“Yes, if he really faces the fact of the evil,” said Father Payne; “but he must not believe in a muddled sort of way, with a sort of abject timidity, that God may have brought about his weakness or his degradation. He ought to be quite clear that God wishes him to be free and happy and strong, and grieves, like Himself, over the miserable limitation. He must have no sort of doubt that God wishes him to be healthy or clean-minded. Then he can pray, he can strive for patience, he can fight his fault: he can’t do it, if he really thinks that God allowed him to be born with this horror in his blood. If God could have avoided evil—I don’t mean the sharp sorrows and trials which have a noble thing behind them, but the ailments of body or soul that simply debase and degrade—if He could have done without evil, but let it creep in, then it seems to me a hopeless business, trying to believe in God’s power or His goodness. I believe in the reality of evil, and I believe too in God with all my heart and soul. But I stand with God against evil: I don’t stand facing God, and not knowing on which side He is fighting. Everything may not be evil which I think evil: but there are some sorts of evil—cruelty, selfish lust, spite, hatred, which I believe that God detests as much as and far more than I detest them. That is what I mean by a belief, a conviction which I cannot prove, but on which I can and do act.”
“But am I justified in not sharing that belief?” I said.
“Yes,” said Father Payne; “if you, in the light of your experience, think otherwise, you need not believe it—you cannot believe it! But it is the only interpretation of the facts which sets me free to love God, which I do not only with heart and soul, but with mind and strength. If I could believe that God had ever tampered with what I feel to be evil, ever permitted it to exist, ever condoned it, I could fear Him—I should fear Him with a ghastly fear—but I could not believe in Him, or love Him as I do.”
“No, I couldn’t do that,” said Lestrange to Barthrop, in one of those unhappy little silences which so often seemed to lie in wait for Lestrange’s most platitudinal utterances. “It wouldn’t be consistent with a sense of honour.”
Father Payne gave a chuckle, and Lestrange looked pained, “Oughtn’t one to have a code of honour?” he said.
“Why, certainly!” said Father Payne, “but you mustn’t impose your code on other people. You mustn’t take for granted that your idea of honour means the same thing to everyone. Suppose you lost money at cards, and called it a debt of honour, and thought it dishonourable not to pay it; while at the same time you didn’t think it dishonourable not to pay a poor tradesman whose goods you had ordered and consumed, am I bound to accept your code of honour?”
“But there is a difference there,” said Rose, “because the man to whom you owe a gambling debt can’t recover it by law, while a tradesman can. All that a debt of honour means is that you feel bound to pay it, though you are not legally compelled to do so.”