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Isaiah, took each but one wife; and Jacob appears to have been led into the baneful error of having two, solely through the treachery of his uncle Laban, and the ardour of his affection for his betrothed and beloved Rachel. But though God was pleased to tolerate this liberty, under the Old Testament, its disciples are admonished against a too liberal indulgence of the permission. “Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away.” (Deut. xvii.) And those who did avail themselves of this permission were required to practise the utmost violence on their feelings, and probably to resist the persuasions of a most beloved object, rather than disobey the law of God, which expressly directs, “ That if a man have two wives, one beloved and another hated, and they have borne him children, both the beloved and the hated ; and if the first-born son be hers that was hated, then it shall be, when he maketh his sons to inherit that which he hath, that he may not make the son of the beloved first-born before the son of the hated, which is indeed the first-born, by giving him a double portion of all which he hath.” (Deut. xxi. 15, 16, 17.) For the author, therefore, of Mahometanism to have revived and granted a permission so subversive of peace, comfort, and social happiness, so infallibly productive of envy, hatred, and other malignant passions, (truths which the Scripture clearly ascertains, by unfolding the private miseries of Jacob's and Elkanah's families on this account,) after it had been wisely and kindly prohibited, for above six hundred years, by the founder of the Christian
religion, we cannot consider as creditable to Mahomet, or recommendatory of his religion.
Leaving every impartial and virtuous mind to reflect on the very brief instances of external evidence that have been stated, and to decide by the unerring criterion pointed out by our Lord, on the several fruits produced by the Zendavesta, the Alcoran, and the Gospel, we shall proceed to remark, that it is certainly far more reasonable to believe, that God would impart a revelation of his being, attributes, and perfections, together with a knowledge of his will unto his rational offspring, than that He should not do so.
And that if we are possessed of sufficient evidence to assure us that the Scriptures are a revelation sent from heaven, it would be very unreasonable to reject any of its assertions, though our unassisted reason was incapable of forming an independent conclusion respecting them. We did, in a preceding page,* observe, that a rational inquirer might be led, from certain causes that had been just submitted to the opinion of our readers, to suspect that moral evil was permitted to assail us, through the medium of an invisible, malicious agent, and we have found this supposition fully confirmed by Scripture. Therefore, if no rational argument is opposed to our conjecture, no observations specified that might lead us to trace the origin of those evils which molest the inhabitants of our world to some other source, we think ourselves justified in concluding, that the supposition at which reason has glanced, which Scripture confirms, and which
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no philosopher demonstrates erroneous, is founded in truth; and that the evil being, therein called the devil, is, as he is there invariably represented, the engine by which is disseminated all those great and complicated miseries that are endured by man: it was indeed extremely reasonable to expect, and would have been matter of surprise if the New Testament had not clearly ascertained from whence such opposite principles as those of good and evil did proceed. But, under a parabolical form, we find this question directly put,—“Sir, did not you sow good seed in your field, from whence then hath it tares ?” A short solution is given to this inquiry; “An enemy hath done this ;” and in the brief explanation annexed to this parable, we are further informed that this enemy was the devil. (Matt. xiii. 27–39.) We shall only subjoin, in this place, three more instances in attestation of the assertion ad. vanced. First, its being recorded of the infernal potentate's grand Opposer, on our earth, that He went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil. (Acts x. 30.) Secondly, Christ's own reply to a Jewish ruler, who expressed his indignation at his having performed an act of mercy, on the Sabbath-day, towards an impotent woman, who had a spirit of infirmity, was bowed together, and could in no wise lift
up herself; which fully ascertained the fountain from which He imputed natural evil, the offspring of moral evil, to have flowed. “Ought not,” says he, “à daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound, lo! these eighteen years, to be loosed from
this bond on the sabbath-day?” (Luke xiii. 11, 14, 16.) And, thirdly, God's promise to those who are wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil, that He, the God of peace, would bruise Satan under their feet shortly. (Rom. xvi. 19, 20.)
Discrimination is, however, required between the position propounded, and those judgments which, by the express command of God, are inflicted through the agency of benignant angels. To justly appreciate the intent of these, we must reflect on the design and end of punishments when ordained by the wise and good; and due consideration on this subject will shew us, that these are not appointed for vindictive purposes, but in the joint hope of reclaiming the offenders, and deterring others, by the example made of them, from incurring similar sufferings. Those are the effects produced by jurisprudence on earth, and are also the means employed by the great moral Governor of the universe. We shall only select two instances from the sacred volume in support of this observation; one of which is exhibited by the conduct and character of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and the denunciations which his obstinacy, obduracy, and cruelty excited; and which ultimately compelled the God of mercy to get him honour upon Pharaoh and upon his host, that it might be known that there is none like unto the Lord our God. (Exodus xvi. 17; viii. 10.) The other was executed pursuant to the lamentable crime committed by king David in planning the death of Uriah; and though upon his sincere repent
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.