Abbildungen der Seite

kinds. Without the germs of fermentation, for instance, what would happen to the world? Without the germs that break down animal and vegetable tissue and redistribute the elements of which of death how

[ocr errors]



they are composed long could life go on?

[ocr errors]

A fever tortures and burns my flesh because the body fights against the germs that would destroy it. It is one form of life struggling with another form. A festering pool in the fields or woods conceals chemical processes that all favor life.

Life is the result of a certain balance between what we call good and evil forces. Destroy that balance, that harmonious adjustment, and death or disease follows. We imperil it when we eat too much, or drink too much, or work too hard, or sleep too little, or exclude the air and sunlight from our houses. A pestilence is just as much an evidence of the health and soundness of nature as is immunity from it, only it is the health of forces that for reasons antagonize our health. We have let the enemy encamp and intrench in our midst while we slumbered. If we had life on easier terms than eternal vigilance, what would it be worth? If we want to escape blow-flies and mosquitoes and the contagion of this or that, let us go to the Arctic or Antarctic regions, where death reigns perpetual. Struggle is the condition of evolution, and evolution is the road all life has traveled. Moral evil

pertains only to man, and is incident to his growth and development. To bear false witness against one's neighbor, or to steal, or to be cruel or covetous, are moral evils which we become conscious of only when we have reached a higher moral plane. The animal is not involved in such evils. Violence and fraud and injustice attest the existence of higher qualities. They are shadows and not real entities, the shortcomings of the unripe animal man. A foul day is just as much a legitimate part of our weather system as a fair day; and is it in itself any more evil?

What I mean to say is that the whole category of moral evils, from petty slander to gigantic stealing, from political corruption to social debauchery, are only eddies or back currents that attest the onward flow of moral progress. A parasite is an evil, but it could not exist without a host to prey upon.

Moral evil, like physical evil, is bestowed by the same hand that bestows the moral good; it is the fruit of the same tree- the wormy and scabby fruit and while every effort is to be made to remedy it, we are not to regard it as something foreign to us, something the origin of which is involved in mystery, a subject for metaphysical or theological hair-splitting, and adequate to account for the strained relations, as our fathers viewed it, between God and man. Development implies imperfection; as long as our course is upward, we have

not yet reached the top of the hill. Our standards. rise as we rise, and the ideal always does and always will outrun the real. We may produce a perfect apple or a perfect peach, or plum, or pear, but not a perfect man, because to man are opened infinite possibilities. Perfect in honesty, in sobriety, in truthfulness, but not perfect in love, or sympathy, in self-denial, in veneration, or in wisdom. That good and evil are not such strangers is seen in the fact that present evil may turn out a future good, and vice versa. All the world looks upon poverty as an evil, yet of what men has it been the making! Reverses in business have often put a man upon a road that led to a higher success than was possible under the old conditions, a success which only verifies the soundness of the principles the disregarding of which led to the past failure. If gravity did not pull your faulty structure down, it would not enable your sound structure to stand up. If the rain did not come through your rotten roof, it would not percolate to the roots of the grass in the ground. Indeed, to abolish the possibility of evil from the universe would be to abolish the possibility of good. If vice and crime did not arise under certain conditions in society, all social progress would be barred. Out of the desire to better our condition comes the greed of wealth and the hoggishness of the millionaire. Out of sex love comes lust and fornication; out of the instinct of self-preservation comes base

selfishness; the feeling of self-respect pushed a little too far becomes pride and vainglory; faith degenerates into credulity, worship into idolatry, deference into fawning, firmness into hardness of heart, self-reliance into arrogance. The danger that threatens repose is stagnation, that threatens industry is greed, that threatens thrift is avarice, that threatens power is tyranny. Everywhere are things linked together, every virtue has its vice, every good has its ill, every sweet has its bitter, and the bitter is often the best medicine.

What shall we say, then? Shall we be tolerant of evil? Shall we embrace vice as well as virtue? No; but we shall cease to try to persuade ourselves "that the celestial laws need to be worked over and rectified," that there is some ingrained defect in God's universe, and that the divine plan miscarried; that man in this world has got the bad end of a bad bargain. We get sooner or later what we pay for, and we do not get what we do not pay for, and there is no credit system.

"All's right with the world." I know it does not soothe the bruises of the victim of a railroad smash-up to be told that the laws of force could not act differently, nor the disappointment of the farmer when his crops are burned up by the drought to be assured that the weather system is still running all right elsewhere, nor the sick and the suffering to be told that pain too is a guardian angel; and yet it

[ocr errors]

is something to know that things look better under the surface, that there is no profound conspiracy of evil against us, that the universe really has the well-being of each of us at heart, and that if we fall short of that well-being, we are not the victims of a malignant spirit, but the sufferers from the operation of a beneficent law.

The universe has our well-being at heart in a general, universal sense, and not in a personal sense. For instance, our lives depend upon the bounty of the rain, and yet the rain does not accommodate itself to the special personal needs of this man or that man, and it may result in a flood that brings death and ruin in its path. Like all other things in nature, it is a general beneficence to which we have to accommodate ourselves. It rains alike upon the just and the unjust, upon the sea and upon the land, upon the sown field and upon the mown hay

a broadcast, wholesale kind of providence.

I confess that from the course of life and the processes of nature one cannot infer the existence of a Being such as our fathers worshiped a kind of omnipresent man, whose relation to the universe was that of maker and governor.

We get instead the conception of an infinite power, not separable from the universe, but one with it, as the soul is one with the body, which finally expresses itself in man as reason, as love, as awe, as beauty, as aspiration, as righteousness; in

« ZurückWeiter »