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“Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all have sinned.”—Paul.
“This is a wonder to which the worshippers of reason have not yet given a name—the story of the fall of the first man. Is it allegory? history? fable? And yet there it stands, following the account of the creation, one of the pillars of Hercules, beyond which there is nothing—the point from which all succeeding history starts. . . . And yet, ye dear, most ancient, and undying traditions. of my race—ye are the very kernel and germ of its most hidden history. Without you, mankind would be what so many other things are—a hook without a title, without the first cover and introduction.” Herder.
“The existence of two selves in a man, a better self which takes pleasure in the good, and a worse self which makes for the bad, is a fact too plain to he denied.”—F. H. Bradley.
“When we speak of primitive man, we do not mean man while he was emerging from brutality to humanity, ‘while he was losing his fur and gaining his intellect.’ We leave that to the few biologists who, undeterred by the absence of facts, still profess a belief in descent of man from some known or unknown animal species.”—Max Muller.
“Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the type she seems,
So careless of the single life; . . .
‘so careful of the type?’ but no.
From scarped cliff and quarried stone
She cries, ‘A thousand types are gone,
I care for nothing, all shall go.’”
THE POSTULATE OF THE CHRISTIAN VIEW IN REGARD TO THE SIN AND DISORDER OF THE WORLD.
Christianity is the religion of Redemption. As such, it has for its third postulate the sin and disorder of the world. The existence of natural and moral evil is one of the darkest, deepest, and most difficult problems that can occupy human thought. It is one which has exercised the hearts of men in all ages, one which is often raised in Scripture, and which should warn us off from light and superficial views of the Divine character and purposes. Its presence is the great difficulty in the way of a belief on natural grounds in the perfect justice and goodness of God, the obstacle we immediately encounter when we try to persuade ourselves that the universe is created and ordered by a supremely good Being. So grave is this difficulty, even in respect to natural evil, that Mr. J. S. Mill declares “the problem of reconciling infinite benevolence and justice in the Creator of such a world as this” to be “impossible”; and adds, “The attempt to do so not only involves absolute contradiction in an intellectual point of view, but exhibits in excess the revolting spectacle of a jesuitical defence of moral enormities.”323323Three Essays on Religion, pp. 186, 187. Cf. pp. 24–41, 112, etc. See Note A.—Defects in Creation: an Argument against Theism. From the natural point of view, the assurance of God’s perfect goodness must always be, to some extent, an act of faith, based on the postulate of our own moral consciousness; and even this will often find it difficult to sustain itself, since Christianity alone imparts the moral consciousness in sufficient strength to uphold the faith required.
It is important to observe that, though this problem meets us in connection with the Christian view of the world, it is not 166Christianity that makes this problem. Natural and moral evil is there as a fact in the universe, and would be there though Christianity had never been heard of. Christianity intensifies the problem by the stronger light it casts on the character of God, and the higher view it gives of man, but it does not create the problem. What it professes to do is to help us to Solve it. But the problem is there all the while, and has to be taken account of by every system, whether Christian or not. It is a difficulty of philosophy, not less than of theology.
While, however, in naturalistic systems moral evil is apt to fall behind natural evil, in Christianity it is the other way —the moral evil is throughout placed in the forefront, and natural evil is looked at mainly in the light of it. This is as it should be; for while, as we shall see, natural evil presents an independent problem, there can be no doubt that its existence is deeply implicated with the existence of moral evil.324324This is a point which Mr. Mill overlooks. If we subtract from the sum of suffering in the world all that is directly or indirectly caused by sin—by the play and action of forces that are morally evil—we shall reduce the problem to very manageable dimensions indeed. It is the existence moral evil which is the tremendous difficulty from a theistic point of view. I might go further, and say that it is only for a theistic system that the problem of moral evil properly exists.325325Cf. Ott’s Le Probleme du Mal, pp. 1–5, 98, 99. Materialism and Pantheism may acknowledge natural evil—misfortune, pain, sorrow, misery—but it is only by an inconsistency they can speak of sin. Both are systems of determinism, and leave no place for moral action. There is, besides, in either system, no question of a theodicy, for there is to them no God. Things are as they are by a necessity of nature, which we can neither account for nor get behind. If we could, indeed, really get rid of the problem of sin by adopting either of these systems, there would be some reason for accepting them. But unfortunately the problem of moral evil is one which refuses to be thus summarily got rid of. Sin is there; the feeling of responsibility and of guilt is there; and neither the heart nor the reason of humanity will allow us to treat them as nonentities. Nor does the denial of God’s existence really 167mitigate the difficulty. Dark as the problem of evil is, it would be immeasurably darker if we were compelled to believe that there is no infinite righteousness and love behind, through which a solution of the problem may ultimately be hoped for. I proceed to consider more narrowly what the Christian view of sin is, and how it stands related to modern theories and speculations.
I. The problem of moral evil: conflict of Christian and modern views.
I. It is in their respective relations to the sin and disorder of the world, perhaps more than at any other point, that the Christian and “modern” views of the world come to a direct issue. On the one hand, there are certain respects in which the Christian view finds unexpected support from the modern view of the world; on the other, there are certain respects in which it is fundamentally at variance with it. Let us briefly consider both.
There are three respects, in particular, in which the modern view of the world comes to the support of the Christian view of sin.
1. The modern view of things is marked by a stronger sense than in former times of the reality and universal presence of evil—both of natural evil and of moral evil, though moral evil, as was to be expected, is regarded more from its side of error, misery, and bondage, than from its side of guilt. The modern view has disposed of the superficial optimism of earlier times. The days of a flimsy optimism, when men demonstrated to their own satisfaction that this was the best of all possible worlds, and made light of the facts which contradicted their pleasing hypothesis, are over, and everywhere there is an oppressive sense of the weight of the evils which burden humanity, and of the unsatisfactoriness of natural existence generally. The strain of modern thought is pessimistic rather than optimistic. Its high-water mark is not optimism, but what George Eliot prefers to call “meliorism.”326326Cf. Sully’s Pessimism, p. 399. He adopts the term. Herbert Spencer, indeed, still looks for an “evanescence of evil,” as the result of the working of natural and necessary laws of evolution,327327Social Statics, p. 79. but I do not find that this represents the general temper of the age. Schopenhauer and Hartmann have at least this merit, that they raise 168the question of the good or evil of existence in a form which makes it impossible ever again to ignore it, or bury it out of sight. Pessimism, as Professor Flint has said, “like Macbeth, has murdered sleep.”328328Anti-Theistic Theories, p. 294. All this is a gain to the Christian view. Hartmann even goes so far as to find the merit of Christianity in the fact that it is a system of Pessimism.329329Selbstzersetzung des Christenthusms, p. 51. Its characteristic mark, he thinks, is “the pessimistic conviction of the unworthiness of this world to exist.” Schopenhauer’s language is similar. “Let no one think,” he says, “that Christianity is favourable to optimism; for in the Gospels world and evil are used as almost synonymous.” “The inmost kernel of Christianity is identical with that of Brahmanism and Buddhism.”—Die Welt als Wille, etc., i. p. 420; iii. p. 420 (Eng. trans.). Both systems take for granted the facts of existence, and both look them boldly in the face. But there is this difference—Christianity looks on the world in a spirit of hope; Pessimism looks on it in a spirit of despair.
2. It is an extension of the same remark to say that the modern view of the world has disposed effectually of the shallow Rousseau view of the inherent goodness of human nature, and of the eighteenth-century illumination dreams of a perfectibility of man based on education, and on altered social and political conditions.330330Schopenhauer says: “Indeed, the fundamental characteristic and the πρῶτον ψεῦδος of Rousseau’s whole philosophy is this, that in the place of the Christian doctrine of original sin, and the original depravity of the human race, he puts an original goodness and unlimited perfectibility of it, which has only been led astray by civilisation and its consequences, and then founds upon this his optimism and humanism.”—Die Welt als Wille, etc., iii. p. 398. The optimistic and Pelagian views of human nature are as completely discredited as the optimistic view of the world generally. Kant struck this deeper keynote when, in opposition to the preceding Rationalism, he acknowledged the presence of a “radical evil” in human nature, which he could only account for by an act of the will above time.331331Die Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der blossen Vernunft, Book i.—“On the Indwelling of the Evil Principle along with the Good, or on the Radical Evil in Human Nature.” Cf. Caird’s Philosophy of Kant, ii. pp. 566–568. The modern evolutionary philosophy goes even beyond Christianity in its affirmation of the dominance of the brute element in man’s being—of the ascendency of the egoistic over the social impulses in the natural man;332332 Mr. Flairs says:—“Thus we see what human progress means. It means throwing off the brute-inheritance—gradually throwing it off through ages of struggle that are by and by to make struggle needless. . . . The ape and the tiger in human nature will become extinct. Theology has had much to say about original sin. This original sin is neither more nor less than the brute-inheritance which every man carries with him, and the process of evolution is an advance towards true salvation.”—Man’s Destiny, p. 103. “Arise and fly The reeling Faun, the seminal feast; Move upward, working out the beast, And let the ape and tiger die.” TENNYSON, In Memoriam. while the moralisation of 169humanity which it anticipates, in the sense of a gradual subordination of the former to the latter, is admitted to be yet very imperfect. From the side of modern thought, therefore, there is no hesitation in admitting, what Christianity also affirms, that the animal in man has an undue preponderance over the intellectual and spiritual; that the will, even in the best of men, is hampered and fettered by impulses of the lower nature to a degree which often evokes the liveliest expressions of shame and self-reproach; that society is largely ruled by egoistic passions and aims. The law in the members warring against the law in the mind333333Rom. vii. 23.—in a sense, a natural depravity and “original sin “—has its recognition in modern science and philosophy.
3. In the modern view of the world we have the fullest recognition of the organic principle in human life, and of the corollary of this in heredity. This, which is the correction of the individualistic view of human nature which prevailed in last century, I take to be one of the greatest gains of modern thought for the right understanding of the Christian doctrines both of sin and of Redemption. The Christian view is one which gives its rightful place alike to the individual, and to the organic connection of the individual with the race; and it is the latter side of the truth which modern thought has done so much to further. Rather, perhaps, I should say that both sides are being brought into strong prominence; for if there never was so much stress laid on the connection of the individual with society, neither was there ever so much said about individual rights. The former idea, at all events, is now thoroughly incorporated into modern habits of under the name of the “solidarity” of the race.334334This word, I believe, has come from Comte. There is an individual life, and there is a social life in which we all share. The race is an organism, and the individual, if we may so speak, is a cell in the tissue of that organism, indissolubly 170connected for good or evil with the other cells in the unity of a common life.335335Cf. Stephen’s Science of Ethics, chap. iii. sec. 4, “Social Tissue.” From this follows the conception of heredity, which plays so important a part in modern theories. Man is not simply bound up with his fellows through the external usages and institutions of society. “He has been produced by, and has become a part of them, . . . he is organically related to all the members of the race, not only bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh, but mind of their mind.”336336Sorley’s Ethics of Naturalism, pp. 123, 135. He is a bundle of inherited. tendencies, and will in turn transmit his nature with its new marks of good an evil, to those who come after him.337337Perhaps the moat forcible illustrations of heredity are to be found in Maudsley’s works.” Most certain is it,” he says, “that men are not bred well or ill by accident, little as they reck of it in practice, any more than are the animals, the select breeding of which they make such a careful study; that there are laws of hereditary action, working definitely in direct transmission of qualities, or indirectly through combinations and repulsions, neutralisations and modifications of qualities; and that it is by virtue of these laws determining the moral and physical constitution of every individual that a good result ensues in one case, a had result in another.”—Body and Will, p. 248. It is easy to see that this conception of heredity, and of the organic unity of the race, is but the scientific expression of a doctrine which is fundamental to the Scriptures, and which underlies all its tea in about sin and salvation.
In respect of the points just named, therefore, it may be affirmed that the modem view of the world is largely in agreement with Christianity. We may not agree with Schopenhauer and Hartmann that Christianity is a system of Pessimism; but we may admit that Pessimism, in so far as it recognises that the world is in an evil state, is far truer to facts and to Christianity than the superficial Optimism, the shallow perfectionism, and the Pelagian denial of original and inherited sin, which it helped to displace. In the respect last named, indeed, modern thought is nearer to Christianity than some Christian systems themselves. Ritschl, for example, teaches that sin consists only in acts, and not in states and dispositions of the heart; that there is no such thing as original or inherited sin; that sin is not transmissible by nature, but only through education, influence, the reciprocal action of individuals in society, etc.338338Recht. und Ver. iii. pp. 317–332 (3rd ed.).”As a personal propensity in the life of each individual,” he says, “it originates, so far as our observation reaches, out of the sinful desire and action which as such finds its adequate ground in the self-determination of the individual will”—P. 331. But in maintaining this, he comes into conflict, 171not merely with texts of Scripture, but with the whole modern conception of the organic union of the race. Universal sin—sin which does not consist merely in acts but seated causes in the heart the effects of which both bodily and mental, are hereditarily transmitted—these I take to he conceptions which neither Ritschl nor any other will now be able to overthrow.339339Mr. J. J. Murphy says of Original Sin: “It is not a revealed doctrine, but an observed fact; a fact of all human experience, and witnessed to as strongly by classical as by Biblical writers, as strongly by heathens and atheists as by Christians.”—Scientific Basis of Faith, p. 262. Pfleiderer speaks of “the undeniable fact of experience, that, from the very dawn of moral life, we find evil present in us as a power, the origin of which accordingly must be beyond the conscious exercise of our freedom,” as “a fact on which indeterminism, Pelagian or rationalistic, must ever suffer shipwreck.”—Religionsphilosophie, iv. p. 28 (Eng. trans.).
When all this is said, however, it must still be granted that the most fundamental difference exists between the two views—the Christian and the modern. The difference is partly one as to the nature of sin, and it runs up into a difference as to its origin. The Christian view of sin is not only infinitely deeper and more earnest than in any current conception apart from Christianity; but it is, as I formerly remarked, profoundly modified by the difference in the views of God and of man. The first thing we have to do here is to secure clearly the Christian idea of sin: then when we have done this, and asked whether it is verified in conscience and experience we are prepared to judge of theories of origin.
I lay it down as a first principle that, in the Christian view, sin is that which absolutely ought not to be.340340Hegel also uses this formula, but ambiguously. “What ought not to be,” means with Hegel, “what ought to be done away.”Cf. Julius Muller, Christian Doctrine of Sin, i. p. 322 (Eng. trans.). See on Hegel’s views later. How that which absolutely ought not to be is yet permitted to exist under the government of a wise and holy God, is a problem we may not be able to solve; but the first thing to do is to hold firmly to the conception of sin itself. Sin, as such, is that which unconditionally ought not to be, which contradicts or infringes upon an unconditional law of right, and therefore can only be understood in the light of that which ought to be—of the moral good.341341“For how can anything be called evil, unless it deviate from an obligatory good, and be therefore a violation of what ought to be (seinsollendes)—of the holy law.”—Dorner, System of Doctrine, ii. p. 308 (Eng. trans.). 172The Christian view of sin, accordingly, has for its presupposition the doctrine of God as ethical Personality, previously explained. It is God’s perfect nature and holy will which form the norm of character and duty for man. The law of holiness requires, not only that the human will subsist in perfect harmony with the Divine, being surrendered to it in love, trust, and obedience, but, as involved in this, that there should be a right state of the affections, a pure and harmonious inner life. The external sphere for obedience is prescribed by our position in the world, and by our relation to it, to our neighbours, and to God.
As the negation of this, sin, in the Biblical view, consists in the revolt of the creature will from its rightful allegiance to the sovereign will of God, and the setting up of a false independence, the substitution of a life-for-self for life-for-God.342342Exemplified in the Parable of the Prodigal (Luke xv. 11ff.). How such an act should ever originate may again be a problem we cannot solve; but it is evidently included in the possibilities of human freedom. The possibility of sin arises from the fact that the creature has necessarily a relative independence and that in man, particularly, together with the impulse towards God, there exists an impulse towards the world, which the will may be tempted to make an object on its own account.343343Cf. Martensen’s Christian Ethics, i. secs. 26–28 (Eng. trans. pp. 94–102). The false choice made. the spiritual bond between God and the soul is cut or at least infinitely weakened: the soul enters into subjection to the world to which it has surrendered itself, and an abnormal development begins, in which the baneful and God-negating character of the egoistic principle taken into the will gradually reveals itself.344344On the development and forms of sin, see Muller, Christian Doctrine of Sin, i. pp. 147–182; Dorner, System of Doctrine, ii. pp. 393–397; Martensen, Christian Ethics, i. pp. 102–108, etc. (Eng. trans.)
While thus spiritual in its origin, as arising from the free act of a will up to that time pure, sin is anything but spiritual in its effects. Its immediate result is the subversion of the true relation of the natural and the spiritual in man’s constitution, making that supreme which ought to be subordinate, and that subordinate which ought to be supreme. The relation of the spiritual and psychical in human nature is inverted. The spiritual is reduced to subjection, can at best make only feeble 173 and ineffectual protests; the natural or psychical is elevated to authority and rule. Further, the spiritual bond being broken which kept the nature in harmony—reason, conscience, the God-ward affections ruling, while the lower passions and desires observed the bounds which higher law prescribed for them—not only is the psychical nature exalted to undue ascendency, but its own actings are now turbulent and irregular. It refuses to obey law; its desires clamour importunately each for its own special gratification; discord and division take the place of the normal unity. There is introduced into the soul a state of ἀνομία—lawlessness.3453451 John iii. 4. Reason and conscience are still there as indestructible elements of human nature, nor can the sense of its dependence on God, or obligation to Him, ever be entirely lost. Hence arise, even in the natural man, conflict, struggle, self-condemnation, painful and ineffectual attempts to break the dominion of sin, never truly successful.346346Rom. vii. 13-25. For this reason, that carnality preponderates in the nature of man as a whole, and that the most spiritual acts of the natural man betray the signs of its controlling influence, the whole man is spoken of as “in the flesh,” though elsewhere Paul distinguishes the flesh from that better self—the νοῦς, or inner man—which protests against its rule.347347Rom. vii. 22, 23. On the various views of the Pauline use of the term σάρξ with criticism of these, see Dr. Dickson’s St. Paul’s Use of the Terms Flesh and Spirit (Baird Lectures, 1883).Cf. Dorner, System of Doctrine, ii. p. 319 (Eng. trans.). All this finds its verification in conscience and experience, if not in its totality in every man’s consciousness, yet in the general consciousness of the race. What a man’s judgment of himself will be depends upon his standpoint, but in proportion to the depth of his self-knowledge he will confess that his heart is not naturally possessed by love to God, and by spiritual affections; that his inner life is not perfectly pure and harmonious; that there are principles in his heart at war with what duty and the law of God require; that he often transgresses the commandment which he recognises as “holy, and just, and good,”348348Rom. vii. 12. in thought and word and deed; and that, in all this, he lies under his own self-condemnation. He is conscious that the sin of his heart is such that he would not willingly lay bare its secrets to his closest intimate, and he 174would probably confess also that this state in which he finds himself did not spring wholly, or de novo, from his individual will, but that it developed from a nature in which the principle of disorder was already implanted.
Gathering these observations to an issue, I conclude that the cardinal point in the Christian view of sin is, that it is not something natural, normal, and necessary, but, both as actual and as hereditary, something which must find its explanation in a free act of the creature, annulling the original relation of the creature to God. The Christian view, in other words, cannot be maintained on the hypothesis that man’s existing state is his original one,—still less on the assumption that, in a moral respect, it is an advance and improvement on his original one, but only on the supposition that man has wilfully defaced the Divine image in which he was originally made and has voluntarily turned aside to evil. Apart from express statements on the subject, the underlying presupposition of the Christian view is that sin has a volitional cause, which, as the sin itself is universal, must be carried back to the beginning of the race—that, in other words, the development of the race has not been a natural and normal, but an abnormal and perverted one. And here it is, I admit, that the modern view of the world, with its doctrine of man’s original brutishness, and his ascent by his own efforts to civilisation and moral life, comes into the most direct and absolute contradiction with it. Many attempts—some of them well meant—have been made to gloze over, or get rid of, this contradiction; but these would-be solutions all break on the fact that they make sin, or what passes for sin, a natural necessity; whereas, on the Biblical view, it is clearly not man’s misfortune only, but his fault—a deep and terrible evil for which he is responsible.
We shall best appreciate the force of this contradiction by looking at some of the theories to which the Christian view is opposed.
1. First, we have a class of theories which seek the ground of evil in creation, or in the original constitution of the world; but these I do not dwell upon. Such is the theory of Buddhism, and of all the pessimistic systems. “The existence of the world,” Schopenhauer holds, “is itself the greatest evil of all, and underlies all other evil, and similarly the root evil of each 175individual is his having come into the world”;349349Pfleiderer, Religionsphilosophie, ii. p. 233 (Eng. trans.) Cf. Welt als Wille, etc., i. pp. 452–461; iii. pp. 420–454. and Hartmann speaks of the “inexpiable crime” of creation.350350That is, on the supposition that the Creator knew what He was about. Such, again, is the hypothesis of two original principles in creation, e.g., the Persian dualism, of which we see some faint attempts at a revival in modern times.351351See Note B.—Dualistic Theories of the Origin of Evil. Such were the Platonic and Gnostic theories, that evil had its origin in matter. This doctrine also has its modern revivals. Even Rothe has adopted the view which seeks the origin of evil in matter, though why matter should be supposed inimical to goodness it is not easy to see. With him, it is the non-divine, the contradictory counterpart to God, opposed in its essence to the Divine, a conception not Biblical, and one which cannot be maintained.352352See his theory in Theologische Ethik, 2nd ed., i. secs. 40, 104–130. Cf. his Still Hours (Eng. trans.), pp. 185, 186. He says: “The development of man passes through stages of sin. . . . If sin is a necessary point in human development, it is not on that account merely negative. . . . Evil in the course of development, or sin, is not in itself a condition of the development of the good; but it belongs to the idea of creation, as a creation out of nothing, that the created personality cannot detach itself from material nature otherwise than by being clothed upon with matter, and being in this way altered, rendered impure or sinful. This is the necessary commencement of the creation of man, but only its mere commencement, which comes to a close in the Second Adam. . . . The necessity of a transition through sin is not directly an ethical, but rather a physical necessity.”The theory is criticised by Muller, i. pp. 146, 147 (Eng. trans.); and Dorner, System of Doctrine, ii. pp. 375–380 (Eng. trans.).
2. We come, second, to a class of theories which seek the explanation of evil in the nature of man. It is the characteristic of all these theories that they regard sin as necessarily resulting from the constitution of human nature, in contrast with the Biblical view that it entered the world voluntarily. Of this class of theories, again, we have several kinds.
(1) We have the metaphysical theories of sin—that, e.g., of Hegel. Sin is here regarded as a necessary stage in the development of spirit. Hegel is fond of explicating the story of Eden in the interests of his philosophy, and this is how he does it. “Knowledge, as the disannulling of the unity of nature,” he says, “is the ‘Fall,’ which is no casual conception, but the eternal history of spirit. For the state of innocence, the paradisaical condition, is that of the brute. Paradise is a park, where only brutes, not men, can remain. . . . The fall is, 176therefore, the eternal mythus of man, in fact the very transition by which he becomes man.”353353Philosophy of History (Eng. trans.), p. 333.Cf. Religionsphilosophie, ii. pp. 264–266. Sin, in brief, is the first step of man out of his naturalness, and the only way in which he could take that step. It is the negation of the immediate unity of man with nature, and of the innocence of that pristine state, but only that the negation may be in turn negated, and the true destination of spirit realised.354354See Note C.—Hegel’s Doctrine of Sin.
(2) We have the ethical and would-be Christian forms of these theories, in which the subject is looked at from the religious point of view. Such, e.g., is the theory of Schleiermacher, who derives sin from a relative weakness of the spirit as compared with sense.355355Der christ. Glaube, secs. 66–69.Cf. Muller, i. pp. 341–359, on “Schleiermacher’s View of the Essence and Origin of Sin”; and Dorner, System of Doctrine, iii. pp. 34–38 (Eng. trans.). Such, again, is the theory of Lipsius, who explains it from the fact that man is at first a naturally conditioned and self-seeking being, while his moral will is only gradually developed.356356Dogmatik, pp 374, 375. Such is the theory of Ritschl, who connects it with man’s ignorance. With him also man starts as a purely natural being, the subject of self-seeking desires, while his will for good is a “growing” quantity.357357Cf. his Unterricht, 3rd ed. p. 26. This, according to him, creates only “a possibility and probability” of sin; but it is a possibility which, as shown below, in the early stages of man’s history, cannot fail to be realised. Sin, therefore, is an inevitable stage in his development.
(3) We have the evolutionary theories, in which man begins only a shade removed from the brutes, and his subsequent moralisation is the result of slow development. This theory may be held in a more naturalistic or in a more philosophical form. In the former, the genesis of our moral ideas, from which the sense of sin arises, is sought in causes outside of the moral altogether—in the possession by man of social as well as egoistic impulses, in the perception of the advantage that would accrue from the subordination of the latter to the former, in the gradual accumulation of the results of experience in the organism through heredity, in the strengthening of the bonds of society through custom, law, etc.358358Cf. for different forms of the evolution theory, Darwin’s Descent of Man, Stephen’s Science of Ethics, Spencer’s Data of Ethics; and see criticism in Sorley’s Ethics of Naturalism, chaps. v. to viii. What this theory fails 177to show is how this idea of the advantageous becomes converted into the perfectly distinct conception of the morally obligatory. A clearly perceived duty lays an obligation on the will quite distinct from a perceived advantage; and even supposing the discovery made that a larger good would accrue through every individual devoting himself to the common weal, a distinct notion is involved when it is perceived that duty requires us to adopt this for our end.359359Mr. Stephen substitutes the “health” for the “happiness” of society as the moral end (p. 366).But the health is in order to the happiness, and it is presumed that the two tend to coincide (pp. 82, 83). “Morality is a statement of the conditions of social welfare,” “the sum of the preservative instincts of society,” “virtue is a condition of social welfare,” etc. (p. 217). Strong in his criticism of the ordinary utilitarianism, Mr. Stephen is weak in his attempt to provide a substitute, or show how the moral can possibly arise out of the non-moral.See Mr. Sorley’s criticism, Ethics of Naturalism, chap. viii. The higher form of the evolutionary theory, accordingly, makes a more promising beginning, in that it grants to man from the first his rational nature, and recognises that his ideas of moral truth and obligation spring directly from a rational source. It is held, however, as in the theories already considered, that at first it is the instinctive impulses, in which the self-regarding desires are necessarily preponderant, which hold the field, and that man comes to the knowledge of his true nature only gradually. Man, indeed, only begins to be a moral being when, through the awakening of his moral consciousness, he makes the discovery that he is not what, in the true idea of his personality, he ought to be—when he forms an ideal. It is this impulse to realise his true nature, to attain to moral freedom, and bring the self-seeking impulses into harmony with moral law, which, on this theory, constitutes the mainspring of all development and progress.360360Cf. with this general sketch Bradley’s Ethical Studies (see pp. 261–265 on “The Origin of the Bad Self”: and Green’s Prolegomena to Ethics, Book iii., on “the Moral Ideal and Moral Progress.” Green finds the moral end in rational ‘’self-satisfaction,”—a conception into which it is difficult to avoid importing a subtle kind of hedonism; Bradley less objectionably finds it in “self-realisation”
Taking this class of theories together, I contend that it is impossible to derive out of them conceptions of sin and guilt adequate to the Christian view. In the first place, it is evident that, in all these theories, sin is made something necessary—not simply something that might be, or could be, but an absolute necessity. In every one of them, the original condition of man is supposed to be such that sin could not but 178result from it. This, it seems to me, is practically to empty the idea of sin of its real significance, and to throw the responsibility of it directly back on the Creator. It is probably a feeling of this kind which leads many who favour the view we are considering to disclaim the word “necessity.” Hegel, even, tells us that sin is not necessary; that man can- will evil, but is not under compulsion to will it. But this is a mere evasion, arising from an- ambiguous use of terms. In a multitude of other places Hegel tells us that sin arises from the highest logical and speculative necessity.361361Cf. the references to Phil. des Rechts, sec. 139, in Muller, p. 392, and see Note C. Schleiermacher, in like manner, disclaims the view that sin is a necessary law of human development.362362Der christ. Glaube, sec. 68, 3. He could not do otherwise, and hold, as he does the sinlessness of Christ. But he holds at the same time that the development through sin—or what we subjectively regard as sin—is the form of growth ordained for us by God, with a view to the ultimate Redemption, or perfecting, of the race in Christ.363363Der christ. Glaube, secs. 80, 81. Lipsius will have it that sin is at once necessary and free and avoidable.364364Dogmatik, pp. 376, 377, secs. 475–477. Ritschl holds, in the same way, that a necessity of sinning can be derived neither from the outfit of human nature, nor from the ends of moral life, nor from a design of God.365365Unterricht, p. 26; and Recht. und Ver. iii. p. 358. Yet he grants, and starting off with man as he does as a merely natural being, he could not do otherwise, that sin is an apparently unavoidable product of the human will under the given conditions of its development.366366Recht. und Ver. iii. 3rd ed. p. 360. All these theories in fact, therefore, however they may evade the use of the name, do make sin a necessity. In the evolutionary theories this is very obvious. There is here no pretence that a sinless development is possible. How is it conceivable that a being beginning at the stage of lowest savagery should avoid sin; and what responsibility can be supposed to attach to the acts of such a being, in whom brute passions and desires have full ascendency, while reason and conscience are yet a glimmer—a bare potentiality?
One immediate effect of these theories, accordingly, is to weaken, if not entirely to destroy, the idea of guilt. How can 179 man be held responsible for acts which the constitution of his nature and his environment—without the intervention of moral causes of any kind, such as is involved in the idea of a “Fall”—make inevitable? In all these theories I have named, accordingly, it will be found that there is a great weakening down of the idea of guilt. That man attributes his acts to him- self, and feels guilty on account of them, is, of course, admitted; but instead of guilt being regarded as something objectively real, which God as well as man is bound to take account of, it comes to be viewed as something clinging only to the subjective consciousness,—a subjective judgment which the sinner passes on himself, to which nothing actual corresponds. Redemption thus becomes, in theories that admit Redemption, not the removal of guilt, but of the consciousness of guilt; and this, not by any real Divine pardon, but by the sinner being brought to see that his guilty fears misrepresented the actual state of God’s mind towards him. Thus it is in the theories of Schleiermacher, of Lipsius, and of Ritschl—in that of Ritschl most conspicuously. According to Schleiermacher, this subjective consciousness of guilt is a Divinely ordained thing to serve as a spur to make men seek Redemption, i.e. to be taken up into the perfect life of Christ.367367Der christ. Glaube, secs. 80, 81.Cf. Muller, pp. 355, 356.The views of Lipsius may be seen in his Dogmatik, secs. 768–771. “Justification,” he says, “in respect of human sin, is the removal of the consciousness of guilt as a power separating from God, . . . the certainty awakened in him by the Spirit of God present in man of his fellowship in life and love with God, as something graciously restored in him by God Himself.”—P. 690. Ritschl regards all sins as arising so much from ignorance as to be without real guilt in the eyes of God. God does not impute guilt on account of the ignorance in which we now live. The reason, therefore, why sins are pardonable is, that though the sinner imputes them to himself as offences, they are not properly sins at all, but acts done in ignorance. The guilt attaching to these acts is but a feeling in the sinner’s own consciousness, separating him from God, which the revelation of God’s Fatherly love in the Gospel enables him to overcome.368368Recht. und Ver. iii. pp. 46, 52, 56, 83; 306, 307; 356–363, etc.See Note D.—Ritschl’s Doctrine of Guilt. But I ask, Does this harmonise with the moral experience of the race—not to say with the statements of the Bible? Is it not the universal feeling of mankind that guilt is a terrible and stern reality, carrying with it objective 180and lasting effects, that it is as real as the “ought” is real, and that conscience, in passing judgment on our state, is but reflecting the judgment of God, to whom, ultimately, we are accountable? This weakening down and subjectivising of the idea of guilt is to me a strong condemnation of any theory from which it springs.
These theories contradict the Christian view of sin, not simply in respect of its nature and of the degree of guilt attaching to it, but in the accounts they give of its origin. They regard that as a normal state for man in the beginning of his history, which the Christian view can only regard as an abnormal one. This is, indeed, the primary difference on which all the others depend. With minor differences, these theories all agree in regarding man’s original condition as one but little removed from the brute; the animal impulses are powerful and ungoverned. Is this a state which, from the Christian point of view, can ever be regarded as normal? It may be a normal state for the animal—can it be a normal state for a moral personality? In such a being, even from the first, the moral law asks for a subordination of the animal impulses to reason and conscience, for unity, and not for disorganisation and lawlessness. It asks for this, not as something to be attained through ages of development, but as something which ought to exist now, and counts the being in a wrong moral state who does not possess it. What, according to these theories themselves, is the judgment which the individual, when moral consciousness awakes, passes on himself? Is it not that he is in a wrong moral state, a state in which he condemns himself, and feels shame at the thought of being in it? Else whence this sense of moral dissatisfaction, which it is acknowledged that he feels, and feels the more keenly in proportion as his moral perceptions become more acute? It is not simply that he has an ideal which he has not reached: this is an experience to be found in every stage of development, even when the conscience implies no blame. But the contrast is between the idea of the “is” and of the “ought to be,” even in his present state, and this awakens the feeling of blame.369369Dorner truly says: “Evil does not consist in man’s not yet being initially what he will one day become; for then evil must be called normal, and can only be esteemed exceptionable by an error. Evil is something different from mere development. . . . Evil is the discord of man with his idea, as, and so far as, that idea should be realised at the given moment. . . . Sin is not being imperfect at all, hut the contravention of what ought to be at a given moment, and of what can lay claim to unconditioned worth”—System of Doctrine, iii. pp. 36, 37. On what ground, 181further, must it be held that man must have commenced his career from this low and non-moral, if not positively immoral point? Is it a necessary part of a law of development, that a man can only reach that which he ought to be by passing through that which he ought not to be? Then evil has a relative justification, and the judgment which the immediate consciousness passes on it must be retracted or modified from a higher point of view.370370Dorner says: “If evil is supposed to consist only in development, which God has willed in His character as Creator, then its absolute wrongfulness must come to an end The non-realisation of the idea cannot be blameworthy in itself, if the innate law of life itself prescribes progressiveness of development.”—System of Doctrine, p. 264. We have only to compare the Christian estimate of sin with that to which this theory heads us, to see how profound is the difference between them. On this theory of development, when a man has reached the higher moral standpoint, he judges of his former state more leniently than he did at first; he ceases to pass condemnatory judgments on himself on account of it. In the Christian view, on the other hand, the higher the stage which a Christian man has reached, the evil and guilt of his former state will appear in a deeper dye; the more emphatically will he condemn it as one of lostness and shame. Which estimate is the more just? I do not think there is any difficulty, at least, in seeing which is most in accord with the idea of the moral.
I cannot, therefore, think that the picture sometimes given us of man’s primeval state—that of a miserable, half-starved, naked wretch, just emerged from the bestial condition, torn with fierce passions, and fighting his way among his compeers with low-browed cunning—is one in harmony with the Christian view. And the adversaries of the Christian faith not only admit the discrepancy between their view and ours, but glory in it. Christianity, they say, requires you to accept one view of man’s origin, and science gives quite another. As it is sometimes put, the doctrine of Redemption rests on the doctrine of the Fall; and the doctrine of the Fall rests on the third chapter of Genesis. But science has exploded the third chapter of Genesis, so the whole structure falls to the ground. I 182acknowledge the issue, but it is not rightly put to say that the doctrine of the Fall rests on the third chapter of Genesis. The Christian doctrine of Redemption certainly does not rest on the narrative in Gen. iii., but it rests on the reality of the sin and guilt of the world, which would remain acts though the third chapter of Genesis never had been written. It would be truer to say that I believe in the third chapter of Genesis, or in the essential truth which it contains, because I believe in sin and Redemption, than to say that I believe in sin and Redemption because of the story of the Fall.371371Cf. the suggestive remarks in Auberlen’s The Divine Revelation, pp. 175–185 (Eng. trans.). Put the third chapter of Genesis out of view, and you have the facts of the sin and disorder of the world to be accounted for, and dealt with, all the same.
The question, however, arises, and it is a perfectly
fair one to raise, Whatever we may say of the relation to the Christian view,
is not this doctrine of man’s origin, which implies a pure point of beginning
in the history of the race, expressly contradicted by the facts of anthropology?
Do not the facts of modern science compel us to adopt a different view? Must
we not conclude, if regard is had to the evidence, that man did begin as a savage,
but a few degrees removed from the brutes, and has only gradually worked his
way upwards to his present condition? In answer I would say, I certainly do
not believe that this theory has been proved, and, expressing my own opinion,
I do not think it is likely to be proved. If it were proved, I admit that it
would profoundly modify our whole conception of the Christian system. Negatively,
evolutionists have not proved that this was the original state of man. The missing
link between man and brute has long been sought for, but as yet has been sought
in vain. The oldest specimens of men known to science are just as truly men
as any of their successors.372372 Professor
Dana said, in 1875: “No remains of fossil man bear evidence to less perfect
erectness of structure than in civilised man, or to any nearer approach to the
man ape in essential characteristics. . . . This is the more extraordinary,
in view of the fact that from the lowest limits in existing man there are all
possible gradations up to the highest; while below that limit there is an abrupt
fall to the ape level, in which the cubic capacity of the brain is one-half
less. If the links ever existed, their annihilation, without trace, is so extremely
improbable that it may be pronounced impossible. Until some are found, science
cannot assert that they ever existed.”—Geology, p. 603.
Virchow said, in 1879: “ On the whole, we must readily acknowledge that all fossil type of a lower human development is absolutely wanting.Indeed, if we take the total of all fossil men that have been found hitherto and compare them with what the present offers, then we can maintain with certainty that among the present generation there is a much larger number of relatively low-type individuals than among the fossils hitherto known. . . . We cannot designate it as a revelation of science that man descended from the ape or any other animal.”—Die Freiheit der Wissenschaft, pp. 29, 31.
No new facts have been discovered since, requiring a modification of these statements. At the same time, we need not reject the hypothesis 183of evolution within the limits in which science has really rendered it probable. The only theory of evolution which necessarily conflicts with the Biblical view is that which supposes evolution to proceed by slow and gradual modifications—“insensible gradations,” as Mr. Spencer puts it—and this is a view to which many of the facts of science are themselves opposed. Evolution is not opposed to the appearance, at certain points in the chain of development, of something absolutely new, and it has already been mentioned that distinguished evolutionists, like Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace, freely recognise this fact.373373Not only in respect of his mind, hut in respect also of his body, Mr. Wallace has contended that the appearance of man cannot he explained on Darwinian principles. He argues from the brain of primitive man as having a development beyond his actual attainments, suggesting the idea of “a surplusage of power; of an instrument beyond the wants of its possessor”; from his hairless back, “thus reversing the characteristics of all other mammalia”; from the peculiar construction of the foot and hand, the latter “containing latent capacities and powers which are unused by savages ”; from the “wonderful power, range, flexibility, and sweetness of the musical sounds producible by the human larynx,” etc.—Natural Selection, pp. 332, 330. The “insensible gradation” theory, as respects the transition from ape to man, has not a single fact to support it. With man, from the point of view of the Bible, we have the rise of a new kingdom, just as truly as when life first entered,—the entrance on the stage of nature of a being self-conscious, rational, and moral, a being made in the image of God, and it is arbitrary to assume that this new beginning will not be marked by differences which distinguish it from the introduction of purely animal races.
The evidence which is adduced from other quarters of the originally savage state of man is equally inconclusive. There is no reason to believe that existing savage races represent the earliest condition of mankind; rather there is evidence to show that they represent a degradation from a higher state. The traces of early man which geology has disinterred show, indeed, the existence in various parts of the world of races in a comparatively rude and uncivilised state; but they are found 184mostly in outlying regions, far from the original centres of distribution, and afford no good evidence of what man was when he first appeared upon the earth.374374See Note E.—Alleged Primitive Savagery of Mankind. On the other hand, when we turn to the regions which tradition points to as the cradle of the race, we find great empires and civilisations which show no traces of those gradual advances from savagery which the modern theory requires, but which represent man as from the earliest period as in possession of faculties of thought and action of a high order.375375Cf. Canon Rawlinson’s Origin of Nations, Part I., “On Early Civilisations”; and the same author’s “Antiquity of Man Historically Considered,” in Present Day Tracts, No. 9. The theory, again, that man began with the lowest Fetishism in religion, and only gradually raised himself through Polytheism to Monotheism, finds no support from the history of religions.376376Cf. Note A to Lecture III. There is not the slightest proof, e.g., that the Vedic religion was developed out of fetish worship, or ghost worship, but many indications that it was preceded by a purer faith, in which the sense of the unity of God was not yet lost. The same may be said of the religions of the most ancient civilised peoples,—that while all, or nearly all, in the form in which we know them, are polytheistic and idolatrous, there is not any which does not show a substratum of monotheistic truth, and from which we cannot adduce many proofs of an earlier purer faith.377377See Note F—Early Monotheistic Ideas.
Another side from which the Christian view is contested, and the hypothesis of an originally savage condition of man is supposed to be supported, is the evidence that has been accumulated of an extreme antiquity of the human race. I am not aware that the Bible is committed to any definite date for the appearance of man upon the earth; but it will be generally felt that if the extreme views which some advocate on this subject, carrying back marks appearance some hundred thousand or two hundred thousand years, were accepted, it would, taken in connection with the comparatively recent origin of civilisation, militate against the view which we defended. I am free further to admit that, did no religious interest enter, and were the facts of science the only ones to be regarded, we would probably have been found yielding a ready assent to the hypothesis of a great antiquity. The religious interests at stake lead us, while of 185course acknowledging that whatever science really proves must be accepted as true, to be a little more careful in our examination of the proofs. And it is well we have been thus cautious; for, if we take the latest testimony of science as to what has been really proved, we find that the recent tendency is rather to retrench than to extend the enormous periods which were at first demanded; and that, while some geologists tell us that one or two hundred thousand years are needed, others, equally well informed, declare that ten thousand years would cover all the facts at present in evidence.378378See Note G.—The Antiquity of Man and Geological Time. Professor Boyd Dawkins has said in a recent Address:—“The question of the antiquity of man is inseparably connected with the further question, Is it possible to measure the lapse of geological time in years? Various attempts have been made, and all, as it seems to me, have ended in failure. Till we know the rate of causation in the past, and until we can be sure that it is invariable and uninterrupted, I cannot see anything but failure in the future. Neither the rate of the erosion of the land by sub-aerial agencies, nor its destruction by oceanic currents, nor the rate of the deposit of stalagmite, or of the movement of the glaciers, have as yet given us anything at all approaching to a satisfactory date. We have only a sequence of events recorded in the rocks, with intervals the length of which we cannot measure. It is surely impossible to fix a date in term of years, either for the first appearance of man, or for any event outside the written record.”379379Report of Address to British Association, Sept. 6, 1888. Professor Dawkins is himself an advocate of man’s great antiquity.
I claim, then, that so far as the evidence of science goes, the Bible doctrine of a pure beginning of the race is not overturned. I do not enter into the question of how we are to interpret the third chapter of Genesis,—whether as history or allegory or myth, or, most probably of all, as old tradition clothed in oriental allegorical dress,—but the truth embodied in that narrative, viz. the fall of man from an original state of purity, I take to be vital to the Christian view. On the other hand, we must beware, even while holding to the Biblical account, of putting into the original state of man more that the narrative warrants. The picture given us of the first man in the Bible is primitive 186in every way. The Adam of the book of Genesis is not a being of advanced intellectual attainments, or endowed with an intuitive knowledge of the various arts and sciences. If his state is far removed from that of the savage, it is equally far removed from that of the civilised man.380380Cf. Dawson, Modern Science in Bible Lands, iv., “Early Man in Genesis.” The earliest steps in what we call civilisation are of later date, and are duly recorded, though they belong, not to the race of Seth, but to that of Cain.381381Gen. iv. 16-22. It is presumed that man had high and noble faculties, a pure and harmonious nature, rectitude of will, capability of understanding his Creator’s instructions, and power to obey them. Beyond that we need not go. The essence of the Biblical view is summed up in the words of the Preacher: “God made man upright; but they sought out many inventions.”382382Eccl. vii. 29. Cf. Delitzsch, in loc.
II. The problem of natural evil: connection with moral evil.
II. I pass to the consideration of the connection of moral with natural evil, reserving for discussion in a succeeding section a special aspect of that connection—the relation of sin to death. I begin by a brief consideration of the problem of natural evil, as such. It is not sin only, but natural evil—the existence of pain and suffering in the world—which is made the ground of an impeachment of God’s justice and goodness. Everyone will remember Mr. J. S. Mill’s terrible indictment of nature on this score;383383Three Essays, pp. 29–31: “In sober truth, nearly all the things which men are hanged or imprisoned for doing to one another, are Nature’s everyday performances,” etc. and Pessimism has given new voice to the plaints which have always been heard of the misery and suffering bound up with life, On the general question, I would only like again to emphasise what I said at the outset of the extent to which this problem of natural evil is bound up with that of sin. Apart from all theological prepossessions, we have only to cast our eyes abroad to see how large a part of the total difficulty this connection with moral evil covers. Take away from the history of humanity all the evils which have come on man through his own folly, sin, and vice; through the follies and vices of society; through tyranny, misgovernment, and oppression; through the cruelty and inhumanity of man to man; and how vast a portion of the problem of evil would already be solved! What myriads of lives have been sacrificed 187at the shrines of Bacchus and of lust; what untold misery has been inflicted on the race, to gratify the unscrupulous ambitions of ruthless conquerors; what tears and groans have sprung from the institution of slavery; what wretchedness is hourly inflicted on human hearts by domestic tyranny, private selfishness, the preying of the strong upon the weak, dishonesty and chicanery in society! If great civilisations have fallen, to what has the result been commonly due, if not to their own vices and corruptions, which sapped and destroyed their vigour, and made them an easy prey to ruder and stronger races?384384Cf. Martineau, Study of Religion, ii. pp. 131–135 (Book ii. chap. iii.). If society witnesses great volcanic eruptions like the French Revolution, is it not when evil has reached such a height through the long-accumulating iniquities of centuries that it can no longer be borne, and the explosion effects a remedy which could not otherwise be achieved? If all the suffering and sorrow which follow directly or indirectly from human sin could be abstracted, what a happy world, after all, this would be! Yet there seem to be natural evils which are independent of sin, and we must endeavour to look the problem suggested by them fairly in the face.
First of all, I would say that this problem of natural evil can hardly be said to meet us in the inorganic world at all, i.e. regarding it merely as such.385385Cf. Ott, Le Probleme du Mal, p. 18; Naville, do., p. 50 (Eng. trans.). We see there what may appear to us like disharmony and disorder; convulsion, upheaval, the letting loose of titanic forces which work havoc and destruction; but except in relation to sentient existences, we cannot properly speak of these as evil. We may wonder why they should be, but when we see what ends are served in the economy of nature by this apparently lawless clash and conflict of forces, we may reconcile ourselves to it as part of a system, which, on the whole, is very good.386386These disturbances, however, present a very different aspect when viewed in relation to man. See below.
Neither does this problem properly meet us in connection with the organic world, so far as it is not sentient, e.g., in connection with the law of decay and death in the vegetable world. When it is said that, according to the Bible, there was no death before Adam, it is to be remembered that the Bible speaks of a vegetable creation, which was evidently intended to be 188perishable,387387Gen. i. 11, 12 (seed producing).—which, in fact, was given for food to animals and men. We feel no difficulty in this. The plants are part of nature. They flower, seed, decay. They fall under the law of all finite, merely natural existences, in being subject to corruptibility and death.
When we rise to animal life, the problem does appear, for here we have sentiency and suffering. Yet abstracting for a moment from this sentiency, the same thing applies to animals as to plants. They are finite, merely natural creatures, not ends in themselves, but subserving some general use in the economy of nature, and, by the law of their creation, exposed to corruption and death. flow is this modified by the fact of sentiency! I think we have only to look at the matter fairly to see that it is not modified in any way which is incompatible with the justice and goodness of the Creator. Leaving out of reckoning the pain of human life, and the sufferings inflicted on the animal world by man, we might fairly ask the pessimist to face the question, Is the world of sentient beings an unhappy one? Look at the fish in the stream, the bird in the air, the insect on the wing, the creatures of the forest,—is their lot one of greater pleasure or pain? I do not think it is unhappy. We speak of “the struggle for existence,” but is this necessarily pain? The capacity or pleasure, indeed, implies as its counterpart the susceptibility of pain, but whereas the avenues for pleasure are many, the experience of pain is minimised by the suddenness with which death comes, the absence of the power of reflection, the paralysis of feeling through fascination or excitement, etc.388388We may exaggerate, too, the power of sensibility in the lower species of animals.See on this, Mivart, Lessons from Nature, pp. 368, 369. “Though, of course, animals feel, they do not know that they feel, nor reflect upon the sufferings they have had, or will have to endure. . . . If a wasp, while enjoying a meal of honey, has its slender waist suddenly snipped through and its whole abdomen cut away, it does not allow such a trifle for a moment to interrupt its pleasurable repast, but it continues to rapidly devour the savoury food, which escapes as rapidly from its mutilated thorax.”—P. 369. I have been struck with observing the predominatingly optimistic way in which the Bible, and especially Jesus, all through regard the natural and sentient world, dwelling on its brightness, its beauty, its rejoicing, the care of Providence over the creatures, their happy freedom,389389E.g. the Sermon on the Mount, Matt. vi. 26.Another note as respects creation as a whole is struck by Paul in Rom., viii. 19-22.—in striking contrast with the morbid 189brooding over the aspects of struggle in nature which fill our modern treatises.390390Cf. for an example of this a passage quoted from De Maistre by Naville, p. 54: “In the vast domain of living Nature open violence reigns, a kind of fury which arms all creatures in mutua funera,“ etc. The thing which strikes us most as a difficulty, perhaps, is the universal preying of species on species —“nature red in tooth and claw”391391Tennyson, In Memoriam, lv.—which seems so strange a feature in a government assumed to have for its motive beneficence. But the difficulty is modified by the consideration that food in some way must be provided for the creatures; and if sentiency is better than insentiency, greater beneficence is shown in giving the bird or insect its brief span of life than in with holding existence from it altogether. The present plan provides for the multiplication of sentient creatures. to an extent which would not be possible on any other system; it provides, too, since death must rule over such organisms, for their removal from nature in the way which least pollutes nature with. corruption.392392Martineau says: “I will be content with a single question, How would you dispose of the dead animals . . . . If no creature would touch muscular fibre, or adipose tissue, or blood, and all animated nature had to he provided with cemeteries like ours, we should be baffled by an unmanageable problem; the streams would be poisoned, and the forests and the plains would be as noisome as the recent battlefield. Nature, in her predatory tribes, has appointed a sanitary commission, and in her carrion-feeders a burial board, far more effective than those which watch over our villages and cities.”—Study of Religion, ii. p. 95. See his whole treatment of this problem.
The real question which underlies the problem in relation to the natural world is,—Is there to be room in the universe for any grades of existence short of the highest? In nature, as the evolutionist is fond of showing, we find every blank space filled—every corner and niche that would be otherwise empty occupied by some form of life. Why should it not be so? If, in addition to the higher orders of being, lower grades of sentient existence are possible, enhancing the total sum of life and happiness, why should they not also be created? Why—to give our thoughts for a moment the widest possible range—if there is in the universe, as Dorner supposes, “a world standing in the light of eternity, a world of pure spirits, withdrawn from all relation to succession”393393System of Doctrine, ii. pp. 33–99 (Eng. trans.).Dorner mentions the idea of Aquinas of “a complete world, exhibiting without a break all possible forms of life.”—P. 99. (the angelic world), should there not be also a material and time-developing world? Why, in this 190temporal world, should there be only the highest creature, man, and not also an infinity of creatures under him, stocking the seas, rivers, plains, forests, and taking possession of every vacant opening and nook which present themselves? Or, in a developing world, could the highest be reached except through the lower—the spiritual except through the natural? Is not this the law of Scripture, as well as of nature—“that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, and afterwards that which is spiritual”?3943941 Cor. xv. 46. The mere fact that in a world of this kind the denizens would be finite and perishable—exposed to incidental pains, as well as constituted for pleasures—would not be a reason for not creating it, unless the pains were a predominant feature, and constituted a surplusage over the pleasures. But this we do not acknowledge to be the case. The pleasures of the animal world we take to be the rule; the pains are the exception.395395The difficulty is “modified,” as said, but not altogether removed, by these considerations, especially when the world is viewed in its teleological relations to man, and when stress is laid, not only on the mere fact of the preying of one creature on another, but on some of the kinds of creatures with which the earth is stocked, and on the manner of their warfare; on their hideousness, repulsiveness, fierceness, unnecessary cruelty, etc. See a powerful statement in Martensen’s Jacob Bohme, pp. 217–222 (Eng. trans.).
It is when we rise from the animal world to the consideration of natural evil in relation to man, that we first meet with the problem in a form which constitutes it a formidable difficulty. For man, unlike the animals, is an end to himself; pain means more to him than it does to them; death, in particular, seems a contradiction of his destiny; and it is not easy to understand why he should be placed in a world in which he is naturally, nay necessarily, exposed to these evils. The natural disturbances which we formerly noticed—floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, and the like—now assume a new aspect as elements in a world of which man is to be the inhabitant, and where he may be called upon to suffer through their agency.396396To a certain extent these disturbances affect animals also, hut in these cases. the question is subordinate. This is really a serious problem, and we have to ask whether the Biblical view affords any clue to the solution of it, and whether that solution will sustain the test of reason and of fact?
It is scarcely an adequate solution of this problem of natural 191 evil and death as it affects man, though, no doubt, a profound element in the solution, to point to the disciplinary and other wholesome uses which misfortune and suffering are fitted to subserve in the moral education of man. This is the line followed by most earnest thinkers in trying to explain the mystery of suffering in the world, and it rests on the true thought that there is a Divinely ordained connection between the pains we are called upon to suffer and the ends of our highest life.397397Thus Rothe, Pfleiderer, Martineau, Ott, etc. Without trials and difficulties, it is urged, where were progress? without checks to self-will, where were the lessons of submission to a higher will? without experience of resistance, where were the stimulus to effort? without danger and misfortune, where were courage, manhood, and endurance? without pain, where were sympathy?398398Cf. Browning, Ferishtah’s Fancies—“Mihrab Shah.” without sorrow and distress, where would the opportunity for self-sacrifice be? This is quite true, but does it go to the root of the matter? Does it explain all? Because suffering and death, as existing in the world, have an educating and purifying effect; because, as may be freely granted, they have a power of developing a type of character greater and nobler than could have been developed without them (a glimpse of theodicy in the permission of evil at all); because they serve for purposes of test and trial where character is already formed, and aid its yet ampler growth399399The theodicy in Job takes this form.—does it follow that a world such as this, with its manifold disorders, would have been a suitable abode for an unfallen race; or that it would have been righteous to expose such a race to these calamities; or that, in the case of pure beings, less violent and painful methods of education would not have sufficed?400400 Cf. Lotze, Outlines of Philosophy of Religion (Eng. trans.), pp. 124, 125; end Browning, La Saisiaz, Works, xiv. p. 181:— “What, no way but this that man may learn and lay to heart how rife? Life were with delights would only death allow their taste to life? Must the rose sigh ‘Pluck—I perish!’ must the eve weep ‘Gaze—I fade!’ —Every sweet warn ‘Ware my bitter!’ every shine hid ‘Wait my shade’? Can we love but on condition that the thing we love must die? Needs there groan a world in anguish just to teach us sympathy— Multitudinously wretched that we, wretched too, may guess What a preferable state were universal happiness?” Of course, if this method of arguing were admitted, the existence of moral evils would have to be justified on the same ground, for in conflict with these, even more than 192with outward misfortune, is the highest type of character developed. It will be observed, also, that the argument rests largely, though not wholly, on the assumption of fault in human nature to be corrected (self-will, selfishness, etc.), and thus already presupposes sin; it does not, for instance, tell what a world would have been into which no sin had entered. But do even the advocates of this explanation of natural evil abide by their own thesis? Pain, it is said, begets tenderness and sympathy; suffering engenders philanthropy; the presence of evils in the world awakens noble self-sacrificing efforts for their removal—summons man, as Pfleiderer puts it, to fellowship with “the aim of God Himself, viz. to advance goodness, and to overcome evil in the world.”401401Religionsphilosophie, iv. p. 63 (Eng. trans.). Then these are evils, and, notwithstanding their advantages, we are to treat them as things which would be better absent, and do our utmost to remove them. A concrete case in this connection is worth a good deal of argument, and I take it from Naville. He tells of a letter he received, written from Zurich, at a time when the cholera was ravaging the city. “My correspondent,” he says, “told me that he had seen sad things—the results of selfishness and fear; but he also told me that so much courage, devotedness, and regard for the good of others had been brought out under the pressure of the malady, that different ranks of society had been so drawn together by the inspiration of generous sentiments, that he would not for the world have been absent from his native place, and so have missed witnessing such a spectacle.”402402Problem of Evil, p. 65 (Eng. trans.). Shall we then, because of these salutary effects, wish for the prevalence of cholera? Or because wars bring out noble examples of heroism, shall we desire to see wars prevail? The question has only to be asked to be answered, and it shows that this mode of justifying natural evil leaves much yet to be accounted for.
It has just been seen that even this mode of explaining the existence of natural evil, and the use made of it in the moral government of God, presupposes, to some extent, the existence of sin. This yields a point of transition to the Biblical view, in which this solidarity of man with his outward world, and the consequent connection of natural with 193moral evil, is a central and undeniable feature. We are not, indeed, at liberty to trace a strict relation between the sins of individuals and the outward calamities that befall them; but Christ’s warning on this subject by no means contradicts the view that there is an intimate connection between natural and moral evils, and that the former are often used by God as the punishment of the latter. It is one of the most deeply ingrained ideas in the Bible, that physical evils are often used by God for the punishment of individual and national wickedness, and Christ Himself expressly endorses this view in His own predictions of the approaching judgments on Jerusalem.403403Matt. xxiii. 35; cf. John v. 14: “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” He warns us only that the proposition,—Sin is often punished with physical evils—is by no means convertible with the other,—All physical evils are the punishment of individual sins. Nor is this teaching of Scripture to be explained away, as it is by Lipsius, Pfleiderer, and Ritschl, as meaning merely that the evil conscience subjectively regards these visitations as retributive, though objectively they have no such character, but simply flow from the natural course of events.404404Cf., e.g., Ritschl Recht. und Ver. iii. p. 334; Pfleiderer, Religionsphilosophie, iv. pp. 42–44. Similarly, the expression, “All things work together for good to them that love God,”405405Rom. viii. 28. is explained as meaning that things work together for good to the believer, because, whatever the course of events, he is sure to profit by them. This is not the Biblical view, and it is not a reasonable one for those to take, who, like the above-named writers, admit a government of the world for moral ends. Once allow a relation between the natural and the moral in the government of God, and it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the course of outward events is directed with a regard to the good and evil conduct of the subjects of that government.
A deeper question, however, which lies behind this immediate one, of the place of natural evils in the moral government of God is, Is nature itself in a normal condition? The Bible, again, undeniably answers this question in the negative, and it is important for us to ascertain in what sense precisely it does so. The most explicit passage in the New Testament is perhaps 194that in Rom. viii. 19-23, where the Apostle Paul expressly declares, “For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of Him who subjected it in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” The plain implication of this passage is that nature is a sufferer with man on account of sin; that,, as I expressed it above, there is a solidarity between man and the outward world, both in his Fall and his Redemption. So far the passage is an echo of the statement of Genesis, that the earth lies under a curse on account of human sin. Is this view scientifically tenable, or is it not a baseless dream, directly contradicted by the facts already conceded of physical disturbance, decay, and death in the world, long ere man appeared in it? I do not think it is. This implication of creation in the effects of human sin, though science certainly cannot prove it, is an idea by no means inadmissible, or in contradiction with known facts.
1. The view has often been suggested—is maintained, e.g., by Dorner and Delitzsch406406Dorner, System of Doctrine, ii. p. 67 (Eng. trans.); Delitzsch, New Commentary on Genesis, i. e. 103 (Eng. trans.).”The whole of the six days’ creation,” says the latter, “is, so to speak, supralapsarian, he. so constituted that the consequences of this foreseen fall of man were taken into account.”—that the constitution of nature had from the first a teleological relation to sin; that sin did not enter the world as an unforeseen accident, but, as foreseen, was provided for in the arrangements of the world; that creation, in other words, had from the beginning an anticipative reference to sin. This view would explain maw, things that seem mysterious inn the earlier stages of creation, and falls in with other truths of Scripture, to which attention will subsequently be directed.407407This theory is ingeniously argued out in an interesting chapter in Bushnell’s Nature and the Supernatural, chap. vii., “Anticipative Consequences.” Cf. also Hugh Miller’s Footprints of the Creator, pp. 268ff.; “Final Causes; their Bearing on Geologic History “; and Hitchcock, Religion of Geology, Lecture III. I have not touched on another theory, beginning with Bohme, which connects the present state of creation with yet earlier, i.e. daemonic evil. The most striking statement of this theory is perhaps in Martensen, Jacob Bohme (Eng. trans.), pp. 217–222—a passage already referred to. See the theory criticised in Reusch’s Nature and the Bible, Book i. chap. xvii. (Eng. trans.).195
2. I do not feel, however, that I need to avail myself of this hypothesis. All that is essential in the Apostle’s statement can be conserved without going back to pre-Adamic ages, or to vegetable decay, and animal suffering and death. We gain the best key to the passage if we keep to the meaning of his own word “vanity” (ματαιό της)—profitlessness— as expressive of that to which creation was subjected. “It is not said,” remarks Bishop Ellicott, “that the creation was subject to death or corruption, though both lie involved in the expression, but to something more frightfully generic, to something almost worse than non-existence,—to purposelessness, to an inability to realise its natural tendencies, and the ends for which it was called into being, to baffled endeavour and mocked expectations, to a blossoming and not bearing fruit, a pursuing and not attaining, yea, and as the analogies of the language of the original significantly imply, to a searching and never finding.”408408Destiny of the Creature, p. 7. Thus interpreted, the apostle¹s words convey the idea that nature is in a state of arrested development through sin, is frustrated of its true end, and has a destiny before it which sin does not permit it to attain. There is an arrest, delay, or back-putting through sin, which begets in the creature a sense of bondage, and an earnest longing for deliverance.409409Thus also Dorner: “So far, then, as sin retards this perfection, it may certainly be said that Nature is detained by sin in a state of corruption against its will, as well as that it has been placed in a long-enduring state of corruptibleness, which, apart from sin, was unnecessary, if the assimilation of Nature by spirit could have been accomplished forthwith.”—Syst. of Doct. 22. p. 66. This certainly harmonises sufficiently well with the general impression nature makes upon us, which has found expression in the poetry and literature of all ages.
3. The earth is under “bondage to corruption” in another way,—in the very presence of man and his sin upon it; in being the abode of a sinful race; in being compelled, through its laws and agencies, to subserve the purposes of man¹s sin; in being perverted from its true uses in the service of his lusts and vices; in the suffering of the animal creation through his cruelty; in the blight, famine, earthquake, etc., to which it is subjected in consequence of his sin, and as the means of punishment of it. For it by not means follows that because 196these things were found in the world in the making, they were intended to be, or continue, in the world as made, or would have been found had sin not entered it. Science may affirm, it can certainly never prove, that the world is in a normal state in these respects, or that even under existing laws a better balance of harmony could not be maintained, had the Creator so willed it.
III. Culmination of this problem in the question of the relation of sin to death.
III. This whole discussion of the connection of natural with moral evil sums itself up in the consideration of one special problem, in which the contending views may be said to be brought to a distinct and decisive issue—I mean the relation of sin to death. Is human death—that crowning evil, which carries so many other sorrows in its train—the result of sin. or is it not? Here, again, it is hardly necessary for me to say, there is a direct contradiction between the Biblical and the “modern” view, and it is for us very carefully to inquire whether the Pauline statement, “Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all have sinned,”410410Rom. v. 12 (R.V.) enters into the essence of the Christian view, or whether, as some seem to think, it is an excrescence which may be stripped off.
Now, so far from regarding this relation of human death to sin as a mere accident of the Christian view, which may be dropped without detriment to its substance, I am disposed to look on it as a truth most fundamental and vital—organically connected with the entire Christian system. Its importance comes out most clearly when we consider it in the light of the Christian doctrine of Redemption. The Bible, as we shall immediately see, knows nothing of an abstract immortality of the soul, as the schools speak of it; nor is its Redemption a Redemption of the soul only, but of the body as well. It is a Redemption of man in his whole complex personality—body and soul together. It was in the body that Christ rose from the dead; in the body that He has ascended to heaven; in the body that He lives and reigns there for evermore. It is His promise that, if He lives, we shall live also;411411John xiv. 19. and this promise includes a pledge of the resurrection of the body. The truth which underlies this is, that death for man is an effect of sin. 197It did not lie in the Creator’s original design for man that he should die,—that these two component parts of his nature, body and soul, should ever be violently disrupted and severed, as death now severs them. Death is an abnormal fact in the history of the race; and Redemption is, among other things, the undoing of this evil, and the restoration of man to his normal completeness as a personal being.
That man was originally a mortal being neither follows from the fact of death as a law of the animal creation, nor from its present universality. It is, no doubt, an essential part of the modern anti-Christian view, that man is a dying creature, and always has been. This goes with the view that man is simply an evolution from the animal, and falls under the same law of death as the rest of the animal creation. But I have shown some reasons for not admitting the premiss,412412Cf. last Lecture. and therefore I cannot assent to the conclusion. There is not a word in the Bible to indicate that in its view death entered the animal world as a consequence of the sin of man. But, with the advent of man upon the scene, there was, as remarked in an earlier part of the Lecture, the introduction of something new. There now appeared at the head of creation a moral and spiritual being—a being made in God’s image—a rational and accountable being—a being for the first time capable of moral life, and bearing within him infinite possibilities of progress and happiness; and it does not follow that because mere animals are subject to a law of death, a being of this kind must be. More than this, it is the distinction of man from the animals that he is immortal, and they are not. He bears in his nature the various evidences that he has a destiny stretching out far into the future—into eternity; and many even, who hold that death is not a consequence of sin, do not dispute that his soul is immortal. But here is the difficulty in which such a view is involved. The soul is not the whole of the man. It is a false view of the constitution of human nature to regard the body as a mere appendage to the soul, or to suppose that the human being can be equally complete whether he has his body, or is deprived of it. This is not the Biblical view, nor, I venture to say, is it the view to which the facts of modern psychology and physiology point. If 198anything is evident, it is that soul and body are made for each other, that the perfect life for man is a corporeal one; that he is not pure spirit, but incorporated spirit. The soul is capable of separation from the body; but in that state it is in an imperfect and mutilated condition. Thus it is always represented in the Bible, and heathen feeling coincides with this view in its representations of the cheerless, sunless, joyless, ghost-like state of Hades. If, then, it is held that man was naturally constituted for immortality, how can it be maintained, with any show of consistency, that he stood originally under a law of death? That the animal should die is natural. But for the rational, moral agent, death is something unnatural—abnormal; the violent rupture, or separation, or tearing apart, so to speak, of two parts of his nature which, in the Creator’s design, were never intended to be sundered. There is, therefore, profound truth in the Biblical representation, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die”—“Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.”413413Gen. ii. 16, ii. 19. Some other way of leaving the world, no doubt, there would have been—some Enoch or Elijah-like translation, or gradual transformation of a lower corporeity into a higher, but not death as we know it.414414See further Note H.—The Connection of Sin and Death.
The true Biblical doctrine of immortality, then, I think, includes the following points:—
1. It rests on the Biblical doctrine of human nature. According to the Bible, and according to fact, man is a compound being—not, like God and the angels, a pure spirit, but an embodied spirit, a being made up of body and of soul. The soul, it is true, is the higher part of human nature, the seat of personality, and of mental, moral, and spiritual life. Yet it is intended and adapted for life in the body, and body and soul together make the man—the complete human being.
2. It was no part of the Creator’s design for man in his ideal constitution that body and soul should ever be separated. The immortality man was to enjoy was an immortality in which the body was to have its share. This is the profound truth in the teaching of the Bible when it says that, as 199respects man, death is the result of sin. Had sin not entered we must suppose that man—the complete man—would have enjoyed immortality; even his body, its energies replenished from vital forces from within, being exempt from decay, or at least not decaying till a new and more spiritual tenement for the soul had been prepared. With the entrance of sin, and departure of holiness from the soul, this condition ceased, and the body sank, as part of general nature, under the law of death.
3. The soul in separation from the body is in a state of imperfection and mutilation. When a human being loses one of his limbs, we regard him as a mutilated being. Were he to lose all his limbs, we would regard him as worse mutilated still. So, when the soul is entirely denuded of its body, though consciousness and memory yet remain, it must still be regarded—and in the Bible is regarded—as subsisting in an imperfect condition, a condition of enfeebled life, diminished powers, restricted capacities of action—a state, in short, of deprivation. The man whose life is hid with Christ in God will no doubt with that life retain the blessedness that belongs to it even in the state of separation from the body—he will “be with Christ, which is far better”;4154152 Cor. v. 8; Phil. i. 23; Rev. xiv. 13, etc. but it is still true that so long as he remains in that disembodied state, he wants part of himself, and cannot be perfectly blessed, as he will be after his body, in renewed and glorified form, is restored to him.
4. The last point, therefore, in the Biblical doctrine is, that true immortality is through Redemption, and that this Redemption embraces the Resurrection of the body.416416Rom. v. 11, viii. 23. It is a complete Redemption, a Redemption of man in his whole personality, and not simply of a part of man. This is a subject which will be considered afterwards. It is enough for the present to have shown that the Biblical doctrines of man’s nature, of the connection of sin and death, of Redemption, and of the true immortality, cohere together and form a unity—are of a piece.
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