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ance and humble confession that he had sinned against the Lord, his sin was put away, and his own life reprieved ; howbeit, because by this deed he had given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child that was born unto him of Uriah's wife was ordained surely to die. (1 Sam. xii. 13, 14.) And when the pestilence that destroyed the people was inflicted, that was dispensed at the hand of a good angel. (2 Sam. xxiv. 16.) With this distinction we believe the assertion laid down to be incontrovertible; namely, that to the malicious interference of the devil is ascribed those various evils that are permitted to assail the human race-his unceasing objects being to steal, to kill, and to destroy. (John x. 10.)
But that such a being as an evil agent should exist, and from whence he originated, is matter of very interesting and important inquiry. We have already stated some deductions from whence we inferred the necessity of our being led into supreme felicity through an introductory passage, where, amidst difficulties and dangers, we were to acquire and manifest the love of virtue and hatred of vice. Now, if such a probation is essential for us, can we behold the amazing hosts of heaven that are pervious to our view, and further reflect that beyond our sight vast regions lie,* and forbear to ask ourselves this question :--Is it probable that those myriads of beings who inhabit the boundless universe should all be placed in perfect security and happiness ? for if there is not a possi
* In a future page this conclusion will be found fully confirmed by Scripture.
bility of enjoying the latter without the love of virtue, how could that love exist, were they by pre-determined fate so formed, as inevitably and unavoidably to walk appointed paths, without the will or power of deviation; incapable of the delight of conscious virtue, that pure, that godlike joy; unable to comply with the gracious invitation held out to us, Give me thy heart, if their heart were by necessity so fixed as to render an alienation impossible ? Our great epic poet, Milton, in his “ Paradise Lost,” finely argues on this subject, in the supposed address to Adam
“ To whom the angel : Son of heaven and earth,
· If, then, our benevolent all-wise Creator has placed good and evil before us for our choice, that the perfection of our virtues, as well as our felicity, may consist in loving the one and hating the other, as the very reason assigned in Scrip
ture for the exaltation of our blessed Lord is, that He loved righteousness and hated iniquity; (Heb. i. 9 ;)—if the capability of enjoying happiness rests solely on our own determination—for if we here learn not the joy of imparting joy, how can we be prepared to participate in the joy of our Lord ?if, here, we do not bend our wills to be faithful in a few things, how can we be qualified for being rulers over many things ?-if, at the dissolution of our planetary system, the sower (who, in conjunction with his blessed Son, has worked hitherto) should again go forth to sow, and we progress to guardian angels over newly created probationary beings, how could we assume the kind appointment, were not our hearts replete with pity, sympathy, and compassion; which, as evil appears essential to the production of excessive good, become indispensable ingredients in the composition of each virtuous moral agent, and are the proclaimed, the adored attributes of Deity itself; (Exod. xxxiv. 5, 6, 7;)—if an anxious desire to obey the commands of the benevolent Creator be a disposition absolutely necessary for all created beings to possess, how could that disposition be illustrated without a state of trial?—if the kingdom of heaven is to commence within us—for there alone can we cultivate all those amiable affections that are fit for transplantation in celestial soil, and that like a well of water are springing up to everlasting lifecan this kingdom be created. these plants of virtue cultured, and vital fountains flow, without any exertion on our part, or fervent application
for that divine assistance, without which we can do nothing ?-if our light momentary afflictions are working out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, and the trial of our faith is esteemed more precious than gold; if all this preparation is requisite for us, and those from out our mortal race alone are counted blessed who endure temptation, and on the bright result of triumphing over trials, receive that unfading crown of life, which our most gracious Lord has promised to those who love him :-may we not very reasonably conclude, that it must be essentially necessary for all other orders of intelligents, during some period of their existence, to encounter such hardships, difficulties, and dangers, as should openly demonstrate their love of virtue, and prove, by test, their faith in, obedience to, and zeal for, their great and good Creator ? Our epic poet, in the address from which we have already selected a quotation, thus proceeds
“ Myself, and all th' angelic host that stand
It is not, however, left for the dictates of human reason to determine this important point, for we find our conclusions respecting it completely established by Scripture : as even our blessed Saviour himself was a tried stone, (Isa. xxviji. 16;) though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things that he suffered. (Heb. v.
8.) And we are therein further informed of the existence of beings, who, by the event, it clearly appeared must have been destined to cope with difficulties. For record is given that angels kept not all their first estate, but left their own habitation. (Jude 6.) That Being unto whom all things are possible could be at no loss for the administration of these difficulties previous to the existence of an evil agent; and as from him all things do proceed, we must conclude that those trials to which are annexed the epithet of evils, are of his ordination and appointment. This point is likewise placed beyond conjecture by the following declaration,-I create evil, saith the Lord.* The original liability to evil was, it appears extremely probable, produced by all orders of beings having been ordained to maintain a due regulation of their passions; and as even the paradisiacal garden of the natural world required both dressing and keeping, every wild and extra
* The whole verse runs thus: “I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light and create darkness: I make peace and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” (Isa. xlv. 5, 6, 7.) “ It is worthy observation that these words being addressed to Cyrus, King of Persia, must be understood as spoken in reference to the Persian sect of Magians, who then held light and darkness, or good and evil, to be the supreme beings, without acknowledging the great God, who is superior to both. And it was, without doubt, from hence that Zoroastres had the hint of mending this great absurdity in their theology.”—Prideaux's Connexion.