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the animal life, a propensity towards disease and death ; and, in lifeless organisms, a law of corruption and return to atoms. In this unconquerable sluggishness of matter, and not in the intention of the Creator, was to be found the source of all evil, natural and moral. The supreme Spirit had called into being whatever is fair and blessed and pure; and that there is no more good, was due to the resistance which his materials offered to his will, and which had made his execution finite, while his desires were infinite.
In this system, all faults and imperfections are attributed to the opposition of a passive and evil principle, co-existent with the First Cause, and restraining him within certain limits in working out the problem of creation. The essential idea of the scheme is, that the actual frame of the universe is the result of a struggle between two conflicting energies, both primitive and eternal, to the one of which is to be referred all that is good, to the other whatever is evil. Make then a slight and superficial change in this scheme; throw aside its abstract and philosophical dress; personify this impracticable material principle which stands in the way of the Creator's glorious designs : call it, instead of inert, obstinate ; instead of the residence of death, the destroyer of life ; instead of a weight on the Divinity, a force against him; in short, treat it, not as negative, but as positive; not as impervious to light, but as the power of darkness; not as a physical o struction, but as in real antipathy to God: and by such assumption of personality, this hostile energy becomes as active principle of evil, a malignant and antagonist God, busy in frustrating the purposes of Providential goodness, and spreading ruin, disorder, and guilt over the fair regions o nature and the soul.
This doctrine of a good and evil spirit, engaged in perpetu conflict on the theatre of the universe, is then only the popular and mythical form of the philosophical speculations matter and Deity which I have described. It is commonly known under the name of the Manichean heresy. It was from very early times the characteristic idea of the Persian theology; and thence, as I shall show, by admixture with Judaism, has given rise to the prevailing belief in a devil.
To this scheme, considered as a metaphysical theory of the divine perfections, and a solution of the perplexities respecting natural and moral evil, objections of insurmountable force will occur to every one. It preserves the infinite benevolence by sacrificing the omnipotence of God. It sets up a rival to his government, from whose malignity he can only imperfectly protect us; so that his Providence becomes precarious. and we feel ourselves the sport of a conflict the most awful, beset by pure, unmitigated, indestructible evils, which, however beaten off in the end, must win against us many a dreadful success. A believer in this doctrine may indeed presume, that a Being, omniscient and benign as God, would never have called a world into existence unless assured, by his foreknowledge, that he could prevailingly protect it from the powers which obstructed him, and render life to every creature on it a blessing on the whole. Under any other conditions, his goodness would have restrained him from the act of creation. Still the blessed Ruler sways his works under constant check; and all limitations on his power must be proportionate deductions from our peace. This theory, then, fails to afford us the desired relief. It does not reconcile the God of our conscience with the God of our understanding : it simply adheres to the former, and rejects the latter; assuring us that, as our secret hearts had said, the great Father hates evil as his enemy; not, as our logic had insinuated, wields it as his instrument.
(2.) We turn, then, to the second attempt to extricate our thoughts from this perplexity; which is found, in a consistent form, only in the system of philosophical necessity. This scheme assumes the absolute, unlimited monarchy of cod. represents him as originally alone, and without either
universe or materials for its construction; teaches that he willed all things into existence; conceiving the plan, speaking the word, beholding the birth, sustaining the order, decreeing the means, ordaining the end. The compass of his design is all-embracing; all causes and effects, all enjoyment and misery, all excellence and guilt, lie within its circuit; nor can “ there be evil in a city,” or in a world, and the Lord hath not done it.” We are assured, that in fact it is impossible to distribute to separate authors the blessing and the curse which appear to mingle in creation ; for the same law which brings the one introduces the other ; the tempest which blasts the field and flock purifies the air of pestilence; the necessities of the body are the incentives of labour and the stimulants of the mind; and industry and art, commerce and wealth, the whole structure even of society and civilization, rest on the ultimate basis of hunger. Nor is it possible to separate suffering, even in conception, from a scene in which great virtues are to be born, and the diviner forms of character to be trained. Evil is the resistance, by its conquest over which moral force can alone be measured and manifested; without which, conscience and fidelity would have no field of victory, benevolence no place for glorious toll, faith and wisdom no consciousness of power. In the sickly seductions of pleasure, are seen the health and simplicity of holiness ; amid the temptations of selfishness, we discern ang venerate the spirit of self-oblivious love; beneath the arm.o tyranny, and amid examples of hypocrisy, we learn how cam, the front of uprightness, and how noble the magnanimity truth. Pain is never the whole of suffering; which spreads moral influence beyond itself and its hour and administers.com of our noblest discipline. The anguish of one human being is usually the pity of many; even the guilt of one may bet forbearance, the warning, the affectionate and healing griet; of many. Scarcely can any ill be found that is not so lin with visible benefits, so entangled with arrangements in W
we recognize indisputable blessings, that one only author can be assigned to all; if he has had foresight of any thing, he must have had foresight of all; if he has devised a part, he must have devised the whole. Even such free-will as the human mind possesses is a power of his own deliberate bestowal; and the whole extent of its disastrous mistakes, its deluded estimates, its degrading preferences, its faithless abuse of liberty, must be considered as ordained and introduced by him for some ultimate and transcendent good.) At present, and for a long future yet, the sufferings are great which sin must entail upon all who come within its range; but even its saddest victim is yet a child of God, and must at last (benevolence requires no less) be enabled to pronounce his existence a boon. And hence we must believe the penalties of guilt to be remedial ; subduing the stubborn soul, and leading it back to seek its peace in God; working out their own remission, because their victim's restoration; till
de Wail of despair shall be softened into the sob of repentance, and this into the sigh of self-distrustful hope, falling
le silence of deep resolve; leading to the energy of a delity, warmed by the refreshment of a returning love,
sting at length into grateful chorus with the song of !
the redeemed. .
litions of his own, or by the a
essential idea of this system evidently is, that evil is u of God's will, his temporary instrument for ever
sends. This characteristic remaining, it is wholly unportant whether he is regarded as producing it immediately lately; distributively or collectively; by detailed vo
his own, or by the agency of a being commissioned department of his government. As the blessings,
by the activity of good minds of every order in the s are no less his, than if there were no creature but o shed them forth, so the woes, which any dependent
evil may diffuse, belong as truly to his providence, ey were the personal inflictions of his will. Hence
universe, are no less h
the doctrine of wicked angels, and of a created Prince of darkness, is the very same with the system which I have just described; simply, its popular and mythological form, gathering up the abstract conception of evil into a person; but still representing it, in this living dress, as a creature intentionally formed by the Omniscient and predetermining God. I regard the belief in the existence of Satan, not as opposed to the prevailing Unitarian views of Providence, but, so far as it is consistently held, as in all essential particulars, identical with them. Its relation to the character of God is the same; and the sole difference between the two is in the question of personality; a question of great consequence, when the existence of a divine person, as the Holy Spirit, is suspended on the decision ; but of small moment when, as in this case, a mere creature more or less is to be given to the invisible world. What does it matter to us whether there be any, or a myriad, of interposing agents between the ills that touch us and our God? Surely it is with the effects,—with the evils themselves, that our practice and duty are concerned, and about their original cause that our faith is anxious; and, on both these points, the Necessarian and the Satanic schemes seem to be agreed. Both refer our thoughts back to a time when no evil existed, and say that none could have come into existence, had the creative activity of God never been exercised. Both make the same estimate of the actual sins and sorrows and temptations which are in contact with our life ; and whichever view be adopted, these are neither increased nor diminished, their complexion is neither brightened nor darkened, their insidiousness and their treatment continue the same. They come out of the dark upon us; and no more concern us till they strike upon our experience, than a line of light affects us, till its end impinges on our eye. Hence I cannot feel much interest in the mere question respecting the existence of a Devil; and must be excused for treating it as only an inisiga nificant part of a subject vast and terrible.