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First difficulty.

Attempt to avoid it.

shall however describe, not with the design of explaining them, because I purposely collect such as I believe cannot be explained satisfactorily to young persons, but with the design of bringing all cordially to feel that they must be ignorant, and that they may as well acknowledge their ig

norance at once.

First difficulty. It is a common opinion that God existed before the creation of the world, alone and unemployed from eternity. Now the difficulty is this: How could a being who was infinite in benevolence and power waste all that time, when it might have been employed in making millions and millions happy? The creation was not far from six thousand years ago, and six thousand years, compared with the eternity beyond, are nothing. So that it follows that almost the whole of the existence of a benevolent and omnipotent Being, who delights in doing good and promoting happiness, has been spent in doing nothing.

Perhaps some one will make a feeble effort to escape from the difficulty by supposing, what is very probably true, that other worlds were created long before this. But let such an one consider, that however remote the first creation may have been, there is beyond it, so far as we can see, an eternity of solitude and inaction.

Remember I say, so far as we can see, for I am far from believing that Jehovah has ever wasted time. I know nothing about it; I can see and reason just far enough to perceive that the whole subject is beyond my grasp, and I leave it, contented not to know, and not to pretend to know any thing about it.

After reading these remarks at one time to an assembly of young persons, several of them gathered around me, and attempted to show that there was in fact no difficulty in this first case.

"Why," said I, what explanation have you?"

"I think," was the reply, "that God might have been creating worlds from all eternity, and thus never have been unemployed."


Second difficulty.

"If that had been the case," replied I, "would or would not some one of these worlds have been eternal?”

"Yes, sir," they all answered with one voice.

"Then you suppose that some of these worlds were eternal and others not. The first which were created had no beginning; but after a time, according to this hypothesis, Jehovah began to create them at definite periods. This is evidently absurd. Beside, those which were eternal must have existed as long as God has existed; and if you admit that, it seems that you must admit that they are independent of God; for if they have existed for ever, they could not have been created."

One of the party attempted to avoid this by saying, that though the whole series of creations has been eternal, yet that every particular creation may have been at some definite point of time; so that each one world has had but a limited existence, though the whole series has been eternal.


"But,” said I, "can you conceive-clearly conceive— of an eternal series of creations of matter, without believing that some maller itself is eternal? And if you suppose matter itself to be eternal, can you understand how God can have created that which has existed as long as he has himself?"

This was the substance of the conversation, which, however, in all its details, occupied half an hour. And I believe all who engaged in it cordially acknowledged that the whole subject was entirely beyond the grasp of their minds.

As this book may fall into the hands of some theological scholar, I beg that he will bear in mind that I do not present this subject as one that would perplex him, but as one which must perplex the young. I maintain that whatever trained metaphysicians may understand, or fancy that they can understand, it is entirely beyond the reach of such minds as those for whom this book is intended.

Second difficulty. When in a still and cloudless summer evening you have looked among the stars of the sky, you have often wondered at the almost boundless extent

Extent of the creation.

A star, a great blazing sun.

of the creation. That faint star which twinkles so feebly that you almost fear that the next gentle breeze will extinguish it, or that the next light cloud will sweep it away, has burned with the same feeble but inextinguishable beam ever since the creation. The sun has blazed around the heavens storms have agitated and wrecked the skiesthe moon has waxed and waned over it; but it burns on the same. It may be obscured by some commotion of the elements for a time; but when cloud and storm have passed away, you will find it shining on unchanged, in the same place, and with the same brightness, and with precisely the same hue which it exhibited before the flood.

It is a great blazing sun, burning at its immense distance with inconceivable brightness and glory, probably surrounded by many worlds whose millions of inhabitants are cheered by its rays. Now, as you all well know, every star which twinkles in the sky, and thousands of others which the telescope alone brings to view, are probably thus surrounded by life and intelligence and happiness in ten thousand forms. Stand now in a summer evening under the open sky, and with these views estimate as largely as you please the extent of the creation. However widely you may in imagination expand its boundaries, still it seems to human reason that it must have a limit. Now go with me in imagination to that limit. Let us take our station at the remotest star, and look upon the one side into the regions which God has filled with intelligence and happiness; and on the other side into the far wider re-. gions of gloomy darkness and solitude that lie beyond. Make the circle of the habitable universe as large as you will-how much more extensive, according to any ideas of space which we can form, must be the dreary waste beyond! The regions which God has filled by his efforts and plans dwindle to a little fertile island in the midst of a boundless ocean. But why is this? Who can explain or understand how a Being, boundless in power and desirous of promoting the greatest possible amount of enjoyment,

Third difficulty.

Existence of suffering.

can leave so immense a portion unoccupied, and confine all his efforts to a region which, though immense to our conceptions, is, after all, but a little spot,—a mere point, compared with the boundless expanse around?

Now, I by no means believe that there is such an immense void as my reasoning seems to prove there must be. My object is to show that in these subjects which are beyond our grasp, we may reason plausibly, and only plunge ourselves in difficulties without end. Therefore on such subjects I distrust all reasoning. I never reason, except for the purpose of showing how utterly the subject is beyond our grasp; and in regard to such questions, I have no opinion; I believe nothing, and disbelieve nothing.

Third difficulty. The existence of suffering. It seems to me that the human mind is utterly incapable of explaining how suffering can find its way into any world which is under the control of a benevolent and an omnipotent God. If he is benevolent, he will desire to avoid all suffering; and if he is omnipotent, he will be able to do it. Now this reasoning seems to be a perfect moral demonstration; no person can reply to it. Some one may faintly say, that the suffering we witness is the means of producing a higher general good; and then I have only to ask,-But why could not an omnipotent Being secure the higher good without the suffering? And it is a question which it seems The only rational course sincerely and cordially, we

to me no man can answer.

which we can take is to say, do not know. We are just commencing our existence, just beginning to think and to reason about our Creator's plans, and we must expect to find hundreds of subjects which we cannot understand.

Fourth difficulty. Human accountability. Instead of calling this a difficulty, I ought to call it a cluster of difficulties; for unanswerable questions may be raised without end out of this subject.

Look at yonder gloomy procession. In the cart there sits a man who has been convicted of piracy and murder

The existence of suffering inexplicable.

The pirate condemned to die.

upon the high seas, and he is condemned to die. Now that man was taught from his youth to be a robber and a murderer; he was trained up to blood; conscience did doubtless remonstrate; there was a law written on his heart which condemned him; but he was urged on by his companions, and perhaps by his very father, to stifle its voice. Had he been born and brought up in a Christian land with a kind Christian parent, and surrounded by the influences of the Bible, and the church, and the Sabbath school, he would undoubtedly never have committed the deed. Shall he then be executed for a crime which, had he been in our circumstances, he would not have committed; and which his very judge perhaps would have been guilty of, had he been exposed to the temptations which overwhelmed the prisoner?

In a multitude of books on metaphysics, the following train of reasoning is presented. The human mind, as it comes from the hand of the Creator, is endued with certain susceptibilities to be affected by external objects. For instance, an injury awakens resentment in every mind. The heart is so constituted, that when the youngest child receives an injury which it can understand, a feeling of resentment comes up in his breast. It need not have been So. We might unquestionably have been so formed that mere compassion for the guilt of the individual who had inflicted it, or a simple desire to remove the suffering, or any other feeling whatever, might rise. But God decided, when he formed our minds, what should be their tendencies.

He has not only decided upon the constitutional tendencies of the mind, but has arranged all the circumstances to which each individual is to be exposed; and these, so far as we can see, constitute the whole which affects the formation of character—the original tendencies and the circumstances of life by which they are developed or restrained. God has therefore the whole control in the formation of the character of every individual.

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