We see in the pagan writers the height of sin, as they simultaneously recognize the folly of past men inventing gods to worship while lamenting the disappearance of idols as the true religion grows. This is beyond even those who think that the idols serve as intermediaries with the demons, who in turn serve as intermediaries with God. In fact even this latter idea is the result of a false interpretation of the providence of God. While it may appear that demons and statues have the power to influence the world,
They cannot, however, do anything of this kind unless where they are permitted by the deep and secret providence of God, and then only so far as they are permitted. When, however, they are permitted, it is not because they, being midway between men and the gods, have through the friendship of the gods great power over men; for these demons cannot possibly be friends to the good gods who dwell in the holy and heavenly habitation, by whom we mean holy angels and rational creatures, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers, from whom they are as far separated in disposition and character as vice is distant from virtue, wickedness from goodness.Anything evil does comes from God's providence, not from some kind of inherent right that it has by its own nature of ability. Evil functions only at the command of God, not by its own power. I can think of few more comforting doctrines for the Christian life than that of the Sovereignty of God expressed here by Augustine. What have we to fear in the world, and what suffering can we not endure when we know that it comes from the will and hand of God?