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open door of the mind by which it escapes its limitations, but into what does it open, illusion or reality?
8. The same course of thought applies to the moral nature. It has been claimed by some that they could have made a better universe. An audacious critic has asserted that he could have done this very thing, made a better world, as La Place said he could have constructed a better planetary system. When asked how he would alter the present order, he replied, “I would make health catching instead of disease;" a very bright answer, but its wit is not so great as its apparent wisdom. Any mind at once says, Why not? The critic is not far wrong, if this world is the only theatre of human life. It is true that if the element of disease were taken out of life, there would go out with it that strength that comes through struggle with adverse conditions; if we had not disease to contend with, we would have instead mental weakness. And if health were contagious, instead of being the result of virtue and wisdom, we would have so much less wisdom and virtue. A South Sea Islander does not trouble himself to make bread when he can pluck it from the trees; and a man would not question his mind or conscience in regard to health if he could secure it by contagion ; hence mind and conscience would be feeble so far as they depended upon the discipline of health-seeking. But, after all, this critic of eternal Providence is not far wrong, if all this struggle with disease, and other great evils, have their only reward in this life.
Time is not long enough to compensate man for buch mighty conflicts. It is not presumptuous, however, to say that man could have been better made, if he is not to live after death; this one life of earth would be better if his moral nature were emptied of the greater part of its contents, and their place filled by instincts. A round of utilitarian duties, of low prudencies and calculations covering the brief span of existence, would be the highest wisdom. If this life is all, we are over-freighted in our moral nature, like a ship with the greater part of its cargo in the bows, ever drenched with the bitter waters of the sea, instead of floating freely and evenly upon them. If this life is all, there is no place for such a faculty as conscience with its lash of remorse in one hand, and its peace like a river, in the other. It is out of proportion to its relations. It is like setting a great engine to propel a pleasure-boat, or like building a great ship to sail across a little lake. A strong, well grounded instinct, that led us to seek the good and avoid the bad, as animals avoid noxious food, would be a better endowment than conscience, unless it has some more enduring field than this from which to reap. The step from instinct to freedom and conscience, is a step from time to eternity. Conscience is not truly correlated to human life. The ethical implies the eternal.
Let us now turn from human nature to the divine nature, where we shall find a like, but immeasurably clearer, group of intimations. Assuming, what no intelligent skepticism now denies, the theistic conception of God as infinite and perfect in character, this conception is thrown into confusion if there is no immortality for man.
1. There is failure in the higher purposes of God respecting the race; good ends are indicated but not reached. Man was made for happiness, but the race is not happy. Man was made for intelligence, but the race is ignorant. Man was made for social order, but war is his habit. He was made for virtue, but the race is vicious. Only now and then does one fulfill the evident ends for which he was made. As a whole, there is the direst failure, and unless there is another field where these hideous wrongs and lacks may be set right, we must conclude that a wise and good God organized society upon the plan of failure, with the result of immeasurable, hopeless misery. The possibility of ultimate earthly success does not lessen the weight of this fearful conclusion. What is the perfection of some far off generation to us and to our generation ?
2. The fact that justice is not done upon the earth involves us in the same confusion. That justice will sometime be done gives us peace; that justice should never be done throws the soul into a chaos of endless cursing and bitterness. The slighting of love can be endured, but that right should go forever undone is that against which the soul, by its constitution, must forever protest. The remonstrance — it was not a question but a remonstrance — of Abram with God: “ Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” is the privilege of every soul, not an expectation but a demand.
The sentiment of righteousness underlies all else in man and in God, for we cannot conceive of God without attributing it to Him. But justice is not done upon the earth, and is never done, if there be no hereafter. Multitudes suffer what they do not deserve, incurring the penalties of vices and crimes not their own. It is the nature of certain vices to yield their bitterest results in posterity, the offender himself escaping with but little suffering. Here justice is blind indeed, failing both to inflict and to spare. A babe that suffers from an inherited vice, and dies in moral purity, might pass to nothingness, but the injustice could never perish. It would endure a blot on the white robe of divine righteousness; it would forever prevent the universe from being a moral order. Were there no God, the wrong would pass into the elements to work eternal discord; it would haunt the ages; for if there is no immortality for the soul, there is immortality for wrong till it is set right. The martyr dying in the arena, while the tyrant jests above him, is an eternal injustice if there be no future. If all the unjustly treated of the earth were to pass before us, – the oppressed, the persecuted, the victims of unjust wars, of priestcraft, of enforced ignorance, of false opinion, of bad laws, of social vices, — the sad procession would number well-nigh the whole. Shelley calls this “a wrong world;" St. Paul, “ a present evil world.” They saw it alike, but the Apostle put into the word present a hope that the wrong and evil world will at last yield to a right world.
3. Man is less perfect than the rest of creation, and relatively to himself, is less perfect in his higher than in his lower faculties. So marked are these facts as to suggest a failure of power or wisdom on the part of God to carry out the best part of his plan; which is actually the position taken by John Stuart Mill. And Mr. Mill is right unless a broader sphere than this world is allowed for the development of man. In the animal races, there is but little falling short of typical perfection, but the perfect type of humanity transcends experience, and can be known only by an ideal projection of hints and fragments drawn from the worthiest and greatest. How perfect also is the material universe, and with what harmony it “ still quires to the youngeyed Cherubim ;” what exact obedience, and hence what order, in all realms save our own, which is the highest. What conclusion can we draw but that the Creator succeeded in his lower works but failed in his higher, — a conclusion so monstrous as to render plausible any theory of human destiny that avoids it; for a Creator is responsible for his creation; and every act of creation must be justified by its wisdom. There can be no justification of a creation that is characterized by failure.
4. As love is the strongest proof of immortality on the man-ward side of the argument, so is it on the God-ward side. Divine love and human love are alike, and act alike. Love demands sympathy; it is enduring by its own nature. Absolute and infinite love must love forever. Love also, by its nature, suffers from anything that hinders its expression, or brings it to an end. It is so with man;