Isaiah 45:7

I make peace, and create evil. It is an unworthy forcing of Scripture to set this passage in relation to the insoluble difficulty of the origin of moral evil. Two things are often sadly confounded - evil as an unpleasant state of our circumstances; and evil as a wrong condition of our will. The latter is referable to God only in the sense that he gave to man a moral nature and a capacity of choice. The former view of evil is that alluded to in the passage now before us. It has been thought that the passage was written in view of the principles of Persian dualism. "The Magi taught that there are two coeternal supramundane beings - Ormazd, the pure and eternal principle of light, the source of all that is good; and Ahriman, the source of darkness, the fountain of all evil, both physical and moral. These two divide the empire of the world, and are in perpetual conflict with each other." Perhaps Isaiah deals here with evil and good as they are regarded by man, not as they are estimated by God. The "good" here is that which is pleasant; the "evil" is that which is painful; and the assertion is that both the pleasant and the painful are within the Divine controlling, and are forces used by God to secure certain high moral ends. "Darkness" represents the misery and woe of the exile; "light" represents the happy state to which Israel was to be restored through the agency of Cyrus.

I. THE TENDENCY TO THINK OF A SEPARATE SOURCE OF EVIL. So great are the disturbances of God's order through man's sin and wilfulness, that human life seems more full of calamities and anxieties than of blessings and good. This is man's impression, and he has ever been disposed to say, "The good God cannot send these calamities; they must have a source of their own." Men are always ready to make Ahrimans, Sivas, or Typhons, to explain the existence of physical evils.

IX. THE TENDENCY TO GIVE ALMOST EXCLUSIVE WORSHIP TO THE EVIL-GOD. To ward off evil seems to be a more pressing thing than to be good or to obtain good, and so the supreme effort is made to propitiate the evil-god. Illustrate by the heathen sailors in the boat with Jonah, exposed to storms. We even need to be most careful in our conceptions of Satan, lest a notion of his independence should divide our worship between him and Jehovah. He must be thought of as dependent on God, even as we.

III. THE INEVITABLE DEGRADATION OF HUMAN WORSHIP, UNDER. THIS CONDITION. The maintenance of high morality is found absolutely to depend on the jealous preservation of the truth of the Divine unity. - R.T.

I form the light, and create darkness.
There is no thought in the Old Testament of reducing all evil, moral and physical, to a single principle. Moral evil proceeds from the will of man, physical evil from the will of God, who sends it as the punishment of sin. The expression "create evil" implies nothing more than that.

(Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)

Certainly evil as an act is not God's immediate work, but the possibility of evil is, its self-punishment, and therefore the sense of guilt and the evil of punishment in the broadest sense.

(F. Delitszch, D. D.)

Soften it down as we will, it is a tremendous claim, a claim which plunges our thoughts into impenetrable mysteries, and suggests problems we cannot solve. And yet, it must also be admitted, that it meets and satisfies the cravings both of intellect and heart as no easier, no dualistic, theory does or can do. The universe is so obviously one that the intellect demands unity, and will be satisfied with nothing short of one Sovereign Lord, one Supreme Governor of the universe. And how can our hearts be at rest until we know and are sure that God rules over the kingdom of darkness as well as in the kingdom of light; that the evils which befall us are under His control no less than the blessings which enrich and gladden us; that wherever we wander, and through whatever sorrowful changes we pass, we are never for a single moment out of His hand? These mysteries will never become credible to us except as the mysteries of Energy, Life, Thought become credible to us, by patient and steadfast mental toil. On these terms, though on no other, the mystery here announced by Isaiah — that darkness as well as light, evil as well as good, are under the control of God, and must therefore be consistent both with His power and His goodness — will, I believe, become credible to us. And in considering this question it will be well for us to determine, first of all, what, and how much, of the evil that exists we ourselves can honestly attribute immediately to God our Maker.

1. For, obviously, much of the evil within and around us is of our own making.

2. Much has also been of our neighbours' making We inherited, with much that was good, some evil bias from our fathers. We have often had to breathe an atmosphere charged with moral infections which sprang from the corrupt habits of the world around us. Our education was not good, or was not wholly good and wise. We have had to live and trade, to work and play, with men whose influence on us, if often beneficial, has also been often injurious. The laws, maxims, customs of the little world in which we have moved have done much to blunt and lower our moral tone, to encourage us in self-seeking or self-indulgence, to countenance us in yielding to our baser passions and desires. As we look back and think of all that we have lost and suffered, it is probable that we attribute far more of the evils which have fallen on us to men than to God.

3. Much that seems evil to us is not really evil, or is not necessarily evil, or is not altogether evil. Cyrus and his Persians had such evils as noxious plants and animals, excessive heat and cold, famine, drought, earthquake, storms, disease, and sudden death in their minds mainly when they spoke of the works of Ahriman, the eternal and malignant antagonist of God. But, as we know, these apparent ills are not necessarily ills at all, or they are the products of causes which work for good on the whole, or they carry with them compensations so large that the world would be the poorer for their loss. To take but a few illustrations. The storms, that wreck a few ships and destroy a few lives, clear and revivify the air of a whole continent, and carry new health to the millions in populous cities pent. The constant struggle for existence among plants and animals is a necessary condition of the evolution of their higher and more perfect species. To variations of heat and cold, and even to excessive variations, we owe the immense variety of the climates and conditions under which we live; and to these variations of climate the immense variety and abundance of the harvests by which the world is fed. Is adversity an evil? It is to the struggle with adversity that we owe many of out" highest virtues. And as we are driven to toil by the sting of want, and trained to courage by the assaults of adversity, so also we are moved to thought by the perplexities of life, and to trust and patience by its sorrows and losses and cares. We should not realise how much of good there is in our lives if the current of our days were never vexed by ill winds.

(S. Cox, D. D.)

There is a hypothesis, a theory of the origin, and function, and end of evil suggested by Scripture which seems an eminently reasonable one; a theory which confirms the claim of God to be the Creator and Lord of evil, and disposes of that dualistic hypothesis which recognises two rival and opposed Powers at work in the world around us and in the mind of man.

1. When we contemplate the universe of which we form part, the first impression made on us is of its immense variety; but, as we continue to study it, the final and deepest impression it makes upon us is that, under this immense and beautiful variety, there lies an an-pervading unity. As it is with us, so it has been with the race at large. At first men were so profoundly impressed by the variety of the universe that they split it up into endless provinces, assigned to each its ruling spirit, and worshipped gods of heaven and of earth, gods of mountains and plains, of sea and land, of air and water, of rivers and springs, of fields and woods, trees and flowers, of hearth and home, of the individual, the clan, the nation, the empire. Yet even then there hung in the dark background of their thoughts some conviction of the underlying unity of the universe, as was proved by their conception of an inscrutable Destiny or Fate, to which gods and men were alike subject, and by which all the ages of time were controlled. This conviction grew and deepened as the world went spinning down the grooves of change, until now Science herself admits that, by a thousand different paths of investigation and thought, it is led to the conclusion that, if there be a God at all, there can be but one God; that, if the universe had a Maker, it could have had but one Maker; that if human life is under rule, there can be but one ruler over all. There may be one God, — that to Science is still an open question; but there cannot be more than one, — that question is closed, and Science herself stands to guard the way to it as with a sword in her hand. But if there be only one Supreme Lord, there cannot, of course, be any rival Power to His, any Power that introduces alien forces or works by other laws. There may be subordinate powers; and at times these may seem to oppose Him, to contend against Him. But one Power or Will is supreme; for, as the very word itself suggests, the universe is an unity, — a vast complex of many forces perhaps and many laws, but still a single and organised whole. In reverting to the Persian hypothesis of two antagonistic Powers, therefore, Mill sinned against the most settled conclusion of modern thought. Now, if we either believe in one supreme Creator and Lord, or, following Mill's advice, lean to that conclusion as hard as we can, our next step is to conceive, as best we may, what this great first Cause, this creative and ruling Power, is like. Accordingly, we look around us to find that which is highest in the universe, sure that in that which is highest we shall find that which most resembles the Most High. And in the whole visible creation we find nothing so high as man, no force of so Divine a quality and temper as the will of man, when once that will is guided by wisdom and impelled by love. To him alone of all visible creatures is the strange power accorded of consciously and intentionally arresting or modifying the action of the great physical forces, of conquering Nature by obeying her, of changing her course by a skilfull application of her own laws. So that, even though the Bible did not assure us that man was made in the image of God, reason would compel us to conclude that, since the Creator of all things must include in Himself all the forces displayed in the work of His hands, and since we must see most of Him in the highest of His works, we must see most of Him in man, and in that which is highest in man, — namely, thought, will, affection. Reason has reached this conclusion in that ancient oracle: "Would you know God? Look within."

2. Now we are prepared to take our next step, and ask: How evil came to be? and how, if God is responsible for it, we can reconcile it both with His perfect goodness and His perfect power?(1) For the origin of evil we must go back to the creation of all things, and be content to use words which, though quite inadequate to the subject, may nevertheless convey true impressions of it. If the conception of God we have just framed be a true one, then there must have been a time when the Great Creative Spirit dwelt alone. And in that Divine solitude the question arose whether a creation, an universe, should be called into being, and of what kind it should be. Or, perhaps, we may rather say, that, just as the intelligent and creative spirit of man must work and act, so the creative Spirit of God urged Him to commence "the works of His hands." However we may conceive or phrase it, let us suppose the physical universe determined upon as the stage on which active intelligences were to play their part; and then ask yourselves what is implied in the very nature of active intelligent creatures such as we are, and whether anything less than such creatures could satisfy the Maker and Lord of all. Would you have God surround Himself with a merely inanimate world, or tenant that world with mere automata, mere puppets, with no will of their own, capable, indeed, of reflecting His own glory back on Him, but incapable of a voluntary affection, a spontaneous and unforced obedience? Why, even you yourselves cannot gain full scope for your powers until you are surrounded, or surround yourselves, with beings capable of loving you freely, and obeying you with a cheerful and unforced accord, beings whose wills are their own and who yet make them yours. How much less, then, can you imagine that God should be content with a purely mechanical obedience, with anything short of a voluntary obedience and affection? But if you admit so much as this, consider, next, what is implied in the very nature of creatures such as these. If free to think truly, must they not be free to think untruly? if free to love, must they not be free not to love? if free to obey, must they not be free to disobey? The very creation of beings in themselves good involves the tremendous risk of their becoming evil. Nay, if we consider the matter a little more closely we shall find that there was more to be confronted than the mere risk of the introduction of evil. To me it seems a dead certainty, a certainty which must have been foreseen and provided for in the eternal counsels of the Almighty, that in the lapse of ages, with a vast hierarchy of creatures possessed of freewill, some among them would assert and prove their freedom by disobedience. How else could man, for instance, assure himself that he was free, that his will was in very deed his own? Are we not impatient of any law even by which we are bound, or suspect that we are bound, however good the law may be in itself? Free creatures, again, creatures with intelligence, will, passion, are active creatures: and there is something, as all observers are agreed, in the very nature of activity which blunts and weakens our sense of inferiority, dependence, accountability. The Bible affirms that what reason might have anticipated actually took place. It tells us that both in heaven and on earth the creatures God had made did thus fall away from Him, doing their own will instead of His, taking their own course instead of the course marked out and hedged in for them by His pure and kindly laws. And it moreover asserts, in full accordance with the teachings of philosophy and science, that, by their disobedience to the laws of their being and happiness, they jarred themselves into a false and sinister relation to the material universe; that, by introducing moral evil into the creation, they exposed themselves to those physical ills from which we suffer to this day. It must be obvious to every reflective mind that if the whole physical universe was created by the Word of God, if it is animated by His Spirit and ruled by His will, then as many as disobey that high will must put themselves out of harmony with all that obey it, must find the very forces which once worked for them turned against them. They are at war with the will which pervades and controls the universe: how, then, can the universe be at peace with them? If, then, we now repeat the question: In what sense may we reverently attribute evil to God? in what sense can we concede His claim to be responsible for evil as well as for good? our reply must be that, in creating beings capable of loving and serving Him of their own choice, He created the possibility of evil, ran the risk of its existence, and even knew beforehand that it would certainly enter in and mar the work of His hands.(2) How, then, can we justify evil? how can we reconcile it at once with His perfect goodness and unbounded power? On our hypothesis we reconcile it with His power by the plain and obvious argument that even Omnipotence cannot at once create freewill and not create it; that, when once He has created it, even the Almighty cannot interfere with it without destroying it. But if we would reconcile the existence of evil with the goodness of God — and this is by far the more difficult achievement — we must take the whole theory of human life and destiny taught by the Bible, and not merely a part of it. As I read it, then, the Bible teaches what human reason had conjectured and hoped apart from the Bible, — that the lines of human life and destiny are to be produced beyond the grave, and wrought out to their final result in other worlds than this.

(S. Cox, D. D.)

The Bible goes on to teach us that, in His pity, the great Father of our spirits came down to us His sinful children, virtually saying to us: "I might much more reasonably attribute the evils from which you suffer to you than you to Me; for you owe them to your disobedience and self-will. But, see, I freely take them all on Myself. I claim to be responsible for them all. And since you cannot drive it away, I take away the sin of the world by a sacrifice so great and so far-reaching, by an atonement so potent, so Divine, that you can but apprehend it afar off, and must not hope to fathom its full virtue and extent. To brace you for your daily strife with evil, I foretell a final and complete victory over it; I promise you that in the end I will sweep the evil that harasses and afflicts you clean out of the universe it has marred and defiled. And, meantime, it shall have no power to hurt or harm you if you will but put your trust in Me. All that is painful in it, all the sting of it, I take on Myself. For you, if you will but meet it wisely and trustfully, it shall be nothing but a helpful discipline, a training in vigour, in holiness, in charity."

(S. Cox, D. D.)

There is the strongest indirect evidence, and not a little direct, that predacious animals have existed from a very early period in the world's history. The struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest mean the suffering and the extinction of the weaker. Read the great stone book of nature, that truth is sculptured deep in its pages in no illegible hieroglyphics. Pain and death, then, if evils, must have been present in the world from the date when organic life, or at any rate animal life, began. The inorganic world being as it is, pain seems to be correlative with sensation, and death is but the end of each individual paragraph in the history; and if this came by either injury or violence, we cannot believe it at any rate to have been altogether painless. Nay, we may go further, and assert that unless we suppose the laws of Nature to have been wholly different from those which now prevail, we cannot understand how organised beings could live without at any rate occasional sensations of discomfort; they must have felt extremes of heat and cold; they must have known hunger and thirst; and what are these but minor degrees of pain? Perfection through suffering is a more general law of nature than we commonly think. At the same time, I fully believe that to the majority of living creatures life brings far more pleasure than pain; indeed, I think there is much reason to suppose that the acuteness with which the latter is felt, and the duration of its memory, is proportional to its possible disciplinary effect.

(T. G. Bonney, D. Sc. , LL. D.)

A vast moral gulf is fixed between what are popularly held to be evils, things which have no deleterious effect on the spirit life, and those which are called evils in revelation; the things which are fatal ultimately to the spirit life.

(T. G. Bonney, D. Sc. , LL. D.)

The sins and wickedness of the world are the real evils, and it is to these that the works of the spirit are opposed. But these — sensuality, lust, selfishness, cruelty, injustice, oppression — whence are they? what are they? St. Paul calls these the works of the flesh, and the more we ponder his words the more far-reaching we shall usually find them. When we investigate these evils, we can trace them back till we find they originate in yielding to prompting of the nature which we have in common with the animal kingdom. A member of this does what the organism of sensation demands, and we do not designate the action as evil unless, either in earnest or in figurative speech, we attribute to the creature some kind of moral consciousness, to which the action is repugnant. The law of the animal would appear to be "gratify the various desires of the body." The only limitation is "abstain from excess," which seems more easily observed in its case perhaps because there is so little opportunity of revolt against laws of a straiter character. Man, as sharing the animal nature, is liable to a greater or less degree to each animal impulse, but as possessing another and a higher nature he is called upon to control these impulses, and if he do not obey this call, if he prefer to follow the lower nature, he fails to accomplish the purpose and attain the goal set before him, and thus his deeds are evil, his life is sinful.

(T. G. Bonney, D. Sc. , LL. D.)

In an order of things where choice exists and where there is a scheme of progress, evil is as inevitable an antithesis to good as a shadow is to light, because each time that the person either remains inactive where he should have obeyed the call of the higher law, or where, if two definite impulses are in conflict, he follows the lower, he does an evil act. Evil, then, in the present state of things is as necessary a correlative to good as decay is to growth, for good is obedience to the promptings of the spirit life, and evil is the refusal to submit to this, and consequent yielding to the animal. This view appears to me to be distinctly maintained by St. Paul in the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, a passage universally regarded as very difficult, but one which I think becomes comparatively clear when considered in this light. In it the apostle depicts the conflict between the animal life and the spirit life.

(T. G. Bonney, D. Sc. , LL. D.)

in this world, lies not so much in the deed as in the doer.

(T. G. Bonney, D. Sc. , LL. D.)


1. By a wise appointment of Providence, scenes of distress are made to strike our minds more forcibly, and to awaken a far livelier fellow-feeling in our breasts than any species of felicity which we witness; and for this obvious reason, that distress stands in need of that active consolation and relief which our compassion will naturally prompt, while happiness is more independent of sympathy. Add to this, that misery, in consequence of the same occasion for the participation of social natures in its feelings, is much more clamorous, and therefore more noticed, than satisfaction. And the sum of evil has been still further exaggerated by writers who were aware that the tale of woe would find a chord more responsive to it in the human heart, than any which vibrates in unison with the voice of joy; as well as by many mistaken devotees, who have esteemed a gloomy discontent with the present life as essential to piety.

2. To any calm and unprejudiced observer, however, the latent, but multiplied, satisfactions of mankind will not fail to discover themselves; and he will learn to look up with confidence to that all-gracious Being, who, although He suffers, for wise ends, the existence of darkness and evil, creates more of light than of darkness, and more of peace than of evil. To nearly all natural evils, indeed, a compensation may be discovered. After all, however, it cannot be denied that the world contains much real distress.

II. ITS ORIGIN. Whatever evil afflicts the human race, is all, in one way or other, of their own procuring. God "doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men." When He first called the human race into existence, He designed them to be happy, and He made them so. "By one man's disobedience sin came into the world," and misery and death by sin. With respect to every species of evil, man may be pronounced the author of his own tribulation.

III. By the gracious interference of providence, IT TENDS TO A HAPPY ISSUE; to an issue which, to say the least of it, counterbalances the previous evil. Let us learn to improve our confidence in the Divine goodness; to redress, as far as lies within our capacity, the multiform evils that exist around us; and to convert to wise and beneficial purposes such of these evils as affect ourselves.

(J. Grant, M. A.)

In the hour of pain, sickness, sorrow, death, our anguished nerves and bleeding hearts make us cry out, "Why should we be smitten? Whose hand has smitten us?" It is natural, as many of the heathen creeds show, to attribute our suffering to some wrathful or malignant power. Many of our neighbours so attribute it, either to an angry God, or to a malicious devil. The Bible unhesitatingly attributes it to God, but is careful to remind us that "the Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works." There are two points, a right view of which is essential to our getting at the truth of the matter.

1. Death itself is not an evil. Simply because it is as common and as natural to us as sleep, death is no more evil in itself than sleep. Continual birth makes continual death necessary, if there is to be any such thing as equal opportunities in the world. And what is death but a birth into another life? Even in the case of the wicked, whom it introduces to evil beyond, death is not in itself an evil, any more than the door is evil through which any wrong-doer passes to trial or to imprisonment. Dying is simply going through the door between two worlds.

2. Suffering is evil, but is worked by goodness to good ends. But, we ask, couldn't the good ends have been accomplished without the evil of suffering? Well, put the question home. Could you have been made free from faults and follies without suffering? Experience, both of ourselves and others, answers, No. What the Bible affirms, in a certain point, of Jesus, must be much more broadly affirmed of every man-"perfect through suffering" only. The only conceivable way of dispensing with suffering is to dispense with imperfection. But a creation in which there is nothing imperfect, but everything is finished, is inconceivable. We cannot conceive what that state of things would be, in which there was not only no infancy and childhood, but no growth of anything; nothing to learn, because everything is known; and nothing to do, because everything is done. But it is staggering to think of the amount of suffering that this involves. Perhaps we may think that it might have been largely prevented, if God had provided better instruction, had had guide-boards set up to show the right way, and thorn-hedges to close up wrong ways. Well, has He not done so? Have we never known people to take the wrong way in spite of wise counsel, and to take it again and again in spite of bitter experience? What we have to admit, then, is that suffering, though evil in itself, is a means to good, and is an instrument in the hands of goodness. Our difficulty is, that while we see this to be true to a certain extent, we do not see it in every case. Nevertheless, it appears true, as far as we are able to trace the connection of cause and effect. What is the most reasonable conclusion from that? Simply this, that we should see the same if we were able to see further. The great mystery of the evil in God's world requires for its solution a right answer to the supreme question, What is it that we are to be intent on as our first aim? Not happiness, surely. Happiness for the imperfect means content with imperfection. Perfection, rather than happiness, this is first; in order to this, suffering; then, in proportion to the perfection attained thereby, resulting blessedness. Nor is this a mere opinion. History, observation, and experience point that way. It was in the intuition of this great truth that one appointed to more hardship than is common to the lot of man bore his testimony to the ages thus: "Our light affliction, which is for the moment," &c.

(J. M. Whiton.)

Here the familiar story of the Pilgrim Fathers of New England is in point. They arrived on the American coast in the most unseasonable time, at the setting in of winter. Their exposures and hardships consequently brought on a fatal sickness. Before their first corn was planted half of them had been buried. Seldom has a more pathetic tale been told than that of these poor, pious exiles —

A screen of leafless branches

Betwixt them and the blast.But had it better not have been so? Is heroism worth so little that there had better be no occasion made for it by the presence of great evils calling out all the strength of spirit that man is capable of? Who can tell how much that terrible suffering, met with such loftiness of spirit, has been worth to the world, in kindling the same unquenchable fire of heroism in multitudes of admiring beholders?

(J. M. Whiton.)

(with 1 John 3:4, R.V.): — The proper order in which to investigate our experience of the subject is to begin with the existence of moral evil, and from that standing-ground look out upon the larger question of cosmical evil.

I. THE PRESENCE OF MORAL EVIL IN HUMAN NATURE — THE SENSE OF SIN. By far the greatest amount of the suffering of life is owing to the depravity of human nature. If men were good and kind there would be little left to mourn over. Speaking generally, we may say that human experience of this great fact runs from the crude and selfish perception of the faults of other people up to the self-humiliation of the saint in whom the sense of sin is strongly developed. To take the lower ground first — there are some who are smarting under a sense of injury. It may be that life is altogether sadder than it once was, because of the heart-breaking conduct of some from whom a very different course of action might have been expected. To such as these the fact that human nature is vitiated, and that the world is made wretched in consequence, needs no complete demonstration. Or again, there may be some who remember with pain and regret certain of their own mistakes which have brought evil results in their train. Self-reproach, however, does not put things right again. It is not only that the mistakes are beyond recall, but that the character itself is intractable. No man who is true to himself can escape the necessity of self-blame. This self-blame may be perfunctory and imperfect, or it may be radical and strong. It may be only a form of self-pity, or it may be a deep experience of guilt. Let me state a few things about this sense of guilt. In the first place, we may recognise that it is not universal, though in some form or other it is one of the most general of experiences. Some of the great religions in the world are deficient in it: Confucianism. Confucius, like so many of the world's prophets, died a disappointed man. He had aimed at something higher than the nature of his countrymen was prepared for. He had to put up with opposition, slander, persecution, and poverty. We might think that the problem of human sinfulness would have suggested itself to him, but we have no such indication in his teachings. In these there is an utter absence of any cognisance of sin as such. What is true of this religion is true of others. Their recognition of faultiness is not a recognition of sinfulness. Even in our own day, and amongst our circle of acquaintance, there are, no doubt, some who are without the sense of sin, and who evince no consciousness of the need of forgiveness. Men may be aware in a general way that things are not right in their own dispositions or in those of their fellows, and yet be strangers to the mood of contrition. Censoriousness and the sense of sin do not usually go together. We come to another and higher order of experience when we enter the ranks of those in whom perception of personal unworthiness is vivid. Especially has this been the case where the idea of a righteous God has been powerfully presented. It is within the circle of Christianity, however, that this conviction has been quickened and deepened to the greatest degree. It has been held that the sense of sin is a morbid development of religious life. We are not better, but worse, than we think we are. The mood of contrition is a note of awakening nobility. An accompaniment of the sense of sin is the depressing discovery of our helplessness to escape it. To conclude this first point, then, we may say that we are sadly aware of the presence of moral evil in human nature, and we are also aware that it "ought not to be."

II. ATTEMPTS TO ACCOUNT FOR THE ORIGIN OF MORAL EVIL. That men should have been exercised in their minds about the presence of moral evil in the world is not to be wondered at, and it is instructive to notice some of the attempts that have been made to account for it. In stating certain of the theories which have been projected to explain human depravity, we may take them in the order of their relative importance.

1. Let us note that sin has often been held to be a delusion, that it is simply a form of mental experience, and no more real than a torturing dream. Culpability is only a fancy; no one is to blame for anything; and if the soul is to persist, and self-consciousness be continued in a higher state, man will then discover that all his agony and tears and self-reproach had no sterner cause than a little child's dread of the dark. This explanation we can soon dismiss. Self-blame is no fancy. Sin is not something negative, it is positive — an enemy that we have to fight.

2. Further, right through human history a tendency is observable to account for the presence of moral evil by a dualistic theory of existence. Darkness has been represented as the foe of light, matter of spirit, and Satan of God. The variations of these dualistic theories are manifold. Platonists, Gnostics, Manichaeans are a great family who regarded matter as being in some degree independent of God, and imperfectly under His control. All these movements had something in common, and that something was the tendency to place matter in opposition to spirit, and regard evil as resident in matter. Thoroughgoing belief in such positions has, as a rule, run into the two extremes of asceticism and license. Although 's dualism was a very different thing from the Gnostic heresies, the latter really sprang from it. It has sometimes been thought that Scripture lends some countenance to the theory here indicated. "The world," for instance, is presented as antithetic to "the kingdom," and "the flesh" as antithetic to "the spirit." This is undoubtedly the case, but we must be warned against thinking that the New Testament writings should be construed to mean that evil has its seat in the flesh, and that the spirit only needs the liberation of death in order to be holy at a bound.

3. Positivism, and all allied modes of belief, effect a practical, though not theoretical, division of the universe. Humanity and the moral order are represented as an entity apart from the hard background of nature, and we are bidden to do our best to further the advance of everything that makes for human good without seeking sanctions in nature or the supernatural. It is curious to note that the advocates of this principle are usually the strongest in the assertion that the universe is one and indivisible. One power is observed to be at work within it, and not two powers pitted against each other.

4. This brings us to the consideration of the theory, which is Christian as well as non-Christian, that in the universe we have a personal dualism represented in the familiar names, God and Satan. We need not deny the existence of a personal captain of the host of evil, but we are not prepared to admit that there is room in the universe for a power whom God cannot overthrow. This is a cursory summary of theories which have occupied the attention of men from age to age. We may say of them all —

(1)They fail in that they limit the omnipotence of Deity.

(2)They fail in that they deny human responsibility.

(3)The truth common to all these theories appears to be, that good is only known by the background of evil, righteousness only achieved in opposition to unrighteousness.

5. Allied with, but independent of, the foregoing, is the Christian doctrine of the fall. It is remarkable that this doctrine is also extra-Christian. It has a place, for instance, in the old Teutonic mythology. The doctrine is also pre-Christian. It has a place in the Old Testament, though not a large place. It is within the field of Christianity, however, that the theory of a fall of the race from original purity has had its greatest vogue. About this Prof. Orr says: "I do not enter into the question of how we are to interpret Genesis 3. — whether as history or allegory or myth, or, most probable of all, as old tradition clothed in Oriental allegorical dress; but the truth embodied in that narrative, namely, the fall of man from an original state of purity, I take to be vital to the Christian view." Upon this point, however, science is in direct conflict with received theology, and in recent years the attempt to reconcile the doctrine of the fall with the accepted theory of evolution has been felt as a considerable difficulty. The way in which it has been sought to solve that difficulty may be illustrated from a sermon preached by a friend of my own. "The fact of the fall is simply in effect the statement of these biological facts in the spiritual region. It is that there came, at the beginning of human history, when man was physically complete, and had reached a stable equilibrium, where his moral and spiritual development was to begin, — there came, how we do not know, a backward step, and that backward step has been perpetuated in the history of the race because of the scientific fact of the solidarity of the race. What St. Paul would call the fall of man is simply the statement of a spiritual fact which has its precise analogy in the very doctrine of evolution that is supposed to contradict it." The same preacher goes on to say that through the entrance of sin into the world, by man's fault and in opposition to the purpose of God, there has come into the world, not the fact of death, for death was here before, but the horror of it of which humanity is conscious, and that the misery of humanity has only been alleviated by second creation, as it were — the entrance of Christ into the world and the proclamation of the good news of redemption. To these statements the one sweeping objection may be taken that if they presume the historicity of the story of Genesis and the theory of a fall in time, through man's own fault and against the intention of God, they are in direct contradiction to the judgings of modern science, and no hypothesis about "a backward step" or "a new creation" can get over the difficulty. Our theology must be in harmony with the rest of our knowledge. We are on safer ground if we appeal once more to experience, and say that the fall ought not to be regarded as an historical event, but a psychological fact. In this connection we may observe that Jesus never says a word about an historical fall of the race. The parable of the Prodigal Son has been quoted as the analogue of the story in Genesis, but, on the face of it, it is meant to be interpreted psychologically rather than historically. In addition to this we must say that the theory of a fall in time is surrounded by other and graver difficulties, which lead us to a view of the character of God inconsistent with our Lord's revelation of the nature of the Father. That God should have made man so that he was not only liable but certain to fall, and should then have visited the whole race with disastrous consequences, is altogether incomprehensible. But, further, it is unthinkable that unbiassed human nature would ever voluntarily choose evil. Speaking in all reverence, we may say that as it is unthinkable that God should fall, so is it unthinkable that man should fall, unless he were so made as to desire evil without knowing good. To sum up this point, therefore, we may say that the presence of moral evil cannot be accounted for either as a delusion, or by a dualistic theory of the universe, or even by a fall in time. The explanation must be sought elsewhere.

III. THE HYPOTHESIS THAT THE ORIGIN OF MORAL EVIL IS IN GOD. We come, then, to the consideration of a theory which, like the foregoing, is both Christian and non-Christian, namely, that moral evil has its origin in the good purpose of God. This has been held by some of the greatest of the teachers of the Christian Church, from to the Reformation Fathers. Even later Roman Catholic theology has lingered around it in the song, "O felix culpa which by so great a fall has secured, a greater, redemption. Evil is an experience necessary for the sake of good, and it must disappear when its work is done. For what is good? No man knows save by the struggle to realise it. Every man is conscious not only of the desire to choose evil, but of the obligation to choose good. To sin is to follow the lower in presence of the higher; it is yielding to that which is easy in opposition to that which is right. If evil within the disposition supplies the tendency, sin is in yielding to that tendency. This relieves no man of moral responsibility. Sin is real, and we are to blame for it, but we are not qualified to judge one another. God, and God only, can disentangle the threads of human motive, and estimate the amount of individual culpability. Without Christ there would be but a feeble light on this world problem. From what we know of Him we can look forward and upward. Primordial evil is the appointment of our God and Father, who shares in every experience of His children. Salvation is escape from sin; atonement escape from guilt; God provides both. There is no longer room for despair, but only for solemn gladness. "Let the wicked forsake his way," &c.

(R. J. Campbell, M. A.)

(Hospital Sunday): —

I. DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY IN RELATION TO DISEASE AND PAIN. What the apostle wrote in the spirit of prophecy is confirmed by the page of history. "Of Him, and to Him, and through Him are all things; to whom be glory for ever." We do not find it difficult to assent to this doctrine when all things go well with us. It is when He says: I create darkness, I create evil, that we feel it strange and shrink back from a full hearty assent. It has been suggested that this truth of the text was given as a correction of the old Eastern myth of two gods, one opposed to the other, and creating evil in opposition to the work of the good god. The modern form of this theory, and one which prevails in certain circles of Christian people, is that all disease and physical evil is by the work and machination of Satan. This is equally contrary to the teaching of the text and the whole of Scripture. These things perplex our thoughts and try our faith; but it only increases the perplexity and trial to attribute them to Satan. We are still in God's hand.

II. THE USE THESE THINGS SERVE IN THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT. The question of the use which anything serves, which God in His providence sends or permits, must ever be asked with the humble consciousness that the thing may be too deep for us to understand. Yet God does not leave us without some knowledge of His will, and of the use which He makes off this suffering and pain.

1. For one thing is clear, pain and disease bade men to, respect Divine law.

2. This evil often leads to the fuller manifestation of His power. When the disciples asked concerning one born blind, "Who did sin, this man or his parents?" our Lord replies that the man had the misfortune "that the works of God should be made manifest in him." Not merely or chiefly the opening of the bodily eye, but the works of God to which our Lord referred were those changes and that spiritual enlightenment which came to the man through intercourse with Christ. So that the ignorant and poor blind beggar saw what the well-instructed and self-righteous Pharisee did not see, and could answer calmly the. cavils of Christ's opponents, and endure persecution for His sakes. These works of God have often been manifested through the instrumentality of fiery pain and disease. Days of sickness have been days when the wandering soul has heard the voice of the Good Shepherd, and returned from its wanderings, and has learned to say, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted."

3. Sometimes, also, pain and disease have been in God's hand a protection against sin. The curb which physical weakness puts upon us may be the very check that is needed to keep us within the bounds of true moderation, beyond which the path is strewn thick with temptations frequent and great, so that escape were almost impossible.

4. In the same way these things are essential in the purifying process which is being now carried on.

5. Beside all this, the pain and sorrow which sometimes nearly overwhelm us, call out sympathy and compassion which unite men in this closest of bonds.

III. OUR DUTY in view of these truths.

1. There ought to be in connection with these things the distinct recognition of His hand, which should extend to the whole circumstances of the case. It is only a partial and untrue view that regards God's hand in permitting suffering, and refuses to acknowledge His goodness in the alleviations and remedies which He provides, and the medical skill with which He endows men.

2. But most of all we need to cultivate tender sympathy for those who suffer, and as far as may be to help them by kindly patient service.

(W. Page, B. A.)

Interwoven with the texture of the revelation there is an element of mystery to prove and humble and solemnise. I shall not soon forget a visit I once paid in the dead of night to the Colosseum. The moon was just rising behind the gigantic walls. Its light was almost golden in depth and richness. The towering battlements cast shadows dense as a thundercloud. The vast circle of masonry was all but; filled with gloom and darkness. By and by the light of the rising moon fell in quivering bars through, the rents in the walls and the doorways in the galleries. At last the whole place looked like a colossal wheel with spokes of burnished metal divided off from each other by intervals of ebony. In that vast, fan-like figure, quivering light and unbroken shadow, cast by the piles of masonry, lay side by side with each other with an alternation that was almost mathematical. Was not that a figure of the universe? Dazzling light and impenetrable shadow, clear revelation and dim mystery, the comprehensible and the incomprehensible, things of God's love lie side by side with each other, throughout the whole of the wonderful circle. "We know in part, and we prophesy in part."

(T. G. Selby.)

I remember on a glorious day of all but cloudless sunshine passing in view of a well-known line of bare and majestic downs, then basking in the full beams of noon. But on one face of the hill rested a mass of deep and gloomy shadow. On searching for its cause I at length discovered one little speck of cloud, bright as light, floating in the clear blue above. This it was which cast on the hillside that ample track of gloom. And what I saw was an image of Christian sorrow. Dark and cheerless often as it is, and unaccountably as it passes over our earthly path, in heaven its tokens shall be found, and it shall be known to have been but a shadow of this brightness whose name is Love.

(Dean Alford.)

I make
The same power which placed the sun in the heavens, gives to the nations of the earth the light and comfort of peace; and He who made the night before the day, when darkness lay upon the face of the deep, creates the evil of war.

I. THE CAUSES OF WAR. Let but God leave men to themselves, and they fall into discord and anarchy, as the elements of the world would sink into confusion without His support, and return to their primitive chaos. As soon as two men appeared upon earth in a state of equality and competition, war arose between them, and the one slew the other.

1. No wonder there are wars without in the world, when there is an inward war in the mind of man; a restlessness of appetite which breaks out into acts of violence, and can never be satisfied.

2. But there is another principle in the world, which, if possible, is productive of more mischief than all the rest; this is, false religion. These are the principal causes of war on the part of man-

3. But war has another cause on the part of God. It is sent by Him for the punishment of sin, and has never failed to chastise and reduce a people when fallen into pride or disobedience.

II. THE EFFECTS OF WAR. The words of the text are remarkable; for here war, as opposed to peace, is called by the name of "evil": and a dreadful evil it is, comprehending all the evils that are to be found in the world, whether we consider it as a sin or a punishment.


(W. Jones, M. A.)

I, the Lord, do all these things.
I. IN WHAT THE AGENCY OF GOD CONSISTS. The agency of God consists in His will, His choice or volition. God is a perfectly free agent. God is a moral agent. He perfectly knows and loves moral good, and as perfectly knows and hates moral evil.

II. HIS AGENCY IS UNIVERSAL. God claims to be the universal agent.

1. God has made all things.

2. This further appears from His upholding all things. God did not and could not make any creature or object independent, and give it the power of self-preservation.

3. God must extend His agency to all created objects in the universe, because He has made all things for Himself.

(N. Emmons, D. D.)

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