Brother Against Brother
( Originally Published 1902 )
IN the story of the " Seven Chiefs Against Thebes " there is an account of the terrible struggle between the two brothers, Eteocles and Polynices. The latter bore a shield, with this device : A woman leading an armed man and saying to him, " I am Justice, and I will bring back this man to the kingdom which is his right." The former, who had usurped his brother's throne, scoffed at the device of the wearer, and said that from his birth, Justice had never known him. While the armies of both faced each other, in an open space between them, the two brothers engaged in a desperate personal combat, in which both were killed. The one who thought he had the right of combat, and the other who thought he had the might of right lay side by side in death, over whose stained bodies there wailed the lamentations of both armies. Every now and then we read in the daily papers of a repetition of this kind of a tragedy.
When I was a boy, it was reported upon the streets of our town one morning, that De Witt Evans and Bob Evans, his brother, had had a fight at a " Dutch ball," and that each had killed the other. Being personally acquainted with both of the young men, I went down to the hall, and, sure enough, the two brothers were stretched out side by side, cold in death, on boards resting on chairs. I shall never forget the feelings that came over me as I saw the little blue wounds made by the balls and the gashes made by the knives, and thought of the terrible demons that could make such a tragedy. Bad liquor and bad female company were the two evil spirits that wrought the double murder. Many are possessed of these evil spirits now, which care nothing for solemn vows or sacred love.
According to Christ's high standard, the guilt of sin is not in the overt act, but in the hidden thought; so that murder is not in the bludgeon or weapon of steel, but in the hate of the heart. " He that hateth his brother is a murderer." There are members of the Christian Church who hate fellow-members so bitterly that if it were not for the fear of the penalty of the law, or the disgrace that would come to them and their families, they would not hesitate to kill them. There are members of the church in splendid standing who cherish the most unkind and hostile feelings against their fellows. They brood over some injury, or supposed injury; they nurse their revenges; they say the most uncharitable things about, watch every opportunity to get even with, and place in the way every barrier of success to their enemy. In their public services, in the church, and in their private devotions to God, they labor under the delusion that what they have is only a just indignation against a bad person; when, in reality, it is hellish, murderous malice. They would look with horror upon the Theban brothers lying dead in the arena, or upon the Evans boys stretched out in Apollo Hall ; when they have in themselves a cub of the same wild beast, with teeth large enough to bite ; a young snake of the same species, with fangs poisonous enough to kill; a devil of the same kin, black enough to destroy the soul. Many rival warriors, statesmen, professional men, tradesmen, artisans and Christians who would not think of getting drunk, or lying, or stealing, or betraying their social vows, do not hesitate, often in an open and notorious way, to hate their brothers and, according to the New Testament standard commit murder.