Chicago's Awful Theater Horror
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When Chicago was burning, a little girl in a christian home in a neighboring city stamped her foot indignantly on the floor and said: "Why doesn't God put out the fire?"
The cry of many an agonized heart, beating in children of a larger growth, has been: "Why doesn't a God of wisdom and love prevent such an awful occurrence as the Iroquois fire?" "I have lost all faith in God," said a dear friend of mine, as its full meaning began to break upon him.
When we were carrying out the dying and the dead from that horrible darkness and choking smoke to the outer air, those of us who were wont to pray could only say, "O God have mercy! O God have mercy!"
But there must be no panic in our faculties. Reason must not desert her rightful throne. Blinded by tears, we must not in our consuming passion of resentment against the sickening catastrophe, attempt with our puny arms to strike against God. He did not cause the calamity. No responsibility for it can be rolled upon Him. God is law; and his laws had been palpably broken by human negligence and incompetency. God is love; and human greed and selfishness had violated every principle of love which "worketh no ill to his neighbor."
God cannot coerce man, as one by sheer brute force can another. The savage father may break both the body and soul of his child. Not so God, those of his children. Man must render a voluntary obedience to the Divine command. By pains and crosses and sorrows and shame he may be led to that surrender. But he must say with a free, princely spirit at last, "I will to do thy will O God."
It is the old problem of evil with which this terrible tragedy has brought us face to face. The generic evil, out of which all evils spring, every giant intellect of the ages has grappled with, and it has thrown them all. The question is not "Why should God permit this special evil to come to us, which has well nigh paralyzed our city and thrilled the civilized world both with horror and sympathy, but why did he create the world at all and put man upon it?" The finite cannot measure the Infinite. Imperfection belongs to the one; perfection to the other. Where there is imperfection there is always the possibility of evil.
A reverent faith will bow before the mystery and yet master it with an undaunted courage. Evil must exist if the Universe is to be. The Universe is, and it is the best possible Universe God can create. If he could have given us a better one he would not be the God we revere.
Evil is the vast, dark background against which He brings out the brightest pictures of beauty and life. From a "Paradise Lost" comes forth a "Paradise Regained" with its transcendent glory of progress, and allegiance to law and love.