« PoprzedniaDalej »
The constitution of the physical world all admit is such as its Creator appointed: to the Creator, therefore, every one is obliged to refer all those appearances in it which are designated evil. The constitution of the moral world is equally the appointment of the same wise and good Being. For he gave to every man the nature he possesses; he placed every man in the station he occupies; immediately or mediately he is the cause of all the impressions which, from the cradle to the grave, have been made on every human being. But men's characters are formed entirely, and can beformed only, by the impressions which have been made on that nature which they have received from the hands of the Creator. If, then, God be the former of man's nature, and the author of all the impressions which have induced his dispositions, and volitions and actions, and if moral evil arise in this constitution, that moral evil must be referred to God's appointment. This is the clear deduction of reason: it is confirmed by the express declarations of Scripture.*
* “I form the light and create darkness: I make peace and create evil : I the Lord do all these things." Isaiah xlv. 6. “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” * Amos iii. 6.
It is common among a certain class of theologians to make a distinction between God's appointment and his permission. They allow that he permitted, but deny that he appointed moral evil. Let us examine to what this distinction amounts. God it is said permitted moral evil: it will be granted that he must also have foreseen it, that he must have foreseen it as the consequence of those circumstances in which he placed mankind, operating on the nature which he gave them. From the beginning he knew certainly that such and such circumstances operating on such a creature as man, would certainly give origin to moral evil. Be man's freedom of choice perfect as can be conceived, He who gave to him his propensities, bounding his knowledge by an appointed limit, granting him only a certain measure of experience, and bringing him under the influence of motives of a certain degree of strength, knew what, under these circumstances, that choice would certainly be: knew that unless his propensities were altered, or his knowledge increased, or his experience extended, or the strength of his motives weakened, his choice would certainly be such as to involve the existence of moral evil. Knowing this, he altered nothing. He appointed then the propensities, he appointed the degree of knowledge, he appointed the measure of experience, he appointed the strength of motive; in a word, he appointed all the impressions of which he foresaw that the certain result would be the production of moral evil: the conclusion is inevitable, that he appointed the moral evil. If, then, the existence of moral evil must be referred ultimately to the Deity, one of two things necessarily follows, either that he appointed it as a final end, or that he appointed it for some farther end. If he appointed it as a final end, he has rested in the production of misery as an ultimate object, a purpose which is not only not consistent with benevolence, but which could have been devised only by a being purely malignant. If on the contrary, moral evil be appointed for some further end, and that further end be not the infliction of pain, it must be the production of happiness; for no other can be conceived. Either, therefore, the Deity is malevolent, or evil in his hands is the means of producing ultimate good. Further, the evidence that physical evil is an instrument by which the most benevolent intentions are accomplished, is so clear and full, as to place the question, as far as physical evil is concerned, beyond all controversy. The sensation of hunger, for example, being painful, is in itself evil: but to say nothing of the pleasure connected with the gratification of the appetite, hunger is the means by which an animal is induced to take food which by the constitution of its nature is necessary to its existence. Here, then, is a case in which physical evil indubitably terminates in the production of good. The proof of the beneficial operation of moral evil is equally decisive. The errors and crimes of which men are guilty, teach them the most important lessons, awaken in their minds a sense of the excellence of virtue, a love of it, and a desire to possess it, of which they were wholly unconscious, and which are of the highest advantage to them in every future period of their being. A single instance of this kind decides the question: it affords an irrefragable proof that evil is the means of producing incalculable good. But if we examine a little deeper, we shall find in the very constitution of man’s moral nature, irresistible evidence of the beneficial operation of moral evil. Moral evil is evil only because it produces misery: were it without this consequence, it would cease to be an object of aversion and avoidance. What, then, is the tendency of the misery of which moral evil is productive? Invariably the correction of moral disorder. Every deviation from rectitude must be attended with suffering: sooner or later, in a greater or less degree, it must necessarily be so: but that suffering is never without a beneficial tendency, never, without a tendency to induce penitence, for the offence, and a more steady and undeviating adherence in future to the path of virtue. This tendency, it is true, does not always accomplish at present its designed end: but in many cases it accomplishes it perfectly, and therefore, there is the best reason, to believe that ultimately it will, accomplish it, in all. In the mean time, no example can be adduced in, all the records of human experience, in which the certain and final consequence of any species of moral evil. is pure, unmixed misery. While, then, it is, thus, impossible to prove that moral, evil, ever, terminates, in positive evil, it can be demonstrated that it often terminates, in positive good. Now, if we know not a single. case in which moral evil terminates in positive