You are here

Chapter 4: The Question as Affected by the Problem of Evil


THE criticisms in which the previous chapter concluded only emphasize the philosophical difficulties that beset Pessimism; they do not answer the intellectual and ethical difficulties that create it. The belief in God is an excellent thing when we face evil as something to be vanquished; but when we face evil as something to be explained, the belief is itself surrounded with serious difficulties. If evil is such as, if not to justify Pessimism, yet so far to explain it as to compel us to say that it is not without reason and ought therefore to be heard,—then we must farther admit that the higher our conception of God, the holier, the more benevolent, we conceive Him to be, the greater and the graver become the difficulties concerned with the creation and government of the world. In a word, we are faced with the venerable problem—How has it happened that, under the rule of an infinitely good, powerful, righteous Being, evil has come into existence and still continues to exist? This is a question that our criticism of Pessimism but compels us the more seriously to consider and to discuss.

§ I. The Limits and Terms of the Discussion

1. Let us begin then our attempt at suggesting some factors towards the solution of this problem by frankly expressing the idea which gives it all its gravity: although it be granted that man is responsible for the introduction of moral evil (and we here recognize the fact that many would refuse to grant so much), yet we must conceive the Creator as responsible for the system under which it was introduced, which made it possible, which allowed it to become actual, and which now follows it with moral penalties and physical sufferings. We ought not to shrink from affirming what we have called the responsibility of God; we do not think, if we may reverently so speak, that He Himself would deny it; certainly it is an idea that lies at the root of the New Testament, and especially of its doctrines touching redemption and grace. It may, indeed, be argued that responsibility implies a higher authority, a judge to whom we must give an account, and whose award is final; but this is a juridical rather than an ethical view of the matter. The tribunal in moral responsibility is personal and real, but in legal responsibility it is judicial and formal. The sovereign is as responsible to the citizens for good order in the state as the citizens are responsible to the judge for obedience to the law. The father may be said to be morally responsible to his family, while he is legally responsible to the common law for its maintenance and education; but the two responsibilities are neither identical nor coincident, the moral being higher, subtler, more comprehensive, and imperious than the legal, asking qualities of character, forethought, prudence, forbearance and courtesy, which the law is powerless to demand. And we may, with all humility, speak in somewhat similar language of God. The older theology, with its emphasis on God's indignation and horror at sin, needs to be supplemented by a thought which affirms His responsibility for the sinner. The guilt of man does not by itself justify God, for the order under which it happened He instituted, and the system under which it continues He upholds. Hence the vindication of God must come from some other principle than His hatred of the evil which theologians define as the violation of the divine law.

2. We recognize, then, that we are here concerned with a problem which gravely affects our belief in the goodness, the wisdom, and the justice of God; and that it were better to deny His existence altogether than to believe Him to be less than infinitely perfect. We acknowledge, too, that the beauty of nature, which has been so much emphasized and so often appealed to by both classical and Christian theists, is, for many reasons, here an irrelevant consideration; for it represents only one side of nature, and that the least obvious and the least helpful of the sides, which she turns to the vast multitudes of our race. Our concern, then, is with evil, which is the sad and tragic fact that looks out at us from man everywhere and refuses to be ignored. It may be said to be of two kinds—evil that may be suffered, and evil that may be done. The evil that may be suffered it is usual to term physical; the evil that may be done, moral; and though it is impossible in actual experience to disjoin them, yet it will be better that they be considered apart They belong, indeed, to entirely distinct categories: physical evil is incidental, occasional or relative, and may be termed negative or privative; but moral evil is positive, and may be termed actual or real. The phrase “physical evil” is not indeed used as the equivalent of “bodily suffering.” Were it, the usage would raise an even vaster question than the one we are attempting to discuss, viz., the ethics of creation as regards the whole animal kingdom, where the animal suffers as well as the man, and disease and death reign, and the strong prey upon the weak, and ferocity gluts itself with the blood of the feeble and inoffensive. The principles that underlie and guide our discussion may apply even to this question, but the application is not to be directly made. Our question concerns man, for in him the physical shades into the moral problem, and physical evil means all the sufferings he may have to endure, whether bodily or mental, nervous or sympathetic, alike as a distinct individual and a social unit, alike as a natural being, fleshly and mortal, and as a human being, sharing in the special history of a people and in the collective fortunes and immortality of the race.

Taken in this large sense, then, physical evil may be endured or suffered either by an innocent or by a guilty person, and its being and function may be in both cases, though for different reasons, equally natural and necessary. To acquire experience can never be a wholly agreeable or painless process; if it were, the experience would have no educative or expansive value. If happiness consisted in being set in a perennial stream of agreeable feelings, it would soon become the most wearisome of states; for into a state of mere enjoyment there would soon come nauseous monotony, which would be fatal to ultimate pleasure. We have need here to clear our minds of cant, and to recognize frankly that even heaven cannot be the mere synonym of the agreeable, and ought not to be conceited as if it were. If men in beatitude are to know discipline, they must put forth effort; and if there is to be effort, there must be strain; and if there is to be strain, there must be emulation; and if there is to be emulation, there must be the divine rivalry which finds pleasure in excelling and in the endeavour to excel. The man who has thought deeply has also doubted severely, and doubted not merely whether there be a God, but whether there be any moral good, or any worth in any being. The state of doubt may have meant to him misery or even despair, but it was the necessary and strictly natural though transitional condition of a man realizing at once the limits, the resources, and the possibilities of his own intellectual and moral being. It may be described as an evil, just as partial knowledge is an evil as compared with omniscience; but is more excellent than its complete negation would be; for a higher beatitude of thought is realized through it than could be realized without it. What may thus be called the pain or suffering intrinsic in a created intellect feeling its way towards the Uncreated Light, may stand as an example of evils involved in the very terms of created and therefore limited being, but so involved as to be the condition of higher good. We may not, then, think of all physical evil as either calamitous or even mischievous in character and action; whether it is either or neither will depend upon its reason or cause, upon its seat and tendency: nor till it be viewed in relation to moral evil can we really judge whether it be positive or negative in its nature, a real or a privative thing, the suffering that simply makes sorrow or the sense of want that is the condition of all activity and attainment.

It will therefore be convenient, for the purposes of our discussion, that we should deal with the two classes of evil as distinct, yet as essentially related.


We may divide physical evils into three classes: 1, those that arise from man's relation to nature, and nature's to man: 2, those that are native to his own being: 3, those inflicted upon him by men, whether, ancestors or contemporaries.

§ II. Man in the Hands of Nature

1. The evils that arise from the inter-relations of man and nature are an innumerable multitude, and fall into a variety of classes, (α) There are those wholly due to the destructive or terrific forces of Nature herself. They may be represented by the storm, the hurricane, and the earthquake. These indeed are forces that work appalling disasters; and we may not forget that a single calamity like the earthquake at Lisbon raised more painful doubts as to the wisdom and the goodness of God than all the speculative and anti-Christian criticism of the eighteenth century.

(β) There is the class of evils which Nature works by failure to respond to the labour and the skill of man. These may be represented by the famine, whether caused by the drought which has allowed the seed to die in the ground, or by the flood that has rotted the roots of the grain or of the fruit which man has been patiently waiting for, or by the locust, the caterpillar, and the cankerworm, which devour what he had painfully been rearing for food.

(γ) The third class may be represented by the disaster which Nature brings upon man through the destruction of the works he has invented, in order that he might turn her forces to his own service. Here is the storm which brings shipwreck, the tempest that lays waste his cities, the lightning that smites his proudest buildings into ruin.

(δ) We may find a fourth class in the evils that spring from man's neglect of Nature, and the revenge which she takes for the neglect. Here we have the pestilence and disease in its hundred forms of slow or swift death.

2. But it is hopeless to attempt to classify the infinite forms of the suffering which Nature inflicts upon man, though what has been sketched is enough to show that Nature seldom acts alone; and before we burden her with the blame we ought to attempt to discover how far Nature or how far man is the more responsible factor of the evil. The two, indeed, are so curiously intermingled that we may say, the evils accomplished by Nature alone are but few; those wrought by Nature and man in conjunction form a multitude which no man can number; while those caused by man's own ignorance or neglect of natural forces constitute an infinite, a never-ending series. But if we cannot exhaustively classify physical evils, and trace them to their causes in Nature alone or in man alone, or in the two combined, we may say certain things concerning their functions.

i. The natural forces that now and then work so disastrously for man are among his most beneficent educators; he has to study them that he may master them, and the more he studies their secret the greater the mastery he attains. It is marvellous what limits he has set to the destructive power of Nature; and in setting these limits he has learned the most beneficent of all lessons—that he conquers by obedience, and commands by obeying. Nature and her forces must be known if they are to be controlled or turned into servants. It is a moral lesson, though it comes in a physical form. Man acquires the wonderful art of reaching his end by following a way that is not his own, but a larger and better way than his. The educative force of Nature exceeds our capacity to acquire. We have all learned of her in total unconsciousness more than we have learned consciously from all other teachers. We have imitated her methods, and we have calculated her forces. At her bidding the farmer has learned how to till and sow and reap; the fisherman how to ply his craft upon the great waters; the mechanic how to generate force and how to build the engine to use the force he has generated. The navigator has learned from stars and sun how to steer his ship, and has compelled the currents that run through the earth so to point the hands of his compass as to indicate the way in which he should go upon the sea. Study of Nature has thus educated man, and out of her school he has issued wiser than he could have come from the hands of an earth-mother who had nothing to teach him of obedience and self-control.

ii. But the suffering which Nature can inflict on man has helped to educate him even more in humanity than in the arts. She has, so to speak, by her very inhumanity, made man humane. The awful use which he himself can make of her destructive forces for his own ends, is putting a bit and a bridle upon his more brutal powers, his lust for blood, his love of battle and conquest. But still more has it taught him to see that the men who suffer at Nature's hands, are men he is bound to help. The shipwreck calls for the lifeboat, and the hardy men who stand safe on shore can brave the terror of the storm in pity for those who are threatened by the devouring sea; the famine that sends gaunt death into the homes of one people touches another with pity, and helps to create among those who are alien in blood and speech the feeling of kinship, the gracious and kindly sense of brotherhood. In the darker ages pestilence was dreadful, for it roused, by the fear of contagion and the horror of death, the fiercest passions that can burn in the breast of man; but the more men have penetrated into the secrets of Nature, the more have they learned their community of interests, and the more have they been moved by a feeling which has turned into the passion to fight disease, even though they themselves might enjoy immunity from it. Nature has indeed been here a great educator in human pity and helpfulness; the very suffering she has inflicted has disciplined man in mercy. The time was when natural calamities divided men; the time is now when calamities evoke the sympathy that hastens to help; and the time will be when the sympathy, anticipating the calamity, will restrict its reign, reduce its proportions, and, by the amelioration of Nature and the lot of man, tend if not to eliminate famine and pestilence from his life, yet to lessen all their attendant miseries and fears, and to educe at the same time those higher humanities which had otherwise remained latent within him.

iii. And so man, in the presence of the forces that seem in Nature to dominate his life, is learning to organize it on a higher level and after a humaner sort. They who have learned most of the secrets of Nature, especially as to how to keep her wholesome, to make her healthy and to turn her into a kindly minister to man, feel themselves compelled to impart the secrets they have learned to less forward or less favoured peoples. It is a curious but instructive law of human progress that we learn by the evil we inflict not only to cease from inflicting it, but also that we are in humanity akin with those we may have wronged. The people who enslaved the negro learned through the penal consequences that followed to themselves from their own act the humanity of the men they had enslaved. We slowly discover that the secrets of Nature are not the property of the men who discover them, but of the whole race. Since we are all children of the one mother and suckled at the one broad bosom, we come to feel that the mysteries of the motherhood of the earth are not for those who think themselves the elder-born or the favoured sons, but for the whole brood, the collective human family. Our common dependence upon Nature becomes a bond of unity between all the sections of mankind; the life we live is one, though its forms and modes are as multitudinous as the units of the race.

iv. But experience slowly teaches us that by far the larger proportion of the suffering that man endures at the hands of Nature is not due to Nature at all, but to man. It is the result of neglect, of improvidence, of carelessness; it is due to the ten thousand causes which turn things preventible and innocent into things inevitable and injurious. Nature exists for man, not man for Nature; but if she exists for him, it is to teach him to transcend her, to make him ever more of a man, raising each generation above its predecessor. To do this she must awaken the energy and forethought that are in him, compel him to study that he may know, to imitate that he may prevail. And for this reason Nature, in order that she may be beneficent, must be inexorable in her laws. The greatest calamity that could happen to men would be the grant of supernatural aid whenever they had by negligence or ignorance, or any act of wilfulness, involved themselves in straits. The very miracle that was worked to stay Nature in a destructive course, or calm her in a tempestuous mood, would arrest the progress and the amelioration of mankind; for by teaching man to depend upon external help it would take from him the desire to improve, to trust his own intelligence, to obey the law of his own conscience and reason, and to amend by effort his own life and the lives of men. If the stormy sea had been subdued whenever it threatened to engulf him, or if the hurricane, when it promised to overwhelm him, had been softened into the zephyr that blows gentle and sweet upon the violet, or if the lightning had been arrested in its swift and lurid course as it approached the orbit within which he moved,—we might never have had any dreadful tales of shipwreck or other disasters of the deep; but still more surely we should never have had the marvellous engineering and the brave enterprize which have built the big ships, bidden them traverse the mighty ocean, and turn its once dividing waters into the crowded highway of the nations across which they carry their wealth to the exchanges that enrich and federate mankind. We all know that there is nothing so fatal to the manhood of a people as the charity that pauperizes. Were we so to relieve the improvident as to make him as well off as the provident, so to protect the thoughtless from his thoughtlessness that he would suffer as little as the thoughtful, so to fill the squanderer's hand, whenever he had emptied it, that he would know less of want than the industrious and the careful—would not the result be to set the highest possible premium on the shiftless and retrogressive qualities of men? And so, were men, whenever they provoked Nature, or challenged her to use her forces to destroy them, to be saved from the consequences of their own folly; were they, whenever they invited calamity, to be miraculously lifted out of it, they would,—in the very degree of the frequency and efficiency with which the supernatural power interfered on their behalf,—have their manhood injured. Nature must be faithful to herself if she is to do her best for man. In her severity lies the education which is the last thing that man could afford to lose.

§ III. Evils peculiar to Man

1. But there is a second class of evils—those native to man's own being—which are also an infinite multitude in themselves, while dismal and distressing in their causes, consequences, and incidents. They imply man's community with Nature, his participation in the ebb and in the flow of her life. There is disease, hunger, thirst, the struggle to live in the face of a hard and ruthless order; there is birth in pain, there is life in toil, there is death in agony or despair. Indeed, the whole of the evil native to us may be summed up in that one word, mortality. Here is man, a conscious being, able in imagination to retrace the ages behind him, to look into the issues of the life around him, to forecast the future when there shall be for him no earth, no sea, no sky; here he is a creature able to think of the eternal God while conscious that he himself is only mortal, and has had measured out to him only his pitiful threescore years and ten. Is it not a shameful and a painful thing to be doomed to so brief a life, which must be lived under conditions so narrow, to be like a steed fit for the chariot of the sun, yet forced to bear the dreary drudgery of dragging behind him the tumbril of death? This is a hard matter to explain; it comes so near our own experience, it appeals so urgently to heart and imagination as well as to reason; for the awful cruelty of death lies in its not only ending one's own life, but in so often making desolate innocent and helpless lives that would otherwise be happy. If it were one's own loss only, it would be possible to die like a Stoic without a murmur and without a tear. It is the desolation of the living that is so painful to thought, turning death into the sum of all our miseries. But when all has been thought and said, why should death seem an evil? Birth is not, and surely death is but the complement and counterpart of birth. The one is because the other is; it is because the grave is never full that the cradle is never empty. Then how without death could man realize the meaning of life? How feel the immensity, the possibilities, the god-like qualities, the capability of endless gain or loss contained within the terms of his own being? The picture of man before and after he knew death in the “Legend of Jubal” is as true to experience as to imagination. In the old, soft, sweet days before men knew death, when all that was known of it was the single black spot in the memory of Cain, his descendants lived in gladsome idlesse; they played, they sang, they loved, they danced, in a life that had no gravity and no greatness; but when the second death came, and men saw that there had come to one of their own race a sleep from which there was no awaking, a new meaning stole into life. The horizon which limited it defined it, and made it great. Time took a new value; affection, by growing more serious, became nobler; men thought of themselves more worthily and of their deeds more truly when they saw that a night came when no man could work. Friends and families lived in a tenderer light when the sun was known to shine but for a season; earth became lovelier when they thought the place which knew them now would soon know them no more. The limit set to time drove their thoughts out towards eternity. The idea of the death, which was to claim them, bade them live in earnest, made them feel that there was something greater than play; for death had breathed into life the spirit out of which all tragic and all heroic things come.

Death has thus added to the pomp and the fruitfulness, to the glory and the grandeur of life. Without it we should have had no struggle of will against destiny, of the thought which wanders through eternity and beats itself into strength and hope against the bars and the barriers of time; without it man would have had no sense of his kinship with the Infinite, for the finite would have been enough for him. And if a soul made for eternity were to be withered by time, would not that, in another and darker sense than attends the end of our mortal being, be the death of all that is worthiest to live? And has not time, by her successive generations, been enriched, enlarged, made varied and wealthy as she never could have been by a race of immortal Adams, unchanged and deathless? It is a poor and a pitiful dream to imagine that it were a happier than a mortal state were man to know no death, but to endure in characterless innocency, untouched by the shadow feared of man, never feeling the light within made resplendent by the darkness death shed without. Instead of a single generation we have a multitude of successive generations, each fuller of humanity than the one which went before. Instead of one individual we have an endless series of mortal persons on the way to immortality, each a miniature deity, each in time yet destined for eternity, each with inexhaustible potentialities within him, each realizing himself under the conditions which a measured existence affords, and all contributing to make the wondrous and varied life which we call the history of man. Who will venture to say that the dream of an innocent Eden, a single paradise of immortals, is comparable to this majestic procession of mortals moving as to the music of a celestial dead march through time towards immortality?

2. As to the desolation that comes to those who lose, who would dare to make light of it? Yet must we not recognize that even this is not without a beneficence of its own? The thought of possible loss touches with tenderness all the relations of life. It explains the watchfulness of the mother, the ungrudging labour of the father, the solicitous care of the wife, the affection and forethought of the husband. Those who love the living feel life to be all the sweeter and dearer because it is so transitory. And if death brings loss, does it not mean that before creatures could be lost, they had to be possessed? Here, let us say, is a young man full of promise. He had been a bright and happy boy, the pride of his mother's heart, the light of his father's eye; he had been an earnest student, the joy of his tutors, the hope of his school and his college, raising high expectations even in the withered breast of his professor. He had been the centre of a brilliant circle of friends, who talked with him, walked with him, disputed and argued with him concerning high things, ever stimulated by his brilliant thought and vivid speech. And he comes to the threshold of life, with school and university behind him, high hopes and fair visions before him, and noble purposes looking out from his radiant face. And just then a fatal disease claims him as its own, and he dies, while men whose hearts are dry as summer dust linger on in what they call life. Discipline had been gained, weapons mastered, and skill acquired; time and opportunity alone were needed for him to achieve great things. But death denied him what he needed and what all men desired him to have. And was not the act ruthless, and can it be counted anything else than evil? Was not a good life lost? and could the loss be anything but a sore grief to some, an injury to many and a calamity to all? But even here there is another side to be looked at: he had not lived in vain; his life had been a large good. For more than twenty years he had made a home richer than without him it could ever have been. In school and college he had made ideals realizable that apart from him would never have been dreamed of, and by doing this did he not enhance in the men he touched the value of life? And did not his death compel them to feel that they must live his life as well as their own? He who writes these things once knew a man who was to him companion, friend, and more than brother. They lived, they thought, they argued together; together they walked on the hillside and by the sea shore; they had listened to the wind as it soughed through the trees, and to the multitudinous laughter of the waves as they broke upon the beach: together they had watched the purple light which floated radiant above the heather, and together they had descended into the slums of a great city, where no light was nor any fragrance, and had faced the worst depravity of our kind. Each kept hope alive in the other and stimulated him to high endeavour and better purpose; but though the same week saw the two friends settled in chosen fields of labour, the one settled only to be called home, the other to remain and work his tale of toil until his longer day be done. But the one who died seemed to leave his spirit behind in the breast of the man who survived; and he has lived ever since, and lives still, feeling as if the soul within him belonged to the man who died. And may we not say, this experience is common and interprets the experience of the race? Death has to be viewed not as a matter of a single person, but of collective man; and it works out the good of collective man by doing no injustice to the individual, but rather using him to fulfil the highest function it is granted to mortal men to perform. So let us say that however men may conceive death, it belongs to those sufferings by which mankind learns obedience, and is made perfect.

§ IV. Evils Man suffers from Men

1. The third class of physical evils are the sufferings that are inflicted on man by men. These are indeed infinitely vaster, darker and more terrible than the sufferings inflicted on him by Nature. The sufferings caused by want of heart, by want of thought, by ambition, by greed, by passion, by pride and vanity, by neglect and presumption, by all the lusts that ravin and devour, are in number, in kind, in intention, and in effect, the transcendent sufferings of the world. And while they may be physical in form they are almost uniformly ethical in source, and also in their consequences. It were vain to attempt to classify evils so infinitely varied in character and in quality, but their types may be determined according to their more common sources. (1) There are evils that spring from the constitution of the race, the law of descent and inheritance (2) Evils that come through the very affections that create the home and the family, which includes the problems raised by the nature and relations of the sexes. (3) Evils that spring from the social constitution and civil relations of man, or man as organized into communities and classes, into nations and states. (4) Evils that spring from economical or industrial causes, from man as a being that must work in order that he may live. (5) Evils that come from international rivalries, the jealousies, conflicts, and collisions now of uncivilized tribes, and now of colossal civilized powers.

With only certain of these evils, those which, as involved in the very constitution of the race, raise grave questions as to the power and wisdom of the Creator, are we here specially concerned, though we may later have to deal in more detail with others. The law of heredity is a serious problem for any one who regards Nature as moral in source and in purpose. How has it happened that a wise and beneficent Creator so constituted the race as to place in the hands of individuals enormous powers which they are, from the very necessity of the case, totally unfit to exercise? How is it: that He has wedded together the purest affection with the basest passion, and made it possible for man to feel and act like a brute to one who feels and acts like an angel? And how is it that He has so formed the highest of all His creatures that this brutish person may not only sacrifice to his lusts the chastity of the living but also destroy the virtue, the happiness, and the health of the unborn? Does it not argue some signal ethical incapacity or moral indifference in the Creator first to create natures in which the angel and the devil so intermix, and then to endow them, even when they are most demoniac, with such power to control the plastic and productive forces of life?

2. Now, while we ought to distinguish in this problem the elements which concern man from those which concern Providence, yet it is necessary to see how intimately and inextricably they are interrelated. So far as man is a factor of evil, especially in those functions which involve the good of posterity, it is evident that we judge him not as if he were a mere natural being, but as one who stands in a higher order, who has duties he ought to fulfil, and duties which may forbid him to indulge his natural instincts. That the constitution of the man is what it is, and that man has sexual and sensual passions which impel towards licentious living, is not allowed, then, to extenuate the evil he may do. On the contrary, he is held bound to obey a law which would turn Nature's way in his hands into an instrument of immense good; and, if he neglects it, he is charged with guilt odious in the degree that he has made Nature the partner and servant of his offence. Now this means that we conceive Nature to be good in herself, evil only when she falls into evil hands, and is made a minister of sin; that her Author designed her, as appears from the higher law under which man lives, to serve moral ends by being in the service of moral beings. But we cannot so think without being forced to go much farther. Nothing has contributed more to the moral education of the race than its physical constitution; through it the feeling of responsibility and obligation in the individual to the whole has been evoked and defined. The sense of the harm man could do to man has possessed the individual conscience with fear, and has armed the social conscience with all its sanctions and almost all its terrors. The knowledge of the power for mischief incarnated in a reckless man, has made society surround him with restraints; and the appeal of the silent unborn generations to the latent fatherhood in man, has induced him to bind himself about with the obligations that help to make and to keep him moral. Growth in civilization may be measured by the limitations progressively laid upon man's power to harm man, just as growth in religion is marked by his increased will to help. Law is meant for the lawless and disobedient, and in it we may see expressed man's feeling that the order of the race is rooted in justice and that its life ought to be regulated by duty. And could we conceive what Nature would be in the hands of a wholly moralized mankind? The constitution which now works in a way so mixed of good and evil, would then work wholly for good. The law which now transmits so much misery and disease and vice from parent to child; would then bequeath virtue and truth. The inheritance of the race would be a cumulative good; it would represent the stores of health and sanity, wisdom and knowledge, acquired in one generation and transmitted to its successor in order that they might be made into a worthier and richer heritage for those who were to follow after. We are not to judge what is as if it were the ideal and the eternal. It is neither, but it has been designed for both; and though evil may use for its own ends what was designed for good, yet good will reclaim its own and reign the more securely that reason has learned through experience that Nature is holy and just.

In this discussion we have tried to deal with the question as it affects the system under which we live here and now; yet at no moment have we thought of man as if this life were the whole of him. If it is a poor philosophy which calls in the rewards and penalties of another life to redress the wrongs caused by the unequal distribution of pleasure and pain in this, yet no argument which attempts to justify the ways of God to men can afford to forget the full measure and duration of God's relations to man. Time and Eternity are one; he who is and he who is to be are one and the same person; and his life, its meaning, purpose, discipline, can never be understood if he be regarded as a mere mortal being, with no existence save what begins with birth and ends at death. The scale on which an immortal being is planned is not commensurate with any measure of mortality; and what to a mortal might well seem unmitigated evil may appear to the immortal only a discipline the better qualifying him for his immortality. We might well imagine that were his mortal life to be his whole and sole existence, then it ought to be like a sweet pastoral melody; but an immortal life is so vast that the prelude to it may fitly reach the proportions of a mighty epic, or be distinguished by the tragic situations that beseem an immense drama.


In the course of this discussion it has become evident that the two classes of evil so shade into each other that it is impossible to draw a clear boundary line between them, and say, “On this side moral evil lies, and on that side physical.” As a matter of fact they are inextricably interwoven. Sin determines an infinite number and variety of the forms which suffering assumes, whether as regards action, quality, character, tendency, or function. Yet, vague as it is, in the last analysis the distinction holds; physical evil is the evil men suffer, moral evil is the evil they do. The one falls under the categories of choice and action, the other under those of result and consequences. And this means that moral evil is due to the act of the personal will, but physical is conditioned by the operation of fixed laws, or an established order. The moment the will has chosen, the fixed law begins to operate; and so, though the act may be transient, the consequences are permanent. In its essence the act creative of moral evil is, to use a juridical phrase, “a violation of law”; to speak with the Stoics, it is a refusal to “live according to nature”; to employ the language of Butler, it is the failure to recognize “the authority of conscience,” or in that of Kant, it is to decline to obey “the categorical imperative.” In these cases “law,” “nature,” “conscience,” “categorical imperative,” are but impersonal names for the ethical sovereignty of God; and the denial of this sovereignty means the alienation in will and character of man from his Maker. It is this denial and consequent alienation that creates and constitutes moral evil in its two ultimate forms, act and character, or choice and habit, or will and nature.

On account then of the origin and essential quality of moral evil as the revolt of the personal will against the sovereignty under which it was constituted to live, we cannot describe it as disciplinary; but only as absolute and unrelieved evil. It is bad as seen in the individual; it mars the god-like beauty which is native to the soul; it steals away the charm which made it seem to the eye of its Maker very good; it isolates it from the source of life; it removes it from the breast of the Almighty who breathed it into being. It grows by what it feeds on, for in sinning there is no cure of sin, there is only increase of the evil. But if it be bad in the individual, it is worse when incorporated in families and turned into a sort of inheritance; and worst of all when it possesses and dominates the collective race. And so far from dying as civilization advances, it grows subtler the more civilized the race becomes. The man who is naked and unashamed is not depraved by his nakedness; it is the knowledge that he ought to be clothed which begets shame, and it is shame that begets depravity. Unconscious sin does not brutalize, it is conscious sin which corrupts the nature and wastes the whole man. And what is growth in civilization but increase of the knowledge that makes us conscious of sin? And so our modern city is depraved in a sense that no primitive community ever was. There is more hope of the conversion of the unclothed savage than of the clothed and skilled and inured wrong-doer of our East-end dens or of our West-end clubs. Hence out of both our personal and our collective experience comes the problem—How is it that the Creator has allowed all the fair promise and all the divine potentiality of man to be falsified by the rise of sin and the cumulative wickedness of all the generations of men?

There are, then, two main questions to be discussed, one as to the origin or introduction of moral evil, the other as to its continuance and consequent diffusion.

§ V. Moral Evil and God

As to the origin or introduction of moral evil it may be argued:—“Man has indeed done evil, and may, in a sense, be described as its author, but this does not exonerate God. For man could not have sinned unless he had been made capable of sinning. Why was he so made? And having been so made, why was he not so watched and superintended as to make this evil deed of his impossible? To say that he did it is but to saddle him with the secondary responsibility; the primary responsibility is the Creator's, who so made man that he could do this thing, and so neglected and forsook him at the critical moment as to leave him no choice but to follow his inclinations and hasten to do it.” The answer to this argument will compel us to enter a more speculative region than any we have as yet attempted to penetrate. For the question, why God permitted moral evil, or rather, why He made man capable of doing it, requires, before it can become either intelligible or soluble, the exposition and analysis of certain underlying and regulative ideas. These relate, chiefly, to our modes of conceiving the Deity and the creation in themselves and in their mutual relations.

1. Well, then, it is not possible to think of the Creator under the categories of an abstract Absolute or an isolated Perfection. We must, if we think of Him in relation to the universe, bring Him more or less under the conditions of a related being, one to whom space and time are not abstract forms of thought, but modes of activity and terms of real existence. For Deity as Creator is not a mere Abstraction, an unconditioned Absolute; but He acts and He produces, and to act is to be conditioned, and to produce is to be related. Now conditions, as they affect action, are of two kinds, external and internal.

i. External conditions are such as these—impossibilities must exist to God as well as to men; possible things Omnipotence may achieve, impossible things not even Omnipotence can accomplish. To be Almighty is not to be able to perform what is, in the nature of the case, incapable of performance; and this inability does not in any respect limit the might, it only helps to define its province. These inabilities or impossibilities may be said to be of three kinds: physical, intellectual and moral. The moral inability may be stated in the familiar phrase: “It is impossible for God to lie.” The intellectual may be represented either under the category of thought: It is impossible for God to conceive the false as if it were the true; or under the category of knowledge: It is impossible for God to know things that are not as if they were real things. The physical impossibility may be expressed in various forms: It is not open even to God to make a part equal to the whole; to make the same thing both be and not be; to make a circle at once a circle and a square, or to make a square out of two straight lines. Or, to express the same inability in a different form, we may say: God could not make another God infinite like Himself, for two infinities could not co-exist; nor could He create a being who should start as if he had a long experience behind him or an acquired character within him. He could only make a being capable of gaining experience and realizing character. The power of making monstrosities is not divine, and God, even where most god-like, will be conditioned by the very terms of the work He seeks to do. As the most rational and the most moral of beings, all His acts will be reasonable and all His ends moral.

ii. But the internal conditions are even more determinative of the scope, the quality, and the purpose of the Divine action than the external. Omnipotence is not the synonym of God; if He is perfect, He must not be conceived simply under the category of an Almighty Will. If He be conceived simply as substance, or as a mere Ens Infinitum, then we may, with Spinoza, reduce His attributes to two—extension, which denotes His behaviour in space, and thought, which describes His action in time; or if we conceive Him, with Schopenhauer, purely as unconscious Will, then we may express His activity in terms which have no more rational value or moral significance than matter, motion, and force. But if we conceive God as a Subject, i.e. as a conscious centre of thought and volition, then, in the very degree that we think of Him as infinite, we must interpret His attributes and action under the categories of moral reason and ethical will. And this means that in our conception of God the qualities of will and potency are secondary and determined, the qualities of goodness and truth are primary and determinative. The Deity is not divine to us because He is almighty,—for an omnipotent devil could never be the god of any moral being; but because we conceive Him as the impersonated ideal of the Absolute Good. And this signifies that we regard the external attributes, i.e. those which are physical and pertain to the maintenance of physical relations and the exercise of physical energies, as less divine than those that denote ethical qualities, and the exercise of spiritual and intellectual power. Wisdom is more and greater than omniscience; righteousness is more and higher than omnipresence; love is vaster and diviner than omnipotence. Now we can only conceive an absolutely Perfect Being as one whose whole nature is harmonious in all its actions and activities; for might without love were mere violence; presence without righteousness were only energy; omniscience with out wisdom were but intellectual perception,—the reflection of things in a mirror which had the quality of being conscious of the things it reflected. But if we so conceive the Divine Perfection, then all the physical attributes will be under the control of the ethical, and must be conceived as only means, while the others denote sovereign motives and ends. Power may forbear to do many things possible to it as power, because they would be alien to love; and the forbearance would not argue defective but effective will, not imperfect but perfect might, because exercised in obedience to qualities and for ends higher than any which could belong to it simply as power.

Now, the moral of the argument is this: if we conceive God as thus conditioned in His action, we shall not ask of His might what would be alien to His love, nor of His presence what would be opposed to His righteousness, nor of His knowledge what would be contrary to His wisdom. In other words, we shall think of God, not under the category of energy, but as a Being of such absolute perfection that He governs all His attributes and is governed by none.

2. But corresponding to the conditions which affect the action of the Creator, are those which define the character and status of the creature.

i. Leibnitz's notion of metaphysical evil expresses the most obvious of truisms. No created being can possess the attributes or the beatitude of the Creator, or have His outlook on life. To begin to be, is to be possessed of being without the experience needed for its control; and no measure of seclusion, as in some imagined paradise, or supersession of responsibility for personal conduct, could ever teach the man how to rule himself. To be a new created being is to be nothing more than a potentiality; and it is as such, a being compounded of infinite capabilities, that man is of transcendent worth for his Creator, and of incalculable value to His moral system. The primitive state of innocence represents the inexperience of the man just arrived on the scene. He is not good, he is not evil; he is simply in a negative or privative state; what he is to be must wait on his earliest experiments in living.

ii. What is less obvious than the necessity of metaphysical evil, but is more important for the question at issue, is the relation of the Divine Perfections to the character, quality, and rank of the created being. We can only conceive God as moved to create by ends determined by His own nature; for as His character is in an infinite degree nobler and more generous than the aggregated nobility and generosity of the created universe, it follows that the only ends capable of satisfying Him must, in order to be worthy of Him, be found in Himself. If, then, He is moved to create by an end that may be described, on the divine side, as His own glory, its correlate will be, of course, on the created side, the creature's good. And this will be, alike as regards intensity and extension, a more pre-eminent good than could have been conceived or attempted had the good been accommodated and proportioned to the creature's deserts. But the good-will of the Creator, while in itself a will of absolute good, must be, in action, conditioned by two things, (α) the capacity, and (β) the capability of the Created.

(α) Now, the only capacity capable of moral good must itself be moral; love in the strict sense can only be where love has been or may be reciprocated. Things may be admired or praised, and they may even excite wonder, but they cannot evoke love. The very admiration they awaken is not for themselves, but for their author. Art means creation, a mind and hand behind the thing admired; and it is the mind in the thing we praise, not merely the thing in itself. But the only kind of creature that could satisfy a Being of absolute goodness would be a creature capable of the highest form of good, the being loved by the Best, and therefore able to love the Best in return. Now, these distinctions will help us to determine what qualities will make the creature acceptable to a moral Creator. It would be the unworthiest of all possible conceptions to imagine God as a mere infinite Mechanic or Artist creating a system simply for Himself to admire, a marvellous mechanism, cunningly contrived like the watch of our familiar apologetic; or like the engine strongly built and well stored with fuel imagined by the deists; or a picture skilfully painted and proportioned which should show the most wonderful blending of colours; or an oratorio which should exhibit the most unexpected and sublime mingling of harmonies. In our serious and thoughtful moods we confess to ourselves that a God who passed His eternities only in the contemplation of His own workmanship would not seem to us worthy of the only worship fit for the Deity. If this be true, it signifies that Creation, to be agreeable to Him, must be of creatures like Him; spirit as He is Spirit, intellect as He is Intelligence, love as He is Love.

(β) But this involves the second and correlative quality in the creature—capability, freedom, the power to give or to withhold, to welcome or to cast out, to obey or to refuse obedience. The capacity for God is not mere physical space, but moral capability; and moral capability has two attributes—freedom or spontaneity, and educability or the faculty of continuous amelioration. When the freedom is ordered, moral growth will follow; where the will obeys, there the nature attains progressive enlargement, which can only mean that the more capability widens moral capacity, the more pleasure God will have in the creature, in the increased room made to receive the gifts which He loves to pour into the soul that craves His presence. Moral freedom, therefore, must belong to the only creature capable of being regarded with complacency by the Creator. If we could conceive a universe of automata, or of reasons purely mechanical, which would be as if nature had become the storehouse for an infinite multitude of logical machines, what would they be but a universe of mere contrivances, the diversions of a curious mechanic, no creatures of a moral Creator? If, further, we were to imagine a universe of such automata equally responsive to impact from some moving body without and to logical processes started from within, but absolutely without power to vary either the logical formulæ or the direction in which the external impact would drive them; and were we then to ask, whether they would be able to satisfy the soul of their Maker, what could the answer be but this? Were He only an architect, a skilled builder, or a cunning maker of watches, which once adjusted and wound up could go on for ages, He might be satisfied with a universe of this sort; but if He were so easily satisfied, then the very depth of His satisfaction would be the measure of His imperfection, for it would argue Him void of those moral qualities which we conceive most essential to goodness.

We may say, therefore, that the external and internal conditions which qualify the divine actions, and the attributes that determine the divine character, must have something correspondent in the capability, the quality, and the status of the creature; i.e. the more morally perfect we conceive God to be, the more must we conceive Him incapable of satisfaction from any save moral creatures. And they are creatures who must make their own experience, form their own characters, govern their own conduct,—in a sense, determine their own destiny. If God were, on some critical occasion, by direct action or interference, to supersede the choice of the will or the tendency of the heart, then He would, in the same degree, undo His own creation, annihilate or abolish its moral and responsible being. We come, therefore, to the conclusion that the only creation worthy of a personal God is a universe of persons; and persons born as potentialities who can be educated by experience, awakened to reason, won to love, and persuaded to obedience.

§ VI. The Permission of Moral Evil and the Deity

1. Now it is evident, from the principles which have issued from this discussion, that the more we conceive the Creator through His moral attributes, the less can we reduce Him, by means of physical and logical categories, to a mere abstraction; and as we think of Him at the beginning we must think of Him throughout. The immutability of God is a fixed and fundamental principle; but immutability does not mean immobility. God is in nature, character, and purpose unchangeable; but in attitude and modes of action. He is as varied as the infinite needs of changeful man. For He could not be invariable in mind and end unless He were variable in the use and application of His energies. Hence the act and fact of sin, while they could have caused no change in the principles which determine His choices and ends, may yet have effected a distinct change in the things He chose to do or in His mode of doing them. This means that the laws of thought and being which had conditioned the action of the Creator, did not cease to condition Him when providence followed upon creation, and man was apostate instead of obedient. But the significance and bearing of the principle thus stated will become more apparent in the attempt to deal with the question which has so long waited for an answer:—How can the permission of the evil that has so depraved man be reconciled with the being and character of an infinitely good and powerful God?

Now, it may be well to note here that “permission” is not a very happy word, and may imply consent to the doing of an action, though not moral approbation of the action itself. But under no form can it be allowed that God consented to the introduction of evil. We conceive that He used every means short of recalling His own creation to prevent it. Let us change the term “permission” for the terms “non-prevention of the evil,” so as to indicate that there was no moral consent, only abstention from the use of physical force or restraint. But even as thus changed, the question does not raise the precise issue, which may be more positively and explicitly stated thus—Is the exercise of obedience or the cultivation and practice of righteousness compatible with an order which the infinitely good and holy and powerful God has instituted? The reply would be instant and emphatic:—“Nothing is more certain than this compatibility; His order must exist expressly for he purpose of promoting obedience, holiness, happiness.” But now let us honestly ask, Could there be obedience where disobedience was impossible? or could there be righteousness if wickedness could not be done? The person that could not disobey would be quite incapable of obeying. If there was no power to do evil, there would be no ability to do good. Where the will has no alternatives, its choices can have neither merit nor demerit; where only one path lies before the traveller, error may be impossible, but so is discovery; where there is no vice to allure, there is no virtue to be won. The very notion of a moral nature under a moral law involves, therefore, an order that can be broken. Where there is no law that can be violated, there may be necessity, there may be a conversion of forces, or a phenomenal sequence of events, but nothing which can be termed law. We use a metaphor when we speak of the law of gravitation; for it knows neither precept nor sanction, but only describes a mode in which things are observed to behave. Where no transgression can be, there is no law, and it is impossible to predicate obedience or disobedience of a planet, a river, or a stone. But the very essence of the law which rules man is that it can be obeyed or disobeyed; both obedience and disobedience must be possible, or both impossible. Hence if a universe is to be created where moral good shall be, it must also be a universe where moral evil may exist. The essential quality of moral law is repeated in the essential character of the moral being If such a being were necessitated, he could be neither moral nor under moral law; he could be neither holy nor wicked, but he would remain simply as he was made—without character and without will.

If, then, it was good to have moral beings under moral law, evil must be possible. Even God could not, however much He might will it, cause it to be otherwise. Things that cannot be conceived or related in thought are in the region of realities impossible things; and so as His reason and ours are akin, the things ours will not think His cannot achieve. It is, therefore, no more derogatory to the majesty of God to say that He could not create a moral being without the power of choice than to say that He could not make another infinite, or cause a being who began to be at a definite moment to have all the experience of one who had been from eternity. If, then, a moral must be a free creature, with the faculty and opportunity of choice, a new question arises: Was it good that God should make moral beings? That question has been by anticipation answered. If it was good for God to create those who could share His own beatitude, He could do so only on the condition that He made them capable of rejecting that for which they were designed. And who will say that he would apply another law to the universe and its Author than he would apply to himself? There is no man with an honourable manhood within him who is not enlarged and ennobled by both the idea and the fact of fatherhood; but every man who wills to become a father faces the problem which God faced when He made the universe. In the home and in the family the father is disciplined by the child as much as the child is disciplined by the father, but to the father belongs the responsibility for the child's being; and on him lie duties of self-restraint, of providence, of the daily concern to make all things that happen bear upon the formation of the higher moral qualities in his child. May we not say, then, that what justifies the responsibilities man dares to undertake when he becomes a parent, justifies God in making a universe which shall be the home of reason, vocal with the harmonies of love and the dissonances of life? And we may be certain that the evil we now feel is to us more darkly real, and more nearly coincident, if not indeed identical, with the realm of being than it is to Him who sees the end from the beginning and each fraction in its relation to the whole.

2. But at this point a question we have long foreseen and anticipated may be asked:—Could not God, when man's will inclined to evil, have intervened and changed its inclination or even prevented its choice? But intervention would have been destruction. A will suspended in its choice were a will destroyed. It would only be a masked form of annihilation for God to give a will and then to withdraw it, leaving the man standing before his alternative choices a will-less automaton. Only on the supposition that God were double-minded, and so unstable in all His ways, would it be possible to believe that, having first created man as a being capable of acquiring experience, He, in fear of his acquiring it as a man rather than as a god, went back on Himself, uncreated His own creature, and refused to leave him to act and to learn by action as He had meant him to do. But, it may be urged, the change or intervention could have come at an earlier point. When the vision of God ranged through all the infinite multitudes of possible worlds, He must have foreseen what would happen in the ideal He actually selected for realization. And when He foresaw evil, could He not have arrested His purpose, or have stayed His creative hand? But who then would have been victor?—God who turned aside from His purpose because of possible evil, or the possible evil that caused God to turn aside? The scheme that involved no difficulty were not worth realizing; the Creator who because of difficulties abandoned His plan could surely not be reckoned as either courageous or wise. The anthropomorphic language dismays and even revolts me, but, in the absence of a more perfect medium, it must be used in the question which concludes this section:—Was it not better that Deity, instead of turning aside because of evil, should go on, create the existence where evil was to be, and then deal directly with the evil when it had become?

§ VII. Why Evil has been Allowed to Continue

1. The question which has just been put brings us to the next stage in our discussion: the continuance of evil. And here we begin by simply formulating the principle: it is impossible to conceive the good and holy God as ever conceding to evil the right to be; for by its very idea it is a denial of His sovereignty and a challenge of His claim to be the First and the Last and the All in all. And this principle enables us to place physical and moral evil in their true reciprocal relations as integral parts of a single system, elements in what we may call the method of the divine government. For though the two evils are different in fact and distinct in thought, yet unless physical evil have a moral reason and function, it can have no justifiable existence in a moral universe. While, then, we conceive moral evil as man's act, we conceive physical evil, so far as it has its roots in the nature of man and springs out of the organic relations or social and historical constitution of the race, as belonging to the consequences which the order established of the Creator has caused to follow upon the act. I do not like to use juridical terms of God and His relations to man, but there are occasions when they are the only terms that can be used. If, then, such terms may be used here, we might say that Law is implied in the ideas of both moral and physical evil, but in the two cases Law is used with a totally different both extension and connotation: in the one case, it is Law as preceptive and prohibitive which is broken in respect of what it enjoins or forbids; in the other case, it is Law with its retributory sanctions, enforced and punitive, that is active. The precept may be wholly moral, but the sanction, whether held to be penal, disciplinary, incidental, or vindicative, must be largely physical. Law as it forbids man to steal, or to bear false witness, or to commit murder, is a precept enjoined by the lawgiver, perceived by the reason, and fulfilled or broken by the man's own choice; but law as it punishes the man who has stolen, or borne false witness, or committed murder, is a sanction enforced by a power which need not depend on the approval of the man's reason or the consent of his will. Now, this means that the law which appears to us twofold,—as moral, a precept we can obey, a command we can resist, and, as physical, a penalty or a consequence we must suffer, may appear as a unity, i.e. as a law wholly moral, to the Creator, who must see and read our complex life in its context, with the physical penetrating the moral, the moral affecting the physical, both reciprocally active and inter-dependent. Hence the distinction that is so obvious to us may have no being for God. Where the moral attributes are sovereign the view of the universe will be imperatively moral; and so what we regard as physical suffering may seem to Him, who sees the whole as a whole, altogether ethical in function and in value. This variety of aspect is not unknown even to ourselves; our laws, whether civil or criminal, are many-sided, and the face they turn to different sections of the community is never quite the same. The legislature will see the law which it makes as a whole or a unity, though probably the emphasis in its mind will He on the end to which the law is a means; the judge who has to administer the law will read it with the emphasis thrown on the sanction by which order has to be vindicated and justice maintained; the law-breaker who has to suffer at its hands sees in it a penal instrument, and feels it as a physical force; while the body of the citizens feel only that they may dwell serenely and securely under its protection. So we who suffer may distinguish our physical pains from our moral deserts, while He who made the physical for the moral may steadily see the means through the end and in it, both alike moral and alike good.

But this principle involves another, which is its correlative or counterpart. For what is true of the law must also be true of those who are under it, i.e. while its subjects are to us single persons they may appear to the Creator as a unity, co-ordinated as a collective mind, or incorporated in the organism of nature and the race. In other words, man is to God a whole, a colossal individual, whose days are centuries, whose organs are races, whose being as corporate endures immortal amid the immortality of its constituent units; and this unity has at once an ethical and a physical character. Hence there must be a divine judgment of the race as a race, as well as of the individual man as an individual; and the severer the judgment on the race the more leniently will the individual be judged. For while the race may cause suffering, it is the individual alone who can suffer; and the measure in which his sufferings are just can be determined only after the responsibility has been equitably proportioned between himself and the race. It was this idea which in the older theology made the doctrine of original sin so cognate to the doctrine of grace, while here it shows the need of a standard too absolute to allow justice to be lost in pity or pity to be sacrificed to justice. For evil is by its very nature personal, but law is by its nature universal, and it is through the universal that the personal must be judged. And this limits and defines both the responsibility of the individual and the province or function of law. On the one hand, he stands at once above and within nature and the race, above them as a distinct person, within them as an inseparable unit and integral part, giving to both, receiving from both, and amenable to the law according to the measure or the merit of his giving and getting. On the other hand, his mind or will may choose to do evil, or augment the evil he has suffered from nature and the race. And it is here where the law enters, as ideal or preceptive to determine his merit, as disciplinary or vindicative to apportion the penal consequences which will best suit his case and express his deserts. And as the choice is the act of the man as a whole, so the consequences must affect the whole of him, natural or corporeal as well as spiritual.

2. On grounds and for reasons such as these we argue, then, that, however moral and physical evil or moral and physical law may appear to us, they stand organically related in the mind of Him who made and who governs nature and man. And it is this organic connexion of the two laws and the two evils (which, it ought to be observed, is a very different thing from their identity) that makes it possible to vindicate both the justice and the goodness of God in the face of continued moral evil and universal physical suffering. Were there no suffering, moral evil would live a sort of unchallenged and authorized life; were suffering an end in itself, it would imply the ferocity of him who either allowed it to be, or himself inflicted it. Were it even only penal, it would signify his injustice, his failure to discriminate between sinners not simply by causing all to suffer, but by often dealing more severely with the innocent than with the guilty. While, then, the connexion is positive, it may be termed disciplinary or educative rather than punitive or retributory; i.e. the purpose of physical evil is not so much to uphold law or vindicate justice as to change and instruct man and form character. The older apologetic used to argue from the existence of suffering that this was a state of probation. Both the idea and the phrase were borrowed from Deism, and were alien to Christian theology. To it this was not a state of probation, but a fallen state, within which redeeming grace was active. God was conceived not as trying men, but as seeking to save them; and this idea represented a higher and more generous belief. Physical evil may be coincident with moral, the sign of a fallen state; but it signifies that the state is not final, that the man is recoverable, that ameliorative forces work around him and within him, detaching him from evil, attracting him to good, showing him in the mirror now of his heart, now of his imagination, now of his social or domestic experience, the miseries that follow from a lustful will, what calamities lurk in want of thought, how ages of poisoned existence may flow from the brief indulgence of vicious selfishness. The most remarkable thing in suffering is not its extent or duration, its intensity or immensity, but its educative, regenerative, and propulsive force, its power to make man conscious of his enormous responsibilities and to awaken in him the desire to fulfil them. So, conceived, physical evil may be described as a divine energy for moralizing man and nature. This is, if not its main function, yet its chief result. It has been the motive of all our beneficences, though their source has been the heavenly Grace.

But the argument which has defined the action and the function of physical evil has vindicated the goodness of God in maintaining the conditions which allow moral evil still to continue to be. It continues to exist not as a rightful or permanent inhabitant of the universe, but as one whose very right to be is denied, and for whose expulsion all the energies of nature have been marshalled and trained to fight. And this is, as we conceive the matter, the only conduct which would have become the Deity; certainly we could not conceive the annihilation of the creature to be seemly to His majesty, or withdrawal from all care or concern for him to be congenial to His grace. On the contrary, if we may so express ourselves, evil was the mute but potent appeal of the creation to the Creator not to forsake the work of His hands; and was it not an appeal His own very honour bound Him to regard?

In this chapter we have laboured to keep our thought strictly within the lines of a natural and rational theology, but the point whither the argument has been tending is clear: Nature cannot here speak the last word; we must wait the revelation of the Son of God. To allow evil to become and to continue without any purpose of redemption—i.e. to leave it as an ultimate fact and the final state of created existence—were to us an absolutely inconceivable act in a good and holy and gracious God. And so we may conclude this chapter with two questions: (α) May not the existence of evil explain and justify the event which we call the Incarnation? and (β) How can we conceive the justice and the goodness of God in relation to evil if His continued and final action towards it be excluded from consideration?