Minot J. (Minot Judson) Savage.

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NYPL RESEARCH LIBRARIES



3 3433 06824100 3



LIFE'S DARK PROBLEMS



MINOT J. SAVAGE






J



By MINOT J. SAVAGE



Life Beyond Death. Being a Review of the
World's Beliefs on the Subject, a Consideration
of Present Conditions of Thought and Feeling,
Leading to the Question as to whether it can be
Demonstrated as a Fact. To which is added an
Appendix Containing Some Hints as to Personal
Experiences and Opinions. 8°, pp. 342. $1.50

The Passing and the Permanent in Religion.

A Plain Treatment of the Great Essentials of Re-
ligion, being a Sifting from these of Such Things
as Cannot Outlive the Results of Scientific, His-
torical and Critical Study, so Making more clearly
Seen "The Things which Cannot be Shaken.'
8°. (By mail, $1.50). Net, $1.35.

Can Telepathy Explain? Results of Psychical
Research. 16 . (By mail, $1.10). Net, $1.00.

Life's Dark Problems; or, Is This a Good World?
12°. (By mail, $1.50.) Net, $1.35.



LIFE'S DARK PROBLEMS



Life's Dark Problems

or
IS THIS A GOOD WORLD?



BY



MINOT J. SAVAGE, D.D.

AUTHOR OF " LIFE BEYOND DEATH," " THE PASSING AND PERMANENT
IN RELIGION," ETC.



Justify the ways of God to men. — Milton



G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

NEW YORK AND LONDON

Gbe fsnfcfterbocfeer press

1905









A9T0R



LENOX ANB
SDATIONS.



FOUN
905



Copyright, igos

BY

G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS



"Cbe IRnicfeecbocfeet: press, HAcw J^orft



CONTENTS



CHAPTER






PAGE


I. — The Answer of Job






I


II. — Some Theological Answers






24


III. — The Divine Government






44


IV.— Pain ....






68


V. — Life's Incompleteness .






88


VI. — Moral Evil .






114


VII.— Death ....






1-33


VIII. — Accidents and Calamities






153


IX.— Mental Disease and Decay






175


X. — Is God a Father ? .






195


Index ......






215



LIFE'S DARK PROBLEMS



CHAPTER I
THE ANSWER OF JOB

IT is indeed a strange scene that lies before
us as we look out over the face of the
earth and of human society. It is not at all, I
suppose, the kind of world that any of us would
have thought a wise and strong and good God
would have created. It seems to us unreason-
able, and it seems cruel.

Note the conditions beneath our feet, among
the lowest forms of life, the grasses, the shrubs,
the trees, — a contest going on none the less
deadly because unconscious and unaccompa-
nied by pain. The earth itself is a strange
home for a sensitive and possibly suffering
people, — earthquakes, volcanoes, cyclones,
tidal waves, pestilences, poisons, powers of
possible evil, on every hand.

And, when we come up the next step higher,
and look at the state of affairs in the animal



2 Life's Dark Problems

world, we behold a scene of strife, superficially
beautiful but also apparently cruel.

I believe that on the whole it is a scene of
gladness and joy ; and yet so many things of
another and opposite character are thrust in
our faces, — the serpent with his poisonous
fangs lying in wait, the spider weaving his web
for his victim, the hawk ready to swoop down
upon the beautiful singing bird, wild beasts
fighting in the jungles, fishes devouring one
another in the seas and rivers.

So it is no wonder, looking at it in this way,
that Tennyson should talk about

" Nature red in tooth and claw
With ravin,"

that he should speak of this same nature as
shrieking against the creed of trust in the uni-
versal goodness and love.

And, when we front this human nature of
ours, we find something more cruel than we
discover among the lower forms of animal life,
because here are ingenuity, able to devise more
cruel methods, — hatred, wars, crimes of every
kind, disease, pain, thwarted lives, blighted
hopes, blasted ambitions, evils physical, mental,
moral, spiritual.

And the great problem challenges us as to



The Answer of Job 3

whether in the face of these we can still be-
lieve in the goodness of things, — not only the
goodness, but the wisdom. Some of the great-
est writers of the world have tried their hand
at the solution of this enigma.

Milton tells us that he wrote his great epic
to ''justify the ways of God to men." Pope
writes his famous Essay " to vindicate the
ways of God to man." And so writers both
of prose and poem have tried to find a way
through this great darkness which has so be-
wildered the eyes and burdened the hearts of
the race.

Here is the creed of Pope :

" All nature is but art, unknown to thee;
All chance, direction, which thou canst not see;
All discord, harmony not understood;
All partial evil, universal good;
And, spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,
One truth is clear, Whatever is, is right."

Can we really believe that ? If we can, why,
then we can sing with Browning, —

" God 's in His heaven,
All 's right with the world."

But let us see what John Stuart Mill thought
about it. Yet note the significant fact that he
wrote before the modern theory of evolution



4 Life's Dark Problems

had been demonstrated. And this theory of
evolution completely flanks his difficulty, in my
judgment.

What is it that Mill says? He says it is
plain, in the face of the evils of the world, that
God cannot at the same time be almighty and
all-wise and all-good. If He is almighty, then
He either fails in wisdom or goodness. If He
is all-wise, then He is not strong enough to
have His way, or else He is not quite good
enough to care. If He is all-good, then He
must lack either wisdom or power. Because,
if He were all three, the universe would be
perfect.

This is the dilemma which this great thinker
presented to the world. But when we remem-
ber that the universe is in process, and not yet
complete, we have a right to decline to accept
either horn of Mr. Mill's dilemma, and still
seek for a solution of our difficulty.

One or two points preliminary I need to
present with as much clearness and force as
possible. To the atheist, to him who does
not believe in God, there is no problem to dis-
cuss. There is nothing for him to do except
to take the position of the Stoic, and bear
things as best he may.

If we here, in all our good and evil, are the



The Answer of Job 5

product of mere blind, unthinking, unintelli-
gent force, why, then what is the use of our
fretting ? There is nobody to complain about,
there is nobody to complain to ; there is no-
body to get angry with, there is nobody to
charge with injustice. There is no court of
appeal, there is no hope of redress ; and a man
is as foolish to get bitter about it and angry as
he would be to fight against the north-west
wind when it is blowing.

If you are an agnostic, then, again, there is
no problem. You simply give it up. You
say, I do not know ; and all you can do is to
meet things as well as possible, and bear them
as best you may.

The problem is for the theist. If we believe
in God, then, somehow, somewhere, somewhen,
things must be right. That is what believing
in God means. So of course I shall assume,
while I am discussing these questions, that we
occupy the position of the theist. We believe
in God ; and yet we are bewildered and
troubled as to how it is possible, along with
the belief in Him, that such things should be.

I have taken the Book of Job as a first
point for consideration, because in Hebrew
literature and in Hebrew religious life — that
literature and life which preceded Christianity



6 Life's Dark Problems

and out of which Christianity was born — it
is the first formal attempt to deal with these
questions.

It seems to me, then, important for us to
consider the reach of this attempt to settle the
problem. How near does it, come to it? How
much help is there for us in the Book of Job ?

Before coming to that, however, directly, I
must call your attention to the popular opinion
of the time as to the cause of evil in the world.
You will find that the whole Old Testament is
practically at one here. It is worthy of note
that the author of this book had not heard
anything about the Garden of Eden or the
fall of man in Adam.

How do we know that ? Is it proof that he
makes no reference to any of these things ? I
think it is, when we consider what it was that
he attempted to do.

Here is a man who is undertaking to explain
the fact that good people suffer in the world ;
and he knows about the fall of man and the
agency of Satan, and the curse of God pro-
nounced on the inanimate world, and the
animal world, and the human world altogether.
He knows that this is the ultimate reason ;
and yet in an elaborate and prolonged dis-
cussion he does not refer to it. This, of



The Answer of Job 7

course, is incomprehensible. We feel per-
fectly sure that Job knew nothing about the
doctrine of the fall of man.

Now, what was the reason that was given
throughout the Old Testament period ? For
it is worth your while to note that, with the
exception of the first chapters of Genesis, there
is nobody in the Old Testament who appears
to have laid any stress on the doctrine of the
fall. It is not mentioned anywhere else. It
is never referred to as explaining anything.

And this means, of course, that these first
chapters of Genesis came late in the history of
Hebrew thought, although they appear in the
first book of the Bible. This book was placed
first in the Bible, not because it was the first
book to be written, but because it was sup-
posed to give an account of the creation of the
world, and so that was the natural place for it.

We must waive one side, then, the whole
question of the fall of man, so far as our
present discussion is concerned.

It is important to notice the state of mind
of the ordinary Hebrew as to the cause of
human suffering. Read — for it is very brief,
and it sums it all up — the first Psalm :

" Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of
the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor



8 Life's Dark Problems

sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in
the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day
and night."

And what is the result ?

" And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of
water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season ; his
leaf also shall not wither ; and whatsoever he doeth shall
prosper. The ungodly are not so : but are like the chaff
which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly
shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the con-
gregation of the righteous. For the Lord knoweth the
way of the righteous : but the way of the ungodly shall
perish."

In other words, the teaching of the Old
Testament is, that all suffering is the result
of personal sin, that it is punishment on the
part of God for disobedience ; and that means
that only bad people suffer. Good people,
of course, cannot suffer. How can they be
punished when they have done no wrong?
How can a righteous God afflict them with
evils when they have been true to Him ? That
is the doctrine of the Old Testament all the
way through.

Do you remember those words of the
Psalmist ? I am afraid that when we do read
the Bible we read it without very much think-
ing. " I have been young," he says, " and now



The Answer of Job 9

am old ; yet have I not seen the righteous for-
saken, nor his seed begging bread."

Think of it ! He had never seen a righteous
man in trouble, nor the children of a righteous
man in poverty ! His experience must have
been rather narrow, or else he must have been
blinded by a theory so as not to notice the
facts.

The one punishment for doing wrong in the
Old Testament, the one great, final punish-
ment of all, is death. There is no punishment
in any future life anywhere in the Old Testa-
ment. All reward and all punishment are
confined to this life ; and the distinct and
definite promise is that, if a man is good, he
shall have — what ? Health, long life, children,
business prosperity, honour among his neigh-
bours, — all things that he desires shall be his if
he is obedient to God.

And all things that he does not desire shall be
his if he does not obey Him. That is the law of
the Old Testament. That represents the pop-
ular opinion as to what actually took place.

And you can see, if you think a little closely,
how cruel it sometimes became. It became
terribly cruel in the case of Job. If you read
the Old Testament through, you will find that
everywhere it is good things for the good, bad



io Life's Dark Problems

things for the bad, in this life. That was the
popular explanation at the time the Book of
Job was written.

I say this without knowing when that was.
I suppose there is no possibility of settling the
definite date of the book. We do not know
who the author of it was, we do not know
where it was written ; but that makes no dif-
ference with our position. This was the pop-
ular conception of the cause of human suffering
at the time the book was composed and
published.

And one thing for you to note is that this
book takes a definite step ahead in dealing
with these dark problems of human life. The
author of the Book of Job had found out, what
we know perfectly well, that the ordinary Old
Testament explanation was not adequate ; that,
though there might be some truth in it, it was
not the whole truth, and that, if we were going
to understand the ways of God to men, we
must go deeper than this.

We all know how far from the truth this is.
Just consider for a moment. I knew a case of
a lady last summer, one of the truest, sweet-
est, noblest, tenderest women in all the world ;
and yet she suffered beyond any power of de-
scribing it, through long weary days, long



The Answer of Job 1 1

weary nights, days and nights stretching out
into horrible weeks, and weeks into horrible
months.

Why could not she have died peaceably and
quickly ? Why must she suffer all this pro-
longed agony, until those that loved her best
prayed that she might go ? Was it for any-
thing she had done ? To any one who knew
her the question is absurd. She was one of
the sweetest and truest women in all the
world.

On the other hand, here is some man who
has broken all the Ten Commandments, and
hunted after others to break, who, so far as we
can see, suffers almost nothing at all, — lives
prosperously, comfortably, indulgently, year
in and year out ; and then, when he has to go,
at the last falls asleep in a moment, and escapes
even the agony of dying.

We know that these things are common-
places. I knew a young man, just on the
verge of a life success, noble, sweet, true, pure,
having shown that he had wings, a promise of
power and fame ; and yet in a moment his
life was taken away.

On the other hand, I know another young
man ; and he has devoted himself since he was
old enough to think to doing evil year after



12 Life's Dark Problems

year. He has broken his father's heart, and
been a perpetual drain on his father's purse.
This father has worked to shield him from dis-
grace, to keep him from the penitentiary ; and
he has been a burden and a sorrow to every-
body who knew him. But his health is good ;
and, so far as any one can see, there is the
prospect of a long life ahead of him.

You might multiply these cases by the
hundred. Here is a man whose character is un-
impeachable, but who is poor. He has strug-
gled with poverty all his life long. Here, on
the other hand, is a man who has no princi-
ples, and, apparently, no conscience ; and he is
a business success, he is rich. No relation is
visible between the results in either case and
the moral character of the two men. And so
in every direction.

I have known of persons artistic, musical,
lovers of all that is beautiful and fair, who
would have given half a life to have been able
to cross the ocean and see the marvels of
beauty that are to be discovered there ; and
they have never been able.

I have seen in Europe by the dozen vulgarly
wealthy people, with no appreciation of archi-
tecture or painting or music or sculpture or
anything of the kind, wasting on follies or



The Answer of Job 13

vices a hundred times more than would be
needed to satisfy the hunger and thirst of the
noble souls.

Now these things are not equal, according
to any measure which human equality has de-
vised. If we had had the planning of the
world, we certainly should not have made these
things so.

We know, then, that it is not fair or true or
right to charge a man with being a bad man
because he is poor, or because he is sick, or be-
cause he has lost his friends, or because of suf-
fering of any kind. We know that there is
no necessary relation between these two facts.
As much as this the writer of the Book of Job
has discovered, so that his teaching is a distinct
and definite step ahead, so far as the popular
opinion of his age was concerned.

And now let us consider for a little this
poem of Job, its story and its attempt to solve
the difficulty.

It is unfortunate, so far as the literary value
of parts of the Bible are concerned, that we
have been accustomed to treat them purely
as religious productions. The Book of Job is
a poem with a prose prologue and epilogue.
And how does it rank ? If you should trans-
late it and publish it in a book by itself as



14 Life's Dark Problems

a poem, it would rank with perhaps the six
greatest of all the world.

It may stand unshamed beside Homer,
y'Eschylus, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, Goethe.
A great poem. There are a few of the Psalms
which are unsurpassed in the lyric literature
of the world. There are parts of the Second
Isaiah which in sublimity and power and
grandeur are equal, perhaps, to the best in
Job ; but Job has this advantage, — it is a com-
plete and formal and finished treatise by itself,
and not merely a set of proclamations such as
you find in the Second Isaiah.

Now what is this Book of Job, so far as it is
an attempt to answer our question ? Of course
you are familiar with the story.

In a famous city of the East lived a famous
man, the greatest of his whole country, the
wealthiest, the man occupying the highest
position ; and he was faultless in character,
upright and ideal in every way.

And, because he was this kind of a man,
according to the popular ideals he had been
blessed in every way. He had seven sons
and three daughters. He had thousands of
cattle and sheep and asses. He occupied a
high position in the gates of his city. But
even this man, although it contradicted all the



The Answer of Job 15

theories of the age, did not prove to be free
from suffering.

The story goes that God is holding court
one day, and the angels are gathered about
Him, when Satan, an evil spirit, not yet fully
developed into the modern Devil, — not shut up
in hell, but free to travel whither he would, —
appears among the other sons of God. And
God calls his attention to His servant Job, and
asks him if he had observed how remarkable
he was. But he who has no faith in human
goodness, without a satisfactory reason for it,
answered that Job had been blessed in every
way and had no reason for being bad. So he
said : Now You destroy his property, touch
his prosperity, and see what will be the result :
he will curse You to Your face.

Whereupon God said : I turn him over into
your hands. You can try him, but do not
touch his person. You have full control over
all that he owns — all that belongs to him.
And then, suddenly, one series of calamities
follows another. His oxen, sheep, and asses
are captured or destroyed. And then his child-
ren, the seven sons and the three daughters,
are feasting together, and a whirlwind comes
and seizes the building where they are sitting,
and overwhelms them in sudden ruin.



1 6 Life's Dark Problems

And Job sees everything that he cares for on
earth stripped away. Still, he does not com-
plain or utter one word of fault against his
Maker.

Again the sons of God are gathered in the
court of heaven, and Satan appears among
them ; and God calls his attention to the fact
that his attempt has proved a failure. Where-
upon Satan says : Yes, but everything a man
has will he give for his life. Touch his
body now, and see what will be the result.
And God says : I give him then, as far as
his physical condition is concerned, completely
into your hands : only spare his life.

And then Job is afflicted with a loathsome dis-
ease from head to foot, and sits desolate in the
ashes ; and even his wife turns against him,
and wonders why he does not curse God and
die. And still he brings no railing accusation
against his Maker.

Here, then, the author of Job holds up this
wonderful problem for the people who had
been accustomed to believe that suffering
meant sin of some kind. Here is this per-
fect man suffering everything. But it seems
curious to me that Job never finds out what
had been going on behind the scenes. God
does not tell him why He had afflicted him



The Answer of Job 17

in this way. He does not know anything
about Satan's agency in the matter.

But, while he sits thus disconsolate, his three
friends come to visit him ; and no wonder their
poor comfort has turned their names into a
proverb. They come, and sit down with Job ;
and though they had been his friends, and
honoured and known him all his life, they are
so filled with the idea that suffering must mean
wrong-doing that they can think of no other
explanation. And so through long chapters
they lay all sorts of sins to his charge, and ask
him why he conceals what he has been guilty
of, why he does not confess, why he adds
hypocrisy to his other crimes.

The three friends will not believe for a mo-
ment that God is anything but just ; and, if He
is just, of course Job's suffering means punish-
ment for something that he has been doing.
The main part of the Book of Job, sublime in
poetry and beautiful in its argument, is taken
up with playing on different phases of this one
theme.

Job meantime protests that he is innocent,
says he wishes he could find someway of com-
ing into the presence of his Judge and plead-
ing his cause with Him ; he wishes there was
some one as a mediator to stand between him



1 8 Life's Dark Problems

and his Judge ; and it is wonderful the charac-
ter that is revealed when, even in the last ex-
tremity he has given up hope, he says : He
will slay me ; I have no doubt He will slay me ;
yet I will trust in Him.

After these three friends have exhausted
themselves, then comes the fourth ; and he
deals in the same kind of criticisms, varying
them somewhat by talking about the mystery
of the universe.

But at last God Himself appears, and speaks
out of the whirlwind ; and what does He say ?
He says nothing about what had been going
on behind the scenes. He does not tell Job
that He has been testing him. He does not
tell him that Satan has had anything to do
with it. He rebukes him for his presumption,
and then overwhelms him through wonderful
chapter after chapter by portraying the inex-
plicable marvels of the universe, and saying to
him: If you cannot answer these questions, if
you cannot understand these mysteries, why
should you presume to comprehend the deal-
ings of the Infinite One?

That is God's answer to the sufferer. He
turns then, and rebukes the friends who have
misjudged him, condemns them utterly, and
says they can be forgiven only after Job has



The Answer of Job 19

offered a sacrifice and made prayers in their
behalf.

Then, at the end, comes that strange resti-
tution. Job has seven more sons given him,
and three daughters, the most beautiful women
in the East ; and he has twice as many yoke of
oxen, and twice as many sheep and asses.
His prosperity is doubled, and the book ends ;
and where are we, so far as any solution of our
problem is concerned ?

We cannot to-day take as an explanation of
anything that goes on in the world the agency
of evil spirits. We cannot believe that God
permits evil spirits in the other world to inter-
fere with the forces of nature, to produce
storms, tempests, earthquakes, volcanic erup-
tions, pestilences, disease, evils of any kind.

In the first place, we do not believe there
are any spirits that have power over the forces
of nature ; it is utterly unscientific and incom-
prehensible to the mind of any intelligent per-
son ; and we cannot believe that any good
God would let any evil spirit do it, even if
there were those who were capable of it.

We have come at last to recognise the fact
that power does not confer irresponsibility.
The old theory was that might meant right.


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