« PreviousContinue »
tion through which I have past, may fearfully listen ; and for those I record my meditations. But the madness of the mass of Zealots is such, that they will not bear another man to differ from them. Their pride is fired up at such boldness. Think like myself-or I will make you suffer to the whole extent of my power.'-In spite, oh God, of thy visible conduct, in spite of that divine forbearance with which Thou treatest them when they most differ from thy bestknown attributes, they proclaim to the world that Thou are the most jealous and intolerant of Beings: that Thou wouldst turn thy hot anger against every one who doth not punish those within his reach, whom he chooses to call Thine enemy. I shall be to them a blasphemer. Ah! who blasphemes but he who calls Thee (oh fountain of Goodness !) jealous ? No, Father! thou wilt not be jealous of such a worm as Man. Thou wouldst not be jealous if there existed a Lucifer, Son of the Morning, to be something like a rival to Thee! Thy goodness would conquer him by Love.
The Evil One. Glorious, indeed, are the mental powers with which Thou hast adorned some of thy children among men : and there was one, a highly-gifted soul, who solaced his solitude in total blindness, with sublime, though misdirected meditations, through which he imagined he had solved the mystery of Evil, and discovered its original author. Worthy indeed was his language to have disclosed that awful secret to the astonished world; but having rashly ventured beyond the clear limits which Reason—thy true inspiration-marks out, he injured the interests of Truth, by committing it to the charge of its great enemy—the Fancy. How often have I tried to quench my thirst of highest knowledge, by consulting the pages of the ultramundane Bard! But painful indeed was my disappointment when I found myself sunk into matter and sense, in proportion as my guide made me hope that he was leading me on cherub's wings to the regions of spirit and pure thought.
He conceived the source of Evil in the union of the highest intellect with the most consummate wickedness—as if all misconduct were not essentially ignorance and error. Pain, weakness, and ignorance of their true causes, are the sources of vice : so at least, O God! I understand the answers of thy oracle within me. If I have misunderstood thy answer-or if, upon that awful question, I have received none from Thee—if I have no right to expect it, I am sure at least that the explanation which is generally made a part of the Christian creeds is absurd and contradictory. That odious chimera, called the Devil, has no power over the Creation. How strangely do men insult Thee, in their ignorance, by representing Thee as carrying on an interminable war with a rebel creature of thine, who, if not frequently victorious, does at least maintain a perpetual battle, in spite of the burning chains in which it is said Thou keepest him! He is described as highly intelligent, and conversant with the nature of things. He is said to be aware of the immutability of thy essence, of the immeasurable inferiority of his own; but, like a man subdued by passion, he takes a bitter pleasure in his own disgrace and final ruin, only to spite his enemy; -to spite an enemy who might annihilate him at any moment, and who (as it is said) allows him these imaginary advantages with a view to his confusion and his own brighter conquest. Alas ! for the blindness of superstition! It is in this manner that those who call themselves thine elect, the spiritually enlightened out of all mankind, have adopted the most absurd fables of idolatry! It is thus that they undermine the principles of morality, by misrepresenting Thee, the model of all goodness. Thou, God, knowest that even children can confound their instructors, by asking why Satan, the source of Evil, if inferior to God, is allowed to exist. It is true the questioners are soon silenced; but they are silenced at the expense of their growing sense of equity. They are told that God allows the Devil to exist for the purpose of magnifying the Divine glory; as if that glory were to arise from the applause and approbation of other Gods, and were not to be obtained at the cost of the wretches who are believed to have fallen, and to have still to fall into the eternal torments, in consequence of this fierce battle between the Lord of Goodness and the Lord of Wickedness. After this, we should not be surprised when we find the most monstrous proceedings represented as parts of Thy government.
Numerous bodies of men, calling themselves the authorized interpreters of thy written revelation, make it one of the conditions of salvation, to believe that thou, O God, hast from eternity chosen a limited number of thine intelligent creatures to be made for ever happy, for no reason whatever but that of a display of thy uncontrollable power and might; whilst an infinitely larger number have been appointed to an eternity of suffering, with a view to the same display. God of Goodness and Mercy! is it thus that these blind creatures purpose to flatter Thee?Have they taken Thy image from the worst tyrants that have oppressed mankind ? Could not thy Power be better displayed by making all thy intelligent creation happy by making them all virtuous ?
Free Will. “Impossible !” they exclaim: “God must give them the power of being wicked, else they could not be good. It was thus that Evil sprung up in Heaven. One of the brightest angels misused his Free Will, ruined innumerable hosts of his brethren, who ever since have infested the earth, and covered it with vice and misery. It is Free Will that maintains both the interest of Hell and of Heaven, though it greatly leans to the former.”_What a surprising conception ! Who could have imagined that a Will, without motive, should be so powerful as to defy the Almighty ?“Oh! no: to assert such a thing would be blasphemy. God's Grace is infinitely more powerful than Free Will. That Grace controls it without difficulty, directs it without destroying it, and often, working upon the most rebellious irresistibly, leaves their Freedom untouched.”—I will not attempt to unravel such a mass of contradictions ; but it is enough that thy Power for Good remains untouched. The difficulty opposed by Free Will has vanished. Free Will is subject to thy Grace; in other words, Thy will and power to do good cannot be opposed by Man. Thou canst conquer even the most rebellious: if Thou canst, (as I firmly believe, Thou wilt. Let the World of Mind love and praise Thee for ever!