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and fewer, and lesser, pains now suffered, by mankind, than in any preceding age of the world.
Here, then, rest our conclusions regarding Evil in human existence. It is vast, and much of it is wholly inexplicable by any of the hypotheses which have passed current as its explanation. But, great as it is, the good in human life is greater still, and shews a constant tendency to gain ground upon it.
Regarding the suffering of animals, it seems that if our fathers treated it much too lightly in their sublime contempt for the brutes, we are not exempt from the danger of taking too dark a view of it. Mr. Mill says, for example,* that “if a tenth part of the pains which have been expended in finding beneficent adaptations in all nature had been employed in collecting evidence to blacken the character of the Creator, what scope for comment would not have been found in the entire existence of the lower animals, divided with scarcely an exception into devourers and devoured, and a prey to a thousand ills from which they are denied the faculties necessary to protect themselves.” I cannot but protest against words like these, as quite equally misleading with the easy-going optimism of Paley and his conge
The lives of the lower animals, so far as we can understand their consciousness, are not, on the whole, a pain, but a pleasure. When undisturbed by human cruelty, they suffer but little or rarely till the closing scene; and though that is, alas ! too often one of anguish, it scarcely occupies in any case a hundredth or a thousandth part of their existence. In the interval of days, months or years, between birth and death, they have evidently much ease and not a little delight. They enjoy the gambols of youth, undimmed by the pains of human education; the passion of love, unchecked by shame or disappointment; the perpetually-recurring pleasures of food, rest and exercise; and (in the case of the female birds and brutes) the exquisite enjoyments of their tender motherhood. The sum and substance of their lives under all normal conditions is surely beyond question happy, and the anxieties and cares which in their position would be ours, and which we are apt to lend them in imagination, are by them as totally unfelt as are our miserable vanities, our sorrowful memories, and our bitter remorse. The scene which the woods and pastures present to a thoughtful eye of a summer morning is not one to "blacken" the character of the Creator, but to lift up the soul in rapture, and prompt us to add a human voice of thanksgiving to the chirp of the happy birds, the bleating of the playful lambs, and the hum of the bees in the cowslips and the clover.
* Nature, p. 58.
The law by which the death of one animal is needful to the life of another, is undoubtedly one whose working it is impossible for us to contemplate without pain. The process of killing and devouring, if on the whole less productive of suffering than the slow death of age and want, is yet in millions of cases accompanied by
circumstances horrible to think of; nor is it at all evident why natural death should not itself have been made painless, rather than that recourse should have been had to such an alternative. Obviously if creatures had not been made to devour one another, scarcely a hundredth part of those which now throng the earth and waters could have existed, and each individual may be said to hold his life on the tenure of relinquishing it when summoned for another's support.* Still the law is undoubtedly, to our sense, a harsh one; and when we add to its action the sufferings of animals from disease, from noxious insects and parasites, from cold, from hunger, and, above all, from the cruelty of man, we have undoubtedly accumulated a mass of evil very awful to contemplate.f But it is wrong to exaggerate even here, or speak as if the lives of the brutes were on the whole a curse, and not a blessing. Even we who in our cruelty so often seek them only to hurt and destroy, yet see them—bird, beast and insect-ninety-nine times out of a hundred, happy and enjoying themselves, for once we notice them in any kind of pain. The same rule
“God could have created an inanimate machine which should have supplied animals with food. But a being that has life is preferable to one that has not. God therefore animated that machine which furnishes out provision for the more perfect animals.”—Origin of Evil, c. iii. $ 5.
* Archbishop King says:
+ It is probable that every harmless little calf killed by the vile old process for producing white veal, suffers as much as a crucified
applies to our impressions as in the case of human suffering. We are so much more struck by the sight of pain than of ordinary pleasure and well-being, that we carry away a vivid impression of the former, and forget the latter.
Brought to its actual limits, then, I conceive the problem of Evil stands before us as a vast, but not an immense exception, in a rule of Good. A certain large share of it we can recognize as having great moral purposes fully justifying its existence, and even elevating it into the rank of beneficence; such are the sufferings (of rational beings) which punish and repress sin, and those through whose fires the noblest and the purest virtues have ever passed to perfection. That there is some wondrous power in Suffering thus to bring out of human souls qualities immeasurably nobler than are ever developed without its aid, is a fact equally plain to those who have watched the almost divine transformation it sometimes effects upon characters hitherto hard, selfish or commonplace; and to those who have noted how thinnatured and unsympathetic, if not selfish, are at the best those men and women who have lived from youth to age in the unbroken sunshine of prosperity. Even among very ordinary characters, and where the lesson of suffering has not been deep, there are very few of us, I believe, who after the lapse of a little while would wish that we could unlearn it, or return to be the slighter, feebler, shallower-hearted beings we were before it came. Rather do we recognize the truth of the poet's words:
“The energies too stern for mirth,
The reach of thought, the strength of will,
Another share of evil may be attributed to—though not altogether explained by—the beneficent purpose of securing preponderating physical advantage to the sufferer; as, for example, the pains which guard the integrity of the bodies of animals. But beyond all these, we are compelled mournfully to conclude that there exists, both in human life and in the life of the brutes, a large mass of evil, which can by no such hypotheses be accounted for consistently with the benevolence of the Creator; and which utterly baffles now, and will probably for ever baffle, the ingenuity of mortal man so to explain.
What is it that shall help us to look this great residuum of inexplicable evil in the face? Where shall we find ground of faith whereon we may take our stand and confront it with unshaken hearts ?
Strange it is indeed to say, that I have hopes that the publication of the Essays on Nature, the Utility of Religion and Theism, which will give such bitter pain to all believing hearts, such double sadness to those who, like myself, regard their author with undying honour and gratitude, may even prove the turning-point of this controversy—may set us at last on the right track for the solution of the problem. For what have we in these powerful, limpidly clear, bravely outspoken