Page images

2. There is the same ground to believe the scriptural account of the Devil, as there is to believe the scriptural account of the Angels, who kept their first estate. His history and theirs come from the same Author, and are extremely similar. Are they represented as spirits? so is he. Are they represented as superior to men? so is he. Are they represented as invisible? so is he. Are they represented as having intercourse with this world? so is he, Are they represented as promoting the cause of Christ? he is represented as opposing it. But here it is worthy of remark, that God has giv en a more full and particular history of the Devil and his angels, than he has of the principalities and powers above. In some respects, therefore, his history is worthy of more attention and regard than theirs. But many profess to believe their existence and agency, who doubt the existence and agency of Satan. This is highly absurd. If we ought to believe what God says concerning the Angels of light, we ought, by no means, to call in question what he says concerning our adversary the Devil.

3. The history of this destroyer is altogether credible, because it is completely interwoven with the history of the Saviour. The first account of the Devil stands immediately connected with the first account of Christ. The sacred historian first relates the agency of the Devil in the seduction and ruin of man; and then introduces the Mediator, who should destroy the works of the Devil, by restoring man to the divine fa. vour. At the same time, it is foretold, that there should be a constant contest between Satan and Christ, until the latter should finish the work of redemption. And according to the history of the Devil, he has been continually opposing Christ and his cause in the world; and he will persist in his opposition until the work of


redemption is completed, and the final sentence is passed upon the impenitent at the last day: "Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Thus the history of the Devil is interwoven with the scriptural account of all the most important events, which have taken place, from the beginning of time, and which shall take place till time is no more. Indeed his history is inseparably connected with the whole history of the Bible, and cannot be rejected, without destroying the credibility of all sacred history, If we must believe any thing recorded in the Bible, we certainly must believe the history of the Devil, which stands

upon the broad foundation of divine revelation in general: especially if we consider once more,

4. That there is nothing absurd in the scriptural account of the Devil. We can form clear and distinct ideas of such a being as the Devil is represented to be, We can conceive of God as an invisible spirit; we can conceive of angels as invisible spirits; and we can con'ceive of our own souls as invisible spirits; we can, therefore, as easily conceive of the spirituality and in: visibility of Satan. Nor is it less easy to conceive of his perfect malignity. This is the very disposition of our world, which lies in wickedness. But it is often said, that there is something absurd and incredible in the account of the Devil's tempting mankind to sin. This part of his history, however, coroborates and establishes the whole. Why should the Devil be once mentioned in the Bible, if he were only an idle spectator of human affairs? Or why should so many warnings and admonitions be given to mankind to avoid and resist the influence, if he had no power to lead them into temptation? But if, on the other hand, he is their grand adversary, who is continually seeking to seduce and destroy them; then there is a great propriety in

their being so repeatedly and solemnly cautioned to resist his dangerous assaults.

But to come more directly to the point, I would observe, that we often experience something as difficult to explain, as the temptations of Satan. While our external senses are completely locked up, in a dream, we can see persons, and converse with them, and distinguish their features and dress. This is something more than barely thinking of such persons at a distance, while we are awake, and something extremely hard to account for. It is, perhaps, quite as easy to conceive how Satan should suggest thoughts to our minds, without the aid of our external senses, while we are awake; as to conceive how any agent should be able to make us see, and hear, and converse, in our sleep. Whoever can give a clear and rational account of dreaming, we doubt not, can give as clear and rational account of the power of Satan to suggest temptations to the human mind.

But however mysterious it may be, that Satan should have access to our minds, yet it seems to be confirmed by daily experience. Why is the chain of our thoughts so often and so suddenly broken? Why do new, unconnected, and unexpected thoughts so frequently rush into our minds? Why do thoughts, which the mind abhors and endeavours to banish forever, so repeatedly and repeatedly recur? These things favour the account, which the scripture gives of Satan's tempting power

And they afford all the evidence of it, that we could expect to have from actual experience. We cannot suppose that the operations of an invisible agent should be sensibly perceived, but only the effects of his operations; and these are, perhaps, very generally and sensibly perceived. But whether we perceive the effeats of Satan's agency upon our minds or not, or whether we can account for his producing such effects or not; there is nothing absurd or contrary to reason and experience, in the plain account, which God has given us, of his seducing influence. God is perfectly acquainted with all the powers of our malicious adversary, and all the avenues to our minds. If Satan can suggest thoughts to us, or paint objects on our imagination. God knows it; and we must believe, that he never would have warned us to resist the Devil, if he had no power to tempt us to evil. In a word, we have no reason to doubt, but every reason to believe the account, which God has given us of the existence, character, and conduct of Satan, who goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he

over us.

may devour.

İMPROVEMENT. 1. What has been said in this discourse, may serve to expose some false notions, which have been entertained and advanced, concerning the origin and operations of the Devil. Some have supposed, that he is not a created but an uncreated and self-existent Spirit, who has always been opposing the designs and operations of the Creator and Governour of the world. They cannot account for the numerous natural and moral evils, which so generally prevail, without the supposition of an eternal malevolent being, who is the first author of all the sin and misery in the universe. And they refer to several passages of scripture in support of this opinion. It is true, we read in the eighth of John, “He was a murderer from the beginning." And in the first epistle of the same apostle, “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.” Again we are told, that the devil is the god of this world, and that he sowed tares among the wheat, by which are meant wicked men. None of these texts necessarily imply, that the devil has an underived existence, or omnipotent power. His being a murderer and sinning from the beginning implies nothing more, than his being the first sinner and the first tempter to sin. And his sowing tares among the wheat is to be understood figuratively, as denoting his agency in tempting men to wickedness in general, and to a false profession of religion in particular. This appears to be the true construction of the passages of scripture under consideration; and according to this construction, they serve to illustrate and confirm the scriptural account of the devil, which has been given in this discourse.

Some who acknowledge the existence of Satan, seem to think he has little or no concern in leading men into moral evil. They say the native corruption of the human heart will account for all, or nearly all the sins which are committed, without any temptations of the devil. But it ought to be considered, that a general propensity to sin will not lead any person to any particular sin, without a particular motive or temptation to that particular sin. There must always be some objective motive presented to the view of the mind, in order to excite or draw forth the native depravity of the heart. The worst man on earth will neither curse nor swear, neither cheat nor lie, neither steal nor kill, without some particular motive or temptation to commit either of these gross immoralities. Satan knows, therefore, that he has no ground to expect any man will commit any particular sin, which he desires he should commit, unless he suggests a particular motive or temptation to that particular sin. He tempted David to number Ísrael, because he supposed he would not number them, unless he led him into that sin, by a suitable temptation. He acted in


« PreviousContinue »