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   Chapter 5 THAT GOD TAKES AN INTEREST IN MAN'S WELFARE.

The Truth of Christianity By William Harry Turton Characters: 38508

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


(A.) The Evidence in its Favour.

Since God is a Moral as well as a Personal Being, He must be capable of caring for all His creatures; and we have abundant evidence that He does so, especially for man. But there are two great difficulties.

(B.) The Insignificance of Man.

(1.) Some counter-arguments, showing that even if insignificant, God might still care for him.

(2.) Man's real importance, due to his mind and spirit.

(3.) The supposed inhabitants of other planets.

(C.) The Existence of Evil.

(1.) Physical evil in animals. The objection that it is vast in amount, wholly unmerited, and perfectly useless, cannot be maintained.

(2.) Physical evil in man. Several ways of lessening the difficulty. Its explanation seems to be that God's designing evil does not mean His desiring it, as it is essential for forming a man's character.

(3.) Moral evil in man. The possibility of this is essential to free will; and wicked men are as necessary as any other form of evil.

(D.) Conclusion.

God's Goodness includes Beneficence and Righteousness.

Having discussed in the last chapter the character of man, we have next to consider, as far as we have any means of doing so, the Character of God; more especially whether He seems to take any interest in man's welfare. And we will first examine the evidence in favour of this; then the two arguments on the other side from the insignificance of man, and the existence of evil; and will conclude by considering in what sense the term Goodness can be ascribed to God.

(A.) The Evidence in its Favour.

To begin with, God is certainly capable of taking an interest in man's welfare, for He is not only a Personal Being, but also a Moral Being. This follows at once from what may be called the moral argument for the Existence of God, or that depending on man's free will. It is briefly this, that no combination of natural forces, which are uniform and always act the same under the same circumstances, can ever produce a free force, able to act or not as it likes. The idea seems inconceivable. If, then, man possesses such a force, which we have already admitted, it cannot have come from any natural forces, nor can it have made itself, so it must have been derived from some previous free force, and this, again, from a previous one, and so on till we finally arrive at a Free Force, which was not derived from any other, but which existed eternally. And this, it will be remembered, was precisely the conclusion we reached in Chapter I., though from quite a different argument. And then it follows that this Free Force, or Free Being, must know that He is free; and must therefore be a moral Being, able to distinguish the quality of acts as right or wrong. Indeed, the mere fact that man possesses this remarkable faculty makes it certain that man's Maker must possess it too.

Now a personal and moral God must clearly be able to take an interest in the welfare of His creatures; and there is abundant evidence that He actually does so. For everywhere in nature, and especially in man, we meet with marks, not only of design, but of beneficent design-that is to say of design tending to the welfare and happiness of the beings in question. Take, for instance, the human eye, which we considered in Chapter II. Everyone will admit that this conduces very greatly to man's happiness; and therefore the conclusion that God, when He designed the eye, did so with the object of benefiting man seems irresistible. Nor is this altered by the fact that the eye has a few defects, in being liable to various kinds of disease. For no one can think that it was made for the sake of these defects. It was evidently made to see, and not to ache. That it does ache now and then is in all probability due to its being such a complicated instrument; and perhaps also to its being often used too much.

But it may be said, beneficial organs like the eye, though they abound throughout nature, are not the only ones we meet with. There are others, like the claws and teeth of wild animals, which are just the opposite, and seem designed to give pain to other creatures. But this is quite untenable. They were plainly designed to enable the animal to secure its food, and are perhaps necessary for that purpose, and they all tend to the welfare of their possessor, and sometimes also to that of their victim, as it hastens death. There is not, in fact, a single organ in nature the object of which is to produce pain. Where pain is produced it is merely a sort of by-product. Thus far then, we are quite justified in concluding that God takes an interest in man's welfare. But there are two great difficulties.

(B.) The Insignificance of Man.

The first is from the apparent insignificance of man. For though he is doubtless by far the most important being on this planet, and endowed with some of the Divine attributes, yet, after all how utterly insignificant he is in comparison with his Maker. This is no new difficulty,[4] but modern science has increased its force by showing that our earth is only one among the planets which go round the sun, while the sun itself is only one among many millions of stars. And, we may ask, is it likely that the God Who rules these millions of stars should take any interest in the beings on a small planet like our earth?

[4] Ps. 8. 3, 4.

This is the difficulty we have to face; but a good deal depends on the way in which it is stated. Would it not be better to argue from the known to the unknown, and ask-Is it likely that the God Who has made this earth, and Who we know (from the marks of design) takes an interest in its inhabitants, should be also the Ruler of the distant stars? And when so stated, the unity of nature compels us to say that it is not only likely, but practically certain. However, we will discuss the subject more in detail, first considering some counter-arguments, which show that even if man were insignificant God might still care for him; then man's real importance; and lastly, the question of other planets being inhabited.

(1.) Some Counter-arguments.

To begin with, though it seems unlikely that God should take any interest in such insignificant beings as us men, it also seems unlikely that He should ever have designed and created such beings. Yet He has done so. And having created them, there is at most only a slight additional improbability, if any at all, that He should take an interest in their welfare. And this is especially the case when we remember that man is not only the highest and noblest being on this planet, but as far as we know on any planet. Therefore though we may be quite unworthy of God's care, we do not know of any other being who is more worthy of it. And it is most unlikely that a Creator would not take an interest in any of His works.

Next, as to the analogy of nature. Here we find nothing resembling a neglect of small things. On the contrary, everything, down to the minutest insect, seems finished with as much perfection as if it alone existed in the universe. And this is surely what we should expect. For true greatness does not exist in despising that which is small; and it may be a very part of God's infinite greatness that nothing should be too small for Him to care about, just as nothing is too large. And while a Being, Who can govern the universe, and attend to its millions of stars, is no doubt great-inconceivably great; yet He is surely greater still-inconceivably greater-if He can also attend to our little planet, and its inhabitants; and can do this so thoroughly, as not only to take an interest in the human race, but in the welfare of each one of its members.

And the whole analogy of nature is in favour of His doing so; for the forces of nature never deal with matter in bulk, but with each particle separately. A stone, for instance, is attracted to the ground, because, and only because, each particle of it is so attracted. In the same way if God takes an interest in the human race (and, as just said, it is hard to imagine His not doing so, since it is His noblest work) it may be because, and only because, He takes an interest in each individual member of it.

Thirdly, the difficulty of thus believing that God takes an interest in the daily life of an individual man, though undoubtedly great, is really no more than that of believing that He knows about it. For if He knows about it, why should He not care about it? Yet, as said in Chapter II., a world like ours cannot have been made without both knowledge, and foreknowledge, on the part of its Maker. And though we might at first be inclined to limit this to important matters, a little consideration will show that such a distinction is untenable; and that if God knows anything, He knows everything. And if He knows everything, why should He not care about everything?

Fourthly, and this is very important, whether we are insignificant or not, we are each of us unique. We are not like particles of matter. Millions of these are (or may be) exactly alike, but no two men are exactly alike; not even to the same extent as plants and animals. For each man is a separate spirit, a personal being distinct from all else in the world. And since he possesses a free will, his character is also distinct; for this depends to a large extent on how he uses his free will, what he says, and what he does, day by day. So it is out of the question to think that any two men are exactly alike. And this is the common belief of mankind, for however much we may think other people alike, we each feel sure that there is no one else in the world exactly like ourselves.

Nor can there be. For though God might, if He chose, make two trees exactly alike, or two men exactly alike in their external features, He could not make them alike in their character. For this, as just said, depends on their own free use of their own free will; and if God were to force them to decide in the same way, they would cease to be free. And from this it follows that each man is not only unique, but irreplaceable. No other can be made like him. Therefore, as we each have something special about us, God may take a special interest in each of us. Doubtless such an idea seems very wonderful; but no one who has any knowledge of the marvels of nature will think it, on that account, incredible. Indeed, from one point of view, it is only what we should expect. For we all know how a naturalist will value a unique specimen, which cannot be replaced, in spite of its having some defects. And if each man is really unique, and irreplaceable, why may not the God of Nature value him too (in spite of his faults), and take an interest in his welfare?

Then, fifthly, as to the discoveries of science, there is here also a good deal to be said on the other side. For though the telescope has shown us that our world is like a mere drop in the ocean, the microscope has shown us a new world in each drop; and the infinitely little, as it is called, is as wonderful as the infinitely great, and man still occupies a sort of central position.

When, for instance, we examine a single organ, say the human eye, we find that it consists of an immense number of parts, each of which is seen to be more and more complicated the more we are able to magnify it, and so on without apparently any limit. And this makes it more than ever likely that the God, Who has shown such marvellous skill in the various organs of a man's body, should care for the man himself, the personal and moral being, who possesses these organs. Nor is the argument weakened by the fact that the organs of animals also show a wonderful amount of design, for as far as we know, in their case, there is no personal and moral being to care about.

Again, science has not only shown us the magnitude of the universe, and that there are millions of stars, millions of miles apart, but it has also shown us its unity, and that all its parts are closely connected together. And certainly the idea that the God, Who rules these stars, should take an interest in us men, is no harder to believe than that the gases, which are burning in these stars, should influence our spectroscopes. Yet they do; so if this were all, it would still lessen the difficulty a good deal.

(2.) Man's real importance.

But this is not all, for science has also taught us a great deal about man himself, and his long development; which has a most important bearing on the argument. For we now know that our earth has existed for thousands of centuries, gradually evolving higher and higher forms of life, all leading up to man, who is the heir of all the ages, the inheritor of all that is useful and best in his long line of ancestors.

And (what is very important) organic evolution seems obliged to stop here. Man is not merely a link in a series leading on to still more perfect beings, but he is the end of the series. In all probability there will never be a higher being on the earth, for the causes which have produced his evolution thus far, can carry it no further. When, for instance, man acquired an erect position, there was an end to any further improvement in that respect. When he took to wearing clothes, there was an end to the body becoming hardier and stronger through exposure. When he took to using weapons and inventing machinery, mere physical strength was no longer essential, and could no longer be increased.

In short, when Evolution began to take a mental turn, there was an end to bodily development. Henceforth there was to be no evolution of any higher being, but rather the gradual perfecting of this one being, by mental and moral, and not physical improvements. Man is thus not only the highest being that ever has been evolved, but, as far as we can judge, the highest being that ever will be evolved on this earth. So the vast scheme of evolution, inconceivable alike in magnitude, in duration, and in complexity, is all seen to be one plan, with man apparently at the end of it. And consequently, as everything was designed by God, he must have been the foreknown and intended end, from the very beginning; the first thought in creation, as well as the last.

And when we thus regard man as the goal towards which nature has all along tended, and therefore as the chief object which God-the Author of Nature-had in view all the time, it seems to increase his importance tenfold; and shows conclusively that in God's sight he must be anything but insignificant.

Nor is it difficult to suggest a reason for this. For man, as we know, has a mind, as well as a body; and though the discoveries of science have in some respects lessened the importance of his body, by showing its evolution from other animals; they have at the same time increased that of his mind, for it is his mind that has discovered them. And every fresh discovery man makes can only exalt him still higher for making it; so that the mind of man now shows him to be a far nobler being than could possibly have been imagined some centuries ago. And certainly, a mind that can discover the motions of distant stars, and the elements of which they are composed, cannot be thought insignificant. In fact, in one respect man is greater than any of the stars; for he can think about them, but they cannot think about him.

Moreover, man has not only a mind, but also a spirit, or free will, able to act right or wrong. And even his acting wrong, however sad it may be in other respects, is a powerful witness to his greatness; for who but a great being could act in opposition to the will of the Almighty? But then; if his acting wrong proves his greatness, still more does his acting right. Indeed (if we were not so far from it ourselves) we should probably see that moral perfection, or always acting right, though one might act wrong, is the noblest thing in the whole universe; and as far above mental greatness, as this latter is above mere physical strength.

But though we cannot properly appreciate it, God can. He is Himself a Spirit, and therefore, in His sight, a man possessing a mind and spirit, and thus made to some extent in His own image, and capable of developing moral perfection, may be of more value (because more like Himself) than a universe of dead matter. In the same way (to quote a well-known analogy) a king will value his child more than his palace: for the simple reason that the child is more like himself. Thus persons are always more valuable than things. And they are incomparably more valuable, for they have nothing in common by which they can be compared. We cannot class an astronomer with his telescopes, or say that one geologist is worth so many fossils, or one bricklayer so many bricks. And this being so, what shall we say of the millions of men who have lived, and are now living, on this earth? Surely their welfare cannot be thought insignificant by anyone, least of all by their Creator.

(3.) The supposed inhabitants of other planets.

But it may be said, what about other planets? Are not some of these inhabited, and does not this weaken the argument a good deal, and show that God cannot take any special interest in man, or other beings on this earth?

Now there is, of course, no reason why God should take any special interest in the beings on this planet, more than in similar beings on other planets, if such exist; but this is very doubtful. For modern science has shown that not only are the same materials found in the other planets (and also in the fixed stars) as are found here; but that natural laws, such as those of gravity, light, and heat, are the same throughout the entire universe. And this makes it probable that the laws of life are also the same; so that if living beings exist on other planets, we should expect them to be somewhat similar to the living beings here; and to have been evolved in a somewhat similar manner. And this requires that a large number of favourable circumstances, such as a moderate temperature, a suitable atmosphere, sufficient water, etc., should all be found on some other planet, not only now, but during the long ages which (judging by this earth) appear necessary for the development of the higher forms of life; and this certainly seems unlikely.

On the other hand, it is difficult to believe that God would create an immense number of suns or stars, many of which have probably planets round them, if only one out of the whole series was to be inhabited by personal beings. But however strange this may seem to us, it entirely agrees with God's methods in nature, where what seems to be needless waste is the universal rule. So this is not an insuperable difficulty. The question, however, may well be left open, for even if other planets are inhabited, there is no reason why God should not take an interest-and perhaps a great interest-in their inhabitants, as well as in ourselves; since all His capacities are boundless, and even the smallest part of infinity may be very large.

(C.) The Existence of Evil.

We now come to the other, and perhaps more important, difficulty-that arising from the existence of evil. This term in its widest sense includes both pain, which affects a man's body;

sorrow, which affects his mind; and sin, which affects his spirit. The two former may be called physical evil, and apply also to animals; while the latter is moral evil, and applies only to man. And as the world is full of pain, sorrow, and sin, one may naturally ask how could it have been designed and created by a God Who cares for the welfare of His creatures? Or, to put the objection in other words, does not the existence of this evil show that God either could not or would not prevent it? If He could not, he is not All-Powerful; if He would not, He is not All-Good. This is an undoubted difficulty; and we will examine it in detail, both as it affects animals and men.

(1.) Physical evil in animals.

The objection here is that animals of all kinds suffer a vast amount of pain and misery, which is wholly unmerited and perfectly useless; since, having no moral nature, they can neither deserve pain nor profit by it. We will consider these points in turn.

And first, as to the amount which animals suffer. One animal does not suffer more because a million suffer likewise, so we must consider the suffering as it affects the individual, and not the total amount. And as to its extent we know but little. That animals appear to suffer greatly, e.g., a mouse being caught by a cat, is obvious; but how far they really suffer is doubtful, as their feelings are probably far less sensitive than those of man; so it is quite misleading to think what we should feel like in similar circumstances. This is indeed evident when we reflect that suffering is connected with the brain, as is shown by the fact that savages suffer much less than civilised nations. And therefore we should expect animals, whose mental development is far less advanced, to suffer still less; while the lower forms of life we should not expect to suffer at all.

And this is confirmed by observation, as several facts have been noticed which almost force us to this conclusion. A crab, for instance, will continue to eat, and apparently relish, a smaller crab, while being itself slowly devoured by a larger one; and this shows that the crab can feel scarcely any pain, since the almost universal effect of pain is to destroy the pleasure of eating. And many other instances are known.[5]

[5] Transactions of Victoria Institute, vol. xxv., 1891, p. 257.

Moreover, animals, except domestic ones which are partly trained and civilised, appear to have no anticipation of suffering, and no power of concentrating their thoughts upon it, which increases it so greatly in man. And assuming, with reference to the above example, that the mouse is not to live for ever, its being destroyed by a cat is at most a very short misery, and perhaps involving altogether less pain than if it died from disease or old age. Indeed few things could be worse than for old and weak animals to be left to themselves, and gradually die of starvation. And we must remember, in a state of nature, with uncertain meals the cat would never play at capturing the mouse, thus giving it needless and repeated sufferings, but it would kill it at once.

Then as to the so-called struggle for existence. It is nothing like what is commonly supposed, as has been recognised by leading naturalists. Thus Darwin says:-'When we reflect on this struggle we may console ourselves with the full belief that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.' And Wallace says:-'The popular idea of the struggle for existence entailing misery and pain on the animal world is the very reverse of the truth. What it really brings about is the maximum of life, and of the enjoyment of life, with the minimum of suffering and pain.'[6] On the whole, then, it seems probable that pain among animals is far less than is commonly assumed, and in the lower forms of life almost entirely absent.

[6] C. Darwin. Origin of Species. 6th edit., 1888, p. 96. A. R. Wallace. Darwinism, 1889, p. 40.

Still it may be said, this only lessens the difficulty; for why should animals suffer pain at all? As far as we can judge, it is wholly unmerited, since, having no moral nature, and therefore no responsibility, they cannot have done anything wrong to deserve it. But then, the pleasure which they enjoy is also unmerited. The two must in all fairness be taken together, and as a matter of fact, animals seem to have a much greater amount of pleasure than of pain. Their life (except when ill-treated by man) is, as a rule, one of continual enjoyment, and probably, at any given moment, the number of animals of any particular kind that are happy is incomparably greater than those that are miserable. In short, health and happiness is the rule, sickness and pain the exception.

Nor can it be said that pain is useless to animals; for though they have no moral nature to be improved, they have a physical nature to be preserved and transmitted, and the sense of pain may be essential for this. It is indeed a kind of sentry, warning them of dangers, which might otherwise lead to their destruction. If for example, animals felt no pain from excessive heat, they might not escape when a forest was burning; or, if they felt no pain from hunger, they might die of starvation. Thus pain is, in reality, a preservative of life; and it is often not an evil at all; so no part of this objection can be maintained.

(2.) Physical evil in man.

We now pass on to the case of man. There is unfortunately no doubt about the suffering which he endures. The struggling lives, the painful diseases, the lingering deaths, not to mention accidents of all kinds, are but too evident. And we may ask, would an Omnipotent God, Who cared for man's welfare, have ever designed all this?

Now it is important to remember that a great deal of physical evil originates in moral evil, which will be considered later on. By far the greater part of the pain and misery which men endure is brought about by their own wickedness and folly, or by that of their fellow-men. The recent war-worse in extent, though not worse in kind, than all previous wars-has been a terrible example of this. But it was man's doing, not God's; and man alone must be blamed for it.

In the next place, many of the so-called evils of life do not involve any actual suffering. If for instance a man loses the sight of one eye, he need not have any pain; and were he originally blind the possession of even one eye would have been thought a priceless blessing. Again, however great may be the sufferings of life, they cannot be as great as its joys, since nearly everyone wishes to go on living. While it is undeniable that human pain, like that of animals, is most useful, serving to warn men of dangers and diseases, which would otherwise lead to their destruction.

Moreover, in a material world like ours, if the forces of nature act according to fixed laws, a certain amount of suffering seems inevitable. If, for example, the force of gravity always acts as it does, it will occasionally cause a tower to fall and injure someone. Such an event could only be avoided by God's continually interfering with these forces. But this would render all human life a hopeless confusion. While, at present, owing to these forces being invariable, a great deal of the evil which might otherwise result from them can be foreseen and avoided. If, however, men will not avoid it,-if, for instance, in spite of the numerous eruptions of Vesuvius, they still choose to go and live on its slopes,-it is hard to see how they can blame anyone but themselves. In the same way, if a man chooses to sit on the safety valve of an engine, it is his own fault if he gets blown up.

And even in other cases, when the evil cannot be foreseen, as in an unexpected earthquake, it is at least open to doubt whether it is any worse for a number of men to die like this, suddenly and together, than that they should all die in the usual way, slowly, one by one, and often after a long illness. It of course appeals more to the imagination, but it probably involves less suffering.

Thus we may say that human suffering, excluding that due to man himself, is by no means so great as it seems; that it is, as a rule, more than counter-balanced by human happiness; and that a certain amount seems not only useful, but in a world like ours inevitable. But though all these considerations are undoubtedly true, and undoubtedly lessen the difficulty, they do not remove it altogether.

The following appears to be the true explanation: that though God foreknew all this suffering when He created the world, and in this sense designed it, He need not have desired it, but may have desired something else, for the attainment of which, this suffering was a necessary condition. And this something else must obviously have been the training and perfecting of man's character; for which, some kind of suffering seems essential.

For if there were no suffering in the world, there could be no fortitude, no bravery, no patience, no compassion, no sympathy with others, no self-sacrifice for their good-nothing, in fact, that constitutes the highest type of man. In other words, a being such as man, can only be made perfect through suffering. Therefore this suffering implies no defect in God's design. It is a means, and, as far as we can judge, the only possible means for developing the highest and noblest character in man, such a character indeed as alone makes him worthy of admiration. Moreover, a man's character can only be formed by himself, it cannot be given him ready-made, for then it would not be his character at all; and it can only be formed gradually, it cannot be done all at once. Therefore, if God wishes a man to have the special character acquired by constantly bearing suffering, it can only be obtained by constantly giving him suffering to bear.

Here, then, we have the most probable explanation of the physical evils which man endures. Their object is to develop and perfect his character; and as this is a good object, and as it cannot be obtained in any other way, they may well have been designed by a good God.

(3.) Moral evil in man.

But we now come to the most difficult part of the subject, the existence of moral evil in man. This, as before said, is the chief cause of human misery, and might it not have been avoided? In other words, could not all sin have been excluded from the world? But assuming man to be a free being, it could not have been avoided, for freedom is always liable to abuse. Therefore, if God decided that man was to be free in some cases to act right or wrong, it necessarily follows that he may act wrong. No Omnipotence could possibly alter this without destroying man's freedom. Hence, though God designed all the moral evil in the world, He need not have desired it, but (as before) may have desired some totally different object, for the attainment of which, this evil was a necessary condition.

Nor, again, is it difficult to suggest what this object may have been. For unless man is a free being, he can be little better than a machine-a correctly-behaved machine, no doubt, and one able to talk and think, but still only a machine. And God may not have wished that man, who is, as far as we know, His highest and noblest work, should be only a machine. Indeed, the superiority of free men who act right, though they might act wrong, to mere machines is obvious to everyone; and it may far outweigh the disadvantage that some of them should act wrong. Therefore, though we have to pay dearly for freedom, it is well worth the price; and the infinite value of goodness, as it is called, may justify, though nothing else could, the risks involved in giving man a free will.

Nor is there anything unlikely in the Creator thus caring about the conduct of His creatures. We certainly should not admire an earthly ruler who regarded traitors to his cause, and his most faithful adherents with the same indifference; or an earthly parent who did not care whether his children obeyed him or not. Why, then, should we think that God, Who has not only given us free will, but also a conscience by which to know what is right (i.e., what is His will), should yet be indifferent as to whether we do it or not? Everything points the other way, that God, Who is a Moral Being, and Who has made us moral beings also, wishes us to freely act right. Therefore He allows us to act wrong, with all the misery it involves, in order to render possible our thus freely choosing to act right.

Or to put the argument in other words, a free being is far higher than a being who is not free, and yet a free being cannot exist without the possibility of his acting wrong. So, however strange the conclusion appears, moral evil, or at least its possibility, is essential to the universe, if it is to be worthy of its Creator, if, that is, it is to contain beings of the highest order-persons and not things. Or, to put it still shorter, if God is good, it is only natural that He should create beings capable of goodness, and therefore of necessity capable of badness, for the two must go together.

And if it be still urged that, as God foreknew how men would use their freedom, He need not have created those who would habitually use it wrongly; in other words, there might be no wicked men in the world, the answer is obvious. Wicked men are as necessary as any other form of evil to test a man's character, and to develop moral perfection. For just as physical evil, pain, suffering, etc., can alone render possible certain physical virtues, such as fortitude and patience; so moral evil, or sin, can alone render possible certain moral virtues.

If, for instance, there were no sin in the world there could be no forbearance with the faults of others, no moral courage in standing alone for an unpopular cause, no forgiveness of injuries, nor (what is perhaps the highest of all virtues) any rendering good for evil. These require not merely the possibility, but the actual existence of sin, and they would all be unattainable if we had nothing but physical evils to contend with, and there were only good men in the world. The case then stands thus. Evil men are essential to an evil world. An evil world is essential to proving a man's character. Proving a man's character is essential to his freely choosing to serve God; and his freely choosing to serve God seems essential to his being such a servant as God would care to have.

One other point should be noticed before we conclude. It is that with regard to the conduct of free beings, foreknowing is not the same as foreordaining. God may have foreknown how a man would use or misuse his freedom, but without foreordaining or compelling him to do either. In the same way, in human affairs it is possible in some cases, and to some extent, to foreknow what a man will do, but without in any way compelling him to do it. This is a most important distinction, and we have no reason for thinking that God foreordained any man to misuse his freedom, though He may have foreknown that he would do so.[7]

[7] Of course if God creates a man, foreknowing how he will act, He may, in a certain sense, be said to foreordain it as well; compare Rom. 8. 29. "Whom He foreknew, He also foreordained."

(D.) Conclusion.

We may now sum up the argument in this chapter. We first showed that God is not only able to take an interest in man's welfare; but that the marks of beneficent design afford abundant evidence that He actually does so. On the other hand, the so-called insignificance of man is more apparent than real, since his position at the end of evolution shows his great importance; while his mind and spirit fully account for this, and prove him to be an altogether unique being, certainly in regard to this earth, and perhaps in regard to the universe.

And as to the existence of evil, it is undeniable that God must have foreknown all the evil in the world when He created it; and in this sense He designed it. But He may also have foreknown that it is only temporary, and that it will lead to a more than compensating permanent good, which could not be obtained in any other way. For the evils in this world need not be ends, but may be only means to ends; and, for all we know, they may be the very best means for obtaining the very best ends. Indeed, as before said, they seem to be not only the best, but the only possible means for developing all that is highest and noblest in man. We conclude, then, that though God designed both the evil and the good in the world, He need not have desired both: and there are indications in nature sufficient to show that the good is what He desired, and the evil is only its inevitable companion.

This conclusion is often expressed by saying that Goodness is an attribute of God; and the word may certainly be admitted. Indeed if God is not good, He has made a being, in this respect, nobler than Himself; since some men, in spite of their faults, are undoubtedly good. But it is important to notice the sense in which the word is used, and in which alone it is true.

By God's goodness, then, or by His taking an interest in man's welfare, is not meant a mere universal beneficence, or wishing to make everyone as happy as possible, without regard to his conduct. The existence of evil seems fatal to such a theory as this. But rather God wishes to promote man's welfare in the truest and best way, not by giving him everything he likes, but by training and developing his character. God is thus not only beneficent, but righteous also. And He therefore wishes man to be not only happy, but righteous also. And He therefore of necessity (as a man cannot be made righteous against his will) gives him free will, with the option of being unrighteous, and consequently unhappy. So this view of God's character, combining beneficence with righteousness, not only accounts for the marks of beneficent design all through nature, but also for the existence of evil, especially moral evil, in man, and seems the only way of reconciling them. In short, beneficence and righteousness are both good, and the Goodness of God includes both.

Now if we admit that goodness is an attribute of God, the analogy from His other attributes would show that He possesses it in its highest perfection. He is thus a Being not only of infinite Power and Wisdom, but also of perfect Goodness-the word 'perfect' being obviously more suitable for a moral quality like goodness, than 'infinite' would be. And it will be noticed that these three great attributes of God correspond to the three chief arguments for His existence. The first, or that from the universe requiring an adequate Cause, proves an All-Powerful Creator; the second, or that from its having been designed, proves that He is All-Wise; and the third, or that from human nature, proves that He is All-Good. They also correspond to some extent to the three aspects under which we considered man's character in the last chapter; so we arrive at the grand conclusion that God is physically All-Powerful, mentally All-Wise, and morally All-Good.

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