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through the action of finite agencies. Within the finite world itself have been stored the forces for overcoming and casting out its own evils. Though the agencies are necessarily imperfect, they have been gifted with the power to advance the world toward perfection. The good elements, by struggling against the evil, have increased their own strength, and have thus gradually brought the evil under their dominion. This is the law of the world's development and progress. It has been in a certain sense the law of the material world, and it is especially the law of the human world. Man has not been lifted out of evil toward good by any power extraneous to him and acting independently of his own exertions. The necessary regenerating power has been placed in man himself. He is himself the field of the struggle between the opposing forces on which his fate depends. His own education, enlightenment, moral advancement, are the result of the struggle. He secures the good, creates it, in fact, by conquest of the evil. To put the good and the evil, therefore, at once by an unnatural division into separate fields would be, if such a division were possible, a reversal of the plan of the universe.
First, the theory that in morals the wheat and the tares ought to be separated loses sight of the primary fact of all, the moral improvement and salvation of the evil. It might be a very comfortable thing, if good people could be permitted to dwell together in a country by themselves, where
they could have exclusive management of affairs. But what of the bad people who would thus be left together in a country by themselves? Are they to be left to go to perdition? left alone to their own folly and wickedness and wretchedness? left to prey upon and torment and outrage and still further to debase and dehumanize each other? Have the good no responsibility, no duty, no pity toward the bad? Such a plan would be as inhuman as it is unnatural. We can hardly suppose it possible that such a community of utterly bad people would be capable of regenerating themselves. And, even on the theories of supernatural regeneration, it has always been allowed that the supernatural power must have natural agencies for its communication. Hence the alleged need of the preacher, the missionary, the exhorter, the tract, the revival meeting, the hymn and prayer, and all the machinery and power of the visible Church for the sake of converting and saving people. The source of the regenerating power might be supernatural; but it is admitted that it made use of these natural instrumentalities to accomplish its objects, - that is, made use of persons already redeemed, already supposed to be good, to redeem and convert the bad. But the hypothesis that the bad are separated in a community by themselves and the good by themselves forbids any such intercommunication even for the sake of saving the bad. The gulf prophesied in that terrific parable of Abraham and Lazarus is already fixed, so that none can pass from
one side to the other.
The wicked are left to their
doom. And hence the question comes, by way of corollary, whether that could be a genuine human goodness which could thus, for the sake of peace and quiet and its own unhindered development, separate itself from all contact with wicked people in some exclusive community? Are not sympathy, compassion, and helpful charity toward the wicked necessary elements of goodness? Can he be a good man himself who can let his brother fall into a pit at his side without an effort to save him? Love to one's brother man, shown in active endeavors for his welfare, is certainly the highest test of human goodness; and how can any manifest this quality who strive to get away from their unfortunate brothers when they most need their help? The very hypothesis of a separation of the good from the evil in the affairs of the world is shown to be logically untenable by the argument, reductio ad absurdum; since, if any persons should have a disposition to depart into some secluded retreat to care for their own interests and to leave the wicked to their fate, they would, by that very fact, prove themselves to be wanting in that benevolence which is the most essential quality of goodness, and hence would themselves have to be excluded from that select abode as not good enough. They would exhibit a moral selfishness, an ambition to secure the highest seats in spiritual places, an appetite for the first chance to the good things of personal enjoyment, which would certainly soon.
breed the dire results of evil in their new home if they were to be admitted to it.
And this suggests the further question whether any such division of the good and the bad as individuals, even if it were natural and desirable, could be possible. Who are to go with the bad? Or, harder question, Who will go with the good? Will you? Will I? Judged by our aspirations, our prayers, our endeavors perhaps, we would. But shall we be so self-righteous as to assume that our conduct would take us that way? Who is to draw the line, and where is it to be drawn? Do you say, Let it be drawn by the public judgment of the courts of law, by the line of prison walls? But how ineffective a separation would thereby be accomplished! You know that there are vastly more of wicked and morally dangerous people outside of prisons than in them. Would you draw the line at the openly degraded and socially outcast classes of population? But, again, you know that there are many persons who are morally degraded, and who, except for the accident of birth or wealth or sex, might be socially outcast, who yet move in reputable circles of society. And you know that, even in the classes called degraded and outcast, there are not a few individuals who have honest and true aspirations, and who, in spite of their surroundings, maintain a virtuous character. Will you draw the line, then, between actual virtue and actual vice wherever found, letting the line run wherever it will, separating families, passing
through communities and neighborhoods without any reference to the lines of social distinction, drawing the bad out of good circles and the good out of bad, and thus dividing people according to their real moral worth, as it might be viewed by an Omniscient Eye? But what power less than Omniscience could survey that line? Nay, would not even Omniscience have to run such a line through individual characters as well as between individuals? Where is the person who, at least to his own eye, is wholly good? Even Jesus refused to be called good when the young man addressed him as "Good Master." And what man is there whom any one but himself would dare to pronounce wholly bad? The good and the bad, the virtue and the vice, intermingle in individual hearts and characters. The struggle goes on there, in the secret places of personal temptation and action, as well as in the broad fields of the world outside; and unless we are to have a mutilation of personal character, a division of our very personality, there can be no arbitrary separation of the good and evil elements in our earthly life.
I said above that the theory that in morals the wheat and the tares ought to be separated loses sight of the primary fact of all in the social education of the human race; namely, the moral improvement and salvation of the evil. But the questions just started, as well as the common experience of mankind, show us that the theory loses sight hardly less of the welfare of the good,