearts would not be satisfied unless this foundation-principle of character could show itself strong and valiant on many a difficult field.

There are those who even congratulate themselves, when life is ending, that they have contended so well. They count their laurels. They relate with pride how they worsted some competitor in debate or in business; how they shrewdly circumvented some fellow-man. They look at life as nothing but a battle, and, like some old soldier, live over in their age the fierce encounters of bygone days. It is hard, however, to have much admiration for such a spectacle. That a dying man should not be a man of peace is almost horrible. Even on actual fields of blood, dying enemies clasp hands and enter the other world friends. Can we imagine St. Paul flushing in his last moments with remembrance of his valor? It was not this that made him glad. Our common translation misinterprets him. He did not say, ' I have fought a good fight,' as though his fighting qualities were the source of his satisfaction. He said, ' I have fought the good fight.' He rejoices not in his own bravery, but in the justice of his cause. He had not been fighting for self, or money, or office. He had been a warrior indeed---but for truth and righteousness. He had been contending against sin---in the world and in his own soul. He had been privileged to range himself with goodness and truth in their conflict with vice and error. This was his first source of satisfaction as he reviewed his life. Forced to fight, he had fought on the right side. Covered with wounds, he could say that every one was a mark of his loyalty to God. He was glad that he had fought the good fight; that, in a world of conflict, he had by Divine grace given all his power to the side of God, and truth, and righteousness. This was quite another spirit than that of an aged warrior telling over the battles of his youth.

The true answer is that perpetual battle is the condition of progress. That is why we posses the fighting instinct.

It is by conflict that progress is made in Nature. It is no exaggeration, nor is it a mere figure of speech, to say that progress is accomplished through blood. The conflict between the plants which occupy the same space, between the very blades of grass on the same plot, between the trees which form the forest, may not literally be marked in blood; but they are marked, just as much as the competition among carnivore or human beings, by the ruthless extermination of the weaker. When we pass from the plant to the animal world, we everywhere find conflict---conflict arising from the fundamental conditions of existence, which demand an excess of reproduction. In the animal world this conflict is often waged under conditions of peculiar complexity; it is a fight for food between members of the same species, as well as against members of other species.

It is by conflict that the Human Race makes progress. Start with a comparatively unevolved savage, and we see what the struggle for life will do for him. When we meet him first he is sitting, we shall suppose, in the sun. Let us also suppose---and it requires no imagination to suppose it---that he has no wish to do anything else than sit in the sun, and that he is perfectly contented, and perfectly happy. Nature around him, visible and invisible, is as still as he is, as inert apparently, as unconcerned. Neither molests the other; they have no connection with each other. Yet it is not so. That savage is the victim of a conspiracy. Nature has designs upon him, wants to do something to him. That something is to move him. Why does it wish to move him? Because movement is work, and work is exercise, and exercise may mean a further conditioning of the part of him that is exercised. How does it set about moving him? By moving itself. Everything else being in motion, it is impossible for him to resist. The sun moves away to the west and he must move or freeze with cold. As the sun continues to move, twilight falls and wild animals move from their lairs and he must move or be eaten. The food he ate in the morning has dissolved and moved away to nourish the cells of his body, and more food must soon be moved to take its place or he must starve. So he starts up, he works, he seeks food, shelter, safety; and those movements make marks in his body, brace muscles, stimulate nerves, quicken intelligence, create habits, and he becomes more able and more willing to repeat these movements and so becomes a stronger and a higher man. Multiply these movements and you multiply him. Make him do things he has never done before, and he will become what he never was before. Let the earth move round in its orbit till the sun is far away and the winter snows begin to fall. He must either move away, and move very fast, to find the sun again; or he must chase, and also very fast, some thick-furred animal, and kill it, and clothe himself with its skin. Thus from a man he has become a hunter, a different kind of a man, a further man. He did not wish to become a hunter; he had to become a hunter. All that he wished was to sit in the sun and be let alone, and but for a Nature around him which would not rest, or let him alone, he would have sat on there till he died. The universe has to be so ordered that that which man would not have done alone he should be compelled to do. In other words it was necessary to introduce into Nature, and into Human Nature, some such principle as the Struggle for Life. Without that he would have continued for ever as he was.

And it is by struggle that the Individual makes progress. In the secret chamber of a single soul, hidden away from the light of the sun, rages a conflict deeper in its origin mightier in its elements, broader in its compass, and more momentous in its issues than any outward war that convulses thrones and shakes continents. In the terrible strife there going on, myriad's of spirits hasten to marshal themselves as combatants and allies; the clang of its unearthly weapons rings through all the realm of the Invisible; its vicissitudes are watched by millions of eager gazers in the high places of the creation; and its issues involve the weal or woe of a being molded in the image of God and born to the high heritage of his eternity. This contest is the substance of which all others are but shadows. This is the one grand central struggle of which all others are but border skirmishes, and by which, sooner or later, they will all infallibly be determined. How goes the battle in the human heart? Tell us that, and we shall spare you the trouble of forecasting the issues of the outward struggles of society. They are predetermined. The results of all minor controversies are wrapped up in that of the one all-comprehending contest. When the citadel has fallen, it is hopeless to defend the outposts. When the heart has withered, any external bloom must be transitory. When the fountain is cut off, the streams must cease to flow. And so the currents of social improvement must necessarily dry up unless fed from vital and perennial springs of virtue in the individual soul.

Man is no idle spectator of the conflict of the forces of right and wrong. The struggle is always personal, individual.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha

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