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and till we have learned something of the relation of our own bodies to our souls, of the “flesh” to the "spirit” against which it so often wars, it is hopeless to speculate on that of the material universe to its directing Mind. Certainly there is nothing in the visible world corroborating the notion of yet incomplete conquests of the Demiurge over Matter. No discoverer has found an outlying tract of Chaos, any more than the print of Satan's hoof in the Old Red Sandstone," the marks of the handiwork of any second or opposing Intelligence. If Nature explains herself to us,
“'Tis thus at the roaring loom of Time I ply,
And weave for God the garb thou seest Him by,” that “garb” we behold is neither unfinished in the minutest hem, nor yet torn or spotted anywhere as by an enemy's hand. The red threads which run through it are woven into its very texture; nor is it possible to guess how some of them can ever be eliminated. Only the poet looks for the day when the “lion shall eat straw like the ox." The zoologist knows that by the law of his being the lion must prey on the lamb, while the lamb and he inhabit together the earth. The Holy Mountain," whereon they shall not “kill nor destroy,” and where man and brute and bird and insect
live in peace and love, is, like Heaven itself, unmarked in the chart of any geographer.
Again, the orthodox Catholic doctrine—that Evil is necessary to afford scope for the moral freedom of man -is, I believe, valid as the explanation of a very large
class of phenomena wherein Man is principally concerned; but it is obvious that it leaves untouched the still harder problem of the misery of the brutes, since morals and geology have alike advanced too far to accept the theory which formerly supplemented it, that the “whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain" for Adam's offence.
Again, the doctrine of Leibnitz—that it is the best of all worlds which could have been created--though perhaps nearer the truth than any other, must rather be deemed a statement of the problem than its solution, since he offers no suggestion as to the nature of that necessity for not making it better, which he is everywhere forced to assume as paramount to the Divine Benevolent Will. *
The unhesitating faith of Theodore Parker is one which few of us can regard without envy, and the mighty force of conviction with which he gave it utterance bas served to warm and cheer a thousand hearts. God had revealed His absolute goodness in the very core of that large and loving heart, and in the blaze of that Divine light he ceased to discern the darkness around. The result is, that he has contributed more than perhaps any other man of our age to kindle amongst us a fervent and fearless love towards God, which may help us, as it helped him, to say, “though He slay me"—aye, and far worse, slay in my sight those who have never sinned as I have done—yet even so, “yet I will trust in Him." But he has only provoked from the scientific side a somewhat contemptuous rejection of his dogmatic optimism, as making no real attempt to grapple with the difficulty of Evil, or recognize its extent.*
* Archbishop King, at the conclusion of his celebrated Treatise -containing some valuable observations and some singularly naif examples of the circular mode of argument- t-sums up his conclusions with much complacency thus: “The difficult question then, “Whence came evil ?' is not unanswerable. It arises from the very nature and constitution of created beings, and could not be avoided without a contradiction. Though we are not able to apply these principles to all cases, we are sure they may be so applied” (Treatise on the Origin of Evil, 4th edit. p. 145). I wish I could share the Archbishop's plenary satisfaction in the results of his labours.
Lastly, there remains the door of escape which Mr. Mill has set ajar—the hypothesis that God, though benevolent, may be weak and ignorant, unable to do better than He has done for His creatures, albeit that is bad enough. This theory I must here dwell upon for a few moments, both because it will no doubt for some time to come hold considerable place in men's thoughts, and also because it very importantly touches the chief purport of this book—our hopes of the Life after Death. If God be really so feeble a Being as Mr. Mill suggests, if His contrivances be so “clumsy” (p. 30), and even His own immortality open to doubt (p. 243), it is idle to argue any further concerning His goodness, for He may be sincerely desirous of giving to us eternal joy hereafter, and yet fail to do so as completely as He has failed to give us perfect happiness here. This world being the bungle it is reported to be, it is hopeless to count on what the sequel of it may prove.
* It is evident from his biographies that in his earlier years Theodore Parker was very deeply impressed by the sufferings of animals, and much disturbed thereby. What was the key by which he escaped out of Doubting Castle I have never been able to ascertain.
+ “And since the exertion of all his power to make it as little imperfect as possible, leaves it no better than it is, they cannot but regard that power, though vastly beyond human estimate, yet as in itself not merely finite, but extremely limited.”—Essays on Religion, p. 40.
If God's wisdom be really “limited,” and His contrivances “clumsy,” there is in nature a very singular anomaly, for it appears that He has made a being more clever than Himself, and able to point out where He has failed, if not exactly how to do better. The intelligence of man is the highest work of God with which we are acquainted (though nothing hinders us from supposing He may have made indefinitely nobler intelligent inhabitants of other worlds); but to suppose that this chef d'auvre of the human brain is endowed with such similar but superior powers to its Maker as to be qualified to criticise and discriminate the clever from the clumsy among them, would be astonishing indeed. I do not me this remark in the sense of the “browbeating” of the human intellect to which divines are so prone. There can be no audacity in exercising any faculties with which we are gifted. I only desire to observe that there is, on the face of the matter, something very like absurdity in supposing that we, who, on the hypothesis, are, ourselves, God's handiwork, could find the end of His knowledge or wisdom. Practically, when we reflect on any one branch of the Divine Art, on the architecture of the starry heavens, on the chemistry of the ever-shifting gases and fluids and solids in which creation every hour is born and dies, on the mechanism of the frame of an animalcule, or of our own bodies-say, of the Hand alone, as exemplified in Sir Charles Bell's splendid treatise-it seems indeed monstrous for us to open our lips regarding the Wisdom of the Creator.
Where the limits of His Power may lie, is another question, of which it seems impossible we should ever guess the answer. Undoubtedly Christian theologians have written much folly about “Omnipotence," having first invented a purely metaphysical term, and then argued back from it to facts, as if it were a specific datum within our measurement, like the horse-power of a steam-engine or an hydraulic-press. A more sober and reverent mode of regarding the stupendous Power above us, may, as I have long hoped and argued, become a “Note" of Theism ; and in the full admission that there must be some limits even to supreme Might (limits existing in the very nature of things, which cannot at once be and not be, or unite contradictory properties, such as those of a circle and a triangle), we may find some help in contemplating such evils as those which seem to follow inevitably on the grant of moral freedom to a finite being such as man.