Obrazy na stronie

operation of evil can be established, and if this be connected, as it ought to be connected, with the truth that all reasonable beings, however inferior the condition in which they commence their existence, are destined to rise higher and higher in endless progression, and to contribute to their own advancement, the proof of the infinite benignity of the Creator must be admitted to be complete. - - That evil under the superintendence of infinite wisdom and benignity, is the means of producing ultimate good, has already been proved. * In addition to the evidence which has been adduced of this most important truth, the following considerations deserve great attention. ... " ) All natural evils are reducible to one, namely, pain. There is nothing in the nature and motion of matter, nothing in any actual or possible result of these which is considered evil, that is not so denominated, only because its ultimate effect is to produce in the sensitive creation uneasy sensations, that is, pain. But there is no pain which has not for its object the production of good. There is no motion of matter which produces pain to an animal, unless that motion tend to its destruction, and the pain occasioned by the injuring cause serves to prevent the injury. In proportion, therefore, as the preservation of the being is a good, this pain is a good. . Pain is nothing but a sense that some part of the animal frame is perishing or is in danger of perishing. Those motions which are conducive to the health, vigor and preservation of an animal are pleasureable: there is no exception to this in the whole animal economy: those motions which tend to its destruction are painful. Now since the animal is thus warned against what is injurious and instructed what to avoid, the benevolence displayed in this constitution is so much the more perfect inasmuch as it is the effect of consummate wisdom. If we were not thus warned of danger, if the motions of external bodies and the deranged action of our own organs did not thus apprise us of their presence and lead us to take precautions against their injurious operation, we could scarcely move a single step or suffer the least illness without perishing; and our destruction, whenever it came, must always be sudden and without the slightest notice. Nor could any thing excepting pain answer the purpose. A mere knowledge of the presence or approach of danger would not be sufficient. Knowledge is easily disregarded: but pain is a visitant which will not be slighted : it will make itself attended to. Men often do know that danger is nigh, but this knowledge is so far from inducing them to avoid it, that it seems only to make them court it. And this occurs so frequently and respecting dangers so likely to be fatal, as to afford abundant proof, that were our preservation left to mere knowledge, there is no business or pleasure which might not deprive us of existence. And it ought never to be forgotten, that whenever the pain of life upon the whole exceeds its pleasure, pain and life generally cease together: that is, when existence can no longer afford pleasure, it is brought to a close. This is exactly what might have been expected of perfect benevolence. The Creator produced all things out of nothing, and of his own pleasure gave existence to all that live. In justice, therefore, he seems obliged to render the existence of every creature a good, the whole of its being considered. It is not consistent with benevolence to suffer the condition of any creature to be upon the whole worse than non-existence. The balance of happiness is and must be in favor of every sentient being. Within this limit the Creator may render the conditionof any creature whatever he pleases, that is, whatever the greatest happiness of the system may require. At first sight indeed, it seems as if the communication of a certain degree of happiness without any admixture of pain, were more consistent with perfect benevolence than a mere balance of happiness. But this is altogether unreasonable. If a crea-ture possess four degrees of happiness and one of

* Pages 60 et seq.

pain, it is not only againer by existence, but it gains more than it would do, were it to enjoy only one degree of pure pleasure. Upon the whole, then, it is evident, that all natural evils are not only consistent with infinite wisdom and perfect benevolence, but are as much proofs of these attributes, as the purest pleasure of the most exalted intelligence. And the same without doubt is true of moral evil. By moral evil is meant that pain which is occasioned by wrong volitions. There are pains which result from the constitution of the material world and the operation of the laws of nature, that is, from natural causes; these are natural evils. Moral evils are the very same with volition superadded. Moral evil then is dependent upon natural. A thing is morally evil which produces or tends to produce natural evil, and it is morally evil only because, and in so far as, it produces or tends to produce natural evil. All evil is pain. But some pains arise from natural causes without our consent, often without our knowledge: and these, as we have said, are natural evils: others are the consequence of a wrong volition, and these are termed moral evils. The difference between natural and moral evil therefore is not in their natures, but in their causes: their natures are the very same, namely, pain, inconvenience, injury to ourselves or others: in this precisely, and in this alone, consists the

evil of both : but the ill effects of the one proceed from volition, those of the other from natu

ral causes, and hence moral evil is justly and precisely said to be natural evil with volition superadded. -

Since, then, moral evil is thus dependent on:

natural evil, since there is nothing wrong in any

volition which does not lead to natural evil, it is,

obvious that natural evil is worse than moral evil: for that which makes a thing bad must of

necessity possess a more evil nature than that

which it renders bad. How unreasonable then is that reluctance which is felt to refer moral evil. to the Deity All writers boldly trace natural

evil to the appointment of the great First Cause

of all things: but they hesitate to ascribe to him the appointment of moral evil. They feel no reluctance to trace to him the greater, but they shrink with a kind of horror from ascribing to him the lesser evil. Without doubt he causes both : but he does not cause moral evil any more than natural evil as evil: he does not rest in it as an ultimate object: he produces it for the sake of the greater good of which it is the instrument. And in causing it with this end he does not really produce evil, but the greater ultimate good. *

* “God does not will sin as sin, or for the sake of any

« PoprzedniaDalej »