The Origin and Purpose of Evil

by Vladimir Gelesnoff

In the perennial questionings of the human mind after the ways of God there are four typical forms of perplexity. The first and most common is the question of circumstances. The injustice and inequality that obtain, the unequal distribution of the blessings of life, the superabundance of prosperity which the few enjoy at the expense of the masses, give rise to the question, How can such a condition be tolerated in the dominions of a God of absolute justice a God that considers the poor, and is the friend of the fatherless and the widow? In addition to this strange condition of affairs there are times when the fates seem to array themselves against man. The varied factors which spin out the web of our existence seem to combine their efforts, and conspire to defeat individual effort. The convergence of circumstances in shaping unfavorable conditions at times results in tragic issues. Unbalanced by the strain of prolonged adversity, the mind loses all sense of proportion. Brooding over trouble, men forget the tempering influences that are ever at work, despair of life all round, and either seek to drown their sorrow in wine or escape it altogether by suicide. This aspect of perplexity is presented in Proverbs, "Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto the bitter in soul; let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.

The second is the Book of Ecclesiastes. I would call it the despair of appearances. It advances the idea that God works out a purpose in the world in a series of eons or ages, and acts on fixed principles which no effort on the part of man can ever alter. This truth is the secret of the moral equipoise which is strikingly in evidence throughout the book. Ecclesiastes is a firm devotee of God and duty, an ardent believer in the joy of life, despite the fact that the universe presents itself to him as a broken unity. He affirms that it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun; he is convinced that though men may practice evil with impunity times without number, yet it cannot be otherwise than well with the just and ill with the sinner. But he sees that God's purpose is at variance with the condition of things in the world. "He has made everything beautiful in its time. I know that whatsoever God doeth shall be for the eons; nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it....Nevertheless," he goes on to say, "I see under the sun, in the place of justice, that wickedness is there; and in the place of righteousness that wickedness is there." It asks, How is the existence of evil--the tremendous and awful fact of its bare existence--to be reconciled with the fact of the existence of a God of infinite power, wisdom, and love?

The third is the cry of Lamentations. I would call it the questioning of faith. It reflects the pangs of hope deferred. The people of God's choice had strayed into evil ways, and have been recalled to rectitude by severe measures. The justness of the law of retribution is conceded; His ways in wrath are vindicated; the temporal and remedial character of chastisement is a treasured truth. Hard experience has pricked the bubble of illusive hopes; the hope of righteousness is tenaciously held. God's ways occasion neither resentment nor perplexity; but the unmitigated pressure of severe hardships makes the ordeal seem unduly prolonged. His method seems slow and roundabout. The way to the goal appears long and devious -- "Wherefore dost thou forget us indefinitely, and forsake us for length of days?"

The fourth phase of perplexity is presented in that masterpiece of all literature which we call the Book of Job. It dramatizes the conflict of ideas. It fuses all previous forms of perplexity. Adverse circumstances reach the zenith of intensity; yet the book does not say that life is useless. The clash between purpose and method--between what God is and what He does--is almost maddening; yet the book does not say His ways are incomprehensible. Faith is baffled and utterly unable to account for the strange actions of Deity; yet the book does not say that the world is hopeless. It points out the universal extent of evil; yet it does not say that the world is evil. Life, with all its sins and sorrows, is still beautiful to Job; it is still iridescent with a pristine glow. The color has not gone out of the flower, sweetness has not departed from the song of the bird, freshness has not vanished from the zephyr. The world is yet worth living in--bright and beautiful with possibilities, fair with promise, radiant with hope. Clear through the gloom the voice keeps ringing, "I know that my Vindicator lives, and that he will stand upon the earth, and even though my skin is destroyed, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I, even I, shall see on my side, and mine eyes shall behold not as a stranger."

Job does not despair of the universe--spite of all the perplexities it engenders! What it does despair of is the adequacy of human theories to furnish a solution of its sorrows. It shows that religious dogmas are intellectually defective and therefore practically ineffective. It says that all man's theories to explain the evils of the universe are utterly powerless to account for those evils, that none of them is fit to sustain the weight of human woe, and that all of them combined are incapable to administer comfort.

With startling originality the book suggests the idea which is later on to emerge with unmistakable distinctness--that the evils of earth were born in heaven, that they have their origin in, and take place in consonance with, the counsel of the Most High. We are transported into the sphere invisible. It is a great day in heaven--a day of convocation. The representatives of the universe have assembled to appear before the throne of God. Looking over the vast assemblage, the Most High fixes His eye on the strange personage of Satan. "Where do you come from? What district of the universe do you represent?" asks the Lord. "I represent the earth in its full extent--the length and breadth of it," answers Satan. "But you have not been unanimously elected," replies the Lord; "in the land of Uz I have a loyal subject who did not vote for you." "Yes," rejoins Satan, "Job is loyal, but he does not love you for yourself. His loyalty is inspired by mercenary motives--he finds your service extremely profitable. Take away all the prestige of rank and wealth, and Job will curse you to your face!"

God accepts the challenge. Satan has put his hand upon a vital weakness of religious thought--the association of Divine favor with temporal rewards. God empowers Satan to go forth and create a set of conditions unfavorable to man's love of the divine. Satan goes forth, and, with lightning speed, alters the surroundings until every vestige of former conditions is obliterated. Let us trace this process of reversal.

Wealth is the first to vanish. Riches make themselves wings and take their flight, like an eagle dashing for freedom. Job stands the test; his loyalty to God wavers not. Bereavement is the next number on the program. The ties of home are broken by death. His had been a happy family circle. The domestic harmony found expression in a yearly round of family reunions. These happy gatherings are now a spot in memory. The gleeful voices of children are silenced in the grave. Still Job accepts the misfortune with resignation; he utters no cry of resentment. The next blow shatters and impairs his physical frame. He is smitten with a loathsome, incurable disease. This was a severer privation, because it prevented him from recuperating. Affection lavished on children may be turned to other channels, and at lost fortune may be recovered--so long as there is health. But when the body falls, what prospect remains? Still Job stands firm. No complaint escapes from his lips. His loyalty to God has stood the acid test. The severe ordeal has failed to shake it. "Jehovah gave, and Jehovah has taken away; blessed be the name of Jehovah."

The next trial deprives Job of human sympathy. His three friends come to visit him, and, in accordance with conventional ideas of suffering they assume that he must be a special sinner. First by gesture, and then by words, they convey the impression that he has done something to deserve it. And now for the first time Job breaks down. He explodes, and the explosion is terrific; it sweeps all before it. He has accepted poverty, bereavement, illness--the three evils sent from God; but he sinks before the one sent by man.

At this point emerges a question vital to the understanding of Job. " You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord, how that the Lord is full of pity, and merciful" (James 5:11). Job was patient, and his patience was rewarded--such is the central idea of the book. Here is evidently a key; but a key may lock as well as unlock, according to the way we turn it. The right use of this key turns on the meaning which attaches to "patience." If it is taken to mean capacity of endurance, then Job can lay no claim to it. But if it is taken as meaning resolute adherence to conviction--power to wait without a reason, to trust when there is no light, ability to possess one's soul in the absence of all explanation of that which afflicts it--then Job's claim to the virtue is abundantly vindicated. Unless we grasp this point, the personality of Job is meaningless--he is simply an impatient child, and his vindication by God at the last becomes a source of embarrassment.

Now Job's patience was of the latter sort. From the outset he takes the position that the evils which have overcast his life are sent from God. "Shall we receive good, and shall we not receive evil from God?" The absolute supremacy of God is the corner stone of his faith. God has sent the evils, and if He has sent them, then it must be that He has sent them for a good purpose, and therefore they must result in good finally. He does not see how, in his individual case, evil is overruled for good; but he is convinced that it is so overruled. His friends are shocked at such idea; they think it justifies their contention that he is a special sinner, a sinner above the average. Their efforts to make him recant his position are unavailing. Job stands his ground. "Though he slay me, yet will I wait for him: nevertheless I will maintain my ways before him."

A dramatic debate may have all the force, but certainly not the logical order, of a philosophic discussion; interruptions of personal feeling, and glancing at details of attack and defence, will sway the argument out of its regular course. Let us try to disentangle the thread of argument from the gusts of passion that bear it along, to fix in our mind the leading lines of thought, which, with whatever interruptions, are followed from first to last.

You tax me with sin, says Job to his friends, you charge me with having been secretly a sinner. Of a truth, I am a sinner after the fashion of all mortals. But that is not what you mean. You mean that I have incurred the displeasure of the Almighty in a special sense. If we lived in a world of absolute justice, where no one suffered except what they strictly deserved to suffer; where the innocent never suffered, but only the guilty, and they suffered just so much, no more and no less, as was due to their transgression, then your explanation of my great and grievous suffering would be reasonable. But in a world where so much seems arbitrary, where the innocent and the helpless suffer on account of the viciousness of others, and where the most outrageous injustice is perpetrated continually, am I bound to believe that this is a chastisement to me!

We see at work in the world the elements of permanence and progress. Under normal conditions these two factors would go side by side, and there would be no conflict. Permanence would retain all that is good, and conserve whatever of value has been gained by experience. Progress would point out that changing conditions necessitate adaptation to those conditions. Thus society would be kept adjusted to circumstances and maintained in a state of balance. But this is not the case in actual life. The two factors are in collision, we have an excess of the one or of the other, and the result is that there is constant friction. This tangled and confused condition indicates that the human world is in the making, that the universe is passing through a transient phase of existence. I am not able to trace His way, nor interpret every feature of His work, but deep in my heart lies the conviction--a conviction I am not able to logically formulate--that as all things come forth from God, all return unto Him, through much tribulation. The evils that come upon men ought not to be attributed to any special sin; the evils that men are doomed to bear are part of their mission from the Highest. In some way unknown to me all things work together for good. To understand God's ways we must fix our attention on what God is, not on any details of administration. The universe is a stage set for the self-revelation of God, and this central fact must be kept in mind in dealing with particulars. If God is indeed Almighty, as you admit He is, then we have a world with God in it, a humanity with God in it, a history with God in it, a progress of events with God in them, a great world movement from God through humanity to God again, where God is all in all. Let me trust God without a theory! Let me wait for Him without a reason!

The friends treat this as an ignoring of a visitation of God. It is not enough, they say to Job, for you to believe that all will be right some day. Things must be set aright now, and you must do it yourself. If this overwhelming disaster were a capricious accident, springing without seed out of the ground, then your case would indeed be hopeless. But since it is no accident, but its connection with sin is as much a law of nature as that of the upward tendency of fire, there is a way of restoration by forsaking the sin. The cause of your suffering lies in some dark deed of your past life, or -- as Elihu puts it -- in some unspoken principle of evil which has not yet issued in a deed, but which God sees lurking in your heart. Evil had its origin in the deep abyss of the creature's will. It came into existence in consequence of the free will exercised by the creature, and must therefore be removed in like manner--plucked out by a determined volitional exertion. Until you do this there can be no rest, no relief--you must continue to suffer. Your idea of evil as a necessary incident to the evolution of God's plan is a sure token of impiety, an indication of your lapse into wicked ways. God has simply nothing to do with evil. It is an extraneous intruding element--a creation of Satan. It is the cause of separation between God and man, and, so long as it remains, God and the creature must remain forever apart.

In the friends' view the very righteousness of God is involved in the doctrine that all evil is a judgment upon sin. This basic tenet each speaker supports by different lines of argument. Eliphaz is an individualist. He looks around. He lives in a circle affording a limited range of observation, and he interprets the actions of God with a sole regard for the minute fraction of the universe in which his lot is cast, with blank disregard to the vast range of facts and principles concerning which he knows nothing. He has but one standard of judgment--what he has seen. His view of providence is in consequence too one-sided, too provincial, in every respect too narrow. Everything must agree with the findings gleaned from his observation. What he has not seen, or known, or experienced, is unreal, inadmissible, impossible. In fine, what lies beyond his range of personal observation is to be rejected and frowned upon.

Bildad is a traditionalist. He looks back. He worships his ancestors. He admires his predecessors. He talks of the "good old times" and sings of the "old time religion." The spectacle at which his eye kindles is not one of prospect but one of retrospect. His hope is not before him; it is behind him. The ground whereon he stands is not a vantage point from which he beholds a land of promise, but a spot from which he can see a land of memory. For him all that can be known of God has been expressed once for all in the opinions of the ancients. And opposition to the traditional view of God's action he treats as resistance to God.

Zophar is a conventionalist. He looks on-a-level. A conventionalist is a diplomat by force of circumstances. His task is to cater to individual preference and amalgamate it with accepted standards. He is of necessity a believer in the rule of the golden mean, and aims at views that strike a middle course between extremes. Zophar unites the views of Eliphaz and Bildad; he merges experience with tradition. He would preserve ancestral opinion as an unfailing standard of truth; but he would enrich and confirm it by the experience of later generations. An idea resting on precedent losing itself in the mist of antiquity and perpetuated by force of habit--this is Zophar's conception of truth.

Religious conventionality and tradition, represented in the three friends, has spent its energies and failed. The failure brings to the front a youthful, enthusiastic nonconformist. The attitude of Elihu differs from that of the foregoing speakers. If Eliphaz is looking around, if Bildad is looking back, if Zophar is looking on-a-level, Elihu is looking upward. We must not, however, be misled by this feature in Elihu's attitude. He looks up to wrap his views in an air of superior authority rather than to attain a summit from which to take in the situation as a whole. He sees the truth a little more clearly than the generation before him. He discards experience, tradition, convention. He realizes that neither of these singly, nor all of them put together, make anything true. He feels the need of more substantial backing. He is opposed to the sway of changing standards; he seeks permanent certainty. So far so good. But Elihu fails to see that practical certainty is born, not of abstract theorizing, but of actual contact with reality. Overlooking this he starts out with an arbitrary a priori idea of what sufficient proof must be, instead of ascertaining what it is. He looks for certainty not in the evidence, but in the deductions made from it. This betrays him into the incongruity of claiming divine inspiration and infallibility for the same doctrine which the friends upheld by human authority. Elihu is a misguided enthusiast. For all his dissociating himself from the friends, and His claim to the guidance of the Spirit of God, it is patent that though he is not one of the friends, he is one with them. He has renounced their forms and discarded their methods, yet clings to their effete dogmas. His doctrine is removed but an hair's breadth from that of the friends. He takes the view that evil is not necessarily sent as a retribution for deeds actually committed, but to prevent evil tendencies from issuing in deeds. To forestall possible outbreaks of latent evil, God pokes, tasks, tantalizes and torments man until the incipient evil is discovered and nipped in the bud.

As the approaching presence of God makes itself felt in "the storm that cometh up," Elihu experiences embarrassment--"If a man speak, surely he shall be swallowed up." He drops his lofty claims and confesses ignorance. He had claimed to speak "for God." This claim is discredited by the Voice, speaking out of the whirlwind, "Who is this darkening counsel by words without knowledge?" Instead of expounding God's counsel, as he had claimed to do, Elihu actually darkened it--mystified and obscured it by words without knowledge. At the conclusion of His speech Jehovah said to the friends: "Ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job has." Such is the Divine appraisal of the views held by the four speakers who had opposed Job. They had less understanding of God's ways in providence than the man whom they undertook to correct. Their views were wrong and misleading.

Part Two

God's pronouncement, in 42:7, "Ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job has," proves puzzling if the rubrics at the entrance have been unheeded. Those who fail to detect in the celestial scene a suggestion of the governing idea of the book, and who start out with conventional ideas of "patience," find their views wrecked on this declaration. They are shut up to a view of the debate which does not fit in with this verdict, and are obliged to restrict it to Job's confession, in 42:1-6. To hold this is to virtually affirm that no vital principle is involved in the dispute, that it is a futile theological wrangle, and that the only important feature of the work is an incident at the close. On this assumption the design of the book is to teach that when God speaks in some extraordinary fashion, as He did to Job, man should submissively receive His words! The puerility of such a view is apparent. It refutes itself alike by its superficiality and the contradictions which it creates. Did not the other speakers, as well as Job, bow in submission when God spake to them? As God's voice began to be heard in the distant rumblings of thunder, did not Elihu abandon his high pretensions and acknowledge that "we cannot set our speech in order by reason of darkness?" And did not the three friends obey Jehovah's order when he spoke to them? Again, did not the three friends repeatedly reiterate that Job, having spoken hastily and irreverently, ought to acknowledge his impertinence and make submission? If then the issue at stake is a mere question of confession of folly and submission, wherein was Job better off than the friends? Furthermore, on this assumption, the rebuke, in 38;2, is administered to Job, and thus God is made to issue two conflicting verdicts; the one charging Job with having spoken words without knowledge," the other commending him for having spoken "the thing that is right!"

Nothing can be clearer than that the language in 42:7 is retrospective. It throws light backwards and illumines the discussion. It is Jehovah's settlement of the debate in favor of Job. The decision contemplates the central ideas maintained by the contestants; it does not extend to the sentiments voiced by either side in their entirety. Not everything that Job said was right, nor was everything said by the friends folly. The verdict is retroactive; it settles the principle in dispute, and ranges the various stages in the movement around the great idea which runs through the book like a golden thread.

The theme of the Book of Job is the origin and purpose of evil. A description of Job's home, prior to the events to be related, is introduced to show the practical bearing of the doctrine (1:1-5). The transactions in heaven suggest the true idea of the origin of evil, while the reversal of Job's fortunes brings out his substantial agreement with that view (1:6-2:10). A contrary opinion is conveyed by the action of the three friends (12:11-13). The rival views are then debated: Job represents the dynamic of a new idea struggling for expression and recognition; on the opposite side is static dogma in various modifications of conformity to current belief (Chs.3-37). The Voice out of the whirlwind gives form and force to the idea of the origin of evil first suggested at the sessions of the celestial assembly and voiced by Job (38-42:6). Jehovah puts the label falsehood on the ideas propounded by the other speakers (42:7-9). A description of Job's home, subsequent to the events related, is introduced to demonstrate the value and practical effects of the doctrine (42:10-17).

God's verdict justified Job as against the friends. He found himself on the right side of the question, the friends were at the wrong end. Job upheld the right idea. To be sure, he uttered many wild and ill-advised things, as when he "cursed" his day and spoke of his calamities as a "persecution" on the part of God. On the wave of excitement, under peculiarly aggravating circumstances, his thoughts were hastily dressed, and he was betrayed into exaggerations that would not have been made in calmer moments and under ordinary conditions. And God does not hold these effusions against Job--He overlooks them altogether. God is no stickler for etiquette; He looks at the intents of the heart; He winks at incidentals, taking only essentials into account.

Job's view, while not free from minor defects, was right in the main. Fundamentally right, it was vitiated by excrescences. Job acted on the right principle--he questioned. And the only way man learns is by questioning. The mind that has ceased to question has ceased to think. Of course, Job's questioning is not the questioning of a child; it is the questioning of a man. The two are essentially different. Both the child and the man question by raising interrogation points about the things they see and hear. But here the analogy ends: the child looks to someone for an answer, the man seeks an answer in taking evidence and drawing logical deductions therefrom. This lays us open to the possibility of error--possibility which no amount of inerrancy in the documents can obviate. The fault is not in the evidence; it inheres in man's mental and moral apparatus, which is affected by fallibility. There is a chance for defect in handling the evidence and for fallacy in the deductions, so that our conclusions are subject to double error. But this is the best way man has of finding out the truth of things. A standard that left no room for choice, for love and loyalty, would defeat the moral ends of life. Job dealt directly with evidence and grasped the root of the matter. His friends were afraid to handle evidence until it had percolated through personal, traditional, and conventional bias. Hence, though they had right ideas about isolated phenomena, their system as a whole was made up of detached ideas unrelated to any definite purpose. Job's was the true orthodoxy of essential fact; the friends' was the false orthodoxy of opinion and interpretation.

The friends stand before us as intellectual and moral slaves, curbed by convention, mutilated by artificiality. In their case habit took the place of thought. They lived by the community intellect. They assented to the ideas about them. Instead of seeking to understand them, they caught them on by a sort of religious contagion. They were averse to the pain and labor of thinking. Indeed, they were unable to think. Instinct and imitation, fixed in custom and habit, are their guide. They are believers by hearsay and authority, and not by any real insight and understanding. But there is another source of their mental inertia--regard for social advantage. A new thought comes in as a disturbing factor, and cannot be admitted without bringing far-reaching consequences with it. With individuals, and even in the incipient stages of movements, forms may be the transcript of a living faith. But when religions come to be extended, and enter the institutional stage, they become organization of custom, rite, tradition, habit; the question of support becomes acute, and they fall into the hands of men of mediocre intellect and submediocre principle but with managing ability and a high regard for the fishes and loaves. The financial aspect of religion is made prominent. The value of position likewise becomes significant, and the leaders are men who have no interest in the truth as such, but they have a deep interest in the organization, and in what can be made out of it. Their chief interest is to maintain an organization which secures them position and the perquisites of religious place.

Job's opponents had explained evil as a result of defect in the creature. As the Voice of Deity comes out of the storm a new and higher aspect of the idea unfolds itself: evil had its origin in a need felt by the Creator Himself--the Divine need for reciprocal love. The friends' idea of the origin and final effects of evil rested on the one-sided view that evil alone is exceptional and unintelligible. The theophany corrects this error by taking a more comprehensive survey. By a chain of explosive interrogatories the Voice runs the entire gamut of physical phenomena and points out that incomprehensibleness is their common feature. The secrets of creation, the movements of tidal waves, the flow of subterranean springs, the interaction of light and darkness, the phenomena of the atmosphere--rain, snow, hail, electric storms,--the regular succession of days and seasons, the motion of the heavenly bodies;--all these inexplicable mechanical processes act in co-operation for the realization of a definite moral end--the arrest of wickedness. Just as surely as the shapeless clay takes the beautiful device from the seal, so surely the disordered condition of the earth is being transformed into a world of varied beauty and magnificence like a patterned robe. The friends had pictured a distant God wrapped up in the greatness and stateliness of His own being. The affairs of the human world are below His dignity. They have long ago faded out of His interest altogether, and are taken care of by a self-running mechanism of inflexible law. Job's picturings are also more or less colored by this idea. The God who here presents Himself is the very opposite of such conception. His interest is allpervasive, embracing the vastnesses that strain the imagination, and penetrating to the minute things most removed from human interest. The vastness of the survey overwhelms the mind with the sense of human insignificance: "Behold, I am of small account." Individual experience now seems a small thing in the infinite range of all the universe's ways.

The concluding part of the address returns to the recital of greatness: the Voice tells of Behemoth, "chief of the ways of God," and Leviathan, "king over all the sons of pride." The huge dimensions of these monsters, their massive strength, spread consternation all around them. Terror dances before them as they raise themselves. With a panoply that all man's ways of war cannot break through, they even scorn the raging elements as careless trifles--they watch unconcernedly the swelling of the waterfloods and make the deep itself boil like a pot. This concentration of brute force likewise subserves a moral end: it instigates the thought that if none is so fierce as to dare to stir the monsters up, can any one stand before their Maker? The effect of the recital is a humiliating conviction of human weakness: "I am refuse."

The opening and closing portions of Jehovah's speech have instanced cosmic forces and brute animal strength as manifestations of divine power. We are amazed. The mammoth strength of Leviathan stuns the imagination with a sense of wonder, while intelligence becomes more baffled and mystified as one feature of strength after another is pointed out in quick succession. To what purpose is such colossal strength? It seems useless and even harmful. It does not benefit the brute and works positive hardship on others. Both parts of the discourse hint at a solution: power comes within the range of comprehension considered as an agency charged with an end beyond itself. Viewed by itself, power may be inexplicable, as an accessory of moral purpose it becomes intelligible. In the central part of the discourse the various forms of power unite in the achievement of moral ends. We see, in a procession of condescending wonders, power as the handmaid of love. The sight of omnipotence ministering to need satisfies the mind and warms the heart: the wonder of God providing food for lion's cubs and young ravens; the wonder of God numbering the days in which hinds and goats fulfil their motherhood; the wonder of God furnishing space for the wild ass and orynx; the wonder of the ostrich whose brood God guards against the cruelty of the stupid parent; the wonder of God calling into play the quivering strength of the horse by the din of battle; the wonder of God imparting to the eagle the instinct of self-preservation, and directing the hawk's flight toward the warm regions of the south. The swirl of suffering rages around: the sorrows of motherhood, the pinch of hunger, the twinge of pain, the struggle for existence, the sway of the strong--whence come these evils? What purpose do they serve? The cause of these ills lies not in the animals themselves, for they have not sinned. They furnish the occasion to harness power to the chariot of love.

The Voice has pointed out a sphere where no connection exists between evil and sin. The sequel of the story extends the principle to the human world. The evils that came upon Job were not sent because he was a sinner, nor were they removed because he ceased to be one. God brought them upon him, and God removed them. He sent them for a purpose, and he removed them as soon as their specific work was done. And God sent them for a specific object--to quicken and develop moral qualities, sharpen their sensitiveness, free them from subservience to temporal interests, in order that man, in the joyous consciousness of perfect freedom, might find satisfaction in God alone. The purpose of the evils that came upon Job was neither chastisement, correction, nor instruction--though incidentally they fulfilled these necessary and beneficial functions. It was ILLUMINATION. Evil occasioned the conditions and circumstances through which God revealed Himself. There could be no manifestation of love apart from evil. God's love would have remained an abstract principle unless circumstances had transpired to give Him an opportunity to exhibit it in all its strength and fullness.

Thus the Book of Job untangles this great mystery of evil, and shows clearly that it is not an interloper in God's economy; it is not a foreign substance in the delicate fabric of God's great plan, obstructing and disarranging its intricate mechanism; nay, it is a necessary part of that plan; it rightly belongs to that marvelous congeries of forces that, under the control and guidance of the one supreme mind, works and interworks steadily, without interruption and delay, to the glorious end of securing the absolute triumph for goodness, truth, and justice, for life and love.

We may now turn our attention to our Lord's unfoldment of the purpose of evil in that matchless presentation of the Divine attitude toward the last--the story of the Prodigal Son. Its connection with sin is expressly stated. The occasion that called it forth was the pharisaic censure, "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them."

So far as outward morality goes, the two sons are as far as the poles asunder. But as regards actual morality both stand on one footing--neither knew the father. Both entertained perverted views of his character and harbored unfounded grudges against him. The inheritance, or "living," furnished the cause of their common misunderstanding. The elder son imagined the father to be penurious, his one idea being to keep his sons tied to the drudgery of farm work. The younger son thought the father did not fully know how to use the living for the best interests of his children. One conceived the father as a taskmaster, the other as deficient in knowledge. One limited his goodness, the other his wisdom. In the one we see the root of legalism, in the other, of profligacy.

One day the younger son made up his mind to become his own master, to shape his own destiny. He demanded the portion of his living, and the father granted his request without a moment's hesitation. Why? Because the father knew too well that actual experience was the only way in which the son could know his heart. Besides, he knew that his son could never get beyond his reach, that he would be just as near him in a distant land as at home.

The son sets out with bulging pockets. As soon as he turns his back on the father's house, things begin to happen. He falls in with a company of disreputable women who relieve him of his money. His living is gone. The daily recurrence of physical want makes its imperative demands for satisfaction. Through necessity he learns the lesson of the true use of substance. Its design is not to satisfy whim, but to afford sufficiency of want and good works. He learns, too, that its moral worth has a physical basis: it was easy enough to spend the father's money, it was a hard task to earn his own. And now the hunger-pinched son is forced to look for a job. But here the situation becomes complicated by a combination of circumstances. The land is struck by famine. Industries are paralyzed. The labor market is hard hit. Jobs are scarce. He can find no work. Necessity imparts another needed lesson. The impoverished youth, stripped of pride of position, learns the necessity and dignity of work. At length, after a long period of wretched, half- famished existence, he finds a job--the most menial to be had. He is sent to look after a herd of swine. Our good friend necessity finds another opportunity to draw out another lesson from her exhaustless store of common sense. He finds out the uselessness of ceremonial religion. Rites and forms are useless because they do not fit with all circumstances but require a prearrangement and adaptation of these.

While tending the swine the prodigal finds leisure for thought, and the unrelenting burden of daily hardship furnishes abundant food for sober, wholesome reflection. He begins to see things in their right relation and proper perspective. The thought of having misunderstood and misjudged the father dawns upon him. His sad experience furnishes ample proof of the father's larger knowledge. A new idea gradually shapes itself in his mind: if the reason for the father's withholding of the living was neither partiality nor prejudice, but wider knowledge, may not that same wider knowledge give him deeper insight into my case and prompt him to take me back, if not as a son at least as a servant? I will be better off as his servant than as mine own master.

The true character of the father does not dawn on the prodigal all at once. Old notions still cling to him. He thinks the father will receive him, but fears his escapade may have changed the father's feelings and irreparably damaged his prospects; he fears he can never regain his former relation but will have to content himself with an inferior place. He makes up his mind what to say; prepares and memorizes a little speech, and, with mingled feelings of remorse and hope, starts for home.

The father knew all the while how the escapade was going to turn out and was on the look out for the boy. He discerned from afar off, and ran to meet him. Without asking questions, he fell on his neck, embraced and kissed him. The prodigal had not dreamt of such a welcome. He stood dazed. Recovering poise, he began to rattle off the speech he had prepared in the far-off country. "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight...." The father cuts him short. Sin! That's a forgotten incident of bygone days. It was designed to reveal to you my heart. It has done its work. Forget all about it. Its very mention jars on the solemnity of the occasion--this is feasting time. Bring the fatted calf! Let us eat, drink, and make merry! The darkening veil is gone. We understand each other now; let us rejoice and be happy in each other's love.

The welcome accorded to the prodigal provokes the anger of his brother. He is indignant that a profligate should be received with such honors. He explodes; and his outburst of anger reveals the bitter pent-up feelings which he had nursed for many years. "Thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends." "Son," answered the father, "thou art ever with me, and all that is mine is thine." All my possessions are community property for mutual enjoyment. It was at your disposal all the time. You cheated yourself of joy and happiness by harboring false notions. Thus the elder son also "comes to himself." The jealousy between the two sons, their strained relationship to the father, disappear. Discord vanishes and harmony reigns supreme. The father's object was to reveal his heart. All the conditions and circumstances in the lives of his sons were ordered and arranged with that end in view. The younger son came to know the father by departing from him, and his experience in turn became the means of enlightening the elder son.

Could we have a more perfect illustration of how God uses evil as an instrument of good? Through long meandering in evil ways, and the sorrow and suffering which waywardness entailed, the prodigal acquired keener insight and a truer way of looking at life and its fortunes. In reviewing the period of his wanderings, do we not see how the harlots, the famine, the gnawings of hunger, the husks, the swine--things evil in themselves--under the guiding and controlling hand of God, resulted in good finally? All things are "to the praise of the glory of His grace."

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