On The Problem Of Evil
( Originally Published 1907 )
WE have been engaged throughout the last three chapters in laying down the lines along which God is revealed to men through their Intellect, their Moral Nature, and their Emotions, as Power, Righteousness, and Love. Whatever hindrances there may be just in the present conditions of thought to the recognition by all men of God as thus revealed, I am persuaded that the day will come when it will be as impossible for men really to doubt him as to doubt the outward world which they see and touch, and as impossible for them to be deaf to his voice in conscience as to be deaf to the thunder-clap or the bugle-note, and as impossible for them to be insensible to the love with which he penetrates them as to be insensible to the light that floods the day.
But many good and earnest people dare not trust these revelations of God, dare not believe fully in his righteousness and love, even though they believe in his power, because of one great and awful fact which presses upon them and which it is impossible for them to ignore.
It seems to them that they would be deceiving themselves in supposing that there can be a God both All-powerful and Good, seeing that the fact cannot be hidden that in this world there exists great, varied, and terrible Evil. In the awful accounts of outrage and massacre which have recently burnt themselves into the consciousness of Englishmen, some of the best of men, within my knowledge, have thought that they saw the refutation of faith in a Heavenly Father. Their devout trust in the Divine government of the world has received a staggering shock from the horrors of Armenia ; and, with poor Cleg Kelly, their hearts have cried out, ` It's all a dumb lie ; God's dead.' Terribly impressive is it to observe how this despair of God as a Power making for righteousness in the history of nations has uttered itself in the recent writings of one whom some of us have looked on as the most promising English poet of the time. That profound faith in God or some underlying fundamental Good which gives strength and nobility to all the greatest poetry in the world seems, for the moment at least, to have been scorched clean out of the verse of William Watson.
Even Tennyson, the poet of trust and hope, in one of his moods declares that ` Nature, red in tooth and claw with ravine ' shrieks against the creed that ` God is Love.' ` Pain, grief, disease, and death,' says Winwood Reade, ` are these the inventions of a loving God ? ' Huxley, writing on ` The Struggle for Existence,' decides that the Power ruling the world cannot be benevolent. And John Stuart Mill was expressing his own view as well as that of his father, when he said that his father ` found it impossible to believe that a world so full of evil was the work of an Author combining infinite power with perfect goodness and righteousness.' Indeed there are philosophers so impressed with what they deem the prevailing sadness of all life that they argue that the central principle of the universe is bad, and educe their whole philosophy from the root-idea that conscious existence is itself an evil.
And though, if I must tell you the real truth, I shall have to confide to you that I believe the pessimistic philosophy of Byron, of Schopenhauer, and of many another had its real origin not in hard thinking at all, but in a bad temper or a bad digestion, yet I acknowledge to the full that it is often the most generous, the most sympathetic, the most chivalrous natures that are most shaken in their faith in God by the spectacle of the vast and terrific evil which confronts them in the world.
Let us then frankly consider the whole matter.
The argument against Theism is absolutely simple, seems absolutely clear. ` There is great evil in the world. If God cannot prevent it, he is not all-powerful ; if he can, yet does not, he is not all-good.' Is there any escape from this dilemma ?
Can we get out of it by denying that there really is any evil ? Some have tried that way. But it can be adopted only by denying the meaning of words or refusing to acknowledge facts. There is evil. Let us see then what the evil is.
It is of two kinds, closely connected together no doubt, but still two kinds : Pain and Sin. Some have acknowledged that Sin is an Evil, yet tried to get out of recognizing Pain as an Evil. Now I shall argue presently that Pain is often the means to good. But it is useless to say that in itself it is not an evil. Our horror at the sufferings of the innocent, even more than our own shrinking from it, is the evidence that we do all consider Pain in itself an evil, however often it may be the means to good.
And I venture to stand by this opinion notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Gladstone, in his recently collected studies of Bishop Butler, has described the doctrine that pain is in itself an evil as to his mind ` false, fearfully prevalent, and most dangerous.' I shall myself presently con-tend that pain in its effects is the source of the highest good, even that the world would immeasurably suffer by the total withdrawal of pain. But it seems to me a mere abuse of language to deny that pain, apart from its results, in itself considered, is an evil. Speaking at Liverpool, in the autumn of 1896, Mr. Gladstone declared that the recent massacre of Armenians in Constantinople had been far less terrible than the previous massacres among the Armenian hills, because these last named had, what the others lacked, the accompaniment of outrage and of torture. But if torture is no evil, where lies the force of the contrast ? If pain is no harm, why are we indignant at its infliction ? Or will you say that it is ` harm,' but that ` harm ' is not necessarily ` evil ' ? This seems to me, I confess, a fantastic jugglery with words. The meaning of language can only be deduced from the common consciousness of mankind. And the doctrine that pain is not in itself an evil seems to me an attempt to escape from the common sentiment of our race in the interest of a particular philosophical or theological theory.
Pain then and Sin are the evils of the world. But it is important to decide which is the greater. Let the choice be between a great pain and a great sin. Which is the better choice ? If we honour heroes and revere martyrs, that is a proof that we consider pain a less evil than sin. If sin were a less evil than pain, we should call the man who of the two chooses pain, not a hero, but a fool. If suffering were a greater evil than faithlessness, we should call the man who of the two chooses suffering, not a martyr, but at the best a fanatic.
There are two evils in the world, then, Pain and Sin ; but of these two Sin is the greater evil and Pain the less.
And what are the chief divisions of pain ?
Some tender hearts have been most haunted by the pain of the dumb animals. It is this that is gathered up under Tennyson's celebrated phrases when he describes Nature as ` red in tooth and claw with ravine,' and as ` so careful of the type,' ` so careless of the single life.' I shall have more to say about the sufferings of the animals presently. Meanwhile we have nothing but sympathy to express with those gentle hearts who sorrow over all the pain which is scattered through the world of beasts and birds and creeping things.
But others are touched most by the pains and sorrows of the innocent and helpless among our own kind—especially by those of children. And they who go in and out among the slums of London or Liverpool or who read the reports of such societies as that for preventing cruelty to children, know what a terrible mass of suffering this is. Only let me just point out in passing that, while those who read or hear of these things often have their faith in God shaken by them, somehow or other those who are working at their alleviation seem never to have their faith in God shaken by them, but, so far as I know, are generally all the more assured of the divine love, and seem to see God right through the misery and the anguish. Account for it as you will, that is a most remark-able and impressive fact.
And then, thirdly, there is all the pain which men bring on themselves by their sin—the disease of the debauchee, the rags and hunger of the idler and the drunkard, the isolation from all human sympathy of the selfish, the remorse which tortures the heart whenever the reality of its sin flashes in upon the consciousness, the great, awful mass of physical and spiritual woe which is the direct, visible fruit of the sins of men.
So much for the Pain in the world ; then for the Sin. It appals us by its magnitude, its blackness. There is no need for me to draw it out in detail. We have all been oppressed by the contemplation of it. We have all marvelled at its proportions. We have all known the sting of some of it in our own bosoms.
Yes, the mass of Evil is appalling—first Pain, and then, more and worse, Sin. Can God be omnipotent, and at the same time good, that he lets these things be ?
Before we can answer that question, we must decide what we mean by ` omnipotent,' which is of course simply Latin for the English almighty or all-powerful. I am going to tell you what will sound a very trivial, almost a profane thing. But it is neither the one nor the other, for it is the very most solemn and profound thought of which a very little boy was capable. I do not know how old I was, but I cannot have been far out of baby-hood. I had been taught that God was very great and that he was almighty. And I remember quite distinctly thinking of him as an immense man with a square paper cap like a baker's, and wondering whether he could open and shut a window at the same time. If he was almighty, I supposed, he must be able to do that. And I imagined the opening and the shutting more and more quickly of one particular window in my father's house. But still I never could get them in my fancy absolutely at the same , time. What was my mistake ?
My mistake was in not seeing that ` opening and shutting a window at the same time ' was not merely very difficult, but an absolute contradiction, and that almightiness or omnipotence does not mean ability to accomplish a contradiction ; for a real contradiction cannot be. The word ` contradiction ' means the combination of incompatible conditions. No doubt some things that to us seem contradictions would be seen not to be so really, if we could look at them from God's point of view. But if two conditions really are contradictory, then not even omnipotence can bring them both to pass together. Not even omnipotence could make the earth a sphere and a cube at the same time. Not even omnipotence could make a triangle of which the side AB is longer than the side BC, and BC longer than CA, and CA longer than AB. All that we have a right to mean by omnipotence is power to do everything that is in itself possible, that is not in itself contradictory. If then it should appear that the idea of a world in which there is provision for moral goodness is in itself contradictory to the idea of a world where there is and can be no evil, then we are not denying God's omnipotence in any real sense if we say that he could not both provide for moral goodness in the world and shut out all evil from the world.
And there is such a contradiction. For what is moral good ? Moral good consists in right choosing. It is right choosing that makes what we call character. Human goodness is made up of right choosings massed into a habit and making the tone and substance of the character. Right choosing :—but if there is to be choosing, there must be two courses to choose between. If God had made me so that I could not tell a lie, I could not choose to tell the truth. I should tell the truth automatically as I breathe, and sneeze, and cough. But that would not make character. It would not be moral good. To get moral good out of me, to make character, I must have a free choice between a better and a worse ;—it must be open to me to tell the lie, or there will be no morality in telling the truth. But God cannot at the same time leave it open to me to tell the lie, and shut me off from telling the lie, any more than he can at the same time open the window and shut the window. Both alike are contradictions ; and omnipotence does not mean power to do contradictory things, but power to do all possible things.
And as, if his object with men is to get moral good out of them, to make character, God is obliged to leave the lie open to me as well as the truth, so also, throughout all the range of morals, he is in like manner compelled, omnipotent though he be, if he would have moral good evolved, character (which is made up of right choosings) developed in men, to leave open to them the wrong as well as the right, the disobedience as well as the obedience, the sin as well as the virtue. And so, if moral good, character, righteousness, be the supreme purpose of God with man, then even omnipotence had to leave open the door to Sin, the greatest of the evils.
But, say you, why could not God make us all virtuous to start with ? Why could he not endow us with character ready-made ? Because virtue is right choosing, and if there be no choice there is no virtue. Because character is built up of right choosings, and that which is ready-made is not character. Once granted that the purpose of God with men was goodness, character, the human will had to be left free to choose at every moment between the better and the worse ; and it had to be left dependent not on God, but on Man, whether there should be sin in the world, and if so, how much, and how long it should be ere sin should be conquered and righteousness be set up in its place. If character was to be the purpose, then all that the omnipotence of God could do—since it could not do a contradiction—was so to order the conditions of human life that good should be sure in the end to overcome evil, and righteousness to blot out sin. We shall inquire presently whether God has done that.
But meanwhile some one may say, ` Granted that if character was God's purpose with man, even his omnipotence had to leave the door open to sin ; but he need not have made character his purpose.'
No ; that is true. God might have made a world in which moral good, character, was not the purpose, in which therefore sin was shut out, and virtue did not exist. Might have ? He has made such a world. The animal world is such. The lion, the cat, the sparrow is guided by instinct, knows nothing of these moral choices that are presented to us at every turn. But, let me ask you, if it depended on your vote, should you be prepared to vote that our life should be assimilated to theirs, and that the whole of the moral life, the whole power and trust of choice between good and evil should be cut clean out of us ? I cannot conceive that any sane man will deliberately and sincerely answer ` yes ' to that question.
The attack which Mill and those who agree with him make on God is that if he could prevent evil and does not, he cannot be all-good. But we have seen that to get goodness realized in men, it was necessary to leave the door open to evil. So that this is the shape the argument will have to take, ` If God were all-good, he would not make goodness his chief purpose with men.' So that, again, you are forced into the position of charging it as a blot on the goodness of God that his purpose is the goodness of man. But surely the very meaning of calling a being ` good ' is that he loves goodness beyond all else. It is precisely by making goodness his first purpose with men, and through conscience teaching them that it is his purpose, that God makes us know that he is good. And if once we came to think that he was indifferent to human goodness, we could no longer mean anything by calling him good.
Such considerations as these—considerations from which it is impossible to find any real logical escape—cut the ground from under our feet when we would lay it as a charge against God that he has left the door open to sin. The fact does not militate against his goodness, since it is the very manifestation of his goodness that he has called us to be good. It does not militate against his omnipotence, since omnipotence does not mean power to realize a contradiction, and to make human life a training school of character, yet shut out the possibility of sin, would be to realize a contradiction.
But we saw that there was one thing which it might still be legitimate to ask of God before we should be content to call him both omnipotent and good. Mr. Gladstone, indeed, in his earnest essays on the writings of Butler, protests strongly against any demands being made by us on the character of God or any attempt to vindicate his ways with men. He would have us simply bow down in absolute and unquestioning trust. But trust cannot spring up to order. It must have sure and certain grounds on which to rest. And we cannot trust God while our minds are tortured with apprehensions of injustice or cruelty in his government of man. It is the best and noblest part of our nature, and no idle or captious fancy, that insists on the vindication of his goodness. It is then legitimate to ask whether God has so ordered the conditions of human life that good should be sure in the end to overcome evil, and righteousness to blot out sin. If he had made goodness his purpose with man, but had not placed man in such conditions that goodness must win in the end, we should still have to think him good, since why else should he have made goodness his purpose with man ; but we certainly could not think him omnipotent, since we should see his good purpose in risk of ultimate defeat.
But the conditions of life are such that goodness must prevail in the end. Sin is sooner or later self-destructive, while goodness is reproductive of good. But if that be so—if in the world two forces confront each other, the nature of one of which is to eat itself away, and the nature of the other of which is to reproduce its like, to grow, to spread—then the battle between them may be very long, but in the end the former must necessarily disappear and the latter must necessarily occupy the field.
But is this so, or am I assuming what experience fails to warrant ? Why do I say that the force of moral evil is self-consuming, self-exhausting, while the force of moral good is self-increasing, self-sustaining ?
Here is one reason. He who practises moral evil seeks his own personal end. But he who practises moral good seeks an unselfish end. Now if ten men seek an unselfish end—say the carrying of some reform, or the establishment of some hospital—they can all work together in perfect alliance, and the whole sum of moral force devoted to that end is exactly ten-man power, without a fraction of deduction. But suppose that ten men seek each his own selfish end, they may indeed enter into temporary compacts of alliance, but as their final object is not common to them all, but the real final object of Brown is Brown's pleasure, and of Jones is Jones's gain, and of Robinson is Robinson's profit, and so forth through the ten, their respective forces inevitably at certain points work against each other, and weaken or cancel each other, and the total force applied to the common end will not be nearly ten-man power, but only ten-man power minus several fragments of individual power. And so the ten good men will wield a total force indefinitely greater than the ten bad men ; and if the world were left to the ten good men and the ten bad men to manage, the force making for good would with certainty sooner or later overcome the force making for evil. And this is how it is that all confederacies of men for good ends exercise a continuous and solid influence for good ; while all conspiracies among men for bad ends have in them the elements of their own disruption and decay, and the mischief they can do is sooner or later exhausted.
Then, again, here is another reason. Every good man, sooner or later, awakens sympathy or enthusiasm on the part of others for his efforts after good, and so generates new forces in other human centres making for the like things. But every bad man, sooner or later, wakens aversion and repulsion on the part of others, and so, not only becomes more and more isolated, but actually generates opposing forces in other human centres making against his own ends.
And here is yet another reason. Every man who practises good grows stronger and stronger. Temperance strengthens his body and mind. Disinterested service braces and invigorates his character. And at fifty, therefore, he has more power for good than he had at thirty. But every man who practises evil grows weaker and weaker. No doubt, there is a certain infection in evil as well as in good. But intemperance weakens the body and the mind. Selfish conduct enfeebles the man-power, makes it flaccid, vacillating, spasmodic, deadens effectiveness. And at fifty, therefore, the bad man usually has less power for evil than at thirty.
And what is true of individuals is true also of communities, of nations, of races.
Nations that are temperate, brave, and conscious of a high ideal grow stronger and stronger, play a larger and larger part in the world, exercise wider and wider influence as long as that character endures. But nations that are intemperate, luxurious, and unconscious of a high ideal, decay, break up, and disappear. A handful of Athenians overcame a host of Orientals ; nor primarily because their generals were cleverer, but because they were morally more sound. And even after a temperate, brave, and noble race has ceased to be so, its dead heroes, its thinkers, its moralists, its artists exercise an undying influence on all future time. But a race that has always been corrupt endures but a brief span, and leaves little influence behind. Athens and Israel are among the most potent influences in the world to this day. But Assyria has been blotted out of the history of the world.
We all believe that if England roots out luxury, intemperance, and selfishness, she will endure, and her people and her thought will become the dominating influence in the world. But if she lets the evils grow, she will pass away like many a bygone power, and it will be left for purer races to guide the destinies of man. But to believe this is to believe that good is stronger than evil, and that God has so ordered the conditions of human life that good is sure in the end to overcome evil, and righteousness to blot out sin.
Walt Whitman gives voice to all that I have just been trying to make clear when he writes, after reading Hegel :—
Roaming in thought over the Universe, I saw the little that is good steadily hastening towards immortality, And the vast of all that is called Evil I saw hastening to merge itself and become lost and dead.
Now we saw before that if character was to be God's chief purpose with man, then all that even God's omnipotence could do was thus to order the conditions of human life. That he should so order them was all we could legitimately demand before recognizing that God is good. He has so ordered them. Therefore God is good.
So much for the existence of Sin. Of the two Evils in the world Sin is the greater, Pain the less. It remains to consider Pain.
First, let us take all that mass of pain—that immense area of suffering and sorrow—which is the direct outcome or effect of Sin. The shattered nerves, the aches and pains that come of in-temperance, the wretchedness which the selfish man inevitably brings upon himself, the ruin of the gambler—take in any form you will the pain that is the direct issue of sin : no doubt, viewed by itself, all this pain is evil. But viewed as the direct inevitable outcome of sin, can we venture to call it evil still ? We have seen that in a moral world the door had to be left open to sin. Would it be better, that being so, that sin should bring no penalty ? Would it be better if a man could be selfish all his days and never lose a moment's happiness thereby ? Would you be more inclined to think God good if, when a man degrades him-self and blots out the image of God in him by sensual indulgence, he could count on never having a headache or a pain in consequence ? No, we all hold and often loudly express the very opposite. Do we not ? Sometimes it seems to us (though always falsely) that some man's sin is not bearing penalty, not bringing him any loss or pain. What do we say then ? We cry out against God's injustice. If the wicked man flourishes like a green bay-tree, we count that a defect in the making of the world. When the oppressor, the cruel man, the inflicter of suffering on others, comes up smiling and jaunty, and we are deluded into the notion that he has succeeded in sinning without retribution, that makes us inclined to doubt God's goodness. But if that is our way of thinking, then we cannot also lay it as a charge against God that he has so constructed the world that suffering does inevitably result from sin. The suffering indissolubly attached to sin is one great and potent instrument for training men out of sin into virtue.
But I think that some will say, ` Yes, we agree that God does well so to constitute the world that a man's sin should involve that man in pain. But it involves too often not himself alone, but others also, in pain. Why should God constitute the world so ? The sins of the fathers are visited on the children the sins of the rich upon the poor ; the sins of the dead upon the living. Can this be the law of a God who is good ? '
And here indeed you touch a problem which has broken down the faith of many—and chiefly of the good, the sympathetic, the chivalrous. Yet let me say again not often of those who are actually working to mitigate this pain in daily intercourse with it. They see God through it all. Such is the mystery of service.
But can we, looking on at the great drama of the world, justify to ourselves this fact that the innocent suffer through the sins of others ?
Well, it is part of a greater fact and inseparable from it. What is that greater fact ? That all the universe is one whole, and that the nearer its parts are to each other, the more intimately they act and react on each other. This applies to human beings no less than to the molecules of the physical universe. It has been stated so far as regards human beings in ancient words of sublime simplicity, ` We are members one of another' ; ` whether one member suffereth, all the members suffer-with it.' For my part, I grieve indeed over the pains of the innocent; but I cannot bring myself to think that this would be a better world if the pains incurred through sin were limited to the sinner himself. This fact of mutual member-ship involves great sorrows ; but it involves also all the purest gladness, happiness, and joy that there is in the world. If one man's conduct affected no one but himself, all the beauty and nobility of human life would be sapped at the foundation. The world would not be a colony bound together in fellowship of gladness and sorrow. It would be a vast prison, in which each man, woman, and child had to serve a life-term of solitary confinement.
And further : if my suffering from my sin is God's way of recalling me to a better mind, much more is my child's suffering from my sin God's way of recalling me to a better mind. If every wrongdoer brought trouble on himself alone, the forces making for the destruction of sin would be infinitely less powerful and effective than they are. The force that holds back the hand from striking is far more often the image of the pain which the wrong will bring to others than the image of the pain which it will bring to the man himself. The fact that his sin would break his wife's heart has much oftener kept a man true and pure than the fact that it would bring trouble on his own head. The more carefully you think out what human life would be if the sins of men brought pain to them-selves only and left the innocent perfectly happy, the more distinctly, I believe, will you discern that it would be an infinitely sadder and less holy thing than it actually is under the conditions in which God has set it.
And then comes in a consideration of enormous weight, which has been felt most vividly by the best and devoutest. There are qualities in pain and sorrow which render them incomparably the most potent instruments in the making of character. If we theorize about this, we get wrong. Logic would seem to say, ` If God brings great pain on a man, it must make the man revolt against God.' But observation of facts compels us to say, ` No, on the contrary nothing exercises so extraordinary an influence in making men love God as the suffering of great pain at his hands.' Scientific thinking deals with facts as they are, not with a priori notions of what we should expect. And in this matter, the fact as it is, is that goodness is evolved from pain more richly than from any other source. This is what Dr. Martineau says : ` The truest piety is to be learned only in the school of suffering ; and, strange to say, its usual characteristic is in a certain brightness and restfulness of spirit, free from the plaintive tones of painless religion ; its faith is not shaken, but confirmed, by the shock. It is the observer that whimpers, while the victim sings, " Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." '
And I say all this after being permitted, by the kindness of the anonymous author, to read in proof an exceedingly clever and earnest little book called ` Evil and Evolution.' In that book the author contends that a bright and unclouded existence is at least as good a school of character as a life chequered with suffering. I find it impossible to agree with him. Perpetual prosperity seems never to fail to breed selfishness in the heart, and the battle with difficulty seems the indispensable condition for the making of human greatness. Take away all suffering and all wrong, and surely heroism would be blotted out of the history of humanity. It is not a sickly and monastic saintliness that springs from the soil of pain, as this writer would seem to think, but all that we include under the term, `manliness.' Among moderns, Mazzini seems to me the very type of the nobility thus educed—Mazzini, ` the suffering Messiah of the nineteenth century.'
It is clear then about Pain, first that in a moral world it was much better that Sin should have Pain as its consequence than that it should not, and secondly, that Pain has a great and sacred function among men, namely, the training of them in character. These two facts go an immense way towards solving the difficulty we feel in believing that God can be both omnipotent and all-good, seeing that he permits Pain to exist.
But still the matter, it may be said, is not cleared up wholly. There is much pain in the world which is neither the outcome of human sin nor yet conducive to the training of character.
I doubt myself whether there can be shown to be any human pain which may not in one way or other conduce to character ; but I readily admit that there are vast areas of human pain which are not caused by human sin, and also that in the animal world, at any rate, there are vast areas of pain which do not and cannot conduce to the making of character.
Let us look at both these facts :
Vast areas of human pain that are not caused by human sin by what then are they caused ? By the standing, enduring, universal laws of nature—the regular action of the primitive cosmical forces.
Take an example : the cosmical laws which run through the whole physical creation include the fact that the earth slowly cools, and, cooling, contracts and hardens at the surface. This involves in its process an occasional local spasm in the earth-crust. These spasms (called earth-quakes) have tens of thousands of years ago become comparatively slight and comparatively rare, leaving the globe, on the whole, well calculated to support human life. But here and there, now and then, a bad earthquake still turns up, because the cooling and hardening and settling are not yet complete. A few millions of years more, and the earth will be too cold to sustain human life. Just now it is, on the whole, admirably adapted for a thriving and vigorous humanity. Ought God to have waited to set any human beings on the earth till the very last earthquake was over ? Who will dare to say so ? That would have diminished the total number of happy human lives from first to last by thousands of millions. And yet that is exactly what you do say in effect when you point to the destruction which the earthquake wreaks as sign that God is not good.
These cosmical laws sweep through all time and space. Through them, and through them alone, has any universe at all been evolved. For us to stand up and find fault with gravitation or the law of the refraction of light does indeed seem a monstrous specimen of conceit. While to ask that these laws and the like should be suspended whenever a human being is in the way is to ask that God would substitute disorder and confusion for that perfect and universal order which is the very foundation of all society and civilization and progress and human happiness.
When we pass from the human to the animal, from the moral to the unmoral world, then, how-ever, Pain seems to wear a new aspect, and we are afresh startled at the sufferings of such multitudes of innocent creatures in a world over which we are told that a good God rules.
It is impossible here to say all I should like to say about animal happiness and pain. But I would urge every one on whom this problem presses to read with the closest attention the last four pages of the second chapter of Wallace's ` Darwinism.' Wallace, the enthusiastic disciple of Darwin, and himself the greatest living British naturalist, clearly points out the errors involved in estimates like Tennyson's and Huxley's of the volume and intensity of the woes of the animals. He shows with absolute lucidity that the phrase ` the struggle for existence,' though an excellent scientific expression, gives a most misleading impression of the troubles of animal life. And he—the highest possible authority in this matter—thus sums up : ` The popular idea of the struggle for existence entailing misery and pain on the animal world is the very reverse of the truth. What it really brings about is the maximum of life and of the enjoyment of life with the minimum of suffering and pain. Given the necessity of death and reproduction—and without these there could have been no progressive development of the animal world—and it is difficult even to imagine a system by which a greater balance of happiness could have been secured.'
There are, however, pains inflicted on animals by mankind which, to my knowledge, hardly less than the awful catalogue of man's atrocities against man, have tended to shake the faith of many earn-est persons in the goodness of God. Some of these are inflicted in sport, in wantonness, or in mere recklessness ; others, and these amongst the most terrible, on the plea of the advancement of science or of mitigating human disease. A tender heart can hardly refrain from longing that God had put all this out of the power of mankind. But it is not easy to conceive how this could have been done without arbitrary and destructive limitations on the physical capacity or the moral freedom of men. God certainly has ` laid upon us a mighty trust ' ; and when we abuse that trust, we do produce real and essential evil ; and the torture of animals is real and essential evil. We have yet to rise into a far higher and nobler conception of our fellowship with the animal world. Meanwhile, they who artificially increase the sufferings of races helpless against the might of man, take on themselves a responsibility which it seems impossible to measure.
It seems proper here to say a word about that very ancient mode of solving the Problem of Evil which consists in supposing that, as all good proceeds from God, so all evil proceeds from a personal author and lover of evil ; the more so that this time-honoured method of dealing with the matter is revived with wide culture and devout enthusiasm by the writer of that essay on ` Evil and Evolution ' to which I have already referred. On the surface such a theory seems at once to dispose of the whole difficulty. God and Devil are contending with each other over the whole area of the universe. All the good is to be put down to the credit of God ; all the evil to the account of the Devil.
But, after all, a little reflection suffices to show us that our problem remains exactly where it was. Suppose there be indeed a Prince of Evil. Is he or is he not the creature of him whom our recent essayist constantly speaks of as ` the Creator,' or ` the Supreme Being,' or simply ` God ' ? Is the Devil created by him, and by him endowed with power to bring about whatever evil is in the world?
Let us first suppose that this question is answered in the affirmative. The Devil is God's creature. It is God who has made him and endowed him with his capacity for evil. Where then do you find any relief from the difficulties which you felt before ? You complained that God could not be altogether good if he sent pain into the world and permitted sin in the human heart. But how does it mend matters to suppose that he has done it all through the agency of one single evil spirit ? Is it any better to suppose that he has created a single being in whom is concentrated all the malignity which darkens the world, than to suppose that in all his children he has, by the tremendous endow-ment of Free Will, left open the door to sin ? Is it any better to suppose that he has endowed one angel of evil with the power to infuse woe into myriads of human lives than to suppose that sorrow and pain are conditions inseparable from a moral world ? Some evolutionists try to get rid of the idea of creation by dividing up the spiritual endowments of the present world into an infinite number of infinitely small accretions of spiritual power. This Satan theory is the reverse of that fallacious contrivance. It gathers up an infinite number of individual sins and lays them all in one vast lump to the charge of one single creature of God, in the hope of slipping evil into the world without making God responsible. The device is equally vain. A hundred million small acts of creation are creation still, just as much as one all-covering act. One single admission of colossal evil into the world presents precisely the same difficulties to the Theist as a hundred million admissions of fragmentary evils.
Let us then suppose that the Devil is not the creature of him whom our essayist calls ` the Creator," the Supreme Being,' or simply ` God '—that he is an independent being, and that God is in no way responsible for him. What then becomes of God ? Why, he is God no more in any transcendent sense. He is not the universal Creator ; he is not supreme. He is after all only a demi-god, or a god in the sense of the Greek mythology—a celestial hero, contending against evil powers for the happiness and the virtue of his human children. To such a being, such a champion of our cause, our hearts would no doubt rightly go forth in loyalty and allegiance. But he is not God. We have to peer into the darkness behind him for some other being, the true Creator, the true Supreme, the great Eternal, the First Cause, whence have sprung both Spirit of Good and Spirit of Evil, both Ormuzd and Ahriman. And then with him we have to begin again the same great argument. Why did he admit evil into the world ? Can he be both all-powerful and all-good ? And so from this ancient expedient of a Devil, this Deus—or diabolus—ex machina solution of our problem, this audacious cutting of the Gordian knot, we are forced back to some such slow and patient argument as has formed the substance of this chapter.
I conclude, then, finally that neither the existence of Sin nor the existence of Pain—and these two things include all that we mean by the dread word ` Evil '—is in any way inconsistent with the view that God is omnipotent and all-good in any rational and real sense of those two words. Rigid reasoning disposes of the Problem of Evil, and leaves us free to revere and love God as all that the best and holiest have declared him to be. But our judgment is ruled more by warmth of feeling than by rigid reasoning. And in view of some terrible woe or wrong the rigid reasoning will often vanish out of our minds, and the very warmth and fervour of the sympathies which God has kindled in our hearts will shake for the moment our faith in God's goodness. The safeguard against that does not lie in rigid reasoning, valuable as that is, but first in engaging ourselves habitually in ministering to the sorrows of the world and trying to lead men towards goodness, and secondly in steeping our spirits day by day in communion with God through those several avenues by which, as we have seen in the earlier chapters, our access to him lies ever open.
In this chapter and in that on the Moral Law I have said much about goodness for its own sake being the proper aim of men and the apparent aim of God for his children. It is, I am convinced, of primary importance that we ourselves should seek first to be good rather than to be happy. But I fully admit that it may sometimes sound harsh to insist that God makes any other purpose para-mount in his dealings with us over our happiness. Let me then add a few words which may perhaps be felt to soften and mitigate such a view of the ways of our Heavenly Father with us, his children.
The elder and coarser philosophical teachers taught that pleasure was the chief aim of life. We have all learnt, I suppose, to translate this word ` pleasure,' into the less gross term ` happiness,' a word of purer and brighter radiance. Let us now carry our translation one step higher still. Let us clarify and exalt the idea of ` happiness ' into the idea of ` blessedness,' and it seems to me that this great controversy of the highest good falls away and is solved in the larger unity. And I think that we may truly say that in the eternal heart of God the ` blessedness ' of his children lies as the eternal purpose towards which, under his shaping hand, the whole creation moves.
I ask you to consider if this be not truly so.
On the one hand we have to confess that the purpose of God is our goodness even more than our happiness. But what is goodness ? It is nothing less than life in harmony with the laws of God implanted in the universe and in our own spiritual nature. He who lives wholly in such harmony is wholly good. But again what is ` blessedness ' save this—a state of feeling—a balance of the emotions—in harmony with those same eternal conditions which flow forth from the spiritual structure of the universe ? To feel no desires save God's desires, to feel joy in all that gives joy to God, that is to be in perfect blessedness. Some one has said that happiness is `harmony with our surroundings.' That is true. And blessedness is harmony with those wider and more spiritual surroundings, those all-encompassing and interpenetrating spiritual conditions, of which the soul becomes sensible only as it advances in the life of goodness.
And so the great paradox would seem to be solved. Goodness is the life of harmony with the eternal conditions which spring from the being of God ; and Blessedness (the pure and perfect happiness) is the feeling of that harmony in the life. And so Blessedness and Goodness are but aspects of the one condition. And that manner of conceiving God which contemplates the one as the Supreme End for which he has created life and love, contemplates the other therein no less. And the two ideas—which in their lower phases set the philosophers at war—in their highest coalesce and are no more divided.
Only by us it is to be remembered always, that the goodness, the life, is the thing for which to strive and pray ; that the blessedness, the feeling, can only come to such as have forgotten to make search for it and are wholly given over to the purpose of living in accord with God.
And so it is a beautiful and holy world ; a world in which, if only we carry up our controversies and our difficulties high enough and contemplate them in the pure light of the shining presence of God, they fade out and are gone ; a world in which with high and happy hope, with deep and undoubting faith, with full-orbed, self-forgetful love, we have to put our hand in God's and go whither he by his Holy Spirit leads the way.