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NOTTINGHAM; STEVENSON, BAILEY, AND SMITH, PRINTERS.
Years ago, in answer to private pressure for a continuous publication of pieces published separately or in magazines, great difficulty of judgment was experienced in selection. In general I resolved to reprint nothing that had not some permanent interest, and I tried to put together material for several volumes. It is still too. copious. For the English public loves most, first, discussion of matters immediately pressing, next that which relieves from thought and amuses. Naturally, Volumes of my Miscellanies, if published, answer to neither description. Hence, whether other volumes are to
follow, must remain uncertain. But regarding Morals and Religion as of most permanent interest, I now put this topic
F. W. N.
ON THE EXISTENCE OF EVIL.
IT is impossible to extend inquiry and contemplation ever so
little beyond the bounds of ordinary thought, without discerning how crude and untenable is the popular conception of divine Omnipotence. The child who is informed that God is Almighty, asks in great simplicity, why then does God let any body be unhappy? We may unhesitatingly deduce, that there is a real contrariety between the divine perfections, as conceived of by the child, and the existence of any evil. With the same logical force, though with more rudeness, some have alleged that the deity ought to have made man other than he is. Nor has the highest intellect and deepest piety ever essayed even to modify and relieve the difficulty, except by suggestions drawn from the topics of Optimism. It is said, “Perhaps the all-wise God sees that it is best so to be: he sees ends to be obtained, which could not be obtained so well in any other way; and which are valuable enough to deserve being bought at such a price." In different forms, this is substantially the meaning of all that the humble and pious can adduce. Whether learned or unlearned, philosophic or simple, the topic to which they refer us, is, “Perhaps the Allwise God saw that there was no better way.”
A sentiment, even conjectural, which comes to us recommended by such authority, cannot be deemed rash and profane. If it is impious, what else is more pious ? Is it not the zealous effort of piety to shelter and defend its own existence? It is, and whether it be a just sentiment or not, at any rate it is devotional and humble. And yet, let us examine what it virtually means. The evil which God has either ordained or permitted is partly moral and partly physical ; yet this, it is suggested, was probably seen by him to be the best means of attaining some eminently good end. Now it cannot be intended to imply that he thinks slightly of moral evil; an idea subversive of reverence for his holy character, and degrading him into one who will employ wicked means to compass his purposes. It must remain, that the