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innocent; but He cannot create a perfect character; for character is the result of a man's own voluntary choice. So that (Mill notwithstanding) it is “possible for a human being to produce by a succession of efforts what God Himself had no other means of creating.”
The origin of evil, then, just like that of good, lies in the power of choice. God must have been (if I may so speak) necessitated, by His very goodness, to create beings capable of goodness. Such beings must be free. And this freedom carries with it an inevitable liability to sin. It lies in the very nature of things, that pleasure and duty must sometimes clash, and that he who is free to choose between them, may sometimes choose amiss. When men were once created, it was not for God
-it was for them, and for them alone—to decide whether there should be evil in the world or no. Alas! they have decided that there should. But even so, a world without any human goodness in it, without any noble Christlike men and women, would have been infinitely inferior to our own, in spite of all its wickedness. You must remember that the righteousness of one righteous man will atone for the wickedness of many wicked. Sodom, we are told, would have been spared for the sake of ten righteous persons, Jerusalem for the sake of one. So that since much evil can be compensated for by a little good, since the prevention of evil would have been the prevention of good, since evil (as the fact has proved) is the necessary concomitant of good, just as shade is the invariable accompaniment of light, it is as absurd to wish that evil had been prevented, as to try and do away with light for the sake of getting rid of shadows.
The Mystery of Suffering.
“ It became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all
things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”—HEBREWS ii. 10.
W HY is the world so full of suffering ? This
' is a question which every thoughtful man has asked. But it is answered in different ways. Some say the existence of suffering shows that there is no God, that there is no one in the universe who at once desires our happiness and is capable of effecting it. If any superior intelligence wishes us to be happy, he is unable to accomplish his desire, since he often allows us to be miserable. Or, conversely, if he could make us happy, since he does not do so, our happiness must be a matter of indifference to him. The world, so says this class of thinkers, is the outcome of a fortuitous play of atoms, which, on account of their want of reason, produce much mischief and misery, and there is no one in the universe able and willing to prevent them. Other persons, again, take quite a different view. They believe in what they call a God, but they ascribe to him many characteristic attributes of the devil. Their God is full of evil passions, of hatred and malice and vengeance. And they look upon suffering as a sort of vindictive retaliation on the part of this Being, to compensate himself for having been thwarted in his intentions and plans. He is furious with men and women because they do not act as he would like; so he tortures them from sheer spite, and while he is about it, he tortures at the same time the innocent race of brutes. Nay, these persons even go so far as to declare that the whole agony of creation is the punishment of a single act. For one case of disobedience all sentient beings have been placed upon the rack. Others, again, confess that to them the problem of suffering is absolutely insoluble. They worship a Being who is not only called God, but who is God, who is good and kind, as well as powerful. They believe that He desires the welfare of all His creatures, and they cannot understand why He does not exercise His omnipotence so as to bring about at once the universal reign of happiness.
Now, I propose to show you that the problem of suffering is not completely insoluble ; that sometimes we may discover in human , misery, at any rate, a rational meaning and a beneficent purpose ; and that therefore the existence of pain is not necessarily incompatible with the existence of infinite wisdom and power and love.
The words of our text are full of suggestiveness. “Perfect through sufferings !” We have grown accustomed to this phrase, but it would sound very strangely to any one who heard it for the first time. Perfect through sufferings ! he would exclaim. Surely the writer must have made a mistake. He should have said perfect through joy. Suffering must be a sign and a cause of imperfection.
Now, it is quite true that suffering is always a sign of present imperfection. But it may be the cause of future perfection which could not be attained without it. On the assumption that the ultimate end of our existence is the development of a noble character, the necessity of suffering may be proved. For it can be shown that such