« PreviousContinue »
away and enticing us. The Scripture devil does tempt us, but not a fallen angel as is commonly believed.
9th. It is also a fact, that the common opinions entertained of the devil, whether right or wrong, are the effect of early education and popular opinion. With most people, reason, common sense, and the Bible, had nothing to do in forming such opinions, but have been implicitly received by tradition from their fathers. They say they believe them, but cannot tell why, except that they were so taught, for they have never exercised their reason or studied the Bible to see whether they are true or false. Even when a person determines to examine such opinions, his early prejudices within, and popular opinion without, overawe and deter him from giving free scope to his investigations. We speak, here from experience, for these have been powerfully felt in the course of this discussion.
10th. The last fact which I shall mention is, that allowing the personal existence of the devil fully proved, it is beyond all doubt, that he has been much misrepresented, and his character abused by many Christian people. I shall only give an instance or two. For many ages he was accused of making witches and wizards. Now it is allowed no such beings ever existed but the whole was a piece of superstition and an astonishing instance of human credulity. Again, for ages, and even now, what frightful descriptions have been given of the devil, in preaching. He has been accused, as being the tormentor of damned souls in hell, and imagination bas been put to the utmost stretch, to describe his horrible modes of torture there. Now, not a word of this is true, for let the devil have his due, no scripture: writer ever says a word about the devil as the tormentor of any one. In fact many a railing, not to say wicked accusation has been brought against the devil, and though this is now allowed true,
no apology is made for such shameful, unscriptural defamation. We readily excuse all this, for though preachers have declaimed against such a being in the pulpit, and terrified people with such horrible descriptions of him, all must have seen that they had no great faith in their own doctrine. They, like other people, live all the six days of the week without any fear or concern about him. The minister makes him a bugbear in the pulpit to frighten the parents, and parents at home make the same use of him to frighten their children, but both take care not to be too much frightened themselves.
Any objections which have occurred to me against the views advanced, I shall fairly state and attempt to answer. It may then be objected
1st. “The devil, satan, or tempter, is spoken of as a real being. Personal pronouns, are not only used in speaking of him, but he is represented as speaking and acting, and we are expressly informed of what he said and did.”—This objection has been partially adverted to in the course of our remarks, but I shall here notice it a little further. If all to which personal pronouns are applied, are to be considered real beings, we must admit many inanimate things, yea, qualities to be real beings as well as the devil.' 'For example, the earth or land is personified, Job 31 : 38. The heavens are also personified, Jer. 2:12, 13. So is the sea, Job 38: 8, 9. Death, the grave, and destruction are personified, Job 28 : 22. 1 Cor. 15: 55. The host of heaven are personified, Psalm 148: 1– 5. See the whole Psalm. The mountains and hills can sing, and all the trees of the field can clap their hands, Isai. 55:12. Wisdom, power, and a variety of good qualities, are personified in Scripture, and why not also bad qualities, yea, the principle of evil itself? In short, if things represented as speaking and acting, must be considered as real beings, and proofs of personal existence, then it is certain all inanimate creation ought to be considered real beings, for almost all things are represented as living, and speaking, and acting. Jotham's olive tree, fig-tree, vine and bramble, must be considered living beings, for they are represented as holding a conversation together. Judg. 97-16. Micaiah's speech to Ahab, 1 Kings 22. must also be literally understood, and who does not perceive, what absurdities would ensue, if such a mode of interpretation was adopted.
2d. “ If there be no foundation in Scripture for a fallen angel, called the devil, how came this opinion to obtain such universal currency among mankind ? The opinion, you say, was held by the Magians, and this evil being was considered their evil god, and called ahraman, and by the Greeks arimanius. Zoroaster called him “an angel of darkness,” and other nations have had various other names for him. Now, as all counterfeit money implies current, must there not be a foundation in truth for such a universal belief of an evil being, call him devil, satan, or by any other name ?"-As this is the principal, and most popular objection, which can be advanced against my views, I shall spend some time in considering it. It is true that counterfeit money implies current, but do our orthodox friends believe, that counterfeit opinions in religion, always imply that there is some foundation in Scripture for them. If there be, they could not be altogether false. Do they allow, that there is
some foundation in truth for a purgatory and the doctrine of transubstantiation? Do they believe, that there is any foundation in truth for witchcraft, for ghosts, and all the different grades of hobgoblins ? Will they allow that there is a foundation in Scripture for all the wild and ridiculous opinions which have obtained currency in the world? If not, why assert that there must be for the common opinion concerning the devil? Is it not possible to invent a thousand things which have no foundation in the Bi. ble? Error supposes truth, as counterfeit money sup: poses current, but is it true that every error is a corruption of truth? But it ought to be noticed, that Dean Prideaux did not consider the articles of Zoroaster's creed, quoted Sect. 4. as corruptions of truth, but consonant to the truth. Nor do Christians in our day, for they have adopted both the sentiments and language of his creed. Why then call them corruptions of the truth? If they are, why preach such corruptions for truth to the world ? Do orthodox preachers tell the people, that such sentiments are greatly corrupted, both as to matter and language ? On the contrary, do they not solemnly assure their hearers, that such doctrines are the faithful sayings of God, though it is notorious Zoroaster taught them six hundred years before the days of Christ. Will they thank me for suggesting that there is any corruption in the case ? If they believe such opinions have any corruption about them, why not purge them, and preach only the unadulterated truth of God? Why pass as current Bible doctrine, such counterfeit opinions on the public? Although there is no law to punish men for passing counterfeit opinions in religion, yet one should think, their own doctrine of eternalmisery if they believed it, would be sufficient to deter them.
If the universal belief in a devil, proves that there is a foundation in truth for the opinion, then Pagan
ism, Mahometanism, and Roman Catholicism, have all a foundation in truth, for they have all in their turn been pretty universally believed. Purgatory, transubstantiation, witchcraft, and a thousand other opinions, ought not to be discarded, for they were once generally believed. Many good and learned men also believed them, and thought their proofs for them as good as those now adduced concerning the devil. Why are they rejected ? Because, close attention to the Bible has shown they are not taught there, and closer attention will show also, that the common opinions concerning the devil are equally false. But if the above objection had any real force, or the reasoning employed be correct, our orthodox friends will allow, that universal salvation, and that there is no devil, arc opinions, which may have some foundation in the Scriptures, and that should they ever come to be universally believed, this universal reception would make them true. But will they admit such reasoning as correct ?
How such an opinion, as that concerning an evil being called the devil, came first to exist among men, has been partly accounted for in Sections 3. and 4. Christians learned this opinion from the Jews, the Jews learned it from Zoroaster's creed, and Zoroaster learned it from the ancient Magian religion. Well, it may be asked, how came the Magians to imbibe such an opinion ? I would first answer this question by asking another. How came the Sabians to worship idols? Was there any foundation in Scripture for this? But, the apostle in Rom. 1. answers the question, how all such deviations from truth originated. Men when they knew God glorified him not as God, they became vain in their imaginations, their foolish heart was darkened ; and professing them. selves to be wise they became fools. See verses 21, 22, 23. Respecting the origin of an evil principle,