And I sought “whence is evil,” and sought in an evil way; and saw not the evil in my very search. I set now before the sight
of my spirit the whole creation, whatsoever we can see therein (as sea, earth, air, stars, trees, mortal creatures); yea,
and whatever in it we do not see, as the firmament of heaven, all angels moreover, and all the spiritual inhabitants thereof.
But these very beings, as though they were bodies, did my fancy dispose in place, and I made one great mass of Thy
creation, distinguished as to the kinds of bodies; some, real bodies, some, what myself had feigned for spirits. And this
mass I made huge, not as it was (which I could not know), but as I thought convenient, yet every way finite. But Thee, O Lord,
I imagined on every part environing and penetrating it, though every way infinite: as if there were a sea, every where, and
on every side, through unmeasured space, one only boundless sea, and it contained within it some sponge, huge, but bounded;
that sponge must needs, in all its parts, be filled from that unmeasurable sea: so conceived I Thy creation, itself finite,
full of Thee, the Infinite; and I said, Behold God, and behold what God hath created; and God is good, yea, most mightily
and incomparably better than all these: but yet He, the Good, created them good; and see how He environeth and fulfils them.
Where is evil then, and whence, and how crept it in hither? What is its root, and what its seed? Or hath it no being? Why
fear we and avoid what is not? Or if we fear it idly, then is that very fear evil, whereby the soul is thus idly goaded
and racked. Yea, and so much a greater evil, as we have nothing to fear, and yet do fear. Therefore either is that evil which
we fear, or else evil is, that we fear. Whence is it then? seeing God, the Good, hath created all these things good. He indeed,
the greater and chiefest Good, hath created these lesser goods; still both Creator and created, all are good. Whence is evil?
Or, was there some evil matter of which He made, and formed, and ordered it, yet left something in it which He did not
convert into good? Why so then? Had He no might to turn and change the whole, so that no evil should remain in it, seeing
He is All-mighty? Lastly, why would He make any thing at all of it, and not rather by the same All-mightiness cause it not
to be at all? Or, could it then be against His will? Or if it were from eternity, why suffered He it so to be for infinite
times past, and was pleased so long after to make something out of it? Or if He were suddenly pleased now to effect somewhat,
this rather should the All-mighty have effected, that this evil matter should not be, and He alone be, the whole, true, sovereign,
and infinite Good. Or if it was not good that He who was good should not also frame and create something that were good, then,
that evil matter being taken away and brought to nothing, He might form good matter, whereof to create all things.
For He should not be All-mighty, if He might not create something good without the aid of that matter which Himself had
not created. These thoughts I revolved in my miserable heart, overcharged with most gnawing cares, lest I should die ere I
had found the truth; yet was the faith of Thy Christ, our Lord and Saviour, professed in the Church Catholic, firmly fixed
in my heart, in many points, indeed, as yet unformed, and fluctuating from the rule of doctrine; yet did not my mind utterly
it, but rather daily took in more and more of it.