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THE CAUSE OF EVIL,
MY DEAR FRIEND,
I am not surprised that a mind vigorous and inquisitive as yours should be
most important, interesting, and perplexing subjects that has ever exercised the human intellect; nor am I surprised that you should think that the most popular theories concerning it are calculated to distract and subdue rather than to satisfy the judgment, and that none of the difficulties have been removed in which it was found involved by its first investigators.
Who those investigators were, no record has informed us; but there is every reason to suppose that they were to be found in whatever nation first so far emerged from barbarism as to procure, by the labor of part of its population, sustenance for the whole. The part thus liberated from daily corporal labor would naturally exercise their minds with speculations on subjects of the most obvious and momentous interest to them - namely, the nature of their species and of its Creator. Inseparable from a consideration of either of those subjects is that question which now engages your attention, and which, as Dr. Johnson observes, “has baffled the whole force of human reason in every age”- What is the cause of evil, physical and moral?
Accordingly, no memorials of the religion or philosophy of any people have
reached us, which do not contain contradictory and unsatisfactory attempts to disentangle the perplexities of this eternally interesting question. Antiquity has transmitted it to us unshorn of a single difficulty, and the present age seems determined so to bequeath it to posterity. Mankind appear, by common consent, to abandon it in despair; and to have drawn only this conclusion from all their investigations of it - that it is absolutely beyond the reach of huinan faculties, and that, consequently, those faculties are rather perverted and abused, than rationally exerted in attempting to comprehend it,
The existence of evil was no doubt one of those unaccountable dispensations of an infinitely good Providence, that occasioned the elegant moralist to observe, that
“ The ways of heaven are dark and intricate, Puzzled with mazes, and perplexed with errors; .