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THE PROBLEM OF EVIL “ And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”—Genesis vi. 5.
THAT we may appreciate this discussion, removed as far as possible from theological terminology and theories, and get a concrete view-point, the following head-lines from a single issue of a metropolitan daily will suffice: “ War Clouds Hanging Low;" “ Men Higher Up Involved ; “ Eighty-seven Divorces On Docket; " " Blood Flows In the Streets;" “Gaunt Hunger Among Strikers;” “Arrested For Forgery;” “A White Slave Victim;" “ Attempted Train Robbery ; “ Kills Wife and Ends Own Life;" "Two Men Bite Dust;" “ Investigate Bribery.”
This fearful list may be duplicated almost every day in the year. Our land is deluged with crime, without respect to person or place; its blight touches all circles from the slum to the four hundred. Wealth and poverty, culture and ignorance, fame and obscurity, suffer alike from this Pandora Box scourge. The march of history—the pilgrimage of the race, has enjoyed but little respite from tears and blood. Those who strive to maintain a standard of -purity, righteousness, and honour, are beset by strange, powerful, intangible influences, from the cradle to the grave. The child in swaddling clothes has a predisposition to willfullness, deception, and disobedience; paroxysms of passion and anger are manifested with the slightest provocation.
Notwithstanding the barriers thrown up by the home and society; the incentives and assurances for noble, industrious living, the dykes are continually giving way, so that police power and the frowning walls of penal institutions are insufficient to check the overflow. The Church of God, with its open Book, ringing out messages of life and hope at every corner; the object lessons on the “wages of sin," sweeping in full view before us, like the reel-film of a motion picture-do not seem to lessen the harvest of moral shipwreck.
According to some recent police records and statistics, only about one-half of the country's criminals are apprehended; if this is true of those who violate the law, a much smaller per cent. of those who break the perfect moral law, as related to domestic and religious life, are ever exposed. When these facts are considered, the perspective for the reign of righteousness is lurid and hopeless. The country has been amazed, recently, at the revelations of how municipal and national treasuries are being looted by extortion, extravagance, and misrule, on the part of men holding positions as a sacred trust. Civilization fosters and maintains a traffic which has not one redeeming feature; besides killing directly and indirectly more men daily than were blown up in the battle-ship Maine.
Let us view the problem of evil from another angle: a writer on the subject of food supplies says the earth each year furnishes an abundant quantity of fruits, meats, cereals, and vegetables to feed all her peoples ; yet gaunt famine is never entirely removed. Even in America a surprising per cent. of our people are underfed and underclothed. "Fifty thousand go to
“ bed hungry every night in New York City," declares a professor of economics. The same ratio obtains in other large cities of our land. Scenes of pinching poverty occur within a few blocks of the most wanton luxury and extravagance. One lady spends fifty thousand dollars--enough to satisfy all the hungryon one evening's entertainment. Oranges rot on the Pacific coast by car-loads, when the children of the Ghetto scarcely taste them.
Nature fills her storehouses, and tries to scatter with a prodigal hand, but her resources are cornered and controlled by a criminal system which revolves around the “ almighty dollar"—the root of all evil.
Are we to conclude that man's free agency is responsible for this moral monstrosity ? Or, to be theologically particular, shall we say, free agency dominated by an innate disposition to evil : human depravity, original sin, the carnal mind? Allowing the fullest latitude to the free moral agency of the race; allowing the evil nature, like the foul soil producing a continuous crop of vile weeds, to produce an inexorable bent, or predisposition to sin, operating on man's free agency-have we a full and sufficient explanation of the presence and power of Evil ?
The carnal mind is enmity with God, not subject to His laws; but the carnal mind is in competition with a human nature, wherein are found emotions
and sentiments that are far from being all sinful: sympathy, tenderness, benevolence, paternal and filial love, sex-love, and honesty. Again, we rarely find environment as an unmixed evil. Notwithstanding these hindrances the press almost daily has details and delineations of crimes so fearful and shocking that no trace of the human appears. Frequently we hear of a man, who has committed some dreadful outrage, personified as “ beast," "fiend," " inhuman," etc. A young man in his teens, wishing to marry, but being under age and without sufficient means, decided that if he could dispose of his father, mother, brother, and sister—the farm and property would all be his, then, unmolested, could consummate his matrimonial plans. Whereupon, armed with an axe, at the midnight hour, he executes his " fiendish " plot.
. Another man, with a young and beautiful wife, and the father of two bright children, becomes infatuated with a young woman in a distant state ; he woos and wins her affections; he returns home to arrange “some business matters
on the day preceding the wedding. This business matter was to dispose of his wife and children, which he did; on the following night, led to the marriage altar an innocent, unsuspecting girl. A young minister commits double murder, and on the following day enters his pulpit and preaches from the text: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord."
These cases are actual occurrences, mentioned for emphasis only, that the problem of evil may be studied from life. These examples prove conclusively that the problem goes deeper than human depravity or free agency; both are accessories—conditions, binding cords, as it were, but the jarring stroke comes from a mightier hand.
The unregenerated heart has been called a “playground,” and a “coaling station " for the headmaster of all villainies. It was more than wounded pride and vanity that propagated the scheme of Haman, whereby a whole nation was to be destroyed at a single stroke. Vengeance and hate are terrible passions, but only as they are fanned by the breath of an inhabitant of the Inferno can they go to such extremes. It was more than a desire to crush out heresy that could instigate a “St. Bartholomew's Day," then sing the Te Deum after the bloody deed was accomplished.
We shall endeavour in the subsequent pages to throw a few rays of light, in obscure corners, on the problem of evil through its multiform phases and ramifications.