Sidor som bilder

from them, and uninterrupted harmony reigns among the spheres. But when we come down to a little world like ours, or any other, even though it were a million times as large, it is plain that there can be no such world without an aggregation of matter and a congregation of life. And when forms are multiplied, and life and motion are distributed to their myriad receptacles, and movement and activity become the never-ceasing process of all forms and all life, then it necessarily comes to pass that the planes of their activity interlock and overlap, and the lines of their movements cross each other in all manner of direction and in all sorts of angles, and their relations thus become antagonistic, and contact and conflict ensue. And thus the phenomena of natural evil is evolved. But it is easy to see that good comes from every conflict, and that whatever of evil emerges during its process, exists not essentially in the things themselves, but only in the relations that they bear to each other, so that even a relation which is evil to one is good to another. The most wonderful thing of all, and that which manifests most clearly the essential wisdom and adorable goodness of Him in whom is the life and the being of all things, is the fact that the good so immensely preponderates in all life and all movement. Notwithstanding the immense and inconceivable multitude of forms of life that are congregated in this little province of the domain of God, called earth; notwithstanding the diversity of the spheres of their activities and the endless contrariety of the lines of their movement, yet order and harmony are the rule, and discord and evil only the exceptions. Just here it is that heaven's great first law, even the law of order, is manifested in the unalterable fiat of Omnipotence, that the inferior shall submit to and be governed by the superior. This is and must be the issue of every conflict, and hence,

by the enactment of the great God, order must come out of all confusion, harmony must succeed all discord, and good triumph over all evil.

But our treatment of the subject of natural evil must be more specific and particular. The great error of the world has been in the thought that evil is a substance, or an entity—a thing in itself as real and absolute as life or goodness, and that nature, or the material universe, is made up of a compound of these substances, whereas the truth is, there is nothing in the natural world that is evil in itself. All is good in the essence and validity of its being, and to the end for which it is made. The nature of a lion is precisely as good as that of a man, but when a lion and a man are brought in contact, to the man the lion becomes an evil beast;” but not more so than the man is to the lion. But the evil is not in the fact that the one is a lion and the other a man, but only in the temporary relation that they bear to each other. A lion in his native jungle is no evil to a man in his home in the city. Nothing in nature is evil to any man, except when brought in such relation to him that it affects him unfavorably for the time being. Natural evils to man are, therefore, such as grow out of his relations to nature. They are evils that he endures and suffers. Man's body is made of material substances, curiously and wonderfully wrought; but akin to the earth from which it came. It is subject, of course, to the laws of its own organic structure, as well as to the general laws of the material of which it is composed. We do not pause to ask whether God could not have constituted man differently, though it would seem that in the long scale of being that reaches from the highest angel to the lowest insect, descending, as it does, by regular gradation, there was a necessity for some such grade as man. God, no doubt, could

make, and has made, many very different beings from what we are. But they are not men. Had we been different beings we should not

ave been men. The problem is not to decide what might have been done, but to know what is, and to justify the ways of God in making man as he has actually made him. If the reader will pardon this short digression, we will return to the point in hand.

Natural evils, to man, are, as we said, those which grow out of his relations to the natural world. Some of them he passively endures, and others belong to the sphere of his activities. The elements are around him, and in him, and though he were entirely passive he would feel their influence. In fact, the more passive he is, the more fiercely do they assail him, and their very assaults stimulate his activity. He suffers from cold. But cold is nothing but a negation of heat, and even if it were a substance it were not an evil in itself. Away up in space yonder, beyond our atmosphere, it is so cold that an Arctic winter is summer in comparison. But no evil comes of it. Hence the evil is in relation, and not in essence.

Fire burns us. But fire is not therefore an evil in itself. On the contrary, it is a vast and inconceivable good. The evil of it is in the relation that subsisted between it and us. Light pains and blinds our eyes under certain circumstances. But light is not therefore an evil in itself; as it comes pouring down in copious abundance from the great fountain that God has placed in the heavens, it is a vast, unimaginable good. Nor are our eyes evil. The only evil in the case was in the relation that subsisted between our eyes and the light. And so of all bodily pain. It is not an essence or substance. But it comes of the relations between certain things and the nerves of sensation, whose double office it is to give us all the physical pleasures we enjoy, and to stand as watchful sentinels to guard the

citadel of life and give the alarm when danger approaches. And so it is that pain is ordained for good, and is a minister of good, and only in its present and temporary relations does it seem to be evil.

Again : The waters pour down in torrents from the clouds and drench us, or rise in floods and drown us. But water is not evil. Rather it is a good, so great that we can not live without it. Nor was the rain or the flood evil, as such. The evil was in our relation to them. Nor is death itself an evil, in and of itself. It is not even a thing, or an entity, at all. It is the mere cessation of certain relations and conditions, and the beginning of others. Whether it come of fire or flood, of famine or pestilence, or from the natural process of decay, it is the same. To this tabernacle of flesh and blood it is by relation an evil, but to the worms it is a glorious feast, and to the liberated spirit it is the beginning of new and higher relations and conditions—the dawn of a brighter and better day. But, not to enlarge on this head, it seems quite evident, without multiplying examples, that the elements are all good, and that the evils which emerge from them to us are in the relations, and not in the substance of nature. How they emerge, and why they are ordained of God, is reserved for future inquiry. At present we only observe that those natural evils of which we have treated have no necessary connection with the sphere of our activity, but they seem to flow unavoidably from the mere relation of conscious life, as conditioned in material forms; and they would come upon man if he were, as to his body, motionless as an oyster, or fast rooted in one spot, and passive as a mushroom or a plant. But there are other natural evils which come of our relations in the sphere of our movements and activities. They, too, are relative, and not absolute. Be it remembered that motion

is the formula, and movement and activity the process of all life, as conditioned in time and limited in space. There are, therefore, no more than three conceivable possibilities in the case:

1. Man must be alone in the world, and the earth must be a dreary waste, vacant of life and devoid of all activity or movement, in which case it would be hell, more unendurable than any that heathen poet ever imagined. Or,

2. All movement must be in direct parallel lines, and thus make no more than one dead, monotonous level, as devoid of beauty and as incapable of variety as the arid sands of Sahara. Or,

3. Life must be diversified in condition and form, and movement must be in all possible directions, and in this case, spheres of activity must interlock, and lines of movement must cross each other; old relations must change, and new ones be formed; contact must come; conflict emerge, and the phenomena of evil must appear.

The only conceivable alternative of these is, that God only shall exist as absolute and unconditioned in time or space, and there shall be no created thing ; for the moment we think of life as being limited in form, in time, or space, it seems impossible to separate the thought from some one of the conditions above specified. And now the question is not which of the three might have been chosen, because we know which the good God has chosenand our work is to justify the ways of God in the formula he has appointed. If we take infinite wisdom and goodness as our postulate, the conclusion follows, without any other demonstration, that the universe, as it is, is the best possible, and faith may triumphantly look up to God, and say, amid the darkest clouds, "All is well ;” “Even so, Father, for so it seemeth good in thy sight.” This last was the sublimest utterance of faith ever given on earth.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »