Page images
PDF
EPUB

cried out I could marvel, that he fell down, that he worshipped him. That, which the Proud Spirit would have had Christ to have done to him in his great duel, the same he now doth unto Christ, fearfully, servilely, forcedly. Who shall henceforth brag of the external homage he performs to the Son of God, when he sees Satan himself fall down and worship? What comfort can there be in that, which is common to us with devils; who, as they believe and tremble, so they tremble and worship?

The outward bowing is the body of the action; the disposition of the soul is the soul of it: therein lies the difference from the counterfeit stoopings of wicked men and spirits. The religious heart serves the Lord in fear, and rejoices in him with trembling. What it doth is in way of service: in service to his Lord, whose sovereignty is his comfort and protection: in the fear of a son, not of a slave; in fear tempered with joy; in a joy, but allayed with trembling whereas the prostration of wicked men and devils is only an act of form, or of force; as to their judge, as to their tormentor, not as to their Lord; in mere servility, not in reverence; in an uncomfortable dulness, without all delight; in a perfect horror, without capacity of joy. These worship without thanks, because they fall down without the true affections of worship.

Whoso marvels to see the Devil upon his knees, would much more marvel to hear what came from his mouth; Jesu, the Son of the Most High God: a confession, which if we should hear without the name of the author, we should ask from what saint it came. Behold the same name given to Christ by the Devil, which was formerly given him by the angel; Thou shalt call his name Jesus. That awful name, whereat every knee shall bow, in heaven, in earth, and under the earth, is called upon by this prostrate devil. And, lest that should not import enough, since others have been honoured by this name in type, he adds for full distinction, The Son of the Most High God. The good Syrophenician and blind Bartimæus could say, The Son of David: it was well, to acknowledge the true descent of his pedigree, according to the flesh but this Infernal Spirit looks aloft, and fetcheth his line out of the highest heavens. The Son of the Most High God. The famous confession of the prime Apostle, which honoured him with a new name to immortality, was no other than, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God; and what other do I hear from the lips of a fiend? None more divine words could fall from the highest saint. Nothing hinders, but that the veriest miscreant on earth, yea the foulest devil in hell, may speak holily. It is no passing of judgment upon loose sentences. So Peter should have been cast for a Satan, in denying, forswearing, cursing; and the Devil should have been set up for a saint, in confessing Jesus the Son of the Most High God. Fond hypocrite, that pleasest thyself in talking well, hear this devil; and when thou

canst speak better than he, look to fare better: but, in the mean time, know, that a smooth tongue, and a foul heart, carries away double judgments.

Let curious heads dispute, whether the Devil knew Christ to be God. In this I dare believe himself, though in nothing else: he knew what he believed; what he believed, that he confessed, Jesus the Son of the Most High God; to the confusion of those semi-christians, that have either held doubtfully, or ignorantly misknown, or blasphemously denied, what the very devils have professed. How little can a bare speculation avail us, in these cases of Divinity! So far, this devil hath attained; to no ease, no comfort. Knowledge alone doth but puff up; it is our love that edifies. If there be not a sense of our sure interest in this Jesus, a power to apply his merits and obedience, we are no whit the safer, no whit the better; only we are so much the wiser, to understand who shall condemn us.

66

This piece of the clause was spoken like a saint; Jesus, the Son of the Most High God: the other piece, like a devil; What have I to do with thee? If the disclamation were universal, the latter words would impugn the former; for, while he confesses Jesus to be the Son of the Most High God, he withal confesses his own inevitable subjection. Wherefore would he beseech, if he were not obnoxious? He cannot, he dare not say, What hast thou to do with me?" but, "What have I to do with thee? Others, indeed, I have vexed; thee, I fear. In respect then of any violence, of any personal provocation, What have I to do with thee?" And dost thou ask, O thou Evil Spirit, what hast thou to do with Christ, while thou vexest a servant of Christ? Hast thou thy name from knowledge, and yet so mistakest him, whom thou confessest, as if nothing could be done to him, but what immediately concerns his own person? Hear that Great and Just Judge, sentencing upon his dreadful tribunal; Inasmuch as thou didst it unto one of these little ones, thou didst it unto me. It is an idle misprision, to sever the sense of an injury done to any of the members, from the Head.

He, that had humility enough to kneel to the Son of God, hath boldness enough to expostulate, Art thou come to torment us, before our time? Whether it were, that Satan, who useth to enjoy the torment of sinners, whose music it is to hear our shrieks and gnashings, held it no small piece of his torment, to be restrained in the exercise of his tyranny; or, whether the very presence of Christ were his rack, for the guilty spirit projecteth terrible things, and cannot behold the Judge or the executioner without a renovation of horror; or, whether that, as himself professeth, he were now in a fearful expectation of being commanded down into the deep, for a further degree of actual torment, which he thus deprecates.

There are tortures appointed to the very spiritual natures of

evil angels. Men, that are led by sense, have easily granted the body subject to torment, who yet have not so readily conceived this incident to a spiritual substance. The Holy Ghost hath not thought it fit, to acquaint us with the particular manner of these invisible acts; rather willing, that we should herein fear, than inquire. But as all matters of faith, though they cannot be proved by reason, for that they are in a higher sphere, yet afford an answer able to stop the mouth of all reason that dares bark against them, since truth cannot be opposite to itself; so this of the sufferings of spirits.

There is, therefore, both an intentional torment incident to spirits, and a real. For, as in blessedness the good spirits find themselves joined unto the chief good; and hereupon feel a perfect love of God, and unspeakable joy in him, and rest in themselves: so, contrarily, the evil spirits perceive themselves eternally excluded from the presence of God, and see themselves settled in a woeful darkness; and, from the sense of this separation, arises a horror not to be expressed, not to be conceived. How many men have we known, to torment themselves with their own thoughts! There needs no other gibbet, than that, which their troubled spirit hath erected in their own heart. And if some pains begin at the body, and from thence afflict the soul in a copartnership of grief; yet others arise immediately from the soul, and draw the body into a participation of misery. Why may we not therefore conceive mere and separate spirits capable of such an inward excruciation?

Besides which, I hear the Judge of Men and Angels say, Go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels : I hear the prophet say, Tophet is prepared of old. If, with fear and without curiosity, we may look upon those flames, why may we not attribute a spiritual nature to that more than natural fire? In the end of the world, the elements shall be dissolved by fire: and if the pure quintessential matter of the sky, and the element of fire itself, shall be dissolved by fire, then that last fire shall be of another nature, than that, which it consumeth. What hinders then, but that the Omnipotent God hath from eternity created a fire of another nature, proportionable even to spiritual essences? Or why may we not distinguish a fire, as it is itself, a bodily creature; and as it is an instrument of God's justice, so working, not by any material virtue or power of its own, but by a certain height of supernatural efficacy, to which it is exalted by the Omnipotence of that Supreme and Righteous Judge? Or lastly, why may we not conceive, that though spirits have nothing material in their nature, which that fire should work upon; yet by the judgment of the Almighty Arbiter of the World, justly willing their torment, they may be made most sensible of pain, and, by the obedible submission of their created nature, wrought upon immediately by their appointed tortures; besides the very horror

which ariseth from the place, whereto they are everlastingly confined? For, if the incorporeal spirits of living men may be held in a loathed or painful body, and conceive sorrow to be so imprisoned, why may we not as easily yield, that the evil spirits of angels or men may be held in those direful flames, and much more abhor therein to continue for ever?

Tremble rather, O my soul, at the thought of this woeful condition of the evil angels; who, for one only act of apostacy from God, are thus perpetually tormented: whereas, we sinful wretches multiply many and presumptuous offences against the Majesty of our God. And withal admire and magnify that Infinite Mercy to the miserable generation of man, which, after this holy severity of justice to the revolted angels, so graciously forbears our heinous iniquities, and both suffers us to be free for the time from these hellish torments, and gives us opportunity of a perfect freedom from them for ever. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, praise his holy Name; who forgiveth all thy sins, and healeth all thy infirmities; who redeemeth thy life from destruction, and crowneth thee with mercy and compassions.

There is no time, wherein the evil spirits are not tormented; there is a time, wherein they expect to be tormented yet more : Art thou come to torment us, before our time? They knew, that the Last Assizes are the prefixed term of their full execution; which they also understood to be not yet come. For though they knew not when the Day of Judgment should be, (a point concealed from the glorious angels of heaven,) yet they knew when it should not be; and therefore they say, Before the time. Even the very evil spirits confess, and fearfully attend, a set day of Universal Sessions. They believe less than devils, that either doubt of or deny that Day of Final Retribution.

Oh the wonderful mercy of our God, that both to wicked men and spirits respites the utmost of their torment! He might, upon the first instant of the fall of angels, have inflicted on them the highest extremity of his vengeance; he might, upon the first sins of our youth, yea of our nature, have swept us away, and given us our portion in that fiery lake: he stays a time for both; though with this difference of mercy to us men, that here not only is a delay, but may be an utter prevention of punishment, which to the evil spirits is altogether impossible. They do suffer; they must suffer: and, though they have now deserved to suffer all they must, yet they must once suffer more than they do.

Yet, so doth this Evil Spirit expostulate, that he sues; I beseech thee, torment me not. The world is well changed, since Satan's first onset upon Christ. Then he could say, If thou be the Son of God; now, Jesus, the Son of the Most High God: then, All these will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down, and worship me; now, I beseech thee, torment me not. The same power, when he lists, can change the note of the tempter to us. How happy are we,

that have such a Redeemer, as can command the devils to their chains! Oh consider this, ye lawless sinners, that have said, Let us break his bonds, and cast his cords from us. However the Almighty suffers you, for a judgment, to have free scope to evil, and ye can now impotently resist the revealed will of your Creator; yet the time shall shall see the very come, when ye masters whom ye have served, the powers of darkness, unable to avoid the revenges of God. How much less shall man strive with his Maker! man, whose breath is in his nostrils, whose house is clay, whose foundation is the dust!

Nature teaches every creature, to wish a freedom from pain. The foulest spirits cannot but love themselves; and this love must needs produce a deprecation of evil. Yet what a thing is this, to hear the Devil at his prayers! I beseech thee, torment me not. Devotion is not guilty of this, but fear. There is no grace in the suit of devils, but nature; no respect of glory to their Creator, but their own ease. They cannot pray against sin, but against torment for sin. What news is it now, to hear the profanest mouth in extremity imploring the Sacred Name of God, when the devils do so? The worst of all creatures hates punishment, and can say, "Lead me not into pain: only the good heart can say, Lead me not into temptation. If we can as heartily pray against sin, for the avoiding of displeasure, as against punishment, when we have displeased, there is true grace in the soul. Indeed, if we could fervently pray against sin, we should not need to pray against punishment, which is no other than the inseparable shadow of that body; but if we have not laboured against our sins, in vain do we pray against punishment. God must be just; and the wages of sin is death.

[ocr errors]

It pleased our Holy Saviour, not only to let fall words of command upon this spirit, but to interchange some speeches with him. All Christ's actions are not for example. It was the error of our grandmother, to hold chat with Satan. That God, who knows the craft of that Old Serpent and our weak simplicity, hath charged us, not to inquire of an evil spirit. Surely, if the disciples, returning to Jacob's well, wondered to see Christ talk with a woman, well may we wonder to see him talking with an unclean spirit.

We

Let it be no presumption, O Saviour, to ask upon what grounds thou didst this, wherein we may not follow thee. know that sin was excepted in thy conformity of thyself to us; we know there was no guile found in thy mouth, no possibility of taint in thy nature, in thine actions: neither is it hard to conceive how the same thing may be done by thee without sin, which we cannot but sin in doing. There is a vast difference in the intention, in the agent. For, on the one side, thou didst not ask the name of the spirit, as one that knew not, and would

« PreviousContinue »