The Mystery Of Evil

by William Mealand

WHATEVER of mystery there may be in the origin of evil, its presence in the universe is a great outstanding fact. Explained or unexplained, evil exists, and it is just this fact which presents a problem of absorbing interest. Philosophy is unable to account for the mystery, and science can only infer that some inscrutable law is operating in the play of two great forces, good and evil. While acknowledging the fact of evil, many hope for its elimination by way of evolution, regarding it as a present imperfection which the human race will shed as it ascends the hill of life. Others, in their eagerness to exonerate God from responsibility, give evil a permanent place in the universe, ascribing its origin and continuance to the devil. However, there are those who cannot reconcile the thought of perpetual sin and suffering with a just conception of God, and to these the writer specially commends this brief study of a great theme.

In the realm of romance, genius vividly portrays the conflict of vice and virtue, and with unerring instinct depicts the triumph of good and the eclipse of evil. Now, this longing for the ascendancy of the noble and praiseworthy is no small token of that perfect state which shall ultimately prevail. The difficulty with many is to see how evil can be conducive to good, and a necessary factor in the accomplishment of Divine purpose. That evil was no mere accident, but an integral, indispensable part of the Divine plan, is proved and illustrated by the entire range of sacred narrative and history. Bold in statement, strong in truth, Scripture still offers the clearest solution of the problem of evil. Shall we be less bold in reception, or must we modify and water down its strength to suit our fixed notions and ideas?


The fiat of God has gone forth. "I make {peace}, and create {evil}." Surely, then, there must be a purpose in its creation, since nothing can be purposeless that comes from Him. Absolutely supreme, God is responsible for the guidance of the universe to its appointed climax. Able to avert evil, He allowed it for reasons of His own. Evil is God's prerogative, and its employment subserves the purpose in view. He takes full control, and is at the helm of affairs in such manner that He "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." Truly, "all is of God," and though we may not be able to fully comprehend His ways yet we may see sufficient of His ability to assure us of a purpose marvelous in wisdom and rich in love.

There is no real good, no vital virtue, apart from conflict with, and victory over, evil. Suffering in some form is inevitable, but is transfigured when we see that it is the Divine means to an exalted end. Herein there is much point in the thought expressed of Christ that "though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered." We even read that Christ was "delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." Thus we see that the machinations of wicked men were instrumental in the fulfillment of the Divine purpose.

The story of Joseph finely illustrates the inter-weaving of good and evil. His brothers planned his death, but eventually sell him into slavery, concealing their crime by crafty deceit. Years roll by, and Joseph, the obscure, becomes ruler of Egypt, and a thoughtful benefactor of the people. Revealing his identity to his brothers, who fear reprisal for their misdeeds, Joseph makes a fine acknowledgment of God's overruling power. He consoles them by saying: "Now therefore, be not grieved nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither, for God did send me before you to preserve life. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God." Truly what we term circumstance and chance attend upon His will in the accomplishment of His manifold purpose.


In such quotations as the following we see the sovereignty of God in the great forces of good and evil. Referring to Israel God says: "Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them. As I have watched over them, to pluck up, to break down, throw down and destroy and afflict, so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant." And again: "Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to robbers? Did not Jehovah?" We also read that "He made of one every nation of men for to dwell on the face of the earth, having ordained appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation." Thus we see that the events of history, rise and fall of kingdoms, changes in the world's map, have been all foreordained.

It may be said that if God thus acts in sovereign power, He must therefore invade the domain of what is termed "free will." But Scripture, experience, and observation show conclusively that man is not absolutely free. He may be free in the realm of will, but not in the sphere of action. He may plan and purpose, determine and devise, but there is a controlling power above himself which ever and anon restrains the execution of his will. Man is often the creature of circumstance. In the words of Byron, "Men are the sport of circumstances, when circumstances seem the sport of men." Thus, man's proposals are ever at God's disposal.

Profoundly wise and beautifully simple was the attitude of the poet who penned the following lines:-

I have no answer for myself or thee
Save that I learned beside my mother's knee:
All is of God that is and is to be,
And God is good. Let this suffice us still,
Resting in childlike trust upon His will
Who moves to His great ends unthwarted by the ill.

Evil is but temporary, though its reign seem long. The will of the creature shall yet be swayed into perfect correspondence with the will of the Creator. Within the majestic monitions of His will, punishment and judgment there may be, but all the minutiae of His marvelous guidance and government is ordered with a view to the ultimate issue. And when the mystery of His will is seen in the light of full accomplishment, there will be joyous acquiescence from the lips of all.

The presence of evil, in conflict, crime, and catastrophe may mystify and perplex, but once grip the grand conception that the winding ways of men, though a seeming tangled skein, is not purposeless with God, and we have enlightenment and assurance. We may safely trust the destiny of mankind to Him who created, who fashioned and formed in august pursuance of a sovereign purpose. Therefore, we may rest heart and intellect in His power to bring to glad fruition the operations of His majestic will.