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II. The power of Satan to do mischief and destroy. His power unquestionably is very great, both from his own personal capabilities, and from the immense number of evil spirits subordinate to him as their leader. We are taught to conceive of Satan as the head of a spiritual empire of great extent, and comprehending within itself innumerable subordinate agents. These were originally holy intelligences : they swerved from their allegiance to the "blessed and only Potentate,” on which account they lost their first estate. Satan, as pre-eminent in rank and in dignity, took the lead in the revolt, and on account of this pre-eminence, continues to rule the rest, who are styled his angels. What their number may be it is vain to conjecture; but when we reflect on the magnitude of the universe, and the extensive and complicated agency in which they are affirmed to be engaged, we shall probably be inclined to conjecture that their number far exceeds that of the human race.
In this view we easily account for the extent of his agency in tempting and destroying the human race. In the Bible there seems to be ascribed to him a sort of ubiquity, as though he were present in different parts of the world at the same time. We are not to understand that he himself is thus present. None but the divine Being has this power. The representation is based upon
the fact that he has such immense numbers under him, executing his great schemes of wickedness; and all their subordinate works are ascribed to the will and efficiency of the one controlling agent—the devil.
The power of Satan, as at the head of so vast an empire of wicked spirits, all ready to execute his crafty plans and malignant dictations, must be fearfully great.
His own pre-eminence, his towering capabilities, which render him adequate to such a control, must be astonishing and complete. How comprehensive and mighty the intellect of Satan! There is ground to suppose that, of created minds previous to the revolt in heaven, his was the most commanding; the greatest. This spirit, the highest of all the hosts of heaven, stood next to the uncreated mind; and from this very pre-eminence sprang the daring purpose of revolt, and the rearing of another standard in heaven. To this original and astonishing greatness of endowment, there is to be added on the growth of many thousand years. This growth, considering how that mind has been tasked in its mighty schemes and conflicts, we must suppose has been prodigious. I might go on and refer to the works of Satan as proof of the wonderful strength and scope of his intellect, but enough has been said to satisfy every believer in revelation that the power of that being who is warring, on the theatre of this world, with the Son of God, his power to do evil, from his own intellectual endowments and attainments, and from the empire of wicked spirits which he governs, is vastly, fearfully great.
III. We are now prepared to enter upon our third point, namely, his modes of doing evil, of bringing destruction upon men : “The methods of the devil.” This is a literal translation of one Scripture phrase " restodeizs” in the Greek—“the methods of the devil.”
Here we are opened into a great field. We cannot go into a mi• nute description and detail. The time will allow us merely to indicate some of the general schemes and maneuvres resorted to by the adversary for the corrupting and destroying of men.
The great object of the adversary manifestly is to prevent the effect of the Gospel upon the minds of men. Truth is Christ's grand instrument in all his works of reformation and redemption. The devil keeps it off, and keeps it out as far as he can. The text so informs us. “ If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them who are lost, (that is, lost in sin,) in whom the god of this world bath blinded the minds of them which believe not." And why blinded ? Lest the glorious Gospel. of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. What the precise nature of this blinding is, and what the way in which it is effected, we are not informed by the inspired writer; nor is there time to go into any inquiries at this point. The fact
, (and with this we are chiefly concerned,) the fact that the adversary does blind the minds of men, is unequivocally asserted; and the effect is asserted with equal clearness. A man, or body of men, so blinded, do not see or apprehend the evidence, the reality, the force of truth.
The first step being to get and keep the minds of men dispossessed of truth, a kindred and auxiliary measure is to keep those minds possessed of error. Error is the grand instrument of all the devil's achievements, as truth is of Christ's : and his character and name are in perfect keeping with this instrument. “ For,” says Christ," he is a liar and the father of it.” In the revelation it is said, “he deceiveth the whole world.” We have seen that he is god of this world, that he blinds men. His blinding then is on a large scale, by getting in false religions and systems of error. It is in this way, rather than by direct instigation, that he is represented as working in the children of disobedience. Here we see the strength and craft of that mighty intellect. By these comprehensive maneuvres ; by extending and establishing false religions; by getting accepted great swaying superstitions in some sections; in others, the polluting and destroying doctrines and rites of paganism, he is enabled, safely to his interest, to withdraw his solicitude from a very large majority of the human family. In those parts he knows that, without any special efforts or care, all will be allegiant to him while those great schemes of falsehood remain.
The next manœuvre or method is, where there must be christianity in some form, to get in, if possible, a corrupt form. He does introduce some great religious error: it goes for christianity -goes for religion; though there be not a particle of the spirit
and power of religion in it. These corrupt forms are various, to suit different orders of mind, tastes, and degrees of cultivation. These fundamental errors are embraced; and just so far as the adversary can blind men, and induce them to believe these errors, all is deemed safe ; he has no concern about those individuals so long as the errors are adhered to.
Here let me add, it has been well remarked that religious error is at issue with religious truth at this point, namely, of the punishment of wicked, unregenerate men in the future world. God has declared, and placed it on record, "The soul that sinneth it shall die ;” “Except ye repent ye shall surely perish.” The great adversary early began to say, and has been busily saying all along down the line of time, “Ye shall not surely die." Here we have the great, standing, stereotyped lie of the father of lies. Upon this one text, which he took in the garden of Eden, he has been discoursing ever since, and with it filling up his fiery dominions with spirits from earth. '“Be prayerless men; be dishonest men; be profane men; Sabbath-breakers, thieves, liars, adulterers—continue such, go out of the world such, ye shall not die ; surely ye shall not be very gravely punished; it shall be well with you in the end.” How comforting, but O how destroying !
For the sake of clearness of view and impression, let us come down to an individual case. The devil, as a skilful, practiced seducer, aims in the first place at the destruction of principle, right religious principle: if possible, to get truth out of the mind, and error in its place. If, by his deceptive, blinding power, he can only induce a person to deny the existence of God, or the inspiration and truth of the Bible, or the doctrine of atonement, or regeneration, or of the future endless punishment of the wicked, and keep to that denial, he is satisfied. He knows that the irreligion, the impenitence, and the eternal ruin of that person comes along as a matter of course.
But in regions where Gospel truth is proclaimed, it cannot be kept out of the minds of many by all the diligence and blinding power of the devil and his angels. Blessed be God, the great Promulgator and Patron of this truth is stronger than the patron of error. This Gospel truth, where faithfully proclaimed, does enter the minds of some; sharper than any two-edged sword, and an almighty power backing it, it cuts its way through the steel and the adamant. To change the figure, the incorruptible seed enters, is lodged in the soul, and begins slightly to work. The sinner begins to feel, to be alarmed, to be moved.
At this juncture, the effort of the devil is to catch it away. We have this, most explicitly, on the authority of Christ. Said he, not in figure, but in the literal explaining of figure, “ Those by the wayside are they that hear; then cometh the devil and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved." In addition to the authority of Christ, we have the evidence of our observation. We see this thing done : we see men seriously impressed; they are under the incipient workings of truth ; when we are grieved and astonished to learn that it is all gone. They see something, or hear something, or think something, and their impressions go away with the suddenness almost of lightning. It is the devil snatching away the word; and, beyond question, be is wonderfully busy in this way in seasons of religious revival. But he cannot always succeed in getting away the word. In the breasts of many it is inserted too deep; it adheres.
Where this is the case, his next effort is to induce delusion. While the truth works, he maneuvres to conduct the process so that it shall terminate in a false hope. Here he comes forth in a new garb; even as an angel of light. By this we are to understand that he put on the
appearance of goodness; he is even religious; and helps others, if not in becoming so, at least in appearing so. The part of the mind he operates on is the imagination; presents forms and visions which excite and exhilarate; injects passages of Scripture such as “thy sins be forgiven thee, with the interpretation that they came right down from God, and are God's words to the burdened soul. The burdened soul believes it and leaps forth with an assurance of forgiveness. The hope in these cases is built not upon the fact of gracious exercises in view of divine truth, but upon the fact that some remarkable vision or dream, or some passage of Scripture came suddenly and unsought to the mind. The adversary, doubtless, has many methods of bringing about a false hope; and a great point is gained when he has done it; indeed, two or three points. He has succeeded in keeping another soul from Christ, when convinced of his need of Christ, and was even feeling his way after him. By the delusion, the spurious experience, he has made the final destruction of that soul altogether more probable. Finally, he is enabled to show that his schemes of error will bring about conversions, and religious experience, about as well as what is called the truth. Thus he brings forward his own works, almost his own miracles sometimes, in order to give currency and permanence to his errors.
I should like to pause and speak in this connection of the wonderful versatility of the devil. We do not comprehend, certainly we do not properly consider, the great variety of things he can do, or help men to do; and we ought to understand that he is just as ready to do religious things as wicked things, if he can as effectually accomplish his malignant purposes thereby. His borrowed form is manifestly his favorite one, and the most to be feared. I do believe he inflicts far deeper injuries upon the souls of men as an angel of light, than as an angel of darkness; destroys more effectually, and more to his mind, as the fair-mouthed and still seducer, than as the open-mouthed and roaring lion.
But Satan cannot defeat all truth by catching it away, or by bringing it to a delusive result. The divine power makes it end in the thorough conversion of many souls. They come forth into the light; they stand firm upon the rock.
This brings us to another stage and field of the great adversary's operations. His strongest and most definite efforts are made upon those who stand forth as professed christians; even upon those whom he knows Christ stands pledged to protect. In this view we behold the astonishing audacity of the devil
. We may be astonished at it when we remember how he assailed in three artful modes, and tried to throw down the Son of God himself. What disciple may hope to escape, when the Lord himself was the object of his wiles? It is very evident from the Bible, that the specific, individual, and very concentrated assaults of the adversary are made upon those who are known to the world as christians. Against these are employed his most ingenious devices. For these he spreads bis most artful snares; into these are cast his “fiery darts ;" by which we may understand the injecting of wicked blasphemous thoughts, the inflaming of the imagination, the enkindling of the unholy passions, and making them burn as if set on fire of hell. He peeled and desolated Job, in order to compel him to curse his Maker. He incited David to number Israel, a crime which brought down the desolating sword of God. He desired to have Peter, that he might sift him as wheat; and but for the prayer of Christ, he would have had him, and would have done it. He entered into Judas, one of the chosen twelve, and, through the passion of avarice, persuaded him to sell Christ to his enemies. He put it into the heart of Ananias and Sapphira, disciples who probably had thus far run well, to lie to the Holy Ghost. These are specimens of the direct and fiery assaults of Satan upon the professed friends of Christ. The object is the overthrow of Christians, to make them sin and fall; in order, first, that he may disgrace them individually, and, if possible, pluck them out of the hands of Christ, and destroy their souls. What a triumph, if he can only get one of Christ's little ones under his foul cloven feet! The second and greater object is, that he may disgrace the cause of Christ; that he may bring discredit upon the truth of Christ. His name means calumniator. He is called in the Revelation, “the accuser of the brethren.” The sinning of his own subjects is done very much out of sight. The deeds of wicked men are deeds of darkness. He is willing that they should remain deeds of darkness. Not so when the christian sins. The adversary, in the first instance, unquestionably often instigates the crime; and then he manages to have it brought and held up in mid heaven for all men to look at. It is the sin of a christian. “Don't you see," he says, “that this spiritual, praying religion makes people no better? They are all hypocrites, or nearly all. The soundest mo