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Of the second class of evil, namely, that which is termed natural, and which consists of pain produced by natural causes, it cannot in strictness be said that it is necessary and inevitable. The tendency of bodies to corruption and putrefaction indeed, on which single law the most stupendous, and sometimes apparently the most disastrous consequences depend, could not in the nature of things have been avoided. All natural things are composed of matter: matter without motion is useless: to be of any conceivable service it must possess such motion as will separate it into solid and fluid parts, and retain those parts in a solid and fluid state. This cannot take place unless it be endowed with the properties of attraction and repulsion. We can form no conception of a solid body without supposing the particles of which it is composed to possess such an attraction for each other as to cause them to cohere: nor of an aériform fluid without supposing its particles to be mutually repulsive. But the motions produced by attraction and repulsion must of necessity be contrary to each other. Contrariety of motion cannot be separated from the operation of those great principles even in idea. Contrariety of motion will produce separation of parts: the power of cohesion will be overcome ; the principles of which a compound
body is composed will be disunited, and the body will be resolved into its simple elements. This is dissolution or corruption. The simple elements thus disengaged in obedience to the laws of attraction, operating differently under different circumstances, enter into new combinations, and form new substances. This is reproduction. While all that is great and fair and good in the natural world depends upon these processes, all that is evil also derives its origin from the same source. Thus evil is closely, but not inseparably connected with the necessary motion of matter: not inseparably connected with it, because though the tendency to the production of this kind of evil could not in the nature of things be avoided, yet any actual production of it, Infinite Wisdom and Power might have prevented, either by a certain modification of the laws of motion, or by rendering some motions corrective of others. All natural evil is the consequence, either of some property imparted to matter, or of some law to which matter endowed with certain properties is subjected. But it is obvious, that the evil produced by any particular property or law might have been prevented by changing the property or modifying the law; or by making some other
property or law counteract the operation of that in question.
The disunion of bodies and the formation of new compounds, that is, their continual transition through the processes of dissolution and recomposition are not alone natural evils. Pain of body, uneasiness of mind, ungratified appetite and death must be included in this number. These cannot be considered as evils which are absolutely inseparable from material beings; because man in a state of innocence was without them; and they will not alloy the happiness of the celestial world. The relative circumstances of beings might have been so ordered as perfectly to exclude them. Their existence, therefore, cannot, like the evil of defect, be referred to the unalterable natures of things. In whatever degree they exist, they exist by the will and appointment of the Creator. Even with our imperfect knowledge we can clearly perceive how he might prevent them. Why then does he not prevent them * It is self-evident that the answer to this question must be totally different from the answer to the question, Why has he not made all things absolutely perfect Absolute perfection it is out of the power of Omnipotence itself to communicate, because absolute perfection in a creature is a contradiction in terms. But pain of body, uneasiness of mind, disappointment of appetite, death, the separation and corruption of the parts of any, and of all sensitive creatures, it is in his power to prevent at all times and in a perfect measure. Why then has he not prevented them Because they are necessary to his plan: they are the instruments he has chosen to accomplish the wise and beneficent purposes of his creation: they are as much a part of benevolence, and as real an evidence of it, as the most exquisite pleasures he has communicated, because they are agents by the operation of which he perceived that he could produce the largest amount of happiness. It is of the utmost importance that the mind should have a clear perception of this truth, and an undoubting conviction of it. When the Deity determined on the work of creation, we may suppose all possible systems were present to his mind. All which infinite power and wisdom could effect in the production of happiness must have been known to Him, because his knowledge is absolute and perfect. This amount of happiness he must have determined to produce, because, since he could have engaged in this work only to communicate happiness, it is inconceivable that he should have chosen the lesser in preference to the greater good. It has been shown that he could not communicate absolute perfection to any creature. That degree of perfection which his infinite wisdom perceived to be the highest that it
would, upon the whole, be best to impart, he communicated, * and to as great a number of
* It seems to be a more proper mode of speaking to say, that the Creator was determined by his infinite wisdom and goodness in the choice of the system he has adopted, than to resolve it into his mere pleasure, although if we can conceive two systems possible, each equally good, each equally present to the divine contemplation, and than which there could be no better, we must suppose that the Deity possesses what is termed the liberty of indifference, that is, the power of choosing out of equal objects; otherwise in such a case he must either not have acted at all, or have chosen a system of inferior excellence. Some philosophers, indeed, deny the possibility of the existence of two things perfectly equal, and consequently affirm that God could not have made a different universe in all respects as excellent as that which actually exists. If they are in the right, there is no need of supposing even in the Deity such a power as that of choosing out of equal objects; for, wherever there is a real difference in objects, God must choose that which is best: that is, he must be limited by his wisdom and goodness to such a choice. But there seems no ground for affirming that the power of choosing out of equal objects is in itself impossible, and if other systems, as worthy of the divine attributes as the present were possible, God must have possessed and have exercised this power. The language of Dr. Hartley on this subject is in his own excellent spirit. “If it be said that God might have made a different universe, equally perfect with that which now exists, and that his freedom consists in this, the answer seems to be that we are entirely lost here in the infinities of infinities, &c., ad infinitum, which always have existed and always will exist with respect to kind, degree and every possible mode of existence. One cannot in the least presume either to deny or affirm this kind of freedom of God; since the absolute perfection of God seems