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THOSE who study Bunyan will read this Chapter. It will, I hope, "provoke" some Theologian to grapple with the philo. sophy of Satanic agency. Neither the BAMPTON nor the CONGREGATIONAL Lectures will be complete, until they take up this subject. Robert Hall, had he been spared, would have become a Lecturer, rather than leave the subject as it now stands.
It is much to be regretted, that no commanding mind has girded up its loins, or clothed itself in all the armour of Light, (reason and revelation,) in order to challenge the public mind on the subject of Satan and his Angels." The question of the existence and agency of Evil Spirits, should not be left unsettled ; nor at issue between the superstitious and the scoffing, or the credulous and incredulous. It should be rescued from the hands of both, and set at rest, by the “ high hand” of Christian Philosophy: for it is a practical question, and fraught with national as well as personal interests. The claims of Humanity, as much as the credit of Religion, demand this. If there really be no devil, and thus no danger of being tempted but by each other, or by our own passions, the Laws of the country should no longer speak of “ the instigation of the devil;" nor the Catechism of Churches, of the devil or his works; nor Ministers and Parents, of his wiles or snares. But if, on the other hand, there be a devil, who can and does tempt men to sin, and whose angels and agents are actually busy at this demoralizing work, the awful fact should be so awfully proclaimed, that no witling durst laugh at it even over his
cups, and no sciolist evade it even by verbal criticisms.
True; the subject is proclaimed in all ways, in the Bible. There, Satan is frequently named, characterized, denounced, and pointed out as the Enemy and the Tempter of man: and yet, the giddy laugh at him, and the busy forget him, and would-be philosophers resolve the whole affair into figures of speech. In the fashionable slang of modern philosophy, the devil is nothing more than the personified principle of evil.”—Southey's Wesley.
All this is said and done, in the very face of a Bible teem. ing with descriptions of Satan, and thundering with warnings against his wiles. True ! This, however, is not the only reveal. ed truth, which has been thus treated for ages, and yet afterwards was lodged in the public mind, and chartered into popu. larity, by the commanding influence of a great name. Pub. lic opinion has never played with images or indulgences, since Luther, Knox, and Cranmer fought the battle of the Reforma. tion. Whitefield and Wesley drove baptismal regeneration from all pulpits and all heads, into which the Cross of Christ was admitted. Wardlaw, Magee, and Smith, turned the new Version of Socinianism and the creed of Priestley, into an old bye-word. David Bogue awoke the Church to the claims of the heathen, and John Harris has frightened her at the worship of Mammon. Thus, a great truth can be forced into general notice, and fastened upon so many leading minds, by one influential Champion, that it will work its way through all ranks of society, and tell with effect upon public opinion and practice. There is, therefore, nothing in all the wanton or flippant modes in which Satanic influence is sported with, which may not be checked and put down. Mockery, and fearlessness, and heedlessness, in reference to this spiritual danger, may be rendered as rare and unpopular as blasphe. my or ribaldry.
Why has not this been done? Has it been shunned from a fear of making the devil of too much importance ? Have the Champions of orthodoxy thought that it would be paying him too high a compliment, to challenge him? Do they suspect that the discussion of the subject would make all that is bad in public opinion, and all that is unhealthy in public feeling, worse? I will not suppose this. The world is too old, and the Church too wise, to dream or drivel again about the devils of superstition. These are all gone forever, with the ghosts and hobgoblins of antiquity. Science and common-sense cast out these imps; and, therefore, no superstition can bring them back. They sunk into derisive contempt; and nothing recovers from that overthrow. Even in regard to the devil himself, the cloven.foot is almost out of date, and his horns are given up entirely. Thus there is no danger of reviving any old fictions or fancies, by drawing public attention to the revealed facts of Satanic agency ; especially in the case of John Bunyan.
Is there, then, any danger of creating a panic, by bringing home to the public mind the whole truth upon this subject? Would the devil be too much dreaded by men, if they really believed all that the Scriptures say, or Bunyan believed of him? This question is not answered by saying, that many who have Scriptural views of Satan, are neither in terror nor in bondage of spirit, by them. Such persons have Scriptural views of Grace and Providence also, which prevent dismay, or counterbalance suspicion. What, however, would be the effect of realizing Saian, just as he is revealed, on a mind unprepared to fall back for relief upon either Grace or Provi. dence? Such minds abound, alas, everywhere : and, therefore, much as I regret the want of a Work, which should amount to a demonstration on this subject, I should deprecate a mere demonstration. It might bring as many into bond. age all their life-time through fear of the devil, as are so through fear of death,
There is no tendency of this kind in what the Bible says about Satan; much as it says.
It never introduces him alone, nor apart from some promise or maxim, calculated to balance whatever fear the description of his power or malignity may create. An Infidel might be challenged on this fact. Let him make out the revealed devil as he will, and exaggerate to the uttermost his shocking attributes, and caricature all their tendency to frighten weak minds and enslave susceptible ima. ginations; still he cannot prove that this is their design. If can. did or honest, he durst not assert it: for in every instance, there stands, at Satan's “ right hand,” some “ Angel of the Lord, to resist him," or to “ bind him." I mean, every awful or warn. ing sight of his character and designs, is preceded or followed by some great and precious promise of deliverance, or by some kind advice, directly calculated to alleviate all unnecessary and tormenting fear. He has not, therefore, studied the Bible, who can call Satan a bugbear, to frighten children, or to affront the understandings of men. The most superficial reader even, may see at a glance, that, whenever Satan is brought forward there, he is followed by promises more numerous than his temptations, and confronted by Shields more powerful than his fiery darts. Thus the revealed Satan, however formidable or ferocious, is always placed before us in the Bible, between a double blaze of light, which shows clearly that he will flee
now if resisted, and that God will bruise him shortly, under the feet of all who try to overcome him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their Testimony. Bunyan found this to be the fact.
Such being the connexion in which we are warned against the devil, and encouraged to war against him, it is astonishing that any man who acknowledges the Scriptures to be the Word of God, could imagine the devil to be merely a figure of speech, or a personification of the principle of evil. Why; all that is sweetest in the Promises, all that is greatest in the Prophesies, all that is most inspiring in the prospects of Glory, all that is wonderful in the love of Christ, and in the and
of God, is all set against the power of Satan, as that power bears against mankind. Can such Sublime facts be thus arrayed against a bold figure of speech? This would, indeed be
“ Ocean into tempest wrought,
To waft a feather, or to drown a fly !" Besides, it really requires no great stock or strength of faith, in a world such as ours is, and always has been, to believe that there really is a real devil. Some men have certainly been very like the devil. Pharaoh, Herod, Nero, and some of the old Popes of Rome, did not come far short of his cruelty : Voltaire, and one of our own poets, took a very fiend-like pleasure in poisoning the fountains of truth and morals : and
many slave-traders, slave-drivers, and slave-owners, have almost equalled Satan, both in lying and in tyranny. This is not, I am aware, proof that there is a devil ; but it renders the suppo. sition highly probable. It even proves, that no limit can be set to the lengths which a godless man can go, when his passions are enflamed and unbalanced. All the concession, therefore, required in order to the belief of a godless and reckless spirit, is, an admission that an angel might rebel and be punished, as well as a man ; or fall as Adam fell. A less concession than this, however, will do. Let it only be granted, that an angel might wish for more power, or more freedom, than God thought good for him to possess, or would grant him. This is certainly not an impossibility. If that angel, therefore, determined to get possession of what was denied him, in spite of God, and at all hazards (a thing we see men do every day,) both his disappointment and his punishment are inevitable. He must be expelled from heaven, and branded with shame, if God is of purer eyes than to behold rebels around his throne.
And when thus banished and branded, what is more natural than for such a rebel to become reckless ? Having no hope, nothing is so likely as that he should become the sworn foe of God, and of all that God loves or cares for. Men hate God and religion in this way, with less to exasperate or embitter their spirit: yes; men who in youth smiled as cherubs at their mother's side, and sang like angels at their mother's knee, when they first heard of their Heavenly Father !
Thus, there is no more real difficulty in conceiving how fallen angels should become fierce, and malignant, and reckless, than how a gentle boy should become a very monster of iniquity. The chief difficulty in regard to Satan is, not that he is inclined to seduce, and ensnare, and destroy ; but that Gop should allow him to try to do so. Now this is certainly a grave difficulty. It is, however, only one of many, of the same kind. Beauty, wealth, wine, luxuries, and dress, become ruinous snares : but who questions the justice or the wisdom of God in creating these things ? or requires, as the condition of piety, that they should all be swept out of the world, and nothing left to eat, drink, wear, or admire, which could be abused, or become a temptation ? No one. And yet, these things appeal more directly to our senses and our passions, than Satan does to our principles.
This remark does not, I am aware, go far towards removing the difficulty. It merely proves that there are other difficul. ties to solve, in the probationary state of man. Besides, the things just named are all good in themselves, and only do evil when they are perverted from their original purpose; where. as Satan is evil, and nothing but evil.
If I could express this more strongly, I would : because if ever the difficulty before us is removed, it must be fairly met. Here then is a being thoroughly bad, and intent upon mis. chief, permitted by God to go about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Now this, to say the least of it, is very strange, at first sight. Not much stranger, however, than some other things around us. There are rank poisons in not a few minerals, metals, and plants; and none of them labelled such, by nature. Man has had to find them all out by expe. rience and observation. But now that these poisons are known, they can be turned into the best medicines by chemi. cal skill. Thus a thing may be very bad in itself, and yet turned to good account by wise management. Now, what if it can be shown that incalculable good might result, and is