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the portals of death ; for “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God: neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” We must, therefore, look upon natural death as a wise, and even beneficent ordination of our heavenly Father, through which alone man can reach immortal joy.
We have now considered the evils announced to Adam and Eve in their sentence from God; and have seen that none of them militates against the goodness of the Almighty, but that good results from them all. And it may not be improper here to remark, that all the penalties of God's law are adapted to the moral nature and condition of all the subjects of his government; and designed, in their infliction on the children of disobedience, to promote the good, and only the good, of their recipients. We may now notice some other results of that first transgression.
We have already seen that our first parents, in their primival state, were totally destitute of all knowledge of either good or evil ; their intellectual, moral and spiritual powers were all undeveloped ; they had formed no moral character, and were entirely destitute of the means of forming such character, without which it is difficult to conceive how they could become the proper subjects of a moral government, or the rightful recipients of rewards and punishments. By their act of disobedience, they obtained that indispensable knowledge ; for, says the historian, “the eyes of them both were opened ;” and further, “ and the Lord God said, behold the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” If we admit that the knowledge obtained by our first parents, in partaking of the forbidden fruit, was thus important, yea, indispensable to them, it follows undeniably that, however great the evils in which they involved themselves by their sin against God, they obtained, by that very act, a good far outweighing all those evils; and which, so far as we can know, they cou have obtained in no other way. Should it be contended that, had they remained innocent, they might have obtained the knowledge, and even the enjoyment of good, without any experience of evil, it is sufficient to reply that this is a mere assumption, unsupported by a single fact or legitimate argument. As we can have no actual knowledge of good but by its enjoyment, so we can have no real knowledge of evil but by enduring its pains and penalties. And as good and evil are relative terms, we cannot be in the enjoyment of good without the knowledge of evil. Must we not, then, conclude that the foreseen transgression of the divine law by Adam and Eve, by which means they obtained that knowledge, was God's chosen method of imparting it to them? And if so, it must have been the best which unerring wisdom could devise. In a word, it is difficult to conceive how they could have obtained it in any other manner.
There is another stand-point from which we will consider our subject, and from which we may hope to obtain additional light. Evil has generally been considered of three kinds, namely, the evil of imperfection, natural, and moral evil; and from the first of these it is obvious that both of the other kinds measurably proceed. Were man a perfect being, it is difficult, if not impossible, to conceive in what manner he could be subject to either natural or moral evil. The progress of decay, corruption and decomposition of our bodies is the cause of those pains and sufferings which are denominated natural evils.
We may not say that God could not have created man with an incorruptible body. But had he so made him, he would not have been the creature he now is; and with his present physical organization, these evils are inevitable, being subject to the operation of those unvarying laws by which all material organism is affected. Were man perfect in all his mental, moral and spiritual powers, as God is perfect, he would not be liable to sin ; for, were his knowledge infallible, he could never be deceived ; were his wisdom unerring, and had he sufficient power, he would never fail in his pursuit of the means of happiness; he would have no unsatisfied desires, the patent causes of sin ; and had he perfect perception and strength of purpose, he would be in no danger of yielding to the power of temptation. But such is not his condition. Perfection does not, and can not pertain to created beings; it is the attribute of God alone; and is incommunicable. To absolute perfection, self-existence is indispensable. Hence a perfect creature is an utter impossibility; and even Omnipotence cannot create such a being. But, because evil is the inevitable result of imperfection, shall we charge the Great First Cause of all things with a want of infinite benevolence in calling into existence, from nonentity, such a creature as man? The purpose of God, in creation, could have been no other than the communication of happiness; for a being infinitely wise, good and happy, can act from no other motive. And when we consider the fact that there is a far greater amount of good than of evil, a vast preponderance of enjoyment over suffering, in the world ; and especially, when we reflect that all evil is limited, and destined to pass away, we are constrained to acknowledge the goodness of God in the creation of man, notwithstanding the amount of evil in the earth.
Natural evil results from the constitution of the material universe, and the operation of natural laws; and consists of the pains and sufferings endured by all creatures in consequence of the change, decay and tendency to dissolution in all material bodies. It has been contended that man, whilst in a state of innocence, was exempt from these pains, and would never have endured them had he remained free from sin. But it is difficult to conceive how this could have been the case if we admit, as has already been shown, that he was created with a mortal body. Formed of the dust of the earth, his body must have been subject to the laws of matter ; and there must have been, inherent in his physical constitution, an irresistible tendency to decomposition and death. But, however this may be, no one will contend that his existence, under these circumstances, is not consistent with divine goodness.
Moral evil has been defined as “ natural evil, with volitition superadded.” It is the result of wrong volitions, induced by the undue indulgence of our natural passions and propensities; and, in a great degree, the consequence of human imperfection. How far we can control, or successfully resist this evil, and what amount of culpability attaches to us in consequence of our wrong volitions and actions, it is not our present purpose to inquire. If it can be shown that the design of God, in introducing, or permitting moral evil to exist in the earth, is good ; that it is designed for, and is in fact overruled by him to, the production of an overbalancing amount of good, it follows that its existence is not incompatible with infinite goodness.
We have before shown that Adam and Eve, in their primeval state, although innocent, were destitute of positive virtue; they had no moral character, and could not, under their circumstances, form such character; and we now con
tend that, without the prevalence of moral evil in the world, the formation of the most exalted moral character, and the existence of the brightest virtues that adorn human nature, and render it truly Godlike, would have been impossible. We cannot know the intrinsic value of virtue without a knowledge of vice; and the cases are innumerable in which individuals, by suffering the consequences of sin, have been led to a life of righteousness and consequent happiness. Did we never endure contumely from our fellow men, we could never exercise the virtue of forbearance. Were no acts of wrong committed, there could be no such virtue as forgiveness. Were we beset by no temptation to evil, we could never know the joy of a triumph over them. Were there no suffering of evil in the world, man could never feel ecstatic bliss flowing into the soul from the exercise of heaven-born charity. The existence of moral evil and the pains resulting from it have aroused to action the purest impulses of our natures and noblest energies of the human soul. Many of the most exalted characters which have shed a lustre on humanity have been formed and perfected in struggling to overcome the evils by which they were surrounded. Without the existence of evil, the world had never seen a Wilberforce, a Howard, or a Florence Nightingale. In short, evil, not as a final end in the Divine economy, but as the efficient means to other and higher ends, seems to have been indispensable in carrying out the all-wise purposes of our adorable Creator; and, as such, is a wise and beneficent instrumentality.
Looking through the pages of sacred history, we find ample proof that, under the superintendency and overruling power of God, evils of the most malignant character, sins of the darkest dye, have been made subservient to beneficent ends, and the means of great good, even to the most guilty. One single instance of this kind establishes the correctness of our position, as no proof of a contrary final result can be produced.
In the familiar history of Joseph and his brethren, we are presented with a series of facts, forming a well-connected chain of secondary causes and results, which fully demonstrate the great truth that evil, under the control of infinite wisdom and goodness, becomes the efficient means of great good, which could in no other manner have been attained. The partiality of Jacob for Joseph was wrong, inasmuch as it was the means of creating envy in the breasts of his ten older sons.
That envy was sinful in the outset, and by indulgence became enmity and deadly hatred, resulting in the deliberate determination to imbrue their hands in the blood of their unoffending brother. They were finally induced by the interposition of one of their number to abandon their murderous purpose ; and they only sold him as a slave into the hands of mercenary strangers. Arrived in Egypt, he was sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh's guard; and here another act of wickedness was perpetrated, which seems to have been necessary to the final result. The wife of Potiphar, frustrated in her lustful purpose, prefered a false charge against him, in consequence of which he was cast into prison, where he was brought to the knowledge of the king, without which he could not have been the instrument of the great good which was finally accomplished through him. The history is familiar to all readers; we need not follow it in its particulars, and will come at once to the results of those various sinful acts.
The famine predicted by Joseph, at the specified time prevailed through the land of Egypt, and spread through all surrounding countries; but by his foresight the Egyptians were preserved from starvation; and at length his parents and brothers, with their families, shared his beneficence, and were saved from death by his care. Joseph clearly recognized the hand of God in all these events. To his guilty, but humbled and forgiven brother, he says: “ Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life." And again, “so it was not you that sent me hither, but God.” Although it is here positively declared that this great deliverance was wrought by God, it is evident that he effected his purpose by the direct agency of that wickedness which placed Joseph in the position he occupied ; and it is equally obvious that the great good finally enjoyed by all concerned, even the guilty ones by whose sins he had been driven from his home and kindred, would have been accomplished by no other means; for such was God's wise ordination, and it could not be changed.
We might notice many other facts narrated in the Scriptures, such as the hardening of Pharaoh's heart, the cruelties